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Bhoga and Apavarga | 2 key concepts from Sāṃkhya Darshana

Temps de lecture : 4 minutes

This article is the essay I wrote for the Sāṃkhya Darshana Course led by Prasad Rangnekar in May 2023. the subject was: Outline and explain the concept of “Bhoga and Apavarga”. How will you use this concept to make your mind lighter and life happier? 

Version française ici.

Bhoga and apavarga are two sanskrit words whose meanings and definitions vary depending on the context. Here we will define bhoga as « experience » and apavarga as « liberation ». 

How do bhoga and apavarga have to work hand in hand and how this relationship is central to enhance out human experience?

We live in a word where we are constantly seeking for more. More success, more wealth, more material things, more emotions, more … more. So much that we created a concept called FOMO. In our modern societies, marketers are promoting experiences as something we definitely have to try. And we feel that this « more » will make us happier and fuller. We imagine that each new positive experience will make us safe, loved and happy. So we keep engaging in worldly experiences with the hope that it will satisfy us.

However experiencing life for the sake of it and accumulating experiences without processing creates a soil for addition. The brain gets addicted to the positive sensations, the dopamine boost, and wants more of it. This where where the following definition of bhoga comes as « enjoyment of earthly pleasure that prevents self-realization ». Instead of having a positive impact on our lives, experiences are pushing us away from the final goal.

All Indian philosophies agree on the fact that human beings all suffer for the same reason. This reason being avidyā (misidentification / ignorance). To stop the suffering one should reach the final goal: apavarga.  There are many ways to liberate oneself and one of them would be through experience. Like a scientist, a yogi must experiment life to know the truth.

This is why according to this tradition, bhoga and aparvarga have to go hand in hand. Collecting experiences without learning from it is like collecting data without analyzing it. It would be a set of data without any meaning. Bhoga on its own is simply a hot pursuit driven by our cravings and aversions, our likes and dislikes. As as every adult knows sometimes it’s our responsibility to do things that we don’t necessarily like, because it’s what needs to be done.

The old yogis understood that clearly. This is why they made the distinction between a bhogi and a yogi.  The bhogi is the one who uses the experiences for personal enjoyment and the yogi is the one who uses the experience for personal growth.

Those philosophies assume that, until they see things as they really are, human beings will identify as their body / mind. Sāṃkhya Darshana makes the distinction between two entities : purusha and prakriti. Purusha being the Self of the Self (the subject) and prakriti being everything else body / mind /world etc. (the object). According to Sāṃkhya, people see things clearly only when they understand who they really are (purusha).

Each experience is just an experience. Like tofu, until and unless we had flavor to it, it is tasteless.  

That’s part of life to face experiences. Pleasant and unpleasant. Our freedom is to choose which flavor to add to it. Switching our perspective and seeing experiences as blessings rather than curses makes a huge difference in our everyday lives. Rather that saying « why me ?» every time something unpleasant happens. I personally started asking myself « What is this person/situation/experience is trying to teach me? » or « how can I learn from this? ». Since then I feel that every experience brings me more clarity. It enables me to sort out what is good for me and what is not. It also made me realize how faith had a huge impact on my life. I do believe that life puts on our path only challenges that we are able to face. I somehow always knew what to do when facing crucial choices. It doesn’t mean that I was not painful sometimes and that I always listened to it. But trusting life and the process of life releases the pressure that I tend to put on myself. And seing every experience as a way to reach the final goal is very empowering and liberating.

My personal goal in this life is to go towards a calmer and lighter mind. Being grateful for every experience coming on our my path and doing our best to process it without getting attached to it. Are key elements. Finding the right balance and not falling into the hole of overthinking and overanalyzing is essential.  We should learn from the experiences and move on instead of holding on to it. Getting attached to the outcome of the experience creates anxiety and confusion instead of clarity and lightness. Sometimes we don’t really know what to learn from the experience. Sometimes we need to repeat a pattern to process it. And sometimes things simply unfolds later. It happens. That’s why we should trust the process and keep things simple. Faith helps us being lighter. We should trust that each and every experience will make us a tiny step closer to liberation.  Praktiti is a marvelous tool and as yogis we should use prakriti without getting trapped in it. Bhoga is there to serve us as long as we use it for appavarga.

Whether we believe or not in liberation and sāṃkhya philosophy, the concepts of bhoga and apavarga are still very relevant today. At my personal level, it enables me to move towards a more balanced and happy life. Being greedy for positive experiences and avoiding negative experience will not lead us anywhere. Tony Robbins regularly says « Life is happening for you and not to you ». Seeing each experience (pleasant or unpleasant) as something that can make us grow is very empowering. When we see the world as a playground full of experiences that we can learn from, it makes life lighter and more peaceful. Even though we do not necessary have a direct impact on our circumstances, at least we can choose how we see them. 

We are already facing a lot of pressure and stress in this fast moving environment. There is no need to rush. We do not need to put extra pressure on ourselves. However shifting our perspective and seeing the world as an entity that is there to serve us is essential to feel lighter and happier. Step by step things unfold. The more I walk on the path the more I feel supported. Each individual should use his/her own experiences to learn, grow and evolve at their own pace. It’s not a competition. Everyone should do what needs to be done, stay on the path and this is where faith comes in. Trusting the process of life, being accountable for the way we experience life around us, being actors of our own reality are the work that need to be do for a lighter and happier mind. 

Photo de Ashish Kumar Pandey: https://www.pexels.com/fr-fr/photo/homme-sur-plan-d-eau-2861280/

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