The premium is on winning. Whatever you do, you have to win, whether it is learning to sing, dance or just play. We live in fear of losing. We fear it so much that often, we hear this being said to someone: "You're such a loser!"
So what happens when you "lose"? Besides the fact that winning and losing are relative terms, it is really not so bad to lose once in a while. Sometimes, by losing, you could gain more, particularly when you live in a society where you are in constant touch with other people and are exposed to various situations. It is the one who loses, so to say, who actually keeps rolling. This is not to glorify losing, but to turn the focus to a balanced development rather than glorify the obsession to win always.
Shiva and Parvati were playing dice. Each time Shiva rolled the dice, Parvati's supporters squealed with joy while Shiva's companions cried in anguish. Parvati won and Shiva lost. Once Shiva lost even the last piece of cloth he wore, to Parvati. "Why do you always lose?" asked the supporters of Shiva. They had implicit faith in his supremacy. Then how come he lost each time?
Shiva lost to win. It takes some reflection for this to sink in. In the beginning, all was one, the undifferentiated, motionless One. When it separated into two, the Purusha and the Prakriti, there was Creation, there was activity. According to mythology, Narada, the celestial bard came to the Ardhanareeswara – the androgynous two-in-one form of Shiva and Parvati -- and said he would teach an interesting game that would end the inertia and add spice to their life.
He taught them the game of dice. When Shiva plays with Parvati it is the play of Purusha with Prakriti, inactivity with activity. The wager was a hug. If Shiva won, he would embrace Parvati. Beautiful as that sounds, people were worried because once again then Shiva would envelop Parvati in himself and return to the motionless inactive state of Ardhanareeswara. This would mean all activity would come to a standstill; it would be the end of the world. So it was crucial for Parvati to win, and for Shiva to lose so that activity continues without a break. In Parvati's victory, the pursuit of pleasure would continue...Shiva would play another game and yet another to win and embrace. But in losing the game, he won the game of life, he preserved Creation. And Parvati would win again and so the cycle continues.
Shiva's followers however could only feel humiliation at defeat. They cried and entreated Shiva to work harder while Parvati's entourage laughed. But the game continues, of winning and losing -- of Creation, Destruction, ad infinitum.
To keep activity going, to maintain harmony and balance, we have to experience both, winning and losing. This way, the cosmic play ensures that the cycle goes on. At a mundane level, the seesaw effect creates opportunities for all. When success and failure are experiences in turn, it helps us cultivate several perspectives, to lose gracefully as well as embrace achievements with deep humility.
This is the secret of happy togetherness. In the androgynous form, too, there was togetherness, but of a static kind. There seemed no purpose, no outcome. When they split to become two distinct entities, they could let their creations flourish. And yet they stayed together enjoying the game they played. That is togetherness; where 'otherness' enhances the togetherness.