Four attitudes in chess – all this reminds me...


(top image - Lion by my friend Satyamurthi Miotello)

After I wrote a few things about the game of chess and how something from the game we might be able to use in life, again I realised some other principles which do seem to happen in our lives and are represented in chess (and surely many other activities – maybe all of our activities!) I see the very same structure in Kendo (japanese fencing) while sparring with fellow kendokas.

This time what came to mind are the different attitudes to get to our goals. In chess, the goal is to checkmate the opponent´s king. In Kendo, to score a solid hit, ippon. A few ways to get there are what I thought of now, as a chess and kendo beginner.

The first and most basic attitude is to play tricks on the opponent, hoping he will not see through them and lose. It can work. But even if it works, you know you were not playing solid chess and had to rely on your opponent´s overlooking of the move. And, if it does not work, then you played a huge risk on your part. Now you did your move, which was not enough to win, but your opponent can counterattack on your weakened flank. You are exposed. It is like a game of chance. Neither you nor your opponent will improve by playing such games. At some point, you just give up playing, as there is no permanent solution. This reminds me of the human body of an aspirant.

The second way is by agression. You attack constantly your opponent, hoping to breach through his defenses, even at the cost of sacrificing a part of your army. It might work, and you end up overwhelming your playmate. Or, if he is good in defense, you might sacrifice all your army like waves hitting the side of a fortress and finally, when the tide ebbs, you cannot do anything else and simply remain defeated. There is so much tension in these strategies, but at least one can learn a little from the played game. Much is based on reflex and not introspection. If there where more in depth thought, players would be able to enjoy more and learn more, but this is already an improvement over playing tricks. All this reminds me of the emotive vital of an aspirant.

The third way is by caution. You calculate everything from the standpoint of not losing the game. You enter into such a defense that your opponent will not be able to breach. However, you are then playing alone. You and your playmate will not be able to learn so much from the game, since a living connection between moves is needed to play a beautiful game. Like an instrument trying to solve problems greater than itself. On it´s own sole capacities, it will fail. This reminds me of the intellectual mind of an aspirant.

The fourth way is by constant positioning and building up over chess fundamentals, the root of the game. You and your opponent play sensible moves, neither wholly reacting in defense against new threats nor simply creating a fortress over yourself. Each move is fluid, based on a steady source of game knowledge and maturity, and leading to ever increasing levels of beauty and counterplay. Each movement has two or three applications in itself, based on fundamental principles that will take you to a higher level of structure – not only inside yourself, but also with your playmates. You do not try to win – you do not try to defeat your opponent. You simply try to do your very best, inspired by your playmate’s own efforts at performing his personal best. This is a sound strategy of growth and progress, leading to fulfilment, ease of mind and plenty of energy to do what is needed. This reminds me of the intuitive heart of an aspirant.

That is how I would like to perform all my actions. (Alas!)


When the divine attitude
Purifies the human attitude
Peace dawns in our aspiration-life.

Sri Chinmoy, Peace: God's Heart-Home, part 1, Agni Press, 1995


Now, if you are inspired to read on to a higher level, I can recommend Sri Chinmoy’s talk “The five paths of love and devotion”. This particular talk has been priceless in my life.