He is guru cool. He rides a bike, plays golf and always talks science. Spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev ‘Sadhguru’ is the man behind Isha Foundation, a non-religious, non-profit ashram near Coimbatore which runs yoga classes in the US, UK, China, Malaysia, Australia and many other countries. Sadhguru spoke to Satish Padmanabhan about the forthcoming World Yoga Day. Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think declaring June 21 as Yoga Day is a good idea?
Absolutely. We will be observing it in more than 1,00,000 locations. There have been a lot of misconceptions about yoga. Some think it’s a backdoor entry for Hinduism, some think it’s a circus. Generally, in the western world if you utter the word yoga they think it is a physical posture. The UN declaring a Yoga Day will help in clearing all these misconceptions.
There is a feeling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to appropriate something that belongs to all of us.
Why do you say appropriate? I am not a fan of Narendra Modi’s party but he is a world leader too, he is the prime minister of a large and important country. It’s great if he has persuaded the United Nations to declare one day for yoga. It’s unfortunate that so far nobody has tried to do this. What this day means is it will help in spreading the profoundness of yoga which is very significant. No great leader has ever spoken about the inner well-being of the people. Leaders only talk about economic growth, material well-being or winning wars. It should be applauded if a leader talks about it, it is a very revolutionary step.
Why is there so much destruction and misery in the world? Why have all the economic solutions led to disasters? Two thousand people have died of the heat wave this year. Why has the environment been so badly wounded? All this is because we and our leaders only worry about material health. Nobody talks of inclusive consciousness. Yoga makes you look inward. The only way to experience true well-being is to turn inward. This is what yoga means—not up, not out, but in. The only way out is in.
Don’t you think this move will possibly politicise yoga?
Where is the question of politics? In fact, once the UN has declared it as a world day, the politics from it is gone in one stroke. The UN will never declare a Krishna Day or Rama Day or a Jesus Day. This then obliterates any politics or religion attached to yoga.
Is yoga Hindu?
The word Hindu comes from a geographical location. The people who lived within the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean or the Hindu Sagara were called Hindu. Anything born in this region is Hindu. An earthworm born here is Hindu, as an elephant born in Africa is African. If yoga is Hindu, then gravity is Christian.
But that is not the idea of Hindu or Hindutva today, the Sangh parivar’s supporters.
Now it has got distorted. But even if some fringe elements are trying to change its idea, the fundamentals are very strong. Shall we allow these fringe forces to alter the meaning of something that is so ancient and profound?
Do you think World Yoga Day may make someone from some other faith uneasy?
Not at all. Yoga means union. It can only unite people. It is both a philosophy and a science. It is for people of any faith, or even no faith. If anything, the so-called staunch Hindus should be more worried about yoga getting popular because it is very scientific and goes against rituals. They may fear that if people really understood yoga, they may stop going to temples. It is the most intellectually active time we are living in. Everyone knows everything, so it is very difficult now to make people follow blindly. If you look at the chants and the mantras in yoga, they are all about the science of sound. Today there is research being done in Sheffield University on the science of Om, but we knew it all along. Why do you need proof of these things? The human body is the greatest gadget. If uttering a chant makes one feel composed and balanced, then that is the proof.
In fact, hasn’t yoga come back to India from the West?
Yes, from the American coast. Unfortunately, everything in the world has to come from there. If all Americans wear blue workman cotton trousers, it takes over the world as denims. If they tear it around the knee, we also tear it. If they put carbon dioxide in a bottle of coloured water, the whole world drinks it as cola. Today, more people in India, both in the cities and villages, will know about Coke than yoga. Americans took only the physical part of yoga. But that’s like a stillbirth. And that is why it becomes our duty to tell the world about its profundity.
Why did we forget yoga? Most of us did those military drills in our PT classes in school but yoga was rare.
Because our rulers after Independence were of a different skin colour than the British but of the same mindset. Only English-speaking, Western-educated people could become leaders. Gandhi saw this folly. There is this famous quote of his: when asked what he thought of the Western culture, he replied, “It is a good idea.” But most of the other leaders were westernised. None of them tried to instil a sense of nationhood in the minds of the people. After all, a nation is just an idea. They still spoke of India, nobody talked of Bharata. It’s such a wonderful word. It comes from Bhava, Raga and Thala. There is such harmony and balance in it. And the Thala, the rhythm in it, is very vital. Without that, both Bhava and Raga are meaningless.