The Inner Voice carried an article apropos of World Cup football quoting Swami Vivekananda's well-known observation: “You will be nearer to heaven playing football than studying the Bhagavad-Gita.” Quite a few people may been baffled by this remark. Actually, the Swami was addressing a young, sickly-looking lad who wanted to acquire spirituality by studying the immortal classic and had come to the hero of the Chicago World Parliament of Religions to guide him. And guide he did! What Swami Vivekananda in effect was trying to drive home to the boy was that first he to ought to improve his health, become strong in body and mind in order to imbibe and translate into his life, the bold message of the Song Celestial.
Obviously, the boy was in tamoguna, and so, as the Bhagavad-Gita itself counsels, ‘one must get over tamoguna, which is lethargy and lack of proper understanding, by cultivating rajoguna, or activity, dynamism'.
Sarira madhyam khalu dharma sadhanam, say the shastras, meaning that the body is the means to the attainment of all dharma or right living and thinking.
From rajoguna, one must graduate into sattvaguna, namely, purity and the other virtues that enable a person to have spiritual realisation. But this is an enabler; it is not the lofty end itself.
For, the ultimate achievement, as Lord Krishna in the Gita avers, takes us beyond the thralldom of the three gunas.
What are the signs of a person who has thus ‘spiritually arrived’? He becomes a stithapragna atmavaan.
That is, one established in the Self, a self-realised soul, who is in this world but not of it like the ignorant creature with strong likes and dislikes, a slave to his senses and passions, who is characterised by a mine-and thine attitude.
He cannot take a no for an answer, cannot watch with equanimity the play (leela) of samsara, especially if it involves the defeat of his country's team, in football, cricket or any other game.
That’s why some people even commit suicide when their country goes down to another in a match.