Playing the game of life

Tantra suggests that we don’t take life, or ourselves, too seriously, and that we engage in all our activities and relationships with a level of playfulness. This in no way implies giving up our sense of personal responsibility or empathy. Rather, the aim is to transcend the rational mind’s tendency to make everything appear arduous, hard work and a means to an end.[1]  “Gracious one, play. The universe is an empty shell wherein your mind frolics infinitely.” (Vigyan Bhairav Tantra [2], Sutra 110).

The tantric approach is to adopt an attitude of lightness, laughter and fun – ideally “with a smile always on the face” as an Indian friend of mine likes to say. Moreover, playing implies being fully in the moment – Tantra places a strong focus on mindfulness – countering the rational mind’s ceaseless darting from future to past to future to past.

This tantric idea of playfulness stems from the Hindu concept of lila (or leela).[3] Lila is a Sanskrit word meaning play or sport, and in Hinduism one of its definitions is “the effortless or playful relation between the Absolute and the contingent world.”[4]

Playfulness is for everybody – the sad as well as the happy, those who are suffering as well as those who are elated. A prerequisite for playing is to be open and receptive, notwithstanding the challenges we might be experiencing in our lives. “Some [persons] confuse openness with a sense of feeling good. But you can be open and still feel great pain or the full range of emotional music. You can be angry, sad, or even afraid and still be open.”[5]

In contrast to the tantric idea of playfulness, which implies authenticity and openness, I find that a great deal of our socialising, which is a form of mainstream play, entails interacting with facades i.e. with the masks people put on when they’re playing their various roles in society. These roles tend to align with social constructs, or perceived appropriate ways of behaving, which are oftentimes self-interested, non-empathic and – most importantly – inauthentic. Moreover, the social mask is the face of the ego, which – sensing itself to be separate and, therefore vulnerable – is keen to laud its own achievements, defend its point of view, or criticise others. By adopting these approaches, the ego can feed itself energetically by draining vitality off the persons it’s interacting with. Only by using empathy, love, openness, etc. – which are heart qualities – can we give energetically to others as much as we (consciously/unconsciously) take from them. “To a spiritual practitioner, the term ‘heart’ conveys ‘that which I truly am,’ which is not the body and not the mind, but pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss.”[6]

I’m not a fan of inauthenticity or social masks, which is why I’m not a great socializer. However, I’m no bodhisattva, so I know I also sometimes fall into the trap of not being my real self when I’m amongst people. The reasons for this can be manifold: sometimes there is social pressure, or a professional or family need, or I feel no resonance with the people I’m interacting with. All the same, I prefer my own company than to be in a fake social environment. My rejection is not of the person as such – after all, we’re all simply treading our individual paths of learning back to the one source. My rejection is of the inauthenticity, which I consider to be synonymous with the fiefdom of the ego.

Sam Red, 10 June 2015

[1] Osho. (2010) The Book of the Secrets. St Martin’s Press: New York, p.1097.

[2] The 112 Meditations of the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra. Accessed 25 May 2015.

[3] Encyclopaedia Britannica. Lila: Accessed 22 May 2015.

[4] Encyclopaedia Britannica. Lila: Accessed 22 May 2015.

[5] Deida, D. (2005). Dear Lover. Sounds True: Boulder, CO, e-book location 1007.

[6] Feuerstein, G. (1998) Tantra: the Path to Ecstasy. Shamballa Publications: Boston & London, p.75.

2 thoughts on “Playing the game of life

    • Thanks so much for coming over to visit my neck of the WordPress woods 🙂 Its much appreciated. I’ve enjoyed our sharing today 🙂 I’ll definately check out the Wallis book. Thanks again, Sam

      Liked by 1 person

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