Questioner: What is the difference between sadhus, saints, seers, and yogis, and where does enlightenment come in?

Sadhguru: A saint is a being who has attained to a certain level of pleasantness. They are good people. They have a certain pleasant energy about themselves, but they are no good as Gurus. They can only bless you. It has been the tradition that wherever you see a holy man or somebody saintly, you bow down to him to receive a little bit of blessing. His blessing will add to your life in some way, but he cannot take you to your ultimate wellbeing.

Yogis are of a different kind. They are evolved in their technology. If they are real yogis who have reached a certain attainment in yoga, they know the whole technicality. Being a practitioner of yoga is one thing, but if you become a yogi, that means you have experienced the oneness of the existence. That means you know the intricacies of life. You know how to work it, but still you may not yet be enlightened. You might have known moments of union. So if you have known moments of union in your Bhava Spandana for example, we can say you are a part-time yogi!

A seer may not be spiritual at all. He is somebody who has vision. You can put him more in the class of occult. Somebody may be a saint and a seer at the same time, but here I am talking about the word description as such. A seer is somebody who is able to see things that normally people cannot see. He has a higher level of perception.

The whole spiritual process, or whatever you are referring to as enlightenment, is just that what was individual has become universal.

You cannot put astrologers and psychics in the same class as a seer, but they also see things that a lot of people do not see. You will find any number of them in India. In Tamil Nadu, there is something called as Nadi Jyotisham [Nadi astrology]. In the northern part of Karnataka, it’s a profession of a certain caste. If they just see your face, they will tell you everything about your past, and then predict your future.

There used to be whole tribes like that in India, especially in Central and South India. These days, they are almost extinct, but still in small towns they come early in the morning, stand in front of your house and simply declare what is going to happen. Some of them are really good. They don’t do it for money. They just walk around and when they see something, they simply speak it out loudly.

So these are all seers on a minor scale. They cannot consciously see what they want to see. Once in a way, they have glimpses. Such glimpses can earn you a few rupees, but don’t get you very far. They don’t let you see far enough to know life in a deeper way.

A sadhu means a peaceful or mild one. If you develop a strong character of your own, you will miss the character of the Creator. So you want to lower your own character and become meek. It’s in this context that Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the Earth.” Because only if you are meek, only if you are small, you will know the Big. If you become big, you will miss it. You don’t want to grow your own characteristics and be away from the Creator. You want to keep your character as minimal as possible. It is a spiritual process. A sadhu is somebody who is working on himself so that he becomes receptive.

The word “enlightenment” in English has become very weak. But in the context in which we are using the word right now, enlightenment means someone has reached his ultimate point of evolution. Generally, those who reach this cannot retain their body. Once you have reached your ultimate point of evolution, keeping the physical becomes difficult. So only those who get enlightened on the path of kriya are usually capable of keeping the body. If someone gets enlightened some other way, he will have to use just conscious desire as a way to keep the body. There is no other way.

What you call as “myself” is just an accumulation of food, thoughts, and emotions. What you call as “life” is just pure energy. But even this energy can take form individually, apart from universal manifestation. So if the individual has to exist the individual dimension of the energy has to be maintained and kept alive. The whole spiritual process, or whatever you are referring to as enlightenment, is just that what was individual has become universal. To maintain the universality and still maintain the individuality is a lot of balancing act.

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Image courtesy: The Three Holy Men by Frank Kehren