Gambling problems and addiction has existed almost since the dawn of time. The oldest surviving text book still used today is the Rigveda of Hinduism which was composed between 1700–1100 BC. In this book one of the four hymns about personal character tells about a gamblers inability to stop, as he allows gambling to consume him , and continues to do so despite seeing the ruin gambling addiction is bringing on his household. This is the oldest writing of its kind, dating back more than 3200 years.
Below is the English translated version as it appeared in “A History of Sanskrit Literature”, Oxford 1899.
The Lament of the Gambler
Downward they fall, then nimbly leaping upward,
They overpower the man with hands, though handless.
Cast on the board like magic bits of charcoal,
Though cold themselves, they burn the heart to ashes.
It pains the gambler when he sees a woman,
Another’s wife, and their well-ordered household:
He yokes these brown steeds early in the morning,
And, when the fire is low, sinks down an outcast.
“Play not with dice, but cultivate thy cornfield;
Rejoice in thy goods, deeming them abundant:
There are thy cows, there is thy wife, O gambler.”
This counsel Savitṛi the kindly gives me.
Despite the early warning in ancient text, problem gambling remained during the Mahabharata times. Indians are well versed in the story of the dice game where Duryodhana exploited Yudhishtira’s inability to decline a challenge.
He invited him to a game of dice and had his uncle Sakuni, who was an expert dice-man, roll on his behalf. Over the course of an afternoon the otherwise righteous Yudhishtira managed to stop caring about wealth, freedom, family or anyone else, all he cared about was the game of dice. He went as a far to lose his entire kingdom, and eventually lost his brothers, himself and finally his wife all over a game of dice.
Thankfully the kind and just Great King Dhritarashtra would cancel his debts. However gambling would do him in once more. In a final game he was forced into exile at the hands of dice. Whilst the story of Yudhishtira told in the Mahabharata has a happy ending, for many gamblers addiction does not. In the Rigveda habitual gamblers are compared to pillars, as in pieces of the wall. They are often reduced to nothing, have no purpose and are consumed with the challenge and rush gambling provides.
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If you have a more serious problem, get help at gamcare.org.uk or with similar international organizations. Once again, we beg you, please, please, please, bet responsibly. Life is a wonderful thing; do not waste it on a game of dice.