Knowing When to Yield

Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.

—Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu

Once, two brave knights set out from their respective domains on either side of the mountain to challenge the other in a battle for supremacy. It so happened that they chanced to meet at the narrowest point of the mountain path where there was just space for one horse to pass and only enough room for one man. Realizing this, the two adversaries looked long at each other in silence, carefully weighing the situation, for they were wise as well as courageous, and knew that any false move would plunge them into the deep chasm below.

Each acknowledged the other’s greatness and nobility of heart, but neither could lose face by giving way. Humility was absent, for neither had ever met with defeat. As they continued to look into each others eyes, calculating their chances, the tension grew, but neither blinked an eyelid, and not a muscle moved. They sat in silent struggle because now it had become a battle of minds, and the stronger mind would prevail. But both minds were of the same calibre and strength, and neither could find any point of weakness in the other.

Finally, realizing that they were equally matched in all respects, at the very same moment, they bowed to each other, and in humility slowly backed away, returning to their kingdoms. But they were wiser, having learned that humility never needs to be defensive, and that in yielding lies the true strength of the warrior. They had also understood that the enemy is the shadow that the protagonist himself casts. So victory and defeat belong to both because each overcame the other’s ego by teaching him how to yield.