I stumbled to the counter, slammed five dollars down and, half slurring, shouted, “Barbecue bacon!” There was an outburst of hysterics to my left, and I felt proud to be getting a laugh.
Swaggering back to my table, to the cheers of my mates, I devoured the burger greedily. I was barely conscious.
It had taken me two months to save up for that five-day road trip, and I spent the whole time with locally brewed and locally grown produce pumping through my veins. It’s a road trip I’ll never forget, yet never fully remember.
But I started to wonder, what’s the point of it all, if I can’t actually remember it?
Needless to say, I kept doing that kind of thing; working really hard then spending most of that money in one weekend on boozing and partying. I did it all for that taste of enjoyment, that glimpse of freedom, but I always ignored the hard work I had put into getting to that point of just enjoying the moment. I always conveniently “forgot” how sick I was the next day, or even the next few days after, and I was always looking for something more—I started to feel like a donkey chasing a carrot on a stick. It was at that point when I started to question.
Why was I always hankering after a better time? Why was I never fully satisfied? What drove me to act in such a humiliating way, as if propelled by some force?
I realised it’s lust that drives everything people do. Lust is the desire to satisfy our senses. If I have a huge craving for popcorn dipped in vanilla ice-cream (try it, I swear it’s the best combination), that’s lust. If I see a pair of khaki corduroys in a shop, calling out to me (yes, they are “hip”), that’s lust. If I’m drawn to look at something beautiful, like an old Berlin building covered top to bottom with bold street art, that’s lust. If I want to work like an ass to enjoy a weekend of drinking, that’s lust.
Yoga has a lot to say about lust. I’m not talking about the kind of yoga that involves bending and stretching but the kind that teaches you about yourself, about the world around you, and about how to live to your fullest potential. The Bhagavad-gita, a concise overview of yoga knowledge, says that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. Sense enjoyment refers to anything we do to satisfy our senses. Whether it be eating some crispy crinkle-cut chips for the tongue’s pleasure, listening to enlivening upbeat music for the ears, or gazing at art for the eyes, the more we try to satisfy our senses, the more we yearn to gratify them. The satisfaction of eating that handful of perfectly salted chips doesn’t last and pretty soon we’re craving more.
I can see that lust, the need to satisfy our senses, has caused so many problems for us because when we are lusty it’s very difficult to have self-control and we find ourselves doing anything and everything to satisfy our lust. Imagine what movies would be like if lust wasn’t at the centre? If men and women didn’t become obsessed with each other and go through hell and back just to be together, or if people weren’t greedy for power, toiling through so many tribulations to achieve dominance? And if they didn’t try desperately to cling to these objects, people, or positions once gained? Lust is the fuel needed to make drama truly blaze.
Then there’s the drama in the mind. I fear those moments when I’m offered a dessert that looks so appealing, so deliciously moist and succulent that my mind is screaming out, “Eat it, eat it!” In moments like those, I never win. On the one hand, I could control myself and resist, only to spend hours yearning for it later. On the other hand, I could cave in and eat it, enjoying every bite as it melts in my mouth for those tantalising few minutes, only to be lying in agony hours after because of indigestion. Both these scenarios end in frustration because of the tongue’s whimsical desires. The tongue, like the other four senses, is like a small child that constantly pesters the mind. It’s a common misconception that we think our mind controls our actions, when in reality our senses drive everything we do and the mind often has to take a back seat and just “go with the flow.”
Isn’t it scary how much our lusty desires control what we do? Life would be a lot more peaceful if we learnt how to control those desires, and not have them control us. Once those lusty desires stop leading us this way and that, then we can really start learning and understanding what will truly satisfy us, and actually keep us satisfied. We can actually start to take charge of our life and not be dictated by the demands of our senses, such as the tongue.
I sincerely believe that there is more to life than just the push and pull of the senses, or the ups and downs of simply “existing,” or pursuing cheap thrills. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna advises that we should “in the very beginning curb the great symbol of selfish desire [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realisation.” (3.41). He’s teaching that we need to learn to control our senses or else we’ll never understand ourselves, and we’ll never begin to understand if there really is a point to life.
Bhagavad-gita helps teach us about selfrealisation and explains how and why we are parts and parcels of a Supreme Whole. It explains that we are not here simply to abuse the earth for our own enjoyment—we are here for a higher purpose. Bhakti-yoga is the process to find peace from the disturbances of the mind and senses. Without a peaceful mind we cannot become happy.