Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bhoga and Tyaga

The other day I saw an orange robed sannyāsī in Vrindavan, tall and strong looking, fit and wearing bright new cloth. He was about 55, with salt and pepper hair. His face was lined and extremely grave.
And then I looked at the other sannyāsīs I saw sleeping by the Parikrama Marg, beggars, at best living in jhopris, shuffling along the road to the next khattri for kitcherie. And I thought, "They are MEANT to look mean and miserable. They are meant to frighten you. They are meant to be the bogey man."

A sannyāsī is serious stuff. He denies the world.

Just think of Vyasadeva appearing to Ambika and Ambalika to sire the royal children of the ironically named Vichitravirya ("Wondrous Virility"). One queen was so frightened at Vyasa's ascetic appearance that she closed her eyes and gave birth to a blind Dhritarashtra, and the other to an albino because she was white with fright.

If a sannyāsī does not frighten you, he is not a real sannyāsī, and it is not too unlikely that he may be a bhogi in disguise.

Because the biggest problem is to compromise bhoga with tyāga. There is a path of bhoga that learns to incorporate tyāga in order to be fully bhoga. And there is a tyāga that learns to incorporate or discover bhoga within itself. But if you are compromised within yourself about which path is yours, you will always be embattled and get neither.

Not this world or the next, whereas you could have both.

In either path, ekāgratā is the common feature--single-minded adherence to the goal. And so both are very serious. That is why they are both yogas. But the path of tyāga is what Krishna was referring to when he said kleśo'dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-cetasām. The vyakta here being the world itself.

Tyāga can be rough stuff, and to us that is obvious, because it is indirect, not sahaja. It fights the natural tendency to seek love in the vyakta. Therefore sannyāsa is really meant only for one who has the natural tendency for renunciation, only a minute portion of the populace.


The path of bhoga, the real Vaishnava path, carried to its ultimate conclusion, is most truly called prema. It accepts the reality of this world and its potential for prema as the true locus of the sacred. The other world is the backdrop against which this world is transformed into a world of love, Vrindavan.

Of course, being embattled is part of the great adventure (līlā) to create such a world.

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