He emerges from his vintage, 1980s racing blue J40 Toyota cruiser “Jeep” looking quite regal, like a potentate from another age and clime. He is also dressed in matching blue, with his signature turban and long scarf. He is dot on time. We’re meeting in the courtyard of the “Home School” inside Isha Yoga Centre, at the foot of the Velliangiri hills.
In addition to some 4000 resident volunteers, to his ashram or spiritual retreat flock tens of thousands. They come mostly to see the 112ft sculpture of the “Adi Yogi.”
Made of steel, this structure has entered it to the Guinness Book of World Records as largest bust in the world. There’s also a laser show to light it up and explain its purpose. Busloads of tourists are deposited at its entrance and whisked away after their visit.
Only the more serious — or curious — come inside the ashram proper. There is a unique “Dhyanalingam,” or concentration ellipsoid, consecrated by Sadhguru himself. Though based on Hindu traditions and ideas, the multi-religious stele at the entrance indicates that all are welcome to sit inside the large earth-brick dome in which it is housed. To meditate.
Inner workings of bodies
Or simply to sit quietly, watching their thoughts, getting to know the inner workings of their bodies and minds. There are many other attractions I on the premises, such as the two energised pools, Suryakund and Chandrakund, named after the sun and moon respectively. There is also the Linga Bhairavi shrine, representing the female aspect of the cosmic energy.
But Sadhguru himself is somewhat of an irreverent, even insouciant, sort of mystic. When we talked of AI (artificial intelligence) he said, “Memory is not intelligence, you know. You can enhance information and memory, but it will not help you attend to your own body and mind, which are the source of your pain and pleasure.”
Then he looked at me and smiled, “Yes, it may put professors like you out of business!” As he guffawed, his whole frame shook. It seemed like the room itself was reverberating with silent laughter.
Very contemporary in his lingo and quite updated with what’s going on around the world, Sadhguru is also a riding and sports enthusiast. He tells us that he has just criss-crossed the United States on his BMW mobike trying to connect with the Native American spiritual leaders.
“We did over 10,000 miles riding through 13 states — the Cherokee lands, Comanche country, following ed the Mighty Mississippi through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Wyoming, Dakotas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and so on, before circling back to Tennessee.”
Trail of Tears
Sadhguru has a 4000-acre ashram called the Isha Institute of Inner-sciences in Tennessee. It is located on the Cumberland Plateau, once Cherokee territory: “I was drawn to this place not for its beauty but more for its pain. I started noticing how there is such a deep sense of pain in many parts of this land. It was much later that I came to know that this is historically known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’”
He wanted to explore Native American culture and traditions, available today only in a residual form. “It is the Corona pandemic that actually allowed this journey,” he added, “and there’s no better way to travel than on motorcycles.”
Our conversation, soon to be broadcast, was called “The Pongal Dialogue for a Conscious Planet.” Quite apt, considering that we spent the harvest festival holiday in his ashram and recorded the exchange on 13 January, the day before Makar Sankranti or Pongal.
Sadhguru, continuing on the theme of AI and the world of the future said, “In the next twenty, thirty, forty years — I may not be there to see it — a time may come when large sections of humanity will no longer need to work. A few people will be able to manage the systems which take care of their needs.”
Free of anxieties
“But aren’t human beings purposive?” I asked, “what will we do with so much spare time?” He answered, “Precisely! We work to be free of the encumbrance and anxieties of work. So having nothing to do, having so much leisure, should be ideal, right? But you’ll see that that’ll drive people crazy. So they may need to be medicated to keep them out of mischief.
Already, large sections of the populace in affluent countries are on meds, alcohol, amphetamines, chemicals, and so on. Even TV, or now, digital media, are nothing but devices to keep you constantly occupied. See — even while sitting down at dinner, people are constantly tapping their phones or other devices.”
“These devises will be 100 times more ‘intelligent’ than they are now. So what will happen to human beings? If we cannot teach everyone to be more conscious, the next generations will regress — mentally, morally, physically — to a state worse than ours. Just eating, sleeping, and wasting their energies in doing nothing positive. That is intolerable.”
Sadhguru’s flagship programme, “Inner Engineering,” is designed to make us conscious of the miraculous life-force within each of us.
As also to disentangle it from a compulsive entrapment in our physiological and psychological processes. “But you can’t approach this as if it is just a bunch of ideas or thoughts. You have to experience to notice a difference. As human beings, we should give our energy to transformation, not transaction.”