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Fight the right battle || Acharya Prashant (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
29 min
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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.”

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 “*Man ke haare haar hai, man ke jeete jeet*“.

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 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 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 a 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, has 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 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?

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.Yes?

Question: “My understanding is that the right battle is the one fought not for self but for others. Is my understanding right? Please elaborate more on right battles. Is it so that most of the battles we fight day to day are wrong battles?”

You may fight for others. But who are these others? Do you fight for every other? You feed your own cat. You are fighting for ‘your’ cat. Now, is it really the same as fighting for others. You are protecting your cow. You milk her. You have a vested interest there. Would you say that your motive is charitable? Would you say that you are doing it because you are a world lover, your altruism knows no bounds? But we do that don’t we? We feed the cow because we want to milk the cow and later on we tell the cow that we have been very charitable towards her. Don’t we?

Have you not seen parents do this to their kids? We raised you, we fed you, we taught you. You can visualize the same being done to a cow. You would never quote, “We milked you.” You would only say “We fed you, we protected you.” What about the milking? What about the expectation of the milking? If one is really doing something genuinely for others, there are no conditions attached. There never are any fine prints. Neither are there conditions attached in the beginning nor are there conditions attached in the action. You will be prepared to do anything. And anything means anything.

You can love someone so much that you can lay down your own life for that person. And you can love someone so much that you can be prepared to kill that person. Anything means anything.

Kindly get over this notion that we live for others. That is the privilege granted only to a Buddha. Living for others happens only to the one who has nothing personal to live for. If you have a lot that is personal in your life, personal time, personal freedom, personal money, personal thoughts, personal relationships, personal choices, as long as you have all this personal stuff in your life, you will live only for this stuff.

You have a personal family. You fight for that family. You do a lot for that family. Does that mean you are doing anything for others? Your self-interest, your conditioning is related to the ones you are striving for.

Yes, you are right. Your suspicion is not pointless. You are asking, ‘Are our day-to-day battles wrong?” Most of them are. What was the definition of a wrong battle? That starts from incompleteness. We fight to win, we fight to gain, we fight to conquer, we fight to get, hence our battles are wrong. “If I win, I would be richer by so much. If I win, I would be bigger by so much.” Obviously, the battle is wrong.

Equally, parallelly, without any change in the intention, it can be said, “If I win my daughter would be bigger by so much if I win my son would be richer by so much if I win my wife would be happier by so much.” Same thing, just the same thing.

If your wife is happier, she makes you happy. Ultimately, you are trying for your own personal self. If your son is richer, you feel that the riches would, or at least, some kind of gratefulness would come to you. It is this gratification that you are after. Even if your son does not give you a single paise, you still feel gratified, saying what, “My son – he is earning so much, and you know what, I’m independent enough to not accept a single paise from him.” That is the tradition of our honored clan, we raise sons but we do not demand anything from them.

Being what we are it is hardly possible for us to do anything for others. Let us never weigh the other down with stories of our unconditional help or love. That does not happen with us. We are trying to make the other feel guilty for something he has never done, and we are trying to make ourselves feel inflated, superior, for something that we have never given. This is bad, simply bad.

To give really fully, to give really unconditionally, have a huge heart, really huge heart. If you are giving just to your son or daughter, you can be a give big giver, and still a very mean person. There are millions of mean fathers who keep on bestowing fortunes upon their offsprings. Are there not? They give so much, millions and billions, but are they really giving? So, you can be a big giver, but still, you would remain very mean if you are giving with strings attached if you are giving conditionally.

Real giving happens only when it is a joy for you to give.

It is strange, please understand. We say that real giving happens when the giver is at peace. That is what traditionally is said. But something beyond that, something even more than that can happen. If you are really a true giver, you can even start feeling restless if you cannot give. It is not merely that you are so much in peace that you are giving. Even your own peace can get disturbed if you do not get to give. Hence, giving is a favor that you are getting from the one to whom you are giving.

It has been a tradition in India that when you donate you bow down to the one you are donating to. For this reason – he has done you a favor by accepting your donation, otherwise, you would have remained restless. Rahim was not only a saint poet, he was a fairly well to do person. He was one of the nine gems of Akbar’s court. He had decent money. And it is said that once every year he would give away most of what he had, and he would simply become free of possessions.

Now, it was noticed that when he would be giving away things, he would simply keep his head bowed down, not even raise his eyes to look at the face of the person he was giving to. Somebody asked him “What are you doing?” Don’t you want to know whom you are benefiting? He said, “I feel ashamed in giving.” The fellow said, “Why?” He said, “Because, I am just giving away that which has come to me. It is not really mine. But, all the credit is coming to me. That’s what makes me feel ashamed.”

The very motivation to donate comes from him. Without ‘His’ intervention, without ‘His’ intervention, you couldn’t have given away. If you had your personal way, you would have just kept accumulating. The very fact that you are able to have the strength to donate, to give, means that somebody else is at work. Who is at work? ‘He’ is at work. And if it is his work, why is the person taking the credit.

So, he said, “I just prefer to keep looking at the earth.” Only in your total inner fullness can you really give, can you really do something for the other. And that is the right battle. The right battle says, “I am alright yet I am picking up a battle.” That is very unknown in our life. When you feel alright, what do you do, you retire to your secluded sanctuary. You say, “Now that things are okay, I am going away and hiding in my cozy cave. Let nobody disturb me.”

The way of the warrior, the real warrior, is different. He fights precisely because he is okay. When we are okay what do we do? When we are okay then its curtains. Pull the curtains. Switch on the AC. And, put a board ‘Do not disturb’, “I’m okay.” Hence, do not disturb. The real warrior says, “Now that I am okay, it’s time to poke my nose.” But, before you poke your nose, chop off your head.

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