List of games that Buddha would not play

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The Buddha games list is a list of games which it is reputed that Gautama Buddha said that he would not play. As such it dates back to the 6th or 5th century BC and is the earliest known list of games. [clarification needed]

There is some debate about the translation of some of the games mentioned,[clarification needed] and the list given here is based on the translation by T.W. Rhys Davids of the Brahmajāla Sutta and is in the same order given in the original.[1] The list is also given in a number of other Buddhist works, including the Vinaya Pitaka.

  1. Games on boards with 8 or 10 rows. (Thought to refer to Ashtapada and Dasapada respectively.)
  2. The same games played on imaginary boards. (Akasam Astapadam was an Ashtapada variant played with no board, literally "Astapadam played in the sky".)
  3. Marking diagrams on the floor such that the player can only walk on certain places. (This is described in the Vinaya Pitaka as "having drawn a circle with various lines on the ground, there they play avoiding the line to be avoided". Rhys Davids suggests that it may refer to Parihâra-patham, a form of hop-scotch.)
  4. Either remove pieces from a pile, or adding pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to "shake" (similar to the modern game pick-up sticks).
  5. Throwing dice.
  6. "Dipping the hand with the fingers stretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour-water, and striking the wet hand on the ground or on a wall, calling out 'What shall it be?' and showing the form required--elephants, horses, &c."
  7. Ball games.
  8. Blowing through a pat-kulal, a toy pipe made of leaves.
  9. Ploughing with a toy plough.
  10. Playing with toy windmills made from palm leaves.
  11. Playing with toy measures made from palm leaves.
  12. Playing with toy carts.
  13. Playing with toy bows.
  14. Guessing at letters traced with the finger in the air or on a friend's back.
  15. Guessing a friend's thoughts.
  16. Imitating deformities.

Although the modern game of chess had not been invented at the time the list was made, earlier chess-like games such as Chaturaji may have existed. H.J.R. Murray refers to Rhys Davids' 1899 translation, noting that the 8×8 board game is most likely Ashtapada while the 10×10 game is Dasapada. He states that both are race games.[2]


  1. ^ Davids, T. W. Rhys (1899–1921). Dialogues of the Buddha. Pali Text Society. 
  2. ^ Murray, H J R. History of Board Games Other Than Chess. p. 35. [full citation needed]