Many years ago, when Ed was training in India, his yoga master suddenly turned to him and asked, “Are you a rogi, a bogi or a yogi?” Ed was stunned and confused, what is he saying? Isn’t yoga all about love and goodness and happiness? Aren’t yogi’s people who never say or do anything wrong?
Then his teacher, Paramahamsa Swami Stayananda, explained how a rogi is a rogue or a scoundrel, a bogi is into pleasures and indulging the senses, while a yogi is a seeker of truth. Seemed to Ed like he fitted into at least the latter two categories, but luckily each does not exclude the others. There are yogi’s who are bogi’s, and rogi’s who are aspiring to be yogi’s. For instance, we have taught rogi’s in a prison in England who were expressing their desire to change through practicing yoga and meditation.
Ed’s teacher was unconventional, outrageous and unpredictable. He taught the foundations of classical yoga, but you never knew where he was coming from or what he would say or teach next. He felt that we need to experience life to it’s fullest in order to truly appreciate the spiritual path. So when he asked him, are you a rogi, a bogi or a yogi, Ed knew what he was really asking. Do you yearn for the sensual world or do you long for truth? Are you more concerned about your own welfare or do you really care about others?
A rogi is a rogue, a dishonest and not very nice person. In the ashram where Ed lived the rogi was the 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; who would cause dissension and unnecessary fights and blame everyone else. A rogi always thinks of themselves first, can hurt and prey on other people’s weaknesses; they think nothing of stealing or doing harm.
A bogi–pronounced bhogi–is into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We all get into this at some point, but a bogi is someone who constantly tries to get satisfaction from everything external. More, give me more, is their 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. They are like the hungry ghost in the Tibetan Wheel of Life who has a long but very thin throat and a huge belly. No matter how hard the hungry ghost tries, it can never consume enough to satisfy its hunger.
Ed was raised in the Bronx and lived a typically indulgent life. He won the NYC dance championship, danced on a NYC T.V. show, and became a Latin dance teacher in Miami Beach. He hung out in Studio 54 and Max’s Kansas City where Blonde was a waitress. In other words, he partied heavily and lived the life of a bogi.
Luckily, most people who practice yoga seek a balance between yoga and boga.
A yogi is a person who realizes that all the actions of the rogi and bogi are ultimately fruitless, that all the cravings and indulgences are not really satisfying no matter how hard you try. Then the desire for something more real arises. A yogi is one who lives by their heart, with compassion and kindness, and who delights in the welfare of others.
Sri Swami Satchidananda would say how just one taste of this delight is more beautiful than anything in this world, and that taste is within you. 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 bogi 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 rather to be able to stand on our feet. And this is something every one of us can attain!