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Olympics, Kurukshetra and Life

June 3, 2022 - 9:58

The 24th July of 2021 was an incredible day for India at the Tokyo Olympics. India celebrated Her first medal as Mirabhai Chanu bagged silver in weightlifting. After the win, an interviewer asked, “ It is very tough to live upto the Olympics expectations of winning. How did you manage to cope up with the pressure?”. Mirabhai replied, Yes! It was indeed very tough. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, I was totally devastated after the loss. I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. Depressed and disappointed, I didn’t have the urge to do anything and motivate myself. I even contemplated quitting the sport”.

Around 5000 years back, a distressed Arjuna in the middle of the Kurukshetra battlefield, unable to bear his thoughts, driven by grief, decided not to fight even if he was attacked by the enemy. He was terrified thinking about the outcome of the war by fighting his own kith and kin. He expressed his internal dilemma and mental distress and collapsed in the middle of the battlefield. He then surrendered to his friend Krishna for guidance. Bhagavan Krishna then became his Guru as Arjuna awakened to disciplehood. Thus followed the wisdom of Bhagavadgita.

karmaṇyevādhikāraste mā phaleṣhu kadāchana 

mā karmaphalaheturbhūrmā te saṅgo’stvakarmaṇi 

Bhagavadgita 2.47

Bhagavan Krishna told Arjuna that it is the fundamental duty of a human being to perform his duties. It is also important that those duties be performed with the right attitude, following Dharma. Krishna reminded Arjuna that as a warrior, it was his duty and nature to fight the war. Bhagavan Krishna also explained the nature of action (karma) to be performed and the approach to the result. The right attitude while performing duties is when we do it sincerely with maximum effort, without pondering over the result. The result of such an action performed with detachment, i.e., without any concern of success or failure, will not affect us. We have the right to perform our duties, but we are not entitled to the result, whether it be success or failure. We should neither be too delighted when we succeed nor too dejected when we fail.

Arjuna was a Maharathi, one of the highest ranks of warriors in the Kurukshetra battle. Yet, he was sensitive at the battlefield, where the best out of him was expected. Tokyo Olympics this year has seen the emotional breakdown of many of its biggest star athletes falling under the infamous Olympic pressure. It was the fear of failure at the game that brought internal turmoil to the participants. Many athletes withdrew at the last minute, overwhelmed by stress. When the time to perform came, they lost self confidence and lacked courage.

Let us look at an example from Mahabharata. Abhimanyu is one of the key personalities in Mahabharata known for his competence, fearlessness and wisdom. In the Kurukshetra war, Abhimanyu knew his death was certain the moment he set out to penetrate the chakravyuha. But his confidence, courage and commitment were so strong that he was not ready to give up. The warriors he fought were far more experienced and seasoned than him. Yet he exhibited a courage and valour that was far greater than what his age, experience and training demanded. What was his motivation? To fight for what is right, irrespective of whether he had the might to do it alone. We may come across many situations in our life that are beyond our control. In such circumstances, we often create a Chakravyuha in our own minds, with negative thoughts and tendencies. Many times, it is our response to these situations that makes the problem worse. Instead of overthinking, we can always try to plan and control our response to these adverse situations. We should remember that we have the option of fighting like Abhimanyu without losing our inner strength rather than running away from the circumstances. We should face every challenge with confidence rather than fear, like the brave Abhimanyu.

uddharedātmanātmānaṁ nātmānamavasādayet 

ātmaiva hyātmano bandhurātmaiva ripurātmanaḥ 

Bhagavadgita 6.5

Bhagavan Krishna taught Arjuna the importance of navigating the mind in the right direction. The mind is tricky, it can be our friend as well as our enemy. It will delude us in adverse situations. We often allow ourselves to be pranked by our mind. In fact, the real Kurukshetra war does not happen externally, it happens internally, in our minds. We must realise this and change our attitude towards the situations we face, instead of trying to change the external factors that contribute to it. Akhwari, an athlete from Tanzania participated in the 1968 Olympic marathon. During the run he fell, injuring his knee and shoulder. Despite being barely able to walk, he continued and crossed the finish line hours later as the last one. Why did he continue running knowing that he couldn’t win the race? His reply to this question were words of unmatching determination. He said his country didn’t send him to only start the race, but to finish it as well. Akhwari hence proved if we have will power, we are always on the winning side.

Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the spiritual guru from Kerala, popularly known as Amma says, “The Gita is not teaching us to worship a God who resides up in the sky on a golden throne, nor to strive to get into heaven after we die. Gita teaches us to experience peace and happiness right now, right here. Gita helps us to realise our true Self.”

The Olympic creed says, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”. This is an important life lesson for us all. The challenges we face in life are like the hurdles in olympics. Sometimes we stumble, and get wounded, heartbroken or scared as well. But remember that there is an Arjuna in each one of us. Also, remember that only if we win over our inner conflicts and challenges, can we bag a gold medal in the Olympics of life.

Author Profile:

Aswathi Chandran is Faculty Associate at School of Spiritual & Cultural Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri Campus. She is a post-graduate in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. She has more than eight years of experience in teaching and research. Her areas of research interest include Cultural Sustainability, Itihasas and Classical Dance forms of India. She also has passion for Indian History and has explored Comparative Religion studies as well. She has coordinated several workshops and has conducted training sessions in these areas. Alongside she supports volunteering activities for AYUDH and is engaged in mentoring students and in working with them.

Disclaimer : This article belongs to the author in full, including opinions and insights. Amrita University is not responsible or liable for the information contained in this article, or its implications therein

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