Saturday, January 14, 2017


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”
– Lao Tzu

I must have been 21 or 22 when I first came across William E. Henley’s famous lines in Napoleon Hill’s books:  
“I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.”

As a young struggler in Mumbai city, it had immediately filled me with strength. Ever since then, I have always believed in taking responsibility for my own affairs… never to blame my fate, circumstances or people around me… never to allow myself to suffer from self pity, regrets or guilt… I have learnt to take a call and follow it all the way…

Yes, it has helped me, immensely.

Henley himself was 25 when he penned his inspiring poem, ‘Invictus’ (in Latin means Undefeated) which he had ended with those famous lines. It would inspire us even more if we can know its backdrop… At a tender age of 12 – that was in 1863 - Henley was inflicted with tuberculosis of the bone. His one leg was infected so badly that the doctors wanted to do away with it, immediately, from knee-downwards. They also feared that if Henley had to survive, probably, he would have to let go the other leg, too… It was after 13 years of suffering and pain. Henley was a young man of 25, now. So, he took the valiant call: to let go only one of his legs… and leave the rest to his own will to live…

It worked miraculously. Henley went on to live a great life as a poet… More than this, he went on to inspire many, many generations to come…

Nelson Mandela was one of them… I am, even though an ordinary soul, another.

“I demolish my bridges behind me…
then there is no choice but to move forward.”
– Fridtjof Nansen

There is something amazing in waiting for every man who takes a call to let go his ‘infected leg’… The beauty of this phenomenon is that man doesn’t know what is in store… It is left to his deep trust in a power beyond self… Read again Henley’s lines:

 “I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

Was young Henley talking about himself when he said, ‘I am’?

I can only recall the chilling answer from the burning bush… “Who are you?” was Moses’ question to the voice coming from the burning bush… “I am… who I AM”… yes, this was the answer.

Every time we pass through the test of fire – fear and anxiety about what may happen – and go down on our knees and hand our affairs to that deep source within us… what we are actually saying is that ultimate prayer of our life: “Abba, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup (test) pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell

Let me sign off with Henley’s full poem ‘Invictus’… the undefeated


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


Pic.: Anil Bedi

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