Question: Why the lingering effects of defeats or so-called perceived defeats stay in our mind for a long time? How can we shut it away?
The more you desire victory, the more will the effect of defeat linger in your mind. When you are fighting from the right place for the right cause, then comes a point when victory and defeat become inseparable. You have given so much of yourself to the great cause that now there remains nothing, nobody to get hurt or defeat.
There has to be somebody remaining to get hurt, right? There is a house, and the people in the house are warriors. And the house has given itself completely to the war, every member has gone out to fight. So completely have they devoted themselves to war. Now the enemy comes and demolishes the house, who gets hurt? Who gets hurt? They are not there. They have given themselves totally to the war, so nobody gets hurt.
When you have devoted yourself, your ego totally to your cause, now where is the remainder? Now, who is left to get hurt? Now, victory and defeat therefore look sound and taste so much the same? And you know what is their taste? They have no taste. After you have won a really bloody and deeply fought out war, there is nobody left to rejoice. Who would rejoice? You have given everything that you had. Now who would rejoice? Not even a trace of ego is left. Not even a trace of yourself is left. Who is left to rejoice? You cannot rejoice after real victory.
Similarly, after real defeat you can neither complain nor whine or groan. There is nobody left to feel the hurt. You are simply exhausted. You understand the word exhausted? To be exhausted means to be empty, finished off. Now everything is gone. How can I be melancholy because there is nobody left to be melancholy? All members of the house are gone. Who would wail? Who would feel bad? We are all already gone. Exhaust it. All you can do is now sleep.
Does that not happen?
A long-drawn match of lawn tennis, a five-setter, drawn over five hours, with the last set preceding to 15 games. The enemy is formidable. The opponent is formidable. And you win and he loses. What do you do after winning? You crash. Don’t even rest. You crash, because you are exhausted. Or, do you throw a party? Do you go out claiming that you are a winner? Such is the nature of the right battle, you will never be left alive remaining to celebrate a victory.
That is one of the reasons why so many epic tales, heroic tales of war and victory end with the death of the protagonist, the hero. The war is won, but the hero is gone. “Oh captain! my captain, the war you fought is won.” And the poet says, “But my captain does not listen, here he lies cold and dead.” The crowds on the shore are rejoicing, but the captain is dead. The captain had to be dead, because the war is real. When the war is real it will consume you. You must not be left alive at the end of the war, otherwise it’s a disrespect to the war. You didn’t offer it everything. The right war is the one that does not leave you with anything, probably not even with your life. Yes?
And then this war cannot begin from the center of accumulation. It has to begin rightly. That is why Kabir says that his warrior gets his head chopped off before he sets out to war. He does not get his head chopped off in the war. He has to begin rightly. So he says, “There can be no greed. I am going there to give myself away, I am not going there to get something.” Chopping one’s head off means chopping of that intention to get or accumulate. So that intention is gone. I am not proceeding from the point of incompleteness. Had I been starting with incompleteness I would have wanted to gather, accumulate. That, which could feel incomplete I have already chopped off. So, I am starting off in the right way, from the right point, and hence I am already a winner.
We start wrongly. No wonder, we end at the wrong places. You are either a winner right at the outset of the war, or you remain a perpetual and terrible loser. Are you getting it?
That is why the spectacle of defeat scares not only the ones who have been defeated, but also those who are so-called winners. I have never seen a winner who is parallelly not afraid of defeat. Now what kind of winning is this? You have still not been able to win over fear. You are still afraid of losing. You are still afraid that your victory is short-lived and can be snatched away anytime. So, the loser is a loser and the winner is actually also a loser. Are you getting it?
If one lives in a needless feeling of littleness, pettiness, inferiority, victimhood, then one’s life is just an agonizing series of defeats. Wherever you would go you would only find defeats. Even if somebody wants to make you feel like a winner he would fail. Because you are a loser within your own self. Even if you are felicitated, even if you are declared a winner, even if the entire world somehow comes to believe that you are a winner, in your own mind you would still keep squirming. You would still be afraid. You’d still have sleepless nights, knowing fully well that defeat is about to pounce on you. Are you getting it?
It’s a strange thing, the whole mathematics. In real victory, victory is the same as defeat, and the real defeat is same as victory. You won’t cry over it. That is the reward of a war well fought. You don’t cry over the results. You know what you cry over when you are defeated? You cry over your incapacity to give your best to the war. That’s what you cry over. You fully well know that had you tried harder the results could have been different, hence you cry. But you couldn’t have given anything more than what you did, because you were operating from the center from where you did.
Coming from the place you came from, only so much could have been given to the war. Nothing more than that is allowed in the country you come from. The country you come from is the country of deception and laziness. In that country you are not allowed to give your best. So, even if you cry and lament and kick yourself hard on not giving your best, you’re just doing something unnecessary because you have already done what you could do.
Having started wrongly this was any way the best you could have done. And what was the best you could have done, that which led to your defeat? So, defeat was pre-scripted. You cry because there was still energy left. You cry because there was still some possibility left, and it went up again. It went un-utilized.
In the real defeat, everything that you have has been offered, sacrificed, surrendered. Now, what is the point in crying? Nothing better than this could have been done. Now, what to cry about? What grief? I have already come to the end of myself. I have already come to the end of efforts. What do I cry for? Isn’t that beautiful? You are fighting a war that cannot result in a defeat. If the result is a defeat there is nobody to receive the result. Great. Equally, if the result is a victory there is nobody to receive the result. That’s the right war.
Fight for the right cause and let it consume you fully. That is the only way of living life. Fight for the right one and devote yourself totally to him. That is the only way of living and fighting. Give yourself up so totally that you cannot now be blamed with having reserved anything for your personal self. Don’t cut corners. Don’t hold back. Don’t be compartmentalized between personal life and professional life. Devote the last ounce of yourself, your energy, your flesh, everything. That is the only way to ensure that you never are defeated.
It’s simple. Death will be with my defeat. Defeat will happen with my death. So, who will be left to grieve over defeat?
You understand death? We are not talking of physical death. The death that I am talking of might include physical elimination, but not necessarily. We are talking of death of that which we call as ourselves, that which is always hungry, begging, wanting, possessing, and still hungry. That is what we have to sacrifice. That is what we have to offer to the deity.
In coming to you, I let my arms, my limbs, become the bridge. In coming to you I require energy. So, what do I do, I consume myself. In coming to you I become the sacrificial offering, “Shareeram Haveh“. The body is the offering. You have exactly as much fuel as is needed to reach your destination. When you spend the last drop, that is exactly the point when you reach the destination. And you have exactly as many breaths as are needed to reach the destination. When you take your last breath that should also be the moment when you have reached the destination.
Why should one aspire to live even a moment more? What would you do with that, the destination has arrived? What is the purpose of continuing now? Use everything. Use everything that you have. Then victory and defeat become meaningless words. Fight so hard, play so hard, that the result must not matter. And the result will not matter only if you have firstly started from a point of desirelessness. You are not fighting to fulfill a desire.
Do you understand the difference between a desire and a cause? A desire is always born from incompleteness. And when you dedicate yourself to a cause, that always comes from a feeling of health. I am alright. Now it’s time to take care of the world. Are you getting it? And because you are alright, you anyway don’t want anything for yourself. How can there be defeat now?
If there is victory, victory belongs to the cause. If there is defeat, defeat too belongs to the cause. You are not there to receive the victory or defeat. You are not the doer of the war, how will you get the result of the war. The result is devoted to the cause, and the cause must be so grand, so large, that it must be able to absorb all victories and defeats. It must be able to withstand. So big that even if you are greatly victorious still the cause remains equally big. And so big that if you are defeated, it does not make a difference to the cause. The cause still withstands. Are you getting it?
Please don’t fight petty battles they are not worth it. Victory in a petty battle is no victory at all. And defeat in a glorious battle is at par with victory. Don’t be so particular about winning and losing. Be much more particular about the battle that you have chosen.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Why does defeat bother the mind?
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