By Vidya Pradhan Motorcycle riding, Frisbee playing iconoclast or loving spiritual mentor? After an interview with Sadhguru, I can almost picture him saying with a belly laugh “Are the two mutually exclusive?” I heard of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev through two friends who have been deeply influenced by his words, his actions and even his very presence. A spiritual rebel who has disclaimed deep knowledge of traditional Hindu scriptures, Sadhguru experienced a transcendent bliss at the age of 25 and has since made it his mission to share his experiences with others. He has served as delegate to the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, the Alliance for the New Humanity, and is an active supporter of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. Recently he was in the Bay Area to address the members of TIECON. Through his Isha Foundation, he has directed several outreach programs for life-term prisoners, impoverished children and rural rejuvenation in southern India. When he graciously agreed to a phone interview from India, I was a little intimidated. Despite reading many of his speeches and sayings, I was no closer to understanding the essence of his teachings. WNI: You talk about ‘being liberated and enhancing life’s possibilities’. Could you elaborate on that concept. Sadhguru: Every person is in some level of bondage. These are our limitations. In many ways these are self imposed. WNI: Aren’t some limitations socially imposed? Sadhguru: All of these are self imposed. If you can be bound by something you can also be liberated. WNI: That is a little deep for me Sadhguru, I am not sure I understand that concept. Sadhguru: Not being able to understand is also a limitation, is it not? If you strive for it can you break it? There were many things you thought you could not do, but you have broken that, is that not true? Likewise, you have also gathered many limitations that were not there in your childhood. WNI: Can one live completely without limitations? Is that a reasonable goal for a human being to aspire to? Sadhguru: How can it not matter? Does it not affect your life? People have been preaching that we should achieve joy, happiness, that the most important thing for a person is to become free. All these things are important because when you’re happy you feel free, when you love, you feel free. WNI: So does happiness come from freedom? Sadhguru: Not necessarily. Freedom is way beyond happiness. When you are happy you feel a little free so you go for that. When you are in love you feel free so you go for that. Whatever gives you the sense of freedom you go for that. Because ultimately the only thing that matters is to be free. We seek bondage because it gives us a sense of security. Being married also gives a sense of security and purpose. Is this not also a bondage? What you are saying is that the creator’s creation is not good enough and you have to paint it to make it good. WNI: So should one strive to be as natural as possible? Sadhguru: No,no,no. If we were as natural as possible we would all live as wild animals. WNI: But then by imposing civilization, are we not imposing limitations on ourselves? Sadhguru: By imposing civilization, we can see the necessity of the situation and not be bound be it. Playing a role is not the problem, becoming the role is a problem. WNI: Why do you call a spiritual undertaking a science? Sadhguru: A systematic approach is what makes it a science. When we systematically explore the physical world we call it a physical science. Similarly, when we systematically approach the inner world, we call it an inner science or yogic science. WNI: What principles should we live by? Sadhguru: Drop the principles. All principles are a substitute for a lack of consciousness. If you were aware, you would live life as it is necessary to be lived now. If awareness is missing, you are trying to replace it with morals and ethics. If your humanity is on full swing you wouldn’t need morality. Only because there are so many ways we suppress our humanity, you need morality to be good. WNI: What as individuals are our responsibilities? Sadhguru: What do you mean by responsibilities? WNI: The duties we have towards our family, our coworkers. Sadhguru: What a horrible way to live your life! If you had a little love in your heart, then these words – principle, morality, responsibility- would not be necessary. All this nonsense is because we have lost the love we have for humanity. WNI: In some interviews you have used ‘karma’ as a negative word and you talk about dissolution of Karma? What does that mean? Sadhguru: Karma means literally ‘action’ but generally we mean ‘past action’. How what we have done in the past affects what we are today. The things you have done with your body, with your mind, with your emotions and your energy since the time of your birth is deciding what kind of a person you are, how you see things, how you experience things. is it not? The impressions of that are what cause the bondage. Because you can have only a limited exposure in your life, you will be limited. So unless you free yourself from this, you cannot look at all the enormous possibilities out there. The past is ruling the present and future. You are recreating your future just like the past. So karma is like old software- it is written into your system. Unless you become free from that there is no choice in your life. There is no such thing as good bondage and bad bondage. You can know life only through perception not by thought. When we talk about a spiritual process, we are trying to move from the psychological to the existential. What you think is just your creation. Just experiencing life the way it is and not the way you think it is. It is not easy to shake off because you yourself have created it. WNI: You have said that everyone must find their own way. So is having a guru essential? What is the role of a guru? Sadhguru: A guru is like a road map. You can travel by yourself if you want. Vasco da Gama and Columbus sailed by themselves. Of course, Columbus landed in the wrong place and that’s where you are! When you are traveling uncharted terrain, it is good to have a road map. It is also possible to go without one but to find something that is right next to you, you may go around the world and come back. But if you go with somebody who has already traveled the path it is much easier. If you want a wild and adventurous time, you can go by yourself. We don’t know how long it will take. WNI: For many people it is the religion which is a road map. Could we survive without it? Sadhguru: Religion is a road map to get lost. All religions started somewhere as a spiritual path but somewhere along the way they get so twisted and turned with local culture and politics that after 1000 years it is no more a road map, it is completely distorted. WNI: Do you think the human community is moving in the right direction? If not, are we at a point where big change is possible? Sadhguru: Growth is always individual. This is the whole thing. People are always asking “what is your idea of a peaceful world?.” Do you think if we remove all the guns in the world we will have peace? People will just shoot with their mouth. Unless there are peaceful individuals the world will not be peaceful. And creating peaceful individuals is an enormous task. Going on the street, putting up banners is easy. How many people can sit in one place peacefully? WNI: You have given speeches at the WEF and TIECON. If it so difficult to communicate to people in groups, what do you hope to achieve? Sadhguru: Even if you talk to 10 or 1000 people, the person who is listening is an individual. What you are trying to communicate is that there is a need to make a journey – it is not the journey itself. It is not possible to begin the process in an uncommitted, casual atmosphere. We just use that environment to inspire and above all to make them see that they can learn from themselves; that there is a way to live in a far better way than they are right now. So it is just mostly inspirational. We never print or publish any of these talks. WNI: Having met so many political and economic leaders, are you hopeful about humanity? Sadhguru: I have great trust in humanity. I have turned around so many people- convicts, murderers- I have seen any number of them change their lives; I don’t see why these leaders can’t be turned around. Am I hopeful? No. I am trustful. I am trustful that the simple message of inner transformation that we hold in our hands can transform any kind of human being. WNI: How do you feel about the many layers between you and the people you are trying to reach? Now that the organization has grown to such an extent do you feel you are still effective? Sadhguru: I had kept it very curtailed, I had not allowed it to grow because I didn’t want a huge organization around me. I always wanted it to be a small band of people who can do this. But now I have allowed it to grow because I found them effective. Definitely in South India we have a big impact. People in small ways have found better ways of living, more harmony in their lives, in their families, in their society. Recently, a minister went to a taluk where we have been working for some time. A group of people gathered. The minister asked, “Tell me what are your problems.” They replied, “We have no problems!” The minister coudn’t believe it. Normally when a minister visits there are always petitions and problems and complaints. 70% of the population of the village was doing yoga. The minister got so rattled he sent a bunch of people to investigate this ‘yoga’! What we are doing is just a drop. The problems are so enormous, whatever we do is just a tiny drop. I wish much more could happen. WNI: ISHA foundation does a lot of grassroots work. Which gives you more satisfaction- the discourses you give or the outreach initiatives done by your organization? Sadhguru: Nothing gives me satisfaction because I am not looking for any satisfaction. I am not a missionary with some kind of zeal. I do things because I think they need to be done. I just reach out that way. It is not in search of achievement or happiness, it is just simple humanity that you reach out and do things while there is still life in you. It is just the action of a concerned human being. WNI: What do you think of Isha’s future? Sadhguru: I am not thinking of Isha’s future! I am only concerned about how humanity is going to live in this planet and live with all its contradictions and problems. It seems very bad but at the same time there are aspects within human beings that they can turn around and do wonderful things. I am trying to see how to ignite those possibilities so that people can make their lives beautiful. WNI:How would you distill the complexity of the world into its most basic element? Sadhguru: I would say live it totally. When I say live it totally, I am not saying party every night, Before you fall dead, all dimensions of life you must explore and go. There are such enormous possibilities within you. Most people are living such a miniscule portion of what they are capable of. They are not exploring so many dimensions. It is every human being’s birthright that he must know who he is before he dies. If human beings realized the immensity of what is to be a human being there wouldn’t be so much god talk in the planet. The short interview with Sadhguru gave me a glimpse of his thought processes but still left me quite bemused. “The more I ask, the more questions I have,” I remarked to Jayanthi Hari, who has been following Sadhguru’s teachings for the last couple of years. “The magic of Sadhguru is that in his presence all questions come to rest. You become meditative,” replied Jayanthi. She read his book ‘Encounter the enlightened’ and attended his beginning yoga program in Princeton. Sadhguru’s Isha foundation conducts yoga courses designed for self-discovery and inner growth. “I can honestly say that he transformed my life,” she reminisces. “When my family moved to the US, I had a lot of misgivings and was very unhappy with my situation and my environment. All those dropped overnight in his presence. All I was left with was a great longing to know why I was here in this world, what was my purpose in life?” And did she get the answers? “The first course put me on the right path. Since then I have done the advanced courses and feel that I have found my purpose in life.” She shares a poem by Sadhguru titled ‘Unmaking’ Those who feed upon the written word Claim to know the limits of the boundless beyond In the realm of the beyond Clueless is the scholarly dud The gloriousness of the written word Is but the excreta of the deluded mind If in you a raging longing i have made Don't you quench it with the delusions of the mind Allow yourself to be unmade Into the vastness of the beyond you will be made For more information on Sadhguru’s teachings and the programs offered by the Isha Foundation, visit the foundation’s website.