By Suma Varughese September 2005 If the universe is a manifestation of the lord’s play, it follows that life is a game. So lighten up and dance your way through the lord’s lila. Swirl and twirl through victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, life and death. All of it is but a game and all that matters is how we play it… Imagine it, if you can. Absolute non-existence. Save for the One, a compressed dot of unimaginable power and potency. Whole, perfect and complete. Needing nothing, wanting nothing, self-created and self-sustained. Blissful, joyful, endlessly creative. And life happens. Streaming out of the One like cobweb out of a spider, weaving worlds of astounding beauty and complexity, composing galaxies humming to the music of the spheres, manifesting beings of every conceivable shape, size and substance. Creation upon creation. Complexity upon complexity. A universe of unbelievable proportions and intelligence. The One is at joyful play, manifesting Itself in ever-greater abundance and intricacy, experiencing Itself in a trillion reflections across the stratosphere, scripting a game that ripples through the whole of creation and seeds it with underlying order and harmony, with rules and a purpose. A game played by the One as many until the many once again become One. Let’s zoom in now on two-year-old Ashwin. No need to tell him that life is a game. It is self-evidently one. When Mummy gives him rice and curds to eat, that’s a game to be plunged into with gusto, grabbing fistfuls of the stuff, smearing it all over his mouth, tasting its sweet coolness, feeling its sticky consistency on his skin, crushing some of the rice on the table just to see what it feels like and offering a spoonful to mama too, because he likes to share. Even the piece of cloth that he finds in the bedroom is matter for a splendid game. Tirelessly, he plays with it for hours, twirling it around him, folding it into different sizes and shapes and even spreading it down like a sheet and lying on it. Deeply engrossed in everything he does, Ashwin explores the world through play. Cut to Ashwin at 30. Life, a game? With a wife, two kids (who see life as a game), a housing and car loan to pay off, and a job that’s in the doldrums, you’ll excuse him if he doesn’t quite see the fun in living. As a matter of fact ask him what life is and he will look back at you, perplexed. He hasn’t the slightest idea. At some points it has seemed the most glorious thing imaginable such as when he first met his wife or witnessed the birth of their children. At other times, it has been a drag, a bore. At still other times it has been living hell – for instance, when his colleague framed him in a theft case or when his younger brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. So life? Well, the jury is still out on that one. Most of us can identify with the older Ashwin. Life can appear to be such a struggle. Marks to be got, a job to be held, money to be made, duties to be fulfilled, bills to be paid, self-respect to be earned, values to be guarded, children to be married off, old age to be provided for. We are pitted against a world rife with corruption, dirt, chaos, meaninglessness, anger, enmity, accidents, disease and death. Where is the fun in all this? What is the game we are meant to be playing, anyway? The game is called lila, the sport of the Lord; and to realize it and play it is our life’s purpose. Writes Martin Boroson, author of Becoming Me, Story of Creation, ‘From within itself, the Source gives birth to an imaginary world, like an enormous film or play. We are characters in this film, unaware of the drama we’re in, unaware of the Source who creates and projects us. God is playing with us, and is playing through us, like a big hand with so many finger puppets. This is done with delight and curiosity, the way a loving parent sees the world afresh through her child’s innocent eyes.’ The concept of the universe arising out of the Lord’s play is an essentially Indian idea, and one with profound implications. In keeping with Vedic philosophy, it illustrates the relative unreality of our worldly existence. Writes spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy in The Cosmic Game, ‘God was One, but He wanted to become many…If we go deep within, we see that we are only taking a conscious part in God’s Cosmic Game.’ Vedanta teacher Swami Brahmavidananda adds, ‘God is complete, full, free of need. Therefore, why should he create? God creates without a reason, like play. This is how the concept of lila came about.’ It also reflects the spirit of the enterprise. A spirit of joy, fun, innocence and creativity. We are the byproducts of this spirit and therefore the inheritors too. In The Sport of the Infinite, an Internet article, Sri Swami Krishnananda rhapsodises, ‘It is Ananda that is manifest everywhere in the world. It is Bliss and not pain that we see in the world. Pain is only a refusal on the part of our consciousness to recognize the bliss of God’s creation.’ God has created us out of His irrepressible creative joy. But creation is not all of the play. Through us, God is playing out a deep, infinitely fascinating and immensely patient game. Through the process of evolution, matter must gradually become spirit. The smallest densest particle of sand must evolve through the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom. It must work its way from amoeba to the crown of creation, man! That’s you and me. Having reached this far in this mammoth creation odyssey, we have but one step more, and that is to reach Godhead. God became us so that we can become God. A millennia-long circuitous route from consciousness to unconsciousness to consciousness again. Why? Play, just play! Hide and seek, what else? The Lord’s PlayAll of life conspires to achieve this one all-encompassing purpose – to move towards God. Everything that has befallen us in our millions of years of existence has been single-mindedly towards this lofty goal. And despite the slips and setbacks, despite the occasional extinction, plagues, droughts, floods and famines, life has irresistibly surged forward. It has brought us where we are just now. And it will support us on this last but most perilous step of our ascent. At the same time, the Lord’s game is as challenging as it can possibly be. It calls upon us to exert every ounce of intelligence, determination, courage, endurance, acceptance and every other strength. For we are veiled from the truth by the subtle but powerful veils of maya. Her sorcery binds us to the lures of the sensory world, to our hunger for pleasure, power, money, fame and so on. It predisposes us to the traps of anger, despondency, fear, and other emotions. Like the snake and ladder game our progress can be uncertain, sometimes on the rise, sometimes a precipitous fall. Our humongous task is to break free of every one of these fetters that arise out of embodiment and thereby attain spirithood while still in the body. Difficult, yes, but not impossible as the example of all the God-realized saints and yogis prove. Moreover, we are supported in this by the whole universe, and by our own natures as well. We have been given the precious gifts of a conscience, imagination, intuition and free will with which to change our nature and to orient it towards perfect liberation. Writes psychiatrist Brian Weiss in his book, Same Soul, Many Bodies, ‘The unconscious has built within it a mechanism that steers it along a positive path of spiritual evolution. In other words, the soul always, at all times, evolves towards heath.’ We enter the game therefore with a good many handicaps but enough advantages to ensure that we have a chance at winning if we screw ourselves to a fever pitch and give it all we have got. You couldn’t ask for a more absorbing game! God has always been playing this game through us; but the fun begins when we begin to perceive the game. Or to continue with our protagonist, when Ashwin gets a glimmering of the underlying purpose behind the surface chaos of life. Writes Martin Boroson, ‘The goal of the cosmic game is for you to discover, in a way that satisfies your own particular tests, that you are an aspect of the divine. This is the moment when you discover the God-program buried in your hard-drive. You learn its language and start to surf the web-of-life from its custom browser.’ The moment when we awaken to the game is a sacred one and determined by grace. It could be an experience, a line spoken by someone, or a passage in a book. A friend reported walking into his puja room and having a ray of light passing into him from the Ganesh idol. This is the moment when we discern that under the materialistic surface of life runs another deeper layer. Ashwin, if he is lucky, will get his chance in this lifetime. If not there are others, for life patiently trawls for all souls – not one is ignored or rejected. All will get their turn in life after life. Those who do get it find their lives transformed by a compelling new vision. They become charged with an overwhelming desire to understand this game and to experience it fully. There are two processes involved here. The first is the knowledge that life is a game. This changes our perspective, worldview and attitude. The second, which flows from that, is to be able to play the game in the spirit of the Lord. To live jauntily, spiritedly; to be able to smile at defeats and victories; to celebrate life through good times and bad; to milk opportunities out of problems; to be undefeatable; and through it become God. In the book, God Loves Fun, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, ‘God is ever youthful, ever young. To me, God is very naughty…and he loves fun. All this is fun, that’s why He created so much fun around H
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