Is the world a playground or a battleground?
Answer Summary: The world is first and foremost a service-ground, an arena for loving service to God and to all his children. Through such service, which can include both play and battle, we attain the highest fulfillment.
The notion that the world is a playground is appealing, but it collides head-on with the harsh realities that we encounter frequently in real life. The regular obstacles and the occasional reversals that life sends our way remind us rudely that life is no picnic, that this world is no playground. Yet the playground metaphor retains a quaint appeal for many.
On the other hand, the notion of the world as a battleground agrees more with life’s experienced realities – we have to encounter and counter so many problems throughout our life. But the battleground metaphor militates against our heart’s aspiration for love – and the peace and the joy that love brings.
Gita wisdom explains that we are not just physical creatures; at our core, we are spiritual beings. Spiritually, we are meant for a life of love with God and with all living beings in his one universal family. In that family, with God at the center, we all reciprocate love with each other through service. Our life in this world is intended to serve as a preparation for reclaiming that life – a preparation that centers on internalizing an attitude of loving service. The more we learn to serve God and all living beings in relation to him, the more we regain the joyfulness that is natural to us as souls.
However, we have a lower nature that wants to exploit others, not serve them. We have to fight against this nature to stay true to our higher spiritual nature. That’s how while striving for service, the world becomes a battleground, wherein we battle against our lower nature and others’ lower nature and the complications resulting from those natures.
As the highest spiritual reality, Gita wisdom also offers us an endearing revelation of God as Krishna, as the Supreme Person who delights eternally in the play of love known as lila. He conceals his divinity to relish playful pastimes with his devotees and he invites us to join in his eternal love-play.
It is in that arena of pure love that our longing for the world as a playground is completely and eternally fulfilled. But before we can enter that sweet level of existence, we need to do battle in our inner world for internalizing the mood of service. When we learn to serve God intelligently and responsibly, we do justice to our talents in his service and contribute to others’ complete well-being – and progressively attain life’s ultimate fulfillment.