The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) asserts that each Jeeva’s life (each individual’s life) in itself is akin to a game (‘ਖੇਲ’ =Khel, ‘ਖੇਡ’ = Khed…).
We are born to wisely play this game of life till the end ultimately win it.
Gurbani’s analogy of ‘Chauparhi’ and ‘Shatranj
The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS explains this with a real life example of the the game of chess (‘Shatranj-ਸਤਰੰਜ’) and ‘Chauparhi-ਚਉਪੜਿ’ (a game played with a dice on a cloth in the form of cross).
- ਹੁਕਮੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਚਉਪੜਿ ਖੇਲੈ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣਿ ਢਾਲੇ ਪਾਸਾ ॥੩॥: (Through the Gur Shabad: Gur Giaan, Wisdom…) one understands the Hukam, he plays the dice (of remaining in Hukam) and winning his mind he throws the dice (i.e. for him, winning the mind is to throw the dice in the game of ‘Chauparhi-ਚਉਪੜਿ’). (sggs 793).
- ਜੇ ਕੋ ਦਰਗਹ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਬੋਲੈ ਨਾਉ ਪਵੈ ਬਾਜਾਰੀ ॥ ਸਤਰੰਜ ਬਾਜੀ ਪਕੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਚੀ ਆਵੈ ਸਾਰੀ ॥੩॥: If a person raises a lot of voice against the Hukam (i.e. if he opposes the Hukam gains nothing but) he comes to be known as ‘Baajaaree‘ (i.e. homeless, talkative, vulgar, joker, cheap, ਬੜਬੋਲਾ…). (The game of life is like) the game of chess. It will not be won (by opposing the Hukam). The dice remain ‘Kachee‘ (ineffective, unripe, unfinished, incomplete, unready etc. and only that dice is said to be) ‘ripe’ that reach their goal (i.e. win). (sggs 359).
In short, a player who knows how to throw a dice wins the game.
- ਜੋ ਜਨ ਜਾਨਿ ਭਜਹਿ ਅਬਿਗਤ ਕਉ ਤਿਨ ਕਾ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਨਾਸਾ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਤੇ ਜਨ ਕਬਹੁ ਨ ਹਾਰਹਿ ਢਾਲਿ ਜੁ ਜਾਨਹਿ ਪਾਸਾ ॥੪॥੪॥: Those ‘Jan’ (Daas, Bhagat, Gurmukh…) who join/realize the eternal God do not lose their life in vain. O Kabeer! Those ‘Jan‘ who know how to throw dice (i.e. how to follow or live by the Divine Hukam, Gur-Giaan, Naam…), never lose the game of life. ||4||4|| (sggs 793).
Applying this analogy to the game of life, one who knows how to Wisely deal with each situation in life, and make the appropriate decision in a given circumstances win the game of life.
And those who don’t bravely and prudently play this game of life, lose it. And consequently suffers till the end of life!
- ਤੇਰੈ ਨਾਇ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਜਿਣਿ ਗਏ ਹਾਰਿ ਗਏ ਸਿ ਠਗਣ ਵਾਲਿਆ ॥: Those who are imbued with Your Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…) win (the game of human-life), while the deceitful lose out (defeated by Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride…). (sggs 463).
Opposing players in the game of life
Every game or battle has contending teams, players, forces, etc. It’s also true with the game or battle of life.
In the game or battle of life, forces or players of the opposing team are lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride (and their countless variations such as stubborn mindedness, enviousness, falsehood, selfishness, slandering, and so on).
- ਪੰਚ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਬਸੇ ਰਾਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਸੰਗਿ ॥: The five Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed etc.) dwell in the mind of one who is engrossed in Maya (sggs 297).
Also called Bikaars (the wicked impulsive mental and material tendencies…), these players of the contending or the opposing teams are fierce fighters. They are the formidable soldiers of the false ego-sense (Haumai, Mayaic-Budhi…), Maya…
- ਹਉਮੈ ਚਉਪੜਿ ਖੇਲਣਾ ਝੂਠੇ ਅਹੰਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਹਾਰੈ ਸੋ ਜਿਣੈ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ ॥੫॥: Man is playing the game of false ego-sense (Haumai) with the dice of falsehood and self-conceit. The whole world loses (the human life); he alone wins, who reflects on the Gur-Shabad (Upadesh, Giaan, Wisdom…). ||5|| (sggs 422).
In nutshell, competing in this game of life are two opposing forces: Bibek Budhi (discerning intelligence, soul-Consciousness…) and the sense-bent mind (Mayaic-mind…).
The playground of these contending teams or forces is the human life. In this playground, the game is waged between the players (or soldiers) of the mind’s Jot Saroop or True Nature (Pure Giaan, Virtues-ਗੁਣ…) and uncontrolled activities of the ignoble or wisdom-blind ego-mind.
Thus, every moment in one’s life, there is a Spiritual and psychological game going on between the Jot Saroop or True Nature and the sense-infatuated mind under the delusive influence of the false ego-sense (Haumai).
Every moment, the sense-infatuated mind is engaged in thinking, planning, feeling, inquiring, desiring, fearing, etc. As a result, it’s born every moment and dies every moment. This nonstop cycle of birth and death of the mind continues all day along, everyday!
- ਖੇਲਤ ਖੇਲਤ ਆਇਓ ਅਨਿਕ ਜੋਨਿ ਦੁਖ ਪਾਇ ॥: The human being is afflicted with the colors of the mind and suffers by going through (a cycle of) many lives (at mental level). (sggs 261).
Beating the opposing players in the game of life
In order to win the game of life, the Gurbani asks us to defeat the contending team (i.e., lust, anger, greed, etc.).
The Gurbani tells us that one wins this game only if he becomes the Gurmukh.
- ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਖੇਲੈ ਸੋ ਜਿਣਿ ਬਾਜੀ ਘਰਿ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥੧॥੧੯॥: O Jan Nanak! That person who by becoming the Gurmukh plays this game (of life) wins this game (of life – ਮਨੁਖਾ ਜਨਮ ਸਫਲ ਕਰਕੇ), and returns to his True Home within. ||4||1||19|| (sggs 1185).
Otherwise, one will remain a Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree (opposite of the Gurmukh) and looses the game of life.
The function of Bikaars or Maya’s mighty soldiers is to cover the mind-mirror by placing the ‘dust‘ or ‘filth’ of material contamination on it. As this ‘dust’ thickens, the effulgence of the Divine Light within dims.
The Gurbani reminds us that Bhagti can not be cultivated with a mind covered with ‘dust’ or ‘filth’ of false ego-sense (Haumai), etc.
- ਮਨਿ ਮੈਲੈ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: With a filthy mind (filth of Haumai…), Bhagti cannot be performed, and the Naam cannot be obtained (sggs 39).
Players are ridiculed who ‘talk’ a good game, but who cannot deliver on the field of play. In other words, one who can only ‘talk the talk’ and not ‘walk the walk’ cannot deliver on the field of play . The Gurbani challenges us to backup our words with action (i.e., live the Gurbani by becoming the Gurmukh…). If we can, then, as the Gurbani promises, we are Home Free.
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਇ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਸੁਝੈ ॥: But those who become Gurmukh understand everything (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੇ ਹਰੇਕ ਭੇਤ ਨੂੰ). (sggs 1418).
But, as the Gurbani alerts us, it is a ‘difficult game’ to play!
To play this game is like chewing steel-balls with teeth of wax! Only a Gurmukh can walk on this razor’s edge! The Gurbani says that a Gurmukh who assiduously tries to win this game is very ‘rare‘ (i.e., one amongst millions-‘ਕੋਟਨ ਮੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੋਊ’).
- ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹੁ ਖੇਲੁ ਕਠਨੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਨਹੂੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਨਾ ॥੨॥੧॥: O ‘Jan’ Nanak! This is such a difficult game; only a rare Gurmukh understands it! ||2||1|| (sggs 219).
However, if willing to abandon ‘talk the talk’ and instead if willing to ‘walk the walk’ (the Gurmukh Lifestyle – the Way of the Aatm Giaan or Wisdom of the Gurbani…), then the Gurbani assures us that anybody can become one of those ‘rare’ Gurmukhs. It all depends whether one has the commitment, earnestness, love or burning desire (ਸਚ ਬੁੱਝਣ ਦੀ ਭੁੱਖ…) to win the game of life!
- ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਜਿਣਿ ਗਏ ਹਉ ਸਦ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੈ ਜਾਸੁ ॥੬॥: Those who are imbued with the Naam, they win the (game of life); I am also a sacrifice to them (ਕੁਰਬਾਨ ਜਾਂਣਾਂ). ||6|| (sggs 57).
- ਸਭੁ ਸਫਲਿਓ ਜਨਮੁ ਤਿਨਾ ਦਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਿਨਾ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣਿ ਪਾਸਾ ਢਾਲਿਆ ॥: Their life is successful who – by becoming the Gurmukh – have conquered their mind and thus played this game of life (game of life-Chauparhi). (sggs 78).
Simply put: The Gurbani tells us that one must know (or must have the knowledge or Giaan of) which decision to take at which time. Those who know this, they never lose the game of life. Otherwise – without the Giaan or Wisdom – one is sure to waste time and get frustrated or disappointed!
- ਹੋਇ ਇਕਤ੍ਰ ਮਿਲਹੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਦੂਰਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੈ ਕੇ ਹੋਵਹੁ ਜੋੜੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੈਸਹੁ ਸਫਾ ਵਿਛਾਇ ॥੧॥ ਇਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਪਾਸਾ ਢਾਲਹੁ ਬੀਰ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਦਿਨੁ ਰਾਤੀ ਅੰਤ ਕਾਲਿ ਨਹ ਲਾਗੈ ਪੀਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਚਉਪੜਿ ਸਾਜਹੁ ਸਤੁ ਕਰਹੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਸਾਰੀ ॥ ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਜੀਤਹੁ ਐਸੀ ਖੇਲ ਹਰਿ ਪਿਆਰੀ ॥੨॥: O my brothers, let’s get together and join the pious company, and remove our sense of duality by focusing our mind (conscience) on the Creator within. Become the Gurmukh – make this the cloth of ‘Chauparhi’ game and focus your mind, (and pious company) become a partner to play the Chauparhi of Naam (Gur Giaan, Wisdom…). ||1|| O brother! In this way throw your dice (of the game of life). By becoming the Gurmukh, constantly understand the Naam, (if you keep playing this game of life like this) there will be no grief till the end of life. Make good deeds a game of Chauparhi, make Truth (i.e., high conduct…) a dice. Conquer lust, anger, greed and worldly attachment (i.e., all Bikaar…); only such a game as this is dear to Hari. ||2|| (sggs 1185).