New Thought Editorials > Spirituality and Sudoku


Winter 2008

Spirituality and Sudoku

Spirituality and Sudoku, a pointless pastime? Get real!

Sudoku, an addictive little form of insanity imported from Japan a few years ago, might seem at first blush to be diametrically opposed to our efforts to rise in consciousness, to become more spiritual. But our first spiritual lesson occurs right there: "Judge not according to the appearances" (John 7:24). Now, I am not recommending that you acquire this addiction if you haven’t already contracted it, but morally upright purist types might take a second look at those of us who have allowed ourselves to become ensnared in it.

Su doku, an abbreviation for a Japanese expression meaning "single number", usually refers to a puzzle consisting of a 9-by-9 grid of squares divided into nine 3-by-3 square blocks. Some of the squares are already filled in, to give one a head start, but I have seen puzzles containing only a single given numeral. (Aaargh! No, thanks.) This illustrates the basic underlying principle of Sudoku: there is only one correct solution for each square, each row or column, and each entire puzzle. The object of the game is to fill in one of each numeral from 1-9 in each square, each row, and each column, without ever duplicating or omitting a numeral from each array. This is the ultimate in orderly universes: no messy approximations or subjective definitions, as in crossword puzzles. After one has become expert at easy puzzles with many numerals given to start with, one can begin racing the clock or move on to more difficult puzzles with fewer numerals or with crazy, non-square borders that look like Congressional redistricting lines (such puzzles are sometimes referred to as Loco Sudoku). Please note that this has nothing whatsoever to do with mathematics or even arithmetic: it could be done with nine colors, or nine different symbols such as triangles, circles, and asterisks, but it’s much easier to use the familiar nine numerals.

Then where’s the spirituality in Sudoku? For starters, it’s a micro-mini illustration of divine order. You can shut the rest of your disorderly world out and concentrate on this 81-square universe in which there is only one set of right answers—no guessing or pondering, just calm, quiet logic, gently testing your powers of observation. If you have become hooked on Sudoku, you have prima facie evidence of your powers of focus and concentration, despite what you may have thought about your seemingly disorderly mind.

Next, Sudoku teaches flexibility and open-mindedness, for there are three dimensions to it: horizontal, vertical, and the nine blocks. Each must be harmonized, taken into account; and when you are stuck in one direction, enlightenment may come easily by shifting your point of view. From one perspective, things seem hopeless; then, when you remember to check a different perspective, the way opens up. It does no good to hate the numeral that is entirely missing from a particular puzzle, or, for that matter, to hate your own stupidity for not being able to see the solution immediately. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15), just knowing that there is an answer and that it will eventually reveal itself to you, if you persevere with patience.

After that, you may notice that the more squares you fill in, the easier it becomes to fill in the rest. As in all new ventures, each new puzzle has that what-have-I gotten-myself-into-I’ll-never-figure-this-out stage; then suddenly, the balance tips, and things begin to come together rapidly. The puzzle-maker cannot know in advance what insights will come to you in what order, so this is truly an act of co-creation.

Finally, for a true Sudoku addict, much time is consumed in perfecting your art, in practicing your skills, and in the goal gradient that pulls us all toward completion of a task we have begun. If we subsequently decide that we would like to have time to put into some other spiritual pursuit, such as Bible study, meditation, or exercise, we have only to quit the Sudoku cold turkey and lo! There is the time we require. God moves in mysterious ways.