Introduction : Stop the Wars, Play the Game
The Dalai Lama and war games
Interviewer. (Int). I heard that since your early twenties, you have been creating and developing the war strategy game called “CHATRANGA ”. I also heard that you once showed this game to a former president of Nintendo who said that it would have been really popular if it had come out before the age of computer games. He suggested that you show your game to another game company, to which Nintendo was related, to make it possible to produce CHATRANGA as a board game.
Ryokyu Endo (R.E.). Yes, the former president of Nintendo was one of my Tao Shiatsu patients and he showed my game to their development department. They appreciated the game and said it was pretty good. However, if I had accepted his suggestion, I might have been able to sell it in department stores, but for some reason, I don’t know why, I didn’t feel it was right to go along that path. So I decided to produce the game myself and sell it in some toy stores.
Int. I see.
R.E. Actually one of the biggest wishes in my life is that there will be no more lonely people in this world. I didn’t just want to sell this game, I wanted to do something more with it. Through playing CHATRANGA people can connect, become real friends and then start building a community.
Int. I see… In the beginning, I didn’t understand why a monk created a war game. I thought that a monk or priest should make a peace game rather than a game with a violent theme.
R.E. I have often been criticized for just that reason.
When making the rules of CHATRANGA I was once playing the game with a friend in a Japanese pub, to test the game and to check the rules. And by chance a Western girl, who happened to be drunk at the next table told me “why are you making such a game? Shame on you!” Ha, ha, ha.
R.E. Yes, but another Western girl from Australia once told me something interesting she had read in the Dalai Lama’s biography – that when he was a boy he liked to create and play war games. So she had some idea of what I was doing.
Int. Is that right?
The theme of the game: “transforming war into peace”
R.E. War is really uncivilized and is by far the worst action that a human being can do. Usually nobody wants to kill somebody that they don’t even know or be killed themselves by stranger .
Int. That’s true.
R.E. In all nations murder is a crime, yet in war nations order people to murder each other (it’s the same thing with death by execution). This is a real contradiction, isn’t it?
Int. It certainly is.
R.E. Now as I look back I think that my subconscious probably wanted to unify the opposites of war and peace. Maybe that was the reason for creating a war game.
Int. Probably the Dalai Lama used to play war games when he was young for the same reason as you.
R.E. Ha, ha, if that were so it would be interesting. Yes I remember, once I travelled to Nepal for a few days with relatives of the Dalai Lama and I heard that the Dalai Lama is a fun loving person.
Int. Yes he always looks so when you see him in photographs or on film.
R.E. By the way, the “Declaration of War” between nations always starts with the cutting off of relationships.
Int. Stop the dialogue first. That then starts the cycle of war and violence.
R.E. But standing on the teachings of Buddhism, conflicting things can be reversed and unified. So a game of war, for example, where war is the worst level of human existence, can become a tool of high level communication to create peace.
Int. I see.
The root of Shogi / Chess were also invented by a Buddhist monk/priest
Shogi: Japanese Chess
R.E. The root of Shogi and Chess was born in ancient India and called “CHATURANGA”. This was developed in the 6th and 7th centuries. A high level priest created this game and gave it to a King who loved making war so that he would stop doing so. That was the beginning.
Int. Really? So Shogi and Chess were also created by a Buddhist priest for the purpose of transforming war into peace? In Japan Shogi was popular in the Edo era, which was a peaceful age lasting for a couple hundred years.
R.E. Yes, I heard at that time people were playing Shogi at the side of the streets were surrounded by people watching and everybody enjoying it peacefully.
Int. Can computer games with shooting each other also transform war into peace?
R.E. I think it’s not possible. (smile)
Int. Why is that ?
R.E. Transforming war into peace is on a really high philosophical plane. I am not totally negative about battle shooting games, but you can’t really expect high philosophy behind it .
Int. I see.
R.E. Why I say this is because peace is created from dialogue. In order to unify and create peace from war we have to have some kind of dialogue through the game, on the subconscious level, also intellectual and emotionally.
Int. I understand. So in a battle shooting game you are only using your physical reflexes and there is no dialogue between either side.
R.E. The same as in Shogi /chess, CHATRANGA is a game of dialogue, expressing a view of life, character and so on. Talking about Shogi and CHATRANGA being on the same level as a shooting battle game is the same as thinking that street fighting is the same as Budo or martial arts, the latter containing a deep and rich culture.
Int. I see.
R.E. In the teachings of Confucius I heard that students had to study and play Chinese Shogi. Confucius made his students study music, Shogi, calligraphy and drawing. I think that he thought that Shogi is the Budo/Martial art of wisdom.
The game which is close to real life
Int. What is the difference between shogi /chess and CHATRANGA?
R.E. Well, Shogi and Chess are both really high level mind reading games and the rules are not so easy to remember in a short period of time. Whereas CHATRANGA can be played by anyone who can count and can understand “rock, paper and scissors”. The rules of CHATRANGA are very simple for the basic version, people can learn in just three minutes.
Int. Even so, players of CHATRANGA say that the depth of the game is the same if not more than Shogi.
R.E. Yes, I heard that same comment from the former student of professional Shogi players’ association. CHATRANGA has a basic version using a ground army and the final version which uses army, air force and navy. With this final version many players feel a depth even more than Shogi.
Int. Is that so?
R.E. Shogi isn’t a game of “chance” but in CHATRANGA we use dice so there is the element of “chance” which is more like real life. In the words of Hoki Takayama, the Japanese CHATRANGA Champion, “In the game of CHATRANGA you are asked to think as if you stand at a crossroad in your life, it is a kind of situation when you have to decide your life in a game”.
R.E. This element of “chance” is really an important matter with regards to the life span of this game. In other words if there was no “chance” element then a computer could possibly analyze and find the complete analysis.
The life span of the game
Int. What is the complete analysis?
R.E. The complete analysis is to find some perfect plan or system so that you can always win the game. But where is the fun and enjoyment in that? For example Checkers (Draughts) and Othello (6×6 type) have a complete analysis i.e. A perfect set of moves to win.
Int. Is that so?
R.E. If there is no element of chance in a game then sooner or later the computer becomes the absolute champion, no human being can beat it. In that case nobody can have a dream (to win) in the game, it is impossible to beat the computer, so there is always the feeling of being inferior.
Int. How about Chess or Shogi?
R.E. I am afraid to say but the World Chess Champion has already lost against the computer. A while ago in Shogi it was said that the computer could never beat a professional Shogi player, but now professional Shogi players lose often against the computer!
Int. Is that so?
R.E. Now we have quantum computers which are really high speed and highly analytical, so it is not impossible to say “sometime in the future the day will come when the complete analysis for Shoji will be found”. “Impossible things” can be made possible, that is human history.
Int. I see.
R.E. As in CHATRANGA, which has an element of chance, there is no complete analysis in the game . What number that you will throw on a dice is only known to God so there is no possibility for a computer to logically work the answer out. But like the card game Old Maid, which only involves the element of chance or luck, no one will find deep interest or philosophy in the game itself.
Int. Yes that’s true.
R.E. CHATRANGA players say that they can experience the thrill and reality just like in real life. I think that this is because of the element of chance will be included in the strategy in the game, and as a result, complete analysis will be found in the future. Using dice means that as game, CHATRANGA has no life span limit. This is it’s advantage.