Games within Games

A Tenstones Game

Steven Cranmer and Charles Cameron


Although Hermann Hesse's Nobel-prize winning book Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game did not contain an explicit description of this abstract game, many people over the years have attempted to reconstruct a playable version.

In my opinion, the TenStones and WaterBird Games that Charles has constructed come very close to Hesse's vision. The simple act of "placing" abstract ideas onto a geometrical board, like stones in a zen garden, creates a new and interesting, and arbitrarily "multimedia," work of art.

This TenStones Game, which I have called Games Within Games (for reasons that should be apparent upon reading it) took place on the Magister-L mailing list in December of 1995.

Please note that the following material is copyright, Steven Cranmer and Charles Cameron, 1995, 1996. The authors grant the right to copy and distribute this file, provided it remains unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. "Modification" here includes the reformatting of the file into other types, such as HTML. The authors retain both the right and intention to modify and extend this document.

-- Steven Cranmer


The Game:

Steve Cranmer, Move 1, "Chaturanga" in position 8

Chaturanga, or "four-sided armies," is a board game thought to have preceded the development of modern Chess. It is distinct from Chess in that it is played by four, with partners sitting opposite one another, as in bridge, and in that the pieces and spaces have been reputed to have various esoteric and spiritual meanings.

Legend has it that Chaturanga was invented by a Brahmin at the court of Rajah Balhait in the 5th century BCE. The rajah had asked the wise man to invent a game that would exemplify the virtues of diligence, foresight, prudence, and wisdom, and especially oppose the fatalistic element of *chance* that was popular in dice-games such as backgammon. Always couched in military terms, the original pieces were based on the Indian army: the king (K), elephant (E), horse (H), chariot (C), and foot-soldier, or pawn (p).

C p . . K E H C
H p . . p p p p
E p . . . . . .
K p . . . . . .
. . . . . . p K
. . . . . . p E
p p p p . . p H
C H E K . . p C

Over time, the tempting element of chance crept back into the game, and Chaturanga has been often called "dice-chess," since many have used dice to determine their moves.

Although gradually replaced by its younger two-player sibling, this intriguing game has survived in many forms. Catherine II of Russia called it the "Royal Game." Byzantine Greeks played it on a circular board, and called it "astronomical chess." Finally, members of that infamous 19th century occult society, the Golden Dawn, played it as "Enochian" or "Rosicrucian" Chess. In this complex variant, the four sides are related to the four classical elements, and each square of the chessboard is imbued with a multitude of magical correspondences. Like Hesse's Glass Bead Game, each move contained an element of meditation, in that players (human and spirit alike!) scryed into the squares for inspiration. Continuing in the tradition of the chess- obsessed Caliphs of the 7th century CE, Chaturanga became more than a game, it became a way of training the mind and spirit.



Charles Cameron, Move 2, "The Dicing" in position 7

This move refers to the celebrated Game of Dice in the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic poem attributed to Vyasa which contains the Bhagavad Gita as its crowning glory.

Duryodhana challenges Yudhisthira to this Game, and Yudhisthira loses, in various single throws of the dice, his:

illustrious, thundering regal chariot worth a thousand, beautifully wrought and hung with tiger skins, with fine wheels and appointments, adorned with a circlet of bells... blessed and victorious, thundering like the cloud and the sea, drawn by eight fine osprey-hued steeds...

thousand *must* elephants... with golden caparisons... crowned with chaplets, hung with garlands, and spotted with lotus dots... well-trained mounts, fit for a king, and deaf to any noise on the battlefield... bastion-battering tuskers, huge like mountains and monsoon clouds...

partridge-dappled Gandharva horses with golden harnesses...

sixty thousand broad-chested men, who drink milk and feed on rice and grain...

Having thus lost "elephant (E), horse (H), chariot (C), and foot-soldier, or pawn (p)" and much more besides, Yudhisthira wagers himself, "the king (K)", saying:

I myself am left, dearly loved by all my brothers. When won, we shall slave for you to our perdition...

Again he loses.

Once more he is challenged, and finally wagers his beautiful wife, Draupadi, and again loses.

*

This last wager raises a complex "legal" issue: can a king who has already lost himself into slavery still wager his queen? (In chess terms: can a queen be taken after her king has been check mated?)

*

It is this Game of Dice which sets in motion the train of events leading inexorably to the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, which is the Mahabharata's theme.

*

Meditation:

We meditate on the contrast between losing "pieces" in a Game (Chaturanga), and staking the living realities for which those pieces stand in another Game (Dice) and losing them.

And we consider how one man's compulsion to gamble results in the unleashing of world-destroying weapons, a horrendous slaughter of noble lives -- and the sublime self-revelation of Krsna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra.



Steve Cranmer, Move 3, "Atlantis" in position 9

This fabled lost continent has fascinated people since at least the time of Socrates. Its legend begins with the Olympian gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, who, long ago, shook lots in a helmet to decide how to divide up the lordship of the universe. Zeus received the sky, Hades the dark underworld, and Poseidon the sea. Though they vowed to leave the earth common to all, Poseidon was not satisfied with his lot, and began a long history of conquering various human-populated lands.

Seeing that distant westward Atlantis was ripe for the picking, Poseidon assumed control. He revealed himself to a native woman, Cleito, and took her as his wife. He protected his bride by walling her up on the central mountain of the island, and surrounding it with concentric circles of land and sea. Another tradition holds that these concentric ripples in the island's geography arose from Poseidon's earth-shaking lovemaking at his mountain epicenter.

The part-divine dynasty he founded began with Atlas, the eldest son of Poseidon and Cleito. Well-known is the story of the gradual decline and fall of this royal line, their eventual defeat at the hands of the proto-Athenians, and the destruction of Atlantis by quakes and floods.

Links:

With Chaturanga: counterpoint between squares and circles, both are "lost," both had elephants.

With the Dicing: gambling losses leading to both divine revelation and eventual downfall.

I can't pass up the links with Atlantis' modern namesake: Atlantic City, New Jersey. Its modern-day life-blood is "the dicing." Its heyday spawned a fourfold-symmetric board game (Monopoly), about which many argue whether luck or skill is more important (like Chaturanga).

Meditation:

I can't get the picture of Atlas (the Titan, not the son of Poseidon) out of my head, holding up the firmament. His left hand supports the passionate East, where Aphrodite and Zeus cavort and toy with peoples' lives; his right hand supports the logical West, where Hermes plays at his draughts, and Ares advises him on battle strategy. A tough balance to maintain! :)



Charles Cameron, Move 4, "death" in position 10

Heinrich Zimmer's *The King and the Corpse* p 35 n 1, mentions "chess in its original aspect of a conflict in which the players stake *themselves*" -- neatly linking with the origins of chess in "Chaturanga" at 8 and Yudhisthira's wager of himself in the "Dicing" at 7.

By way of explanation, Zimmer refers his readers to Otto Rank's *Art and Artist*, chapter 10, "Game and Destiny", in which Rank suggests that "to occupy one square after another and rob the opponent of all his pieces" is the object of the a chess game, but that "if these pieces originally represented, as in Egypt, amulets for important parts of the body, the esoteric purpose of the game seems to be to rob one's opponent of his vital organs until finally with the king, who is the head, comes mate -- and death."

But let's take this a little deeper, and expand on Steve's phrase, "Aphrodite and Zeus cavort and toy with peoples' lives" in position 9.

Once "death" enters into our thinking about play, questions of immortality, oblivion, and our relationship with the gods also arise. Here the predominant imagery naturally shifts from "play" as "game" to "play" as "theater" -- the closeness of the link will be obvious to those who are adept at role-playing games -- and as we shall see, even to "play" as "sport"...

*

Epictetus uses the metaphor of life as a play to advise people to accept their lot in life with stoicism rather than melancholy. He writes:

Remember that you are an actor in a play, and the Playwright chooses the manner of it: if he wants it short it is short; if long it is long. If he wants you to act a poor man you must act the part with all your powers; and so if your part be a cripple, a magistrate, or a plain man. For your business is to act the character that is given you and act it well; the choice of the cast is Another's.

Here, life is the play, and death the end of each man's part in it. The neoplatonist Plotinus takes the metaphor farther, suggesting that even death is no more than a change of costume:

Murder, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing.

The motto of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was "The Whole World Acts a Play", and the metaphor is one that he himself uses more than once. In Sonnet XV he writes:

...this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment

while in Coriolanus, the gods look down at "this unnatural scene" and laugh.

And what is this comedy at which the gods may laugh? It is Shakespeare again who tells us, in Lear (IV: i):

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods,
They kill us for their sport.



Steve Cranmer, Move 5, "The Feathered Serpent" in position 6

One of the most important deities of ancient Mesoamerica, this celestial lord was known as Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs and Kukulcan by the Mayans. Many modern scholars believe that the Feathered Serpent was a metaphor for the Milky Way galaxy, that winding band of wispy stars that churns its way through the night sky.

A particularly beautiful surviving relic of the worship of Kukulcan is the huge "four-sided temple mountain" (or pyramid) called the Castillo in the ruins of Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan peninsula. Four feathered serpents line the balustrades along the stairways on the four sides of the pyramid, and nine terraces, or large steps, lead up to the topmost temple (Ten Stones!). It was here that men, women, and children were sacrificed to the bloodthirsty gods of the Mayans.

To the west of this pyramid lies a large "ball court," where the ancient Maya played their soccer-like ball game. This game was both a ritual reenactment of warfare (with the eventual decapitation and sacrifice of the losing team), and a religious ceremony which commemorated the victory of the Hero Twins (descendants of the old Feathered Serpent, and representing the Sun and Venus) over the lords of death.

The Mayans saw the earth (symbolized by the ball court) as the arena of confrontation between life, death, and rebirth. The neighboring pyramid stretched to the heavens as a reminder of the presence of the gods, the impersonal and vast forces that humankind can only imperfectly understand.

Links:

With Chaturanga: the pyramid and the ball court (as well as the sacrificial victim) are oriented with respect to the four directions, each of which is attributed to colors, numbers, etc., and are abstractions of war.

With the Dicing: people risked it all to win at the ball game, to gain Kukulcan's favor, and might have even considered it an honor to lose and be sacrificed!

With Atlantis: the final flowering of lost cultures before their downfall. Both Atlantis and Kukulcan are astronomical myths.

Another irresistible, but barely marginal link... The galactic feathered serpent reminds me of Galactus, the old comic-book villain. He randomly traveled the universe, eating entire worlds to sate his cosmic hunger. He was the last survivor of the universe that preceded our own, and was able to make it through the Big Bang by dying and, somehow, being reborn.

Meditation:

The rising and setting sun marks time. It dies every night and is reborn in the morning. As much as we momentarily forget these truths from our cocoon of technology, they're still there, waiting. The night sky is our past, and our future.

Perhaps some day the darkness will be banned,
Perhaps some day the times will turn about,
The sun will once more rule us as our god
And take the sacrifices from our hands.

-- Joseph Knecht, "Worship"



Charles Cameron, Move 6, "Igo: Nichiren vs Nisso" in position 5

Igo (the game popularly known as Go, Chinese "weiqi") originated in China. It is a competitive game of strategy, played by two players on a board of 19x19 lines (giving 361 points of intersection) with 181 black and 180 white "stones" (pieces). Each player in turn places one stone on any intersection: the object of the game is to surround space.

Go offers both the fierce intellectual challenge of life and death combat as well as the aesthetic pleasure of finding beautiful plays that build territory efficiently and harmoniously. The game can shift from the one to other in the blink of an eye. At first, the game may seem to be static: the game pieces (stones) are placed and do not move. But after a while, it becomes apparent that there is motion on the board, that the stones are racing to get ahead, locking into combat, killing, being killed, or running away. As this vision of the game develops, one gains an inkling of the vast world expressed by the scattering of black and white stones on a 19x19 grid.

-- (c) Ken Warkentyne

Chinese writings often cite a legendary origin for the game attributing it to Yao, a semi-mythical emperor of the 23rd century BC: "Yao invented go in order to instruct his son Dan Zhu" -- in the art of strategy. Go is mentioned in the Analects of Confucius (ca 450 BC), and the oldest board still preserved may be a 17x17 stone board dating from before 200 AD, discovered in Wangdu County in 1954, now housed in the Beijing Historical Museum. The earliest surviving game record appears to be of a game between the Wu prince Sun Ce (175-200) and his general Lue Fan.

Go, like Chaturanga, was originally a highly symbolic Game. Thus the historian Ban Gu (32-92 AD) wrote:

The board must be square and represents the laws of the earth. The lines must be straight like the divine virtues. There are black and white stones, divided like yin and yang. Their arrangement on the board is like a model of the heavens.

And the oldest surviving go manual, "Qijing Shisan Pian", begins:

The number of all things in Nature begins with one. The points on the go board number three hundred and sixty plus one. One is the first of all living numbers. It occupies the polar point of the board around which the four quarters revolve. The other 360 points represent the number of days in a [lunar] year. They are divided into four quarters which represent the four seasons...

The "Qijing Shisan Pian" is modelled on Sun Zi's Art of War, and Go has long been understood as a metaphor for war: it is an analogy that Mao Zedong was fond of using.

There are records of Go being played by Cha'n (zen) monks in ancient China. In Japan, Go was in the hands of Buddhist monks throughout the Edo period. The Tibetans also played Go, using a 17x17 board, and with slightly different rules of play. Nichiren, founder of a school of Japanese Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra, was reputed to be a Go player, although his game with his disciple Nisso is widely regarded as a forgery today.

Links:

With "Chaturanga" in 8 (both games invented as educational devices) and with "Chaturanga" in 8 and "Feathered Serpent" in 6 (complex symbolic / cosmological meanings attached to the square board / ball court, games being susceptible of military interpretation)...

Meditation:

We have considered games as metaphors for war and games in which death is the fate of the loser: here we consider a game played by the enlightened Nichiren.

To the ambiguities attendant on the relationship between metaphor and reality in games, this move adds the ambiguities of forgery and/or hagiography...

*

My thanks go to Zos Imos (irwinl@cofc.edu) for a post which gave me the idea for this move, and to the Go historian John Fairbairn, whose helpful article Go in Ancient China I recommend, and who clarified some details of this move for me in a personal post.



Steve Cranmer, Move 7, "Out of the Blue, Into the Black" in position 3

This entry consists of a pair of songs by Neil Young, which were the first and last songs on "Rust Never Sleeps":

My my, hey hey (Out of the Blue)

and

Hey hey, my my (Into the Black)

[From "Rust Never Sleeps", by Neil Young with Crazy Horse, released in 1979 by Reprise Records. Thanks to Paul Hellander, who compiled the electronic lyrics.]

Links:

With Igo in position 5: The yin/yang in the black and white stones represents day (blue) and night (black). "There's more to the picture than meets the eye," especially when it comes to gaining zen enlightenment (endarkenment?) from an abstract game.

With the Feathered Serpent in position 6: the tragedy of death, sacrifice, and martyrdom, and how these can paradoxically lead to a kind of immortality.

Meditation:

Bits of this song were quoted throughout Stephen King's novel "IT," which contained more than its share of cosmological mythmaking. An excellent example, in my opinion, of the yearning to understand when it's best to surrender to the inevitable ("to rust"), and when it's necessary to risk it all for the greater good ("to burn out").



Charles Cameron, Move 8, "Holy Ground" in position 2

This move refers to pattern 66, "Holy Ground", in Christopher Alexander's book, *A Pattern Language*.

Alexander suggests that the essential purpose of consecrated space (holy ground) is to serve as a spiritual gateway. We come into this world, and leave it, by means of transitions or rites of passage marked in a church or temple -- and if our "entrances and exits" are not marked in this way, if we make them instead in the purely functional places that contemporary society uses for delivering the new-born and disposing of the almost-dead, we trivialize life and death. As Alexander himself puts it:

A hospital is no place for a baptism; a funeral home makes it impossible to feel the meaning of a funeral...

This pattern describes "Holy Ground", then, in terms of a gateway or nest of gateways:

In all cultures it seems that whatever it is that is holy will only be felt as holy, if it is hard to reach, if it requires layers of access, waiting, levels of approach, a gradual unpeeling, gradual revelation, passage through a series of gates. There are many examples: the Inner City of Peking; the fact that anyone who has an audience with the Pope must wait in each of seven waiting rooms; the Aztec sacrifices took place on stepped pyramids, each step closer to the sacrifice; the Ise shrine, the most famous shrine in Japan, is a nest of precincts, each one inside the other.

Even in an ordinary Christian church, you pass first through the churchyard, then through the nave; then, on special occasions, beyond the altar rail into the chancel and only the priest himself is able to go into the tabernacle. The holy bread is sheltered by five layers of ever more difficult approach.

Links:

The link between Alexander's mention of Aztec sacrifices and "The Feathered Serpent" at 6 should be obvious -- although we should remember that Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent) was expected to overthrow the sacrificial system on his return, which partly explains why Moctezuma was so sure that Cortez (who, as a Catholic, abhorred the Aztec sacrificial system and disrupted it whenever possible) was in fact the returning incarnation of the Feathered Serpent...

But I believe there is also a far subtler link with the pair of Neil Young songs which Steve played in position 3 as "Out of the Blue, Into the Black", for I read that particular phrase as expressing the passage from life into oblivion. And these *are* death songs, too, and quoted as such by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note:

I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away.

And of course (as described in a concurrent post) this move also links with Esterbee's "move 8.0" in a connected, non-linear Game...

Meditation:

We meditate on "Holy Ground" as that on earth which connects with the invisible realm, and thus also as the gateway to the beyond -- a meditation which can be applied to many of the Game boards mentioned in this Game, as well as to temples and churches...



Steve Cranmer, Move 9, "the Entered Apprentice" in position 4

In the Middle Ages, young men wishing to become stonemasons had to endure a seven-year period of apprenticeship before they were fully admitted to the various masonic guilds of Europe. In those days, being a mason meant much more than knowing how to hew and cement bricks; an entire body of mathematics, geometry, and rudimentary architecture was taught to these nascent cathedral-builders. The allusions to the building of King Solomon's Temple (both in the physical world, and symbolically, in the heart) grew out of this period.

In the late 17th century, for whatever reason, gentlemen began to be admitted into the Masonic fraternity, as "speculative" or "accepted" masons, as opposed to the actual "operative" masons who worked in stone. Over the centuries, this "Freemasonry" has evolved into a purely philosophical, and "speculative" craft, which nonetheless still uses the symbolism of stone quarries and temple-building.

The "Entered Apprentice" is now the first of three "degrees" of Masonry, and the waiting period before advancement is about a month. The solemn initiation ceremony involves the candidate being

...neither naked, nor clothed, bare-foot, nor shod; deprived of all Metal; and hood-winked... (**)

by taking off one shirt-sleeve, removing one shoe, and blindfolded. The new Apprentice is taught that the removal of a shoe is done in reference to both Moses' removal of shoes on "holy ground," and as a token of loyalty and obedience to the laws of Masonry (as in the Book of Ruth, iv, 7-8).

Later, when the blindfold is removed, the candidate sees the Masonic Lodge for the first time: a black and white checkerboard floor with a central altar, with the Holy Book of the candidate's religion on it. The Lodge is called a "Blue Lodge," in order to remind Masons that the *true* Lodge is the earth itself, canopied by the blue sky.

The remaining degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry, the "Fellow of the Craft" and the "Master Mason," teach the candidate about both the geometric foundations of the craft, and of the tragic story of the death of the builder of King Solomon's Temple. Symbolically, as the Mason progresses through the three degrees, he rises through King Solomon's Temple, from the Ground Floor (birth), through the Middle Chamber (maturation), and into the Holy of Holies (death and the afterlife).

Links:

With Holy Ground: the removal of shoes as respect, also increasing gradations of holiness. With Igo: the checkered floor, the secret signs being made of "right angles, horizontals, and perpendiculars." With the Feathered Serpent: gradual stepping up the pyramid from mundane life to death as sacrifice. With the Dicing: one takes a risk when going through this scary ceremony, and symbolically gives up all one has by being divested of Metals. Also, the goal of the Apprentice is to hew his "rough ashlar" stone into a perfect Cubic Stone (dice?).

Meditation:

Traditions which attempt to teach various philosophical and moral lessons about life and death have been called "Mysteries." From tribal rites around campfires, to Eleusis, to the modern Masonic Lodge, mysteries are no less important today than they've always been. The Glass Bead Game culture of Castalia can be thought of as another vessel for mysteries -- one that we're currently hewing and chopping at to generate something *real* from something previously ineffable. We can do it!

(**) Quoted from "Jachin and Boaz, an Authentic key to the door of Free-Masonry..." anonymous, London, 1762. Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 1564592464.



Charles Cameron, Move 10, "Krishna's Rasa Lila" in position 1

Steve's choice to play his final move in position 4 faces me with the necessity of making my own in position 1.

I thus need to find an item with direct links to "Out of the Blue, Into the Black" (two songs by Neil Young) in 3, "The Feathered Serpent" (Quetzalcoatl and the sacrificial pyramids of the Aztec) in 6, and "Holy Ground" (and Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language) in 2. In addition, the symmetry of the board also suggests that my move should show an awareness of "Death" in 10 at the other end of the board, and "Chaturanga" in 8 as the first move played in this Game.

I don't think the connections here are particularly obvious, and I'd like to draw attention to this situation as an example of the way the TS board puts constraints on play which force the players to dig deep in order to come up with their moves...

*

"Krishna's Rasa Lila"

Above the highest heaven is the dwelling place of Krishna. It is a place of infinite idyllic peace, where the dark and gentle river Yamuna flows beside a flowered meadow, where cattle graze; on the river's bank sweet-scented trees blossom and bend their branches to the earth, where peacocks dance and nightingales call softly. Here Krishna, ever-young, sits beneath the trees, the sound of his flute echoing the nightingales' call. Sometimes he laughs and jokes and wrestles with his friends, sometimes he teases the cowherd-girls of the village, the Gopis, as they come to the river for water. And sometimes, in the dusk of days an eon long, his flute's call summons the Gopis to his side. They leave their homes and families and husbands and honor -- as it is called by men -- and go to him. Their love for him is deeper than their fear of dishonor. He is the fulfillment of all desire...

-- Denise Levertov and Edward C Dimock, *Songs in Praise of Krishna*

*Krishna* (Krsna) is the blue-skinned princely incarnation of Vishnu, a member of the Hindu trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), and Shiva (destroyer). We are told that he was born and raised in the tiny village of Vrindaban, southeast of Delhi, and the tales of his exploits there -- which can be read in, e.g., the *Bhagavata Purana* -- are the foundation for the Vaishnava *bhakti* cult of personal devotion to Krishna.

*Rasa* literally means liquid, taste or flavor: by extension, it can refer to a mood, aesthetic or devotional sentiment. Pre-eminently, rasa is the river that flows from the eternal Vrindaban -- the secret place where Krishna plays -- to earth, where it "manifests as the stream of rasa flowing between men and women." In bhakti theology, rasa is "the particular loving mood or attitude relished in the exchange of love" between a human and Krishna.

*Lila* is the Play of the Gods -- lilas are the acts of the divine incarnations during their sojourns among men.

*Krishna's Rasa Lila* is the name for the celebrated occasion on which Krishna took separate forms to dance at one and the same time with each of his many *gopis*, famous for the erotic intensity of their devotional love for him. Of all the lilas of Krishna, the Rasa Lila is perhaps the most profound, being itself the fullest expression of madhurya, the mood of a lover with her Beloved.

*

Direct links:

Krishna's blue skin (a shimmering dark blue like a peacock's neck) with "Out of the Blue" in 3.

"Blue" as a close western equivalent to the concept of "rasa", particularly prominent in music ("the blues"), also with "Out of the Blue" in 3.

Krishna as the avatar of a God (Vishnu) whose return (as Kalki Avatar) is expected, with "Feathered Serpent" in 6 (Quetzalcoatl as a God whose return was predicted -- and in Moctezuma's mind at least, fulfilled by the arrival of Cortez).

Vrindaban, the place of Krishna's Rasa Lila, with "Holy Ground" in 2.

Indirect links:

Krishna had many lilas, and indeed the entire Mahabharata can be understood as the account of one of them (see move 2, "The Dicing" in position 7)... Read in this spirit, its "unleashing of world-destroying weapons" and "horrendous slaughter of noble lives" are just such a spectacle of acted grief and lament as Plotinus suggests (move 4, "Death" in 10), while the sublime self-revelation of Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra is both the playwright presenting himself to one of his actors within the play, and a lifting of that actor out of the play-arena into transcendence...

Meditation:

The moves in this Game have often seemed to be suitable topics for meditation in themselves -- here, the erotic nature that can fill a life of devotion to a personal God, and the "play" that life then becomes... A delightful way to get a sense of the possibilities here can be found in Edward Dimock and Denise Levertov's exquisite book, *In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali*.

But it is the *links between positions* that in general provide the most fruitful meditations -- see my "Meditations for Game Players".

Between 1 and 3 (and likewise 10): the contrast and deep connection between love and death, both played out in life on the world stage, a pairing that is also found at the heart of the western tradition (Wagner's "Liebestod" from *Tristan und Isolde*, Freud's Eros and Thanatos, cf Denis de Rougemont, *Love in the Western World*).

Between 1 and 2, the nature of "Holy Ground" as exemplified by Vrindaban, which can be considered as located in rural India, "above the highest heaven", or within the devotee's heart...

Between 1 and 6, the nature of the God whose return is expected (cf also the "Once and Future King" Arthur, the awaited Buddha Maitreya, etc.), and particularly the implications of that return when it is understood as situated on the stage of the human heart / within oneself.



Games within Games

Steven Cranmer and Charles Cameron

A TenStones Game

 


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