Who’s In Charge?

You’re looking at the dessert tray, which they bring to your table after your meal at a fine restaurant. Who’s in charge? Your taste buds? Your tummy? Your inner cop, counting calories? Your Ayurvedic sensibilities? Or perhaps your vegan raw-food healthy organic self, saying yes, but only to the Vegan No-Bake Cheesecake?

Which of your desires sways you? In which direction do you get pulled, over and over again? It isn’t the things you do periodically that create your baseline of health and happiness — it’s the things you do every day. Of course, as a yogi, you know this. Your daily classes or daily practices of yoga and meditation provide an invaluable foundation for your quality of life. But the moment-to-moment questions arise, like when you’re approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow. Do you speed up or slow down? Who makes this decision?

When your appetites lead the way, you’re like a bull with a ring in its nose. I learned about this in India. I was sitting in a meditation temple, and turned to gaze out the open door overlooking the village street. A seven- or eight-year old boy was leading a group of cows from the barn to the pasture, by pulling on a rope that was attached to the ring in the bull’s nose. The bull’s shoulder was about two feet taller than the child’s head, and the bull outweighed him by a massive amount, but when the child pulled on the ring, the bull followed. Who’s in charge?

In the Bhagavadgita, Krishna explains that human beings have both divine and demonic tendencies. Your divine qualities include: fearlessness, generosity, simplicity, freedom from anger, gentleness, forgiveness, fortitude and more. (16:1-3)

Your demonic qualities include: anger, pride, conceit, lust, harshness, ignorance, and focus on the pursuit of sensory experiences. (16:7-12)

Demons are not devils, but are are focused on the pursuit of sensory experiences. They gauge their self-worth by their beauty, strength, sexual power and possessions. Because their focus is unilaterally about their appetites, they don’t care who they hurt along the way to gaining their goals. In America, much of this is accepted as a normal mainstream lifestyle.

Of course, as a yogi, you may not be prey to such delusions of grandeur. But are you trying to reach worldly heights or spiritual heights? In the Bhagavadgita, Krishna warns that, when fear or anxiety leads the way, or when your appetites are in control, you will “fall down into hell.” (16:16) How can you tell you’re headed that way? “Three gates lead to hell: lust, anger and greed.” (16:21)

This is why I ask you who is in charge. Who is making decisions about what you want to attain and how you get there? If it’s your tongue, genitals or “gut-level” feelings, you’ve got a real problem.

Yoga offers more — so much more. Doing yoga poses is the beginning, with meditation taking you the next step. It’s an inward step, to discover the source of the divine impulses arising within. Each time you experience the inner deepening, more of your divine qualities shine through. Other yoga practices speed the process, including sutra study, chanting, seva (karma yoga) and even donations to support causes you believe in. So many practices! So little time!

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Again and again I bow to your inherent Divinity.

Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati leads Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center and Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram in Downingtown PA. An American yogi, she is an inspiring teacher with a loving manner and a great sense of humor. Before becoming a swami (yoga monk), as Rama Berch, she served the yoga community as the founding president of Yoga Alliance. Traveling and teaching nationally and internationally, she is authorized to initiate people into deep meditation through Shaktipat, as did Swami Muktananda, her own Guru. The Ashram website features extensive Freebies, including articles and audio recordings on the principles of consciousness as taught by the sages of India, as well as how to apply them in your life today.