CHENNAI: An unknown scholar once said, “Motivation is temporary and inspiration is permanent because motivation passes away after some time, while inspiration stays for the lifetime.” In the life of A P J Abdul Kalam too, there was a great personality who had lifted him out of despondency at the right time. From then on, Kalam’s life only soared.
The personality who changed the course of his life was none other than Rishikesh Swami Sivananda who was born at Pathamadai in Tirunelveli district, but settled in Rishikesh.
From his boyhood, Kalam was fond of flying high and wanted to become a pilot. He took up aeronautical engineering and graduated in 1957.
To realise his objective, Kalam applied to the Air Force and completed his interview at the Air Force Selection Board at Dehradun in 1958. Out of 24 applicants, eight were to be shortlisted but after four days of difficult tasks, nine were selected — the ninth being Kalam. Since the Air Force wanted only eight, Kalam was left out. A highly dejected Kalam decided to take a bus to Delhi via Rishikesh and Haridwar. At Rishikesh, some intuitive force made him take a dip in the River Ganges, and spotted an ashram. Kalam sat at the last row as Swami Sivananda, the founder of the ashram, was giving a discourse on Bhagavad Gita.
After his speech, the Swami chose two persons from the audience to ask questions and Kalam was one of them. In his book Wings of Fire, the former President recorded the moment — I introduced myself to Swamiji. My Muslim name aroused no reaction in him. Before I could speak any further, he enquired about the source of my sorrow.
In a deep voice, the Swami said, “Accept your destiny and go ahead with your life... Forget this failure, as it was essential to lead you to your destined path. Search, instead, for the true purpose of your existence. Become one with yourself, my son! Surrender yourself to the wish of God,” the Swamiji said.
Further, quoting ‘Bhagavad Gita’, the Swami recalled the advice of Lord Krishna to Arjuna when the latter was afraid of fighting in the Kurukshetra war — “Defeat the defeatist tendency.” That is a great message. The mantra “Defeat the defeatist tendency” is always with me and it comes to me whenever I’m in trouble, he wrote.