Moksha Patam, Parampadham, Snakes and Ladders Boardgame

Moksha Patam is Game of the Rishis. It Helps You Integrate the Knowledge of Yoga, Upanishads & Bhagavad Gita. To Play It Requires Patience. But It Teaches Years of Practical Wisdom in a Single Game. ” 

Other common names of the game: Snakes and Ladders, Paramapadham, Gyan Chauper, Parama Padam, Vaikuntapali. More on Wikipedia.

Actually you, the player, have been playing this game since the beginning.

Only this time we get to see how each decision leads to our loss or gain in context of becoming wise.

Being given capacity to make choices, the game shows us our experience and perception of the world is a consequence of our thoughts and decisions we're entertaining on a daily bases.

But what determines the quality, texture and flavor of our thoughts and decisions? Knowledge.

An informed decision is only as good as what you know or don't know right now.

Purpose of this game is to inform the player. To help him or her understand oneself deeply. To answer why some fall and some rise. Why some remove ignorance and others reinforce it.

You might consider playing the game just once. Noticing how quickly it can teach insights into realities.

Instructions are in top-right of board, including how to finish.

To begin:

  • Place object in 68
  • Roll dice
  • When get 6 on dice, move your object to block 1 & discuss it > Then go to block 6 & discuss it.
  • Next player rolls (only start when get 6 on dice).

While playing:

  • If stop on snake, go down. Discuss why it's caused a regression.
  • If stop on ladder, go up. Discuss why it's caused a progression.
  • If reach 72, continue counting from 51.

Original intention of game was to educate how to discern right from wrong. Truth from falsehood. And what is “right” and “wrong” in the first place.

Game was meant to show that all pain, suffering and devolution in life is due to mixing up right-wrong, truth-falsehood.

The process is entirely in our hands because we're given a powerful instrument of discernment (viveka).

As dharmic discernment is refined, it's what cultivates wisdom.

And a wise person is qualified to assimilate and hold the higher Upanishadic teachings of self-knowledge (brahmavidya).

Summary: Dharma > Moksha. That's the intent of the game.

One of oldest name given is moksha patam.

“Patam” means going, falling, flying. Meaning player can go either up or down — depending on one's actions in the game.

This is a board game made by the rishis from India. It is based on timeless wisdom of the Vedas.

Thousands of years of collective, everygreen knowledge on a single board.

It's exact date is unknown. Neither is the author.

Author is considered a pen instrument in hands of the Lord. That's why most Upanishads are author-less.

Each square represents player's understanding of scheme of things.

For example in block 6 – general understanding is:

“Best use of MY existence is to accumulate for MYSELF. More for MY family, less for others”.

Strong notion of “my” and “mine” is universal ignorance in all ages.

Noone is born free of it.

Right from childhood, “My body, My pain, My toys, My epiphany, My thoughts”.

Then in adulthood, it gets more sophisticated, “My enlightenment! My samādhi. My knowledge. My ignorance”.

Words have changed. Ignorance remains.

Through course of time, this unquestioned notion gets stirred up.

For example in block 19 – attitude evolves to:

“Noblest use of living is to contribute this person's unique skills to the society. This way everyone benefits, including myself”.

Mindset of 19 has exponentially higher rewards over 6.

Although player in 6 won't immediately recognize how honesty for less is better then cheating for more. Especially when there's little risk of being caught.

This is because mind hasn't expanded at level of 19. Stuck in competition mode.

And remember – everyone at 19 was once at 6.

Therefore if 19 dismisses a 6 as clueless – it's because 19 hasn't yet matured to 22. Etc…

So no matter how high the player gets, one is NOT immune to making additional mistakes which cause a fall — symbolized by snakes on the board.

We're students until last breath.

This is meaning of humility, which ultimately blesses the player with a guru who removes the beginningless ignorance of nature of “I” — leading to mokṣa (freedom/liberation).

A solo self-inquirer.

Two partners.

Or whole family. Although more then 3 players will come at cost of shorter discussions — else risk  player(s) getting bored.

Keep it short and to the point for the youth.

How does this version compare to others?

Our version (Game of Self-Inquiry) is based on one of earliest Indian Snakes and Ladders 8×9 board game from 1700’s AD, by 13th century poet saint Gyandev. Other versions.

1) Keep it objective

Original intention of game was to educate how to discern right from wrong. Truth from falsehood. And what is “right” and “wrong” in the first place.

Through time this intention become blurred with over-simplified descriptions. This comes at expense of losing essence of Vedānta śāstra.

Our mission was to restore meaning of each Sanskrit word, objectively.

Meaning without contamination of personal biases — strictly in line with Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita teachings.

2) Don't mix schools

Descriptions in some versions are mixing different schools.

Which means the author isn't versed in any particular school. But only holds general knowledge of each.

Advaita, Dvaita, Christianity, Saṁkhya, Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga.

A soup of everything. This actually creates conflict within the game.

For example one version describes 68 as “Turiya”.

Where it goes wrong is the author then states, “Turiya is an altered state of consciousness”. 

Nowhere in Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad does it speak of “altered state”.

Moment the mind reads “altered state”, it'll immediately imagines some kind of state that is better then it's present one.

Just one misused word, and it takes the mind on a tangent for a lifetime.

Such irresponsibility of the author can be avoided if the subject matter is thoroughly known.

Sanskrit word “turīyam तुरीयम्” is well defined as are all words on the board.

Final result is in line with what Advaita Vedānta is about, helping you develop successful relative life, while never losing sight of the big picture.

3) Avoid one-liners

Some versions use one-liner descriptions like: Delusion, Attachment, etc…

If these words aren't defined per scriptures, then player's mind will interpret them according to personal likes and dislikes. In which case no teaching takes place. Player ends up reinforcing one's distorted notions.

To solve, we summarized the crux of each word into a down-to-earth and relatable explanation that holds true in line with eternal Vedās.

4) Show case-effect relationship

None of the available versions logically demonstrate how each block is related to other blocks.

If relationship is absent, player may or may not connect the dots themselves. Most won't.

Hence it's crucial to demonstrate the case-effect relationship between each block. That's what we've done.

5) Present it all

Descriptions are inside a book.

But how many actually stop during a game, and say, “Wait folks! Let me turn to pg 124, and read a one full page description. Hopefully you can listen to me for next 3 minutes!”.

This scenario is unrealistic, especially with children around.

That’s why we placed the crux of each description inside the square… available right then and there.

Suggestions, feedback? Leave in the comments section below, or email: yesvedanta@gmail.com

16 Comments

  1. Hari Om 🙂 i have tried to download the game but the “download” button function is not responding at all – it looks like a awesome one though:) THANKS

  2. THANK you Andre:)
    Just to let others know : the link works for me only without the initial ” http:// ” (otherwise the direct download link keeps not responding).

  3. How to start the game and continue to play?
    there are 5 boards
    which board for what
    playing instructions for each board
    and how to come to a conclusion

  4. I’ve just downloaded the file. I’m confused because I imagined there to be 100 squares as this is the measure of liberation so I read. Also the instructions on the print out refers to 68 and there’s only 64 squares. As I missing other pieces, is there more to download. Also when I set it to print on my PC a attached to my printed the print viewing screen only shows 85% of the full image. I’ve downloaded the file to my I pad to see / read the squares. Curious about the names / title of each square in English. Lots of questions. I’m excited to get started but these are the issues stoping me. Thanks you for this works it’s beautiful. Hoping someone can answer my question and points. Gratitude

  5. I have recently become fascinated since reading more about the origins of “snakes and ladders” game concept. Now I’m curious to learn the literal translation from Hindi (?) to English of ‘moksha patam’.

    I understand that ‘moksha’ means something like “liberation from rebirth” but I can’t find the direct and/or deeper meaning of ‘patam’. It doesn’t help when some websites state that mokshapatam means Snakes and Ladders!

    Please – can someone just explain that word?

    I already understand the English interpretation relates to the visual metaphors depicted in Gyan chauper — the ladder, symbolising a climb or ascension to the higher plane, with the snake hugely over-simplified by the British. In a Christian context it symbolises “deceit” and is associated with a “fall from grace” as depicted in the Adam-Eve story. In other cultures though ‘snake’ symbolism is quite enigmatic — concepts of transformation, regeneration, fertility, rebirth…
    (I’m neither christian nor hindi… not religious, just curious and would love to play Gyan Chauper or make my own version too).

    1. mokṣa (मोक्ष) : Highest goal of human life.
      patam (पतम् ) (mas) : (1) Falling (2) flying.

      Thus “Falling from the highest goal of human life”. That’s why whole game is about showing the individual the consequences of remaining fallen (ignorant) in the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra).

      However patam also means “flying”. Thus: Flying (going) to the highest goal of human life.

      Hence “mokṣa patam” is an ideal name because journey isn’t only about falling (going down), but also flying to (going up).

      1. Andre, thank you. I like that it also means “flying” — it inspires some interesting visuals for me. Sorry it took so long to acknowledge – a few “ladders” got in the way (work and new puppy). Not exactly “falling” but life is full of such “sidetracks”. Hmm…. I wonder if diversions and distractions ever feature in the concept.

  6. Hi! I came across this when studying the history of Snakes and Ladders. I am interested in seeing which original source of this version that has been well translated. Would you mind putting an image of the original version up as well?

    1. Oh I found the original picture of the 1700 AD 72 square version. I was a bit confused because the linked article for the history only mentioned 100 squares. Upon closer inspection, the photo of the 1700 AD one only has 72 squares, not 100.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.