FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 - Football fascinates the world. Wherever you go, football seems to influence everyone's life. In many countries around the globe people are watching the games at home, on their smartphones during work, or in the evenings in restaurants and bars on big screens. Even people who usually do not show much interest in sports are all of a sudden the greatest fans of their national football team. Everyone seems to be caught up by the fever of football.
Everyone? What about Monks? A visiting student from a school class at the temple raised this question. „Are you also following the World Cup?“ While contemplating the question I remembered a humorous cartoon I came across recently showing a young Buddhist monk asking his Zen-Master whether he is allowed to watch football or not. The Master answers: „yes, you are allowed to watch, but you are not allowed to show any emotions while watching.“ Interesting answer I thought. A monk is supposed to be aloof to worldly loss or gain and fixed in a state of equilibrium. Besides that, he wants to focus his time and energy towards the divine and not into something worldly like football. But is this not a bit extreme? What’s wrong with watching a football game? Let's try to understand this more deeply.
For a monk, or any other practitioner of spiritual life, who understands that he is bound up in the cycle of birth and death, tries to reconnect himself again with the Supreme Lord. This is why the human form of life is so valuable. Time is very precious which should be spent carefully in the service of the Lord. In a recent BTG Article 1 the following memory was shared: As a compassionate Vaishnava, Srila Prabhupada was a para duhka sukhi, unhappy to see others suffering. Once, on a morning walk near a golf course in Dallas, he asked, „ What are these man doing?“ When told that they were playing golf, with tears in his eye Prabhupada declared, „See how they are wasting their time, hitting this little ball.“ In other words, life is meant for self-realization, especially if one stands on the threshold of death. And in his purport to the famous verse on the qualities of Kali Yuga people Srila Prabhupada writes: „ In this age, men are victims not only of different political creeds and parties, but also of many different types of sense-gratificatory diversions, such as cinemas, sports, gambling, clubs, mundane libraries, bad association, smoking, drinking, cheating, pilfering, bickerings, and so on.“ 2
People in this world get so easily fascinated with things not related to Krishna and in this way get diverted from what is truly worth of contemplation. Some may argue that to see great football stars, to experience the `Magic of Football` is also something divine. There is some truth in that. Krishna tells Arjuna „Know that all opulence, beautiful, and glorious creations spring from but a spark of my splendor“ and „ I am the ability in man“. 3 So if sports man show superhuman powers fascinating and such powers are certainly a gift of God. But instead of remembering the greatness of God, people, in general, worship the players as if they are Gods. The Gods of Football!
Back to the student's question `Do Monks watch football?` I explain to the boy that we have many other duties such as praying and reading holy scriptures and therefore don't find time for watching football. Of course, active sport provides exercise and recreation and is a good thing to do. I personally like swimming, which helps my body and mind. But watching others doing sports is not really part of a monk’s business. At the same time, I had to admit that there are exceptions. I remember years back when I heard some screaming from the balcony below my room at the temple. Later we found out that some of the monks had got a TV installed and where watching Football. They were from Brazil and their team just shot a goal. Obviously, they did not follow the Zen Buddhist advice of watching without emotion!
1- Back to Godhead - Magazin Jan/Feb 2018 - `Sri Krishna and the Original Sporting Propensity` written by Sarvabhauma Dasa (TKG) Housten, USA
2 - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.10
3 - Bhagavad Gita 10.41 / 7.8