Self-discovery more important than dogma, says mystic
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, internationally recognized mystic, yogi, and socio-spiritual leader, spoke at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 21st, at the launch of his book, Midnights with the Mystic: A Little Guide to Freedom and Bliss, co-authored with Cheryl Simone, an Atlanta based real estate developer and a spiritual seeker. The book is one of the many multi-pronged initiatives of Sadhguru to bring well being and spiritual awakening through a direct inner experience as opposed to any external beliefs.
The book-signing and the discourse were presented by the Indo-Jewish Coalition of Atlanta, which recognized the value of Sadhguru’s massive volume of work in the fields of spirituality, social work, rural rejuvenation, and several other areas of wellbeing through his Isha Foundation. The Coalition also acknowledged his increasing appearances and influence at global forums such as the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switerzland, the Australian Leadership Retreat, and the India Today Conclave, where he shared the podium with Al Gore and other national and international thinkers and leaders.
Dr. Cedric Suzman, Co-Chair of the Indo-Jewish Coalition and board member of the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee said that such a program is not normally what they would do, but because of the spiritual (as opposed to religious) and social nature of Sadhguru’s work, and because of his prominence, they decided it seemed like a worthwhile thing to do.
The event started with Simone addressing the diverse audience of about 1000 people about her lifelong quest as a spiritual seeker who had traveled to India and other places in her search for truth. With a thriving career in real estate, she had found success in life, but she nevertheless remained internally unfulfilled and in search of something more. Worse, her health was rapidly failing and had deteriorated to a point where she thought she was “60 percent dead.” Her encounter with Sadhguru and her practice of his teachings transformed her life dramatically, starting from a miraculous improvement in her health and energy, and leading further into inner wellbeing and an increasing clarity of perception about life’s most pressing issues.
Simone described Sadhguru and her initial meetings with him, which inspired in her an enduring reverence and awe and eventually led to a dialogue between her as the seeker, and Sadhguru as the mystic with the answers to her burning questions. The book is based on these dialogues that took place over several nights over a bonfire in the middle of a small island in a lake in North Carolina where Simone owns a lake house.
Sadhguru then took to the stage and started with a brief but soul stirring rendition of a Sanskrit chant. Having set the stage with his immense aura and presence, he then launched into a most insightful discourse on the mystic’s way to divinity and bliss. He demystified mysticism by saying that life’s ultimate truths remain distant and mysterious to most of humanity only because most of us are unwilling to admit that we really don’t know when it comes to matters about God and creation. Rather, we are wholly given to the social, cultural, and religious conditioning that has shaped us from our very childhoods.
To illustrate, he asked, “How many of you believe in God?” Many hands went up. He than asked, “How many of you know you have two hands?”
He then drove in the point by asking, “Why is it that when it comes to God, we “believe,” but when it comes to our own two hands, we “know”? He said it is so because most of humanity is not honest enough to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. He added that each culture and region have their own stories about God, and that people are deeply conditioned by these stories; so much so that these stories reign supreme in lieu of any real experience of divinity. The stories, he said, have a certain value in society, but “when you have come to a point where your thirst to know reality? to know the very source of life?to know the very fundamentals of how this (pointing inwards) works, then these stories don’t help.”
Stressing the universality of such an inner experience of one’s own ultimate nature, he maintained that one cannot become an enlightened being if one identifies oneself as a Christian or a Hindu or a man or a woman. Any such worldly identifications, he said, are one’s own ideas. “Only if you come to this as a piece of life, not as a bundle of impressions, you will realize. Identifications are your ideas. But the very life pulsating within you is not your idea; it is your only reality.”
Punctuating his two-hour discourse with riveting stories and illustrations, Sadhguru transfixed his audience with his brilliant sense of humor. The discourse was followed by a question-and-answer session where he fielded age-old spiritual and philosophical questions. When asked, “Is there life after death?” Sadhguru quipped with characteristic humor, “Some things you can best understand from experience. Are you willing to find out?!”
After his mischievous quip, Sadhguru proceeded to answer the question by saying that the question comes from wanting to know the very fundamentals of life. “Why do you want to know about life after death, when you haven’t even figured out life before death?” “By asking this question,” he said, “you are asking what is the nature of my existence. If such a longing to know has come?to know genuinely, then shouldn’t you try to find out the nature of our existence now, when you are alive, rather than wait till death?”
“Now, if I tell you ‘Yes, there is life after death,’ then will it help you in any way? Because, after all, you only have two options if I say there is life after death: you either believe me or you don’t believe me. Either way, you are no closer to reality.”
“But these questions come because your current experience of life is only physical and psychological. You have no existential experience of life itself. If you did, you would know all that is to know. Having such an existential experience of yourself is not a far out thing. That which is the very core of you, how far can that be from you? All it needs is a longing? a huge longing to know.”
Sadhguru and Cheryl Simone then stepped out into the lobby of the beautiful synagogue for a book signing session. They patiently and warmly entertained a long queue of book buyers who were seemingly mesmerized by what he had to offer. If the objective of the evening and the book was to reach out to people across all faiths and backgrounds in inspiring them into taking an inner journey of self discovery, then it appeared to have been achieved quite effectively. James John, an IT professional, said he had been born in the Christian faith but has always been open to good ideas from all faiths. He said he was deeply impressed by Sadhguru’s talk, his forthrightness and his “all consuming awareness—he was completely and wholly in the moment.”
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