Samatva – the Quality of Equanimity

Samatva – the Quality of Equanimity

Practice to take both defeat and victory in many situations in life.

Which, in your experience and observation, is easier to cope with: Victory or Defeat, Winning or Losing, Gain or Loss? The majority of individuals tend to savor victory, winning, and gain, while experiencing discontent with defeat, losing, and losses. But is this emotional response conducive to our well-being? To some extent, these reactions are natural and immediate. However, gaining a more profound perspective requires reflection on the potential repercussions of lingering too long in either emotional state.

Victory can provide confidence, pride, and reassurance, fostering positive attributes. However, it also carries the risk of breeding arrogance, overconfidence, and eventual decline. On the other hand, prolonged sadness after defeat can lead to depression, anger, blame, demotivation, and a cascade of additional failures. Recent examples vividly illustrate these dynamics.

Consider the previous Chandrayan I project by the Indian Space Research Organisation, a groundbreaking attempt to land an instrument on the moon's darker, south side. The extensive media coverage chronicled the preparation for launch, the departure from Earth's gravity, and the entry into the moon's orbit. The initial setback of the mission not going as planned could have led to prolonged negativity. However, the ISRO team demonstrated resilience and determination. They bounced back, learning from the setback, and successfully launched Chandrayan-2, showcasing the power of resilience in the face of temporary defeat.


In our individual lives, similar dynamics unfold. Acknowledging and learning from both victories and defeats is crucial for personal growth and development. Ultimately, it is the ability to navigate the ebb and flow of success and setbacks that defines true resilience and leads to long-term fulfillment.

It was progressing well; the module successfully landed on the moon. However, the final, crucial step proved challenging—the rover experienced a hard landing and came to a stop. The ISRO team, crestfallen, witnessed their hard work falter. The director, overwhelmed, shed tears. In response, the Prime Minister met the team, offering hugs and encouragement to take lessons from the setback and strive for success in subsequent attempts. The team did just that, successfully launching Chandrayan-2, which has since been providing valuable data.

A parallel example unfolded in the Indian cricket team during the recent World Cup Cricket event. Dominating the competition, the team won all of its first ten matches, an impressive feat. However, the ultimate loss in the final match to Australia cast a shadow, plunging not only the team but also the entire stadium, the nation, and the global Indian diaspora into a state of gloom. Once again, the Prime Minister met the team, shaking hands with all the players, and encouraging them to accept the defeat gracefully and move forward.

How should one navigate both defeat and victory in various life situations? These are age-old phenomena, prevalent in individual, family, community, and national lives, with timeless lessons in our scriptures. A central concept from the Bhagavad Gita, "samatva" or equanimity, is emphasized, describing the need to maintain balance in both success and defeat. The Gita encourages performing work with a yogic mindset, renouncing attachment to the result, as articulated in the verse "Yogashtah kuru karmani, sangam tyaktva."

While this path might seem challenging, it shields us from the oscillations of temporary joys following victory and prolonged spells of sadness from defeat. Cultivating equanimity allows us to avoid going overboard with every achievement or sinking into prolonged depression with each defeat. Implementing this insight involves a multi-faceted approach:

Self-Reflection: Review past behavior, recognize mental oscillations, and resolve to practice equanimity in the future.

Periodic Review: Regularly assess your mindset, correct any relapses into oscillation, and continually strive for improvement.

Share and Reinforce: Share success experiences with your spouse, reinforcing equanimity in both of you.

Guidance for Others: Provide this wisdom to older children and extended family members facing career ups and downs.

Workplace Advocacy: Spread the concept and benefits of equanimity among colleagues and juniors, fostering a balanced work environment.

Positive Interaction: Use equanimity in all interactions to uplift others without allowing their turbulence to pull you down.

Dr. M B Athreya
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.