Three Instances Of Auspicious Defeat In Devotion

[Shri Krishna]“The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.12)

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युक्तः कर्म-फलं त्यक्त्वा
शान्तिम् आप्नोति नैष्ठिकीम्
अयुक्तः काम-कारेण
फले सक्तो निबध्यते

yuktaḥ karma-phalaṁ tyaktvā
śāntim āpnoti naiṣṭhikīm
ayuktaḥ kāma-kāreṇa
phale sakto nibadhyate

The duality featured in material life means that no matter the outcome, there will be some misery experienced. Moreover, no situation is universally auspicious. A simple example is rainfall. In a certain part of the world, the majority of the rainfall for the year occurs within two months. Everything necessary to eat arrives in a short span of time. Needless to say, this portion of the calendar is critical for the fields and the expected yield for the landowners.

Simultaneously, someone else dreads those two months. They curse at the skies.

“Why do you hate me, God? I hate this constant humidity. I want to be outside and enjoy nature. I want to play sports. Instead, I have to time these amazing downpours. In some places the power cuts out intermittently, making life at home rather difficult.”

While in material life there is a constant sort of calculation in terms of profit for the purpose of sense enjoyment, the person engaged in pure devotional service is satisfied with any outcome. From the history documented in Vedic literature we have many instances of supposed failure yielding an auspicious end.

1. Jatayu against Ravana

He was a friend of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Now that late leader’s daughter-in-law was in trouble. Jatayu saw what was happening and decided to intervene. A vulture who could power through the sky, the odds were against him since the perpetrator had ten heads and twenty arms.

The aerial car known as Pushpaka was en-route to returning Ravana to his home in Lanka. He had a passenger with him. Sita Devi, the princess of Videha, was taken against her will. She was already happily married and wanted nothing to do with Ravana or any man other than her husband.

Jatayu tried his best to stop Ravana but in the end suffered defeat. The wounds were mortal, but that supposed loss turned into the greatest gain of seeing the Supreme Lord at the time of death. Shri Rama, the husband of Sita, happened to find Jatayu just as the bird was about to quit his body.

2. Bhishma in the Bharata War

The ways of family infighting and politics are tricky. Sometimes it is not clear where to stand, for which side to choose. Shri Krishna had a dilemma once when His elder brother Balarama was in the midst of a heated quarrel with Rukmi. This happened to be the brother of Rukmini Devi, the principal queen in Dvaraka. Krishna had to choose between His own brother and the brother of His beloved wife. In the end, He remained silent.

[Bhishma]Bhishma fought for the side of the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra. He remained a loyal devotee to the Supreme Lord, though. Thus when he lay on the battlefield filled with arrows and ready to depart for the next world, that defeat turned into the greatest gain. He meditated on the form of Narayana while travelling to the next destination.

3. Arjuna protecting Krishna’s queens

Imagine being the best at something, recognized by your peers and admirers alike. You can defeat the best of them and you are on top of the world for a long time. Then one day the skills diminish. You can no longer take on someone half your size. There is dishonor in a sense, which is a tough pill to swallow after having been honored for so long.

अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि
कथयिष्यन्ति ते ऽव्ययाम्
सम्भावितस्य चाकीर्तिर्
मरणाद् अतिरिच्यते

akīrtiṁ cāpi bhūtāni
kathayiṣyanti te ‘vyayām
sambhāvitasya cākīrtir
maraṇād atiricyate

“People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.34)

Arjuna had the amazing distinction of leading his side to victory in one of the greatest military conflicts the world has ever seen. He was well-respected for his marksmanship. He fought courageously and never met defeat.

That is until sometime later. After the well-wisher, Shri Krishna, had departed for the spiritual world, Arjuna was in charge of protecting the queens left behind. He failed in that responsibility. A group of bandits defeated him. That same ability was no longer there. In truth, it was Krishna behind the strength the entire time.

[Shri Krishna]Yet even that defeat was auspicious since it reminded Arjuna of Govinda, the one who gives pleasure to the senses. Only in devotional service are the dualities of material existence removed. Honor, dishonor, fame, infamy, pride, shame and other pairs of opposite conditions have no relevance on the final destination, which is guaranteed through a pure consciousness further strengthened by the constant chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Jatayu against Ravana defeat,

Arjuna later failure to meet.

Bhishma on battlefield fallen,

But Krishna through meditation calling.

Meaning that auspiciousness still,

Despite arrows the body to fill.

Not like on profit calculation stress,

Because Lord devotion to bless.

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