Most of us have played the board game, ‘Snakes & Ladders’. The throw of dice forces you to move a set of steps forward. The point you reach can be the one where there is the picture of the mouth of a snake or is graced by the base of a ladder or it could be empty. If it is the mouth of the snake, then you tumble down backwards. If it is the base of a ladder, you are catapulted several steps ahead. If it is neither, then you wait for the next throw of dice to move forward (or backward).
The only thing that is in our hand is the throw of the dice. Everything else is luck, determined by the presence or absence of a snake or ladder. Fortune and misfortune are thus not in our hands but determined by forces we have no control over. And we really cannot manipulate the throw of the dice. So effectively, nothing in the game is in our control. Known as gyan-chauper or moksha-patam, this game was created either by Jain monks or Hindu sages to explain the concept of karma.
Of course, it can be very depressing to know that our action (throwing of dice) is a gamble and the outcome of snakes and ladders is also a gamble. Everything is a gamble. It makes us feel helpless, like riding a car with no control over it. Could that be life?
Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. Sometimes we slip down and sometimes we rise up.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.