Interview Sadhguru: Jaggi Vasudev, popularly know as as Sadhguru, has critics and fans in same measures. There is no denying that he has caught the attention of millions across the world and there are many who agree to his philosophy on need for transformation. You can’t also reject his ability to seamlessly travel between the ancient and ultramodern.
In 1992, he founded Isha Foundation, a non profit, in Coimbatore which attracts people from all over the world. The mystic recently came out with a book title Karma: A Yogi’s Guide to Crafting Your Destiny, in which he talks about how you experience any situation is entirely your making. SheThePeople got an opportunity to interact with him in which we talk to him about his life work, feminism, pandemic and much more. Some edited snippets from the conversation:
You are very popular on social media and often caught in the crosswinds of Twitter debates, your recent tweet “Feminine is not a gender – it is a dimension” had Twitter users up in arms. What is your relationship with social media?
Sadhguru: The democratic process is a constant war of words. We should not be offended by the words because if you take away the privilege of verbal war, then it will translate into physical war. Cultivating the art of tongue-lashing is an interim solution until we bring humanity to a state of equanimity where such expression is unnecessary. These days, if you do not even have the courage to say something in front of someone, you can blog or tweet. Sitting in your home, you can say the nastiest things possible. People simply want to say something – it does not matter whether it is true or untrue, makes sense or not, or whether someone will read it or not.
People have their opinions about everything. Their opinions will matter to us only when we are not very clear about what we are doing. Instead of trying to battle with others’ opinions, it is best that we strive to create clarity as to what we are doing and why we are doing it.
For me, social media is a tremendous tool. I can sit here and talk to the entire world. When did we have such a possibility before? If we want to transform humanity, this is the time. Whether we are going to mess ourselves up or transform human population with social media is left to us. Once I spoke to a social media expert in the US who told me that seventy percent of the content accessed on the internet is pornography, and that millions of children below fifteen years of age are sold on the internet every year. When I heard this, I decided to get on social media. Now I am everywhere making a lot of noise. It is against my aesthetics, but I have made myself like this because we have to turn this around. This tremendous tool of communication should not turn into a dark force.
For me, social media is a tremendous tool. I can sit here and talk to the entire world. When did we have such a possibility before? If we want to transform humanity, this is the time.
How important do you think it is for women to have economic independence to have a say in their family?
Sadhguru: The idea of women having economic independence has gained great momentum in the last 40-50 years as a reaction to exploitation of women due to their financial dependence on a man. So women thought that the only way to avoid suppression is to go out to work. While exploitation is a reality in some families, it is not so in all. My mother was working all the time at home but she did not earn any money. Rupees were not significant for her; her values were different. She was very proud of what she was doing, and she was the most respected person in the family. She did not have a domineering presence; she never threw her weight around. But if we did something that was against whatever she thought was good for everyone, just one tear would appear in her eyes – and we were finished. Simply because of her love, we could not do anything that she would not like. She had that kind of power and she exerted it only when she had to.
In the family unit, someone earns, someone decides how to put this earning to best possible use, someone brings up the children, etc. Nowadays, we have set certain standards for women, where they think a working woman is better than a housewife. If we hold economic activity as higher than home activity, this will lead to human tragedy.
No one needs to develop a philosophy that all women should earn money or not. If the financial requirement is such in a family, then women will need to go out and work. If the need is social not financial, I don’t see that a woman must find work. It is a wrong idea that only if you earn so much money, only if you are an achiever in the world then you are a real woman This is an idea that has been borrowed from the man’s mind. In the name of woman’s liberation, women have taken on men’s values. This is true slavery. If she sees how to enhance the feminine quality within her, to become a beautiful flower-like fragrant existence, then it can bring a transformation on the planet. This is something only she can do. This cannot be enforced or imposed.
How do we educate boys to reduce gender-based violence and create a more respectful society for women?
Sadhguru: I would say that the violence is not only against women. Right now, there is a lot of violence against children, irrespective of their gender. People beat up anyone who is a little weaker than them. This is because society is essentially focused on the identification with the physical body. Now, if you have a stronger body than someone else, naturally you will think you can do things to them.
Spiritual process means your experience of life touches a dimension beyond physical nature. Once your identification shifts to something beyond your physicality, then your physical dominance is not of any significance to you anymore. Consequently, you will not try to manifest it in the world. Because people are so identified with the body, they try to dominate physically, which those who are at the receiving end experience as violence. But the one who is doing it thinks it is his right because he is bigger.
It is very important that this aspect is handled in the homes right from childhood, because if they do not pick up these things at an early age, it will be very difficult later.
Feminism to you is?
Sadhguru: The value of the feminine is not just in physical beauty or pleasure but the quality of subtle aesthetic that the feminine infuses into life.
Technological development has rendered man’s brawn insignificant and allowed women to step out and do the same things that men were doing in the past. So all you have to do is continue to educate, educate, and educate. In a generation, everything will change.
It is very important that women who have reached certain strata of society and who can make a difference, take this upon themselves: don’t fight for women’s rights; just see how to create a better humanity. Making men and women akin to two different species is not the way. We must be able to see a human being as a human being. If all human beings on the planet have to live well, these gender distinctions should not be exaggerated. Thinking “I am a woman, so anything ‘woman’ I will support” or “I am a man, so anything ‘man’ I will support” — is a silly way to exist. It means you are too identified with your gender. Identifying with your gender means identifying with certain parts of the body, with reproductive organs. This is a very poor way to live. If you must identify with some body part, at least choose the brain!
Thinking “I am a woman, so anything ‘woman’ I will support” or “I am a man, so anything ‘man’ I will support” — is a silly way to exist.
What is Karma and how can we use its concepts to enhance our lives?
Sadhguru: Karma is generally projected as punishment or reward. No. Karma means action. You are performing physical, mental, emotional, and energetic action every moment of your life, in wakefulness and in sleep. This incessant action accumulates in the form of a certain type of memory. Most of it is not conscious memory; over ninety-five percent is unconscious. This is like you are creating an unconscious software. As it builds up, this memory will start determining your tendencies, the way you behave and the way you make choices. Everything is determined by what kind of karmic information you gather over a period of time. Fundamentally, your life is your karma. In other words, your life is entirely your making, whether you are joyful or miserable. If you do not understand that your life is your karma, then you will become bitter and hateful and lose all your sense of joy and peace. Only when people really understand this will they create the life that they want for themselves; otherwise, they are just one endless complaint.
How you experience any situation is entirely your making. If you determine this one thing, you will have wonderful people around you. Once there are wonderful people, you will have a wonderful humanity around you. Once you have a wonderful humanity, you will have a fantastic world around you.
Describe a day in Sadhguru’s life as an author. What is your writing process like?
Sadhguru: Most of the time, people who live in the ashram assimilate what I have spoken and it is printed. So, there is a certain rawness to many of my books. Because it worked for people who have seen me speak, now when they read this, it is just like I am speaking to them. Transitioning from spoken word to written word is a different thing altogether. When you speak, there are gestures and expressions that you do beyond the words, which are lost in the written word. At the same time, the written word is for a larger reach. So for books, I almost read through every piece of them at one point or another, making it like a written word without changing the context of what is being said.
What’s your view on changing gender roles in society?
Sadhguru: By training, everyone can do everything. But it is best to make use of natural aptitude; otherwise mediocre levels of activity will happen. If you bring sameness of activity for men and women, you will put one at a disadvantage in one arena of life, and the other at a disadvantage in another. Above all, inefficiency will prevail – women trying to do what men are good at, men trying to do what women are good at and making a mess of it.
Whether one is at home or in the office, it is as the situation demands; you go where you have to go. I would say, making of a home is more important than making an office, because home is where the future generations are being created. For some reason, nature has entrusted a woman this responsibility of manufacturing the next generation. Is this not an essential contribution to human societies? A human child is not born like other creatures. A cow drops a calf, and immediately it starts running around. A human being needs much more nurture. The best of human beings should take up this responsibility of bringing up children and creating a sensible future generation.
When it comes to rearing children, does a woman have more responsibility than a man? If you look at it on an individual basis, it may differ; but if you look at it naturally, a woman definitely has more responsibility in the early part of the child’s life. At this time, the child needs a certain sensitivity and tenderness. I am not saying men are incapable of this – some men definitely are capable. But for many of them, it does not come naturally. Although there may also be some women who have no clue how to handle their children, generally for a woman, there is a natural instinct. I would say till the child reaches an age of 12 years, a woman is a better manager of her children. But once a child begins to try to become a person in the world, perhaps a man has more of a role to play at that time.
Above all, who is to decide who should do what? Let each individual person decide.
A mother can easily put her child’s well-being above her own. Don’t you think it is a social construct that pushes them to do so rather than it being a personal choice? Do you think Indian women have a choice as far as embracing motherhood is concerned?
Sadhguru: Whatever your aspirations and goals, if you want to bring a child into this world, please understand that this is a minimum twenty-year project. A child is not an established thing but an open life. What you make out of it depends on how much attention you are capable of. Can you pay enough attention to this twenty-year project? That is a question.
If you are not committed to this, there is no need to produce children. The human race is not an endangered species. Our explosion of population is endangering every other species. You are not duty-bound to reproduce. Right now, if more women do not bear children it would be a blessing for the planet. I hope more women make that choice. Only if you feel that you have the necessary time, dedication, and love in your heart to bring forth a really wonderful human being, who will be a fabulous gift to this world, should you bear a child. Otherwise it is not necessary.
The human race is not an endangered species. Our explosion of population is endangering every other species. You are not duty-bound to reproduce. Right now, if more women do not bear children it would be a blessing for the planet.
Have you ever come across situations, people who have pushed you to introspect and course-correct your behavior? Give us an example.
Sadhguru: When I was in high school the Naxalite movement was on everywhere. It was fashionable for everyone to talk about total revolution. One particular professor was giving us fiery talks. We were still in school, but we assembled in his house to listen to his speeches on how everything in this country is going to dogs and how we have to start a total revolution. It really sucked me in and a few of us youth were planning to run away to Andhra Pradesh and join the Naxalites. It was such a fiery talk with tremendous logic – but the professor himself would never join the movement. It took me a while to understand that. The professor himself was married with two children and was trying to get them into the best universities. There was nothing wrong with him living his life, but this revolution was just an evening entertainment for him, while I was thinking of making it my life.
When I saw this, and also how they were swindling money and other things, I thought, “This is not it, this is all just talk.” Then I stepped back. Logically it was correct, but when it came to life and how it played out, it was a completely different affair.
In your opinion, have we learned any lessons about how to lead life from the pandemic?
Sadhguru: The virus situation is very unfortunate, and over four million people have lost their lives to this so far. One thing is, it has brought mortality right up in everyone’s faces – human life is very fragile, we are mortal creatures, a microscopic virus can kill us.
We have a limited lease of time and it is ticking. If you are conscious of this, you will want to make the best out of this life. If everyone was conscious of this, where would people have time to fight or abuse each other? They will only do what they truly care for. So we must use a time like this as a realisation of how we should live our lives, of what we should do differently within ourselves and around ourselves. Time for humanity to realise the significance of being alive as a Human.
What is your opinion on the impact that the pandemic has on teaching children through online platforms (while the less privileged do not even have access to those opportunities)?
Sadhguru: A sea change in education was anyway overdue. Thanks to the virus and to artificial intelligence, schools, the way we know them, may come to an end. Right now, the schooling system is just delivering information to students, which is redundant because this is the information age – information is available everywhere. You don’t need a classroom to find it.
So the shift to online education is wonderful on one level, but unfortunately, different segments of the population live in different worlds by themselves. More than half the people in India do not have access to internet and computers. Levelling this field is going to be the main challenge.
Thanks to the virus and to artificial intelligence, schools, the way we know them, may come to an end.
Our Isha Vidhya schools in rural Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where over 60 percent of the children are first-generation school goers, had to shift to online learning because of the pandemic. Our volunteers arranged for smartphones and other support for those who needed it. However, such interventions may not be possible on a large-scale.
How to make technology and broadband reach every student? When I spoke to a few experts, they said bring online access to everyone may take another eight to ten years. At least if basic education is shifted from a computer screen to a television screen, I think the reach will increase and the number of people left out will be far less. If it becomes necessary, our governments can start channels, or there can be commercial channels, which will have four hours of education per day. Otherwise just sticking to computers and online facilities will not be enough.
What has been your experience in working for the “Rally for Rivers” project?
Sadhguru: It was almost like everyone wanted Rally for Rivers to happen but they were looking for an idiot to bell the cat, so they found me! The moment I stood up for it, the whole nation came forward. The central government sent the Rally for Rivers policy recommendations as an official recommendation for all the twenty-nine states.
Rally for Rivers was an awareness campaign to change the laws, which we have achieved. Now, we are talking about action on the ground. Over the last two decades, we have supported nearly 70,000 farmers in Tamil Nadu to shift from regular farming to agroforestry and their income has multiplied manifold. In 2019, we launched Cauvery Calling to scale up this work by reaching out to 5.2 million farmers in the Cauvery river basin. This campaign aims to revitalize Cauvery River in southern India by having farmers plant 2.42 billion trees in farmlands in the river basin, covering one-third of it with green cover. This will result in an additional nine to twelve trillion liters of water being augmented in the Cauvery basin.
From what I have seen, most ecological efforts are all about propagating philosophies. But Cauvery Calling is an economic plan with an ecological impact. This is the reason why farmers, forest officers and the state governments are all participating with great enthusiasm and responsibility. Even the pandemic could not slow us down in any way. We were able to get 11 million saplings ready to be distributed to farmers despite the challenging situation last year.
The idea of Cauvery Calling is to create a demonstrable model. If we successfully implement this, it will be a game-changer for India and the whole tropical world.
Feature Image Credit: Isha Foundation
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