Saturday, November 2, 2013

Playing Dice

dyUtaM chalayatAmasmi tejastejasvinAmaham
jayo 'smi vyavasAyo 'smi sattvaM sattvavatAmaham
Of those things which deceive I am the dice, and splendor itself among splendid things. I am victory, I am perseverance, and the goodness of the good. (Bhagavad Gita,10.36)

 One of the rituals traditionally associated with Diwali is gambling. It is believed that on this night, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva (a scene superbly sculpted at Kailash temple, Ellora) and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year. As if they held the fate of masses of mankind in their hands, they let fly dice which thundered across the heavens. It is a Divine Play. But this game of gods is not always safe for mortals.  The great gambling match of the Mahabharata epic was precipitated as the tragic consequence of a cruel conspiracy to ruin Yudhishthira, a kindly warrior and the eldest of the legendary Pandavas. After he had gambled and lost even his own person, the crafty Sakuni said to him: "You have done a bad act, Yudhishthira, in gaming away yourself and becoming a slave".
From the standpoint of symbolism the dice in this story are truly instruments of karmic necessity. In his fall Yudhishthira becomes the die tumbling out on the board, each toss cutting a swath through the multi-layered veil of destiny surrounding him and his brothers and all those whom they will oppose in the field of battle.   The throwing of the die signifies the manifesting of fate. Each roll or shot, toss or cast sets the stage for the next step in the pattern revealing itself as one goes along with the game.  If all in the world could be lost in such a game, so too could the ashtapada (board) be likened to all the world. In ancient India dice were sometimes used to move figures around on a board marked with longitudinal and latitudinal lines likened to sections of the known world.
 A die is a cube, the symbol of Earth. Three dimensions to the square can represents equality, justice and the law. Its three-dimensionality signifies these principles made manifest in the earthly realm. For to rise over this world, the person throws again and again. We become each and every piece within the game called life. As Shakespeare has told: and all the men and women merely players... we do indeed throw the dice, but we should take all karma in our stride and to bear our responsibility to what seem at a personal level to be blind forces of chance. When a person both refuses to accept karma and becomes entirely fixated on the continual play of chance, he or she is in the grips of a blind fascination. When a person's spiritual will is dormant, it is easy to become both a slave to another and a traitor to one's own higher Self.
And what about Divine Play? What can we tell here? One of Albert Einstein's most famous statements is "God does not play dice with the universe". On one occasion Bohr answered, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do."  :)


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