What is Līlā?

Līlā means, among other things, “sport,” “play” and “pastime.” Often translated as “divine play,” līlā signifies a number of theological and metaphysical ideas that pertain to the spontaneous playfulness of the absolute or supreme being. 

There are at least two meanings of līlā relevant to the student of Indian traditions and śāstras. These meanings might be described as “dualistic” and “non-dualistic,” indicating how the supreme playfulness that is līlā is to be perceived and understood. In the dualistic schools of Hinduism, līlā denotes those activities that god participates in with his devotees. In the non-dualistic schools, līlā refers to the great dance of life, the exquisite sport of existence. Exploring both of these meanings will lead us into the larger question of ecology that guides this issue of Tarka

To ‘Play With’ or to ‘Play As’

One of the perennial philosophical questions is “why?” Why this reality? Why does anything exist at all? The concept of līlā answers this question with a simple “because.” Because of the play of relationship and the play of existence. Because the supreme reality wants to ‘play with’ and to ‘play as’ the manifold diversity of life for the sheer enjoyment of it.

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