623 – Defeatist Tendencies

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit

Overcoming Defeatist Tendencies

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in his Book Wings of Fire narrates his own experience of how he overcame disappointment in not being selected as a Pilot. Following is a quote from the above book.

“When I was a young boy, I dreamt that I would fly. I had a fantastic teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer, who gave me the idea that I must take to science and do something connected with flight. So I went into aeronautical engineering and graduated in 1957.

I wanted to become a pilot. That was my dream. I applied to the Air Force and was asked to attend an interview with the Air Force Selection Board at Dehra Dun. So I travelled all the way from my home in the island town of Rameshwaram, in the south of India, to Chennai, from Chennai to Delhi, from Delhi to Dehra Dhun. It was the first time I had seen the whole of India, this beautiful land of different cultures.

In four days you had to do all sorts of things: run, do gymnastics, attend interviews and group discussions. Out of twenty-five applicants, eight were to be selected. After four days of difficult tasks, nine were selected. I was the ninth, but they wanted only eight. I was told I had a good chance because normally one fellow would not pass the medical exam. However, for some reason, by God’s grace, all the eight got through the medical, and so I was not selected.

I was very dejected, so I decided to take a bus to Delhi via Rishikesh and Haridwar. I started from Dehra Dun in the early morning. When I arrived in Rishikesh, suddenly the beautiful vista of the Ganges appeared in front of me, that crystal clear water coming from the Himalayas. I felt like taking a bath. After bathing in the Ganges, I was putting on my dhoti, when I looked over at the opposite riverbank. There I saw the most beautiful, happy building.

Automatically I was attracted to that building, which was Swami Sivananda’s ashram. Swami Sivananda was sitting on a pedestal giving satsang to hundreds of people. I was sitting in the very last row.

After his discourse on the Bhagavad Gita, normally he would randomly select two people from the crowd for an interview. I was one of the two selected. I don’t know what made him select me. He called me to his chamber, then he looked at me and said in Tamil, “What’s your name?” “Abdul Kalam,” I replied. “Why are you sad,“ he asked. This great one, this chosen one, this godly person, knew of my sorrow! I replied, “Swamiji, I will tell you the facts. I had come from an interview with the Air Force Selection Board and I was not selected to be a pilot.”

Swami Sivananda looked at me. I was such a small fellow in front of him. Then he opened the Bhagavad Gita at the eleventh chapter, Vishwaroopa darshan, in which Lord Krishna appears in front of Arjuna in all His forms. When Arjuna tells Krishna he is afraid of fighting in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna tells him, “Defeat the defeatist tendency.” That is a great message.

Swami Sivananda asked me to repeat the statement “Defeat the defeatist tendency” three times. I repeated it three times and I was cheered up. It was such a great experience. That Mantra is always with me and that great philosophy and advice which Lord Krishna gave to Arjuna always comes to me whenever I’m in trouble.”

Dr Kalam in his later years, extensively quoted his above experience and related it to the 623rd Thirukkural Couplet which espouses “Defeating the defeatist tendencies”. Thiruvalluvar says that a person who is carrying out a task regardless of any trouble will cause trouble to the said trouble itself.

இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர் இடும்பைக்கு 
இடும்பை படாஅ தவர்.

Idumbaikku Idumbai Paduppar Idumbaikku
Idumbai Padaa adha-var

பரிமேலழகர் உரை: 

இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படாஅதவர் – வினை செய்யுங்கால் அதற்கு இடையே வந்த துன்பத்திற்கு வருந்தாதவர்; இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர் – அத்துன்பந்தனக்குத் தாம் துன்பம் விளைப்பர். (வருந்துதல் – இளைத்துவிட நினைத்தல். மனத் திட்பமுடையராய் விடாது முயலவே வினை முற்றுப்பெற்றுப் பயன்படும். படவே, எல்லா இடும்பையும் இலவாம் ஆகலின், ‘இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர்’ என்றார். வருகின்ற பாட்டு இரண்டினும் இதற்கு இவ்வாறே கொள்க. சொற்பொருட் பின்வருநிலை.).

து₃:கே₂ஷ்வ சஞ்சலோ பூ₄த்வா நரோ தை₄ர்ய கு₃ணான்வித:
து₃:க₂ஸ்ய து₃:க₂ம் ஜனயன் நாரப்₃த₄ம் கர்ம ஸாத₄யேத் ||