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Joy that remains untouched by defeat || Acharya Prashant, on Khalil Gibran (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
4 min
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“Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude, and my aloofness; You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs, And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory. “

~Khalil Gibran

Acharya Prashant: The question is, “How can defeat be sweet? How can there be joy in being shunned and scorned?”

There is no particular glory or joy in defeat. In fact, the moment one looks for glory or joy in particular events or happenings, joy has been constrained, localized, and hence lost.

The poet here is talking of defeat because man has taken defeat as abhorrent. Victory is likable, defeat is to be avoided and shunned. Victory is likable because man associates joy with victory and the loss of joy with defeat. Whenever joy is thus made conditional, it is certain that there is no joy in defeat, and there is also no joy in victory. And when joy there is, joy remains equally in victory and in defeat.

The problem that our mind faces with statements like the one I just made, is that these statements do not subscribe to any particular definition of joy. To really understand these statements one will have to bow down to joy rather than try to be the master of joy. What is meant by being master of joy? You are the master of something if you can find a way to that thing. If you can define something and also know how to get that thing, then you are a master of that thing.

Godliness and joy are to be surrendered to, not fought up to. Your victories will not bring you joy. If your victories are bringing you joy, then it is a very shallow and tiny joy. You have earned it. You have won it. It is the result of your efforts. It cannot be bigger than you.

Man lives in duality. Man finds it comfortable to think that there are things and there are opposites of things. Such thinking enables all definitions. Because to define anything is to limit it. To limit something is to create two – a thing and its opposite. That is what all definition does, ‘De-fine’ – To make something finite. Obviously the infinite escapes all definition. And that’s where we start struggling. That’s where we start feeling strangulated. Are you getting it?

We start asking, “How is it possible that there is something in victory and also in the opposite of victory, defeat?” The answer is obvious, that has to be something that has nothing to do with defeat or with victory. That something has to be simply unconditional, irrespective of everything. It is unconditional of your efforts, it is unconditional with respect to the result of the effort, it is also irrespective of your response to the result. One has to live that deeply.

One tried, yes there is something deeper than that. One lost, there is something deeper than that. One felt bad, still, there is something deeper than that. Something deeper than the depths of thought. Something deeper than the depths to which human perception can go. And hence something deeper than man’s very existence, very reach, very penetration.

So, if the poet is singing of defeat, he is not really singing of defeat in particular. He’s singing of the joy that remains untouched by defeat. Hence he is celebrating defeat. He’s saying, “Ah! To most people defeat is such a nightmare. But look at me, I have that which defeats even defeats. I have defeated defeat, and hence now I can celebrate defeat.” That does not mean that now defeat is to be worshipped exactly as victory was worshiped previously. Victory appeared favorable, defeat appeared unfavorable, the poet is celebrating the fact that that which appeared unfavorable is no more unfavorable.

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