I want to start with this Buddha quote from the Dhammapada

As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.

Ch. 1: The Twin Verses, verse 13

Last night I was playing chess with a close friend and he beat me 4 times consecutively .The first time I almost beat him but my performance worsened linearly .The last time my performance was the worst.

Aside from realizing that each time I lost the more I wanted to beat him ,I realized that while playing I was constantly thinking about the possible moves and wasn't mindful or aware during the game.Its almost like I was constantly surprised by unanticipated moves

Its during the game that the feeling of defeat struck me and during this I was thinking about the plan .

How can watching and strategic thinking occur,if when I watch there is no thinking?.

A fellow here stated that thinking and watching are antagonistic .I think this has some truth as when I watch the thread of thoughts subsides.

I think this leads to a more general question and that in any sport or activity that requires a certain skill .How can mindfulness be incorporated during that activity?.

I know there are already related questions but,there doesn't seem to be a clear cut answer.

3 Answers 3


In contrast to the other answers, it is my perception that mindfulness and deep intellectual thinking complement each other.

Sports are not about defeating the other team but rather raising your own performance to a higher level. The higher level of physical or mental (chess) performance is a result of this alignment between the mind, body and spirit.

As a skilled chess player, my best games come not from furious concentration but rather from an openness to the possibilities and patterns of the board. Indeed many chess players compare their state of mind to Zen or Taoist mindfulness. As with a koan answer, the right move often comes as lightning.

The mind can be trained to be present and creative at the same time. Both take a lot of practice however. A novice chess player will be looking for the next move and confused by all the possibilities. Just so, the novice meditation practitioner will be confused by all the stray thoughts.

I'd encourage you to quiet your mind and emotions during a competitive chess game (not easy) perhaps the deeper possibilities on the board will be revealed.

  • Thanks for the answer .I also recognized that aspect ,Its like its more based on intuition and real intelligence than Intellect.But cant seem to keep it in creative actions,you have an idea how it can be cultivated ?. Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 21:45
  • Well, you need to master basics of chess. Common opening, tactics, basic positional play. That is a tall order just to begin. While playing, It is the non obvious move that engenders the Zen. Clearing the thoughts allows new possibilities to arise. Basically play chess and mediate a lot and it will come :) Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 22:29
  • You note that 'furious concentration' is not the same as 'openness' and this seems a crucial point. I'd put it as the difference between concentration, usually thought of as a narrowing of attention, and awareness, usually thought of as an open and global attentiveness. .
    – user14119
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 10:39

The vast majority of the ordinary human thoughts are repetitive. Most of the humans don't even have their own thoughts(even that would be don't beneficial) but they have the thoughts that come from the collective culture's conditioning. So a person that belongs to a culture, society(and now with internet it can mix up more with others) is just chewing the same thoughts that the society that s/he belongs to. That's why real creativity is very limited or completely absent in most of the humans.

Mindfulness makes it possible to have more creative thoughts and can make the actions(like sports) more effective. "The legend of Bagger Vance" movie is about this subject. So potentially games like chess can be played more effectively with mindfulness. But to do that the art of playing chess must be mastered and then mindfulness can increase the effectiveness of playing the chess. Being "in the now" has great benefits.

That being said, a Buddhist meditator must question his/her desire to engage in activites that has intention to defeat others. Watching or playing football or other sports and even wonderful games like chess includes the desire to defeat others. And it is feeding the self/ego and the "harmfulness" of the humans. I remember that Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his dhamma talks that sports/activities that have the desire to defeat others are not good. For many people this is totally unacceptable or meaningless but because they are completely stucked in the illusion of self. But Thich Nhat Hanh is an enlightened master and is a very pure being and has great wisdom. He said the truth.

This is what the Buddhist meditators must never forget:

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.



A person who is mindful on the four frames of references (trains right mindfulness) and knows the teachings of the Buddha would either stop things like chess, sports, shooting, games... right at the moment he might gain awarness or not even have the idea to such entertainments, not even the slightest desire for such if ever having gained right mindfulnesss.

So one can be sure that ALL who are engaging in sports (with a opposite), games, playing, chess, shooting are far away from the Dhamma, from the path and also can not be considered as being real faith followers.

It's not possible to train right mindfulness while engaged in such, but again, a person who remembers the Dhamma while engaged, the first time, might be able to change in direction path, leaves such and turns toward mindfulness as path factor.

As a person who has faith and desires a training toward path and fruit before death would abstain from part-taking on such entertainments, even to watch such. (one might be reminded on the Uposatha Silas)

One can compare a playing person with a young dog: it's simply learning and increasing skills and intentions to harm and win, and how "funny" and pleasing entertaining it seems, it's the nourishment of staying a killer:

As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion/aversion will break through an unreflecting mind. (a mind that does not remember the basic "no goes")

And no, right mindfulness does not require to sit silent but can/should be done in every of the four positions, but having skillful object/hobby as aramana (room,space) for the mind, i.e. a proper nimitta, task (not harming, not after sense pleasure, conductive for liberation).

And yet one can use the skills of a "Noble warrior" likewise for the singe path skills, as the gain, upholding and betting of warrior skills is not much different for the use on the path. The opponent is now Mara, ones defilements and the aim to win the highest battle. One who battles and plays around in the world is nothing but a loser for sure.

So mind:

A man may conquer a million men in battle, but one who conquers himself is, indeed, the greatest of conquerors. The Story of Theri Kundalakesi

to help you to restrain from "animal-entertainments". Or the story of the gamblers

(Note that this is not given to play around, battle meaningless in debates, trade, exchange, stacks, but as a liberating exit out of this wheel)

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