On the Path of the Divine - Swami Suyagna
Swami Suyagna retraces his journey with Sadhguru, from a hardcore skeptic to a full-time volunteer, flute player, Isha Yoga teacher, ashram administrator, and Isha Brahmachari.
Swami Suyagna : It happened in 1996. I was having lunch with one of my colleagues in my office canteen. At some point during the conversation he asked, “Hey! There is a new yoga program in town from someone called Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. Want to try it?”
“Hell with all these yoga programs, I have done enough!” I said. I had previously done Vipassana, Vethathiri Kundalini, Vivekananda Yoga and a few more such programs. By then I was a bit tired of all these spiritual adventures. However, my colleague decided to give it a try and joined the 13-day class by Sadhguru.
For the first 3-4 days he was critical about many things in the class and cribbed a lot about having to go there every morning. However, as the days went by, he became quieter and quieter. “He is not cribbing anymore,” I thought after a week. Actually, I noticed a shift in him after the program.
“You must do this program,” he started to tell me afterwards. He was a hardcore cynic otherwise and critical of everything, and perhaps this was why he was my friend. His appreciating the program so much definitely made me intrigued about Isha Yoga. But not enough! Later, he found another way to entice me to do the class.
“Isha is organizing a tour of the Himalayas, but only an Isha meditator can register for it,” he told me sometime in early May. I had always fancied visiting the Himalayas, and this “Dhyana Yatra” seemed like a good enough reason for me to give it a go, so I sat for the 13-day class in June 1996. I liked the class, but didn’t think too much about it. Later, again as insisted by my friend, I came to do the Bhava Spandana Program in the ashram in September – just before we were going to leave for the Dhyana Yatra. It was the first time I realized that there could be more to life than I understood.
An Illogical Encounter with a Shrub
It was the fourth day of Bhava Spandana. What had been happening the previous three days happened that morning as well – many were in tears, and some were even howling and hugging each other. I had been looking at all these things with a certain sense of distaste from the beginning of the program. “What are these people possibly venting out here?” I wondered at times as I mocked some of the participants whom I knew from before for crying and all. That afternoon, Sadhguru asked us to go out and be with nature. We all came out, and I sat next to a little shrub wondering what to do next. After looking here and there at other people, I started to pay some attention to that little shrub, as Sadhguru had instructed.
In just 5 minutes of looking, something phenomenal happened within me. Tears started to roll down slowly. As an adult I had been very rooted and a content sort of person. I hadn’t cried even once in the previous 12 years. “So why am I crying now? What am I crying for?” I consciously asked myself even while the process was on. I couldn’t find any reason. I had no memories of any unpleasant experience, or pain, or suffering coming alive at that moment – there was no negativity in my mind. But I was crying and crying, and it went on for nearly three hours. As we went back into the hall, I even went and hugged Sadhguru. That was the first time my logic was totally blown.
The Namaskaram and More
Within the next 10 days, we went for the Dhyana Yatra with Sadhguru. We were 216, travelling sleeper class in a train from Coimbatore to Delhi. I was assigned to be in the compartment with Sadhguru and Vijji Maa, and a few other Brahmacharis. Sadhguru was very friendly with everyone, and from time to time would go to each compartment to meet all the participants. Even when we later travelled by bus, he would travel in a different bus with a different set of participants each day.
During this train journey, I once got to serve water to Sadhguru. I noticed that before receiving the water from me, and even while returning the empty glass back to me, Sadhguru very gently did ‘namaskaram’. His gesture actually embarrassed me. “Why would anyone express so much gratitude for receiving just a glass of water?” I thought. His gesture deeply touched me.
The April Fool
Once back from Dhyana Yatra, I continued my life as usual. There were still no big sparks nor a longing to come full-time to the ashram.
In November of the same year, I came to the ashram to volunteer for the Indian Hockey team program, and stayed for three weeks. We went through a powerful process with Sadhguru during the program. It was after this program when I actually became conscious that, for no reason, I was helplessly drawn to Isha and Sadhguru.
I had been deeply influenced by J. Krishnamurti, and had never thought of finding a guru or joining an order. But suddenly my thought process seemed to have changed. I wanted to be at Isha full-time and walk the path. So I asked Sadhguru if I could come full-time to the ashram. “Get your parents’ permission, and if they are okay, be here in April,” said Sadhguru.
In order to prepare my parents, I made my sisters and my parents do the program. They were all touched by it. Since I am the only son in the family, I wondered what their reaction would be when they found out that I was going to Isha for good. It was a blessing, however, that I had understanding parents, and things happened for me rather effortlessly. When I told them about my decision, my mother seemed quite fine with it. In fact, when I was leaving, she gave me some sweets to share with others in the ashram. My father shared with melancholy, “I intellectually understand that this is the biggest thing to do in life, so I don’t have the heart to stop you, even though emotionally it has not been easy to come to terms with your decision.” I came to Isha full-time in April 1997.
In May that year, I did my first Samyama, and it was a wonderful experience. Tears and tears were simply flowing, and I was bowing down to everything – from the grass to an ant to anything that came in front of me. I have no words to articulate the experience of my first Samyama. I was initiated into Brahmacharya in February 1998.
Many powerful things happened in those years around Sadhguru – from Vijji Maa’s Mahasamadhi to the Dhyanalinga consecration. I had always looked at Vijji Maa as somewhat childish and intense. She was extremely attached to Sadhguru, and I sometimes wondered how Sadhguru’s wife could be like that. During the Dhyana Yatra, I would see her at one time like a child, another time intensely devoted – totally lost in a different dimension. Her Mahasamadhi, therefore, betrayed all my notions of spiritual evolvement.
After she left her body, we saw Sadhguru struggling with the entire consecration process. One day I remember he mentioned to us, “Looking at what we have in hand, logically I see no other option but to merge with the Linga to make it happen. But my heart says I am going to die as an old man.” When Sadhguru fell right in front of me after the consecration process, I held on to the voice of his heart, and somehow felt that he would be with us for a long time. To our immense fortune – HE IS.
I can never forget the day Dhyanalinga opened for the public. It was such an overwhelming feeling to see that Sadhguru’s dream had been fulfilled. The whole day was a celebration starting with Sadhguru’s talk in the morning, followed by musical performances, annadanam, etc. Never before had we seen such a crowd in our ashram area – over 30,000 people came to visit Dhyanalinga that day.
I was busy the whole day in one or the other activity, so I could visit the temple only around 9 pm. When I sat inside the temple, the whole ambiance – the linga, the dome, the inner parikrama – everything seemed heavenly to me that day. Perhaps it was the first time I had noticed how beautifully the panels and pillars were carved. Around that time, Sadhguru, too, walked in. It was amazing to see that from the time Sadhguru stepped inside the inner parikarma till he entered the dome, just for those few moments, there was a “divine” drizzle that descended to welcome him.
The Flute Whisper
During my first Dhyana Yatra in 1996 on our return train journey, as I was about to get off at the Chennai station, Sadhguru, suddenly out of the blue, said to me – “Practice your flute properly!” I had wondered what he meant by that, but I didn’t do anything about it. When I came to the ashram, he ensured that this little vocation of mine was put to good use. He would often ask me to play the flute during our meets.
A couple of days before the first Samyama in Spanda Hall, Sadhguru met a few of us and guided us about what kind of music to play for the evening satsangs. In that meeting, he asked to me to play a certain tune with my flute. I tried to play that tune but saw myself incapable of playing it on the small flute that I had. He also gave me a cassette as an aid to listen to something similar, but I still felt I couldn’t do it.
I anyhow practiced something based on his inputs and sat on the stage feeling that it was nowhere near what Sadhguru had been expecting. However, a few minutes after I had been playing, I saw Sadhguru doing a “thumbs up” to me from the dais, in appreciation. After the session when he was leaving, he again mentioned how good that piece was. I was elated to hear that feedback – it felt like I had received a Grammy award! At last for once, I was able to perform to my Master’s satisfaction.
Birth of Nirvana Shatakam at Isha
In 2004 or 2005, before one of the Brahmacharis’ meets, Sadhguru gave me a cassette asking me to teach some simple chants from that to all the Brahmacharis during different days of the meet. So, I selected a few chants and taught them. It went well, and most of the Brahmacharis learnt those chants within a couple of days. By the 3rd or 4th day, I didn’t find any more simple chants in that cassette. Wondering what to do next, I decided to teach one verse of the Nirvana Shatakam that I had heard before. But the tune that I had heard was very soft and complex, so I recomposed it in a simpler tune, and taught the “Na Punyam, Na Papam…” verse to the Brahmacharis. While we were practicing, Sadhguru came in, and he seemed to like both the lyrics and the tune. “Who has written it?” he asked.
“Adi Shankaracharya,” I said. Then he asked me to sing all the verses. After listening to all the six verses, he was very impressed that Adi Shankaracharya had written it and asked me to teach all the verses to the Brahmacharis. It is interesting to see how this chant has now almost become like an “anthem” of Isha.
The Joy and Expansion of Teaching
In May 1997, I went through Teachers’ Training. Like all other Isha teachers I, too, had the fortune to see many people transforming right in front of me, within just 13 days. I still remember in one of the classes in Erode, in the early 2000s, there was a young widow in my class who had lost her husband just a week earlier. She looked very depressed and kept herself aloof. Within 3-4 days, I saw her opening up, and by the 13th day she was glowing and happy. I saw such transformations happening even among hardcore prisoners. In fact, prisoners usually resisted the yoga classes a lot more initially, but once they got involved, the transformation was also far more palpable.
In terms of activity, teaching 13-day classes was the best time of my life. In those ten years of teaching, not even once had I missed my schedule due to ill health or otherwise. I experienced a lot of joy, fulfillment and expansion within me during those years.
The 13-day classes were such an intense experience for all of us that when Sadhguru announced that the classes would be restructured into 7 days, many of us resisted this change. We passionately argued against it, citing our exuberant experiences in the classes. He patiently and compassionately answered all the questions, and took us along in this decision. We saw the enormity of his decision even better when we found that 7-day classes were as equally vibrant as the 13-day ones.
One thing I am always awestruck with is the way Sadhguru has structured the Isha Yoga program – it is simply brilliant. We were fortunate that those days Sadhguru used to be with us most of the times during the training sessions. His mock sessions are something none of us can ever forget. The grueling and yet simple ways in which Sadhguru tossed us with his incisive questions and counter queries prepared us for giving the classes in ways deeper than we understood or expected. The Teachers’ Training was such a powerful process in the “un-making” of me.
To be a co-teacher with Sadhguru was always a big challenge. In one of the early Shambhavi programs, I had to teach Nadi Vibhajan and Surya Namaskar, while he was sitting right next to me. He could see that I was fumbling for words while giving instructions to the participants. After a while, looking at my struggle, out of his compassion he quietly went out of the class. I heaved a sigh of relief, and the words started to flow normally.
Looking for Ashoka
Way back in 2000, in one of the teachers’ meets, I asked Sadhguru a question, “What is the difference between You and Gautama the Buddha?”
He said, “There are many parallels between us, but there is a one big difference between him and me.”
“What is that, Sadhguru?” I implored further.
“Ashoka!” he said. “He had Ashoka, and I only have…” I understood that Sadhguru was referring to that one big force that can take the possibility of what Sadhguru is to millions of others.
This was a strong statement from Sadhguru, and it really stirred my intensity and longing to take his work to one and all. After that meeting, I sat down to contemplate – who is the “Ashoka” in today’s world? I realized that it was the media that has the power to take messages across the world these days. So I started to work for it. In many ways, this particular statement was the fire behind my efforts to make inroads into Tamil Nadu media during those days and finding ways to reach out to influencers.
Sadhguru’s Very Life is a Teaching
The commitment with which Sadhguru works is unbelievable: he is never late for any meeting, and never has he canceled an appointment because of his health or any other personal issue. Once I was travelling with him for one of the conferences in Goa, and I knew that he hadn’t eaten the previous day. So when we arrived at the venue, I wanted him to eat first as his session had not yet been announced. Upon my insistence he sat down to eat, however within 10 minutes they announced his session and were expecting him to be on stage. Hearing this, Sadhguru immediately got up, washed his hands midway, and literally ran to the program hall without a moment of hesitation.
I have never seen him behaving like an important person. I cannot forget this one incident, probably in 1998, when Sadhguru was having dinner with us in the Triangle Block. After finishing his meal, he went to wash his plate in the sink. The sink was full of water, as some waste food had blocked the drain. Next thing I saw, Sadhguru simply put his hands in it, cleared off the drain, and silently walked away. It was unimaginable for me to see a guru getting into all these so-called trivial things. He always bows down and leads by example. Whenever guests came to meet him, he would always tell us to make sure their drivers eat. Many times I noticed that while walking in the ashram, he identified the dry plants and even stopped to water them. His attention to details, his compassion and inclusiveness is mind boggling.
The Lows and Highs of Administration Activity
In 2007, Sadhguru asked me to come back to the ashram and coordinate the ashram administration. When it comes to empowering people, there is no match for Sadhguru – the way he empowers us is phenomenal. I was empowered hugely in the next four years. Many good things happened because of his support and encouragement, but sometimes I made mistakes, too.
Actually I had never felt as involved in admin activity as I did when I was teaching. So as I failed to involve myself 100% in that role, everything became a challenge. Even though I constantly strived to do my best, somehow, I didn’t succeed in this role. One of my biggest regrets in this whole process was that a few times I had let Sadhguru down, too.
I remember when Sadhguru started Isha Samskriti, I questioned it a lot – the whole concept of it. “What will happen to these children after 12 years of education?” I argued within me many times. Now seeing these children so bright, intelligent and capable, makes me realize never to question the wisdom of someone like Sadhguru. He knows.
One of the blessings of the admin activity was that I got to work very closely with Sadhguru and see the multi-dimensional person in him. I was in awe of his intensity, his undivided focus, his tireless tenacity, and out-of-the-box approach to many situations.
However, I feel during those four years, I was perhaps taken in so much by his persona, that I probably missed seeing the Guru in him. But there soon came an opportunity for me to once again strengthen our guru-shishya chord.
In all these years with Isha, I had never cared to looked at what was happening to me within myself or with my sadhana – the only thing that mattered was how to make things happen for Isha. So in 2011, when Sadhguru asked me to go into working silence for one and a half years, I found this to be a true blessing for me. It gave me space to look within and bring clarity about why I am here. I realized that it was true that at times I had been impudent and stupid. This realization and introspection allowed me to come out of all the conflicts and confusions I had been facing within me over the years.
Slowly, I became more appreciative and receptive to whatever Sadhguru has offered to us. For example, a simple thing that Sadhguru repeatedly says – “You are not happy because life is not happening the way you want it” – became experientially alive within me. A little while into the silence period, I felt at ease, and discovered a new level of freedom within myself. This sadhana brought a new perspective to life and renewed my level of intensity and focus towards the path. “…And Now, Yoga” – the first line of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras – became a living reality for me.
That Day – That Moment
Recently, I realized that I had turned 50 a few months back – but I don’t feel I have aged. In fact, I feel much more alive and vibrant than I was even in my college days. My journey with Isha and Sadhguru has been so enriching and fulfilling that I would never exchange what Sadhguru has given us in the form of Sadhana and Brahmacharya with anything in the world.
Finally, I often recall the first thing Sadhguru had told me when I came here full-time: “You should be like a stone; we will throw you wherever we want. Is that okay with you?” All these years this has been my guiding force – willing to be thrown in whatever, wherever, and being fully involved.
My only longing is – I am waiting for that day and that moment when I become totally free from the need for any action, to simply be in total freedom. Until then, willing to be thrown anywhere, anytime, any number of lifetimes…
Editor's Note: Watch this space every second Monday of the month as we share with you the journeys of Isha Brahmacharis in the series, "On the Path of the Divine."