Artha Veda VII 50 - The Victory

Agni. Illustration by Nina Paley.
That ancient tree weathered countless storms only to be utterly destroyed by the chance strike of a single bolt of lighting.  Thus may I hope to win with the roll of my dice against my opponents. Whether my opponents are prepared, ready and alert (or not) matters nothing to my luck: that ancient tree was strong, too, and had survived so many storms and attacks.  My opponent will not defend themselves against me any better for their many advantages than that ancient tree could resist Indra's lighting bolt.

See how my enemies already are assembled on all sides?  They now move against me - they think this is their chance, for I am caught, at disadvantage, outmatched and outnumbered! They think this their chance - but "chance" is not theirs to possess. Indeed, it may be MY chance.  Perhaps now I shall take back what is mine!  Indeed, they owe me a great debt, having injured me so.  Look how they gather about me - bringing back what was mine to retake in victory!

It is true, I am weaponless.  My hands are empty, they have disarmed me.  Yet though I may be weaponless I am not defenseless.  An empty hand never remains empty long. The hand which is empty may more easily grasp and take hold than the one which holds too much - and they hold what is mine, besides their own.  Overburdened, they shall not easily defend themselves, or what they wrongly hold.

At this moment I reflect that I have always fed Agni's sacrificial fire. Indeed, I have given all I have to Agni. Has my sacrifice been enough to satisfy Agni?  Agni's sacrificial fire can be fed, constantly, and without satisfaction.  Always desiring, always hungry, Agni would consume all the wealth of the world - yet would hunger still for more.  And if permitted to escape, He would not hesitate to consume anything in His path - for all is rightfully His. Can anything given to Agni be taken back?  Nothing given to Agni can ever be taken back, for He burns it utterly to ash. Agni hungers for everything, acquires everything and defends forever.  As I shall.  Through patience and generosity toward my opponents, I have sacrificed all I have to Agni.  And now I have become as hungry as Fire itself!

I have by such devotion of patience and generosity toward my opponent given all to Agni.  Thus have I manifested that sacred Fire within Me.  Look, I am now like Agni Himself!  If permitted the opportunity, I shall, too, acquire and defend. I shall, too, succeed - as Agni always accomplishes the sacrifice required by destroying what is given upon the altar.  So now shall I accomplish the sacrifice required of my opponents! They shall feed my fire, they shall atone! They shall give to Agni!  They shall feed my fire, and seek the Marutaganas, those Rudras who by the command of Indra make the rain fall to extinguish the fires of Agni.  But the Marutaganas can come only after Agni has taken what is His. I shall take what is mine before being made to desist.  I shall give a reason for it to rain!

Indra's lightning, striking an ancient tree, can spark Agni's fire.  Oh, how I was struck by my enemy!  Yet from the fire of a single bolt of Indra's lightning, Agni can devour the entire forest, and ignite the world.  Today this old tree burns.  I burn, I am angry.  Indra has lit my Fire, and prepared the sacrifice of my opponents. Indra has thus conquered my opponent's troops with fire. My opponents shall satisfy Agni, now they have lit the fire!  I shall burn them all to ash.  Oh, Maghavan! Oh, Indra!  You make a path for me through these obstacles, and I am now like a charioteer running a race upon that road.  Oh, Maghavan!  You never remain defeated for long!  So too will I rise from defeat to crush my enemies and conquer their troops!

As a wolf jealously defends Agni's fuel from the sheep who dare attack the holy plants so will I take what my enemies have wrongly won. I shall be a wolf among such hungry, insolent sheep!  I will be as merciless as a gambler who cleans out his opponent, taking even the reserve funds. Does the lightning leave anything of the tree it strikes?  A strong hand in cards does a player no good against a bold bluffer, and patience earns nothing for the one who waits too long to play his cards, thinking to heap up his winnings. The Gambler plays the game as his duty, his Dharma. The Gambler loves the game, despite the risk. The Gambler will not spare any money, nor fear losing it, for he can believe that playing the game with such duty will give him winnings as its justice.  For the Gambler has faith that if he only perseveres a little longer, there will be justice, and he will win back what was his.  The Gambler believes winning is his right, and is justice - am I wrong to trust in Justice as I now, too, roll the dice?

It is by wealth we suppress our wretched poverty, it is by grain we suppress our hunger (if only for a little while). So must we sometimes resort to perseverance and the cunning of audacity to suppress our misfortune. Gambling is now my work, my duty, my love and joy.  It is my Artha, Dharma, and Kama.  For I am desperate. Alas, that I am so desperate.  Look, I now must wager greatly, or else lose everything anyway. Perhaps I now gamble foolishly?  Though indeed it is likely I shall come to harm and misfortune, I am already harmed, and any further patience or non-action will result in my utter defeat.  It is only by this gamble do I have the chance of victory.

Am I fool?  The odds are against me.  Only a fool seeks a strong opponent.  Yet it is good reason that nothing is certain. Lightning strikes are not common, they are rare, they are unlikely - but do happen.  Is it not also possible that the dice will provide and nourish me today?  It was by chance that I was struck down.  It is also possible I may strike a bit of luck too, and become bound up by it in a streak long enough for victory - even as the bows of my enemies are already bound up by string and directed against me!

So come now, give me the dice: the game is not yet over.  Like a Sannyasi, like a Gambler, I lay all I have down - upon the table.  I have one more play left and would indeed be a fool to leave the game just because of a little bad luck!