“A Yogi has the senses under control and is able to withdraw or externalize them at will just as a tortoise is able to extend or withdraw its limbs.” ~Bhagavad Gita (2/58)
Are you a Yogi, Bhogi or Rogi - but definitely not a Drohi?
These may sound like a nursery rhyme or something out of a Dr. Seuss book, however, they are words every aspiring Yogi should be familiar with. Language is the gateway to understanding the teachings of any culture or philosophy. To assimilate the teachings of Yoga, some grasp of key Sanskrit words is essential otherwise many concepts can get lost in translation, or are only superficially assimilated.
Take the much misunderstood word Yogi, which has over the last few years had a meteoric assimilation in the English lexicon. I even heard it thrown around on Fox News recently. I would like to popularize three new words in the English language Rogi, Bhogi and Drohi.
Most children in India have heard some version of this proverb from their elders:
One who eats once a day is a Yogi (divine man). One who eats twice is a Bhogi (pleasure seeker). One who eats three times is a Rogi (plagued by ill-health). One who eats four times is a Drohi (destructive - menace to society).
On the simplest level this ancient proverb suggests different levels of appetites and points us in the direction of consuming less food and simplifying our diet, which goes a long way in creating purity of mind and body. However, over consumption of food is not the only thing we need to curtail to deepen our connection with the divine and become a Yogi. In our health and body oriented culture we often overlook that while consuming healthy food is important even more important is the quality of our inner consumption.
We all have large appetites fueled by an innate hunger to gratify our senses and validate our unique identity. Just as our taste buds can make us indulge in food, our eyes can feast on appealing visions, our ears become obsessed by certain types of sounds, and our touch craves unique sensations. Our muscles can gorge on exercise and even our minds can overindulge in captivating ideas, thoughts and words. Furthermore, we often devour unhealthy emotions such as resentment, revenge, jealousy, guilt and fear. We regularly overwhelm ourselves with other people's harsh words and attitudes. Finally, all of us are guilty of guzzling down social media and the endless stimulation and distractions of the modern world.
While, our body and mind thrive on a balanced approach to fulfilling our innate yearnings, they are destroyed when we overindulge them, regardless of the object or cause of our enchantment (yes, even yoga and meditation can become addictions). Excess of any type and lack of time to withdraw our senses inwards, such as deep rest, sleep and meditation, produces inordinate amount of stress on the body and mind. Scientific research also shows the result of stress and overconsumption on our hippocampus, which is smaller in the depressed people because stress can suppress the production of new nerve cells needed for its regeneration.
Ironically, even obsession and excessive focus on bodily health can lead to ill health. While a healthy body is very helpful for our spiritual search, as it is one less distraction, it is by no means essential. It might surprise you to know that some of the greatest Yogis of our time were born with difficult health karma . Ramana Maharishi, one of the greatest Hindu saints of the last century died of cancer. It is said that the Buddha was always ill, and had to travel with his doctor. Or look at Physicist Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest scientific minds of our times, who has been paralyzed for the last 50 years.
A Yogi curtails his appetite and practices moderation in sensory gratification, no matter how enchanting or appealing the experience in front of him. He eats just enough to live and does not let his cravings overwhelm him.
We become Rogis when we chase a hunger, goal, person, emotion, experience or desire without restrain and exert ourselves beyond capacity. This overblown focus usually is a result of some deep seated psychological blocks that we are unaware of, which urge us forward and seem to have a life of their own. Our compulsions create self destructive behaviors that obliterate our peace of mind and fuel further cravings. In planetary terms Rahu is usually involved in any relentless pursuit that disregards the cost we are paying. Rogi in Sanskrit is also another word for the ailing, sick, patient and invalid, as these compulsion and impulses raise our stress hormones and destroy our peace of mind and the health of our body. We are Rogi's when we identify solely with the body.
Bhogi's are passionate, goal oriented people with strong opinions and often strong ambitions. They have a great hunger for success, recognition and enjoying life's pleasures. Their happiness is outcome driven and as such they are constantly looking for satisfaction and validation through something outside of themselves. Most of us are bhogis and there is nothing particularly wrong with that. However, yoga teaches us that fulfillment of external/worldly desires is not the ultimate goal. If our happiness is based on waiting for a desire or goal to be fulfilled or getting “what we want” we are in a hopeless situation because that can never be realized. Desires and goals are always changing, growing, shifting. According to Shawn Achor, the author of "Scientific Proof that Happiness is a Choice,” every time we hit a success, our brain moves the goalpost of where success is”. Usually planets like Mercury, Venus, and Moon are involved in our Bhogi urges. Bhogi's identify with the ego/mind.
A Yogi is someone who has come to the realization that the excesses of the Rogi and the outcome driven happiness of the Bhogi are both ultimately fruitless. He is one who is striving for freedom from the unpredictable clutches of outer circumstances, and turns instead towards his inner sanctuary for joy that can always be accessed regardless of circumstances. A Yogi does not have to be someone who does Yoga or renounces life and sits on a mountain top and meditates. Rather he is someone who performs his karma and obligations with the highest state of excellence. In practical terms, a Yogi is someone who meets challenges, not from the narrow perception of the personality (body/mind) but the expansiveness of spirit. He sees life as a learning experience and proceeds with calmness, stability and equanimity. Planets like Jupiter and Sun can awaken our Yogi potential. Yogis identify with their soul nature.
Lastly, a Drohi is someone whose hunger is so deadly and toxic that he not only will destroy his life but end up tormenting others around him as well.
We are all a combination of Rogi, Bhogi and Yogi. Generally speaking the pure (sattvic) planets like Jupiter and the Sun have more Yogi qualities, the ambitious more worldly (Rajasic) planets like the Moon, Venus and Mercury have more Bhogi qualities and the preservation (Tamasic) planets like Saturn, Mars and Rahu tend towards Rogi.
However, the deeper study of astrology teaches us that any planet has the potential to lead us down the path of a Yogi, Bhogi or a Rogi, it just depends on how we use the energy of that planet. If we overuse or underuse use the energy of any planet it will lead us to become a Rogi. If we superficially use the energy of a planet it will make us a Bhogi. Deep integration of the planetary energy, with sincere effort to understand what the planet is trying to teach us will always lead us down the Yogi path. (For deeper teaching of all the planets read this article).
Honoring the higher teaching of a planet requires curtailing our hunger. Often these cravings are so much a part of what we think makes us who we are that letting go of our appetites makes us feel that we will lose our identify and life purpose. Indeed the opposite is true - moderation and equanimity does not mean we live less or experience life as dull and dreary. On the contrary when we put our appetites on a diet we get liberated from negatives emotions and can truly see life for the first time in all its vibrant, pulsating colors and hues. Success, happiness, and contentment naturally follow.