Gain and Victory to Others

Pema Chodron writes in The Pocket Pema Chodron about a classic Tibetan Buddhist teaching that says, "Gain and victory to to others, loss and defeat to myself." She then explains that the teaching reminds us that life is not a scarce zero-sum game where you have to lose for me to win, and vice versa. It also is to help us realize that the words victory and defeat are nothing but illusions that keep us imprisoned while missing the fact that we have limitless internal wealth. It's what Christians call the Holy Spirit.

Realizing this internal wealth would help us overcome this imprisonment, but that's difficult for most of us to do until things fall apart. Of course that's the very thing we dread the most--defeat. Leonard Cohen clearly understood this in his song "Anthem" when he wrote, "There's a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." The cracks of what can seem like defeat are merely illusions of defeat in a battle occurring only in our imprisoned mind. In reality, there is no battle at all. There is merely a scary pathway, ironically illuminated by the defeat we feared, to the internal wealth that we need.

So "loss and defeat to myself" in the Buddhist teaching simply means we have to open our hearts and minds to know what defeat looks like. I don't wish prison on anyone, but there's no better place to see and know what the illusion of defeat looks like. We all experience the illusion of defeat from time to time, even non-inmates. Maybe it's "Nobody likes me" or "I'm getting old" or "My spouse wants a divorce" or "I'll never get a decent job." That all comes under the category of defeat, but only the defeat of ego. In reality, lamenting that we're not younger, thinner, smarter, or richer creates a circuit breaker making it impossible to connect to our limitless internal wealth.

When we say "victory to others," we share what is really the best part of who we are. We realize that "my health is good" or that we can "not only sing, but dance just as good as we want." Maybe we simply notice and share the joy of the changing seasons, a puppy's breath, or a beautiful sunset. Maybe someone falls in love with us, or we fall in love with someone.

All these possibilities are created when we free ourselves from trying to win or not to lose and begin to develop the attitude of wanting to share the internal wealth we've always had instead of being stingy or fearful.