Happiness - Zen and the Game of Cricket
by Suma Varughese
Cricketís just a game; not the index for national self-esteem. lighten up, will you!
Although I am lucky enough to inhabit a cosy spiritual niche through the grace of this magazine, where I interact mostly with fellow seekers, occasionally I take a peek out into the real world just to see if it has changed as yet.
I canít deny it has. It heartens me tremendously each time I hear that the police force is learning yoga or schools have abolished homework or science is endorsing spirituality or mainstream hospitals are going alternative.
At the same time, there certainly is no denying that we have a long way to go before satyug dawns.
Let us take our approach towards cricket, for instance. I am no fan of cricket. To me there is something very manipulative about the frenzy the media whips up about cricket. It reminds me of the bread and circus politics of the Romans Ė give the people a spectacle to keep them happy. Well, no thanks.
Which is why I can look at the emotional vortex that engulfs us during the cricket season with a certain detachment, and even wonder. To begin with there is the sheer anxiety, expectation and need we have for victory. It seems as if our entire self-esteem hinges upon the cricketers returning with the World Cup, to take a recent example. What reams and reams of copy over those boys, what deification, what breathless interest in every detail of what they eat, think, breathe or wear.
Well, with the expectation of one billion or more people tottering on their shoulders, these people went and alas, fared most lamentably. How we turned upon them for that. How we tore them to pieces, how we lampooned them in press and boycotted their families; how we wanted to punish them for making us feel so bad. And the BCCI obliged by turning whipping boy. They reduced their salary and established goodness knows what other measures.
Let us examine this behavior from the spiritual point of view.
ē Drop expectations is virtually rule number one of the spiritual code of conduct. Expectations only give us misery and load the relationship with too much baggage. If we want to feel good about us as a nation, letís do something about it. Why expect cricketers to make us feel good?
ē Be detached is yet another spiritual cornerstone. Instead of foaming in the mouth with fervent excitement and adoration, could we not give these people some space? Should they really matter so much to us? Do we really need to reward them so extravagantly, and worship them so much? Can we not simply get rooted within ourselves instead?
ē We have no control over outcome is, of course, the great message of the Bhagavad Gita. How come we donít keep this in mind? Perhaps it just was not their time to win. Everyone canít win all the time. Why should not the other party win too? Could we not, as good parents do while sending their children for an exam, ensure that they prepare, trust them, wish them luck, but also accept whatever happens without withdrawing our love?
ē Failure is okay. How come the cricketers simply have no permission to fail? How suffocating can we be? How do we expect them to take risks, to be unselfconscious and joyous, to play their hearts out, if they have to keep fearing failure? Are we not in fact giving them the perfect recipe for failure? How will they ever succeed unless they feel that failure is okay?
ē Only acceptance transforms, condemnation does not. Hey, whatís with the punishment? What purpose could this possibly gain? Why not invite the cricketers to introspect and see where they went wrong? Why not stand by them instead?
ē And finally, itís just a game. We live in a country whose philosophy is that life itself is a game, the Lordís lila. We are meant to play it gracefully, gallantly, taking failure and success in our stride, never taking anything too seriously. Itís tragic that in such a country, a game has become such a serious affair. Lighten up. The game is just a game Ė an enjoyable distraction, an opportunity to see skill in practice. Nothing more!