“The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.14)
Certain people are born with God given abilities that surpass those of others. Great speakers, athletes, politicians, and scientists are given great acclaim, receiving respect and adulation from millions because of their unique skill level. The key point to remember however, is that all talent is God given, or more accurately, on loan from God.
Everything in the material world is temporary, including anything to do with our bodies. There are five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether and three subtle elements: mind, intelligence, and false ego. One may possess great powers or skills, but those attributes are nevertheless material and are subject to destruction along with our bodies. “What goes up must come down” is how the saying goes and it actually holds true. The world of sports provides many such examples.
Superstar golfer Tiger Woods is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player to ever have played the game. As soon as he turned professional, he went on a rampage, winning tournaments and dominating the money earnings rankings. In each golf season, there are many tournaments but four are considered the most important. These tournaments, referred to as the Majors, consist of the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Currently former player Jack Nicklaus holds the career record for most major titles with 18. Tiger Woods is right on his heels with 14. People marvel at Tiger’s playing ability, his focus, and his steadiness under pressure. Yet even someone as great as Tiger Woods falters sometimes. He is not infallible.
Going into this year’s PGA championship, a noteworthy fact about Tiger Woods was that he never lost a major championship when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes, or three rounds. Major championships consist of four 18 hole rounds played over four consecutive days. The leader starting the final day of the tournament has an advantage in that he plays in the last group, so he’s given the chance to see how the rest of the field is faring. Tiger’s undefeated record in such circumstances was threatened at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he led going into the final round. He made a difficult birdie putt on the 18th hole on the final day just to force a playoff round. Then the next day in the playoff round, he repeated his feat from the previous day, making a difficult putt on the 18th and final hole to force a sudden death playoff. Tiger ended up winning the playoff and the tournament. Tiger’s undefeated record would end this year however at the PGA Championship. Leading by two strokes going into the final round, Tiger was outplayed by a relatively unknown player, Y.E. Yang. In a shocker, Tiger lost for the first time when carrying a lead into the final round of a Major.
A similar thing happened in the sport of tennis. Currently Roger Federer is dominating the sport, breaking all sorts of records. Many have labeled him as the greatest player of all time since he holds the record for most Major titles. Yet even Federer loses sometimes, and on some of the biggest occasions. At last year’s Wimbledon, Federer was going for a record sixth straight title. Wimbledon, which is played on a grass surface, is tailor-made for his game. He had never lost a Wimbledon Final, but in 2008, Rafael Nadal, five year’s Federer’s junior, defeated the defending champion in an epic five setter. Federer’s Wimbledon domination was over. Then at this year U.S. Open, Federer again went for an unprecedented sixth straight title. A heavy favorite over 20 year old Juan Martin Del Potro in the final, Federer would end up losing, even after being up in the match. Federer had never lost a U.S. Open final before. Yet just like Tiger Woods, he wasn’t perfect.
Only God is infallible. As great as we think someone may be at something, their talents will eventually give way to time. Time guarantees that everything will be dissolved eventually. When Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, personally descended to earth some five thousand years ago, He was very close with His cousin Arjuna. One of the five Pandava brothers, Arjuna was an excellent kshatriya, possessing world class archery skills. All fighting was done with bow and arrow during those times, and Arjuna was known for being unconquerable in this sort of fighting. Yet even his powers eventually faded. After completing His lila, or pastimes, Lord Krishna returned to the spiritual world. Arjuna, who had displayed his great fighting prowess during the Bharata War, was given charge of protecting Krishna’s wives. Yet upon being attacked by rogues, Arjuna was unable to protect the wives. His powers were gone and he knew it was because Krishna had gone back to the spiritual world.
“O Emperor, now I am separated from my friend and dearmost well-wisher, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore my heart appears to be void of everything. In His absence I have been defeated by a number of infidel cowherd men while I was guarding the bodies of all the wives of Krishna." (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.15.20)
Arjuna realized that he was helpless without Krishna. This is the mood of a pure devotee. They realize that God is the source of all of their material benedictions, thus they have no attachment to them. They don’t unnecessarily shun good or bad things. Everything is viewed in terms of service to Krishna. If Krishna wants them to fight, then they will fight. If Krishna wants them to possess large amounts of wealth, then they will gladly do so, yet keeping in mind that the original proprietor of everything is Krishna. Due to the temporary nature of this material world, we should all perform our duties without attachment to the fruits of our activities. Good and bad fortune come and go, as do heat and cold, happiness and distress, victory and defeat, and so on. God’s energies in the form of karma take care of everything. We needn’t overly lament over bad fortune nor should we be overly jubilant when good things happen. The aim of this life is to become God conscious so that we can return to Krishna’s abode after our time here is finished.
All good things must come to an end. Even during the times of Krishna’s various appearances on earth, the Lord eventually had to leave. We are all born with an expiration date, and each day in our life we move closer and closer to the time of our death. Knowing this fact, we should make the most of our time by engaging ourselves in devotional service to the Lord. We can use our loaned talent to offer the Lord prayers, write books about Him, prepare nice foodstuff for Him, and even sacrifice our wealth and possessions to make Him and His devotees happy. By keeping in mind the great devotees like Arjuna, Hanuman, and Prahlada, we will never meet with defeat in our service to the Lord.