Sadhguru: man on a mission
Yogi and spiritual teacher Sadhguru, or Jaggi Vasudev, is the founder and head of the Isha Foundation in India, which has touched the lives of millions worldwide through its transformational programmes. OM caught up with him to learn more about his current environmental work – including a 30,000km motorbike trip across Europe and the Middle East in an effort to 'save soil' – and his ideas on life, love and happiness
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Yogi, mystic and visionary, Sadhguru is one of the most influential voices of our times. He has spoken at various forums across the world, including the UN world headquarters, UNESCO headquarters, World Economic Forum, the World Bank, the House of Lords, TED, Microsoft and Google. He has been invited to speak at leading educational institutions such as Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton and MIT among others. He is the recipient of three Presidential awards, including India's highest annual civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.
Over the years, Sadhguru has launched various high-profile ecological initiatives. Project GreenHands, Rally for Rivers and Cauvery Calling address the urgent need to increase green cover, revitalise Indian rivers and restore soil health. As part of the Conscious Planet initiative, he has also launched the world's largest people's movement – Save Soil, which has so far reached over 3.91 billion people. These initiatives have been recognised globally as game-changers for establishing a blueprint for economic development that is ecologically sustainable and socially equitable.
Three decades ago, he founded Isha Foundation, a non-profit human-service organisation, with human wellbeing as its core commitment. The Foundation offers powerful yoga programmes for human transformation and wellbeing, and has initiated path-breaking outreach projects to uplift rural communities. It is supported by over 17 million volunteers worldwide.
Can you tell us a bit about your yoga background?
When I was just 12 years of age, we would go to our grandfather’s ancestral home for the summer vacation. There was a well in the backyard, which was about eight feet in diameter and 150 feet in depth. In summer, the water would generally be at least 60 to 70 feet below the ground level. One of the sports for us young boys was to jump into this well and climb up. I was very proud that I was good at it.
One day, a man who was over 70 years of age was simply standing there and silently watching us. Then, without a word, this man just walked to the well and jumped in. I thought he was finished, but he came up faster than me! I did not like it. Then I asked: “How?” He said: “Come, do yoga.” That was Maladihalli Swami. Like a puppy, I went behind him because I found him so superhuman; he could do things that no young man could do. He is not my guru but he initiated me into some simple physical yoga. Though I was not given to any kind of discipline at that time, from that day somehow this yoga happened every day for the next 13 years, to the point where I ended up with huge experience, which changed everything about me.
Now, if I just sit for 20 seconds with my eyes closed in the morning, I am all charged up and ready – that is all the yoga that I do. Only if I am trying to manifest something, if I want to consecrate something, then I sit with my eyes closed; otherwise I am constantly in activity.
At age 65, you recently travelled 30,000km by motorcycle to launch the Save Soil movement. Did yoga help prepare you for the journey?
During the journey, people were asking me: “Sadhguru, what is the secret of your energy? How come your back is not broken?” My back is a good advertisement for a yogic back! From the age of 12, I have been practicing a powerful system of yoga called Angamardana. Angamardana literally means to have complete mastery over your limbs. A minor aspect of Angamardana is Upa-Yoga. It has kept me going for nearly 53 years — and even now during that journey.
You've talked before about the need to create a conscious planet, what does that mean for you – and how does this tie in with the Save Soil motorbike journey?
Today, we have found many aspects of our life to differentiate between human beings, to confront and conflict with each other. If people do not understand what the cosmic consciousness which unifies us is they must at least understand that soil is a unifying force. Soil is the source of our existence. Whatever race, religion, nationality, caste, creed we may have, essentially, we all come from the soil, we live off the soil and when we die, we go back to the soil. We have to touch base with common factors among all of us. Otherwise, with our very intelligence and competence, we will destroy each other in the end.
There is currently talk of a mental health pandemic. What do you think is the solution?
Maybe three years ago, you did not know what the word ‘pandemic’ meant, but today everyone knows it for sure. Now the World Health Organisation is talking about a mental health pandemic. Do you think we have enough psychiatrists to handle eight billion people? No. We need to understand that our physical and mental health are both fundamentally our responsibility. The source of our wellbeing, joy and love is invested in us. This is what yoga is about: how to live with exuberance and ecstasy every moment of your life. This is the most needed thing in the world right now. As there is a science and technology to fix the external situations, there is a whole science and technology to fix the inner situations. This is what we are calling ‘Inner Engineering’. You can change the very fundamental chemistry of who you are.
Some people seem to have it all: great job, house, car, partner, but still they’re unfulfilled. Why? What’s the most secure way to lasting happiness?
Every human experience is rooted in a certain type of chemistry that you carry at that moment. What you call as peace, joy, stress, love are just different kinds of chemistry. If you are peaceful, the chemistry within you is in a certain way. Or, if you can create that kind of chemistry within, you naturally become peaceful. Negative feelings arise simply because we have not taken charge of this inner chemistry. To do so will demand that you give your internal faculties a little more attention. The good news is, with the right kind of practices, you can bring balance to your internal chemistry. Yoga is the science of creating the right kind of chemistry. If you have the right kind of chemistry, being joyful and peaceful is the only way – it cannot be any other way.
Many people struggle to find lasting relationships. Is there really such a thing as a soulmate?
Many people subscribe to the idea that there is a single ‘right’ person out there for everyone. What is needed to make a relationship successful is not the perfect person – there is no perfect person on the planet. What you need is absolute integrity. Whether someone is watching or not, you should act in the same way. Who you are should not change depending upon where you are and who with. Once you have established your way of being, interacting with another person can be a joy. Another aspect is that if you try to extract something out of each other, and you or the other person do not get what you both want, there will be constant conflict.
Do not look for the ideal partner – there isn't one. If you understand that it is your needs that make you seek a companion, find someone who is reasonably compatible with you. If you accept, respect, love, include, care for, and take responsibility for each other, it can be a beautiful relationship.
What are your future plans going forward?
In 2024, we will be launching a global movement called Conscious Planet because there is only one problem on the planet – the human being. If this human being is a little more sensible, so many problems would disappear right now. What is the problem with the human being? Human being is the peak of evolution on this planet, the flower of life on this planet, the most intelligent, competent and capable, but one big mess because once you attain to this level of intelligence and capability, everything that you do is supposed to happen consciously. The moment you do the same things compulsively, unconsciously, humanity is a disaster. That is where we are right now. People are expecting some aliens to come and trouble us, but we are capable of destroying ourselves totally out of our own silly nonsense. What we need is a Conscious Planet. Conscious Planet does not mean the planet is going to glow with a halo. It is you and me. Human beings have to become conscious. So in this direction, we will be launching this movement, where we want at least 1.5 billion people to have one simple spiritual process so that they will close their eyes and do something for their wellbeing.
Outside of work, what do you do during any downtime?
I have an indiscriminate sense of passion towards everything. There were lots of things I did at one time, but these days, time is not allowing me to do that. So generally, if I have little time, all I do is play golf because that is safe and within the city, and I can get back in time to do something else. But if an entire day is left to me, I will close my eyes and sit because I am at my best when I truly have nothing to do.
Join Sadhguru, in person, at his first London event in four years, 'Sadhguru in London: Meet, Mingle and Meditate' on 18th June. Discover your natural state of freedom and joy. Register at: sadhguru.co/london-mag