Jaggi Vasudev, 59, is the motorcycle-riding, golf-playing Indian mystic and yogi known to the practitioners of Isha Yoga around the globe as Sadhguru.
As the author of more than 30 books, including last year's New York Times bestseller Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy, Sadhguru promotes "yoga taught in its full depth." It's a traditional understanding of the practice and meditation. It's also more mental than physical, he says.
Sadhguru will visit Tampa April 29 and 30 to teach Inner Engineering, the Isha Yoga introductory program that involves a 21-minute-per-day breathing technique. It's his only such appearance scheduled in the United States for 2017.
We spoke to him to find out more about the practices he says can lead to a more blissful life. Here are excerpts from the interview:
The word "engineering" makes me think of design and mathematics, but not yoga or spirituality. Why is your program called Inner Engineering?
As there is a technology to create external wellbeing, there is a whole dimension of science and technology to create inner wellbeing. We are not teaching philosophies, ethics or morals. Inner Engineering offers simple yet powerful methods with which your body and mind naturally function to their full potential, peacefully and joyfully.
Technology means doing something the way it works. Unless you do the right things within yourself, the right things will not happen. If you are not peaceful, joyful and ecstatic in your life, that means you have not done the right things with this life.
You've written that whatever situations happen around you, "you don't get crushed by them; you ride them." What do you mean?
No matter who you are or how powerful you are, external situations are never 100 percent in your control. There are a million ingredients involved. But when it comes to inner reality, there is only one ingredient: you. The inner situation is 100 percent created by you. We cannot absolutely decide what is happening around us but we can definitely decide what is happening within us.
... The whole process of yoga is the science of inner management. You create an inner possibility where being blissful, joyful and peaceful is of your own nature, and not because of something that happens around you. ... Once you are joyful, wherever you are put, you know how to be. You can go through life untouched. Life cannot leave a scratch upon you.
Some people complain about the appropriation of yoga in Western culture. It's gone mainstream. How do you feel about the many franchises and classes that have appeared all over the world?
Yoga needs to be handled in an extremely committed atmosphere because it is a tremendous tool for transformation. If something has the power to transform, it also has the power to cause damage if mishandled.
What I see is, the way yoga is being done right now in most places in the world, it is a stillbirth. Yoga is not an exercise. You do get health out of it, but that is a fringe benefit. The physical body has a whole memory structure. If you are willing to read this, everything — how this cosmos evolved from nothingness to this point — is written into this body. Yoga is a way of opening up that memory and trying to restructure this life towards an ultimate possibility.
If you are looking for health, there is something called Upa Yoga, which gives you physical and psychological benefits but doesn't touch the spiritual dimension. Upa Yoga does not demand that level of commitment nor does it cause any problem if you do it improperly because you can't do it improperly — it's very simple!
... This can be learned in five minutes. You can practice it anywhere and the benefits are quite immense. Upa Yoga is a safe way to take yoga to the world large-scale. Once people experience the benefits, they will naturally seek yoga in a more serious manner, and that is when yoga should come into their lives.
You're known for riding motorcycles and playing golf. Do those activities hold any particular significance for achieving joy or enlightenment?
...Whatever I do, I do it with absolute passion and involvement. Whether it is conducting a program, driving a car or a motorcycle, or playing golf, I do it with utmost intensity. I don't want to waste one moment of my life doing something that I do not care for. Because I am involved with just about anything that is with me at that moment, people think I am multifaceted. I think the problem with most people is that they make one thing more important than the other in their lives. I think the ant crawling out there is as important as me. In his life, he is actually more important than me.
It is quite presumptuous for any human being to think that one thing is more important than the other or that one form of life is more important than the other. Just about every other creature on this planet is doing their best in whatever they can do. Only human beings are hesitating to do their best. I am just like any other creature — I do my best in everything. I don't know how else to be.
This is not something extraordinary — this is a possibility for every human being.
I've read where you refer to "eating joyously." Is how we eat as important as what we eat?
Food is not a commodity — food is life. If we can eat with enormous gratitude for all the living things which give up their life to sustain our lives, then the food will behave in a very different way within us. If we can bring this awareness in people, that food is life-making material and not a commodity — though in today's world you may be getting it out of a shop counter — for sure, people would become more sensitive as to how they use this life-making phenomenon.
... This is the ultimate goal of the spiritual process — to include that which is not you as yourself, and food is the simplest beginning in that direction.
What do you tell a person who's not familiar with your methods, who asks, "What can I do today to start feeling more joyful?"
When you get up in the morning, the first thing you should do is smile because just the fact that you woke up is not a small thing. So many thousands of people who slept last night did not wake up today, but you did. So smile because you woke up. Then look around and if there is someone, smile at them. For so many millions, someone dear to them did not wake up today morning. Everyone who is dear to you woke up — Wow! It's a great day, isn't it? Then go out and take a look at the trees. They didn't die last night either.
You may think this is ridiculous, but you will know the reality of it when someone dear to you doesn't wake up. Don't wait till then to realize the value of it. Appreciate it and smile at least. Learn to look at a few people lovingly.
For many people, it just takes an hour to forget all this and pretty soon their reptilian brain wants to bite someone. So give yourself a dose once an hour — a reminder of the value of life.