WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 7, 2012 – Many of us grew up playing Chutes and Ladders loving the game for its all-ages fun, challenges and the urge to ‘climb up the ladder’! This spirit of climbing up the ladder, we hope, remains with us throughout our lives.
Sometimes, in a positive competitive manner and sometimes in a negative manner.
Chutes and ladders has its origins in ancient India where it is known as Snakes and Ladders. The game has very strong links to Hindu rituals and philosophy where everything is connected directly or indirectly to the concept of karma (fate) and moksha (immortality). Karma and immortality are then further closely linked to the concepts of life after death and of past and future lives of the atman (soul). All our deeds and aspects of our character are linked to our karma.
The more good karma we have, the better and bigger chances of a nicer next life, or even immortality. If someone has a troubled current life, then it’s mostly attributed to karmas of the past life. If life is good, then again, it’s an outcome of the good karmas of our past lives.
But then, what has karma and moksha to do with Chutes and Ladders? According to Hindus, life is nothing but a game, like Chutes and Ladders. Picture this for a moment. Your life is a board of a 100 numbers. Whatever you do is represented by the dice with numbers one to nine. Each time you do something, or each time the dice is thrown on to the board of life, it takes you from point a to point b. If what you did was good karma, then you continue moving towards the 100 mark, sometimes gaining ground via the ladders. And if the karma was bad, then the snake bites you sliding you back to where you started from.
Hence, the cycle of life continues. Ancient Indians called this game ‘mokshapatam or ‘vaikunthapaali’ essentially meaning the ladder to salvation. Snakes and Ladders was used as a lesson that the more good deeds one had, such as honesty, austerity, love, generosity, humility and faith, the more the chances of that person attaining salvation. It was also a warning against vices such as dishonesty, greed, lust and revenge. If one imbibed such vices, then s/he would continue to be bitten by the snake of fate and destiny and would never climb the ladder of salvation.
It’s a simple game. But with a strong message. All of us may not want immortality. Some of us may want to be born again and again in different parts of this world to experience everything that one cannot in just one life. We may also not believe in life after death and therefore the need to secure something nicer for our next lives.
But all of us certainly know the difference between good and bad, vices and virtues. For the sake of the good and bad, lets take a lesson from chutes and ladders. Lets do things that take us to the ladder of happiness, success and glory and let’s avoid things that bite us to sadness and shame.