“is literally play. But if we use the word “love” in English to mean many things (love of a mother/child, love of ice cream, love of country, making love, brotherly love, selfless love,…),leela can have similarly nuanced and scoped meanings in Sanskrit.
“Most simply, leela means childs’ play — kids playing with each other, alone, with toys, knocking a ball with a stick, whatever.
“Leela can also mean a story or myth cycle. Not only a specific set of stories, but the idea of stories, the fabric of stories-as-they-exist. That stories can exist. Teaching stories. “Ah, that is leela.” one might say of a particularly apt metaphor. It teaches you something, it transmits meaning.
“Leela also refers to the connection between the world of the mundane and the world of the divine, by prayer, ritual and correspondences. In Hinduism, Ganesh is the diety of this, rather corresponding to Hermes (but differently to my mind, unless we’ve lost a mystery associated with Hermeticism).
“And leela refers to the playing out both of history, the aeons of time, and of the vastness of the non-history of the eternal being of the atman, the godsoul, where time is not, but which is the origin of all story which plays out into time as we perceive it.
“If you chase it down, it ends up playing out (you should excuse the term) a great deal like string theory, with parallel worlds and possibilities all over the place.”
See also, of course, the Wikipedist, and, perhaps, this: