Being a sport means you are willing to play. Willing to play means you are involved or alive to the situation in which you exist, and that is the essence of life. If there is anything that is truly close to a spiritual process, in the normal course of life, that is sports. Swami Vivekananda went to the extent of saying, “In kicking a ball or playing a game, you are much closer to the Divine than you will ever be in prayer.” Because you can pray without involvement, but you cannot play sports without involvement, and involvement is the essence of life.
Whenever we involve ourselves in what we do, the ugly part is that people get entangled. When they get entangled, they feel ugly within themselves, and they will make sure everybody else has a taste of it too. So the fundamental of any sport or game takes care of this — that is, if you want to play a game, you must have the fire of wanting to win but also the balance to see that, “If I lose, it is okay with me.” You never play a game to lose, you always play a game to win, but if you lose, it is all right with you. If you maintain this fundamental with every aspect of life, you are a sport. And that’s all the world expects from you, that you are a sport. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever kind of situation you are in, you are still a sport.
The sacredness of a sporting event is that individuals rise beyond their limitations, achieving a state of abandon that is usually known only at the peak of spirituality. Thus, sports have always been a part of Isha, all our programs have an element of play – as to play is to live, and to live is to play.