Once there was a saint performing tapas (austerities) for a long time in a secluded spot in the jungle. The aura of saintliness around him became so great that even the wild animals were affected. A wild lion was attracted to him and used to come and sit with him all day and accompany him wherever he went. Perfectly tame within the yogi's presence, the lion became like his shadow.
When the austerities were completed, he decided he would go on a pilgrimage to several places of spiritual significance. Some people from a nearby village who had developed a great love and respect for the saint, came to see him off. They brought with them a she-goat and a large quantity of feed for the animal, saying, "O Guruji, please take these gifts of a she-goat and provisions for her so that you may have a supply of fresh milk on your journey." Guruji accepted the gifts and then set off, the lion walking on one side and the she-goat on the other.
One evening they arrived at a great river which had to be crossed. There was only a very small boat to carry them over, and it was obvious that he would only be able to take one at a time. This presented a problem, for, if he took the lion first and left the goat, she would eat the bundle of hay. On the other hand, if he took the bundle of hay and left the goat and the lion together, the lion would probably eat the goat. It seemed like a very complex problem and he sat down on the river bank to solve it.
Actually this problem is not simply a dilemma from a story, but a real and practical question facing people in the world today. The goat represents the mind; the hay, sense pleasures; and the lion, spirituality. Everyone wants to get across to the other side, to higher consciousness, with all these attributes. Some people are even afraid to set out on the spiritual journey because they believe that, due to the opposing natures of these attributes, they will have to forego the pleasures of the senses. They don't want to live a life of austerity and renunciation, but cannot figure out how to make the crossing with all three attributes.
Tantra is the solution to this problem and yoga is the boat in which the crossing is made. Through the practice of yoga you can live fully and vitally in the world and make steady progress in your spiritual evolution. Tantra provides the balanced framework for this development. It's no use getting the mind across to the other side, only to gaze longingly at the sense pleasures that have been left behind.
It is not necessary to renounce the world of sense enjoyment right from the beginning. With the cultivation of discrimination and detachment, you will find yourself less and less affected by the distractions of sensual life. For a full life on all levels, it is necessary to be in a state of balance and to have every aspect in its proper perspective. There should be neither overemphasis nor repression.
How did Guruji solve the problem? He applied his intelligence. First he took the goat across, leaving her on the other side. Next he brought the hay, which he left on the other side, bringing the goat back again with him. Thirdly, he left the goat and took the lion over, then returned for the goat. In this way he was able to get everything across safely. Though a saint and living in a state of bliss, he was capable of functioning in the world and solving his problem with intelligence.