The Game of Buddhism
Buddhist practice is a game because its parameters are limited, selected, biased and part fictional (i.e. the experimental field is mightily reduced (hence incomplete), skewed towards a particular outcome and made rational by a fictional physics and metaphysics) and its goal pointless (read: empty), save for the mightily distressed (hence concentrated) or deeply entranced (for instance via the jhanas or continuous satipatthana) few who want to end liviing (therefore dying).
The Buddhist game, and there are now 84000 (meaning: a large number) variants of that game on offer, is simple to understand.
1. The Buddhist game is played to end distress (Pali: dukkha, elsewhere translated as suffering, pain, anxiety, unpleasantness and so on). The ending of distress, hence the goal of the game, is circumscribed with the very ambiguous, hence fuzzy metaphor nirvana (meaning: gone out, extinguished or quenched like a fire).
2. Ending of distress (= nirvana) is achieved by ending life. That’s because, according to the Buddha, life ends in death and death, preceded by sickness and old age, is distressing. Consequently, when life, the stressor, ends, death and the distress it causes, end.
The Buddhist game is played at two intensities, namely @ 100% and at-less-than-100%. The two modes are expediently described as the ‘Professional Version’ and the ‘Home Version’. The homeless itinerant beggar (read: Buddhist monks = bikkhu, called ‘noble’ by the Buddha), plays the Professional Version, that as to say, he plays @100% (i.e. absolutely), 24 hours per day and to its absolute goal, namely the complete ending of distress resulting from the complete shut-down (without rebirth = restart) of his life.* He is offered the metaphysical carrot (not proven to exist) of ‘no rebirth’, therefore of no ‘re-death’ (Pali: amata) and the distress of dying. Some consumer oriented Buddhist variations of the Great Vehicle promise that the ending of life (= death) results in bliss, indeed of entry to The Land of Bliss. They provide no evidence that such a land exists, but promising it is good for business.
The ‘Home Version’ played by the sedentary householder (and whose lifestyle is repeatedly called vulgar and low by the Buddha, hence suggested as ignoble) is played @-less-than-100% and part-time. He plays to suit his needs, that is to say, to reduce (read: relax = cool) his everyday distress to a manageable level. In order to reduce his distress he reduces (i.e. shuts down) the friction (hence heat) causing drivers of life that result in his distress, and which according to the Buddha are ‘greed (i.e. desire), hatred and stupidity.’ The householder is promised the reward (= carrot) of a less stressful rebirth (not proven to happen, save in this life).
Again, the layperson plays the Buddhist game of attaining ‘the ending of distress’ (= nirvana) by shutting down his life (= death) generating (read: birthing) functions, namely greed, hatred and passion (or delusion). By shutting down (or burning out = extinguishing) selected functions voluntarily he enhances his capacity to survive in the wider world with reduced distress. Such selective shutting down (i.e. relaxation) of the drivers of life results in the development of self-restraint, dispassion and friendliness, the Buddhist core values, causing appeasement.
Playing the Buddhist ‘Home Version’ game results in lower interpersonal and personal friction (hence stress), that person becoming ‘cooler’, i.e. more socially compatible (because less ego driven), that is to say, more domesticated. The drop-out who (today) plays the ‘Professional Version’ of the Buddhist game full time becomes a harmless, asocial psychotic living rough out of a cardboard box or, if he plays at just less than 100%, an almost absent minded (from this world) scholar in an Oriental department at a university or spaced out guru in a meditation (read: stress reduction) asylum.
* … The completely asocial Hinayana dropout strives to end his distress by ending his life (= decay towards death). The partially asocial Mahayana dropout, to wit, the bodhisattva (= awakened being), strives to end the lives (= deaths) ‘of all sentient beings’. In short, the latter serve to remove all sentient life from the universe, i.e. to end life as we know it, thereafter ending what’s left of his person.