“Gambling of all description, even speculative business enterprise, is considered to be degrading, and when gambling is encouraged in the state, there is a complete disappearance of truthfulness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.17.38 Purport)
“Dad, are you going to the casino?” Kay asked his father Hari.
“No, Son. Remember, I’m here on business.”
“But Dad, I notice that you never go to these casinos. Is there a reason?”
Hari then explained to his young son that he stayed away from gambling. No slots, no card games, no roulette, no lottery, not even participating in a fantasy football league with his friends. He avoided gambling as a principle.
“How come? Is it bad for you, Dad?” Kay was not satisfied. He knew so many other parents who gambled frequently. His family was here in Atlantic City for the week, as his father had a business conference and thought it would be fun to bring the wife and kids along. He would be at meetings all day, leaving them free to go outside to walk on the beach, check out the sites, and just have a good time. “Let me tell you a story from my college years,” said Hari, as he decided it was easier to get the message across to his son using a tale from his own life.
In this particular year of college, Hari lived on a floor in the dormitory separate from where all his friends were. This was the best of both worlds for him. He had somewhere to go every day for leisure, and he also had his own area, his refuge for studying and resting. On one particular day, as he first entered the hallway where most of his friends lived, he could hear them speaking very loudly from all the way down the hall. He knew something was going on, and as he drew nearer, he soon figured out what it was.
“Oh man, nice shot,” said Matthew.
“Thanks. I got this guy, don’t worry about it,” replied Monty.
“Oh! Did you see that?” asked Jose.
“That was crazy. We’re about to win,” said Chad.
Each person was in their own room, but the rooms were adjacent to one another. They were playing an online fighting game. Hari had grown accustomed to walking into this scene, as this game was the latest craze within the dorms. “Are you guys playing that stupid game again?” Hari asked. “You only think it’s stupid because you’ve never played it,” said Matthew defensively. After trading a few similar barbs, their attention turned back to the game. Hari stayed for a while but then returned to his room.
A few days later, when visiting at around the same time Hari noticed that everyone’s door was closed. “This is odd,” he thought. “For sure I expected them to be playing that game again.” He knocked on Monty’s door, and Monty told him to enter. Hari saw that Monty was playing the same videogame, but was perplexed as to why all the doors were closed. Monty cleared up the confusion.
“Oh, we got into a huge fight.”
“What do you mean? What happened?” asked Hari.
“Well, everything was going fine. It was the four of us fighting against all these other guys online. We did so well that eventually it was just the four of us left. Then we had to turn on each other. Matt shot me first. I was so mad. It was like he stabbed me in the back. And then Jose shot Matt, and Matt then closed his door.”
“Wait a second,” interrupted Hari. “You guys are mad at each other over this stupid game?”
“It’s not stupid!” said Monty defensively.
“I don’t know, man. Seems kind of silly to me that you guys were all happy before and now you’re not even talking to each other.”
A few days later Hari made his daily visit, and this time he saw that all was back to normal. The doors were open and the friends seemed to be getting along.
“What happened?” asked Hari. “You guys are friends again?”
“Yeah,” explained Matt. “We have this new strategy. Each of us goes in and makes friends with a random stranger online. We get them over to our side. We play for a little while this way and then we turn on the guys. It’s so much fun. They think we are their friends, but we’re actually just suckering them in. They get so mad when they see us firing on them. It’s great.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Hari.
“No, man, this is so much fun. You should see these guys cursing at us after we turn on them,” explained Monty, who was grinning ear to ear.
During that trip to Atlantic City many years later, Hari explained to his son that the dark side of gambling was that it took away one’s honesty.
“Just see how they were playing that game, Kay. They were having fun but then got mad at each other when there was competition between them. And then the only way they solved the problem was to team up against other innocent people, lying to them. So gambling of such sorts, even something innocent like a videogame, can take away your truthfulness. When you put money on the line, like at the casino, things get even worse. You have even more reason to cheat. At least that is what you tell yourself.”
Hari then explained the reason honesty was necessary to be successful in life.
“If you are honest, you can better understand God, who is the Supreme Truth. If you are constantly dishonest in your dealings, cheating others, then your mind will have a difficult time understanding God. Your mind will be caught between friendship and hate, winning and losing, and so you won’t think of anything else. You’re a little too young to understand all of this, I know, but some day you will realize that what I am saying is correct.”
“I think I understand, Dad. So you stay away from the casinos to remain honest?”
“That and more, of course. By avoiding gambling, I am better able to attempt to serve the servant of the Supreme Lord. It helps me in my chanting of the holy names, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.’ Again, you might not see the wisdom in my words right now, but you should always be careful to keep away from dishonesty, as that will hurt your chances for true success in life.”
To achieve self-realization’s gain,
Careful that in honesty always remain.
If truthfulness quickly to go,
Then also vision of God so.
As ignorance so easy to persist,
For clearing consciousness principles exist.
Chant holy names staying honest and true,
And soon vision of Shyamasundara to come to you.