When Ed trained as a yogi in India at the Bihar School of Yoga his guru Swami Satyananda asked him, Are you a yogi, a bhogi or a rogi? For a moment Ed was taken aback, confused, not knowing what his teacher was up to: “I had traveled 10,000 miles from NYC, given up all my worldly possessions to be a yogi, and now I was being asked what my motives were? Wasn’t yoga all about the higher life of unconditional love, service to others and happiness? Weren’t yogis people who just did good?”
Then his guru explained a bhogi is into sex, drugs and indulging the senses, how a rogi is a rascal or scoundrel, while a yogi is a seeker of truth. Ed knew he was a dedicated yogi but also knew he could have fit into all three categories. Luckily, as Satyananda explained, each does not exclude the others. Although we may desire to be a yogi it usually happens gradually. So there are aspiring yogis who are still bhogis, and rogis who will someday become yogis. For instance, in England we taught rogis in prison who wanted to change their behavior through practicing yoga and meditation.
Ed’s teacher was outrageous, unpredictable and unconventional. He taught the foundations of classical yoga, but Ed never knew what he would say next: “In particular, Satyananda taught how we need to experience life to its fullest in order to truly appreciate the spiritual path and he loved the rogis because he believed they would become great yogis. So when he asked me, are you yogi, bhogi or rogi, I knew what he was really asking: Are you a dedicated yogi who cares about others or are you only concerned about yourself? Do you yearn and long for truth or for the sensual world of pleasure and pain? In essence, do you want to be free? He would always say, if you are passionate enough for truth then you can’t miss.”
A bhogi is more into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Ed was raised in the Bronx and lived a typically indulgent life: “I won the NYC dance championship, danced on a NYC television show, and became a Latin dance teacher in Miami Beach. I hung out in the infamous Studio 54 with all the ‘beautiful people’, and at Max’s Kansas City where Blonde was a waitress. In other words, I partied heavily and lived the life of a true bhogi!”
We all get into something like this at some point but a bhogi, like most people in the world, constantly tries to get satisfaction from everything external. More, give me more, is the mantra. There is nothing particularly wrong with being a bogi, to have desires and enjoy the pleasure of this world is natural, but the desire realm is endless and ultimately unsatisfactory. Bhogis are like the hungry ghosts in the Tibetan Wheel of Life who have a long but very thin throat and a huge belly. No matter how hard a hungry ghost tries, it can never consume enough to satisfy its hunger. A bhogi looks for satisfaction in the world, never having enough yet believing that the world can bring them everlasting happiness.
A rogi varies from being just a playful rascal to being dishonest, not very nice to others and self-centered; it’s all about “me.” In the ashram where Ed trained the rogi was the mischief or troublemaker, someone who would steal milk from the kitchen even though that meant the rest went without; who would use all the hot water in the winter so others had cold showers; or who would cause dissension and unnecessary fights and blame everyone else. A rogi thinks of themselves first, can hurt and prey on other people’s weaknesses, and think nothing of stealing or doing harm.
A yogi is someone who realizes that all the actions of both the bhogi and rogi are ultimately fruitless, that satisfying cravings and indulgences is only short-lived. From this the desire for something more genuine arises. So the yogi wants out, wants to be freed from the clutches of the senses and realizes that true peace and happiness is within.
Swami Satchidananda would say how just one taste of this inner delight is more beautiful than anything in this world. He told the story of the musk deer that lives in India and has a beautiful smell in its anus but searches the forest looking for that smell. Just like most of us who search the world looking for happiness when it is within us all the time.
A rogi or a bhogi can become a yogi, each is contained within the other. That is because the true quality of a yogi is not just to be able to stand on our head, but to be able to stand on our feet. And this is something every one of us can attain!
Which one are you? Do comment below.