“I’m mostly blissed out,” laughed guru, mystic and spiritual master Sadhguru.
At a Saturday night lecture and in an interview the next day, he was clearly telling the truth. This is one happy man. It also was clear at the lecture for young Washington chief executives and entrepreneurs that there are many seeking wisdom and truth. As we witnessed during the recent government shutdown, this is not a blissed-out town.
Sadhguru, with his flowing white beard, matching white robe and colorful shawl, bowed to his audience, his hands over his heart. He said one can handle only a certain amount of joy. “In an ecstatic state, you can’t function. In a blissful one, you can.”
In his early 20s, he went to the top of a mountain and was suddenly overcome. “I was sitting there, and all of my body was exploding with ecstasy.” What he thought was a few minutes in that state turned out to be more than four hours. It was then that he decided to take the path from business man to spiritual master.
Yet he acknowledged not being a religious man: “I have had no interest in religion since the age of 12.“ He does not pray: “Never, even as a child.” He does not meditate: “I’m prayerful. It’s not like something I have to do.” He does not practice any religious rituals: “I have never entered a temple.” He rarely does yoga and does not believe in astrology: “In India, if you tell an astrologer you are on a spiritual path, they won’t make a prediction. Astrology works for those who refuse to take charge of their life. “
As for God, he doesn’t use that word. He says “gods.”
“I never refer to the God unless I’m telling a joke. Our ‘God’ is from our own experience. We think of Him as a human being, but if I were a buffalo, I would think of Him as a buffalo.” He said a human-centric view “makes humans arrogant to every life form that is in God’s image.”
He said of religion: “Human beings have common issues. There are simple things they cannot sort out. So if there was no religion, there would be only psychiatrists. . . . Religion is mass psychiatry. If there were no religions, a lot of people would be mentally disturbed. It would create fear and guilt in their lives. Now they can choose. They think it comes from above. There are pluses and minuses. Belief can only lead to solace, but if you want solutions, that needs seeking. In the basis of seeking, you realize you do not know.”
One of the biggest problems he sees with religion is that in a divided world, people fight over beliefs. “It’s one man’s belief against another man’s” he said. It’s time to come to a place, he said, where we understand “what we know and what we don’t know. It’s the nature of exploration. . . . The only thing you can experience is what is within.”
He doesn’t pretend to have the answer to suffering. He only knows what works for him and tries to use his experiences to help others. Which may be one reason he has become popular around the world, speaking to large groups such as the U.N. peace summit and the World Economic Forum. He doesn’t pander. He is extremely candid, debunking many religious and spiritual attitudes.
“I’ve never spoken about positive thinking,” he said. “It does not work when life is going badly. The issue is: How do you conduct your life in a situation that is terrible? The important thing is what you make out of it. You only come out wounded or wise.
“Outside situations,” he said, “are not in our control. Horrible things happen. But inside you can take charge of it. . . . We must enhance our ability to take charge of the problem. It’s a problem no human can fix. There’s no such thing.”
Suffering, then, “is not about how deeply we suffer but how we handle it,” he said. “It’s up to the individual. Some come out well. Some come out broken.”
He talked about the poor and those whose lives are filled with tragedy. In those cases, he said, something like meditation, which is easy when you have a comfortable life, doesn’t work. “If somebody is hungry, you can’t tell them to sit and meditate. That’s obscene.”
He talked again about his moment of revelation on that mountain. “On the hill, my eyes were open”’ he said. “My friends said, ‘What did you drink?’ All I know is that I hit a gold mine that I didn’t want to lose.” It happened again, and this time, his ecstatic state lasted seven hours. “I would not have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me.”
Sadhguru says we must create a world of our own. If we allow ourselves not to be overcome by suffering, we can walk full stride. Otherwise we will only take half a step.
He talked about how everyone is goal-oriented and obsessed with success. But, he said, “if you have one eye on the goal, you will only have one eye to see. If you are too intent on the goal, you will miss the process.”
And we can create our own attitudes to help us through life. “Pleasantness and unpleasantness, you can choose whatever you want,” he said. “With unpleasantness you choose fear and anger, sadness. If you choose that, your mind is not working for you. With pleasantness, you choose joy and happiness.”
The most important message of all is this: “Love, joy, peace, bliss are not sustainable.”
So stop beating yourself up because you are suffering or because you cannot be in a constant state of bliss. And another thing, something that those of us in Washington — particularly those of us involved in politics and journalism — should heed:
Sadhguru tells us to beware of “people around you who try to teach you something that is not working in their lives.”