Yoga & Poker

[Editor’s Note: Ryan is the author of YogaWisdom and was asked to write a guest blog post for our “Poker & Religion” series]

Poker is many things. It can be big business, a raging addiction, the making of a millionaire, or the breaking of a family to name a few. Poker is one way to gamble. Other ways include starting a new business, having children, living a dream or even moving to a new location. How is poker percieved in the eyes of one who practices yoga meditation for spiritual growth?

From the point of view of yoga a person has four goals to achieve in life. In Sanskrit these are dharma, artha, kama and moksha. In English these translate to moral value, economic value, vital value and eternal value. To live fully each of these need addressed on some level. If poker contributes to these then it would be ok. If it doesn’t then it would be not ok. So what is the determining factor? The person involved in playing poker is the factor.

Let’s say I live a good life. My morals provide me with a strong foundation for a happy existence. I make enough money to support myself and not be a burden on anyone. I contribute positively to society in a way that enriches others lives without harm.

I meditate daily and my spiritual understanding of my true nature as an eternal spiritual being temporarily relating to a human condition becomes clearer. Now let’s say I want to get together with my friends and they offer two options. Option 1) let’s go to the movies! Option 2), let’s all get five dollars in quarters and play some poker! Let’s assume that the movies cost five dollars a ticket. So spending some time with friends will cost about the same no matter what I choose to do. I’m also not draining my bank account or making enemies by cheating, because I play by the rules, just as if I were playing checkers.

On the other hand let us say that I play poker every night, pawn my wedding ring to get money to play cards and get a bit touchy when a friend or relative mentions I might have a problem. Or let’s say that I don’t even gamble money, but instead I sit in front of a computer 6 nights a week for hours at a time while my son really wanted to spend some time with me or my wife becomes less and less satisfied with our marriage because she only sees me when I’m asleep. I think you get the picture.

The aim of yoga is Self Realization. A Self-realized person acts appropriately in a given situation. Anything that interferes with this ability to act appropriately is considered a hindrance to one’s spiritual development. Yoga is also based on being completely honest with others and with ourselves.

Poker can be played honestly, and it can be played without interfering with our main objectives in life. Poker is ultimately no different than any other activity a human being performs. Although, of course, poker isn’t really necessary for anything.

Be sure to check out Ryan’s insightful commentary on Yoga and self-realization at his blog yogawisdom.org

1 thought on “Yoga & Poker

  1. Five dollars for a movie;-)

    Hey, I’ve gotta confess, I like these balanced approaches to Poker… It just seems rational to put the focus of a moral issue on the particular person’s context, inclinations, etc. and not on the activity itself.

    Of course there’s the worry that certain activites have a much higher frequency of abuse than others…

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