Forget winning, first choose the right battle

Question: “What are the reasons due to which we remain trapped in defeat? We continue with our irregularities, knowing fully well that we are not doing justice to ourselves. At times there is a strong feeling to do better, but this feeling or commitment does not last.”

Acharya Prashant: In the right battle there can be no wrong result. Defeat is possible only when one is fighting the wrong battle. If you find yourself defeated, and defeated regularly, just know that you have picked up a battle that you should never have been fighting in the first place.

Defeat is hardly ever to be measured in terms of the events that happen outside of you. Defeat hurts exactly because defeat happens inside of you.

How is it possible for any movement outside of you to hurt you? That is the reason Kabir had to say, “Mann k haare haar hai, mann ke jeete jeet”(You lose, if the battle is lost in the mind). Mind is shaken up, impacted, and hurt by an external happening. This is what we call as defeat. Did this defeat happen when a particular event took place? Is this defeat the result of an action? No, every defeat is a defeat right since the inception of the action that at some point hurts.

If you are fighting a battle, if you are involved in something, and somewhere along the way that thing, the process, the result of an action, starts hurting you, it only means that you started from a position of inadequacy, incompleteness in the very first place. That is why this session on defeat comes after the last session on incompleteness. You start from a point of incompleteness and you fight, you strive, to somehow get over the incompleteness.

The beginning itself is wrong. The end will follow the beginning.

When you have begun wrongly, the process cannot correct the beginning.

You are proceeding with the wrong idea. You are proceeding with an assumption. You’re driving from the wrong place with the wrong map. Now even if the process of driving is immaculate, yet it would not help.

You might be a great driver, but if you do not know where you are coming from and where you are going, then your driving skills will only take you quicker to the wrong place.

What has begun wrongly cannot be corrected by the finesse involved in the process.

Since it has begun wrongly, it will lead to more despair. We are often more concerned about winning and losing than simply knowing whether we are fighting the right battle. If you are fighting the wrong battle and you win, is it not worse than losing? What is a wrong battle? A wrong battle is one that is needless. Just as incompleteness is that which is needless. It is unnecessarily there, it need not be there, it has no utility, it has really no existence. Even if it is not there, there would be peace. In fact, only if it is not there, there would be peace.

We often fight battles that are absolutely needless. Of what uses winning such a battle? If you win such a battle, in fact, you may continue along your ways, consoling yourself with the victory. Incompleteness is the wrong place to begin a battle. One suffers from an inferiority complex and because of that one wants to conquer the world. One may want to enroll in an institution. One may want to earn riches. One may want to have the money or a big house. All of that because firstly one felt bad about his condition.

And one feels bad about his condition only when he strongly identifies with his condition.

You might be carrying a dead end stinking rat in your hand, it does not make you feel bad about yourself, because you are not identified with it, you know you’re just holding it and can drop at any moment. But if mistakenly you forget that it is possible to drop the rat and the rat becomes a part of your identity personality, then you will be in trouble, then you’ll keep holding the rat because it is now a part of your being. That’s what you have told yourself.

Now you’ll keep holding the rat and make efforts to get rid of all that which comes with being associated with a dead rat. Your efforts are fundamentally misplaced. You should have not proceeded with the efforts at all. In fact, by proceeding with your efforts, you are only assuring yourself that your assumption about yourself had some substance.

You are trying so hard to cleanse yourself, to wash your face. You are scrubbing yourself all over the body. At this moment if someone comes and tells you that you are already neat and clean, you would feel like an idiot. It is now necessary to convince yourself that there is something terribly filthy about you. That is how all your effort would be justified.

You look at this stupid and dangerous loop. Some people take bath because they are feeling dirty. Others convince themselves that they are dirty because they are compulsive bath takers. Because it is a habit with me to take a bath. Because I have made it mandatory for myself that I must keep rubbing and polishing myself every few hours. So to justify my habit I convince myself that I am indeed filthy and stinking. That is how most wrong battles are fought. Because you must fight because fighting and conflict have become a necessity for one’s mind.

One justifies himself by saying that the war is needed. The mind is like a weapons factory. To continue with its output, it needs wars. Why else are you producing all the fighter jets and cannons and aircraft carriers? There must be war. So there are weapons that are produced to fight wars, and there are wars that are fought because too many weapons have been produced. Now, something has to be done with those weapons, otherwise, how do you justify the factory.

Unfortunately, most of our wars are production led. Because the mind is habituated that it must fight, so it picks up some war or the other. The entire life has been built around wrong assumptions. And all wrong assumptions are in some sense cunning, they are there to hide something else. They are there to hide something else. One might be in the business of weapons just because one is too lazy to learn something else. You won’t accept that you are too lazy to move and learn. You would rather keep asserting that war is necessary. Are you getting it?

If your self-image is that of a warrior, who am I? Someone who conquers enemies, then you need wars. The enemy might not be a person necessarily, the enemy might be a situation. Any challenge is tantamount to a war. Now if you must uphold your image, you must seek war, rather build wars. Are you getting it?

Defeat is not the end of the war. Defeat is not in the end of the war. Mostly defeat lies in the beginning of war.

A needless war, the moment it begins, the point from where it begins is already a defeat. Now it does not matter whether after a time the formal result, the apparent result, looks like a victory or a defeat. We are great losers in life, not because we meet with regular defeats, but because we are fighting the wrong battles.

Most of our effort, or conflict, our strife, is simply unnecessary. We need not have entered it. Are you getting it? Man has only two options. Either see who you are and what you have and delight in it, simply feel grateful or do not see who you are and what you have, and keep wallowing in self-pity and incompleteness, and therefore keep picking unnecessary battles.

The more you pick unnecessary battles, the more you will feel defeated. The more you will feel defeated, the more will be the urge to fight another unnecessary battle.

It’s a downward spiral.

Once caught you remain caught.

Are you getting it?

The question says, ‘why are we regularly in the lapse of defeat?’ Now you know. The question says, ‘even if I become determined the feeling or the commitment does not last’. It is because the determination is for the wrong cause. You are determined to win but you are not determined to abandon the war. You’re determined to reach the wrong place at the right time. Would that help?

You are going to attend a party, and you are on the wrong road, you are proceeding in the opposite direction, and you are hurrying because you think you have only 20 minutes and 20 miles to cover, so you rush, and in 20 minutes you indeed do cover 20 miles, but where have you reached? Where have you reached? The wrong place.

Your determination did not really help you. In fact, your determination only hurried your downfall.

Willpower, commitment, determination they are of so little use because they are extremely superficial. One can be a very committed person and yet have a very petty mind because one is needlessly committed. Committed to the wrong thing from the wrong center.

There are autocrats and dictators, and they have armies of committed soldiers. Commitment in itself is not at all any value. Value belongs to the place the commitment is coming from and therefore the place the commitment is going to. Same with discipline. One can be a very disciplined idiot. Disciplined by itself is again no value. One could be going to the wrong workplace every day at the right time. Of what use is such discipline?

One might be very diligent with the wrong tasks. One might be very efficient in the most nonsensical of procedures. Of what value is efficiency?

Efficiency or discipline or determination or commitment make sense only when the fundamental has been taken care of.

After you are devoted to the right thing from the right center, then comes the question of discipline, of remaining committed, of hard work, diligence, etc.

One has to know the center one is operating from, otherwise, the action can be very deceptive. You are digging the earth. You’re just digging the earth. Now you might be digging a grave or you might be digging the foundation of your palace. Who knows? And you’re very diligent and very efficient. But what really are you digging? Are you getting it?



-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session: Forget winning, first choose the right battle



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