Going East: The Yogi Philosophy

Sophie Lawson 9 September 2014

Bhola Nath Yogi was raised in Dang. He is from a relatively high but liberal caste, which follows the spiritual teachings of the Nath saints and regularly practices hatha yoga to purify the body and mind. He studied Sanskrit and philosophy in India, then went on to found HVP Dang School, the Children’s Peace Home and the only old people’s home in Dang. He is something of a celebrity in Ghorahi for his charitable work – and although he can sometimes get caught up in the fame of it all, his cause is pure. 

Bhola has been like a philosophical guru to us during our time at the peace home. From Nepali culture and Hindu traditions to general life lessons, he always has an interesting insight to offer. 

Certain stories will always stick with me, not least his approach to love and attachment. He explains it this way: if you have a tree, you care for it, water it, nurture it and if it doesn't give you fruit, that’s beyond your control – you did all you could. If you are too attached to the tree, you may become angry or upset if you don’t reap its fruity-benefits; this can be destructive.

Similarly, it’s a great feeling to be head over heels in love, but it might mean that you end up not being true to yourself, smothering that person or trying to control them because you don’t want to lose them. You may love your family and be willing to do anything for them, but when they die you will be so overcome with grief that you’re unable to go on with your own life.

Therefore, a certain degree of un-attachment and independence is healthy in every relationship. Having a clear sense of what is and isn't in your control is important for being able to let go – in a country where loss is much more common than it is in our own, the need for this outlook is even more acute.

Another of Bhola’s lessons is Sadhus and the Maya; the Maya includes most things in this world – love, sex, power, gold, and other riches – but it is all an illusion. The only things that make you truly happy and enlightened are knowledge, spirituality and giving to others. This is what sadhus, or saints, devote their lives to. They live a very simply life of charitable giving and have no possessions, no wives, no children and no attachments to their family and friends. Such a life is incredibly isolated and difficult life, but there are those, like the Buddha, who overcome temptations and reach total enlightenment – freedom from material needs, wants, suffering and negative emotions. 

However, after reaching enlightenment the Buddha decided that life was actually about finding the middle path – being neither rich nor poor, but living within your means. I think I agree with this much more than having a life devoid of friends, family and relationships, even if they are just an illusion. Deciding where among the different levels of Maya you want to live your life is something I feel is important to think about, and life here definitely proves that you can live a happy life with much less than you might think.

A final dominant theme that runs through all of Bhola’s teachings is one of tolerance. He believes all religions are equally valid paths on the way to reaching the same god; the same enlightenment. All races of people in all parts of the world can achieve this goal. This is an incredibly valuable belief in a country like Nepal, with over 70 different cultures – each with their own unique combinations of language, religion and ethnicity. Indeed, in spite of its diversity, there is next to no racial or religious tension in Nepal – an example the rest of the world would do very well to follow.

All said, our short time at the peace home has been difficult at times, but has also been a wonderful and eye opening experience, and a chance to see the real side of Nepal off the tourist trail.