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This article was first published 12 years ago

Interview/Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 14:43 IST

Image: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Video: Photographs: Courtesy Isha Foundation Savera R Someshwar in Mumbai

A long flowing beard, a turban, earth coloured robes, twinkling eyes, a hearty belly laugh.

Scratch that. Grey tee shirt, jeans, a comfy hat and a golf club in his hand.

Scratch that. Cargo pants, blue shirt, aviator glasses, eyes firmly ahead, hands steering a BMW motorbike, an SUV, a boat, a helicopter...

Scratch that. Dressed in a dhoti, working side-by-side with impoverished villages under a blazing hot sun.

Conjure up any of these images... all of them will easily fit Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

He is a man who clearly believes in creature comforts: he happily indulges his passions for golf, driving anything that moves on "land, sea or air" or trekking in the mountains. But he is just as comfortable working with impoverished villagers in Tamil Nadu.

Like most yoga teachers and spiritual gurus, he has his own formula called 'Inner Engineering.' There are many who swear by it, matched by many who believe it is ancient knowledge in new packaging.

His Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu-based Isha Foundation, clearly makes a lot of money through its global yoga and spiritual guidance programmes. At the same time, Project Greenhands, a grassroots ecological programme he has founded, has won the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, India's highest environmental honour.

He also spearheads the Action for Rural Rejuvination and Isha Vidhya programmes, targeted at improving the social, economic and educational health of Tamil Nadu's rural poor.

He interacts with world leaders -- he has spoken at the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit and the World Peace Congress. At the same time, he hobnobs with criminals in Tamil Nadu's jails, where his yoga programme is "mandatory."

He speaks their language, he says, but won't repeat what they talk about in front of a more polite audience.

We'll let you figure out Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev yourself. Excerpts from an interview Savera R Someshwar conducted recently for

Please ...

'It looks like I am the only Indian left'

Image: Genuine gurus are always contemporary: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Video: Satish Bodas
You call yourself a modern guru... why is that? What is your definition of a modern guru?

(Laughs.) I'm not modern or ancient, I'm just contemporary. I'm sure every guru of his time was contemporary.

Only some jokers -- is it bad PR to say that (smiles) -- only somebody who does not have any substance of their own will try to imitate somebody from the past. Otherwise, at all times, the genuine gurus were always contemporary to those times.

(Laughs.) I don't know how else to be. If you want to be relevant, you have to be contemporary, isn't it?

Is it necessary to look a certain way, or dress a certain way, to be a guru? Is it part of the appeal?

Do I dress like anybody else you have seen?

Well, you seem to be extremely comfortable in jeans. But when you are addressing a...

I'm comfortable with anything that fits me well (laughs). Bad tailoring is what I am uncomfortable with.

Right now, I am sure the question is: Why are you dressed like this? In a tropical country, this is the best way to dress.

If you wear a white shirt, blue tie, black jacket and black woollen pants in Mumbai, you'll melt away. Still, people are doing it. There was somebody here, 65 years ago, who did not give you any choice.

Our Mahatma, and many others, struggled to get them out but you still can't get them out of these people's minds. They are so deeply enslaved that they are still trying to dress the way the English dressed.

This is the way an Indian man would have looked before the English came. It looks like I am the only Indian left (laughs).

I'm not dressed like a guru; I'm just dressed like an Indian person.

Please ...

Tags: Mumbai

'The world can do without individuality'

Image: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev with racing car driver Chris Rado

In today's world, there seems to be an increasing need for guidance and, as a result, gurus.

Today, because you have subscribed yourself to the idea of a market economy, your whole life is about survival.

Everything is about earning a living.

Your education is about earning a living; the stock market is about earning a living; journalism is about earning a living.

Earning a living is not a big thing. Every worm, insect, bird, animal does it without a hassle. Human beings are doing it with great hassle. Naturally, they are feeling frustrated.

Human life cannot be contained to survival; it wants to be something more. In fact, human life begins only when survival is taken care of.

Is that because we want too much? Is that why survival is such a hassle?

It's not because you want too much, it's because you want too little.

If you are spiritual, you would want too much.

To be spiritual means you have cosmic ambitions. You want to know not just the whole creation, but the Creator and the source of creation as well.

To be material means you have petty ambitions of owning a house, or 10 houses, or a whole apartment building.

Does a guru not mould his disciples in his own way of thought, much like parents mould a child based on their knowledge and experience?

Does the world not need more individual thinkers?

No, no, no, not me (laughs).

If you try to mould your children, how will you mould them? Like yourself?

You thought you were a rebel when you were 18. You watch it when you are 40 -- you speak like your mother, you act like your mother, you face the same problems...

If the fresh generation is going to do the same rubbish that you did, it's a wasted generation.

It is just too expensive to have one more generation of people doing the same thing the previous generation did.

Your children should do what you could not even imagine doing.

Is there a lack of individuality in today's world? Do you see individual thinking lessening?

What people think is their individual nature is just a bundle of thoughts, emotions, ideas, opinions and prejudices.

The world can do without this individuality.

(Picks up a rose) Whether it is this beautiful flower or an ant, or an insect, or a leaf, or you as a human being, or a grain of sand, every bit of creation has the source of creation playing in it every moment.

Right now, the problem with the world is that they don't recognise it... If you did, you would treat a piece of dirt in the same way in which you would treat this flower. That is when there is unity in your existence and in your experience.

The moment you realise this, your individuality doesn't mean anything because it is the universality that matters.

Individuality divides, universality unifies.

Does it mean to say you are not an individual? Yes, you are. That is the beauty of life. You take this leaf and try and find one more just like it on the planet. You can't.

Everything is absolutely unique.

At the same time, there is a sameness to everything. The thorn and the leaf and the flower come from the same earth, isn't it?

To be able to experience this universality will naturally lead to experiencing the uniqueness of what life is.

Once you see this uniqueness, there will be no comparison. Once there is no comparison, your individuality does not mean anything.

Right now, because you are comparing yourself with somebody, your being an individual and a better individual than somebody is important.

If you experience the uniqueness of what life is, and the sameness of what life is on a deeper dimension, then you are on the spiritual path.

Please ...


'If you are against success, you are against humanity'

Image: How do you find the correct guru? Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev answers
Video: Satish Bodas
You've compared gurus to road maps. I'm sorry if my question seems irreverent, but who is the correct roadmap -- you or Mata Amritanandamayi or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or any of the other spiritual leaders?

GPS. Guru Positioning System.

We are getting technologically better (laughs).

Which is the correct GPS? Are you the correct GPS? Are any of the other gurus the correct GPS? How does one know what the correct GPS is?

A guru is not an individual; it is a possibility.

What you refer to as guru is a certain force, a certain energy. Whether the road map is printed in this press or that press is immaterial, the map has to lead to the destination.

There is a guru and there are ones who are pretending to be gurus.

When I say this, I am not trying to condemn anybody. All I am saying is if somebody is a guru, he will never see himself as an individual or feel that this is my way and this is your way.

If anything is leading to the destination, it is fine.

How does a common man get one on one time with a guru like you?

Why do gurus, just like the gods in temples, favour the moneyed or the powerful?

(Laughs.) Which one are you that you are sitting here?

Or you need to be a journalist?

A journalist (laughs).

How does an ordinary person reach out to you?

I want you to understand that 70 percent of our work is in rural India. So I meet neither the powerful nor the rich.

I am with the most desperate humanity in the country most of the time.

It's only when I come to Mumbai or Delhi that I'm with the powerful and the rich, because I come here to meet them. I don't come here to meet the slum dwellers.

If you go into rural India, the whole country is a slum. Seventy per cent of our work is in that slum only. But to empower us to work, we need the rich and the powerful too.

What do we have against the rich and the powerful? Everybody is trying to get there.

We would like to see that everybody succeeds, but, unfortunately, only few have succeeded.

If you are resentful about that, you will be against success. If you are against success, you are against humanity, isn't it?

Please ...

'Give me 24 heads of State, I will change the world'

Image: Will Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev enter politics?
Video: Satish Bodas
You meet a lot of economic leaders, political leaders. Do you try and use your influence, express your opinion and try and change what is happening?

I always am. That's what democracy means -- that every individual in this country has to participate in the political process from the position that he has taken in his life.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think they have no role to play.

You framed it differently. Generally, most journalists ask me if I will enter politics.

Will you?

(Laughs.) What is needed in the world today is that political people become spiritual rather than spiritual people becoming political.

I would like to see that at least a drop of spirituality enter anybody who is a leader.

A leader's thoughts, emotions and actions influence many people. It impacts their lives.

When you are given such a privilege and such a responsibility, it is very, very important that you have a spiritual element in you.

In other words, if the work that you are doing is important, the most important thing you need to do is work upon yourself.

We would like to see all levels of leadership in the country -- and not just the prime ministerial or chief ministerial levels -- have an element of a non-religious, non-denominational spiritual process that is offered in a scientific manner.

We have influenced many, many leaders, but we keep it discreet so that they have the privacy of conducting their lives the way they want to. We don't do it for advertising.

We do it to see that something in the nation changes.

Is a lack of clarity and spirituality the reason why we see the kind of problems we see today?

In many ways, yes.

Sometime ago, someone very important in this world asked me: Sadhguru if there is one thing we can do for you that will change the world, what is it?

I said: I will name 24 people. Give them to me for five days. You will see significant changes in the world in three to five years' time.

They asked: Who are these 24 people? I named 24 heads of State of important nations in the world.

Normally, I need two-and-a-half days to transform people. But because they are politicians, I didn't want to take a chance -- I said five days.

For the very first time in the history of humanity, we have the necessary resources, capability and technology to address every human problem on the planet.

The only thing that's missing is an inclusive consciousness.

In the year 2010, they say the world produced enough food for 18 billion people. But we are only 7 billion people.

Still 40 per cent of the people don't get to eat, because you and I have not cared enough.

If these 24 people change the way they think, the way they feel about the world, the way they experience the world, everything can change.

Everything -- technology, resource, capability -- is in place except the human being.

My dream and intention and vision is to put the human being in place.

Please ...

Tags: Sadhguru

'The way corruption is conducted in India is humiliating'

Image: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on the corruption that ails India
Video: Satish Bodas
How do you view Anna Hazare and the anti-corruption movement in the country?

For the first time in the history of this nation, we are sitting on the threshold of an economic possibility that was never there before.

For me, this economic possibility is not a question of money, stocks or GDP.

There are almost a half a billion people here who have such a bad deal in their life; you cannot call the conditions in which they are living as human.

India has the maximum level of malnourishment in children.

We can change all that in the next five to 10 years if we cross this threshold properly, if we grab the economic opportunity that is there in front of us.

But corruption has hit astronomic levels; some people seem determined to mess up this opportunity.

The world was looking towards India with hope. When all the other economies were collapsing, we had a huge possibility. But now they are all looking away.

When I meet economic leaders, political leaders around the world, they all say they want to come to India, but don't know how to deal with the corruption.

The way corruption is conducted here is so humiliating that anybody with any dignity would not want to do business with us.

You have to do business through the backdoor all the time.

If you don't change this one thing, this half a billion people will not have that opportunity. You will put them back in the same pit again as the previous generation.

But if we do things right, in the next 10 years, India will be a different place to live in.

Unfortunately, the leadership is not showing the determination to grab this opportunity properly and make the change.

You and I are okay, we'll talk this and we'll have our lunch. But there are almost 400 million people who will not have lunch today... or at least not enough lunch.

Please ...

Tags: India , GDP

'Hinduism is a geographical identity'

Image: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev at Kanti Sarovar, beyond Kedarnath

Is there an increasing clash among religions across the world?

Has religion become a divisive force?

I don't think there is an increasing amount of clash compared to what there was in previous centuries.

Just look back and see the Crusades and other similar wars -- we don't have that kind of thing.

Yes, there is some amount of clash and we should eliminate that, but, in many ways, it's decreasing not increasing.

You need to get the right perspective about this.

There is something called as religion. There is something called as spiritual process.

The fundamental difference is just this: Religion means you ascribe to a certain set of beliefs. You are referred to as a believer.

Spiritual process means you have realised that you do not know, so you are referred to as a seeker. When you do not know and are seeking, you do not clash with anybody.

When you believe you know, that is when you clash with everybody.

The fight in the world is not between good and evil as they project it. The fight in the world is always between one man's belief versus another man's belief.

India is a land of spiritual seekers. You will listen with respect to what the Vedas, the Gita, the Upanishads have to say, but you don't take their word. You have to find for yourself. Till then, it's not true for you.

This is not allowed in any other culture. This is the only culture that gives you the freedom to deny God and to create God.

We have 33 million gods and goddesses because this is the only culture that has realised that God is of our making.

Everywhere else, people believe God made them.

Above all, the highest value in our life is liberation, not God.

You can believe in God and belong to a Hindu way of life.

You can disbelieve in God and still belong to it because it is a geographical and cultural identity. It never was a religious identity.

We had 33 million Gods and Goddesses when our population was 33 million. Since then, because of Western influences, we are feeling a little ashamed of having so many Gods and we are trying to reduce them.

We should have 1.2 billion Gods and Goddesses. Who will we fight with then?

If you have your god and I have my god, what's the problem?

If 10 people gather behind one God, then there is a fight, isn't it? This is the freedom given to you.

If you like this rose, you can make it your god. You can worship it. Nobody will say anything. If you like a stone in your garden, you can worship it.

Nobody thinks it's weird because there is not a single atom in the existence where the hand of the creator is absent.

Unfortunately, certain things have happened historically and we've gotten into a certain mould. If we want to move ahead as a nation, it's time we sort out and understand that these differences are only in our imagination.

In reality, the people whom you hate, what they exhale you inhale and what you exhale, they inhale. There's really no problem (laughs).

When you look at the newspapers, there seems to be an increasing amount of angst in the world -- people being murdered, robbed by their own family members, there are suicides...

No, no, that's not about what's happening to the world; it is what is happening to the journalism and the journalists... I'm sorry.

Many wonderful things are happening in the world, but we've gotten into this mode that only what is negative, what spills blood is interesting...

A thousand years ago if a thousand people died in Delhi and you were living in Mumbai, you wouldn't even know. You would sit here peacefully, looking at the beach.

But today, if 10 people die somewhere, all the blood and gore will pour into your sitting room.

Whatever happens in the world pours into your house, so it looks like too much is happening.

If you look at it sensibly, you will see there is much less violence on the planet today. This does not mean I am endorsing the violence that is happening -- yes, this also needs to go. I am saying it is not increasing.

The problem is not really with the world, it is with the way it is being reported.

Please ...

Tags: God , gore , Vedas , Crusades , Delhi

'Yoga is a fantastic product!'

Image: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev: I can do something Shiva could not do

Nowdays, yoga has become a brand. It is being packaged...

(Interrupts) It is a fantastic product.

Is there something like true yoga, or real yoga, in the world today?

If something is a fantastic product, it is not true?

I don't know.

(Laughs) Only what is true should be packaged and sold, isn't it? If you sell what is untrue, it is not called business, it is cheating.

You may be wondering why a yogi talking to rediff? He should be sitting in a cave and doing this. Would you come there?

A yogi's interest is in sharing with everyone what he experienced within himself. That which has transformed his life and made his life so beautiful, he wants to see that it happens to everybody.


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