Touria Prayag's Blog

Interview in l’express Weekly 16 March 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on March 17, 2012

Today, we open our pages to a guest of a different kind: a mystic who is unlike any other. He wears a long beard and a “ kurta- shaul” but speaks more like Karl Marx. Strongly rooted in worldly and pragmatic matters, Sadhguru J. Vasudev has addressed prominent global forums like the United Nations Millenium Peace Summit and the World Economic Forum on issues as diverse as socioeconomic development and leadership. He landed on our island on Wednesday, at the invitation of Ex- Minister of education Armoogun Parsuramen. We took the opportunity to snatch away a few minutes of his busy schedule.

The word “ Sadhguru” means true teacher. And, if the packed hall of guests who had left everything behind to come and listen to him at the Indira Ghandi Centre for Indian Culture on Wednesday evening is anything to go by, his teachings must be among the best brands on the supermarket shelves. And the teachings are not religious. Far from it. “ I am never in religion,” he says with a laugh.

“ What we are offering is a certain science or technology of wellbeing.

When I say technology of well- being, there are technologies today to create external wellbeing,” he adds. And he insists that he is not teaching or preaching. “ I am telling people about a technology that every human being can apply.

I am insisting on that because too many preachings and teachings have already happened,” he says.

He becomes even more pragmatic: “ A technology means that you don’t necessarily have to believe in it; just use it. You see this girl with the camera,” he says pointing to our photographer, “ she merely learned to use the camera. If she believed in it, she would not get a good picture.

It’s only because she knows how to use it that she manages to get a good picture.” He adds, “ She doesn’t believe in Nikon, but she knows from experience that it works well and she’s learnt to use it.

It’s the same principle and that’s the whole thing, moving from belief to knowing. Bringing life to a simple understanding: what you know and what you do not know. When you have the ‘ I do not know’, the possibility of knowing increases, but if you eliminate the ‘ I do not know’ then the possibilities of knowing are destroyed. That’s what belief does.

That’s why I distance myself from religious work. Religion implies belief as opposed to knowledge,” he clarifies.

We thought we had misunderstood so we put the question squarely: “ So you wouldn’t classify yourself as a religious man?” The answer was immediate: “ No I do not. I don’t belong to any religion.” We push our luck a bit further: “ Do you see it as a handicap or a source of comfort?” He looks around him, smiles cunningly and replies: “ Do you want me to live for some time?” Yes I do. “ Your question does not suggest that,” was his reply. A good enough answer! He qualifi es it: “ I don’t say that religion is a wholly bad thing,”- the word ‘ wholly’ is very important here – “ but the way it’s conducted is dividing the world in a way that’s diffi cult to fi x again. Instead of bringing humanity together, we are dividing it every which way. All I’m saying is that there was a time when human intellect was undeveloped to the extent that there were only a few people capable of understanding the world. But today there is a large mass of people that is moving in that direction. Yet, there is still a large mass of people that needs to cling to religion and belief. You cannot ask them to start seeking knowledge straight away. People who evolve into a certain level of intellect, or questioning capabilities, should move into seeking. The fundamentals of seeking are that you have realized that you don’t know so many things and hence you need to seek. The fundamentals of belief are that you do not know, but you still believe. Now I’m not saying whether belief is right or wrong.

What I am saying is that just because you believe does not mean that you know. Suppose I believe in one thing and you in another.

Today or tomorrow we are going to fight over that. It does not matter how much we actually know about it. If you want to defuse confl icts or possible confl icts, the important thing is that you also admit what you know and what you do not.” We could not resist the comment here: “ You almost sound like Karl Marx. Do you identify yourself with his thinking?” He did not sound offended: “ No I don’t. He just wrote economics which did not work. I believe in something that works. If something is working for somebody then alright. If somebody is getting solace from it, I will not trample upon their belief.

I’m not some kind of atheist who’ll trample on people’s beliefs. Now the question to ask is: ‘ Are you looking for solace or for a solution?’ If you’re looking for solace, then you can go on believing in something and it will work wonderfully well for you. But if you are looking for a solution, if you are looking for liberation, then your belief system is not good enough and you have to start seeking.

How many people are on the path of liberation is different from how many people are just seeking solace.

So whatever you are seeking in your life, if it’s working, then good enough. I won’t go around trampling and smashing gods.

That would be crude. Believing or disbelieving in God are not so different. One believes positively and the other believes negatively.

They are both believers.” “ Does what you are saying apply to all religious systems uniformly?” we ask.

“ If they are nurturing belief systems, then yes,” he chances.

We insist: “ Are they all the same?” He laughs: “ You’re asking for trouble! And the thing is that I can’t swim all the way across the Indian Ocean tomorrow.” “ You talked about seeking the truth.

That’s what we are doing,” we said.“ What I am saying,” he clarifi es, “ is that religion and belief arose when humanity had arrived at a certain stage of development.

That is not to say that it’s completely useless but, whatever was arrived at was presented in a certain format and whether that format is relevant today or not, that is the question. The fundamental goal of religion is.” He has still not answered our question and he knew it. “ Are you talking about all religions in the same way?” We insisted. We must have provoked him into the straightforward answer: “ Of course I am talking about all religions! You see, in the past, you had a distinction between religions that were god- oriented and those that were liberation- oriented. Now the two have become the same with the same level of rigidity. The format that they have arrived at today is the same. The goals may have been different in earlier times, but today they are all beginning to look about the same. What I mean is the format, the presentation, not the sum fundamental value of the religion.” This is not of course what the packed hall was going to hear. He is here to tell them how to contribute to their own well- being. But haven’t we heard it all before about how your attitude determines the way you feel about life and how you carry your own weather with you and decide whether you want to be happy or miserable? Don’t we know that the cards we are dealt are not nearly as important as the way we play them?” Still, it is not about attitude. He explains: “ We have to understand that the cards are not always in our hands but it’s not about attitude. You may maintain a good attitude but suddenly your chemistry goes a little funny. You may be a very sane person but act insane one day. This happens to everybody at a point in time. Your human experience is chemically managed. Now we have technology through which you can create a blissful chemistry.” “ But how do I change my chemistry by listening to you for one hour?” we ask. “ You will not change by listening to me. All I am saying is that it is possible to change your chemistry. Scientifi – cally explaining how it is possible.

This is science. It’s about how to manage your body chemistry and it takes about 30 hours of focused time in order to do that. This is about creating the chemistry the way you want it, no matter what the situation around you is. If you are looking for situations as you want them, then you are restricting yourself to only a few situations.

But if you choose to treat the world as your playground, then nothing is going to happen the way you want it.” “ Aren’t you talking about attitude, here?” “ No,” he insists.

“ Attitude is a very superficial thing. You can have any attitude, people do have attitudes but that is not something that’s enduring.

It can be broken by life situations very easily. Right now, life situations and social situations are shaping human consciousness.

That’s not how it should be. Human consciousness is what should shape the world, and that is what we are striving for.” We try to give him a sendoff gift: “ I see that in one day you people planted 856,000 trees and you entered the Guinness Book of Records for that.” He slaps it back right into our face: “ I’m not too bothered about that.

I hope somebody comes along and breaks that record. What is important is to see our country green, not to wear a badge on our sleeves. We wanted to have 114 million trees in 80 years’ time, so far we have planted 16.7 million trees and we are planting another 6 million this year. One thing in Tamil Nadu is that there has been a 7.6% increase in green cover in the last 7 years. That’s remarkable in Asia given that Tamil Nadu is the only place where the green cover is actually going up rather than down. But that’s just a minor part of our work.”

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8 Responses

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  1. Marie said, on March 21, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Wonderful article!! thank you very much for this inspiring read! LOVE that it is UNCATEGORIZED 🙂

  2. Baskar said, on March 21, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Sadhguru, Fantastic.

  3. devi said, on March 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Sadhguru!the way you explain things makes it easy to understand even complicated issues.Thankyou very much

  4. Arvind said, on March 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I admired the probing questions about religion, but I loved the straight answers even more!

  5. chamu said, on March 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    What an awesome interview. Sadhguru’s style of explaining things always has such a high impact on me!!
    In this interview I particularly liked the journalist’s twist in explaining how he/she steered through the interview. The journalist’s transparency in the tone of the interview is much appreciated!!

  6. Akshay said, on March 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I appreciate his.views. I was in isha for a couple of years. Why does he have to distance himself from the vedas and religion so much while every concept what he is teaching is from.the vedas…right from the linga to name it. I can quote portions where it is mentioned in the vedas. Does he merely want himself from.the trouble of.defending religion? He was definitely teaching and instructing everyone. He again uses a different word in the place of teaching. .:insist’..while meaning the same act. I could not.find a concrete reason for.which isha exists and promises its followers except the man becoming more and.more famous.

  7. denyseck said, on March 27, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Thank you for sharing this. So wonderful !!!..

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