Whenever my wife and I visit my parents we have a bit of a tradition. We play a card game that we introduced them to years ago. We don’t know what to call it so we just call it playing cards. Funny thing about this game is that it requires no skill really, and mostly depends on the cards you happen to draw. What some call “luck.”
In the “card game” each player is dealt three cards face down, three cards face up then three cards which they hold in their hand, and play first. You go around the table, each player putting down a higher card than the last. If you cannot you pick up the pile. Threes can be anything you want it to be (so they are pretty much Aces which are the highest card in this game) twos can be played any time as twos, and tens clear the pile. In the beginning, if you play a card you have to pick one up. You always have to have at least three in your hand until the pile runs out. When you get rid of the cards in your hand you get to play the three face up cards, and then in order to win you have to get rid of the three face-down cards, by picking one of them to play each time it is your turn, not knowing what it is until you flip it of course. And so the outcome of the game depends greatly on happenstance.
I am the type of guy who likes to be outspokenly confident when I play cards with my wife and parents simply because it is fun to take that opportunity to be outrageous. It doesn’t do anything for me if I win several hands in a row. Because the thing about this game is that we all continuously remind each other that there is no skill involved, that who wins and who doesn’t does not matter because it is all a matter of chance anyway.
It occurred to me this weekend that this game teaches dharma, as it teaches the players that they are not the doer at all. Sure with all of those wild cards that I mentioned there is a fair amount of strategy, as there is in life’s little circumstances. But in the end you find that you are left making a choice between three cards (in life there are many more) and you don’t know what card it is, just as you don’t know the outcome which lies beneath each decision in life. But you have to act. Or the game stops. “If you don’t act there will be know outcome,” as Gandhi said.
And if you win, it was a result of a better set of cards you had been pre-dealt in that final row of three than anyone else had. And better karma coming into the “game of life” is nothing to brag about. Because it has nothing to do with “you” the personality. It is your everlasting “Self” that the karma has to do with, yes, but not your current personality. You can make all the “right” moves early in the game and you can put yourself in a good position to win, but the unknowns are ever present. This weekend I was down to one un-flipped card on three separate occasions but ended up losing each of these games. Ended up with huge piles of cards actually.
The “card game” shows you never to assume any outcome. Just as you never should in life. You can spend all of your time analyzing your life and thinking you know what was “meant to be” from what you have observed and what you think you deserve, and what you have cultivated. But you often find that your idea of what is right is a worldly, skewed mirror image of the truth.