The Lila of Maya
The play of Illusion
Buddhism (likewise Christianity, Islam, Vedanta and the several hundred other religions now mostly dead) is a game, like football, chess, snowboarding or snakes and ladders.
A game has four goals. It is designed to
1. Experience winning (or surviving) and savour the joy of success (or survival). A game is a means to joy and the benefits that joy brings, namely the energising (enlightenment) of those who can’t win (i.e. the losers = the energy depressed).
2. Train for winning (= survival). A game serves to train for survival fitness, fitness being demonstrated by surviving/winning. Training by means of a game (usually provided in specialist schools, clubs or meditation centres (a euphemism for asylums)) is needed to prepare (i.e. adapt or upgrade) an individual’s physical and mental functions and skills to survive (= win) either in the everyday world or in real or imaginary particular world, for instance, in a limited sub-culture (world) or a ‘next world’. Preparation for entry to any world is necessary because in it the individual faces life-threatening competition, indeed mortal combat, or, as medieval Christian ecclesiastics (including the murderous thugs who ran the Inquisition) would say, God’s judgement. Unskilled, unprepared, a player in the everyday or any other ‘world’ is quickly eliminated.
3. Distract from the current reality, thereby allowing the player to relax from the stress produced by that reality.
4. Keep the unruly out of mischief (i.e. from harming themselves and others). More specifically stated, a game, i.e. play in a specifically constructed artificial reality/world, is a means of temporarily or permanently socialising the asocial.
A game is an arbitrary set of functions operating within arbitrarily set limits of time and space, physical or mental, ending in an arbitrary outcome (i.e. a goal). Consequently, a game is a fictional reality/world. Because both a (i.e. any one of n) game’s functions and its spatial (understood as either a clearly defined physical area or a limited information base) enclosure of those functions are arbitrary, and its outcome too, a game as such has no meaning beyond itself. Because in itself a game has no meaning, its stated goal/end acts as a red herring though its actual outcome, i.e. the side and end effects of playing, is a real herring.
Hence, a game is fundamentally both empty (Sanskrit: sunja = nil = zero) of (permanent) own being (Pali: atta or sva-bhava) and temporary. For the part-time, less than @100% player (i.e. the lay person), a game is basically a training routine played out in a fictional/phoney world designed to produce the skills necessary for survival in the everyday world or a particular sub-world (read: sub-culture). In a word, a game is akin to sparring in boxing. Sparring is less dangerous than getting into a real fight for one’s life, and which happens in the everyday real world. For the full-time, @100% effort professional player, the game is his everyday real world. The professional lives and dies in his fictional reality and which he experiences as real because he applies himself fully, hence exclusively to it.
When does a game stop being a game? When your life depends on it. Nothing concentrates the mind more than the threat of imminent death (or injury). Full concentration (into the game) changes a game into a survival means.