Sports and Spirituality
The essence of sports is manifested in spirituality. It is the yog or union of a larger kind where not just physically all players come together to play but play with a complete union of their body, mind, energy and soul. The physical prowess and the psychological balance aside, the kind of intensity, focus, perseverance, courage, discipline and involvement that is manifested by each player is very close to being called a meditative state or the state of going ‘beyond’. The player exceeds his own limitations and falls on the side of limitlessness that is the basic premise of all spiritual tenets and sutras. The inner will or the internal being is tested in any sport in such capacity that even in our normal parlance, if we have to test someone’s inner will, we say, “ Be a sport” or if we have to talk about being involved wholeheartedly, we say “ Are you game?” The famous lines “Arise, awake and stop not till you reach your goal” also point to the goal of life, a word taken from sports.
The kind of ecstasy any sport creates in our inner being along with the fun of playing with opponents while treating all as players is equal to a transcendental experience that goes beyond winning and losing. Just like the spiritual goal of life is liberation of the self or soul, any sportsman rises above his mind and body to experience a sense of purpose in relation to his own self.
The sense of belonging to a nation also exceeds patriotism of any other kind. Even the spectators come with a certain sense of union and brotherhood, whether identifying themselves with a nation, community or team.
In life, we leave many tasks unfinished but here is a game that makes us go till the end with complete ethics The achievement, after long hours and years of ‘religious’ training seems the ultimate reality and the personality development and sense of identity one goes through in taking up a sport is unparalleled. Surely the human dimension and the sense of meaning felt in a sport is close to a spiritual dimension vis-à-vis any other profession or religion.
In the Vedic age and even much later, shishyas in gurukuls like those of Takshila and Nalanda were expected to be adept in chariot-racing, dice game chaturang similar to chess, archery, horsemanship, military tactics, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming and hunting. Each sport is a game of the leader, a fighter, a true Kshatriya, a Suryavanshi. If its archery, you cannot but see only the target, if its football or hockey, the whole mind, heart and body are one with the ball. Be it an individual sport or a team sport, a sport of nature like swimming or an athletic one, the love of the sport or love of competition in itself is divine.
India or Bharat in perspective of the commonwealth games is a nation of many possibilities because of its spiritual and cultural abundance. Bharat which has come from Bharathi meaning Saraswati or Bha meaning self-knowledge is a nation whose radiance should brighten the whole world once again while rekindling its own glory through our young and energetic sportsmen.
From Lord Hanuman and Bhima to Arjuna, Krishna, Ram, Shivaji Maharaj, we are a nation of valiant heroes. Even Gautama Buddha was a master at many sports including chariot racing and archery. Where the world looks for self-growth towards the East, we should be at our best performance everywhere for our internal roots are the strongest.