I n these twelve years of Isha Gramotsavam, many sports personalities, like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sindhu, and others, have spoken about the significance and impact of sport in their lives. This time, Minister Rathore and Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi were with us and shared their own experiences. This is the nature of sport. This is the experience of every sportsperson who loves the game they are playing. The joy of playing a game is something every human being should experience. Many years ago, when we conceptualized our first fourteen-day Isha Yoga program, we structured it like a game. On the first day, we rubbed in the rules of the game. It is a set of rules which makes the game. It is a certain set of rules which makes it tennis, football, cricket, or some other game. You know the rules are framed by us, but you have to follow them as if they were commandments if you want to play the game well.

You can only be successful if you want to win. But if you lose, it should be alright with you.

If you break the rules, you break the game. This is something that every Indian should know, whether we are driving on the street, or we are conducting our business, or whatever else we are doing. If you break the rules, you break this nation. Nations that have done wonderfully well, for themselves at least, are those who established the rule of law – that means everyone has to go by the law. Here in India, we are still a little ambiguous about the rules. Unfortunately, it is still a question in many people’s minds whether they should follow the rules or not. No rules, no game. You can go to your office half-heartedly. You can do your life half-heartedly. You can get married half-heartedly. But you cannot play a game half-heartedly. You have to throw yourself into it – otherwise there is no game.

You know, Swami Vivekananda said, “You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.” When you pray, you can do and think so many other things. But when you kick a ball, you only kick a ball. Otherwise, it will not go where you want it to go. Playing a game gives you the understanding that without absolute involvement, you cannot be successful. You have to play as if your life depends on it. They say 3.2 billion people watched the final of the last football World Cup. This is almost half the world, and the entire adult world. These 3.2 billion people were watching eleven people who were trying to kick the ball in one direction and another eleven people who were trying to kick it in another direction. Of course, you could ask the philosophical question, “What’s the point?” Essentially, we do not watch because of the ball, not even because of the skills, but because someone is kicking the ball as if his life depends on it. It is the intensity of involvement that makes the whole world sit up and watch.

Life is a good enough reason to celebrate. This is the spirit of Isha Gramotsavam.

It is intensity which allows a human being to stretch beyond the limits. The entire spiritual process is about somehow transcending your limitations to experience a dimension that you did not know till now. In sports, there are moments when people transcend. This is not limited to the World Cup, Olympics, or other international competitions. It can happen here in the Gramotsavam. People who play with the necessary intensity can transcend the limitations of who they are. This is what sports offer to you. Without the desire to win, there is no game. If your desire is that only you should win, there is no game. This is a fundamental principle that everyone should know, in any sphere of life. You can only be successful if you want to win. But if you lose, it should be alright with you.

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These twelve years of Isha Gramotsavam have been a great journey. If you look at people who have been playing for some time – their attitude towards life and other people, beyond caste, creed, and gender – it has been an evolution. Bring playfulness into your life. You don’t need great sporting equipment – just get a ball. With your child, your wife, your husband, just throw a ball. If you do not have a ball, throw a potato or something else. Don’t think this is ridiculous. Be playful, because without playfulness, there is no celebration in life. You may not be a champion, but you are a sport – that is what matters. It is very important that we become a playful nation. One reason why India has lost its playfulness is because as a formerly occupied nation, having lived in abject poverty for eight to ten generations, we are too survival-oriented to be playful. This was a land where without reason, people sang and danced. This was a land where for every activity in this agricultural society, there was a particular song and dance.

All of you should commit to bringing some sense of playfulness into your homes and lives.

We did not need any reason to celebrate. In our tradition, every day of the year was a celebration. We made work and so many events in life a celebration. This was a very playful nation. Now that economic prosperity slowly increases, it is time to bring back playfulness. I would say in the next five to ten years, we will do much better, economically. But we are getting to a place where, if you want to get a man to dance, you have to get him drunk. This is what Isha is trying to change. We want to bring you to a place where you can dance without reason. It does not matter what other people think. I want the entire nation to become like this that without reason, you can sing, dance, laugh, and celebrate. Life is a good enough reason to celebrate. This is the spirit of Isha Gramotsavam. That is why we have included all the other aspects of rural life. There used to be so many different art forms and forms of celebration in Tamil Nadu. We are trying to keep at least some of them alive in the villages. If common people lose their culture, they lose their heart. A heartless society will not go far. It takes a big heart to push this society forward to a better place.

If we lose the music, dance, and various other skills that our communities used to have, we lose the heart of our culture. It is time to bring them back, especially in rural communities. Otherwise, agriculture in India is a heartbreaking work. No wonder tens of thousands of farmers commit suicide every year. Only with music, dance, celebration, and an absolute sense of involvement with the land, can someone do this. Otherwise, everyone will want to move to the city. If everyone moves to the city, there will be nothing to buy in the supermarkets. Today, the shelves in the air-conditioned supermarkets are full thanks to farmers who are half-starved and on the verge of suicide. It is time we changed their lives. Even if we cannot change the economic situation overnight, we can definitely make them sing and dance, play a game, or throw a ball – do something playful.

For the growth of the children and for the growth of the nation, it is very important that we are playful. Many hardships of life, many horrendous situations in the country can be smoothened out just by making our society a little more playful. The simple process of life can become burdensome and depressing if there is no playfulness. All of you should commit to bringing some sense of playfulness into your homes and lives. The purpose of Gramotsavam is to bring this playfulness into village life. For a variety of reasons, we as a nation are not able to provide them the necessary fundamentals to live a dignified life. But at least we can bring play, music, dance, and culture into their lives. Right now, people think touching 4,500 villages is great. But there are 53,000 villages in Tamil Nadu alone. Now we are also going to certain districts of Andhra Pradesh, with great support by the government, and I’m sure we will ignite Puducherry as well.

I would like to request all of you to participate in whatever way you can to make Gramotsavam reach many more people. Let us become a playful nation again.

Love & Grace

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – veteran Indian shooter, Olympic medalist, and current Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting
Kiran Bedi – retired IPS officer, former tennis player, social activist, and current Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry