Of a monk’s calm

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jun 2018 11:26:49



By Vijay Phanshikar,

“...When I lift my gun and bring it to bear on the target ... . Is my line smooth? Is it clean? Am I shifting? ...You can’t smell sweat in this clinical room, but I promise it is there. ... On competition day, I fidget and fuss. I am assailed by anxiety, I can feel adrenaline injecting into my system. Footballers relish it, but not shooters.

We do not know what to do with adrenaline.We want a monk’s calm, or a state of arousal only to a particular, precise point. ... Fear and nervesIcarry everywhere. ... In my early days traumatised, I decided to shoot fast. ... It was reckless, it didn’t work. Then I started talking to myself, one small sane part of me trying to cajole the shaking competitor within me: ‘You can do it.

Trust yourself. You’ve done the training.’ ... It didn’t work either. ... Before the Beijing Olympics, I had arrived at a place where my worst state was still a manageable state. ... Shooting is embedded in my brain, frivolity isn’t. ... I approach shooting like a scholar, as I do life. ...” - Excerpt from ‘A Shot At History - My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold and Beyond’, By Abhinav Bindra, with Rohit Brijnath, Chapter 7 - Shooting Day:Toilets and Tremors, revised and updated edition, Harper Spots, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers India, Paperback, 2017 “... A MONK’S CALM ...”. What an expression! But when your name is Abhinav Bindra, one of those rare few to win Olympic Gold and World Championship in one single year, and when one bad shot, delivered in split-second can make or mar your entire life’s effort -- tapassya --, then your best tool is not your gun, but a “monk’s calm”. Every word in the book is pure contemplation -- in pursuit of excellence outside at shooting ranges, and inside in the mind’s sanctuary.

The reader realises the mental process of one of the few shooting legends the world has ever produced. How he trains, how he thinks, how he wins and how he reacts when he does not win ...! All along, Abhinav Bindra takes you along on his mental journey. He is constantly on that journey, giving himself to profound meditation, deep thinking, accompanied perhaps by prayers (about which he does not talk much).

But when he engages himself in an inner dialogue, like a monk may be doing, then we realise the depth of his self-analysis, almost cruel in parts but also kind to human limitations which he wishes to push farther and further. Since the whole book is nothing but a massive self-analysis, choosing just a few representative lines is difficult. But when Abhinav Bindra stood at the firing line, he realised much to his relief that his state, worst by his own description, was still manageable.

That was the state which his meditation and physical effort had helped him to overcome. Anxieties did assail him, and he had carried his fears -- of failure and under-performance -- and nerves to Beijing (where he eventually won Gold Medal). But then he had trained himself to get over with those. He did hate that feel, but he accepted it, too. It is in acceptance of the reality that one finds a solution, a key to unlock one’s hidden powers, one’s own resolve to win regardless of limitations. Every sportsperson often faces such moments.

In his masterly autobiography, tennis legend Rafa Nadal, too, describes the atmosphere on Wimbledon’s Centre Court as one akin to a cathedral, complete with its stillness and silence as match progresses. And then Rafa cautions himself not to be affected by a great shot he has just played, or a bad one he has delivered. For, he requires a calm and balance to keep playing good tennis. Bindra belongs to that class of legends. And he tells us time and again that the gun does matter, but the gunner matters more, most! His isastruggle between mind and matter, between embattled muscle and meditative mind.

“A monk’s calm” is what is looking for. He might not have earned that strictly speaking. Yet, the profound meditation takes him almost to its doorstep. As he does that, and shares it with us, we realise that Abhinav Bindra is almost a monk, a role model, a good model of howahuman being battles and batters his own limitations.