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  • Writer's pictureMeera

Life is a Play (literally)

In Sanskrit, “Leela” means - divine play. According to Hindu philosophy, this world is god’s Leela or a divine play. Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… .”

With time, I am beginning to understand the profound truth behind god’s Leela and Shakespeare’s above words.

An actor playing a hero or a villain in a movie does not become a hero or a villain. He remains who he is. To an onlooker, who does not know that movie is being shot, it might seem that actor is the hero or villain. But once the cameras are turned off, the actor returns to his real life. He does not lose sleep over the horrible things that might be happening to the character he is playing. Similarly, he is unbothered by any victories or achievements of his character. It is so because he is “aware” that he is a mere actor and his self is distinct from the character he plays in a movie.

What if the actor somehow forgets that he is a mere actor and starts to believe he is the character he is playing?

The consequences will be catastrophic. The actor would live through the same pain, pleasure, victory or losses that the character he is playing is going through. Since he has lost sight of reality, he would be entirely at the mercy of the movie script written by someone else.

One day, the actor’s memory returns, and he becomes aware that he is simply an actor playing a role. His real self remains unaffected by anything happening to the character he is playing. He will experience a sense of freedom like never before. While he will still be playing the character as per the script, he will not undergo the pain and loss that his character is going through on screen. He will also remain unfazed by the pleasure and joy that his character is experiencing.

He will become 'detached'. Freed from the ups and downs of his life on screen, he will become equanimous in the face of happiness and misery. The “life” he thought was real will become a play for him!

We are no more than actors and actresses in the everyday drama that unfolds in this world. Unlike the actor in the above scenario, we have permanently forgotten about our reality, So we take the role assigned to us very seriously throughout our lives. Since we take it so seriously, the life that was supposed to be a play becomes a nightmare for most people. And that is the prime cause of misery for all of us on daily basis.

If you knew that you are only an actor playing “you” who has a job, a husband and kids and that you have a distinct self beyond the character, this world wouldn’t affect you as much. Even the most challenging times will become easy for you because you know this is just a play.

Since life is just a play, even the other people around us also play their assigned characters. With this realization, you will not take their harsh words to your heart, and their actions will not victimize you. Everyone here is simply playing their role. In Ramayana, even Ravana had his part to play; without him, there would be no Rama as we know him today.

If our life is a play, is it also scripted like one?

If so, do we have any control over it? I believe that our life is also scripted more or less. The idea that our life is our own making may feel empowering, but we are ultimately products of our environment. The decisions we call “ours” are not ours but are largely unconsciously shaped by rules, values and beliefs which we have inherited from the environment we are placed in.

If it’s all scripted, why even do anything?

This idea might be tempting, but I believe the fact that it arose in your mind might as well be a part of the script!

What if we don’t like the role that we are playing? Can we go off-script?

Gurudev says you can only go off script when you have realized you are not the character you are playing. This belief has to be internalized and not understood merely intellectually. When you know that you are no longer the character, you become a spectator of your life. Then you can change your script and play your role as you desire.

When you step out of the day-to-day drama and assume the role of a spectator, you also witness characters that other people are playing.

We all have antagonists, protagonists, heroes and villains in our life. If you look closely, you can identify your very own Krishna, Shakuni or Surpanakha!

When we are no longer the character but become spectators, we can see the person beyond the character they are playing. When that happens, all judgements we may have for them cease, and we develop affection for even the cruelest character. I believe that is how Gurus or Yogis are selfless and indiscriminately affectionate toward everyone. They have gone beyond the labels of a good person- a bad person, family-stranger or friend-foe.

Gurudev presents a unique perspective to think about when we are faced with unexplainable difficulties in life. He asks-

“What happens when you are the director’s favorite and you play out the role given to you very well? He gives you more parts to play. He might even give more depth and difficulties to your characters so that you can display your whole range of acting.”

Gurudev says-

“Meera, this life is nothing but a play. Some people are here to play important characters, while others are here to play the extras. In movies and stories, only the lead character faces unsurmountable difficulties. His life is brought upside down, yet he stands fearlessly against all odds and emerges victorious. Other characters do not undergo the same growth. Meera, I have lived my life believing I am special and the director’s favorite.”

Contrary to what you may have grown up listening to, it doesn’t matter what role we are playing. You might be a beggar on the street or a billionaire CEO. Ultimately, both parts will come to an end, and both of them have no inherent meaning. A CEO could have spent half his life in anxiety and fear, while the beggar could not have cared about anything other than two meals a day and a place to sleep.

The important thing is not which one of these we are but whether we’re doing it to the best of our ability and whether we’re happy in doing so.

I believe that Gurudev is my ultimate director. I let him write my script and call the cuts. I surrender both my victories and failures to him.

As I quietly walk this less-trodden path of faith, surrender and self-discovery, there might not be any applause and standing ovation. It does not matter. The only award that matter comes from him through his grace.


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