Game : Loss As Victory

‘Go’ (围棋) is not an ordinary board game, but one that involves much wits and strategising. Unlike it’s counterpart Chinese chess (中国象棋), Go is a very minimal game with simple rules and only two different pieces (black and white). The objective is to conquer a larger portion of the board than the opponent, to capture by removing pieces once they are surrounded. But don’t be fooled by my brief explanation. It is so ‘simple’ that it ‘simply’ complex, requiring meditative attention and forward thinking. A game played by professional players can even take days to finish. 

In the ancient times, Go was more of an aristocratic past-time, and both men and women of noble background were supposed to be well-versed in it, other than music, calligraphy and painting. This was while Chinese chess was more of a commoner’s game and more male-dominated. My first contact with strategic board games was through my grandpa. He was a skilled Chinese chess player and most of us grew up watching him play. As a result, we grew up playing Chinese chess as one of our past-times. Back then, winning was all we had in mind. 

Winning my male cousins was not easy and when I did win, I would be filled with an adrenaline rush that seems to last for days! My first taste of winning was beyond words, while it was also ungraspable. Arising shortly would be a feeling of fear. I wasn’t really sure why I felt fear until I realised I was afraid to lose the next match, and this fear overtook the ability to enjoy the game. Each game became a battlefield rather than a mere game. Anyway, as time went by, we all grew up and made our own friends… with other interests, and we sort of stopped playing the game.

Many years later, a friend asked me along to attend Go lessons. As I always wanted to learn Go, I went along. It was a humbling experience as I was taught how to lose graciously instead of how to win triumphantly. I came to realise that winning is easy with practice… but with practice, losing becomes foreign. That’s when it becomes hard to bear. It is only after I learned to accept defeat that I could truly ‘win’, because by then, winning or losing would not really matter. Being able to have no attachment to winning and no aversion to losing was the real victory! 

Being a ‘toddler’ at the game, I was almost always at the losing end. It became the norm for me to lose and I saw myself accepting defeat with greater grace and appreciation. I learnt to sincerely praise the opponent’s good moves, and to thank my teacher for good pointers. Gradually, I learnt to play with an ‘ordinary mind’ (平常心). With this mind, winning or losing was just so… nothing to be too gleefully jubilant over, nothing to be too anguished over, Just truly enjoy the game. In the worldly sense, there is no win-win situation in games or wars. There can only be one winner and the loser(s) usually do not feel good. Games and wars can bring out the best and worst of those involved. I’m glad Go had taught me how to lose and win well. It’s not just a game!

Pride and glory are manifestations of one’s inner mara at play. 
To conquer your inner mara, 
realise there’s actually no real ‘you’ – 
just your greed, hatred and ignorance at play.

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