Born into different circumstances, we share a constant throughout existence – the goal to live a worthy life. There are some who constantly seek inspiration to achieve this goal, and some who possess everything they need, to be excellent. However, despite all this, some feel a sense of insecurity about their path to excellence. They are overwhelmed by all the uncertainties that surround them, on a daily basis. Since we are all not alike, sudden adversities and bleak situations beget different responses amongst us. It is natural to feel a sense of anxiety, and lack of clarity when faced with making life-altering decisions. Is it possible to overcome these tough battles of the mind?
We get many chances in life to refresh our knowledge, and strive to become better versions of ourselves. When we find an opportunity to ponder over this ability, we can reflect upon our past achievements or failures with dispassion. The hidden lessons to be learnt from prior experiences guide us towards this goal of excellence.
Is being the best about being excellent?
An analysis about the collective lives of human beings brings the realization that each and every one wants to be good. By this, I mean that we all want to appear ‘good’ in society. Even Kamsa and Ravana who represent evil in our scriptures, wanted to be seen and perceived as good people with virtues. Not just wanting to be good, most of us want to be seen as the best. However, is being the best akin to being excellent? The answer to this is that being the best is inevitably in comparison with something else. It is imperative to understand that to be the best is not always possible. However, to do our best is definitely possible. Being excellent, on the other hand, is giving our best to a given task, to the best of our knowledge and ability, to bask in the glow of fulfillment afterwards.
What is excellence and can it be exceeded?
Excellence is a quality of being outstanding, of being exemplary. This aspiration, when combined with equal efforts, leads to greatness. Since humans are mired in society’s expectation of perfection, sometimes the desire for excellence may be suppressed or even given up due to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and a weakened emotional state. Let me share the story of Arjuna. His practice, determination and undying love for his skill made him the best archer. Arjuna achieved excellence multiple times. But what happened to him right in the middle of the battlefield, when he needed to put that excellence to test, and exceed it? He experienced mental conflict, despondency and the unwillingness to attack and kill his elders and teachers. Even though one part of his life was resolved and had attained fulfillment, his emotions around relationships remain unresolved. To overcome this strife, he needed to exceed his own excellence.
Combating fear and failures
Arjuna’s pathos on the battlefield of Kurukshetra has remained a significant moment for centuries thereafter. It was here that Lord Krishna imparted the knowledge of Bhagavad Gita, also known as ‘The Song of the Divine’. Krishna’s lessons from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita helped Arjuna to drive away his feeling of despair and transcend his state of depression; the negativities which had prevented him following his Dharma. Krishna reminds Arjuna – when you get what you want, there is a sense of happiness, yet when you are able to express your potential to the best of your capacity, there is an inner sense of peace and satisfaction that supersedes the happiness of attaining the object of your desire. This state of infinitude is devoid of distress, comparisons and dissatisfaction. It is here that we can find contentment and peace.
The ultimate lesson of excellence
In this karmic world, our ultimate focus is to live life to the fullest, to achieve the greatness we aspire for. We live from goal to goal, feeling happy when we get what we want. However, our joy is dependent on that which leads to temporary contentment. This requires a delicate balancing of many aspects of life and can hence be daunting for many. Very often, one failure drowns us in misery, ruining our chances for success. Self-introspection provides us the clarity to recognize our potential, so it can be channelized into actions where we can actualize our potential every time. The continuous pursuit for excellence ensures that we continue to grow mentally and spiritually. The decision to invest our best efforts in meaningful actions is the path to transformation. Exceed your excellence, be your own competition, and be the best for yourself.
Global Head, Chinmaya Mission
This article was published in Sikkim Express on 1 July 2022