I run a meetup group called “Healing Grace” for alternative and complimentary practitioners and I was asked why I had posted, as a recurring event, the Saturday GO academy I help run. “What does this have to do with healing?” I believe was the question. And at first it does seem strange, people are so used to thinking of GO as a martial strategy game that what gets lost is the origination of the game and its interplay with the healing and meditative arts.
Here is the post I wrote, much of the information is adapted from the introduction to Peter Shotwell’s book, “GO! More than a Game.”
“What does GO have to do with a healing group?
GO is surmised to have come into being during c.2000-1400 BC in China, it was seen as a living example of the earth-oriented feng shui and acupuncture theories that developed in that period. The play of stones was seen as collecting and blocking the forces of ch’I energy as they coursed over the earth shaped, square board.
As GO developed through history it also assumed the interpretation as an example of nature – the board a reflection of the heavens, with the stones as the sun, the moon and the stars, while the play of the game represented the rhythmic changes of the seasons. GO was later seen as a means of examining and manipulating the balances and imbalances of the ever changing Tao, and the primal Yin-Yang energies.
By 600-1200 AD, playing GO was seen as a virtue and a reflection of the greater powers of the universe. It became more than simply a lesson in the Way of the Tao, the game for Confucians became an expression of the One and for the Buddhists, a method to lift the ”Twenty-seven Veils of Ignorance” that prevented mankind from learning the Truth – on the board and in life.
For the Japanese, GO is a form of art and contemplation. One Japanese Noh poet wrote the following about the game:
When playing GO, resentments clear away
Thoughts become like the moon arising at night
There, on the beach of endless
Births and deaths
The GO stones become uncountable grains of sand
Even though the players struggle, their hearts
In placing their stones down, their hands reveal benevolence
And as the pieces strike the board
The mantra Aum reverberates
Before their eyes rise boundaries of life
And the pattern of Nirvana itself
The white and black stones become the colors of
Day and night
The star-points become the nine lights of heaven
The three hundred and sixty intersections
Render the numbers of the days of the year”