“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.42)
The players headed back to the locker room. It was a crushing defeat. Just one win away from making it to the playoffs, the team looked like they had it in the bag. The doubles matches were evenly split, and the same fate for the first two singles matches. Just one match remained, and it was the matchup that looked easiest on paper going in.
“We could have won that match,” said one of the players.
“Yeah, but I don’t know why the coach chose Johnson to play,” said another.
“It’s because they are friends. Walters was in that spot all year, but I think he and the captain got into a fight recently. The captain then decided to put his buddy into that spot and we see what happened,” added another player.
In this way the team members complained to one another about the job the captain had done. They didn’t like so many things he did, from the timings of the practices to the type of food served after matches. At one point in the discussion, one of the team members, Rob, proposed an idea.
“Hey, maybe I should get my own team together next year. Would you guys be down?”
After thinking it over for a while, they were all on board. There would be a new team next year, with a new captain. Things would be different. Things would be better. The players wouldn’t let a spot in the playoffs slip away due to quarrel and friendship. Rob would right every wrong committed by the present captain.
Jumping forward to the next year, Rob found the job of captaincy to be a little more than he bargained for. He opened up about the job to one of his teammates one time right after a practice that lasted a few hours.
“So, who are you going to play in the match next week, Rob?” asked Bill.
“I don’t know, man. I got everybody in my ear giving me advice. One person wants to play singles, whereas I think they would be better suited for doubles. Another guy isn’t sure he can make it, though he’s likely our best player. Our best doubles team can’t stand each other. They each told me separately that they refuse to step foot on court with the other guy.”
“Wow, Rob, I didn’t know you had all this to deal with.”
“Yeah, the job looks easy on the outside, but I’m the bad guy in pretty much all situations. I can never do anything right, as far as everybody else is concerned. I have so much more appreciation now for last year’s captain.”
Later that night, Rob’s wife could tell that something was troubling him. He did not speak much during dinner. Then they watched a movie on the couch, where he was again silent throughout. Finally, while laying in bed and reading, she decided to see what was up.
“Honey, is something bothering you?” she said while holding the book she was reading, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translated and commented on by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
“Oh it’s okay, dear. You can go back to reading. I don’t want to bother you,” Rob replied.
“Now that’s not going to make the problem go away. You should talk about it. I’m ready to listen. Is it about your tennis team? I think it’s been stressing you out lately.”
Rob then revealed everything to his wife. He shared his frustrations and how the job was getting to be too much for him. He even said that he regretted taking the job, that it would be easier to just sit on the sidelines and let someone else take all the blame.
“That’s awful, honey, but I don’t think you should quit,” she counseled. “Those guys count on you. It’s not easy to be a leader, but this is the responsibility you chose. You should not quit on them.”
“I think you’re right, sweetie,” Rob admitted.
“You know, I think this should make you appreciate leaders more. They take all the arrows. They offer instruction too, sometimes even if it means others won’t like them. Take Lord Krishna for example,” she said while pointing to the book in her hand. “In this book He gave sound words of advice to the distressed warrior Arjuna. Krishna actually advised him to fight. That was the right thing to do at the time, but to this day so many less intelligent people criticize Him for advising Arjuna in such a way. What if He just decided to sit back?”
“What do you mean?” Rob asked.
“If He just sat back and let Arjuna quit, would that have been a good thing?”
“No, probably not.”
“Exactly. The leadership position He took was for Arjuna’s benefit. This little episode you have only relates to a tennis league for older men who want to get out of the house, away from their wives.”
“No, that’s not true,” Rob said smiling. “Okay, maybe a little, but definitely not the case with me,” he said with a wink.
“Anyway,” she continued. “You should take your experience as a blessing. It should make you appreciate more the spiritual leaders that we have. I remember last week we went to see that swami give a lecture, and you were complaining that he talked too much about himself and his stories from his youth.”
“Yeah, but you know I was kidding. I have respect for him, don’t get me wrong.”
“No, that’s fine, but just see what someone like that has to go through. It’s a thankless task. He gets criticized by everyone, though so many benefit just from hearing his chanting of the holy names. So many benefit from hearing from Krishna, the original and supreme leader of mankind, but hardly anyone appreciates Him. Krishna spoke strongly to Arjuna at times, chastising him for his sudden ignorance of the laws of propriety. Think of how our friends feel if we say anything bad to them. But if we’re really their friends, we try to help them. In the same way, Krishna is a friend to everyone. So He left us His conversation with Arjuna and so many other teachings by those leaders who follow in His footsteps.”
After talking some more, Rob felt a little better about his situation. “Okay, thanks dear. I do feel much better. Maybe once this season is over, I’ll try reading that book a little more seriously. You might have to buy me a copy, as I can’t see you parting with yours for a moment.” Giving her a wink and a kiss, he went to sleep.
By judgments and words to make,
The leader arrows from all to take.
Still the counsel they freely give,
So that others with knowledge to live.
Though Krishna chastised times some,
Victory over doubts by Arjuna was won.
So the leaders in bhakti appreciate much more,
Spreading glories of Lord a thankless chore.