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Hindu Dharma through Video games

(Note: Read the following dialogue between Radhika, who represent any boy or girl in our Bala Gokulam and Ashok, a Shikshak in our Bala Gokulam. After reading this, use your own imagination as to engage the children in a dialogue about video games and convey the concepts of reincarnation, karma, Guru and Atman.)

"Hinduism is so complicated. I do not understand it most of the time", said Radhika, a young girl to Uncle Ashok. Ashok had come over half an hour ago and Radhika was so engrossed in her video game then that she mechanically said "Hi" to Ashok, and continued with her game.

Ashok watched Radhika play Super Mario Brothers (*). He watched her move Mario to the right, hit and get hidden mushrooms and get bigger, or get a fire flower or a cape, collect coins, punch his way through obstacles, climb ladders and occasionally get eaten by turtles. After the end of a life Mario would start his next life, from where he left off. Now that Radhika had finished one level she noticed that uncle Ashok, whom she met every week when her parents took her to the temple, was still there.

"Radhika, you are really good at this video game!" said Ashok. She nodded and added "Yep! and I can even beat my brother at it".

"You know you can learn many ideas of Hinduism from the video games", said Ashok.

"How? Radhika asked.

Let us say if you got a video game and it gave you only one chance to beat it, will that be fair?" Ashok asked.

"No, that is why they give you multiple lives. Actually, with a new game it is very difficult to advance much further. It takes practice. When we had just bought this game, I used to 'die' in just ten seconds, every time", said Radhika.

"Hinduism is similar too. Most people do not lead a perfect life. So according to Hinduism, you get many chances to improve yourself. You get many lives. This is called reincarnation". He continued," and just as in a video game, if one life ends, you start over in the next life where you left off".

"Now what will happen if you do not go towards the right in your video game?" asked Ashok.

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"You will not move to the next level. You will not make any progress and time will run out", Radhika said

"Exactly! If you do not move in the 'right' direction, you will not make progress. Thus YOU determine the right direction and how far progress you can make. 'What you do, determines the result' this is called the law of Karma. Your actions bear fruit accordingly. Now what happens in a video game if you keep making same mistakes?" Ashok asked.

"You go back to the start of that level" Radhika replied.

"Law of Karma similarly tells you that if you keep making same mistakes over and over again, you will move backwards. Now in a video game you get rewards and receive setbacks. In this video game a mushroom will make you grow bigger or an attack of a turtle will make you smaller, in real life too you may become rich or poor, but that depends where you start at and what actions you take. Yet getting big or small in itself does not mean progress. Does it?" asked Uncle Ashok.

"You are right, being big or small does not necessarily mean you will move forward in the game or even to the next level", Radhika replied.

"Now tell me what happens when you go to the next level?" Ashok asked.

"It gets tougher at the next level" Radhika said.

"Same is true in spiritual practice as per Hinduism", Ashok added. "Now tell me what happens if you get stuck at a level, what do you do? and why ?", he asked.

"I ask my cousin Ojas. He knows what I should do. He knows where the keys are hidden, where secret passages are. He has beaten the game already, Some times he even takes the controller to help me", Radhika said.

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"In Hinduism, similarly a Guru helps you move to next level. A Guru or a master has already 'beaten the game'. She or He knows where the key is hidden that will unlock the door. She or He knows what where the secret passages are. She or He can even show you a 'warp' zone, to go to the next level. But unlike a video game, in real life a Guru cannot play for you. You have to play it yourself", said Ashok.

"You keep referring to Guru as She or He, why? " Radhika asked.

"Good question! Hinduism considers man and woman as having the same potential to become a Guru.

Just as you are better than your brother at video games, a woman can reach the highest state also. In fact there were many women who contributed to the Vedas, the Hindu holy books. There were many women Hindu saints in the past, and there are many women saints even now" said uncle Ashok. He continued, "also there are many ways you can go to next level, so some Guru will show an easier way and some a harder way, all depending on your capability."

Buddhists have Buddha as a Guru, Jains have twenty four Tirthankars as Gurus while Sikhs have ten Gurus whose guidance they follow".

"Now tell me what happens when you beat the last level? " Ashok asked.

"I have not beaten the game yet, but my cousin Ojas says that you see fire works, music plays for long time, and then you see the name of the programmer", Radhika said.

"Interestingly, that is what Hinduism says also, when you go beyond the last hurdle you hear the music and you see THE PROGRAMMER - that is God and then you do not need to play the game again, except to help others" Ashok said.

"Let me ask you one more question. You get so absorbed playing a video game that you feel that you are being Mario or Luigi on the screen. But are you really Mario or Luigi? Who are you?" He asked

"I am Radhika, of course. But while playing the game I forget that I am Radhika and am only concerned about Mario or Luigi on the screen", she replied.

"Exactly, Hinduism believes that we go through different lives believing we are the body or the name in that life. But we are not that body nor its name. We are the Atman or soul which plays as a character of Mario or Luigi (or whatever). That is something we must never forget. We are not this body, but we are the Soul, or Atman". Ashok continued.

"Radhika have you noticed, that from video games you just learnt Hindu concepts of reincarnation, Karma, Guru and Atman." He asked, "Was that complex? ".

"Not at all!" Radhika smiled, Her face was glowing by the realization of Hindu concepts, knowledge she already had in the form of video games.

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