Friday January 13, 2006
A couple of days ago there was a report in the Guardian on a new Buddhist board-game invented by Emily Preece, an artist from (where else?) Totnes. The game is based upon the Tibetan Wheel of Life. The object of the game, you’ve already guessed, is to attain Enlightenment. But that’s not all – once you have done so, you can go back into the game and, Bodhisattva-like, help all the other players to awakening as well.
I have to make a confession here: I tend to avoid board games because there is no activity more likely to bring out my latent desire to crush all opposition to my every move – the Napoleon within who surfaces from nowhere with a terrible lust for the ultimate conquest – than a protracted game of Monopoly or Scrabble. And whilst board-game manufacturers like to show pictures of happy families crouched around a board with smiles upon their faces, an image of sublime domestic harmony, my own long and bitter experience has been that at any one time, at least one of the players will be hunched into a glowering ball of resentment as they peer out at the board through half-closed eyes, brooding over the humiliation of defeat, comforted only by the thought that, eventually, the game will end.
There is no such comfort when it comes to the Wheel of Life. The Buddhist texts like to remind us that it is possible to circle round and round the cycles of Samsara for innumerable aeons which, now I come to think about it, is as good a description of playing Monopoly as you will find anywhere. And when you reach your goal, it is not even over then. Being a good Mahayana game, back you can go for further interminable aeons to help other suffering beings who continue to cycle round and round and round…
Except by this time the aeons will no longer be interminable, Samsara will no longer be Samsara, and instead of endless suffering you will experience continual delight at the helping of others. You will plunge, to use an image from Shantideva, from one supremely generous act to another – shedding lives and limbs on the way – as joyfully as an elephant leaping into one cool lotus pool after another on a hot afternoon.
Whether Emily’s game will contribute to domestic harmony, turning the players one-by-one into happy Bodhisattva-elephants à la Shantideva, or lead to its diminishment, could only be established by rigorous experimental testing. But my fear of the inner Napoleon is such that I probably won’t be risking it…
Comments are turned off for this article.
Today's Most Popular
Dragons and Levitating Monks: Monday October 20, 2008
On the elusiveness of the miraculous.
A Shortcut to Nirvana?: Monday July 24, 2006
Research from the frontline of the discipline that is becoming known as neurotheology…
Vain, Deluded, Pigheaded, Secretive, Bigoted...: Thursday February 14, 2008
That’s the trouble with the mind – it has a mind of it’s own.
Mental Discontents: Sunday June 11, 2006
Can we eradicate mental discontent?
Things Worth Knowing: Friday August 7, 2009
The stuff we know (or claim to know) and a few thoughts on ethics.
The Dancing Buddhist Bear: Wednesday October 12, 2005
A Buddhist dancing bear? Surely that’s cruel?
Ethical Friskiness: Sunday February 28, 2010
When ethical philosophy meets caffeine…
Findings.: Thursday August 25, 2005
Kathleen Jamie’s book Findings – a hymn to the virtues of attentiveness.
East is East and West is West: Monday August 7, 2006
Thinking between Levinas and Shantideva, East and West.
Putting Shantideva to the Test: Wednesday March 26, 2008
Happiness and ethics – a simple experiment.
Zen, Brains and Making Friends With Your Own Head: 10 Nov, 2008
It’s a complicated business having a brain.
Lies in Which not Everything is False: 10 Sep, 2008
Stories – they are nothing but a pack of lies.
The Sutras of Abu Ghraib: 30 Oct, 2007
Aidan Delgado on Buddhism, ethics and the war in Iraq.
Baboon: 06 Jun, 2006
Feeling like a grumpy old baboon?
Meditation as Unphenomenology: 07 Feb, 2008
Meditation, cartography and the territory of the mind.