Life is a reason to get better

Not I would be surprised if people who know me from press publications only see me as an eternally unruffled, work-weary workaholic. But I'm ready to reveal a small secret to the Russian Pioneer readers: I'm terribly lazy. My cherished dream is to sleep once 10-12 hours in a row. And there are no words to describe the great temptation to fine-tune the brains of an intractable opponent with an accurate uppercut!

Strictly speaking, when asking a Buddhist what a temptation is, you should be ready for a long and very interesting lecture. And it's not that this is a very complex issue, on the contrary, it's very simple. But the fact of the matter is that it's quite difficult to explain a simple one at times.

Perhaps the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard was the first among Europeans to understand the Buddhist meaning of temptation: "Everything is a temptation, and there is nothing but temptation." Something like that. The ultimate goal of any Buddhist is the attainment of Nirvana. To do this, we must realize that the whole world is an illusion and get rid of dukkha. This word is usually translated as "suffering", but it would be more correct to consider it as the whole complex of negative emotions. There is fear and envy and a sense of inferiority. Yes, there are many. Dukkha is generated by Trishna, which is a craving for anything: material values, sensual pleasures, fame, prestige, etc.

So, it turns out that whether you look at a beautiful girl or going to buy a shawarma or plan a career, all these are temptations that distract you from achieving Nirvana. Therefore, Buddhist (and, incidentally, Christian) monks try to retire from the world and its temptations.

Very simple. But not very sensible. Not everyone is ready for renunciation of worldly life, and even the Buddha himself taught that a person should adhere to the middle path, equally avoiding excesses and austerities. Try to solve this puzzle: how to avoid temptations and achieve Nirvana.

Buddhism teaches that it takes 108 lives to attain Nirvana. They are given to a person so that he can earn the right Karma. In the current life, every step, every act of yours is important. The right, good deeds lie on one scale, the evil ones lie on the other. Let's say that in this life you are given the ability to attract money but you use it only for yourself, treating your equals and subordinates like dirt: welcome to the next life, like Vysotsky sang, as a baobab.

Therefore, we should evaluate each our step from Karma point of view: even though you have one hundred eight lives, you cannot change any of them. It is impossible to go back or rethink the move. While some Power high above watches.

On the other hand, not everything is so sad. Life itself gives us clues about how to deal with this or that case, how to treat what has been sent down to us. I will give an example from personal experience.

I've been playing chess since I was five years old, and it happened so that I almost always turned out to be relatively stronger player among my peers and older people. I won street, regional and city tournaments but I didn’t care much about it. But when I became the champion of the republic as a ninth grader, something triggered inside me. It's a shame to say, but I thought that, as they say, "I grabbed God by the beard." On the night after the victory, I could not get to sleep for a long time: I dreamt of all-Union and even international championships, which I invariably won. Well, dreaming further, I saw carpet paths, inevitable fanfares and laurels.

In the morning, I went to school and, just before I entered the classroom, someone shouted: "Cheer the champion! Hurray!!!" No sooner had I come to my senses than they picked me up and started throwing me to the ceiling. Here it is, glory! But then the teacher entered the classroom and my fans ran to the desks. It happened like in the saying: I was thrown up three times and caught twice. I crashed to the floor, barely having time to think that the end to my glory and my life has come.

Thank God everything worked out, but I dare to hope that this episode always cured me of star complex.

Of course, at that time I had rather vague impression about Buddhism. And I didn’t think much about what was happening to me. Only much later I learned how to approach life consciously, separating the useless from the useful.

The very word "temptation" has a negative connotation in Russian. However, as soon as everything is tempting, so what now? Shall we creep into a cave and sit there, fearing and trying to block any thoughts? Such life is more suitable for an amoeba than for a man. Therefore, perhaps, it is better to perceive everything as a challenge: one time you can really test yourself and benefit people; another time your weakness is obvious and it's better to pass by.

When, in the autumn of 1995, in Paris at the General Assembly of FIDE its President Florencio Campomanes and our grandmaster, ex-world champion Anatoly Karpov quite unexpectedly suggested that I lead the Federation, it was a huge temptation! First of all, it was tempting to immediately refuse such a flattering offer.

Basically, I still headed Kalmykia at the time; there were enough worries. The Federation, at the time, was not in the best condition – both financially and which is sadder – organizationally. That is, its president, whoever he was, first of all, had a huge job of putting things in order. Well, in the end, even though I'm a master of sports in chess, but would I be able to compete with grandmasters and champions?

Still, the arguments of chess players, who supported this idea, and its approval by President Yeltsin convinced me to join the fight for the post of FIDE President. Well, there is a Russian proverb: "Once you've put your hand to the plough, don't look back". There is still a lot of work, so I probably will not be able to get enough sleep soon.

Now they reproach me saying that I am holding on to FIDE President’s chair at any cost. I assure you, this is completely untrue. Not everything that was conceived has been realized. Chess has not yet been included into the Olympic Games programme; there are still less than one billion chess players. But, if there is a candidate who will be able to offer a more interesting and effective programme, I will leave this post to him without regrets.

Everything in our world is rather slow. It took more than a decade and a half just to reunify chess players (and back in 1995, apart from FIDE there was the Kasparov Professional Chess Association). It's doubly annoying when the work is hampered because of your subordinates – due to their laziness, incompetence or misunderstanding. It is so easy to lose one’s nerve: yell at them, fine or just fire. But what's next? In the end, it’s you who has built your team.

And if we talk about family life, then it’s you who made a proposal to that girl and nobody dragged you to the registry office, isn’t it so? What will you achieve by creating a scandal? What, would she immediately see your point and begin to act the way you expect? And if you yourself are wrong and there are objective reasons that prevent you from doing what you have planned? Isn’t it more reasonable to sit down together and talk it out?

Do not give in to the first impulse, do not let you emotions lead you – that's the rule that allows you to see a temptation or challenge confronting you. First think then act. My constant readers are familiar with this phrase.

Yes, it's about chess. We, the beginning chess players, were even taught: sit on your hands and don’t move until you have thought through all the possible moves and are sure that the one chosen by you is the best. Once you made a move, put your hands back where they were. I am sure that if everyone was guided by this rule in everyday life, our life would be much easier, funnier and more interesting.

Do not be afraid of temptations. Do not avoid them: this is useless according to Baudrillard. But it is worth learning how to perceive them as a challenge and as a chance. And play chess to be able to distinguish useful challenges from fruitless indulgence in your passions!