A Buddhist-like Game

A funny thing happened on my way to healing:  OJ introduced me to a game called Bananagrams. It’s a board game without the board, and really doesn’t have much to do with bananas at all (unless you count the quirky soft-banana shaped packaging!). Forget Boggle, Monopoly and XBOX: In this house, Bananagrams rules.

The game has become a permanent addition to the kitchen and dining-room décor, as it’s evolved into an unofficial but integral part of my daily routine. I’m at it while eating breakfast, taking a break from writing, or waiting for the wash-cycle to end. It’s all-consuming once you start, inducing others who walk by to join in or shift things around a little. In this house, the B-game philosophy is: you schmooze, you lose. In other words, when leaving a solitaire game of Bananagrams unfinished, you implicitly expose yourself to another aficionado’s itchy fingers.

How to explain the wonder-game that is Bananagrams? It’s best defined as Scrabble with a twist. How so? There are 144 loose tiles with a letter etched onto each one, except that none of the tiles have corresponding numbers. As in Scrabble, the point is to spell out a word that will overlap with others. But the score-keeping competitiveness of Scrabble is absent, fostering a greater sense of fun, collaboration – and ingenuity.

Here’s why: Players are free to mix it all up, taking a letter from here, removing a letter there, and completely restructuring or deleting a word that an opponent has just laid down. That is, you always have the option to deconstruct previous words, using letters from those words to create new ones. As such, the game remains fluid and ever-changing. Even if you think that the word you’ve just added, say inextricable, is a real winner, be prepared, nay forewarned: your opponent(s) just might extricate one or more letters to create a new word, leaving behind a simple one such as able.

Call it a board game for Buddhists (or Buddhists-in-training). The very point of Bananagrams is to undo, redo and undo again. You are encouraged to continuously create, remake, strategize, lengthen and shorten. The game purposefully discourages attachment to words once laid down, as if to remind us that change is good and necessary for growth.

The spiritual wisdom in the Buddhist’s non-attachment to material things subtly weaves itself through the playing of this game. Don’t become too enamored of, or disappointed in, the words you’ve added, because they too will likely disappear, reminding you that all is ephemeral and all is in flux – even your words.

Let it go. Breathe. And start again.


  1. Im a huge bananagrams fan and I’m pretty sure opponents can’t use, rearrange, or take any of your tiles. I think you may be confused with the directions?

    1. Hi SJ,

      You might be absolutely right, but I guess we decided to ‘one-up’ the advanced options by slightly modifying the ‘rules’ for a group-game.
      So we pilfer, borrow and rearrange each others’ tiles and words like there’s no tomorrow 🙂


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