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"The Legend of Bagger Vance" presents profound insights into the psychology of accomplishment. The film was directed by Robert Redford and released in 2000 based on a novel by Steven Pressfield. Explicit parallels between Pressfield's novel and the Bhagavad Gita are brought out in a book called Gita on the Green: The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance (Continuum, 2000), written by Hinduism scholar Steven Rosen with a foreword by Pressfield.

Secret of Accomplishment

Accomplishment is a mystery. Very often we are unable to see the relationship between our actions and their consequences. Sometimes our efforts are quickly and generously rewarded by life. Occasionally the rewards come even before we complete the required action. At other times, the more and the harder we try, the farther we seem to be from our goal. Then there are inexplicable moments when a work that was proceeding smoothly suddenly runs into trouble or a work that was stalled just as suddenly takes off. At rare moments, the veil concealing the mystery of accomplishment is lifted for a moment, revealing to us its deeper secrets. Or, a wise man comes along with the knowledge and power to draw aside the curtain to help us find the hidden key. Such a man was Bagger Vance .

The Legend of Bagger Vance is a film about two people who accomplish extraordinary things against great odds. It is the story of Randolph Junah, who was born in Augusta, Georgia, USA around 1900. At an early age Junah displayed a remarkable talent for the sport of golf, and won a national amateur championship when he was sixteen. Experts who saw him play, predicted he would one day become one of America’s most successful professional golfers. Adding good fortune to his talent for golf, Junah was also able to win the love of Adele Invergorden, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy real estate developer. It appeared that the lovely couple were destined for a married life of success, leisure and luxury.

Then, World War I broke out and changed their destiny. Instead of playing golf, Junah enlisted in the army along with his classmates, and was shipped off to Europe to fight against the Germans in the trenches of France. There his talent for golf was of no value. The main objective was simply to kill the enemy and survive a horrible war against great odds. At the end of the war, he was the only member of his company, the only one of his classmates, who returned home alive. Psychologically devastated by the violence he had witnessed and the friends he had lost, disillusioned with the posh life he had known before the war, Junah retired to a secluded farm house where he drank and gambled with the riffraff of society and completely cut his ties with Adele and the upper class people with whom he lived earlier.

Ten years later, Adele’s father died and left his daughter to manage a huge resort hotel and golf course burdened with debt and on the point of bankruptcy. True to her rugged Scotch heritage, Adele refused to give up the resort to her creditors. Instead, she decided to risk every last dollar she could raise on a grand scheme that would either make the resort a success or ruin it completely. Her idea was to conduct a personal golf match between the two greatest professional golfers of the day, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, seventy two holes of golf played over two days for the fabulous prize of $10,000.

Adele’s creditors were skeptical of the plan, but saw that it just might succeed in attracting national attention and luring wealthy customers to the resort. Therefore they consented to the plan, provided that Adele also included one golf player from Augusta as representative of the local talent. The idea seemed absurd since Augusta had no players of professional caliber who could compete with the likes of Jones and Hagen. Then someone suggested Junah and the creditors unanimously agreed that if Junah would join in the match, they would support it.

At first, Junah refused the proposal as preposterous. He had not lifted a golf club for a decade since returning home from the war. Even had he been practicing or playing daily, no one could seriously imagine that he could compete with the likes of Jones and Hagen, who dominated the sport and had won every major golf championship for years.

Enter Bagger Vance, a quiet, soft-spoken lanky black man with a mysterious smile and laughing eyes, who approaches Junah and offers to act as his caddy for the match – to carry his golf clubs and offer his coaching assistance for the great contest. While the normal caddy’s fee in such matches is 10% of the prize money, in this case, $1000, if Junah wins. Bagger asks for a fee of only $5 guaranteed, regardless of whether he wins or loses. At the request of Adele, and under pressure by the leaders of the town, Junah reluctantly accepts to play. Adele sees some hope of saving her property, and perhaps, even a glimmer of hope of recovering the man she once loved so dearly.

During the first day of the contest, Jones and Hagen are superb. Junah plays disastrously with an increasingly sullen attitude, and Bagger stands silently by, witnessing the debacle. No one is surprised when Junah falls eleven strokes behind the two pros by the end of the first day – a hopeless position from which it is almost unimaginable that he can recover. His performance is so humiliating that Adele regrets that she ever asked him to play.

As play continues on day two, and Junah is without hope, Bagger begins his work. He quietly offers advice to Junah that has a dramatic impact on Junah’s performance. He shows Junah that his real opponent in this match is not Hagen or Jones. It is his own mind. The key to success on the golf course lies in mastering his fears of failure, his sense of inferiority, his concern about what Adele or the towns people are thinking about him. Bagger tells Junah: Stop worrying about winning or losing. Stop trying so hard to hit the ball. Do not think about the results of your action. “Concentrate on the field,” Bagger says. “Become one in your consciousness with the field. Allow the natural rhythm and harmony of life to pass through you and express it in your acts.” Life, life golf, is only a game. Play the game and enjoy it.

Once Junah starts listening to Bagger, to his own amazement and that of the crowd, Junah begins hitting the ball with the power and precision of a great golfer. By the end of the morning, he has wiped out half the deficit that separates him from Jones and Hagen. Junah gains confidence, the crowd begins to stir with excitement, and even his opponents are impressed by the beauty of his play. No one, including Junah, really understands what has transformed him.

On the final afternoon of the match, Junah pulls within three strokes of the leaders and becomes so confident that he actually believes he can win the match. Then a second turning point occurs. At a critical juncture, Junah loses touch with the field. He disregards Bagger’s advice and becomes over-confident. He takes a high risk shot and misses. Then out of arrogant pride, he repeats it again. In a few moments, all his momentum has been lost and his hopes of winning have been shattered. In frustration, he smashes a shot off into the woods and is forced to go hunting for the ball among the trees, as if he wanted to physically remove himself from the crowd’s sight.

Finding the ball lying in a hopelessly difficult position from which recovery is unimaginable, Junah feels tempted to move the ball with his hand while no one is looking – an illegal act unworthy of a professional. Just then Bagger arrives and prevents him. Instead of acknowledging the hopelessness of the situation, Bagger says to Junah: “It is time for you to choose. It is time for you to give up clinging to the ghosts that haunt your past. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Concentrate fully on the work at hand. Focus on the field. Tune in to the harmony."

Following Bagger’s instructions, Junah hits the ball so hard and so straight that it emerges from the forest onto the green in a very advantageous position, and Junah goes into the last hole of the match just a single shot behind Jones and Hagen – a simply extraordinary accomplishment.

On the last hole, both Jones and Hagen make errors, and Junah actually has a chance to win. In preparing for a shot, Junah accidentally moves his ball a centimeter or so from its position, but no one else sees what has happened. According to the rules, he should be penalized a shot for this accident, even though the movement was insignificant. Contrary to his earlier impulse to cheat, he informs his opponents of the accident and asks to be penalized. Considering the stakes are so high, even his opponents do not want Junah to be beaten on a mere technicality, but he insists on following the letter of the rule book. Hagen and Jones complete the last hole tied. Junah then hits a magnificent shot to match their scores. The contest ends in a three way tie. Junah has performed a miracle. He is the unquestioned hero of the match. He splits the prize money, saves the resort from bankruptcy, and wins back Adele.

This simple sporting tale reveals truths that many a sportsman, business and political leader know from their own personal experience. Our thoughts and our attitudes determine the results of our actions. Mind is the determinant of our successes and our failures. Junah failed when he concentrated his attention on himself and worried about the prospects of failure. He succeeded when he forgot about himself and concentrated totally on doing the work as well as he possibly could, by totally identifying himself with the field in which he was acting, and seeking a harmony with that field. The field is the universal life of which we are an inseparable part. The field is work or action (karma). The ego divides us from the world around us and creates the false sense of separateness. It makes us view even our own thoughts and actions as something different from ourselves. To be in harmony with the field is to overcome that sense of separation and see the oneness of all existence and live in the harmony of that universal play. Success arises from shifting our reliance from the outer world around us to our own inner being, relying on right attitudes, rather than on external sources of support and assistance. The inner attitude that accomplishes, is to act in self-forgetfulness and self-giving – forgetting ourselves and our desires, giving oneself whole-heartedly to the work that we do.

Bagger is a humble man of truth who possesses the wisdom of an ancient race. He never shouts or insists on his point of view. He quietly waits for Junah to become receptive, then he helps Junah overcome the inner obstacles that prevent his natural talent from coming to the surface. It is a matter of conscious choice. When Junah becomes overconfident and asserts his own knowledge, Bagger quietly withdraws and waits for him to again seek assistance, then helps him get back on track without a single sign of rebuke. Finally Bagger departs without even claiming his fair share of Junah’s prize money.

Some readers may think that this is only a story about a game. It is not real life and it is not about serious accomplishment. Bagger’s message is that all life is a game, the play of the Divine lila. Running a family or a business or running for office are only various expressions of the game. And the rules are the same regardless of the field of your activity. Your situation may appear impossible, but it is only impossible if you think and believe it to be so. Stop calculating and thinking about the limitations. Confidence, faith, concentration, harmony with the field, self-giving in the act, self-forgetfulness – these are the attitudes that lead to high accomplishment.

The truths depicted in this story are cited by many high achievers as the keys to their success. But beyond these, the story reveals hints of a more profound insight – the subtle shade of difference that distinguishes the Truth from the falsehood. By Truth here,I mean the power of truth expressed in actions that lead to accomplishment. Truth is not a mere word or idea. It is a vibration that expresses a true intention and true consciousness. A small change in our attitude can move us from Truth to falsehood or back again. The Mother describes this process of reversal of consciousness in Agenda where she explains that Truth and falsehood are like the front and back side of one’s hand. Turn the hand on one side, and you are in the Truth. Flex it ever so slightly to show the other hand, and you are in the falsehood. Genuine spiritual sincerity elevates us from the normal vital falsehood of human nature into the vibration of Truth. The very slightest compromise is enough to plunge us back into falsehood.

Junah experiences this subtle reality first hand. One moment he is a failing amateur. By a seemingly tiny reversal of attitude and perspective, he starts playing like a seasoned professional. He is not even aware of how the change has come about. He has forgotten himself, the contest, and the crowds of people looking on. He immerses himself totally in the action at hand, without thought of success,or reward,or social approval. He has reversed his motive from seeking the ego’s success to seeking the soul’s joy of adventure playing the game. Then a few moments later, he flips back from Truth to falsehood without being conscious of it. The change in his attitude seems insignificant and inconsequential, but it makes all the difference in the world. He becomes excited, over confident, assertive, proud and vain. Forgetting that he has been accomplishing on the strength of Bagger’s knowledge rather than his own wisdom, he ignores Bagger’s counsel. He forgets that golf, like life, is only a game and feels tempted to violate the rules simply for egoistic satisfaction. He lives in, and for himself, and his own personal achievement – in the ego. Suddenly nothing goes right any more. His gains vanish. He finds himself back in despair.

And then the final reversal takes place when Bagger once more comes to Junah’s aid. Junah shifts his concentration and reliance from the outside to the inside, from his acts to his true inner being. He forgets his past suffering and present humiliation; rejects thoughts of success and failure, gain and loss. He reverses his attitude once again. He makes a conscious choice to live and act in the moment as a free and true being.

Junah attained a 'perfect perfection in Truth at the moment when he insisted on being penalized for the accidental movement of the ball on the eighteenth hole, believing fully well, that the penalty could cost him the match. So great the power of his sincerity, that was able to make up for the error and tie the match. At every moment we face the very same choice: to live for ourselves, meaning the selfish falsehood of the ego, or to live for Truth.

Bagger as Teacher & Guru

While the story can be viewed entirely from the perspective of human accomplishment, it also offers profound insights into the process of transferring knowledge and inspiration to another person. Bagger Vance is a modern, disguised version of Lord Krishna, whose mission is to help Junah discover the meaning and source of power in his own life. While Krishna chose to assume the humble role of Arjuna's charioteer in the Mahabharata war, Bagger comes in the form of a humble caddy. The difference is that Arjuna knows the true identity and divinity of his charioteer, whereas Bagger has to wait patiently until Junah discovers the secret wisdom he has to offer, and is ready to receive it.

Note from the beginning of the match, Bagger refrains from offering any advice to Junah. When Junah asks for a club on the very first tee, Bagger pretends as if he does not know which one to offer, and leaves the choice to Junah. His only overt role is to quietly mock Junah's failing performance, as if he takes it for granted that Junah is capable of nothing more. In fact, he is only giving overt expression to Junah's own personal convictions, and by thus expressing to them, making Junah more conscious of his own attitudes that are determining his poor performance in the match. The high point comes on the last hole when Bagger urges Junah to hit the ball into the water and eliminate any possibility of winning, thereby giving conscious expression to Junah’s own subconscious impulse. As he aims his drive, Junah sees his eyes involuntarily drifting over to the water. Bagger’s role is to make Junah conscious of the will to failure in himself. He cannot begin instruction until Junah realizes that his own attitude is the real source of the problem.

Until now Bagger has remained quiet and passive, observing Junah as he falls further and further behind. During the break in the locker room, he speaks facetious words of encouragement that draw Junah to confess his philosophy of failure. It is Hardy that spurs Junah to provide Bagger with an opening to commence his instructions. When everyone else has given up on Junah, Hardy believes he can still win. Telling Junah so, he communicates his childlike love of the game of golf, reminding Junah ,that like life, is only a game. When Junah repeats those words at the beginning of the next round, Bagger sees his opening to offer advice. Note he does not try to instruct Junah. He knows he does not have the credibility to do so. Rather he uses Bobby Jones as an example to illustrate all that Junah should learn. Bagger’s essential objective is to get Junah to forget himself and his problems, and concentrate his full attention on the work at hand. Immediately, Junah’s game is restored to its earlier brilliance, and his attitude toward himself, the match and Bagger gradually changes. In the measure Junah is willing to listen, Bagger becomes the guru and master.

The second turning point comes on the second day when Junah’s new-found self-confidence turns into pride and ambition to win. He stops listening to Bagger, and insists on his own course of action. Again Bagger shows the self-restraint to remain quiet and let Junah follow his own inspiration, even when he knows it is doomed to fail. The soul needs the freedom to fail in order to learn the wisdom of submission to superior knowledge. Bagger gives Junah full freedom to fail, which ends with his drive into the woods toward the end of the final round. Then, just as Junah is tempted to violate the rules by moving the ball, Bagger addresses the heart of Junah’s problem for the first time – his unwillingness to give up the past and live in the moment. Under the extreme pressure of the game and the humiliation at his self-imposed failure, Junah is finally willing to listen to ultimate truths. Bagger calls on him to sweep aside all his reservations and inhibitions and allow his native talent to come to the surface. The result leaves Junah bewildered at his own capacity, and in wonder, at Bagger’s knowledge.

Bagger’s final contribution is to withdraw and allow Junah to finish the match on his own. He knows that the ultimate achievement comes only by self-reliance on one’s own inmost resources, not by dependence on someone else. So after Junah insists on being honest on the crucial 18th hole, Bagger withdraws and leaves him to finish on the strength of his own inspiration. It is an ultimate vote of confidence in Junah, and an ultimate selfless renunciation of any egoistic claim by the teacher, who wants no part of the credit for Junah’s accomplishment.

Bagger’s last act is to request the $5 caddy fee, though he knows Junah is capable of earning and paying him much more. The $5 fee is the essential minimum without which the knowledge cannot pass from guru to disciple. To claim more is to put a price on the knowledge he has given which is invaluable. Had he not claimed the $5, Junah could not have tied the match.

Characters

  • Randolph Junah: A youth of remarkable talent, in love with a beautiful, wealthy young woman, Junah's life appeared to be destined for high accomplishment until he went off to World War I. He held himself personally responsible for the death of all the members in the platoon he led and felt guilty and ashamed that he alone survived. On his return to Savannah, he cut his ties with Adele and turned to alcohol and gambling. Junah is an essentially positive character with strength and good values who, like Arjuna in the Gita, is unable to make sense of the suffering he sees around him and feels compelled to renounce all self-seeking pursuits of accomplishment -- his career and his romantic relationship with Adele. Bagger Vance comes to help him outgrow the experience of the war years, not by rejecting its lessons, but by digging deeper into the source of strength and values within himself.
  • Adele Invergorden: The beautiful, charming daughter of a wealthy visionary, Savannah real estate developer, Adele possesses both the strength and the pride of her Scottish ancestors. She has never stopped loving Junah, nor forgiven him for abruptly breaking off their engagement without explanation. Faced with bankruptcy and foreclosure on the property after her father's death, she shows the courage and drive to risk all she has on a bold plan to save the project. Her initiative not only accomplishes that objective, but also restores her relationship with Junah -- now, on an equal footing.
  • Bagger Vance: He possesses both the profound insight into life and human nature and the self-effacing humility and equality of a spiritual master. He has the wisdom to know that you can give to others only what they truly seek, and he exhibits the self-restraint to wait until Junah is ready and receptive to learn from him. He does not so much teach Junah anything as he does help Junah discover the knowledge that is already deep within himself.
  • Hagen and Jones: These two are a study in contrasting modes of accomplishment. Hagen is a brash, bold, arrogant, egotistical, ambitious, womanizing and a somewhat erratic man of high energy and powerful drive for high accomplishment. Jones is an intelligent, highly skilled and self-disciplined man of values. He has acquired multi-post graduate degrees, and has the modesty to retire at the height of his game to pursue other goals in life. Hagen embodies expansive vital energy. Jones embodies high intelligence acting through perfect physical skill. By contrast, Junah accomplishes by tapping a deeper, spiritual source of inspiration within himself.
  • Hardy: He has the innocent child's faith and inspiration that is validated by life. Raised on heroic folklore regarding Junah's amazing talent, he is the first to spot Junah when he returns to Savannah after the war, the one who proposes his name for the match, and boldly approaches Junah to consent, and becomes a silent, intense source of goodwill for Junah's success. He becomes the witness disciple who acquires profound insights and a love of the game of life from Bagger.

The Setup

  • The boy Hardy (narrating the film as an older man) wanted to see Junah so badly, that years later, when Junah returned after World War I, he saw him immediately on the streets of Savannah. It was a life response to the intensity of his own aspiration, and an indicator of things to come.
  • The great golf course opens to no customers because of the Depression. (Golf could be looked upon from one angle as an expression of the excess of the rich, or a superficial way to seek recreation from the world’s tension. Certainly one can see the contrast here with the Depression.)
  • Adele is entrepreneurial in her own way, and makes the best of the situation, a decidedly American trait. (This is similar to what Charles tries to do in the film Seabiscuit, to draw out the eastern horse owners to participate in a race between the Seabiscuit and their horses.) She seeks to bring Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, the two greatest golfers, to play at the new course.
  • Local pride causes a demand for a local golfer to step forward (instead of just having successful, famous northerners). The boy Hardy is at the gathered meeting of local officials because of his interest. Hardy calls out that Junah -- a once great local golfer, now living a solitary life in reaction to his horror-filled war experience -- should be the one participating in the event. (Just as he is there at the first meeting, he was there when Junah first arrives. These are indicators of one another.)
  • Hardy shows great courage and determination (like his determination to meet Junah at the outset when he returned from the war).
  • Hardy then seeks out the reclusive Junah to let him know of the possibility.
  • Junah befriends and lives amongst the local blacks, which is still somewhat taboo for those times.
  • Hardy proposes to Junah that he play in the tournament, which would make it a threesome.
  • Hardy goes back to his place with Junah to further convince him. When they arrive, unexpectedly, the officials who Hardy made the proposal to earlier about Junah participating in tournament, are there. Hardy is stunned. It is a life response for him as it allows more power to come in to convince Junah, thereby fulfilling his intention. Principle: When you make the full effort, life takes over and does the rest.
  • ”A child shall lead them,” or putting it in context; “A child shall make a full emotionalized effort that will attract a life response; i.e. an instance of sudden good fortune."
  • Junah, who had given up golf, now has a change of heart, and decides to participate in the tournament. He takes up putting that night, and the caddy (Bagger Vance) appears from out of nowhere from the fields. It is a life response to Junah’s change of heart and attitude, his decision about the tournament, and taking to action (by practicing). (Junah has thus drawn from all four of the pool of major determinants that enable life response -- aspiration, attitude, decision, and action – and as a result, life responds in overwhelming fashion with the sudden appearance of the person who will change his life. It could also be looked at as the fulfillment of a Complete Act -- aspiration -will-execution -- that attracts this infinite-like response.)
  • The people, including the poor he lived amongst, greatly support his new initiative. (He has the backing of all levels of society, which is important during these times, and an indicator of how the Depression can be resolved.)
  • Bagger says Junah can win if he finds his “authentic swing.” This can be equated with finding one’s True Self, Soul. It is Krishna speaking to Arjuna at Kurukshetera in the Bhagavad-Gita. (The authors did have the story of the Bhagavad-Gita in mind. "Bagger Vance" is very close to "Bhagavad-Gita". "Junah" is close to "Arjuna".)
  • Bagger says, “keep swinging the club until you are part of the whole thing.” It is in that moment to become One with the flow of life. It is to experience the state of Transcendence that enables perfection – i.e. the perfect shot. In the Gita, one discovers the Soul within, opens to and experiences the transcendence "above", and then surrenders one's being, one's life to the Divine. In this state, all life actions lead to perfect outcomes, and one experiences ultimate Knowledge and Delight of being.

The Match

  • Junah hits into a trap. He asks Bagger if he has any ideas, and to pick a club. Bagger will not decide or choose for him. As a wise man, Bagger knows that Junah must decide for himself, and figure out why he is having the problems he is having. A wise man at this point, considering Junah’s emotions and level of progress, will be passive. He knows when to advise and when to hold back. It is a subtle, spiritual skill of knowledge.
  • Bagger forces Junah to confront his own demons. Bagger makes Junah see that he cannot quit (as he "quit” after the devastation he saw of his fellow soldiers on the battlefields in World War I, causing him to go into seclusion).
  • Bagger guides Junah through his demons, through a delicate strategy of wisdom.
  • Bagger begins to teach Junah the power of intention -- i.e. the power of really wanting something, and how it manifests.
  • Bagger indicates that there is a soul and it lasts forever, at a time that Junah is cynical about life. He is trying to show that here is an eternal thing that gives life ultimate meaning. It gives one hope, beyond the suffering he has experienced and is attached to. (These are again the same lessons as in the Bhagavad-Gita, that the Divine-like personality, Krishna, relayed to the great warrior, Arjuna, as he considered waging war against his harmful relatives at Kurukshetera.)
  • Junah meets Hardy, and the wise boy says, "Golf is the greatest game." Why? Because it is not a team game, but one that essentially involves only you. You are by yourself; it is all up to you. There is no one else to beat up on.
  • Hardy's is the continuation of the wisdom initiated by Bagger -- about the nature of the Self; that it all comes down to our own individual selves. (That self is also a reflection of our deepest True Self, or Soul, which is eternal, and gives ultimate meaning to our lives.)
  • The above interaction between Hardy and Junah in this scene is perhaps the most moving moment in the film.
  • Hardy has deep faith in Junah even though he is far behind in the match. (In the Gita, one surrenders to, and therefore, has ultimate faith in the Guru, or the Divine. It is the yoga of devotion (Bhakti).)
  • He has had faith at every point in Junah. Hardy is grace for Junah. Bagger is super-grace.
  • (referring to the beginning of the story). Hardy is there when Junah first arrives. It is a response of life of Junah returning home. The returning home is also Junah’s subconscious knowledge that it is in his best interest, as we see from the events that followed.
  • Bagger says that Junah is ready “to see and know the field.” (It is really a metaphor for perceiving the true nature of the field of life, so that you can function optimally.)
  • Bagger points out the tremendous focus of Bobby Jones. (It is an inner power of concentration and intention. We can have it in every aspect of life, or here - to have the right perspective, to make the right shot, as Bobby is constantly able to do.)
  • Bagger says that there is only one “authentic” shot awaiting us. We can learn to get out of the way to get in touch with it. If we overcome our limited attitudes, beliefs, habits, et al., we can get out of the way of it, and come touch our truer self and perspective, that will enable us to be in harmony with all, so that we can make the authentic shot, which is available to us at any moment.
  • Junah tries this approach, and then makes a great shot.
  • Now, Hardy’s aspiration for Junah comes true. (We can say that when Junah moves to the higher consciousness, he is able to use the added positive energy of Hardy. From Hardy’s side it’s the power of unbridled intention mixed with faith.)
  • ”Krishna” helps “Arjuna” get a hole in one. Krishna/Bagger revealed the precise club to use and how to use it in that situation. It is an indicator of his divinity (in this case Bagger’s spiritual capacities of knowledge and insight). From a normal human-centric view, we could say that Bagger had simply earlier spent time measuring the course precisely and understood its nature. Even the Divine Krishna, in the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is a part, measures the situations as they arise, and thus instructs Arjuna.
  • Jones reiterates that “it's just a game.” It is another echo of Krishna in the Gita, who indicated that we must fully be engaged in the game of life, while not being attached to the rewards. In fact, Jones is now willing to retire at the top of his game, to be with his children, and focus on his law practice. He is not attached to the game. We can take this as a life lesson ,that, as we participate in the game of life, we must be detached from it – i.e. from its ups and downs --while still being absorbed in it. This is known as ‘"equality of being.”
  • With some remarkable moments of success behind him, Junah gets cocky. The ego has taken over, and even thought the inspiration behind the success was spiritual. The higher inspiration has been intercepted and abused by the lower plane. And so he makes a number of mistakes in his game.
  • The ball is now in the woods. He relives the fighting he experienced in the war. It causes him to come in touch with again, and then confront, his demons. He is about to pick up his ball located in the forest, which would be cheating.
  • Bagger in tune with the situation meets him there and tells him not to move the ball. By not moving it, he will be in essence meeting the demons that would cause him to cheat, believing that life is unfair. Bagger shows him that it is precisely this, that has been leading him to his failure in the last few holes.
  • Bagger tells him to be himself, and thus be his true self, which is the person he truly is, not this cynical individual, laden with fear and self-doubt, because of his experiences during the war.
  • Bagger implores him that “now is the time.” He lets go of his demons, feels his true nature, and makes an incredible shot though a small opening in the woods.
  • On the 18th hole, the three players are tied. They play into the night.
  • At one point, Junah while clearing debris around the ball, accidentally moves it. Junah, however, decides to be honest and report the move, causing him to add a stroke to his score. Bagger, understanding the situation perfectly, remains silent. In fact, after Junah says he needs him (Bagger) now, Bagger says it is to for him (Bagger) to leave! (As if he knew that Junah had learned the lesson of life,and now had to fend for himself and deal with the situation.)
  • We see how Bagger Vance/Krishna has many spiritual qualities, including complete knowledge in life, strength, power, compassion, love, and a deep and abiding calm and peace. These are amongst the twelve great spiritual attributes. Since he always has a smile on his face, it indicates his enjoyment – i.e. Delight of Being, another, perhaps the greatest of all spiritual attributes, in that, it is in one sense, the very reason we are here on earth.
  • Junah insists on doing the right thing in the situation. Junah’s honesty in dealing with the ball, leads to a great shot.
  • He has one final shot. He moves into the present moment, releasing all mental and emotional baggage, which enables life around him to suddenly “disappear” -- i.e. he becomes one with the environment and the object of his intent – the pin. The shot then enables him to win the match. (He has brought the silent, spiritual Being into the Becoming of life.)
  • We should not forget Adele. For after all, she was the one who arranged the match in the first place. Her love for Junah added to the positive energy that enabled Bagger to fulfill the profound life lessons and spiritual insights of Randolph Junah.

Themes

  1. Story about two people who accomplish against all odds
  2. It involves a match race like Seabiscuit, only here the victory does not depend on others. The real competition is with oneself.
  3. Man with a glorious potential in youth has lost confidence and faces a challenge way beyond his apparent capabilities.
  4. Life is a Game: You may think that playing a game and running a business are very different things, but as Bagger Vance tells us “Whatever it is we are doing, its just a game.”
  5. The real enemy of success is in our own mind.
  6. The real key to accomplishment is in us.
  7. Belief determines: Junah has the capacity, but he does not believe in himself.
  8. Mind is the limit as for Neo in The Matrix – you don’t have to dodge bullets. Just DECIDE


Context

  1. Late 1920s
    • After the Great Crash
    • Widespread unemployment
  2. Savannah, Georgia
    • Southern provincial pride and sense of distinctness
    • Considers even Atlanta a foreign country
  3. Flashback by Hardy
    • Narrates his childhood experience as an old man
    • Lover of golf
    • Recalls the greatest moment of his life

Key Events

  1. Don’t worry about hitting the ball
  2. Authentic swing – Bobby Jones
  3. Don’t calculate – don’t think of the result
  4. Out of the woods – an impossible situation
  5. Hole-in-one – a 12 cr or 20 cr month does not happen by accident. It shows an extraordinary capacity.
  6. Long drive in the wind
  7. Its just a game – play and enjoy it
  8. Concentrate, focus on the field – not on oneself
  9. Not luck – if Junah can compete with the champs for 72 holes it means he is champ.
  10. Adele –when she sees Junah may succeed and is attracting the attention of the other women, she intervenes behind the tree, and shortly thereafter, Junah loses his poise and becomes overconfident. She would rather he lose the match than she lose him
  11. Bobby Jones tells Junah he has no intention of losing. He does not lose. He ties. Intention matters.

Summary

  1. Stop thinking limits – what you cannot do. Think opportunities
  2. Don’t set your goals too low.
  3. The key to success is to focus on the goal, not the result.
  4. Don’t let your mind defeat you
  5. You can accomplish anything you want to accomplish provided you have faith in it
  6. Perfect execution has power
  7. All creation is out of nothing – therefore there are no limits

Movie clips

  1. Measuring the green 49:15 -15:10
  2. Hardy’s authentic swing 48:40
  3. Junah hits beach shot 57
  4. This is becoming embarrassing. Why don’t you hit it out. You want to quit. 59
  5. What is your strategy, Bagger. To untrained eye.. He is and he isn’t Junah. 102
  6. Locker room scene 105
  7. Adele’s apology 108
  8. Its time to see the field 113 – greatest game there is – just you and the ball
  9. Look in my eyes what you see. Pure determination. Panic 123
  10. Driver in the wind 123.38
  11. Hole in one 126
  12. Overconfidence in the sand trap 134
  13. Into the woods 138:25
  14. I can’t do this. Loosen your grip 139:40
  15. Time for you to choose 140:50
  16. Out of the woods 142:30
  17. Ball moved 147:50
  18. Last shot 155:15
  19. Bagger dances 156:40



See Also Living Values

This article was originally published in | Consecration Magazine, Vol.3, Issue 6, Jan-Feb 2007, pg.10


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