Gita Mehta makes the pertinent observation in 'Karma Cola' that the mythology of India illustrates over and over again that it is one thing to feel playful, and quite another to sit down at the table. She is specifically referring to the gaming table, in particular to the dice play that precipitated the great war that is the centrepiece of the Mahâbhârata
This epic also uses the polysemic qualities of mythic storytelling to tell a truth about the human condition.
Eventually, Shakuni sired yet another ploy and got Duryodhana to invite the Pandavas over to his court for a game of dice (gambling). Shakuni was a master at gambling and owned a pair of dice which magically did his bidding and produced numbers desired by him. Owing to this, bet after bet, Yudhisthir lost all of his wealth and eventually, his kingdom in the game. He was then enticed by Duryodhana and Shakuni to place his brothers as bets. Yudhishtir fell for it and put his brothers on stake, losing them too. He then placed himself as a bet and lost again. Duryodhana now played another trick and told Yudhishtir that he still had his wife Draupadi to place as a bet, and if Yudhishthir won, he would return everything to the Pandavas. Yudhishtir fell for the ruse and bet Draupadi, losing her too. At this point Duryodhan ordered that Draupadi, who was now a slave to him, be brought to the court. Duryodhana's younger brother Dushasana dragged Draupadi to the royal court, pulling her by her hair, insulting her dignity and asserting that she, like the Pandava brothers, was now their servant. This caused immense anguish to all the great warriors seated in the court, but each of them, namely, Bhishma (the grandsire of the clan), Dronacharya (the teacher/guru of Kauravas and Pandavas) and others like Kripacharya and Vidura remained silent. Duryodhana then ordered Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi before everyone as a slave girl has no human rights. The elders and warriors in audience were shocked but did not intervene. As Dushasana began pulling Draupadi's sari off, she silently prayed to lord Krishna to protect her honour, and miraculously, regardless of how much of it dushasana pulled off, Draupadi's sari kept growing in length as if the fabric had no end. Thus lord Krishna saved Draupadi. Finally as the blind king Dhrithrasthra realized that this humiliation could prompt Draupadi to curse his sons, he intervened, apologizing to Draupadi for the behavior of his sons and turned the winnings of the dice game back over to the Pandava brothers, releasing them from the bondage of slavery.
She goes on to note:"In many Indian temples, the idol in front of which you place your incense and your fruit and your marigolds has a reverse image, the image of the profane. This image is not to be looked upon unless you are prepared to forego the securities of the cliches of the sacred. Those who dare and who do not self-destruct are sometimes referred to as 'realised souls.'
What they have realised is that you get no points for good faith in a game of dirty poker."
The polysemic implication here is that the game of life is a gamble in which we are all dealt marked cards--we nevertheless have to play the hand we are dealt, have to act, knowing that there is no conclusive winner at this game.
Christianity has a similar polysemic implication in 'Virtue is its own reward'--there is usually no payoff for virtue (goodness) in the material world and conmen are frequently materially rewarded. Virtue originally referred to the courtly conduct of medieval knights, derring do, honour, nobly laying down their lives for the greater glory of their lord and master etc.
Being somewhat cynical I would interpret the laying down of my life for the enrichment and glorification of another human being as being a very poor return on my investment in a virtuous life.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/10/2010 08:20PM by Stoic.