A Modern Mystic
Sadhguru, an Indian spiritual teacher integrates spirituality, ecological restoration and service with humanity.
“Leave your belief systems at the door with your shoes when you enter the room…” In typical Sadhguru style, the words were uttered with a smile that acknowledged the enormity of the request within so simple a sentence.
In that brief moment, Sadhguru had suspended reality as I knew it, and offered me a glimpse of another dimension of experience. I didn’t know what was there beyond the grasp of my mind and the veil of my perceptions, but in that instant I knew that I craved connection with whatever ‘that’ was more than anything else in the world.
Sadhguru is a modern mystic. For one thing, his enlightenment was entirely free from the teachings or scriptures of previous yogis. Sadh means ‘the one who knows out of his own experience’.
His teaching follows this formula: true knowledge being born of embodied experience, not of reading or discussion. If you want to understand who you really are, Sadhguru will not give you answers that sit outside the realm of your own direct experience; instead he will give you a map in the form of ancient yogic practices and tell you to go and find yourself, knowing that the map will inevitably take you where you want to go.
Sadhguru teaches yoga as a life path, a multi-levelled map and a science that has outcomes based on specific ingredients or actions: “If you do A, B and C with this level of intensity, D will eventually happen.” He laughingly points out that animals do almost everything better than we do within the physical domain, as a way of highlighting the fact that human beings are built for something far more subtle than merely eating, sleeping, mating and dying. He also explains our over-consumption of just about everything, as a misdirected spiritual longing to experience our own immensity. As subtle beings overly identified with the material world, it is easy for us to see how the spiritual impulse for expansion could be confused with the need for bigger, better, faster, more – none of which ever really scratches the longing that we have to experience ourselves as we really are.
Another aspect of Sadhguru’s accessibility is that he includes all the challenges of modern-day life in the spiritual path. He laughingly describes his “undercover yogis” out in the modern world, as an embodiment of a spirituality that is as grounded in office blocks as it is in caves, inviting us all to move from analysis of life’s circumstances into acceptance and inclusion of everything as part of our personal growth. “You cannot determine the circumstances you live in, but you can decide how to be in any circumstance that you are in.”
One of the fastest paths of growth mapped out by Sadhguru is that of volunteering – selflessness and willingness being profound accelerants on the path to self-knowledge. He teaches that to truly know life we have to be able to respond to it – changing forever my relationship with the word ‘responsibility’, from what was a sense of duty, to one of gratitude and interconnectedness. When I take on being responsible for all life, rather than for seemingly manageable fragments, an immediate sense of relaxation, expansion and connectedness replaces overwhelm, and I find myself willing to simply do whatever is needed without thought for recompense. In the same way that selfishness excludes, constricts and separates, generosity includes, expands and connects; it can feel like being rewired back into the main frame of life with an increased feeling of care for and intimacy with all things.
Village by village, Sadhguru has been seeding this culture of generosity and compassion throughout the rural populations of India for twenty-five years. In 1992 he founded the Isha Foundation, an entirely volunteer-run, international non-profit organisation dedicated to cultivating human potential. Over 250,000 volunteers from more than 150 centres spread worldwide operate the Foundation, but it is impossible to count the actual number of volunteers that are embodying the Isha teachings. In 2006 well over a million volunteers helped the Isha initiative Project GreenHands to break the Guinness World Record through planting over 850,000 trees in a single day. Many thousands more people are taking programmes in the USA, the UK, Singapore and India every week; every person, no matter what race, age or sector of society, is encouraged to look within to find what is authentically theirs to give. “How deeply you touch another life is how rich your life is.”
Isha has already touched and transformed millions of lives. Sadhguru’s own innate sense of inclusiveness has led inevitably to the creation of multiple social and environmental initiatives designed to lift people out of suffering. Project GreenHands has facilitated the planting of 7.1 million trees within four years, through environmental education, community involvement and the adoption of organic agroforestry, to reverse desertification and alleviate poverty. Social outreach through Action for Rural Rejuvenation (ARR) has taken mobile health clinics into thousands of remote villages in India, dispensing free medicine, health education and yogic health care as well as establishing libraries, playgrounds and herbal gardens. For the children, Sadhguru’s initiative Isha Vidhya is to build 206 new schools in order to help rural children participate in India’s economy. Every initiative from prison programmes to tsunami rehabilitation is underpinned with respect for all, generosity of spirit, and ways of doing and being that inevitably reignite hope and the desire to engage with life.
While Isha programmes provide a process for spiritual deepening, Sadhguru has also created a profoundly powerful meditation tool called the Dhyanalinga, an energy form locked in metal and stone that enables visitors to the Ashram temple to experience spontaneous states of meditation without previous experience or preparation.
Whether he is speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Tallberg Forum in Sweden, the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit or the World Peace Congress, Sadhguru’s vision and understanding of modern social and economic issues are increasingly being sought and heeded. That this astonishing force of Nature with his wild sense of humour, piercing logic and limitless energy is also working with the leadership of our planet brings an increased sense of possibility and hope at this extraordinary time for humanity.