Today, on the festival of Holi, all of India celebrates the colour and playfulness of life by drenching each other with water and colour and singing, dancing and making merry throughout the day. As a child, I recall being excited beyond limits on the eve of this festival. Waking up early morning on Holi day, all the children would get busy preparing an arsenal of water balloons and water colour jets. The trick was to be able to drench and colour as many people as possible while avoiding similar attacks on oneself. I of course quickly outgrew the fascination for the resulting multi-coloured hair that lasted longer than desired, and now stick only to a bit of organic sandalwood paste strategically applied by family with strict permission (it’s an ad hoc facial of sorts!). What’s more enjoyable is listening to folk songs and poetry all day and gorging on traditional sweets.
The spring festival of Holi goes back a few millennia with its origins dating back to Krishna, whose playful rasleelas (dances) celebrated the exuberance of life. Krishna’s rasleela dances led people into the same transcendental states achieved by yogis through meditation. It is said that Lord Shiva while in samadhi (meditative absorption or trance) came to know that Krishna was leading people into the same samadhi states simply by playing his enchanting flute and leading them into ecstatic dancing. Intrigued and amused, he came down from the Himalayas to Vrindavan to witness it first hand.
Indian yogis were always trying to devise methods through which people could become devoid of themselves (mainly their mental and psychological constructs) and thus experience yoga. The peak of playfulness is capable of leading people into the same intensity of meditation, into yoga.
Modern corporate theory has also realised the importance of playfulness for human well-being and functioning. Consequently we see many of the edgy tech companies like Google promoting a playful atmosphere on their campuses, claiming to be places of both ‘work and play’. Google has Lego play stations and other games on its campuses, for instance. While the corporate world realises the importance of play in enhancing productivity and creativity, Indian yogic sciences recognised an even more profound function of play – as a means of yoga.
Like devotion (bhakti), play is a way of losing yourself into something bigger. When you’re in intense play, ‘you’ don’t exist. You forget all of your plans and problems regarding the future and neither does the past doesn’t exist for you anymore – you’re in the now. The peak of playfulness is the peak of intensity.
While the lengendary/historical background story of Holi is a tale of good triumphing over evil, the main significance of Holi is a celebration of life. After all, life itself is a big enough reason to celebrate. A serious life with no playfulness would soon become unbearable to live. So here’s to colour, fun and the play of life. Happy Holi!
Playfulness is not your attitude – it is the attitude of the Creator and the creation. If you are in tune with creation and Creator, being playful is natural. Only when you get enslaved by the process of your mind – your thoughts, opinions, ideologies, rights and wrongs, and moralities – you lose your playfulness. All playfulness is gone because you have been ignoring the larger creation and become too attached to the petty creations of your mind. If you were in line with life, if you were in line with creation and Creator, you would naturally be playful….When you are playful, you are not entangled with the things you do. Once you are not entangled with them, you do not accumulate karma. Then the process of living becomes liberating. With the activity that you perform, you are no more doing karma – you are doing yoga. Once you are doing yoga through the day, life becomes effortless.
– Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev