Sports and spirituality: How cricket teaches you the power of devotion

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By Anjaan

Published: Thu 23 Sep 2021, 5:44 PM

The Indian Premier League (IPL) fever has gripped the UAE with the world’s most popular T20 cricket comes to the country. The frenzy does not end here as right after the IPL, cricket buffs will get to witness the T20 Cricket World Cup 2021 in the region.

You might be critical of ardent cricket spectators glued to the TV for hours and wonder what drives them. I would like us to go deeper and discover the connection between cricket and spirituality. I remember an anecdote with one of my Zen masters in Japan. When a student approached him and asked, “What should I do when I don’t believe in consciousness, spirituality or religion?” His answer was: “Go play sport.” Simple yet profound — like most Zen teachings.

Let’s dive into the philosophy behind both cricket and personal growth.

Mastering your being

The idea behind cricket (or any sport for that matter) is to master your physical, mental and emotional being. A cricketer is successful only when he can train himself to be in prime physical condition, be upright and have the physical prowess. In the Yogic system, we call this Asana Siddhi or the ability to maintain the appropriate stance or posture as and when needed. How much of your physical state right now is in your awareness? Are you sitting upright as you read this? Are you breathing softly?

Fire within

A successful cricketer has fire within. This can be called the fire of Tapas, which often translates traditionally as ‘austerity’ or ‘discipline’. This is the fire of focus that strengthens and empowers you. When you watch your cricketing hero hit a sixer, it empowers you because deep inside you relate to the fire of effort and determination that the sportsman displays.

Sports increases dignity

Watching or playing sport reminds you how you are is not determined by someone else. When you allow other people to make you feel a certain way — you end up being a slave to them and their words. This is the most unjust thing you can do to yourself, especially when people have expectations from you. Learn from the cricketers to always take control of your inner space and know that you are the maker of your emotions and thoughts. This is how you embody your Satya or your inner truth.

Devotion

Whenever former world champion Sachin Tendulkar batted, he was so devoted to hitting a ball and his only thought was to hit the ball. His steadfast faith and devotion to mastering the art of hitting a ball made him one of the greatest batsmen in the world. Besides the ample accolades in cricket, it even won him Bharat Ratna — the highest civilian award of India. Just devotion to his craft, nothing else. We call this Bhakti in the Yoga lexicon. As you tap into this feeling of surrender and devotion, you naturally develop a sense of trust that this benevolent universe provides, you relax and you generate value for yourself and others.

Facing critics

As humans we have the tendency to feel uncomfortable at the smallest things. When someone laughs at you sarcastically, or looks at you with a questioning eye, you feel criticised. Imagine the resilience a cricketer must have. But a cricketer doesn’t! He constantly faces 11 opponents and millions of fans who just don’t want him to succeed. He still plays, enjoys and performs throughout the entire match.

In Zen, we call this Fudoshin, a state of equanimity or imperturbability. Can you learn from a cricketer on how not to get irritated with critics? Develop this spirit of sportsmanship in your daily life and you will cultivate an unwavering mind.

It’s not over till it’s OVER

The game is on until the last ball is bowled. A cricketer does not ever give up or lose hope until the last moment. Can you replicate this in life and learn the art of being in the moment without allowing your imagination to worry about the unforeseen future?

A cricket match is only decided on the final delivery, not before that. Anything can change suddenly. The essence of all Yogic teaching is to be in the moment. In Tantric philosophy, moving towards a state of non-judgmental existence is achieved with the foundation of being in the present moment.

The Game of Life

‘Life is a game, play it’ and cricket is a great example. The three stumps behind the batsman that he guards are the three aspects of your personality — physical self, psychological self and spiritual self. The batsman is the Jeevatma, or individual soul, who wields the bat of the mind. If he does not know how to use this bat of the mind, he cannot do much to protect himself and his own mind destroys him.

Every ball faced by the batsman is a situation presented to him in the game of life. A good batsman is one who has control over his mind. Only then will he succeed in the game of life!

Connect with Anjaan across social media @MeditateWithAnjaan


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