Sadhguru in Russia, May-June, 2018
Glimpses of Sadhguru’s First Visit to Russia in 2017
Sadhguru’s eleven days in the months of May-June, 2018, in the country were packed with international events, forums, panel discussions, press-meets, meetings with top officials, individual press interviews, sightseeing trips, and of course the most significant of all, the mega-event - Wisdom, Meditation and Joy with Sadhguru, where the Inner Engineering book in Russian and Inner Engineering Online in Russian were launched.
A volunteer sums up the amazing Russian response:
“This was only Sadhguru’s second visit to Russia and the first time Sadhguru was conducting an event there open to the public. But it was amazing to see the level of recognition Sadhguru received everywhere he went, passers-by would just regularly walk up and request selfies. This was most evident during the Economic Forum itself. Literally every third person would stop Sadhguru for something - asking for a photo, or media people would ask for interviews while he was walking, or someone would want an autograph on Sadhguru’s book (the Russian publisher gave away multiple copies of the book at the Forum, and went on to sell out the first round print of 10,000 copies in less than a month). It was actually difficult to walk from one session to the next in the given fifteen minute breaks between sessions because a huge crowd would gather around Sadhguru every time he stepped off the stage.”
Forums… Who? Where? What?
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) – 24-26 May, 2018
Sadhguru was invited to address two sessions at SPIEF (St. Petersburg International Economic Forum). SPIEF is an annual Russian business event for the economic sector, which has been held in St. Petersburg since 1997, and under the auspices of the Russian President since 2005. Each year, thousands of people from over 120 different countries take part. The Forum brings together the chief executives of major Russian and international companies, heads of state, political leaders, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, departmental ministers, and governors.
This time, the Honorary SPIEF guests included the Russian President - Vladimir Putin, the French President - Emmanuel Macron and the Prime Minister of Japan - Shinzo Abe.
“Transitional World: What Will Tomorrow Bring?” – SPIEF, 24 May
The first session Sadhguru spoke at was on the topic “Transitional World: What Will Tomorrow Bring?”, which was moderated by Herman Gref, CEO of Sberbank. He was among other highly distinguished panelists such as Meir Brand, Vice-President of Google Inc.; Peter Diamandis, Founder and Executive Chairman of XPRIZE Foundation Inc.; Guo Ping, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Professor of Risk Engineering at Polytechnic Faculty of New York University.
From Ambition to Vision – SPIEF, May 25
Sadhguru also had a conversation on “From Ambition to Vision” with Hemant Kanoria for the audience of SPIEF, on May 25. The discussion covered topics such as the new world economy, philanthropy, artificial intelligence and self- transformation.
“Forecast-2100: Technologies of the Future” – SPIEF, 26 May
Sadhguru participated in four sessions when he was at SPIEF. One of them, “Forecast-2100: Technologies of the Future”, was with Mr. Michio Kaku, a well-known scientist and futurist.
Some very interesting insights distilled out of the panel discussions, where one of the issues under debate was that robots could replace human beings in the future. To this Sadhguru brought a different perspective and said, “Anything that can be built by storage of memory, access to memory, analysis of this memory and expression of this memory – everything that you are doing through your intellect and think that is you – can be done by a machine at some point.” However, he went on to add what makes human beings different from robots: “But there is a dimension of intelligence within the human being which we call as chitta, or in modern terminology loosely it can be called as consciousness – not being conscious as you and me are right now. This is wakefulness, not consciousness. This dimension of intelligence of chitta has no memory in it. Where there is no memory, there are no boundaries to it. You will not do that with a robot.”
“Sadhguru is the most talked about, and the most photographed person in the entire forum,” commented the RBC (Rosbusiness Consulting) interviewer. The press releases of all three of Sadhguru’s sessions on SPIEF’s website carried Sadhguru’s photo as their feature images, despite many other world-renowned personalities being in those panels - a clear indicator that he had touched the hearts of many.
Sadhguru Captures the Hearts of the Russian People and the Attention of the Russian Media…
Sadhguru’s days in St. Petersburg were replete with several media appearances, press interviews and meets with BBC World Service, NTV, IZVESTIA, St. Petersburg Channel 5, NOVOSIBIRSK TV, RIA Novosti, AUDIO, Sputnik (France) Audio, RBC, RT, Yoga & Ayurveda Journal and Tina Kandelaki.
“Did you interview that Yogi?” were buzz words among press people, shared a volunteer.
Inner Engineering Book Launch in Moscow and More!
Russia also got its first taste of the “Inner Engineering” book, when Sadhguru launched the book along with the CEO of ESKMO, the publisher. ESKMO is one of the largest publishing houses in Russia, and publishes approximately 30% of all Russian books.
Russia’s First Inner Engineering Experience
With 6000 tickets all sold out and over a thousand people waiting outside, even prepared to attend the whole program standing, the best way to recount this program is through the many little stories that emerged, which were shared with us by the volunteers.
On a warm June evening, the entrance to the Crocus City hall, the most prestigious concert hall in Russia, was overflowing with eager people waiting to enter the venue for a session of “Wisdom, Meditation and Bliss” with Sadhguru. Unlike other Sadhguru events outside India, where many participants are usually people of Indian or Asian origin, it was unusual to see less than 15 Indians in a crowd of over 6,000. One reason could be that there are only 14,000 Indians in Moscow, but another palpable reason was that they miscalculated the response to this event. “6,000 tickets for an Indian Mystic’s program – no way! In the end definitely we will be invited to fill the seats,” an Indian had remarked confidently a month before the program. But to their disappointment, all the tickets were sold almost 10 days before the program, and the hall was filled to the brim with many standing on their feet for almost 3 hours to hear Sadhguru.
“We had to put 80 additional chairs because we ran out of tickets,” shared a volunteer. “Despite this, another 1,500 were waiting outside, some were so desperate to get in, that it was heartbreaking for us to see that,” said another volunteer.
An Overwhelming Standing Ovation
As Sadhguru entered the stage after his introduction, it was a magnificent sight, as the entire audience rose from their seats to welcome him with a standing ovation. Considering that this was Sadhguru’s first public event in the country, this kind of reception was unprecedented. It was as though they had known him for a long time, and were waiting for him to come home. Granted, Youtube videos of Sadhguru have been actively translated into Russian since the end of last year and are hugely popular. But no one expected this level of involvement and response from people.
Also of note here is that the Sadhguru Russia YouTube channel, which has been active for a few months, now already has over 100,000 subscribers!
Sadhguru’s Russian Connection
At one point during the talk, Sadhguru mentioned that all he knew about Russia was from the literature he had read as a child. The audience immediately broke out into a huge round of applause. It wasn’t about what Sadhguru had read, but the very fact that Sadhguru had read Russian literature made them feel overjoyed. The question and answer session saw some profound questions on subjects like karma and spiritual growth, which indicated that they weren’t just curious people, but seekers waiting for clarity.
Meditation and Bliss
During the meditation conducted by Sadhguru, there was pin-drop silence in an auditorium of about of 6,200 people. When they opened their eyes, some had tears. One of the participants mentioned she was initially skeptical about a mass meditation for an audience of this size. But in some time, after she closed her eyes, she felt that she was in a different space. She couldn’t tell where she was and where the others were - she was all over the hall. To her, that was the most intense feeling ever.
Inner Engineering Book on the Russian Black Market?
As the event drew to a close, Sadhguru started doing a book signing for the newly released “Inner Engineering” book in Russian. The first batch of books that were published sold out even before the official launch a few days before. So, the publisher could manage to bring only about 1900 copies to the venue, all of which were also sold out at least half an hour before the event started. People were scrambling for books to have them signed. Some volunteers shared that the book was being sold outside the venue for double its price! It seems the tickets were also being sold in black outside the venue!
Almost half the people at venue stood around the dais to get their books signed. Some who didn’t have the book were so desperate that they started collecting brochures from volunteers to have them signed by Sadhguru. One of the security guards at the outer gate was so eager to see Sadhguru, but because he was on duty, he couldn’t leave his post. One of our volunteers from the U.S. stood in line and had the book autographed for him after the event.
When Nothing Else Seemed to Matter
Participants refused to leave even after Sadhguru had left. Sounds of Isha had played continuously for one and half hours already. The venue owner started to remind the volunteers that they had extended the hiring time of the venue. But the crowd wouldn’t budge. At some point SOI stopped playing, and there was a silent pause. “Empty the premise immediately,” said one of the security guards, his firm voice filling the silence.
Unlike in most cases, where people might have gotten disappointed or annoyed by this rather abrupt and somewhat harsh ending, they all broke into loud laughter, and left smiling and shining.
The Startled “Misty Voice”
The Youtuber “Misty Voice” has been translating Sadhguru’s videos into Russian over the past couple of years and travelled from the Krasnodar region to meet Sadhguru in Moscow. He got the chance to meet Sadhguru in person backstage after the event. After meeting Sadhguru, he was walking with a white rose in his hand, face flushed, and looking at nothing in particular. When one of the volunteers excitedly asked him how the meeting went, he almost whispered, “Give me a few minutes to just live this moment,” and he sat down.
That would pretty much summarize the sentiments of most of the audience who came out that night of 3rd of June from the grand Crocus city hall.
Sadhguru’s Words Reach Russia Before Him
An incident that happened a month before Sadhguru’s visit highlights the impact his words have had on people there. During a taxi ride to a meeting, a volunteer called someone to discuss Sadhguru’s visit. The Russian taxi driver waited for her to finish the call and handed her his phone, asking if she was referring to the same person. His phone had Sadhguru’s picture on it. He said, “Sometimes things happen in life, which unexpectedly propel you in the required direction. I stumbled upon Sadhguru’s video by accident. Now, I watch at least one video a day. It gives me so much clarity.” The volunteer was so touched by what he had to share. She told him proudly, “Yes, we are working on translating videos into different languages, so that many more people can be touched by his words.” But what he said after that really left her stumped. He said, “True, I see his videos are being translated into so many other languages – quite a lot of them into English!”
Sadhguru Speaks in Russian
As part of this year’s World Environment Day awareness campaign, Sadhguru and volunteers stand-up to BeatPlasticPollution in Moscow’s Red Square, by putting on plastic bags on their heads. Watch Sadhguru speak in Russian as he encourages everyone to Stop Plastic Suffocation…
A Quick Game of Chess
Sadhguru’s intense hectic days were sprinkled with recreation too.
Once while waiting for the event to start, Sadhguru ended up playing a quick friendly game of chess with the CEO of Bookvoed – and guess who won? Of course - who else?
Sadhguru on a Speedboat
“We were invited to visit a new hybrid boat developed by an Indian IIT student with Russian collaboration. We all boarded the raft and seated ourselves comfortably. I was the youngest in the group, jumping with curiosity. There was however, another person younger than me who ran straight to the steering wheel and sat in the pilot seat - none other than our beloved Sadhguru. He drove like a professional, especially in the swamps when we expected him to slow down, he joyfully steered through them with full throttle.”
- Praveen, a final year PG student in Aerospace Engineering in Moscow, an invitee at the SPIEF youth forum.
A Friendly Golf Match with Russia’s Top Golfer Got Squeezed In!
Since there were many press conferences and media interviews scheduled on the last day, Sadhguru couldn’t make it to the golf tournament arranged by SPIEF. The director of the golf club in St. Petersburg later called several times and requested that Sadhguru visit the golf course, even if only for a few minutes. It turns out that the director had been watching Sadhguru’s videos for more than a year and was looking forwarding to meeting Sadhguru in person.
Sadhguru arrived at the golf course to a very warm reception organized by the golf club and spoke a few words. Sadhguru then played a friendly match with Russia’s best golfer, Maria Verchenova, where they played a full 18-hole round.
Sadhguru Spotted in St. Petersburg
May 27 was St. Petersburg city day and Sadhguru set out for a sightseeing trip late in the afternoon. Since Sadhguru was not in his usual attire, it was rather confusing for someone who had watched his videos. One man literally ran up to us and said that he was convinced that it was Sadhguru he was seeing. Sadhguru joked and said, “Oh! It’s not me, he’s my brother.” That person immediately said, “That sense of humour nails it. Now I know for sure that it’s you!”
Sadhguru's Visit Featured in Sputnik News
Sputniknews, the Russian media group and news agency publishing in 30 global languages, covered an article in their opinion section on Sadhguru's visit to Russia.
Denis Bolotsky, the reporter from Sputniknews, caught up with Sadhguru during the SPIEF. Here's a gist of what Denis reports:
How technology affects our lives, and what should we do to find inner balance? A very unusual interview, and really good advice for all of you guys in @SputnikInt audience. I just talked to Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi, mystic and author here at @spief about all these issues.
Read the full article here.