The art of retreat

By Paulo Coelho

A warrior of the light who trusts too much in his intelligence ends up under-estimating the power of the adversary.

One must not forget: there are moments when strength is more effective than sagacity. And when we find ourselves faced with a certain kind of violence, no brilliance, argument, intelligence or charm can prevent tragedy.

That is why the warrior never under-estimates brute force. When it is irrationally aggressive, he retreats from the battle field until the enemy has spent his energy.

However, let it be made quite clear: a warrior of the light is never cowardly. Flight can be an excellent art of defense but it cannot be used when there is great fear.

In the face of any doubt, the warrior prefers to accept defeat and take care of his wounds, because he knows that if he flees he will be giving the attacker a greater power than he deserves.

He can cure physical suffering but he will be eternally persecuted for his spiritual weakness. In some difficult and painful moments, the warrior faces a situation of disadvantage with heroism, resignation and courage.

To achieve the necessary state of mind (since he is entering the fight at a disadvantage and may suffer a lot), the warrior has to understand exactly what can cause him harm. Okakura Kakuso comments in his book on the Japanese tea ritual:

“We look at the evil of others because we know evil through our own behavior. We never forgive those who injure us because we believe that we would never be forgiven. We tell painful truth to our neighbor because we want to hide it from ourselves. We show our strength so that no-one can see our fragility.”

“That is why, whenever you are judging your brother, know that it you who are on trial.”

Sometimes this knowledge can prevent a fight that will only bring disadvantages. However, at other times there is no way out, only an unequal fight.

We know we are gong to lose, but the enemy – violence – has left no other alternative but cowardice, which is of no interest to us. At this moment it is necessary to accept fate and try to bear in mind a text from the fabulous Bhagavad Gita (Chapter II, 16-26):

“Man is not born, nor does he ever die. For ever he tries to exist, he will never stop doing this, because this is eternal and permanent.”

“Just as a man casts off his old clothes and starts to wear new ones, the soul casts off the old body and takes on a new one.”

“But the soul is indestructible; spades cannot cut it down, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, and the wind never dries it. The soul is beyond the power of all such things.”

“As man is indestructible, he is always victorious (even in his defeats), and therefore should never have regrets.”

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Comments

  1. Paulien says:

    “That is why the warrior never under-estimates brute force. When it is irrationally aggressive, he retreats from the battle field until the enemy has spent his energy.”

    This week, our folk band had a little issue… Well, it wasn’t all that little. We were with five people, of which four were ‘go with the flow’ kind, led by enthousiasm, spirit and impulse. Though the fifth was a very tight young lady, very aimed on professional behaviour, seriousness and extremely focused on “the plan”, and not able to adjust to the river like water, to flow in peace… This eventually became rather a conflict and I was extremely angered by some things she said and thought about the rest of us. So I, in turn, expressed my frustration to her. After that I retreated and decided to lay low and leave her alone, until the time came in which we would settle it. For I we gone on with our discussion, the conflict could have exploded and in our anger we could have said even more things we didn’t mean or that were very hurting. So instead I decided to step back, to first calm myself and let the anger go away, for it blocked my “vision”… And when I was at peace, when I could see cleary again, I advanced once again, to that I could continue the “battle” with a clear mind and a clear judgement.

  2. Alexandra says:

    I try not to judge people,because I understand I cant know all hidden details.

  3. elisabeth delage says:

    this is a very important point, so thank you for this topic again!
    so true!to know ourself better,our dark side,and to understand the reasons,and how and why we can stop it,like that we can try to understand better the others.so true also,to know our capacities,sometimes the battles go nowhere,just to our destruction.so there is a time,a moment.but sometimes we are surprises of our reactions,wrongs or rights,because the world and people move all the time.more we learn more we can see,that a lot of wars are based on the differences,the fear to lose those differences.our societies don’t try to find this equilibrium,in many ways they teach us that we can’t find it.we are differents,our eyes,our cultures,our beliefs ect..right! but before all, we are humans and we live together on a same planet,with the same rule,life and death.i like also the simples thoughts,because there is no fight,no protest.bonne journée à tous!

  4. Manish says:

    Dear Paulo,

    I dont agree with what you say totally. I ebelieve the quote from Gita but life is sacrosanct and we must do everything to preserve it. Im from Mumbai though staying in another country now but my heart bleeds for the people who are going through hell due to the senseless madness perpetuated by fanatics who has been brainwashed into believeing that the mission of their lives are dominance and suprimacy of their religion. These fanatics know they will be tortured and many of them would have deaths in gutters, yet they are fearless, they dont value their lives. We need a solution to the real problems. So much chao, so much hate, so much unrest going around the world and we need to harness our collective will power to bring a stabler, snaer world. I do pray for it. Let us all do since nothing else seems to have any answer to this.

    Warm regards,
    Manish

  5. Anon says:

    The Indian text that you refer to in this article has been misspelt. It is the Bhagavad Gita, and not Bragavad Gita.

  6. luce says:

    Dear Paulo,

    thank you for lovely citations. I agree with Okakura Kakuso and I have witnessed so many times situations and behaviours alike, but the citation from Bragavad Gita is precious to remember and treasure it, to help you fight sin of sins: FEAR

    Dear Thelma,

    I totaly agree with you.

    Love
    Luce

  7. THELMA says:

    The fights are not fought with weapons and violence only. Most wars are taking place in secret chambers, in dark souls, in …the judges’ chambers. The enemy’s desire is for ..earthly possessions and power. At the same time the aim is to ..steal, to take advantage, to violate others’ rights, to destroy. The reason is envy, greed and ignorance. Ignorance of the Truth and of the law of ..Karma [dear Nelson D' Silva, Cause and Effect].
    We have to be all White, luminous creatures with thoughts of Love and to radiate the energy of wisdom and our Father, our shelter, knows the wrong-doers and gives divine justice!
    Love,
    Thelma

  8. Sefer JAN says:

    I agree with Okakura Kakuso. The Pharaoh was killing children in the city, while his wife was looking after Moses. So don’t be like Pharaoh, who was searching for the enemy otside his palace, while his enemy was in his hug. You have to realize that your enemy is inside of your heart. When you understand the secret of story that is told about Moses and Pharaoh, you will never blame others.

  9. Alexandra says:

    Nice explanation.I found it right.A battle lost does not mean a lost war………

  10. Rekha says:

    In this physical existence I will remain a survivor because I believe that life holds many more wonders in store for me, for us.
    By courage, by submission, by endurance, by constant search for the eternal truth of life.

    Words from JRR Tolkien’s ‘I Sit and Think’ :
    “For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
    In every wood in every spring there is a different green”