The Journey of Life has many imponderable twists and turns, fueled by our aspirations and dealing with obstacles that come in the way. That has been the model for games since the dawn of time, immortalized by 'Snakes and Ladders' showcasing the dangerous possibilities in basic travel! My favorite metaphor for this journey has been the Body as a Chariot, revealed in exquisite detail by Lord Yama to the young lad Nachiketa, in the timeless Katha Upanishad(Verses 1.3.3–11). He landed at the Lord of Time's feet in a dramatic manner, having overcome numerous obstacles, journeying through deep jungle terrain, keeping in mind his steely resolve towards his commitments. After many attempts to bribe him to turn back and not ask for what happens after death, Lord Yama gave up all efforts to rock Nachiketa's determination! His deep devotion, conviction and desire to know the final truth convinced Lord Yama to teach him.
Lord Yama revealed many precious nuggets of wisdom, forming a garland of crisp metaphors. Each one a treatise in itself, highlighting the nature of the Self, the human journey of ups and downs and a desire for a final resolution with bliss. The Body as a Chariot metaphor captures the essence of the teachings, spanning the wisdom of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras. It is not surprising that the iconic imagery for the Bhagavad Gita includes 3 key elements, Lord Krishna, Arjuna and the horse drawn Chariot!
In a nutshell
The Body is the Chariot, Horses are the Senses, Reins is the power of the Mind, the Charioteer is the Intellect exerting the discerning power over the mind and the Person in the Chariot is the Atma, ever observing the journey of life unfolding as a Witness. As you can imagine, this is very ripe material for a game! Our ancient texts are filled with game like stories to ring home some eternal truths, using methods of storytelling that surpass all the AI schemes to date! The stories point us to live a life of dramatic purpose, invigorated by a long term vision, while maintaining a deep emotional equanimity. Clearly, the world needs this vision and an action plan, with stratagems, tactics and rewards! The Master of Time & Death, Lord Yama, has provided us with a blueprint for living. And also a Game called 'Chariots of Fate'! The game is a play of 4 elements, the Charioteer, Obstacles, Poisons and Meditations.
The Hard Work of Scaffolding
It was possible to think of one's Life's Journey as a Chariot Race, setting intentions, holding attitudes and beliefs, overcoming obstacles in the path and reaching the end post. A Chariot Race set in ancient times, with a King ruling his lands, and where obstacles could be giant rocks on the path. Each Charioteer has a starting point of 'Poison' scores, and could use 'Meditations' to overcome Obstacles. The 'Chariots of Fate' Game was born of watering the seeds germinating in the fertile soil of Katha Upanishad, Yoga Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita class teachings.
The 5 Poisons, otherwise know as human afflictions, are from the Yoga Sutras. They have a starring role in the game. Each one of us, as the Charioteer, has them and our goal is to reduce their sting and impact on our discernment capacity. The Poisons, Ignorance, Pride, Attachments, Aversions and Fear of Death, have plagued mankind since the dawn of time. As wise people say, Some Things Never Change!
The consequences of an uncontrolled mind, that runs after the senses, is captured in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita in vivid imagery. 'Anger', the most destructive luminary of emotions, is another perfect storm to avoid! Ch. 2 verse 62/63 follows the trail of Anger leading to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined. We can just imagine the run away horses of our own Body~Chariot, leading us into danger and self destruction!
Dharmic Values and Attitudes provide the stabilizing force as the mind and intellect develop greater discipline and discernment to counter the poisons. This type of living is a continuous force of Discipline, Fortitude & Meditation. The Bhagavad Gita provides a bedrock of Values to adhere to, giving us a moral radar in turbulent times.
The 'Chariots of Fate' game was a 8 year adventure in development, encapsulating the ideas into a Journey of Life quest, translating the wisdom elements into a game that is joyfully fun, competitive, with many offshoots. The design work has been an integral part of our Gita Vicara Leadership Development program, from deep dives into game mechanics, art, flavor text, rapid play and of course the game stats to make it all work. Many wonderful youth have given their neural circuitry to this and we applaud them here. Releasing the game in 2023 with a block buster Festival is a dream come true for all of us.
Our youth & adults are all members of the Gita Vicara Leadership Program (GVLP), which is a unique blend of Seva, Heritage Wisdom, Design Thinking, Games Creation and Leadership. This is accomplished through many innovative activities including workshops, retreats, outreach into the community, purpose-based trips and personal challenges. The spirit of our Leadership program is captured perfectly below in the soul stirring words of Swami Vivekananda.
"Have faith, as Nachiketâ. At the time of his father’s sacrifice, faith came unto Nachiketa; ay, I wish that faith would come to each of you; and every one of you would stand up a giant, a world-mover with a gigantic intellect — an infinite God in every respect. That is what I want you to become. This is the strength that you get from the Upanishads, this is the faith that you get from there."
We all know about Swami Vivekananda’s famous saying “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached“. We find it many times in Complete Works. Actually this saying is part of a verse of Katha Upanishad. The verse can be found in the 1.3.14 chapter of Katha Upanishad, where Yama is saying Nachiketa “Uttisthata Jagrata Prapya Barannibodhata. . .” (“Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn. . .”)
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