‘I have not read the Vedas or the Upanishads. I confess I haven’t read the Gita’

We are in Velliangiri Hills, the foothills on the outskirts of Coimbatore, and my guest this week is Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, sometimes described as a Monk on a Motorcycle, but today the Monk in a Land Rover.

It's no more a Land Rover; it's a

Tata now.

But you are an unusual mystic.

I think every mystic has been unusual, always. If he is usual, why will he be a mystic?

But when you describe yourself as an unusual mystic, and an unusual among all mystics, in that case, what makes you unusual?

The usual belongs to people who imitate. Only if you imitate somebody do you become usual.

But by definition, do mystics imitate?

No, but if scholars could imitate, sadhus and sanyasis could imitate too, because they are followers of a certain order. A mystic is someone who is coming from his inner understanding and inner experience, so there is no question of imitation, so he looks unusual while actually he is just natural. Because people are used to so much of repetitiveness in everything, if somebody just comes out from his own nature, people think he is unusual.

So what makes you different? What is it that sets you apart?

See, I don't come from any scholarship. I have not read the Vedas or the Upanishads. I just confess I have not read the Gita.

It's not a confession many in the business would want to make.

The only thing that I know is this piece of life, absolutely. If you know this piece of life, absolutely, you know almost everything that is worth knowing.

And how have you learnt about this piece of life?

Just by looking inward, nothing else.

Tell us a little bit about your experiences. You started out as a regular guy.

Even now, I am pretty regular.

Except maybe the beard.

The beard is a very regular thing. It grows on all men. It is very unfortunate that people think it is very irregular; people have cut it and shaped it in different ways, and that is irregular. This is the way nature made you. I don't think nature made any part of your body that is not necessary.

So would you rather that all men have long beards?

No, this is not a prescription. I am not trying to make a fashion statement or something. All I'm saying is that, when you make your system sensitive, when you make it work at its peak, then everything matters. The smallest disturbance to the system makes a lot of difference. You must try to explore the other dimensions of life.

How? The implication is that you must have your mind and body on track. But a track of what, and what does it mean to be there?

You can use the system. Just like a biological entity, for eating, sleeping, reproducing and dying one day, you could use the system as a ladder to the divine. In the sense, use the system as a stepping-stone to go beyond. If you are using the system to explore dimensions that go beyond your experience, then you have to keep it in a certain way. How you eat, how you sit, how you stand and how you breathe — everything becomes relevant to you. The whole system of yoga is based on this. I'm not teaching people to sort out their life; I'm teaching them how not to mess it up.

What did you study, Sadhguru, and where?

Not much. I went to the University of Mysore. Not really. I didn't do much education.

Tell us a little bit about your early days.

One thing about me was, since I was three or four months of age, my memory was such that somehow it set me apart: I carried information which other children probably would not. What colour sari my mother was wearing. What she was talking about to somebody. My being in a crib. I remember all those events even today.Either I never was a child or I never grew up. I started looking at life in a different way. I was a sceptic: nothing ever made sense to me. I never entered a temple. My family was never religious, but once in a while, they'd go to a temple. When I was five, I had questions, and if they couldn't answer those questions, I wouldn't enter a temple. They never got around to answering those questions. One thing is that I never let myself be identified either with a family or with the culture or the religious process that was happening around me — or anything, for that matter, which kept me looking in a certain way. When I was 11, by a simple process, I happened to learn yoga and I kept the practice up. I finished university, got into business, and was doing well for myself. To be peaceful and happy was never an issue.

What business? Poultry framing, I believe, once.

I trekked extensively, cycled across south India when I was 15 or 16. Later, I graduated to a motorcycle and criss-crossed the country. I went to the Nepal border, the Pakistan border, but they wouldn't let me cross without papers. I had dreams of travelling across the world on a motorcycle. So I decided to do business, and since poultry farming was blooming, I decided to go for that — from scratch. My father was a well-known physician and for him it was a no-no. I did it all on my own and it came up well. I made money, got into the construction business and then various other businesses. I made enough money for myself. But then on a certain afternoon, between two business meetings, when I had nothing else to do, I just rode up to Chamandi hill near Mysore. Three o'clock in the afternoon and I just went and sat there. Just went and sat on a rock, a huge rock, and my eyes were open and till that moment I thought: this is me. Suddenly, I did not see which is me and which is not me. What was me was just all over the place. This might sound ridiculous and illogical but this was my experience and I thought this lasted just for five-ten minutes, but when I came back to my senses, about four and a half hours had passed. For the first time in my adult life, there were tears in my eyes. I cried so much that my shirt was wet. I was blissed out and every cell in my body was burning with ecstasy.

When I applied my logical mind — see, I grew up on European philosophy and Kafka — I had no words to describe what was happening within me. It was too beautiful. When I spoke to the closest friends I had, the only question they asked me was, did you drink something, did you take some drug? This started happening over and over again and in about six weeks time it became a reality. Everything about me changed in six weeks.

In your case it did not happen with sadhana, going to the hills, praying for years, growing a beard. You did not renounce your family or family life.

I must tell you this incident. I don't know whether it is relevant for you. When I was just about 14 years of age, my mother always treated me like her elder brother. I was the youngest in the family. My other three siblings were all older to me. Even when I was a child, somehow they didn't treat me as a child. I was never cuddled, taken on to the lap; somehow they couldn't deal with my extremely logical questions. In India, mothers don't have to come and say, 'I love you' because in India they are not given to such public expressions of love. So one day, she expressed herself in some way. For me, it was just a casual question: suppose I was born in the next house, would you still feel about me in the same way? She just broke down, tears came to her eyes, and she went away. And I thought, what did I do? I just asked her a simple question. But 15 minutes later, she came back and touched my feet and she was still crying. Why I made the point is that renunciation is not about going away.

So as you went through this experience, you evolved into what you are. You did raise a family; you did bring up a daughter. She is turning 18 and you didn't give up anything and go away to the hills or some place. You never thought of it.

No, I have embraced the million-strong family. I have not given up anything.

So that was what I was saying. Your mother would be very proud of you: more than a million devotees and now a wonderful centre here, in the Velliangiri foothills, but also one coming up in Tennessee in America. Have you had to face scepticism in America after the experiences they had with Osho in one end of the country and Iskcon at the other end.

I don't think anybody compares me with either Rajneesh . . . but one mistake religious leaders have made repeatedly across the world is that they want to form a community, to form a world of their own. That has never been my thing: I've always wanted and encouraged people to embrace the world, not to become a separate island of their own. What's the point of creating a world of their own? After all, the creator's creation is wonderful. Creating a centre is different (from creating a community).

We will go next to your Dhyanalinga temple. Tell us about it. It took you a long time to make that.

What we refer to as Dhyanalinga is the very essence of yogic sciences. This temple is not created for worship or ritual. This is purely for mediation. It is in total silence always. Nobody speaks in the temple. It is always in silence. The whole science of how to use forms is called the science of consecration. This ancient science fell on bad times when Bhakti movements took over. When Bhakti movements took over, for a devotee his emotion is all-important, the science of it is not important.

You are not into idol worship, the Hindu rituals, in a conventional sense.

No, we are on the yogic path. What you call the Hindu way of life is essentially a geographical and cultural identity. This is the only culture in the world where there is no crystallised belief system. There is no one form of God as such. You can worship a man, a woman, a snake, a cow, or a monkey. It is not rational for you to call somebody a monkey, because it is a god.

That's the problem with cricketers today.

Actually, he didn't say monkey.

I can see which side you are on. At least in cricket, you are not equidistant from everybody.

No. He said something worse.

So this yogic temple is an answer to that (Bhakti making emotion all-important).

Yes, it is built according to a science and even a structure, with the dome. All the buildings standing here are not standing because of the strength of their material — it is brick, lime, mud; no cement and steel. They stand because of the perfection of their geometry. When you create a building with concrete and steel, there is a tussle between gravity and the building. One day, gravity would win anyway. Here there is no tussle, they are in proper harmony. They are in relaxation and no tension. I would say that the buildings themselves are meditating.

You ride a motorbike, you wear designer glasses, you drive a Land Rover, and you dance at disco parties. Is it part of your brand image? Or is it to say that you can be normal and spiritual (at the same time)?

Being spiritual is being normal. If you are not spiritual, you can be handicapped. What you call spiritual is an experience that is beyond the physical.

Are you sending a message to devotees by doing all the unusual things for a mystic to do — playing Frisbee, golf?

I have been doing it right since my childhood. Now about driving a Land Rover, it's because the terrain is bad that I drive a Land Rover.

Tell us about this place, which has such a wonderful pool, and is a calm, free place.

Here, what you see here is solidified mercury, called a lingam, which means an ellipsoid and the dissolution also happens in an ellipsoid. It is seen as a doorway to the beyond. According to modern chemistry, you can solidify mercury only at -32 degree Centigrade. Here, at room temperature, it has become solid and it is pure mercury.

And how does that happen? Is it a miracle?

It is not a miracle; there's a subjective science that can make it happen. Anything that you don't understand, you call a miracle. As your understanding deepens, nothing is a miracle for you.

How did you make this happen? Is it a kind of alchemy?

It is alchemy, Indian alchemy, but modern chemistry doesn't believe in that.

And you believe in that.

There is nothing to believe. It's there for you to see.

It was wonderful to chat with you. I hope we can talk for many hours and delve into more complex issues.

Come and walk sometime, no talking. We could walk in the mountains.

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