In the dictionary the Indomitable Spirit is the spirit that is unconquerable. It is most often used in the Martial Arts arena. In the past all forms of martial arts were primarily used for warfare, protection from foreign forces and mostly practiced by soldiers and royal families. The indomitable spirit helped sustenance of energy on the battlefield.
Even to the present day military training and success is based on this indomitable spirit or sustenance in the worst situations. The prisoners or war who have survived and returned have all shown this undying spirit of continuing to survive the ordeal.
I have experienced this Indomitable Spirit of survival in my mother during her worst ordeal of cancer treatment. Her stoic nature to withstand the treatment, the surgery, and to continue to tolerate the torture of the harsh medications is a true example of this Indomitable Spirit.
As I was pondering the true meaning of this unconquerable spirit a surge of stories crowded my mind. Then as I started analyzing them I realized that in each of these stories those who derived this inner strength had an undying devotion and conviction in a spirit within themselves that would see them through.
These stories are brushed aside as mythological because it is hard to experience it without the deep ultimate faith and conviction in this spirit that is the true immortal self, apart from this mortal world. This is the spirit that keeps trees upright, holds a tall sky scraper from succumbing to gravity, keeps a huge airplane up in the air against gravity, creates changes in the weather, sustains life and ends the same life when their time is up.
Indomitable spirit is that in which there is complete surrender to the spirit, without a false sense of invincibility, allowing the spirit to protect, fight or flight as necessary, allowing the spirit to steer the mind in the path of light, and believing in this spirit in the worst and best of life.
Stories of life of Prahalad, life of Nachiketa, life of Savitri and Satyavan, life of Saint Frances of Assisi, St. Anthony, Mother Teresa, Hanuman, Ganesha, Jesus, Krishna, etc all exemplify the indomitable spirit within them. They all believed in that spirit beyond their own mortal coil limitations. Those who exemplified this idea of indomitable spirit beyond human imagination were revered and worshipped as the true incarnation of God. Nevertheless their stories have been passed down generations sometimes as mythology, and sometimes as miracles in total shock and awe.
Stories of INDOMITABLE SPIRIT:
Katha Upanishad: Nachiketa and Yama
Vājashrava, desiring a gift from the gods, started an offering to donate all his possessions. But Nachiketa noticed that he was donating only the cows that were old, barren, blind, or lame; not such as might buy the worshiper a place in Heaven. Nachiketa wanting the best for his father’s rite, asked: “I too am yours, to which god will you offer me?”. After being pestered thus, Vājashrava answered in a fit of anger, “I give you to Death (Yama)”.
So Nachiket went to Death’s home, but the god was out, and he waited three days. When Yama returned, he was sorry to see that a Brahman guest had been waiting so long. He told Nachiketa, “You have waited in my house for three days without hospitality, therefore ask three boons of me”. Nachiket first asked for peace for his father and himself. Yama agreed. Next, Nachiketa wished to learn the sacred fire sacrifice, which also Yama elaborated. For his third boon, Nachiketa asked to learn the mystery of what comes after death.
Yama was reluctant on this question; he said that this had been a mystery even to the gods. He asked Nachiketa to ask for some other boon, and offered many material gains.
But Nachiketa replied that material things will last only till the morrow. He who has encountered Death personally, how can he desire wealth? No other boon would do. Yama was secretly pleased with this disciple, and elaborated on the nature of the true Self, which persists beyond death. The key of the realization is that this Self (within each person) is inseparable from Brahman, the supreme spirit, the vital force in the universe. Yama’s explanation is a succinct explication of Hindu metaphysics, and focuses on the following points:
- The sound Om! is the syllable of the supreme Brahman
- The Self, whose symbol is Om is the same as the omnipresent Brahman. Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Self is formless and all-pervading.
- The goal of the wise is to know this Self.
- The Self is like a rider; the horses are the senses, which he guides through the maze of desires.
- After death, it is the Self that remains; the Self is immortal.
- Mere reading of the scriptures or intellectual learning cannot realize Self.
- One must discriminate the self from the body, which is the seat of desire.
- Inability to realize Brahman results in one being enmeshed in the cycle of rebirths. Understanding the Self leads to moksha
Thus having learnt the wisdom of the Brahman from Yama, Nachiketa was freed from the cycle of births
Prahlada was born to Hiranyakashipu and Kayadu, an evil king who had been granted a boon that he could not be killed by man or animal, day or night, inside or outside. Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continues to worship Vishnu instead of him. His father then decided to commit filicide and poison him, but he survived. Then he trampled the boy with elephants, but he lived. Then he put him in a room with venomous snakes, and they made a bed for him with their bodies.
Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, was blessed in that she could not be hurt by fire. Hiranyakashipu finally puts Prahlada on the lap of Holika as she sits on a pyre. Prahlad prays to Vishnu to keep him safe. Holika burns to death as Prahlada is unscathed. This event is celebrated as the Hindu festival of Holi.
The story of Prahlada teaches that:
- Faith in God is paramount.
- God will always prevail.
- God saves his devotees.
- Devotion can be practiced at any time. Age does not matter.
- Evil will be punished.
Story of Savitri and Satyavan
The childless king of Madra, Asvapati, lives ascetically for many years and offers oblations to Sun God Savitr. His consort is Malavi. He wishes to have a son for his lineage. Finally, pleased by the prayers, God Savitr appears to him and grants him a boon: he will soon have a daughter. The king is joyful at the prospect of a child. She is born and named Savitri in honor of the god. Savitri is born out of devotion and asceticism, traits she will herself practice.Savitri is so beautiful and pure, she intimidates all the men in the vicinity. When she reaches the age of marriage, no man asks for her hand, so her father tells her to find a husband on her own. She sets out on a pilgrimage for this purpose and finds Satyavan, the son of a blind king named Dyumatsena, who after he had lost everything including his sight, lives in exile as a forest-dweller.
Savitri returns to find her father speaking with Sage Narada who announces that Savitri has made a bad choice: although perfect in every way, Satyavan is destined to die one year from that day. In response to her father’s pleas to choose a more suitable husband, Savitri insists that she will choose her husband but once. After Narada announces his agreement with Savitri, Ashwapati
Savitri and Satyavan are married, and she goes to live in the forest. Immediately after the marriage, Savitri wears the clothing of a hermit and lives in perfect obedience and respect to her new parents-in-law and husband.
Three days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting and vigil. Her father-in-law tells her she has taken on too harsh of a regimen, but Savitri replies that she has taken an oath to perform these austerities, at which Dyumatsena offers his support.
The morning of Satyavan’s predicted death, Savitri asks for her father-in-law’s permission to accompany her husband into the forest. Since she has never asked for anything during the entire year she has spent at the hermitage, Dyumatsena grants her wish.
They go and while Satyavan is splitting wood, he suddenly becomes weak and lays his head in Savitri’s lap. Yama himself, the god of Death, comes to claim the soul of Satyavan. Savitri follows Yama as he carries the soul away. When he tries to convince her to turn back, she offers successive formulas of wisdom. First she praises obedience to Dharma, then friendship with the strict, then Yama himself for his just rule, then Yama as King of Dharma, and finally noble conduct with no expectation of return. Impressed at each speech, Yama praises both the content and style of her words and offers any boon, except the life of Satyavan. She first asks for eyesight and restoration of the kingdom for her father-in-law, then a hundred sons for her father, and then a hundred sons for herself and Satyavan. The last wish creates a dilemma for Yama, as it would indirectly grant the life of Satyavan. However, impressed by Savitri’s dedication and purity, he offers one more time for her to choose any boon, but this time omitting “except for the life of Satyavan”. Savitri instantly asks for Satyavan to return to life. Yama grants life to Satyavan and blesses Savitri’s life with eternal happiness.
Satyavan awakens as though he has been in a deep sleep and returns to his parents along with his wife. Meanwhile at their home, Dyumatsena regains his eyesight before Savitri and Satyavan return. Since Satyavan still does not know what happened, Savitri relays the story to her parents-in-law, husband, and the gathered ascetics. As they praise her, Dyumatsena’s ministers arrive with news of the death of his usurper. Joyfully, the king and his entourage return to his kingdom
Story of Dhruv
Dhruv Nakshatra, or Dhruva Nakshatram, is the name of the pole star in Hindu Religion. The origin of Dhruv star is narrated through an interesting story in the Bhagavad Purana. Dhruv was the son of King Uttanapada and Suneeti. The king also had another wife named Suruchi and she had a son named Utham.
The King had a special attachment for Suruchi and the queen decided to take advantage of this to make Utham, her son, the next king. But the next in line to the throne was Dhruv.
Once the young Dhruv saw his younger brother Utham sitting on the lap of his
father, now he also wanted to sit on the lap of his father. But when he ran to
his father, Suruchi rebuked him and asked him to go to God and ask him to let
you sit on his lap.
The king felt sad but remained quiet for not wanting to hurt Suruchi.
Dhruv was a determined child and he immediately went in search of God. He walked away from the palace and passed through numerous places but no one could guide him to God. Finally, he met Saint Narada in a forest.
Saint Narada tried all means to send him back to the palace saying he was too young to meet God. But Dhruv stood his ground and said he will only go back after meeting god.
Impressed by the young Dhruv’s resolve, Narada asked him to sit on the banks of Yamuna and meditate by chanting Om Nama Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
Dhruv did exactly as told by Sage Narada. Gradually, the meditation became so intense that the young boy gave up food and water.
Impressed by his determination and courage, Lord Vishnu appeared before him and he was overjoyed to see him. Lord Vishnu gave him the boon that he will rule the kingdom for several years and finally he will find a place in the heaven and will get to sit on the lap of God.
Dhruv returned to the palace and he became the king in due course of time and ruled the kingdom wisely for many years. After his death he became the Pole Star – sitting on the lap of God.
All these stories exemplify the INDOMITABLE SPIRIT that is within us all which we can experience only with undying faith, conviction, and belief in something beyond this physical mortal coil.