Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (c) surrounded by followers. (All photos, courtesy: ISHA Foundation)
Without once referencing the scriptural texts, mystics or holy people, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev captivated nearly 3,000 people here last week with his message: Don’t be a slave to the external world; it will not bring you joy, writes Viji Sundaram. – @siliconeer #siliconeer #community #IshaYoga #SadhguruVasudev #ISHAFoundation #ISHA #SiliconValley
“The worst form of slavery is letting someone else or something else determine your emotions,” Sadhguru said.
His two-hour interactive presentation on “inner engineering,” a technique he said can help a person to get out of his perceived limitations into a boundless state of joy was peppered with jokes. He told how people come to him and tell him that they have a spouse, a job, a house, plenty of money but –
“We need to kick the but,” he roared from the stage, pointing out that people’s entire focus is on fixing things on the outside, forgetting that by doing so they will procure comforts and conveniences but no “well being.”
“Though we are the most comfortable generation, can we claim we are the most joyful?” he asked rhetorically.
The Sadhguru is a man of many stripes. In his native India, the he can be seen moving around in long flowing robes and a turban. Or he could be spotted wearing a T-shirt and swinging a golf club (he is passionate about the game), or flying a helicopter, or riding his motorcycle. At other times he wears a simple dhothi and works alongside impoverished villagers in Tamil Nadu. But no matter where he is, his hearty laugh never forsakes him.
He makes statements that might make some Indians uncomfortable. Like when he was addressing a United Nations meeting on International Yoga Day earlier this year and proclaimed:
“Yoga is not Indian, it does not belong to India any more.”
“Yes, it originated in India,” he told the multinational gathering of diplomats and international officials.
“As Indians we are proud of it. But it does not belong to India. The very fact that the UN has declared an International Yoga Day means India has gifted it to the world.”
Moreover, yoga is “an absolute science and technology for well-being,” he went on.
“Science cannot be Indian” because of its universality and absoluteness.
Now who can argue with that?
The 59-year-old mystic, who has thousands of followers worldwide, is spearheading environmental, health, education, conservation and a plethora of humanitarian projects all over India through the Isha Foundation. Started by him, Isha Foundation is a non-religious, not-for-profit organization with over 200 centers worldwide and over one million volunteers.
Sadhguru was recently honored with the Indira Gandhi Award in recognition of his Project GreenHands initiative, a massive public reforestation effort.
He shared with the audience his moment of awakening on Chamundi Hills in his home state of Karnataka. He rode his motorcycle up the hill, parked it and sat on a rock, he said. His years of practicing yoga helped him to sit steadily for what he thought was 10 minutes but turned out to be four-and-a-half hours.
“Until that moment,” he writes in his most recent book, “Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy,” “in my experience my body and mind was me and the world was ‘out there.’
“But suddenly I did not know what was me and what was not me. My eyes were still open. But the air that I was breathing, the rock on which I was sitting, the very atmosphere around had become me.”
“Inner Engineering” made the Washington Post’s best-seller list.
The book offers a guide to self-empowerment based on the teachings and principles of classical yoga, a science he said that should be used to elevate our consciousness. He describes yoga as a system of self-empowerment that is capable of harnessing and activating inner energies in such a say that the body and mind functions at their optimal capacity.
Because most people think of yoga as a mere exercise that involves body contortions, they don’t reap from it the rich benefit that it’s meant to provide: a sense of being in absolute harmony with existence. Physical and mental benefits are a byproduct of that.
Bay Area resident Ravishankar Nilakantan could testify to that. Five years ago, after watching a video of the Sadhguru’s yoga program on YouTube, the then 23-year-old college student, enrolled in a two-day Inner Engineering workshop in Atlanta during the Sadhguru’s visit there. He said he was so impressed and inspired by the “logic of the program” that he began practicing the kriyas (the yoga of transforming energies) everyday.
In three months, he said, he lost some 40 pounds “even though I had not changed my diet.” The crippling asthma that had plagued him since childhood went away, allowing him to throw away his inhalers.
Best of all, he said in a very short time he began noticing that he wasn’t getting stressed out by things that had previously stressed him.
“I was able to take a step back and enjoy the drama around me,” said the electrical engineer.
Sadhguru has been named one of India’s 50 most influential people. He has served as a delegate to the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit and the World Peace Congress.