Thought for the Day - 10/07/2014 - Akhandadhi Das

Good morning. This football World Cup has thrown up some memorable moments but, Tuesday’s humiliating defeat of Brazil to Germany – by 7 goals to 1 - was historic; and will haunt the memories of Brazilian fans for decades to come. Worse still, during the game, not only did Miraslav Klose beat Ronaldo’s goal record, but Germany overtook Brazil as the top team for goals scored in the entire history of the competition.

What does such an event do to a country whose identity and national consciousness revolve around its status as the world’s greatest footballing nation? Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scholari tried to protect his players from the fall-out by admitting he was the person responsible. But, blame is little comfort when people feel damage to their self-identity. Many Brazilian football fans may now be thinking: we can never feel good about ourselves again.

I think many of us go through similar emotions when a crucial part of who we believe we are is undermined or lost – possibly by our own mistakes, or by the actions of others. It may be the loss of a job or profession; or an ambition or dream thwarted. Perhaps even the loss of a partner, or a child.

When that activity, that relationship or that status has gone from our life, we may feel we’re no longer the same person. The Bhagavad-gita suggests that the pain from this kind of trauma to our self-identity may be the deepest and longest-lasting; and, the most difficult to recover from, because it affects us at what we believe is our deepest self.

But, the Gita then explains that all of the notions that make up who we think we are – such as our job, our nationality, our interests, our relationships - are part of a persona that we have adopted during our current incarnation. As important as they may be to us in this lifetime, these aspects of our identity are temporary, changeable and make up what is called in Sanskrit: ahankara – roughly translated as the “ego”. Or, more correctly the “false ego”. False, because at a deeper level, we are more than that.

We are spirit - a transcendent soul, the atma. For the period of this lifetime, we may express our aspirations, our intentions and hopefully, our love through that ahankara persona. But, as the Gita suggests: we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the face we show to the world is all that we are.

Brazilian fans may feel devastated that their status as the greatest footballing nation seems in tatters. But, they and, indeed, all of us need reminding: we are much more than that.

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