Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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When Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (as well as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev) to “inspire people towards greater democratic participation”, he was only recognising the guru’s unofficial endorsement of him. Over the past few months, Jaggi Vasudev has tweeted and spoken on a number of subjects that show a remarkable congruence with the BJP’s agenda, whether it is on democracy not being used to ‘point fingers’ or on the ‘ease & benefits’ of GST. All these are usually accompanied by photographs where he is posing with his arms outstretched like a spiritual Shah Rukh Khan.

A vocal guru with a Ducati

He has spoken against the continuation of Article 370 and supported Major Leetul Gogoi’s tying of a Kashmiri youth to his jeep in 2017. He has condemned the Pulwama attack and criticised “motivated groups spewing venom all the time”. He has echoed Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s criticism of Rahul Gandhi’s “petty politics” and announced that homosexuality should not become an identity to parade on the streets. He believes women of menstrual age not being allowed inside the Sabarimala temple is a matter of discretion rather than gender discrimination. In a conversation with actress Kangana Ranaut, he controversially declared that “people who claim to be liberals are actually fanatics. If you don’t agree with them, they will finish you.”

He has faced backlash for soft-peddling BJP’s agenda, with some Twitter accounts even posting old stories, which questioned his wife’s “mahasamadhi”. Others have questioned the call centre for his river rally being the same as the one used by the Gujarat government on several occasions when Narendra Modi was chief minister.

PM Narendra Modi at the unveiling ceremony of the Shiva statue at Isha Foundation with Jaggi Vasudev |PIB
PM Narendra Modi at the unveiling ceremony of the Shiva statue at Isha Foundation with Jaggi Vasudev |PIB

But it has made little difference to the guru or his devotees. For the seven million volunteers of the Isha Foundation, which Sadhguru began in 1992 in Coimbatore Tamil Nadu, he is the man who has given them a new way of living, a feel-good pick-me-up for these troubled times. If Baba Ramdev is the king of a swadeshi empire and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has acquired a man-of-peace persona, Sadhguru is emerging as the guru of the good life for post-millennial India.

Through a combination of an active YouTube channel with over 2.5 million subscribers, regular tweets to his nearly two million followers, an Isha Foundation programme on campuses called Youth and Truth, several wealthy patrons whose homes he often commandeers, and prolific appearances at media summits, Jaggi Vasudev has built a reputation as a mystic with the mostest. He rides a Ducati Scrambler up and down Tamil Nadu’s Velliangiri hills, holds conferences while being driven around in a Land Rover, uses his pilot’s license to fly his chopper, plays golf in Dubai with world-renowned columnist Thomas Friedman, and is regularly interviewed by Bollywood’s famous and fawning, from Kangana Ranaut to Juhi Chawla.


Also read: China warns its citizens against new Indian threat: babas, Godmen & spiritual gurus


An inner engineering course

The secret of his success? An inner engineering course that has transformed many lives, and won him a dedicated following among several qualified professionals. Like Moumita Sen Sharma, who was a vice president in a multinational bank with everything she had wished for. “Yet, every morning I would wake up with a deep longing to understand the purpose of my life and to know my place in this endless cosmos,” she said. Within days, a friend called out of the blue, urging her to do the Isha Yoga programme by Jaggi Vasudev.

It led to her working in microfinance. In the next seven years, she did incredibly satisfying things, first with microfinance and then with establishing sustainable development within the bank and setting up a foundation. Awards and recognition followed, but the microfinance crisis a few years later, finally drove home the message that you can’t change the world. ”Only when people transform themselves, will the world change. I realised then that it was time for me to take the proverbial bull by the horns and make fundamental changes to my life. And so, I did the most obvious thing. I joined Isha Foundation as a full-time volunteer,” she says. Now 51, the chartered accountant and a former banker has dedicated her life to Isha Foundation as the director of Isha Leadership Academy, which runs the programme INSIGHT: The DNA of Success.

File photo of Jaggi Vasudev | @SadhguruJV/Twitter

What makes Jaggi Vasudev’s teaching so attractive? It’s not merely the Shambhavi Mahamudra, a 21-minute meditative practice that Isha Foundation’s Inner Engineering course teaches – the hook so to speak like kapalbhati for Ramdev’s devotees or pranayama for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s followers. It is also his easily marketable set of beliefs, among them that spirituality is a technology rather than a philosophy and it is meant to align the body, emotions, mind and energy in a process of self-actualisation. At its core is the attractive idea that individual wellbeing comes from within and cannot be sought from external factors. As Jaggi Vasudev often says in his quaint, American-accented English: “Spirituality is knowing yourself thoroughly”. And it has absolutely nothing to do with organised religion, he says, a quality that makes him popular with youngsters, who feel free to ask him anything in the Youth and Truth series on campuses, as varied as Christ College, Bengaluru, to IIT Delhi, from masturbation to exam-related disorders. This doesn’t explain his magnificent obsession with Shiva, the Adi Guru or the first guru, from whom the yogic tradition follows and whose 112-foot statue is the most stunning part of the ashram, inaugurated with much hype and hoopla by Prime Minister Modi in 2017.


Also read: The ‘irresponsible, wicked conspiracy’ that continues to haunt Baba Ramdev


The self-styled Robin Hood

To those who criticise him for five-star fixes, he has this to say: “Seventy per cent of Isha Foundation work is in the villages and is free. I’m just robbing you to keep this alive.” Shekhar Kapur, the filmmaker, met the self-styled Robin Hood in Puerto Rico almost 15 years ago, and has watched his influence grow. “I am not surprised,” he says. “He makes the spiritual meaningful to modern, often doubting minds. He has changed an amazing number of lives through his teachings based on a deep understanding of all that is spiritual and also scientific and practical.” Kapur considers him to be his mentor.

Jaggi Vasudev’s teachings work for many in the Age of Apprehension. Like Jeby Cherian, who was managing partner for IBM’s Global Business Services for India and South Asia till 2014 before quitting to become a full-time Isha Foundation volunteer and help him with all the leadership programmes. He attended a session with Sadhguru in Chicago in 2005 as a sceptic, wanting to spend no more than 30 minutes listening to him. He ended up taking the seven-day course with him, which moved him from living in a state of perpetual anxiety to a state of equanimity. “It moved me from looking outside of me for answers to looking within me. It freed me from religion to spirituality. Above all, it raised in me a level of awareness of my thoughts, and emotions – this was the first necessary step towards a journey of inner joy,” he said. There is also the comfort of ensuring spiritual growth while addressing the “needs of material well-being with ease“, enabling people to fulfill their ultimate potential as a human being.

Add to it a series of socially useful productive works such as the foundation’s tree plantation drive in Tamil Nadu, with the award-winning Project Green Hands; its Rally for Rivers to address water scarcity and protection of rivers, and its Action for Rural Rejuvenation, a health and community-oriented programme focused on 4,200 villages in Tamil Nadu, and it’s a package that is irresistible to our world of eternal seekers.

Jaggi Vasudev rallies for rivers | @SadhguruJV/Twitter

Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra says Jaggi Vasudev has given him the courage to succeed and the permission to fail. “For only then can I find a new path, a new meaning. He has taught me to maintain my courage to work on any obstacles with ease,” he said. And he has done this while allowing dissent and argument, says Jaggi Vasudev’s biographer, poet Arundhathi Subramaniam. “Knowing him has taught me that one can have a remarkably unstuffy equation with a spiritual guide,” she said, adding that she is amazed at how many people he is present for, as a guru, helping them through life-and-death situations on a moment-to-moment basis. “You’ve got to be a yogi of extraordinary calibre to be capable of this.”


Also read: India needs to talk about stress because now even gurus are killing themselves


A guru for the (good) times

From business magnates to Bollywood celebrities, from politicians to exhausted wisdom-seeking professionals, the Sadhguru’s moksha is easy to attain. He doesn’t demand exacting standards. Jaggi Vasudev allows one to be a businessman or a politician or a Lutyens potentate, one golf swing at a time. His late burst of tweeting about democracy and nationalism has provided a more palatable alternative to hyper-nationalists who now often find themselves cringing at the extreme ardour of BJP’s telly evangelists.

File photo of Jaggi Vasudev | @SadhguruJV/Twitter

Indian politics is not unused to the idea of powerful yoga gurus. The tradition began with Dhirendra Brahmachari and Indira Gandhi. Brahmachari, whom India Today described in a cover story in 1980 as a “man with no official standing but awesome power”, was known to have enormous influence on Indira Gandhi’s government, and was helped considerably by a weekly programme on Doordarshan. P.V. Narasimha Rao relied on the controversial Chandraswami.

The Modi Years and the official endorsement of yoga through the International Yoga Day since 2015 has seen a tremendous growth in the business of babadom, most prominently of Baba Ramdev, who of late has been more of a businessman and less of a baba, and about whom Sadhguru once joked: ”Baba Ramdev is a classic rags to riches story. But he still consciously chooses to remain in rags.

Fortunately for Modi’s new image-conscious BJP, Jaggi Vasudev is a better match: shawl for shawl.

The author is a senior journalist.

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. Yet another fake news. So typical of sudo leftists. They have no courage to come forward for any debate. Zero contributions to the wellbeing of the society. Has no solutions to any problems but want to make cheap money by creating problem out of everything. Conveniently ignoring facts and misguide the public.

  2. The author doesn’t seem to have an understanding about life and well being of people. He is biased and insensible to life. Hope he turns inwards. Please stop spreading fake news and try to be a responsible journalist.

  3. You cannot change Sadhguru from lavish styles . He knows how to make use of prickly heat powder and make fool of himself against his teaching diktats. He is a like a story teller and make people dream of disney land awaiting in heaven.

  4. The journalist here is nothing but a leftist Nd I have noticed that the print is all about bowing down to barbaric philosophy of Islam and Christianity. These fools have taken some verses from sadhguru speech and tried to project that negatively. The best way to show your patriotism is stop reading and watching anything from the print let them know that indians are not fools to take anything lightly

  5. Really sad how shallow your investigation is and how far away from truth your report is. You definitely need to do some investigation before reporting. Otherwise your so called journalism is a disgrace to the profession.
    And there is another word for selling anything for profit.

  6. When some real human does good problem for these press n media some horrible thing happen media n it’s beauties are even more jubilant. If by writing you do any good to humanity ur purpose r existence as human forget as jurno is, served. Just by basing Modi sadhguru if u thing I’ve done great to d job u hold, ur doing horrendous disservice not only to ur job n d field u hold but as a human it’s virtually a destructive job than mordern terror groups. Read once what uve vomited ul know how stinking it is

  7. Irrespective of gender jurnos particularly sr.journos drink r take strong substance is proved by this lady from the words she spewed with lots of venom. A classic leftist

  8. The saddest part of this article is the article has quoted Sadhguru incorrectly several times to push her own personal message about Gurus. I’ve listened to Sadhguru various times and can confirm which quotes have been altered. Why dont you talk about the humanitarian work Sadhguru is doing to help everyone – rally for rivers, project greenhands, isha vidya, action for rural rejuvenation, and most recently save the weaves. I’ve taken the inner engineering course and there is no belief system/philsophy offered, just techniques and methods for our well being and I can say it works 100% more than I can imagine. That’s why I volunteer for the Isha Foundation to help them offer this opportunity to others. I hope people are willing to put aside their prejudices and biases and hear out what Sadhguru has to say. He has much to offer the modern world no matter who you are!

  9. About twenty years ago, Osho said that I want people to live in so much luxury that there’s nothing else to do except for meditation.

    He also said that I’ve changed 90 Rolls-Royce and my people are aiming at bring in almost 365 different cars.

    Both Osho and Sadhguru believe in the quote from Bhagwad Geeta that, “Detachment is not that you own nothing, detachment is that nothing owns you”

    Money & Wealth is not the problem, your attachment to them is the problem.

    Money is good in the pockets, not in the mind.

    The writer, who’s supposed to be a “senior writer” at The Print really lacks sense.

    Your opinions sound good at a tea party, but your opinions won’t work existentially.

    I feel sad that your mind only thinks of propaganda, and doesn’t see the good Sadhguru is doing.

    Shows that you’ve vowed to be a part of the problem, and never the solution.

  10. Senior journo doesn’t even have the basic courage to disclose his/her name because it’s clear the intent of writing such a piece to hard peddle the agendas of the utterly intolerant “secularists” for whom anything original to Indic civilization and it’s benefits to humanity is a threat for their profiting existential and importance of self. This is akin to referring to supporters of the revival of Indic civilization as ‘Bhakts’ because the intent is to make them all look weak as if blinded with hallucination and so over time it can be normalized into a general discourse that sounds like an obvious truth. What this senior journo doesn’t seem to get and very sadly so, is that an entity like Sadhguru has such a direct, profound impact on the lives of millions not by writing some occasional trash or giving philosophical sermons, but by giving everything that he has – every cell, every sub-atomic particle to make humanity exuberant so as to realize higher potential and skill in conscious action. This is something most journos with their intellect on acceleration just cannot digest. Their frustrated slavery to develop market share for the sources of their ideology and funds makes them so bitter, spiraling into the abyss of self destructive mediocrity.

  11. Such a disgust post and clearly shows how far the libtards can go for their hateness. Shame on you. You completely failed here rather you exposed yourself!!!

  12. A born genius among the cowardice lot. Everyone fear death, the rich and the poor. To over come this fear of death human turns to God but as God is nor where seen or felt they take shelter unto lotus feet of one who seems to be next to Godhead. The minor assistance they feel or get make them humble and they start service to mankind and nature thus in such an approach one finds little bit of peace.

  13. This is one such guru like everyone has been assigned a guru. Poor people have their own types of guru, rich one have their own type. This guru has transformed rich people into thinking that you keep your pace with all your money as it is at the same i will transform myself into a typical avatar which you fools will definitely like, and for that you need not to hover like poors into temples and such other places. So he rides ducati too. Why he doesn’t speak to abolish casteism, vulgarism, hatred against food, colour of skin etc etc.

  14. Taking pot shots at or writing sarcastically about Hindu religious figures is a sure shot way to gain fame as a liberal. This article gets its author along that well trodden path.

  15. There are many claimants of success, like that for Modi, where he is today. Modi owes to no one and he is neither Putin nor dictator what many opponents call him. He is close to modern day Chanakya who wants to serve his motherland.
    Nation first and if that is achieved individual doesn’t matter. After 70 plus years of freedom majority are are unable to get basic necessity of life such as food, clothing and shelter. Those who get good education wants to be rich faster, but forget that society and nation as whole has contributed a lot in their education. Freedom comes with responsibility and hard work which many ignores and play in the hands of others who can manipulate them.

  16. Mam, expect someday you will dare to write about the evangelists’ crafty and smart ways to convert the gullible tribals and the dalits of India. About the ‘changai sabha’ organised by them to dupe people and convert them. But it may be futile, you may be the same crypto Christian with their lethal agendas.

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