Defeating the defeatist tendency


The Honourable past President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was one of the most amazing Indians to have walked on the planet in recent times. Despite his extremely simple background, it was perhaps his past Karma that led him to wonderful people that included those of great wisdom, and made him an outstanding teacher, aeronautical engineer, aerospace scientist, the 11th President of India, and above all, a distinguished, highly spiritual, Karmayogi and yet a thoroughly kind, down to earth and modest human being.

Below is an amazing, awe-inspiring and highly motivating talk by the honourable past President of India. It is a video of the full speech of Dr. Kalam in the Tamil language, that he gave at the Sivananda Saraswathi Sevashram in Kattankulathur, which is close to Madras.

Those who do not understand Tamil, might want to click on ‘Settings’ below the video and turn on ‘Subtitles’ in English.

Below is a gist of the speech and its essential points


Dr. Kalam begins by narrating an incident that happened when he was a student of the 5th grade. He talks about his teacher called Sivasubramaniam Iyer, who one day, taught him and his classmates about how birds fly. The teacher drew images of birds on the blackboard and explained to them the basic principles of flight. He noticed that thirty out of the forty students did not understand the lesson and therefore, he took his students along with the young Dr, Kalam to the nearby beach on the small island of Rameswaram in the southernmost tip of India where they lived.  He asked the students to observe birds that were flying in the sky and said that the flapping of the wings by birds caused lift which enabled them to fly. That was the day Dr. Kalam decided that he would study aeronautical science later on in life.

Time went by and Dr. Kalam graduated in physics and also completed his master’s degree ín aeronautical engineering in Madras. In order to fulfill one of his greatest ambitions in life, he then went to Dehradun for an interview for pilot officers, that was held by the selection board of the Indian Air Force Academy. The process lasted for four days and nights during which, he took part in sports activities, debates, discussions, etc. There were 250 applicants for eight posts of pilot officers. The board selected nine candidates and Dr. Kalam was the ninth one. He was taken in as a standby just in case someone among the eight failed the medical test. However, as the eight others were cleared,  the young Dr. Kalam was out of the race.  He felt dejected and upset because all the hard work he had put in, did not get him the seat at the academy. It was his big dream to become a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force and that dream of his was shattered to bits.

ganga.jpgOn the way back home in southern India, Dr. Kalam stopped at Hrishikesh and bathed in the Ganges. He then went to the Sivananda Ashram also located in Hrishikesh.  When he entered the Ashram, he saw Swami Sivananda seated and giving a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita to a large gathering of people. At the end of the discourse, a person from Europe who was present in the gathering, and Dr. Kalam were asked to meet Swami Sivananda. Swamiji asked him what the matter was because he looked so upset. Prof. Kalam told Swamiji about his not having made it through the selection process of the Indian Air Force Academy and that he was heartbroken and crestfallen.

Swamiji opened a copy of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and read out to him some Shlokas from the 11th chapter which is about the Vishvaroopa Darshan of Krishna. Swamiji said that Krishna asked Arjuna, who was filled with self-doubt and despondency, to fight all adversities and to learn to defeat his defeatist tendency. 

Dr. Kalam compares this teaching with Thirukkural #623

இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர் இடும்பைக்கு
இடும்பை படாஅ தவர்.
(idumbaikku idumbai paduppar idumbaikku idumbai padaa adhavar) (Kural 623)
Literal translation: “Those who give sorrow to sorrow, when in sorrow, never suffer from sorrow”
The couplet means that “Those who neither shake nor become weak when affected by sorrows but fight them fiercely, can easily win over them and drive them away.”

This impressed and inspired the young Prof. Kalam to such an extent that apart from achieving better clarity in life, he went on to become one of the top Indian scientists and later on, the most beloved President of the great Indian nation.

Dr. Kalam ends his inspiring speech with Thirukkural #595

வெள்ளத் தனைய மலர்நீட்டம் மாந்தர்தம்
உள்ளத் தனைய துயர்வு.
(vellath thanaiya malar-neettam maandhargam
ullath thanaiya thuyarvu) (Kural 595)
The couplet means that, “The height of the stalk of an aquatic flower is determined by the depth of the water in which it exists. Similarly, a person can rise as high as their zeal is.”

The deep knowledge that Dr. Kalam had of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, helped him live an absolutely blemishless and Karmically rewarding life as an extraordinarily fine human being.

May his teachings, which are practical and easy to comprehend as well as follow, continue to inspire people, generation after generation.

Jai Shri Krishna

SBG 9:27 Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you practise as austerity, O Arjuna, do it for Me and as an offering unto Me. 

SBG 9:28 By doing so, you will be freed from the bonds of action that result in good and in bad. By being free and with your mind guided by the principle of the Yoga of renunciation, you will attain Me.


Life is a gift - Let's live it!

2 thoughts on “Defeating the defeatist tendency

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.