Bhoga: the path of enjoyment
While yoga is very common in the modern English lexicon, bhoga is virtually unknown in the West, despite the fact that Westerners tend more towards bhoga than yoga anyways. So what is bhoga? Bhoga is the path of enjoyment, specifically enjoyment through the senses. Of course, to most, the specification of ‘through the senses’ seems unnecessary; for how else can one perceive, let alone enjoy or not enjoy, but through the senses? All of what we deem reality is simply a play of sights and sounds, touches, tastes and scents, after all, no? For this article, that question will remain largely unanswered, but rest assured that who you really are is actually independent of the five senses of the body, but I don’t expect that to be an easy pill to swallow, so let’s concentrate on bhoga.
Bhoga is the path of sense enjoyment. Taking pleasure, relishing in the pleasure, of what you smell, taste, see, touch and hear. Before anyone accuses me of encouraging irresponsible behavior, let me begin with saying bhoga without yoga leads to roga. Roga in this sense is coming from the Sanskrit for ‘disease’, which can manifest physically, mentally and spiritually. Notice roga hiding in common English words like ‘arrogant’ or ‘derogatory’. Far be it from me to suggest that gluttony or unbridled drinking is an honorable path, quite the contrary; these specific examples will most certainly lead to disease of the body and mind if taken to their zenith. However, I do think it is important for us to really delve into the matter and distinguish mindless debauchery from appreciation of what the senses can offer us.
The Puritans and various other sects of Christians who colonized this country and spread their dour beliefs across the world have their counterparts in Hindu culture as well. There are those who say bhoga is the cause of all suffering and the antithesis of moral conduct. There is, also, a counter argument within Hindu culture, and that is the path of Tantra. Bhoga taken with yoga is Tantra. Tantra weaves the senses into one tapestry, and in that tapestry Divinity is revealed. Instead of thinking Divinity is only ‘over there’, away from here, Tantra says Divinity is everywhere. If you can’t see God in all, then you can not see God at all. God is present in the entire manifest universe (and beyond), so mindful appreciation of the material universe can actually be a form of worship.
So, instead of denying our sensual desires, as the Puritan ideology would espouse, I believe it is better to embrace them, and perfect them. Bhoga it up! Let’s explore some ways to do so, sense by sense.
Smell is the sense of the root chakra, the most primal of senses. In the modern world, we are inundated with all sorts of chemicals and artificial smells. Obviously, some things will be beyond your power to control directly, but there are many things you can do, like choosing not to buy items with chemical scents, but instead buying things which contain naturally attractive aromas. Another example would be to support companies which do not pollute, or instead focus your energy on creating fragrant organic flower gardens.
Taste is the sense of the water chakra. The waters of our world, and many of the foods and drinks we consume often contain many poisons and hidden chemicals. Refine your tastes by eating vegetarian and organic as much as possible, filter your drinking water and look into how you can help protect your waterways from greater pollution. Be mindful of BPA in the linings of canned foods and beverages, and perhaps try your hand at brewing or wine making, or support others who do so locally and with the best ingredients.
Sight is the sense of the fire chakra. Trataka, gazing at a candle flame, is very purifying for the eyes both physically and mentally. Become mindful of the imagery you expose yourself to, and perhaps take up some form of art, or support your local artists who provide imagery that nurtures the highest in you.
Touch is the sense of the heart chakra. Be mindful of how your touch impacts those around you, from the handshake to the hug to the most intimate of contact, and know that every movement is driven from the beating of your own heart. Embrace with loving kindness!
Sound is the sense of the throat chakra. Be mindful of your speech, and how it impacts those who hear it. Try periods of no speech, and instead listen to the soundscape of your environment. Try spending time in nature, listening to the calls of birds or the sounds of the river. Music is also a part of this, try your hand at singing or playing instruments, or support musicians who create sounds to your liking.
This is but a brief sketch of how bhoga can be a wonderful tool for transformation, but the central theme is mindfulness. Eat, drink and be merry, but always be mindful of the details!
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