योगः कर्मसु कौशलम् (yogah karmasu kaushalam)
Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga is Skill at Work”.
Thirty Days Hath September. I’m describing 30 meditations on a full life in this month.
Kusha grass is a tall sacred grass native to India. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna suggests using kusha grass as a meditation cushion. Kusha grass blades are very sharp, and if an untrained ashram-dwelling monk were to gather grass for the teacher’s meditation, it is very likely they would cut themselves and bleed. Gathering kusha grass is a task only for the expert. Hence, the expert came to be known as a “kushal”, and Kaushal became another name for skill.
To live a full life, we must learn to handle the sharp blades. Working like a fool isn’t a good way to live.
Anyone who has achieved excellence in life, you would find that they have worked really hard at it, and because they have worked hard at something, they make it look easy. We have to strive for excellence in everything we do, because only then will everything be easy.
That’s not how we live, of course. We just try to get by. We try to just have enough engagement and skill to pass the test. And that’s why we make our own life hard and filled with frustration and misery. If we don’t get good at things we do, we end up using more effort. We still spend effort but don’t get the results and don’t have fun. Why not get good at things then?
Excellence is a habit. Habits can be learnt. Learning involves failure. Being willing to fail and learn, and learn to form habits of excellence, this is a worthy way to live a full life.
It can take a full life to purse this excellence. Nobel laureate and India’s philosopher-poet said, at the time of his death, “I have spent many days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” This is someone who excelled in poetry, music, literature and education. He felt he was just beginning to learn excellence at the end of his eighty year life. We may safely conclude that our work is not done either, and we can yet dedicate our life to excellence.