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Sudoku, Spirituality

We can learn about spirituality and personal development from Sudoku.

Sudoku is an increasingly popular puzzle The rules are simple: fill a 9x9 grid so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3x3 boxes that also make up the grid contains the digits from 1 to 9.

One of the fascinating things about a Sudoku grid is that if you start off with a 9x9 grid with no numbers at all in it and try to complete it to conform to the Sudoku rules it can only be done if a simple pattern is followed. The results in a rather trivial, uninteresting answer. Trying to create an interesting result by placing a few numbers into the grid and then following the Sudoku rules in fact is not possible. Try it. Try making your own Sudoku puzzle, putting in a few numbers here and there for a start and trying to solve it once you’ve put in those few numbers. I do not think you can do it.

You need the starting numbers to be in the right place. You need the foundations to be correct. You need the pillars to be there to hold up the rest of what is being constructed.

And it’s no different in spirituality. The danger, in my opinion, with a lot of contemporary deli-spirituality, where one picks and mixes from the smorgasbord of all that is available, is that what one constructs may not lead to a fulfilling life, to a life that flourishes. It is not as if everyone needs to have exactly the same numbers in the same place at the start, as it were. But that there be starting points, and that these starting points follow certain required patterns, appears to be no different in life, in the spiritual life, than in Sudoku.

The age-old spiritual pillars, set up in a particular relationship to one another are there because they have proven to allow one to complete the puzzle of life. They may need to be retranslated into our new context – but they are essentially valid. Disciplines such as community, solitude, silence, simplicity, detachment, and so on – these, set in their appropriate balance, have for generations, millennia, led to flourishing lives, and if one abandons them, replacing them with others in quite a different pattern do not be surprised that the puzzle ultimately is unsolvable.

Sudoku is a lesson in spirituality, a parable for life.

Bosco Peters is an Anglican priest with a deep interest in spirituality. He runs a website on liturgy worship spirituality.