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In the right battle, defeat is victory || Acharya Prashant (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
17 min
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Questioner (Q): My question is about renunciation. I find within me a response about what I have to do, like renunciation and poverty. I see myself inside, but somehow, I am fighting very strongly in the opposite direction, and I never find the gravity to really do it. And it's not a question; it's just that I don't know when I will be ready to really do this renunciation. I know what I have to do.

Acharya Prashant (AP): What is it that you want to renounce?

Q: I mean, to the ‘Sense World,’ like to care about external, like to care about the material world. Like, because I am living in the material, but I am not really there. Some parts of myself don't believe in this anymore. So, I am like repeating something in which I don't believe anymore and I see no meaning in anything. But at the same time, I don't have the strength to say, “It’s enough”. I don't know.

AP: What do you mean by this word, ‘poverty’?

Q: I understand that this renunciation will dissolve your ego somehow; it's also about making yourself a little. And poverty, it's like you don't have anything for others to look at you and say, “Oh, wow! Maybe I should not need to be a hero. Maybe because my ego is so strong, maybe I have to work cleaning the streets and be happy doing this.” I don't know. This is poverty for me. I like Saint Francis of Assisi, and I understood why some people, saint people, go in this way because it's the direction towards God somehow, or God or the other—ego is the opposite direction. So, and I don't know, I saw inside of me, but it's so strong, the other tendencies, so I don't know when I will be ready in how many lives.

AP: It may not really require many lives. There is the direction of renunciation and then there is the direction of position and identification and attachment. Obviously, you must do your best to decide in the favour of the right direction. But, as you said, many a times it would happen that your old tendencies would overpower you, compel you to identify with the world and feel one with it.

So, two things. One, even if your defeat is to come, let it be a hard-fought defeat. Do your best to make the right choice. Do your best to move in the right direction. And after doing all that you can—and there is really a lot that you can do—if you are still forcibly pulled towards the other direction, the direction of indiscretion, the direction of blind material pulls, then at least you should know that you fought honestly. That is the first thing. Do not give in easily. And, if you do not give in easily, you'll find that you are capable of far more than you might usually think of.

Then the second thing: when you choose, rightly, when you win, there is obviously a welcome and an auspicious situation. So, no need to talk about that situation because in that situation, you would've already done what should have been done, what must have been. So, chapter closed—the right thing has been done. But it still remains to be discussed, what to do when one has not been able to choose rightly. When one has been made to side with the world, when one knows fully well that one is not on the right side of spirituality or Dharma , what to do then?

Listen carefully, what to do then. You have been pulled to the wrong camp, right? That's the situation in those moments—you have been pulled to the wrong side. Now, observe clearly what's there on that side. You now belong to a place, even if temporarily, momentarily. that you should not have belonged to in the first place. But what to do? We are all mortal creatures in flesh and blood. We all have our flaws, our weaknesses, our indiscretions. So now, let's say, for an evening, we belong to the wrong place. What to do? Don't just keep cursing yourself. Observe, ask yourself: “There surely was something in this place that attracted me so much, what was it? There surely is some power in this place that defeated me, what is that power?” Now that you have been forced to come to the wrong place, at least, investigate it properly. Let it be some kind of a spy mission. That’s the best use you can put your defeat to.

“I should have been in my study at this time. I should have been with the hills at this time, or with the river at this time, or at the church at this time, and where am I? I'm at a shopping complex, or at a liquor party or at someplace. Theoretically, I very well know I shouldn't have been here at this moment, but I'm here and I can't change the fact of my presence at this place. So, what do I then make of this evening?” Study that place, so that your defeat does not get repeated. That place surely has some power. That place surely has some charm that speaks to some weakness within you. Study that charm. What is it in that place that compels you? Is that charm for real? Often the charm is imaginary and when you go close to it, it disappears. So maybe the image of the charm sucked you in, but now that you are there, now that you have indeed been sucked in, use the opportunity—really see whether the charmer is worth it. What else can be done anyway? You are there.

You're not with the hills, you're not with the river, you're not with the books, you're not with the saints. You are at that ritzy, blingy party. So, that's the best use you can put your defeat to and that's very important for all of us because we will get defeated. Some of us will get defeated very frequently, the others maybe a little less frequently, but there's nobody who is an absolute winner. We all have our moments, our episodes of failures. We all let ourselves down sometime or the other. What to do then? Keep fighting, still. What was rule number one? ‘Do not go down tamely.’ If there is an inner conflict and you know which side should win, fight hard to ensure that the right side prevails. That was rule number one.

Rule number two: ‘Even when you are defeated, keep fighting.’ Now, of course, frontal warfare is not possible, the direct and obvious battle has been lost. So now, let there be guerrilla warfare. The enemy has pulled you to his camp, now what do you do? Spy. Surveillance. Act as a detective on yourself. “So, this is the place that overpowered me. What exactly is so enthralling about it? Let me figure it out. He's the man who did not allow me to be at a place of peace. Something about him just overwhelmed me. What is it about that man? I’ll not just stay at a seductive distance and allow his charm to continue, I'll go close to him. I'll figure out whether he's really worth it. Either you ensure that you remain a long distance away from him, that would be your absolute victory, but if you cannot do that, if he indeed does pull you towards himself, then go totally towards him. Investigate. And if your investigation is honest, the charm will disappear. And if the charm does not disappear, even upon really rigorous examination, then maybe the person is worth it. There's no need to run away then. Maybe the one pulling you in is himself a saint in some other form. Fine. If you have a living saint, why do you need to go to a library or someplace?

Keep fighting! Keep fighting till your victory, and keep fighting in your defeat. The second part is more important. Keep fighting even when you have been beaten down. Keep fighting even when yours looks like a hopeless cause, a lost battle. Don't just start wallowing in self-pity and self-abuse, “Oh! I'm such a wretched one, I betrayed God, my Lord.” You didn't betray him. You did what you could. Now continue doing what you can. That's the thing—continuity. Surprise the enemy. Let him think that he has won, and even when it appears that he has won, you must continue fighting. There’s no other option. Even when you have been taken prisoner by the other camp, continue fighting. Good, if you have been taken prisoner, you have been allowed access to the other camp. That's a great opportunity to just blast yourself off and bring down the entire enemy camp along with yourself. He thinks he's bringing in a prisoner. You should know that he is bringing in a suicide bomber. Continue fighting.

There are enough tales, you know, in India on the same theme. There are so many tales you cannot tell them apart. So, even in my mind, there is a mishmash of all those tales. I'll try to narrate the mishmash to you. So, there is an all-powerful king, a very powerful king, in this tale. And there is a very beautiful girl in his kingdom, and the girl has been brought up by her father who is a devoted priest. So, she has been brought-up in the best way possible. Even though she is physically quite charming, yet her mind is totally in the Truth. She has mastered the scriptures at a young age, she engages in debates, she writes, paints, sings. She's a beautiful person in the innermost sense, and obviously, she has no interest in marriage and such things.

One day the King is out on a fun trip, killing animals and doing those things, and he happens to find this girl. He does what Kings do, he sends for her father and says, “I want to marry your daughter.” The father says, “But she's not one for marriage.” The King replies, “Your head would be found rolling on the ground within the next minute if you try to refuse my command.” The father says, “You can kill me, but I'll not force my daughter.”

The daughter comes to learn of all this and she tells her father, “There's no need to get killed, I'll marry the king.” At this point in the story, it looks like the king has won. The authority of the king has prevailed over the physical, material. Power of the king has prevailed, and the girl has succumbed, right? The girl has succumbed so badly, and she gets married to the king. And the king, initially, does what a powerful man is likely to do: he feasts on her body. But slowly, however, she starts delivering education to him in hidden ways. The king is not somebody who would easily listen to the scriptures or to words of wisdom, so in some way or the other, she starts talking sense to the king.

She does not allow her centre to be displaced. Even in the King's palace she continues with her practices, her Sadhana , her reading, her austerities, everything. Externally, the king has possessed her. Internally, she remains totally untouched, a virgin.

And then, in due course of time, it is found that the king starts developing an interest in the Truth, in the scriptures. He starts coming to her, not so much for physical pleasures, but to get taught. Initially, he does not admit that he wants his wife to teach him—too much for the masculine ego—but slowly, with her patience, the king starts melting. A point comes when he clearly accepts that he wants to be her disciple, rather than her husband. It might have taken a decade or so, I do not know. There is no such story actually, so how can I know? And then comes a day when she's walking back to her father's place, which is probably an ashram or something, with the king following in her footsteps.

So, there was a day when the king had forcibly abducted her from her place, and then comes a day when she's going to her place and the king is obediently walking behind her. So, it happens. Continue your fight even when it appears totally lost. There is a great scripture called Tripura Rahasya. It is in a little bit of a similar setting with the wife instructing the husband.

Do not just come up with excuses, and defeat is such a great excuse to remain defeated. “What? I'm defeated,”—the moment this becomes an excuse, you will remain defeated. Now your defeat will become permanent. So, never say that you are defeated, let there be setbacks, but be convinced of your ultimate victory. Know for sure that if you are siding with the Truth, then the victory is already yours. Therefore, all defeats are bound to be merely temporary. That sureness has to be there, that’s called Faith.

There is nobody, I repeat, who's not going to face adversities or reverses. It is your response to those moments that will decide your fate. In victory, everybody is a champion, you must be a champion even in defeat, that's what it needed.

It's a bit of a bravado thing, quite dramatic, but you remember that classic reply of King Porus to Alexander? No? So, Alexander came to India, like he went to other places in Asia with the intent to conquer and plunder. Persia had already been subjugated and he was now knocking on the doors of India, and King Porous, Puru actually, was at that time ruling a territory that was broadly in today's Punjab, in fact, a little west to today's Punjab. So that was the gate to India, and Puru was the first king Alexander needed to conquer if he wanted to penetrate into India. Alexander had a huge army and India was divided into a large number of small kingdoms. Compared to Alexander, Puru was a small ruler with a small army, but he fought extremely bravely.

But as was probably inevitable, he was defeated, and then his hands were tied and he was presented in front of the Victorious Alexander and Alexander asks him, “So Puru, how should we behave with you?’’ And in that moment when all has been lost, his army is destroyed, his kingdom gone, and he is standing with his limb tied, Peru replies with his head held high, “As a king behaves with another king.” Alexander is asking, “How should we deal with you?” And Puru said, “As a king deals with another king.” And it was such a stunning reply as if the fellow had never been defeated at all. Alexander returned. He dropped his intention to march further into India.

Carry the spirit of victory even in your defeat. That's a bigger victory than victory. Maya wants to destroy your morale, crush your spirit. Let that not happen. Let her defeat you materially, but never spiritually. Let your spirit never be conquered. And that is one thing Maya has no control over. She has all control over situations, thoughts, tendencies, emotions, but she can have no control really over your Faith. Let that remain untouched. That is possible!

You understand Maya , right?

Remember, it is not situations that defeat you. Situations are just situations, by definition something outside of you, whereas a defeat is something inside of you. Situations can at worst be adverse. Situation is always external, but the sense of defeat is an internal thing and that should not come to you. You're not asking for something small. Remember, you're asking for renunciation.

Man is not born to renounce. The way our physical, mental constitution is, we are born to stay cursed, as if our body and our mind have hatched a foolproof conspiracy against ourselves. There is nothing in us that is really conducive towards Liberation. All the senses remain so fond of the world, the mind keeps thinking only of the world, the body feeds on the world and exists in the world. So then, how is it possible for the person to renounce the world?

Remember that renunciation is really a very high goal. It is a very improbable thing that you are asking for, and when you ask for something so very exquisite, then you should not expect easy attainment. Were you asking for something run-of-the-mill, easy, cheap then you could have expected it to be achieved in one shot, “Tomorrow, I'll try and get it—renunciation, liberation, all those things. Tomorrow itself. Around 8:00 AM in the morning, maybe. Yeah, before I finish my breakfast, I’ll be liberated.” But fortunately, Liberation is not something so valueless, it'll demand all yourself, and it is guaranteed that there would be a lot of defeats in the process. Relish those defeats. What is it to relish those defeats?—Even in defeat, remain a winner. “I have been defeated, but the defeat is not final. If I stay alive, I'm going to try. If I don't stay alive, I can't say. Maybe, I'll still try.”

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