Gambling is the gross result of our subtle inclination to cheat or lie.
Gambling is the gross result of our subtle inclination to cheat or lie. I once snitched on my friends who decided to bunk school. I denied it so vehemently that years later I wondered, “Did I lie or didn’t I?” I wasn’t so sure anymore. Truthfulness is one of the pillars of dharma that gambling attacks. Who hasn’t hidden that unreturned library book or told your child that the tall-needled injection would not hurt? A person looks into the eyes of a dying man and smilingly says, “Don’t worry. You will get better soon,” when neither of them believes it. When the lines between real and unreal blur, we gamble with the truth.
Let us look a little deeper into the mentality behind a gamble. It is more than just developing the “green fingers” seasoned to make money grow. I can hear the critics say that life itself is a gamble. By definition, gambling implies taking a risk with a potentially positive outcome. By stepping into your car in the morning, you take a risk. The odds may be against you reaching work safely. Is not a theistic lifestyle also a gamble? How can we tell if the dividends will truly pay off? However, these risks are considered reasonable acts of faith, guided by proper knowledge and honest endeavor, and therefore different from gambling. They don’t result in character degradation and are leaps of faith in the mode of goodness.
The problem arises when a person buys into the passionate “winner mentality.” A simple lotto ticket bought together with the bread and milk is an innocent chance at fortune that you slip into your top pocket. You didn’t harm anyone to get it. You paid for it with your hard-earned cash. What could possibly be so wrong with it? In that lotto ticket you have now invested your faith and with it, two negative philosophical affirmations. The first is that life moves by chance and that there is no Superior Designer in the grand scheme of things. The second is that you have the ability to manipulate the natural laws of karma and the beat the odds. This “winner mentality” progresses to the ultimate fantasy that in one stroke, all problems will be solved. It condenses into an obsession (symptomatic of the mode of ignorance), an intoxicating greed where one is willing to lie, cheat or steal, all to be part of the game. Far-fetched? Tell that to the one million people with gambling addictions and families in counseling. Governments, religious societies, and charities around the world benefit from legalized gambling, resulting in a hush over the social collapse that it brews.
Surprisingly the majority of gamblers are from lower income brackets with their gambling expenditure (proportionate to their income) outweighing the big guns. What moves people to wager what they obviously don’t have? The desperate hope that the next card, dice, or spin of the wheel will earn back their losses multifold. Statistics say that no one beats the odds. The odds are always cleverly tipped in favour of the “house.” What you win today can hardly ever surmount what you lose in a lifetime. Of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in legalized gambling, only 8.75 percent is ever won. Casinos are expert in subtle, psychological manipulation: offering free alcoholic drinks, rooms, and complimentary tickets to entice the regular gambler into thinking he is the center of the universe and everything is for his taking. The link between intoxication and gambling is evident; one who can ‘loosen up’ is more likely to spend. “The mentality that seeks an easy high will invariably strive for easy cash.” In a nut-shell, gambling enforces the mentality of lazy rewards that short-cut hard work. Yet it is a fantasy: ultimately one never beats the odds. The odds beat us.
In the brickwork of life, blocks of untruth are cemented by fear, laziness, convenience, or the thirst for a thrill. Soon we believe the lies we tell others. Even more insidious is the lies we tell ourselves. Bhagavad-gita lists arjavam or honesty as one of the qualities that truly intelligent people imbibe. It can also be translated as simplicity of heart. The gambler and the spiritualist are both involved in acts of faith. The former places faith in chance with the hope that it will help him cheat the system. The latter places faith in a higher power, knowing that the system is a learning ground in the first place. One tries to escape the tests whilst the other tries to rise above them by aligning with the Supreme and thus developing simplicity of heart.