Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #50 – Goal!

December 12th, 2022

Goal![1] was one of my favorite movies. I must have seen it in the late 60s when I was co-captain of my university soccer team, and our coach organized a showing for us. I was enthralled. It was the story of the 1966 World Cup where England beat Germany in the final. Yes, young men love to hear about sports and war. It is now fourteen World Cups later, and there is another World Cup going on. I never really thought about this topic before through the eyes of śāstra, but when I came to understand that another World Cup was on, due to my past I did give team sports tattva[2] some thought, at least enough for it to become my inspiration for writing this week.


The first thing that came to mind on the subject was a story involving Śrīla Prabhupāda. In 1975 Śrīla Prabhupāda suggested a team sport called kabaddi for the children in the gurukula and explained how it was played. I was there. The beauty of kabaddi[3] is that it is so simple that you don’t need any equipment to play it. I don’t have time to go into all its rules, but a person can attack the other side as long as he can repeat over and over again the word kabaddi until his breath runs out. Śrīla Prabhupāda just spiritualized the game by changing the word kabaddi to Krishna, but I think even within itself there is something of value in team sports, especially for young boys today when there is an ever-increasing number of accessible and unhealthy excitements widely propagated as an alternative to capture and degrade their minds.


From my personal experience, if guided properly, one can learn important life skills from team sports like discipline, resilience, courage, patience, and the subordination of short-term comfort for long-term success. It also gives young people a somewhat low stakes chance in a relatively safe environment to confront and overcome the fear and apprehension of failure, a needed skill to help one successfully negotiate the higher stakes challenges of the world as one grows up. It can also teach one to integrate and subordinate one’s individual identity into a larger whole, which is sort of low-level spiritual, and if the coach is of the right character, teach respect for proper authority, an important attitude for learning and self-development that seems marginalized in the modern world.


Of course, I am also not blind to the fact that sports are not a spiritual activity and that there are many things about it that can be detrimental to one’s spiritual growth, or that there are many other perhaps healthier passions that a youth can absorb themselves in. It is certainly not an activity for serious sādhakas, but something best left to boys who need it to channel their testosterone properly away from destructive urges. Looking back on playing sports, what I remember most, despite the quasi-spiritual aspect of having to forge with others for a common interest, are those feelings of total self-absorption and pride during the game as I pranced around the field in my uniform and the absurd ritual after an important victory of joining with teammates pointing our index fingers to the sky yelling again and again, “We’re number one, we’re number one!”


That’s my take on participation, but what about being just a fan? The main and serious spiritual detriment of becoming a sports fan is the way we strongly latch on to a desired outcome and then surf the waves of elation and anger/frustration based on the outcome, which is pretty much what it means to be attached to the fruits—the foundation of karma and bondage. It is just hard to be a serious sādhaka and a loyal sports fan at the same time. They seem to pull the consciousness in opposite directions.


Today I turned on some clips of the World Cup just to watch the fans. Even I was shocked by the level of intense emotion. Watching, I realized how much this transient goal of winning—that only one country will achieve—has actually become the spectator’s goal of life. With so much at stake, no wonder that the fans of a team in unison contort their faces in tears, anger, elation, and disappointment as they drop their heads in despair or raise their hands in jubilation seemingly with every pass. Then I had a fantasy: What if the world developed love of God in place of love of team and country and the people were joined together there for the congregational chanting of the holy name in glorification of God, rather than a silly game? I would still be watching the same congregational scene, with the same exact feelings, but instead the emotions I witnessed would be components of rasa, heightened devotion, and instead of fleeting joy, and mostly the agony of defeat, the result would be the eternal joy of devotion. All that would need to be changed is the goal!



[1] https://www.fifa.com/fifaplus/en/watch/N8ia1vxVfJYyzgqX3anRT

[2] Tattva means the thorough body of knowledge and analysis of subject. It is usually used for spiritual subjects like guru-tattva, dhama-tattva (the science or study of a holy place), nāma-tattva, and so on. I have used it in a unique and creative way to announce that I would try to thoroughly analyze team sports.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabaddi


Comments are closed.