Exploring Possibilities: Life Lessons From The Game Of Snakes N' Ladders

Exploring Possibilities: Life Lessons From The Game Of Snakes N' Ladders

Dear friends, nowadays, lots of concepts of education from the west talk about learning while playing. Serious education they say is an old Indian concept, we should change it. I think they are right.

In context to the same today I am going to talk about a game named as Snakes and ladders. It’s a game, which has been played by almost every one at one point of time in his /her life. We all know it comprises square blocks numbered from 1 to 100. It's played with the help of numbered dice.

Punctuated with snakes and ladders in the route, whereas the moment one reaches the snake’s block he is supposed to be bitten and comes down to a lower score and the moment one reaches a ladder he is escalated to a higher number. The player who reaches the 100 number first is a winner. This is a game played in our household, for entertainment during leisure. If I ask, does someone learn anything from it? The question itself sounds silly.

Let me take you to the history of this game. For most of the readers it will come as a surprise that this game was invented in India in 13th century. It is said that this was invented by an Indian saint by the name of Sant Gyandev. This game when invented was known as Mokshpat.

The top of the ladder depicts a God, or one of the various heavens (kailasa, vaikuntha, brahmaloka) and so on, while the bottom describes a good quality. Conversely, each snake’s head is a negative quality or an asura (demon). As the game progresses, the various karma and samskara, good deeds and bad, take you up and down the board. Interspersed were plants, people and animals.

It means that the game explained in a very playful way the essence of life. With great clarity and ease of understanding it made the players experience, as to what is required to be done if one wants to enhance his life experience, and what one should avoid in life to attain moksha or salvation.

Let's talk about the ladders first. In the original game square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares where the ladders were found. This clearly indicated and suggested that if one has to make his life experience better, one has to have faith.

As humans we must have faith in the creation and its creator. Everything that is required by us will be made available to us at the right time in the right quantity in the right space. A few might argue then, why do we do all the hard work. Yes, the effort and perseverance will enhance the possibility, chances and might even prepone the desired happenings.

When we speak of reliability, it relates to our quality of being responsive, without being solicited. Isn’t this easy, but needs cognisance. Generosity is a feature of those who are in control and secured. It also explains, lack of aggression and violence, which are virtues of starters and freshers.

An expert is always generous in action, words and thoughts and expertise can come with Knowledge, which is the next building block of life experience. Knowledge gives birth to enhance perceptions and hence acts as a catalyst for growth of life experiences. All these virtues are not possible without asceticism, which refers to the discipline in life style. Most of the grievances of today’s world are actually due to our indiscipline lifestyles.

Now let's talk about the snakes. Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 73 for Murder, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, and 99 for Lust. These were the squares where the snake was found.

If we look at them closely we will realize that in the nineties there are three snakes or bad virtues. Snakes of greed, pride and lust. This explains the downfall of Raavan, Kauravas , Hitler, or any super power for that matter. It says that despite all your achievements of life in terms of success and virtues if someone gets bitten by the snakes of greed, pride and lust, his downfall is inevitable. Ravan got into greed of power and expansion, pride and ego of being the most powerful being and was bitten by lust he kidnapped Goddess Sita. Rest is history.

This game mokshpat, teaches moral values, it helps develop skill and quick thinking. Many times we also get into the undesired virtues, represented by snakes, when we attempt to improve our standard of living. This game suggests to add the attributes mentioned at the base of ladders, which will help to improve the standard of life.

It is said that The British took the game to England in 1892 and named it Snakes and Ladders and changed it according to Victorian values. See how easily and playfully our ancient saint explained the entire philosophy of life. So playful learning isn’t a concept imported from the west. It already existed in our culture. So friends be vocal for the locals, and keep on exploring possibilities.....

(The author is a Certified Designed Thinking Master practitioner and Clifton Certified Strength Finder Coach, Corporate Trainer and a Leadership coach)

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