Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #35 – EQ, IQ, and the Path of Bhakti

August 29th, 2022

I knew Champak’s work had something so do with leadership seminars at GP Strategies,[1] but until the Cali retreat last week, I didn’t know the specifics of what she did and taught. We finally had time to discuss that in more detail. I was particularly interested in a seminar that she devised and taught called Leading with Emotional Intelligence and its relevance to the path of bhakti.


Emotional intelligence is the ability to make heathy choices based on accurately identifying, understanding, and managing your feelings and the feelings of others, an ability based on being self-aware.[2] Obviously, if we are not aware of our emotions and don’t have some sense of their cause, we inevitably will act upon them without awareness of whether they are justified or beneficial. You see all the time well-intentioned people having no idea how what they think, say, and do impacts others. The result is often disastrous. The statistical studies Champak shared with me from Harvard Business Review showed how prevalent this unawareness is. Ninety-five percent of people think they are self-aware, but less than fifteen percent are.


I think we can see how pervasive this lack of emotional intelligence is by just observing the present polarized political climate where it seems too many people become trapped in an ideological tribe, left and right, and embrace ill-thought-out views with little awareness of how what they believe, feel and do has more to do with the make-up and root of their psychology than the facts at hand.


But what about those on the path of bhakti? To what extent are they naturally self-aware of their emotional make-up and how that affects their opinions and decisions?


Of course, as one’s consciousness becomes purified on any legitimate spiritual path, one becomes increasingly equipped with knowledge (jñāna) and detachment (vairāgya) and thus more aware of and less driven by their emotions. While these tools are helpful on the path of devotion, they are not devotion in itself. Bhakti is independent and thus there is not an absolute correlation between devotion and emotional intelligence or any other material quality. Therefore, one in any condition of life can be enthused and proceed with the path of devotion whatever their psychological make-up, while those with little or no devotion can be evolved in the mode of goodness and possess a high EQ.


This doesn’t discount, however, the value of emotional intelligence on the path of bhakti, both in terms of one’s own personal development and in terms of sharing the path of devotion with others. For example, if one is not self-aware of how one is driven by their nature and the cause of that nature, and that includes bhaktas, one will inadvertently be driven by those emotions. Then, as defenders of the faith, they may criticize others in the name of devotion while, in fact, they may just be slaves to their anger and envy caused by the experiences of their upbringing. It is therefore healthy to reflect on what we are doing and the emotions behind it, if for no other reason than to avoid unnecessary offenses driven by a lower self, for the more we are aware of our emotions the more control we have over them.


Developing our emotional intelligence seems also essential in sharing bhakti with others. How can we develop the ability to speak and relate in a way that others can hear, unless we are in tune with the way we project ourselves to others and understand the psychology and language of our audience? Often devotees, even relatively advanced on the path of bhakti, are not successful in communicating the path of devotion, at least not as much as they should be, because they lack sufficiently enough EQ to be aware of how they are projecting themselves to others in the name of devotion.


Can we develop emotional intelligence? Certainly. The process of devotion itself, although not focused on unraveling one’s psychology, by purifying one’s mind and elevating one gradually to the mode goodness naturally helps one to become more pensive and self-aware. I look back on my own early days on the path of bhakti and shudder at how much of what I was thinking and doing in the name of bhakti was informed by my psychological make-up and upbringing and not, as I thought, purely on the teachings of our tradition. I perceive and trust that after years of practicing bhakti my self-awareness is substantially better than it was, and I hope others who knew me see that also. Indeed, the path of devotion can certainly heighten our emotional intelligence.


I am writing this for myself and others because I realize that besides cultivating devotion, our effort to understand basic wisdom from good sources can surely be the impetus for profound change. And that is why when speaking to Champak, I was eager to hear for my own edification and to share with others how she developed her seminar Leading with Emotional Intelligence.


“From good thoughts come good actions, from good action comes good habits, from good habits come good character, and from good character comes the right destination.”—Unknown




[1] https://www.gpstrategies.com


[2] Champak’s course was based on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Discussing with her I found so much interesting information on the subject that is beyond the scope of the post. For example, self-awareness is demarcated into four divisions: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and social management with very perceptive markers of awareness in each category.


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