Ranked amongst the 50 most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a Yogi, mystic, visionary and a New York Times bestselling author. Sadhguru has been conferred the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India in 2017, the highest annual civilian award, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service. He is also the founder of the world’s largest people’s movement, Conscious Planet – Save Soil, which has touched over 3.9 billion people.
1. What is the ethos of Isha foundation?
Sadhguru: Isha Foundation is essentially a volunteer organisation, supported by 16 million volunteers. The purpose is essentially to transmit technologies for inner wellbeing, which in turn, will pay off in terms of how a human being functions in the world. We are doing spiritual programs in many different levels, with 70% of our work in rural India. We are also focusing on empowering and bringing about an inner transformation in the leadership – people who are holding responsible and powerful positions in the world. We are very much concerned as to how they are because what kind of leaders we have will determine how the world runs.
2. Tell us about Save Soil Movement?
Sadhguru: Soil degradation is a global phenomenon. Half of the world’s topsoil has been lost. In normal agricultural soil, the minimum organic content should be between 3–6%, but in large parts of the world, it is well below 1%. The average soil organic content is 1.48% in northern Europe, 1.2% in southern Europe, 0.3% in Africa, 1.3% in the United States and 0.68% in India. What this means is that most agricultural soil on the planet is inching towards desertification.
Right now, United Nations statistics say that we may have agricultural soil only for another 80–100 crops. This means after 45–60 years, there could be severe food shortages, and getting rich soil will become the basis of wars on this planet.
The Conscious Planet – Save Soil movement is aiming to bring about a global policy that there must be a minimum of 3–6% organic content in agricultural land. This is why I did a lone motorcycle ride from London to southern India, covering 30,000 km and 27 nations in 100 days. The first and foremost thing is to enshrine soil and ecological regeneration as a part of every nation’s policy. Seventy-four nations have already committed to saving soil and the remaining are looking at how they can implement it. During the 100 days, 3.9 billion people spoke about soil.
3. How has life changed for you over the years?
Sadhguru: Yoga is a technology towards ecstasy. There is substantial medical research and evidence today that shows that if a person is blissful or ecstatic, their lifespan will increase, their health will be fantastic, and everything will be right with their body and mind.
Several years ago, a German doctor examined me and said, “Your cellular age is 25.” What this means is that I stopped growing at 25! Everything else may be aging, but my cellular age is still 25. In terms of activity, I can keep up with people who are 25. I am not exercising regularly, I am not physically very fit, but still my system can take much more activity simply because if you are in a certain state of experience, suddenly you find that the very system functions very differently.
4. How often should one reflect and ponder to make changes in their lifestyles for a better life and keep evolving?
Sadhguru: Every day before you go to bed, just check: from yesterday to today, are you little more joyful? It is a simple gauge for yourself. Joy is the barometer. If you do not take yourself seriously, being joyful becomes natural because that is how you were born. Slowly you started thinking funny things about yourself and you started committing suicide in installments.
Every day, keep a note – “Am I little more joyful than yesterday?” People are keeping balance sheets of their money but never keeping balance sheets of where this life is going. It is time you do that. One day if you learn to become simply joyful – not for any reason – then if you close your eyes, suddenly you sit like a Buddha because your life has come to ease.
5. What does spirituality mean to you and what should it mean to us mortal souls?
Sadhguru: When your experience and perception of life is gone beyond the limitations of the physical, then spirituality has risen in your life. The whole process of Yoga and spirituality is just to create a little space, where if you sit in one place, your body is here, your mind is out there, and what is you is away from these two things. That means you are constantly experiencing “I am not the body, I am not the mind.” Once this distance has come, this is the end of suffering.
A significant thing that every human being has to do is to structure their psychological and emotional framework around the most fundamental fact of their life – their mortality. Only when you do this will you naturally become eligible for a spiritual process, to a dimension beyond the mundane. The nature of your logical mind is such that it would like to eliminate death completely from its scope of thought. This is why most people are structuring their psychological process around a nonsensical idea of immortality – as if they are forever.
If you think you will be here forever, you will ignore life completely, entangled in your own psychological nonsense, which has nothing to do with reality. But if you knew you were going to die in the next one hour, you would notice every little bit of life; you would not miss anything. You can truly enjoy and joyfully walk through this life only if you know that you are mortal. If you are constantly reminded of this, then this whole life process will unhinge itself from the psychological nonsense and from the physicality and will want to experience everything. Your life will naturally look for something beyond. A spiritual process will become a natural process of growth for you.
6. Is rebirth a reality? Where do souls go after death? Any evidence of reincarnation?
Sadhguru: If I speak of anything which is not yet in your experience, as far as you are concerned, it is just a story. There are only two things you can do: you can believe the story or you can disbelieve the story. Whether you believe or disbelieve the story you will not get any closer to reality. A story can be either entertaining or inspiring at the most, but it will not deliver you there.
When you talk about rebirth or reincarnation, fundamentally what you are asking is, “What is the nature of my existence?” Or to put it very simply “Who am I?” This question should be addressed to yourself, not to someone else. This question will become truly relevant only when you know the pain of ignorance. When the pain of not knowing tears you up, then I would answer you not verbally, but in a completely different way. You must know the pain of ignorance; only then knowing becomes a possibility.
7. Why are divorce rates going up so much? Are couples missing out on relationship values these days?
Sadhguru: For a lot of people, the choice is either battle or divorce. Divorce is better than everyday battle, isn’t it? You are not battling someone on the street but someone whom you thought is the most wonderful person at one time. This battle has not suddenly come because that person has become ugly. This battle has come because as we grow, certain changes happen, and we are unwilling to accept that changes happen. There is a certain immaturity about it. Two people grow in different directions and it is okay. We do not have to be the same way to be together. People can be divergently different and still be together.
You have some needs, the other person has some needs, and people come together to fulfill these needs. The needs may be physical, psychological, emotional, social, financial, etc. The moment your need is not being fulfilled properly, it is finished. For many people, there is nothing else in the relationship. You want to get the best out of the other person, and the other person wants to squeeze the best out of you. This is a battle, not a relationship of love.
This must be understood: Love is not about someone else. It is about you, how you are within yourself. It has nothing to do with anyone else, but you are linking it with someone. Someone has to make your emotions pleasant. No one can keep on doing it to you all the time. You must learn how to keep your emotions pleasant. Then, you are loving by your own nature.
8. As one approaches old age what should he or she do to condition their mind and accept death as a reality?
Sadhguru: People are not observing the nature of this life; they are too full of themselves. They think they are eternal. This body is a fabulous machine, but it is not eternal; it has come with an expiry date.
In the Indian culture, it was deeply instilled into everyone that as your parents grow older, it is a fundamental responsibility of the children to remind the parents. The parents may be caught up in raising their children and, later, grandchildren, in their property and wealth. For having borne you, fed you, brought you up and made you who you are, you are supposed to remind them that they need not remain entangled with all these things that are happening around, and they must turn inward and focus their time and attention towards their ultimate wellbeing.
9. Is the concept of happiness overrated? And if yes then what should one try to achieve in life?
Sadhguru: It does not matter what is the nature of your activity, essentially you are in pursuit of happiness. But this happiness has been so elusive. Why? If you look at your own life’s experience, whenever happiness happened to you, it does not matter what was the stimulus – maybe you became very joyful when you watched the sun rise or heard some music or achieved some success – it always bubbled up from within you. It never rained upon you from somewhere else. The very source of happiness is within you. Right now, the stimulus is outside. Now the choice is just¬ whether you want to keep the stimulus outside or inside.
10. When someone tries to take advantage of you or uses you, should you leave it to karma or take some kind of revenge?
Sadhguru: The moment you think of injustice, you will get angry. The moment you get angry, you are the source of injustice. Instead of that just see what needs to be done and do the best you could do. That is all there is to life. What needs to be done right now – in your home, street, society, country, the world – look at it and see what best you can do according to your capability. If you do not realize the full potential of who you are, that is a terrible injustice.
Somebody cheated you of two rupees – that is not a great injustice. The greatest injustice to you is always caused by yourself, not by someone else. You have not made yourself into an absolutely exuberant and ecstatic human being – that is injustice. You denying yourself all the possibilities of life is injustice. I am not glossing over all the social injustice that is happening; but that could be easily corrected if you were okay.
11. Should one plan their days and life or leave it to the will of the supreme power?
Sadhguru: If at all you have any trouble with your life, what is the problem you have? Life is not happening the way you think it should happen, isn’t it? If you are a believer in God and life is not happening the way you think it should happen, definitely it is happening the way your God thinks it should happen. You must be ecstatic that it is happening your God’s way. But you have your own agenda and you believe in God. It does not work. If you have faith, you should not have your agenda. Are you capable of being in such a way that God’s agenda is fine with you? No, because you have an intellect that will not allow you. Your mind always has its own agenda. If a thinking mind talks about faith, it is just a fake. Only child-like human beings, very innocent ones, can walk that path. You must address your mind; you cannot escape that.
12. What role does a Guru play? How do I know if I have found my Guru?
Sadhguru: “Gu” means darkness, and “ru” means dispelling. Darkness means ignorance. The basis of your ignorance is wrong identification. You are identified with things that you are not. Believing yourself to be something other than what you are is madness. Right now, that is your problem also. You think you are the body. You think you are your ideas, your emotions, your thoughts. You get identified with anything and everything. That is the ignorance. The one who dispels this is the guru.
When you sit in his presence, you do not know what to speak or think. You are overwhelmed. You feel like an absolute idiot. Your identifications – all the things that you were very proud of and felt great about – feel stupid. That’s good.
If you like him too much, he is not your guru. If you find it so overwhelming that you want to run away, but there is something within you which keeps dragging you towards him – you are constantly feeling threatened by him, but still you want to be there – then he is your guru.
13. What should one lean on when life gets tough?
Sadhguru: Everyone may seem to be reasonably balanced, but if the external situation becomes imbalanced, most human beings also become imbalanced. In other words, your peace and your happiness is enslaved to the outside situation. Yoga is a subtle technology of manipulating your inner energies so that you attain to an inner balance irrespective of what is happening outside.
14. Can spirituality and material life go hand in hand?
Sadhguru: This distinction of what is material life and what is spiritual life has come from a certain level of ignorance. Your body is the material, just the essence of this earth. When you sit here, can we separate whatever you are referring to as the “spirit” in you from your body? So how can you separate the material and the spiritual? Being materialistic or spiritual is just an idea. There is no such thing. There is no spirit without material; there is no material without spirit.
15. What is Isha yoga all about?
Sadhguru: Our basic program is called “Inner Engineering.” As there is a science and technology for creating external comfort and convenience, there is a whole science and technology to create inner wellbeing. Yoga has many methods through which you can create the right kind of chemistry, where being peaceful and joyous comes naturally to you. Once you are joyous by your own nature, then the very way you perceive and experience your life will change.
16. Also tell us more about Isha Vidhya and your other generous steps to improve this world?
Sadhguru: Isha Vidhya is about bringing high quality education to rural India, which people in that economic strata would normally never have access to. I feel this is important because India is in the villages. Without investing in the people of this nation, we will not make a great nation. A nation does not happen because we built great roads or buildings – the most important thing is we build great people.
One important aspect is that the majority of the children in our Isha Vidhya schools are first generation school-goers. Over sixty percent of the 9300 students are supported by full tuition scholarships and the rest pay a subsidised fee. We have ten schools and have structured them in such a way that within the first one year, the students are able to handle computers and converse in English fluently, because for these rural children, these skills are their passport to the rest of the world. Also, when we started the first few schools in remote parts of Tamil Nadu, I saw by two o’clock most of the children would just wilt away because they had barely eaten anything in the morning before coming to school. That is how the mid-day meal started in Isha Vidhya – and that one meal makes such a difference for them.
17. You have touched millions of hearts and souls with your beautiful words. Who has touched your heart and soul and what inspires you?
Sadhguru: People ask me, “Sadhguru, are you a Shiva devotee?” I say, “You fools, I’ve only been devoted to you, what have I done for Shiva?” My Ishta Deva (cherished divinity) is whoever is right now in front of me. This is why I am able to give myself absolutely, no matter who you are, what you are.
18. Which are your favourite books?
Sadhguru: Mark Twain is not just an author – his vision and perception of life was fantastic. I read the abridged version of his book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when I was around 11 years old. It is a unique book. Huckleberry Finn as a character kind of overlapped with me so well. Later on, in my first year of graduation, there was a choice of American literature to pick up from, so I picked up Huck Finn as my book and wrote a paper on it.
19. Also tell us more about the Rally for Rivers movement and how it helped spread the pertinent message and affect so many lives?
Sadhguru: In a democratic nation, the only currency is numbers. Rally for Rivers was purely an awareness campaign to get people’s support to change the policy of how we treat India’s rivers. I personally drove 9300 km in 30 days, and during this time, 162 million people supported the campaign.
We presented the 760-page Rally for Rivers recommendation to the Central government. Approximately 16 hours after I gave it to the Prime Minister, he set up a special committee to look at the recommendations. Then it went to the NITI Aayog, which is India’s planning body. They put it through the scientific test, which took two-and-a-half months. Once they saw that it passes all that, they made it the official recommendation for all the 29 states in the country.
After Rally for Rivers, we launched Cauvery Calling, which is about action on the ground. We want to bring tree-based agriculture to the entire 83,000 sq. km of the Cauvery basin. If one third of the land goes under tree shade, Cauvery will definitely flow. Right now, we are supporting farmers to plant 242 crore trees in the Cauvery basin.
20. We all know that you’re busy doing good for humanity all the time. But how do you like to unwind?
What is your idea of a vacation?
Sadhguru: There are about 4,600 full-time volunteers at Isha Foundation. We do not have weekends. We are working seven days, 365 days. Work is not our vocation; it is our vacation. This is a spectacular display of selflessness and a commitment for a cause beyond one’s personal needs. If you are creating what you care for, then it is a great thing.
Why would you want a break for that? Do I look like I need a vacation?
If you are really doing what you care for, your entire life is a vacation. So make your life a vacation by creating what you truly care for.