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(Part One) The wit and wisdom of the Croquet Swami

Where have all the swamis gone?

The age of the guru, the true light and the way, is gone. TV evangelists have taken on the soiled mantle of those popular and now-vanquished saints who told us they had transcended their egos and the desires of the flesh; who were willing to proclaim spiritual truth to the masses in return for vast sums of money, expensive cars, and exotic varieties of sex.

Baba Bob was never one of these. Baba, who revealed himself only through the New Age phenomenon of "automatic typing" was never accused of anything more serious than irreverence, which today is not a crucifixion offense in most of the croquet-playing countries. Nevertheless, he has maintained his silence for ten years in the refuge of Cyberspace, where money is imaginary and all sex is virtual.

The great mystery of modern theology is why Swami chose croquet players as his ministry. Was it because the elegance, refinement, and intellectual dimension of our sport in some way made us worthy of his beneficence? Or contrarily, was he moved to compassion by the brutal habits of minds concentrated on such matters as "boundary attacks" and "three-ball deadness"?

Before retiring to the infinite depths of Cyberspace, Swami often said that he had hardly begun to reveal himself because, as a guru, he required questions worthy of his answers. "If you want a reasonable answer to a stupid question, write to Ann Landers," Swami was fond of saying.

Any retrospective of Baba's recorded words will reveal that our questions were never worthy of his answers, and yet, he generously gave them. If only we had been wise enough to ask, in all humility, "Dear Baba, what IS the question?" Perhaps, with this retrospective , we might still trick Baba out of retreat to share with us in the treacherous 90's more of his eternal wit and wisdom.

Following is Part One of a retrospective of Baba's best answers, though the questions themselves remain, at best, questionable.

Dear Baba Beetle-Brain,

You are insulting an ancient and noble tradition and doing damage to the real nature of yoga by pretending to have invented "Croquet Yoga." Anyone with half a brain knows that yoga is entirely concerned with process, not result. You can't have a game as the central practice of any yoga, because the point of a game is to win or lose, and in trying to win or lose, you divert attention from your own normally-invisible processes, and your so-called "yoga" is thereby compromised and corrupted. Besides being an offense to the great masters of the ages, "Croquet Yoga" is a self-contradiction, an impossibility!

--Yoga Student
     Ojai, California

Thank you, my student friend, for piercing to the very heart of Croquet Yoga - unwittingly nor not. Do you remember the proverb, "It matters not if you win or lose, but how you play the game?" Most old proverbs are garbage, but this one isn't bad. Games, as everyone knows, are esssentially unimportant. They are invented significances, not at all "serious" in the sense that the moves we make in "real life" have serious consequences.

But Baba asks you to take another look, as deeply as you dare, at this "common-sense" assumption about the reality of "games" and of "real life." Baba asks you now to transcend your struggle for knowledge, the endless "process" to which you are so religiously devoted, and just cut to the chase: simply acknowledge and assume within your being the most enlightened conclusions of four thousand years of human philosophy.

"How can I do that?" is your automatic response, and in answer, I have a question, a koan, and if you invest your whole being in plumbing the mystery of this koan, you can, in an instant, reach the end of those four thousand years of philosophy. It requires, however, giving up your attachment to your "studenthood," and this will be difficult for you, as evidenced by the violence of your question to Baba.

Are you ready for the koan?

Good. Then here it is: What do the gods do?

Do not "think" about the anwer or strain for it. Simply look, and see what you see, and acknowledge what is there. The answer is revealed not to the intellect but to the seeking spirit.

If the gods do anything EXCEPT play, they are not gods, are they? Playing the game is an act of choice, the supreme privilege of a being who is not stuck in the mundane cause-and-effect chain of events which are the sum and total of ordinary human destiny. (Keith Wylie comments in his book that the gods, when they play croquet, use one-back tactics. Sometimes, perhaps.)

Picking up a mallet and embarking upon a game - the outcome of which one knows only be be uncertain - is an act of divine self actualization. It doesn't matter, having chosen to play a game, whether you will hit a three-foot roquet or a achieve a dodecapeel on every attempt. What matters is that you play the game, knowing that it IS a game, and that you play it full-out in every moment.

If you don't play in this divine spirit - if you play as if it isn't a game - have you noticed what a deadly bore the game becomes? And at the same time, one must play seriously. Seriously, but with a lightness of spirit.

This is exactly the way one plays "life" as a game. Life is full of invented significances. Only in the spirit of the game can we see the real choices we have and the absolute justice of all the workings of material reality. This is the goal and gift of Croquet Yoga.

Knowing that you freely chose to play the game gives you the ability to witness the justice of whatever happens. When a player tells you, quite seriously, "I really should have won that game, and I would have, if not for that roll-off in corner two," you can cluck sympathetically, knowing you are looking at someone who plays life in exactly the same way - as a victim of circumstance, rather than the master of his fate.

Haven't you noticed that when people forget they have invented the significances of their own lives they're not having much fun, they've thrown away their liberty and their creativity? Life is a "serious" game, just as croquet must be, to be enjoyed to the fullest. Why play a game, Baba asks, if you aren't serious about it? If you aren't serious, you miss the fun of the game.

You are right, dear student: The real value is in the process, in the here-and-now working out, which is never worked out fully until the instant the game ends with the final peg-out or the end of time on the clock. If you are investing all your happiness in the expectation of the micro-second of the result, you have hardly any existence at all; you are not really here now, where the game is going on.

So here is Baba's last word - the second part of Baba's Serial Koan: What do the gods do when they finish their game?

If you can't get the answer to this second koan on your own, you need to start over, very carefully, and run through Baba's words again. If you still can't get it, you need to do something really radical: like join the Foreign Legion, or check into the Betty Ford Clinic, or take up something less demanding and refined, such as golf.

For more on this subject, send a love offering of at least $25 (U.S. currency) c/o this publication, and you will receive Baba's monograph entitled, "Get More Out of Croquet: Play Life!"

Dear Wonderful Baba Bob,

My life has not been the same since I wrote you all my troubles and wrote back and told me to join the USCA. Now my life is full of joy, adventure, travel to many tournaments, and my game is coming along nicely. Please buy something nice for yourself with the enclosed $500.00 love offering. I have just one question now. I know how to tell who wins in croquet, because there are always just 26 points and one of the players always gets there first. But how do you tell who wins in life?

--Beverly Hills Devotee

Dear Beverly,

Baba sends you a special blessing and gladly answers your splendid question. The way you tell who wins in life is this: After the game is over, you measure the number and length of the obituaries; the eminence of those who deliver the funeral orations; the value and extent of the physical estate and other forms of one's legacy, including writings, decendants, businesses, institutions, patents, copyrights, etc.

You can't tell who wins and who loses until the game is over. That is why, in Croqut Yoga is in Life, attention to the process is so important. Keep your eye on the ball. Adjust the angle of your mallet head on your croquet shot consciously and precisely every time. Feel the heft of your mallet as you being your swing and throughout your followthrough. Don't forget to breathe. Learn. Feel. Play. Enjoy.

Playing the game of croquet and playing the game of Life, as process, could be compared to making love or listening to a world class orchestra doing your favorite symphony. All these pastimes have beginnings, middles, and ends - but it is unwise to engage in any of them exclusively as contests. Especially croquet.

Dear Swami,

I have come to face the fact that I am not going to be a champion player. I have therefore begun to wonder whether I should give up croquet. Can Croquet Yoga help me?

--Doubting Thomas

Dear Doubting,

Yes! I have seen you in action, and it is true that you will never win major tournaments. But don't despair: there are too many winners already, and other roles are sadly wanting.

First, I owe it to the international brotherhood of swamis to advise you simply to transcend your ego, thereby becoming the space of the game, rather than simply the possibility of winning or losing. Of course, virtually nobody knows how to transcend their ego, including swamis, so let's just skip that possibility, which of course you are free to do if you can pull it off - which I very much doubt.

A more practical approach, providing many options, is not to try to transcend your ego, but to RELOCATE it. Just look at the possibilities: You become an organizer of events, for example. If you find that too much work, you become a critic of organizers (already a crowded field in almost every country, but there is always space for more critics). If you want a role with more honor in it, you can become a Croquet Wife. (A person of either sex can be a Croquet Wife, the generic form of which is "the person who does what needs to be done to makes things work, even if it's not particularly glamourous.")

If you don't feel comfortable in any of these well-defined roles - as champion player, organizer, critic, or Croquet Wife - you can combine several of them into a career in Croquet Politics. Some croquet politicians find political intrigue so absorbing that they give up playing croquet entirely.

Best of all, Doubting Thomas, you don't have to be especially gifted to excel in Croquet Politics. Anyone who really wishes to do so can achieve a measure of success in Croquet Politics, because this is, after all, a small, limited sphere, run by part-time volunteers. Therefore, if you are willing to invest sufficient time, you can make real headway simply by wearing down your opponents, who will finally become so distracted and bored that they'll give you anything you want - a tactic which, unfortunately, doesn't work on the croquet lawn.

You will never win on the croquet lawn, so for you, Croquet Yoga is, if not the only answer, surely the best answer.

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