This is a list of games Buddha said he wouldn’t play. Who knew? This is the earliest known list of games, according to Wikipedia.
(Via Daniel Solis.)
Interesting – certainly suggests that some simple games have been around a LONG time. But it begs the question, why would he not play them? I would presume that list was part of a lesson or parable about “why certain activities do not lead to enlightenment” or something along those lines. I have to admit that some games do demand focused thought that is perhaps the antithesis of meditation.
Good question. I briefly considered making a little spoof article around that list explaining why the Buddha doesn’t like these games that would probably have gotten me in trouble with Buddhists… But for a more serious interpretation: I am kind of assuming this list is not a subset of a larger set of games. In other words, it’s not a list of banned games a la BBFC / ESRB, but a list of games that were played within a certain historical context, for instance the childhood of the Buddha.
I am far from an expert, but there are to my knowledge some forms of meditation that demand focussed thought. Also, for me personally there is a strong resemblance between puzzles in adventure games and koans ;) C.G. Jung’s interpretation of koans is that koans are unsolvable and occupy the rational, conscious mind to such an extreme degree it gets temporarily annihilated and the subconscious takes over. Or so I remember, and I am not even sure if he’s right.
From the perspective of a more severe form of Buddhism, I can imagine games are seen as trivial and manifestations of the monkey mind, and, as you say, do not lead to enlightenment. But then again some people very convincingly argue that washing the dishes can be a Buddhist (or more specifically, Zen) moment. Saying one activity is ‘good’ and another is ‘bad’ does not sound very Buddhist to me… but the eightfold path is at the core (or front?) of Buddhism. I find it a fascinating philosophical system (I don’t really think of it as a religion).
Interestingly, the list is about games the Buddha wouldn’t play, not games he thinks others shouldn’t play. So it doesn’t say this is “good” that is “bad.” I think the monkey mind idea is pretty dead on. If you want clean dishes, they have to be washed. But what is the result of a game of chess except hours of focus on the illusory world of rationality? I’m no buddhist and I love chess, but I could see how games might get in the way of enlightenment. They can be as demanding as any religion. Washing dishes needs to be filled with intent. Games are intent filled by definition.
The koan example is interesting. Zen practitioners don’t believe koan are riddles or puzzles, and they are not accessible to rational thought. So, I do not believe that they are “games” to a buddhist. They are answerable only if you are in an “awakened state.” Puzzling at them like a riddle is actually a sign that you aren’t in that state. Does that make any sense?
Hmm, interesting points. I have read various different explanations of how koans work. Of course, thinking about how they work is futile almost by definition… that’s the maddening side of zen :)
No clear social doctrine beyond the sangha at that time so it comes as no suprise these games were not endorsed. However who is to say those who believed in the early dharma (buddha included) would not partake in some of these games with the children of the light in the spirit of play, out on a dusty road somewhere? :)