The nature of this world, the place we call home, is a place of “hunger.” If we think about it, in our own lives and in the lives of others, hunger in the broadest sense of the word is everywhere.
All living creatures do four things to survive - eat, sleep, mate, and defend. We see all four in both animals and humans. The difference is that humans have choice and the ability to question why we are compelled to do these things, why they control our lives, and how they can be tamed.
Our most basic need is eating. To have enough food to nourish the body, mind, and intelligence so that we can live, work, and function to our best human capacity. What makes this natural truth complicated is our hunger for things other than food - money, power, fame, beauty. Our hunger for taking without giving back, for cheap instead of good, for quick instead of careful. This results in greed and an economy that produces hungry people in all aspects of life.
When we think of sleep how many of us hunger for a good night’s rest? With good sleep our day is so much better. Without enough rest on a regular basis we become dysfunctional - making mistakes, more anger, small thinking, anxiety - and ill. Again, our hunger and passion for material things tends to starve our sleep. Or, in our desperate need to survive a world that seems set up against us, we are forced to work for a livelihood that eats our time and our sleep.
Mating and defending are the last of the four and they each have a hunger of their own. Sex desire drives the world. It is known as the knot in the heart that ties us to the world, and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s everywhere. It’s such a powerful force and, like all hungers in our body, demands feeding. Controlling such desires and hungers is what yogis call human life. Abstaining or transcending the sexual energy is what yogis call advanced spiritual practice.
We are quick to defend ourselves. It’s practically the default position of the false ego - I’m right and everyone is wrong, or at least not as right as me. We are so overfed on being right, that we lose the ability to hear and learn, love and grow. Defensiveness sucks all the joy out of life.
Eating, sleeping, mating, and defending are like four friends who support and influence each other. If they are done well, and by well I mean managed and ‘fed’ in the realm of goodness, then our lives will be peaceful and become the platform upon which we can find profound spiritual truths and experiences. If they are overfed (or artificially underfed) they lead us to a miserable life which we neither own nor control.
The material energy is designed to win. We are playing against the house and it cannot be conquered by more material acquisition. Bhakti yoga offers safe and satisfying ways to eat, sleep, mate, and defend that also free us (the soul) and lead us out of material consciousness. It’s a win / win yoga practice for all.