Getting opportunities is providence, grabbing them is diligencef
Some underachievers explain away their rivals’ success by saying, “They were lucky; they got the opportunities that others (like me) didn’t.”
Such arguments underrate the role of diligence. Some people may be born with a limousine key in their hands. But even among them, not all become achievers – only those who diligently tap their opportunities do. This defining role of diligence is demonstrated in the Mahabharata’s Arjuna-Karna rivalry.
Even before their final encounter at Kurukshetra, they faced off directly twice – during Draupadi’s svayamvara and the Virata war – and indirectly twice: during the bid to arrest Drupada and the battle against the Gandharvas. On all four occasions, Arjuna outclassed Karna.
Some people attribute Arjuna’s superiority to the better opportunities he got as a kshatriya. They claim that such opportunities were withheld from Karna, for he was deemed a charioteer’s son.
However, such attribution comprises oversimplification, if not distortion. Karna, despite his putative low-birth, eventually got a great martial teacher: Parshurama. And after Duryodhana befriended him, he also got a kingdom and, with it, abundant practice facilities.
Undoubtedly, Arjuna did get some facilities such as admission to Drona’s academy. But so did hundreds of princes. Among them, what distinguished Arjuna was his commitment. Whatever skill he learnt each day, he honed tirelessly during the night. The Bhagavad-gita (01.24) highlights Arjuna’s dedication by calling him Gudakesha, “one who has conquered sleep.”
Significantly, Arjuna didn’t lament when providence handed him a raw deal. When he was exiled because of his brother’s gambling, he took the adversity as an opportunity for performing severe austerities. By appeasing the gods, he expanded his arsenal of divine weapons.
Ultimately, what differentiated Arjuna from Karna was not providence alone but also diligence.
Underachievers can become achievers only when they stop ranting against providence and start tapping diligently whatever opportunities they have.
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