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Spiritual Inquisitions of Our Times

February 2004
Spiritual Inquisitions of Our Times

Conversations with a Realized Master about God, religion, politics, and above all, bringing spirituality to our practical daily lives.


"Is your peace and happiness the ultimate goal? or is it a bare necessity?" prods Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of Isha Foundation, at a recent discourse in Atlanta. With profound clarity and undeniable potency, he delivers a message that is at once agreeable and understandable ? that our relationship with our creator need not be as clouded and hopeless as it is so often made out to be. A joyous state of mind, he argues, is a first step towards this relationship.

As opposed to dogma, scriptures, rituals and all else, Sadhguru stresses one's own experiential reality of one's self to know the creator. The Isha Foundation employs the ages-old yogic sciences of balancing one's prana or vital energies as a means to facilitate such an experiential journey.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is a Realized Master, Yogi and one of the most profound Mystics of our times. Belonging to no particular tradition, Sadhguru incorporates what is most valid for the modern seeker from India's ancient spiritual sciences.

Following are excerpts of our interview with Sadhguru.

It appears that organized religion often seems to be doing more harm than good. Is there a place for such religious dogma in a civilized, evolved world?

Fundamentally, religion is an inward step. The most intimate thing you can do with yourself is your religion. When I say religion, I am not talking about religion as a group entity. I am talking about something you do with yourself, very deep inside of yourself. So organizing it? we can organize the process of it in the sense that we can create a place for people to make use of it and [provide] guidance and such. But organizing it in the sense of taking people somewhere ? such a thing does not exist. It's just that long ago, every religion turned itself into a political entity; and that can be organized, obviously.

Religion is not something that you do on the street. It is something that you do with yourself. But unfortunately it's always done on the street. So what you refer to as religion, I don't call it as so; it is not religion. A set of beliefs will not make a religion. People who believe the same thing, they all gathered together and became a force by themselves in the world. Any kind of belief system can organize you into a group. But that group will not become religion. It's just an organized group of people who have a set of beliefs.

So do these beliefs have a place in a civilized society? I disagree that there is a civilized society. It's just that there are polished uncivilized people and unpolished uncivilized people. The polished ones are just cavemen in tuxedos. That's all I see in the world, different groups of people trying to find the necessary leverage to get into a position of power and advantage. Those who are already in a position of advantage do it in a polished way, those who are in a disadvantage, can't afford the polish, so they do it in a crude way. But all I see is uncivilized men.

How would a spiritually inclined leader protect his country against a nuclear attack? In other words, wouldn't he have to tap into any and all means at his disposal including espionage, subterfuge, preemptive attacks and such, to protect his citizens?

If the world were spiritually inclined, if the [leaders] had any experience or dimension of spirituality within them, they could diffuse the situation completely. See, right now the big effort to, lets say neutralize terrorism, in the world, [is being done] with enormous violence and force. Currently, we are not in a state where we are free from anger and hatred and intolerance; it's the reality of the world. That means people are still childish. You don't give something dangerous to your child. So when every country is in the same state [of childishness], we have made the mistake of creating certain arms that could destroy the whole planet. Now, especially when one country is so powerful and its word goes everywhere, I think if we had any spiritual sense, we would roll back the whole thing.

There could be disadvantages. But if you want a change, if you want a safe situation, we must be willing to allow a few disadvantages. These too would be only for a short term.

I know this is very dreamy kind of stuff, but it's not beyond human beings to do. Today, if one man says this, it may look ridiculous and dreamy, but tomorrow if five billion people on the planet say it, it becomes a reality. I think, in their hearts, five billion people are already saying it, but they still don't know how to articulate it and come out powerfully and say this is it.

When World War II happened, there was immense suffering, millions of people perished. The whole world took a vow, "We'll never fight a war again." It is from that basis that the United Nations grew and we said, "Ok, if I have an issue with you, I cannot come and beat you up." I am supposed to take my problem to someone who is a third party moderator - someone who has no interest in you or me and is willing to look at the situation with little more openness. Maybe this moderator won't be 100% perfect, but at least they would be a little less prejudiced than the parties involved.

Unfortunately the statistics show that ever since the WWII ended, there has not been a single days break, some kind of battle has always been going on. And once again we have brushed aside the whole mechanism and we are just doing what we want to do. Of course, when people are doing what they want to do, they believe they are doing the right thing. I don't doubt that. But I want you to remember that even Adolf Hitler believed that he was doing the right thing. He really believed that he was going to create a super world. And yet, no single individual has caused as much pain as this one man has. So, we may have good intentions, but our perception of the situation may not be right. So we are still childish. When we are childish, its better we keep our playthings not so dangerous.

It seems that those who legitimize war and harbor a baser view of humans as "us against them" are heads of nations and running world affairs, while those who are spiritually evolved and understand the essential oneness of all beings are relegated to giving discourses. Why this incongruity in nature?

We have always thought that spirituality is something that should remain in the caves and mountains and ashrams of the world. I feel spirituality should walk the streets, it should rule nations, it should manage industries and run businesses. This is because the destruction is not just in the terms of war. The very way we are living is a destructive process. This way, we are bound to destroy the world. We don't know how to reap from this planet; we only know how to rape it. Instead of reaping all the bounty that it is willing to offer, we want to rape it in one day and finish it. This is because we have no spiritual sense of life. The very way we are existing here is violence, it is self destructive.

If that has to change, definitely the leadership in the world, whether of nations, or industry or businesses or whatever, they need to be touched by the spiritual process. It is that endeavor that takes me all over the world ? wanting to touch the leadership that will make a difference in their lives and in their places of work. Always, forces of anger and hate have been organized on the planet, but forces of sense, love, and compassion have never been organized. So my whole work is to see that we organize ? so that such forces will rule the planet, and not forces of destruction.

Common sense suggests that to learn about anything, one must go to someone with experience in that thing. Yet, a spiritually inclined yogi seems so far removed from daily rigors of raising a family or growing a business.

(Laughs) You cannot say that about me, I have a family! (Sadhguru also started out as a successful brick merchant in Mysore, South India). I think it is a very wrong notion. They may not be going to the office, but it does not mean that they are not managing life. Unfortunately, people's idea of family is always that it is based on a [blood] relationship. Now, without a physical relationship, you could have a very large family. I have a huge family, thousands of people; and my involvement with them is not any less than any father being involved with their children ? not any less, in fact, it's much, much more. I am sure the same is true with lots of them (yogis). Maybe they are not married. But is it just a sexual relationship that will make a family? If family means something than it is a deeper involvement than being physical.

You have said that your happiness should be in your own control and not dependent on other people or external events. This seems to make sense on a theoretical level. But our experiential reality seems to suggest that other people and circumstances are as real as gravity towards our happiness. Why does your message seem so unrealizable?

It's not unrealizable. It is just that maybe a large section of the population is living in such a terrible limitation about themselves. You are judging reality democratically. I want you to understand truth does not need people's approval. The way it is, is the way it is ? whether one person sees it or a million people see it. Right now it is daylight; the whole population says its night, but it doesn't become so. The fact is happiness always springs from within you, never from outside. You are just using external stimulus to bring forth your happiness. It is like the old cars of the ?50s that were push start or crank start, but you can install a self-start on it. It's not out of your reach. I am just talking about an upgrade in technology!

So when you say it appears true in theory but not in reality, you are just getting caught up with your current reality too much. It's just that you have tied up happiness with external situations so much ? you've mortgaged it to external situations so that every situation is creating an inner difficulty. This is because you have not found anything that you can call as ?myself'. Everything that you are, you gathered from outside. If you do something more substantial within yourself, other than what you have accumulated, and if that becomes a living experience in you, then there is a dimension in you which you did not acquire from outside, it is all yours. The moment you are in touch with it, the outside can be handled as just outside, to the best of your ability. Each one of us is capable in different ways when it comes to the outside. If we handle it to the best of our capability then that's all we can do, nothing more. The inside doesn't get messed up in any way because it has nothing to do with the outside.

If anybody has to be tense and anxious, I should be, because I have more situations to manage than a lot of people can imagine. This large group of over two thousand volunteers who are doing all this wonderful work ? they are volunteers, I want you to understand; so I can't fire them for inefficiency. I just have to work with them all the time. So if anybody has a good reason to go crazy, it's me. But that's not the point; it's not your external situations [that matter].

Sometimes all the wisdom and spiritual contemplation seems helpless against a simple craving or desire. How exactly does spirituality help one win over one's self?

People have thought that uttering a certain sound or doing a certain practice is spirituality. It is not. Any fool can utter God's name. In fact, most of the idiots in the world are always uttering God's name. Whenever they want to do the most horrible things they have uttered his name and done it, isn't it so? But uttering something or doing something is not spirituality. It's a desperate attempt to be spiritual.

Spiritual means you have tasted something beyond the physical. Spirituality has nothing to do with what you eat, how you live, what you do; it's about how you are within yourself. You can be in the marketplace and be a perfectly spiritual person. You can be in the mountain caves and be a very lustful person.

But people have always been going about projecting that being spiritual means being frugal ? that you must dress like this or you must eat like this, or you must not eat like this. Because spirituality has been [selectively labeled] the struggle has arisen.

Now, I like good food, let us say. If I like good food, I eat well, and I can still be spiritual. It's just that I am not sold off on it. It is just that it doesn't rule my life. But it does not mean that I don't eat well, or I don't do this or that. It's just that the quality of my life does not depend on what I eat. Now, I eat what I like. Suppose I am eating chocolates everyday ? if I don't eat chocolates I won't become miserable. (Continuing the hypothesis) But I like chocolates, so I eat everyday. But if I cannot eat them tomorrow, in no way will it alter my being. So once I have this freedom, what does it matter what I eat or I don't?

Do you believe in pre-destiny? Do we control our own destiny?

What you refer to as ?destiny' are those situations which are going on without your permission; without your intent they seem to be unfolding themselves. Yes? These are situations on which you have no control. You like to call that destiny. You wouldn't want to call yourself as the man who lost control over his life. If good things happen you call it destiny; if bad things happen you call it fate! Whatever you call destiny is something you have created unconsciously.

You are doing more things unconsciously than consciously. I would say, for most average, educated, intelligent human being, only about two percent of their life is conscious. So, they create enormous amount of stuff unconsciously, which leads them into so many directions. Because they have no clue as to how it is going to unfold, the concept of destiny comes as a solace; that somebody above is creating your life. It's just your own unconscious creation. I would say, if you become conscious, you can choose the very process of life and death. If you become fully conscious, you can choose your destiny to the point that you even choose the womb that you are born in. Even now you choose, but you choose unconsciously.

What does God look like to you?

(Laughs). Whatever I say will be misunderstood. But he feels like me. Now, they will say, "Are you God? Are you going to manage the whole universe?" That's not the point. See, what you are referring to as God is that which is the root of creation, isn't it? And what you call as "myself" ? this body, mind, and all ? slowly got created from within. From a newborn all the way to who you are today - got created from within. So that which you refer to as creator is definitely within, isn't it so? So that which is the deepest core of you, you can either call it God, or you can call it "myself". Why confuse reality with so many other words? Different people call it many different ways: me, my atma, my soul, my God. I just call it "myself". That source which creates all this, I right now call it "myself" ? just to keep it simple, and not to use the words that have been long corrupted. n

[More information on Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and the Isha program is available at www.IshaFoundation.org]

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