Zen Talk: A Buddha Quote on the Nature of Victory

“Though one defeats a million men in battle, one who overcomes the self alone is in fact the highest victor.”

What do you think of this saying by Buddha? I think it’s meaning is fairly straightforward, but how do you react to the statement?

We must conquer and understand ourselves if we hope to have the spoils worth having (enlightenment/nirvana), which are far more valuable than the glory and victory of war. Does that about sum it up?

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8 Responses

  1. The Islamic equivalent is the hadith where Muhammad (pbuh) allegedly* said to the Muslim soldiers returning from a battle (paraphrasing), “We are returning from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad,” the greater jihad being the endless battle people have controlling their inner selves.

    * “Allegedly” in that the isnad (the chain of commenters) of the hadith is considered “weak,” and some people say that the hadith may have been fabricated. Regardless of the hadith’s status, it is one of the more influential ahadith that guide Muslims.

  2. Today, we are in an age of “soundbytes” –things are compressed into easy phrases that go over well in medias. Sometimes—nuance and understanding get lost.

    “overcome self”—sounds good. But I feel that the essence of the teaching could be misinterpreted in the translation. There are “layers” of “self/consiousness/the entity that is the “us” apart from our physical form. The lowest layer of “self” is instinctive and takes care of basic needs for food, shelter, companionship…etc to “overcome” this would be suicidal. So the word “overcome” as understood by Buddha would have meant to manage it in order to create balance rather than to eliminate it. This might be how the “soul/self” is understood in Judeo-Islamic thought as well. When desires are not in balance with the divine force–they can become egoic and cause disharmony. It is this struggle/striving for balance and harmony that is the greater Jihad. —the most important part of our spiritual journey. We/self should not abandon our responsibility to our form/body in the “desire” to pursue spiritual fullfilment. Nor should we abandon the other responsibilities/duties that come with our form/body—the relationships with others such as parents, spouse, children, relatives, friends and associates, society…etc.

  3. Certainly Buddha would have agreed that we cannot neglect the basic needs of our bodies. After all, he does try to guide us along the Middle Path. He discovered himself how unnecessary pure asceticism was when he gave it a shot and his previous life told him the follies of profligacy. Thus, the Middle Path, which seems to be precisely what you’re suggesting here, is a most appropriate one to walk.

  4. Silly academics, use the KISS method. Keep it simple stupid.

    “Conquering” things, people, places are simple short term solutions that will leave “Yourself” “Unconquered” in the long run. If this quote is to soldiers from Buddha he is merely trying to put “Short term gain vs Long term gain” in a context they can understand.

    In short: Until you are content with yourself all of your victories will become hollow.

  5. PS if you want to go further into Buddha’s teachings and digress from the quote, he is not a man of “balance” he is a man of harmony. Balance suggests opposing forces being equal, harmony exists in balance and out of balance and is a consistently shifting point of existence based on timing.

    Read less and do more thinking or living… jeez.

  6. “One who overcomes the self” would be a person who followed the Buddha’s teachings. Basically, the Buddha taught that we should be mindful in every moment. To train for this, we sit in meditation. When we sit in meditation, we focus our awareness. We learn to know our own mind. Really know it. It’s something you cannot do unless you have practiced for some time – there is too much noise and distraction in the world.

    After you have started to focus and clear your mind, you begin to know yourself in a way that you never did before. This is not some New Age crap. This is what the Buddha taught.

  7. I see force taken as power
    by commanding force, I (the separated state of consciousness, being called ego), can rule the earth, and his people etc.

    by commanding power, I (the complete awarenes) can only command what I am.

    And therefore I command the Universe, by flowing along the precise harmony it has, because I Am. There is only one Being. But you cannot see it from the separate point of awarenes of the ego. no matter how much force you put into it.

    Call it Reason or Material Reality.

    Because Power precedes Force, as Being precedes Mind, and Mind precedes Ego.

    If the I Am is different from You, and We Are, then you are still being focused on a point of awareness located on the separation allowed by the power of the I Am, that gives birth to the force of the separated awarenes, I am the ego.

    The universe is a multiple awarenes points of perspectives. And all of them are perfectly rigth. But are proportionally limited or expanded to the point of awarenes that gave birth to themselves.

    I am, thinking that Buda points to this, the same way the ancient greeks said, that the most important victory is that one achieved against myself, being myself that separated point of awareness called ego.

    Thats why the rule of force has no power of itself, but only the one it receives from the Power of the Being, through mind. And free will.

    Force comes through mind, who comes from Being, who comes from the Complete Awareness.

    If you need to practice, then is your mind against you mind that you are training. Awareness is perfectly complete right now, it is You, it Is Me, it Is All. Shutting down the mind is impossible, it will always find a way to convince yourself that you have tamed it for good. instead you can let your awareness be all you are, by acknowledging your Power, you render the mind useles, by not focusing your being on it, but rather on what you are. You are a being realizing the awarenes of being, and thats all, its no difficult, it not takes years, it takes the only you have Power, the power of being the I Am.

    From my limited perspective and experience, thats what I see. But of course it may not be what tomorrow i believe.

    As Buda himself said, You become what you tought, and all teaching are, but to cross a river, and not to be hauled for a second after being asimilated.

    Forget the teachings an be your awarenes, use your breath to reach the door.

    If there’s anything you need to know before breathe, then you don’t need it. You are the awareness itself.

  8. Thank you for your comment, Southpark Lover. I actually read that last line over and over, thinking about the importance of breathing at the moment of awareness. For days I’ve been discussing this idea intensely with someone close to me who is constantly dwelling on some negative elements in his life. This person insists that he cannot stop thinking about these things despite the teachings and techniques of mindfulness that I continue, fruitlessly, trying to convey. Recently I’ve taken up the mantra of, just breath, insisting that constant breathing and awareness of breathing will lead to further awareness and be the beginning of solving this dwelling. I’ll now refer my friend to this conversation and your comments.

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