The Satisfaction Of Loss

The Bhagavad Gita talks of the capacity we have to take joy and loss equally. But we find happiness only in one, not the other. Profit, victory, success are pleasure. Loss is not. Loss is deprivation. It is to be looked down on; to be avoided at all costs. It is a sign of failure. It is considered a tragedy. A sportsman losing his gold or a lover losing his beloved is used with great dramatic and emotional effect. Yet there is a satisfaction which can be experienced in loss. Melancholy is not altogether negative. It can be dignified and can demonstrate character. Wordsworth calls it ‘majestic pain’, such that the immortals feel...

You might wonder, how can one experience satisfaction in loss? It seems counter-intuitive to think that in loss there can be peace. But there can be peace in loss. Because in that situation there exists something other than the result: it is the action. Deep satisfaction can arise from having done the best one could possibly do.

Swami Parthasarathy talks of the joy of action well-accomplished. To strive, to struggle, and to not succeed must be your motto, he says. This seems a bit strange. What use is struggle if it doesn’t result in success? Results are not under our control. Just because you did your best doesn’t mean you get the reward. There is no such law. If this is so, why would one work? Because, even though results are
never guaranteed, satisfaction can be! You can be entirely content by doing your action perfectly. The pain of loss will be offset with the bliss of satisfaction with oneself. If you have left no stone unturned, done all you could possibly do and yet failed, there is still a great feeling of satisfaction within. The action itself brings satisfaction. There lies the importance of dedication in work. That you worked hard and gave what you could makes you strong enough to bear the loss, if any. The peace continues despite the loss. The pain will not be accompanied by sleepless nights. Sorrow will not give rise to agitation. That much can be guaranteed in a world of very few guarantees.

Satisfaction in loss can be experienced in yet another way. When one knows, finally, that nothing can be done, craving ends and you experience peace. The result has come in, the suspense is at an end and nothing remains to be done. You have done what you could. The mind is at rest.
This of course is not to be misconstrued as the martyrdom of self-pity usually demanding others’ pity too! It is not about wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve and using one’s misfortunes as a talking point, or enjoying one’s pain. It is not a game to be played to avoid effort. It is not complacency with the less-thanperfect. It is simply finding happiness which is within our control instead of depending on factors over which we have no control. It is a peace that comes, spontaneously, out of a job well done.

There is tremendous power in action. “May you live a hundred years working,” says the Isavasya Upanishad. Action brings about satisfaction, prosperity and purifies the personality. Then losses and gains become insignificant. And happiness becomes consistent. That’s why it is said that to be a loser’ is not all that terrible – in fact it could do you good.

Janaki Santoke

This appeared in The Speaking Tree in TOI

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