Just as the origins of modern playing cards are rooted in the tarot, the popular children's game of Chutes and Ladders is derived from the ancient Hindu game Leela, or Snakes and Arrows, which charts the ups and downs of the soul's path toward reunion with the Infinite. Snakes and Arrows was designed by the seers and saints of India as a tool for understanding the relationship of the individual self to the Absolute Self. For thousands of years the 72 spaces on this game board have enabled players to chart the paths that represent the course of their lives. Each space represents a virtue or a vice, an aspect of consciousness, or a plane of reality and is accompanied by a commentary explaining its meaning. The player's progress on the board is dictated by the fall of a As corresponding to the forces of karma. Repeated encounters with the snakes and arrows on the board reveal the full meaning of the commentaries and can give shape to habitual patterns of the player, resulting in greater self-understanding and even a gradual detachment from the ego's delusions.
The Yoga of Snakes and Arrows assists the seeker through the stages and trials of self-development, mirroring both the obstacles of karma and the rewards of self-obtained insight. There is really only one game in life and that is Leela, the game of self-knowledge and the universal play of cosmic energies.
Harish johari (1934-1999) was a respected teacher, artist, and composer who studied with many of the great saints of India. He worked for decades to introduce the culture of his homeland to the West and authored twelve books on Eastern spirituality, including Breath, Mind, and Consciousness; Chakras, Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine; The Healing Power of Gemstones; Numerology; and Tools for Tantra.
The Yoga of Snakes and Arrows is based on Leela, a game in which each of us is a player acting out his role. Leela is the universal play of cosmic energy. It is divine play that is present in the nature of the Supreme Self.
It is this playful nature that creates the world of names and forms-the phenomenal world. Leela is life itself, energy expressed as the myriad forms and feelings presented continuously to the self.
The essence of the player is his ability to become, to adopt a role. That which is the essence of the player can enter into any role. But once the player enters into the game, once he assumes the identity of the persona he adopts, he loses sight of his true nature. He forgets the essence of what it is to play the game. His moves are decided by the karma die.
As there are moments when sunlight momentarily illumines the patterns of waves, and flows in a river, so too there are moments when the clear light of consciousness reveals the patterns in the player's life role. At those moments the nature and flow of life energy stands forth as though in relief. At those moments the player loses his attachment to his role and begins to see his life as a part of a larger whole.
The purpose of Leela is to help the player gain this ability to withdraw from his identifications and see how he might become a better player. For the game of Leela is a microcosm of the larger game of self-knowledge. Contained within the seventy-two spaces of the game board is the essence of thousands of years of self-exploration, the heart of Indian tradition.
As the player moves from space to space, square to square, he begins to see patterns in his own existence, emerging with ever-deepening clarity as his understanding of the game broadens. His sense of detachment grows as he sees each state as temporary, something to move beyond. And once the temporality of any space becomes a reality for the player, he can detach from that space and let it go as he seeks to discover ever more about the wonder that is Being.
As with all games, here too there is a goal, an object to be attained. Because the essence of the player is his ability to identify, his only chance of "winning" the game is to identify with that which is his Source. This is Cosmic Consciousness, the essence of pure Being, which transcends time and space, knows no limits, and is infinite, absolute, eternal, changeless, the All, without attributes, beyond both name and form. The game ends when the player becomes himself, the essence of play.
The saints who invented the game of Leela used the game board to recognize the present state of their own being. By observing their course of movement from one plane to another they could practically observe which snakes brought them down and which arrows took them up. The moves were decided by a karmic die, yet the die when thrown indicated ' their own evolution because it represented the present state of the player. They consciously observed the pattern through which they were moving, by playing the game time and again and watching carefully their own reaction while landing on a snake or an arrow. Observing their own inner self, they could tell whether they had understood what it is to be not involved. At the same time, the network of the game gave them a deeper insight into the principle of the divine knowledge on which the game board was based. It was a study of scriptures and discovery of the self at the same time. This is the uniqueness of Leela, the yoga of snakes and arrows, the game of self-knowledge.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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