This week, London was graced with the presence of Sadhguru. He did a 5-day whistle stop tour.
His engagements kicked off with a talk at the packed Indian High Commission’s Nehru Centre, to 150 members of the UK arm of top industry body, Confederation of Indian Industry. Then there was a recorded conversation with economist and House of Lords Life Peer, Lord Meghnad Desai. This culminated with a talk for 80 invited guests at Fortnum and Mason – a prestigious department store, and an exclusive venue for a spot of “afternoon tea”. Amid several other meetings, this trip has laid the foundations for steady and exciting developments in the UK. Watch this space!
Yet for me, and for many others, the highlight of Sadhguru’s trip was the public talk at one of London’s famous west-end venues, the Theatre Royal. When volunteers confirmed the booking for the talk, with the event just 21 days away, the theatre staff told them it would be “absolutely unheard of” to fill the 2100 seat theatre at such short notice, especially on a bank holiday week-end, when many Londoners escape to the countryside or abroad, in search of Vitamin D.
“We’ll take a chance,” the volunteers said. And last Sunday the theatre had a full house.
What a heart-warming sight it was to see the young and the not-so-young coming together doing what we Brits are renowned for doing best – forming an orderly queue! The queue dominated the surrounding streets, and sheer numbers caused unprecedented box office delays.
A public talk in London with Sadhguru is something very close to my heart, filling me with butterflies in my stomach. For it was at a similar event exactly eight years ago that I first encountered Sadhguru. In May 2007, I declined the usual after-work drinks invitation, and instead rocked up that Friday evening to hear Sadhguru’s talk. It was recommended to me by a stylist and designer friend, who raved to me about the impact Sadhguru had had on his life. I was curious. Little did I realise that I was about to encounter my Guru, who has transformed my life for the better in so many ways, teaching me powerful methods for self-transformation and empowerment through the ancient science of yoga.
I didn’t even know what a Guru is. I sat in a back corner of the theatre, a little curious, a little bemused by the excitement of those around me.
“What’s all the fuss about?” I asked myself. And yet, when I set eyes for the first time on this elegantly dressed, bearded man, as he entered and uttered a short Sanskrit mantra before his talk, tears ran down my cheeks. I felt I had been waiting all my life for him to find me. Not my usual Friday night out! And the journey continues.
Last Sunday, looking at those in the audience, I was swept back to where I was 8 years ago – back to my first encounter with Sadhguru. Seeing the curiosity and anticipation on people’s faces set the hairs on my arms on end. Some had already done Isha programs, or were volunteers. Yet for many others this talk marked the beginning of a beautiful journey – there on a recommendation from a friend, or drawn simply by having seen Sadhguru on YouTube, on TV, or simply his picture on a leaflet, a Google ad, or a friend’s Facebook page. Everyone had a different story of how they came to be there.
In Victorian times, showing emotion was a big “no-no” in Britain. It was deemed better to maintain a stiff upper lip. This has left us Brits with a reputation for reserve, for being reluctant to show how we feel. But if you had seen the hundreds of people in tears as Sadhguru guided the deeply touched audience through the simple yet powerful Isha Kriya meditation, or heard the raptures of laughter as Sadhguru looked up at those in the Upper Balcony, joking, “The Heavens are responsive today!” – you would have realised for yourself that the British stiff upper lip was nowhere to be seen.
The event attracted all kinds of people from all corners of the world: the devotee, the seeker, the curious.
One 37-year-old lady in the audience, suffering from a terminal illness had called up all the energy in her frail body to come with her husband, to fulfil her dream, to see her Guru in the flesh, she told me, for the sake of her 3-year-old son. Instead of giving a question and answer session as planned, Sadhguru walked into the audience. He hugged this lady and held her in his arms. I shall never forget how, on seeing this, her husband, overcome with emotion, buried his face in his hands. His face revealed love, relief, utter gratitude. That evening, her post-surgery wound completely closed up. Her doctors are astonished.
Sadhguru hugged others too, as he walked through the audience. Every compassionate hug was a gift beyond words.
Unknown to Sadhguru, a huge crowd had been waiting for almost two hours outside the stage door to see him one more time as he left the theatre. People cried out, reached out with all their might, to touch him, to get eye contact with him. I have seen such scenes in India, at Mahashivratri, but not in London. The London traffic was brought to a standstill as the crowd flooded on to the busy roads.
Sadhguru commented afterwards on how warm the audience was, how he had never seen a London audience respond like this, how so many of them were in tears, how “hyped-up” they were. Yes, they were. Yes, we are.
Someone said, “You should have seen the scenes as he left the theatre. What a rockstar!”
To me and countless others, he is a rock, yes and a star. But not a rockstar. He is beyond such a label. There are many rockstars. There is only one Sadhguru.
I don’t know where the past week went, or the weeks of preparation for his arrival. I do know that right now, I am riding on a wave of bliss and I can’t stop smiling.
As the Cockney phrase in the British west-end musical “Oliver” goes – “Cheerio, but be back soon. You can go, but be back soon.”