Five Failures Of Paurusham

[Krishna and Arjuna]“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

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रसो ऽहम् अप्सु कौन्तेय
प्रभास्मि शशि-सूर्ययोः
प्रणवः सर्व-वेदेषु
शब्दः खे पौरुषं नृषु

raso ‘ham apsu kaunteya
prabhāsmi śaśi-sūryayoḥ
praṇavaḥ sarva-vedeṣu
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu

1. Memory during a test

“I don’t know what happened. I studied for weeks. I memorized so many concepts. That one question I got wrong on the test was so easy. It makes no sense. I am familiar with the concept, and yet my test score does not reflect that level of intelligence. A wasted effort, if you ask me.”

2. Getting out of bed

“I don’t know what happened this morning. I could not get up out of bed. I had to be somewhere, too. It was an important appointment to meet. I failed. What excuse could I give? I never thought this was possible. Perhaps tomorrow will be different.”

3. The turn on the way to the office

“I know exactly what happened. My brain grew accustomed to the previous route. Where we used to work, I would get off the highway at a later exit. Since we have moved to a new office, I need time to get adjusted. My mind is still on autopilot while driving, and so I missed the exit that I should have taken.”

4. Watering the plants

“I know how to take care of plants. They were so lovely. Visitors would compliment me on how alive they looked. I don’t know what happened. I missed a few days and now the plants look like they are beyond repair. I don’t think I can save them.”

5. Taking the wrong child to the doctor

“Hey, it could happen to anyone. The doctor was wondering why my child was doing okay. They said there were no signs of fever or illness. At the last minute, my brother showed up in the examination room. He brought the other child, the brother who is a twin. I had taken the wrong child to the doctor. Stop laughing. It is not that funny. Did I mention they are identical twins?”

A valuable tool comes into our possession. Perhaps it is an electronic device. It helps us to carry out difficult tasks in a shorter amount of time than it would take if worked by hand.

[swiss army knife]When we show people this tool, they are impressed. Prior to revealing the source of assistance, others were amazed at how quickly we could accomplish the associated tasks. They thought we had superpowers or something. They came to rely upon us to get difficult jobs accomplished.

One day, out of the blue, the tool ceases to function. It no longer works. We grew accustomed to the success. We relied upon this tool. It never dawned on us that there is a source to the energy involved. Once that source is gone, so is the ability in the tool.

The same applies for human effort, in general. In Sanskrit, one way to identify the individual is purusha. In the most common context, this word refers to a person. Purusha is a person, whereas prakriti is the material energy covering that person. In another context, purusha is the male and prakriti is the female.

The effort applied by purusha is known as paurusham. Thus the word can mean “human effort” or “ability.” The exercise of paurusham is not always the same. This difference manifests in variety of skill. One person can retain a large volume of information. Another person has the strength to lift a car. This person can go days without sleeping, while our neighbor can run for long distances without tiring.

From the above mentioned examples, we see that paurusham does not always succeed. It does not always manifest to the same magnitude. This means that there is a source to that paurusham. My ability is not based on me. There is another force that is responsible.

That same force is responsible for the ability of the entirety of nature, of the universe, in fact. This provides further insight into the concept of God. Without opening a sacred text, without visiting a temple, without concerning ourselves with dogmatic insistence, we can understand God as the ability in man.

God provides and God can also take away. One time this teaching was received directly from God to a student. Arjuna had exceptional ability, which he displayed many times on the battlefield. This ability is rooted in Krishna. The same ability was later absent, during a battle that Arjuna previously would have won with ease.

[Krishna and Arjuna]If God is responsible for my ability, He is basically responsible for all of my successes and failures. I should dedicate the results of my work to Him. I should not be overly proud of what I can do and I should not overly lament my shortcomings. He is the source of everything, after all, and He can also bless me with the ability to see properly in this world and understand the way towards transcendence after my time here reaches its end.

In Closing:

After time the end reaching,
To find transcendence teaching.

Since ability sourced in Him,
Cause of both loss and win.

Difficult that concept to perceive,
Words Arjuna directly to receive.

That the varieties considering so,
Way for Supreme Lord to know.

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