Science in Ancient India: Barkha Dutt with Sadhguru
NDTV Consulting Editor Barkha Dutt engages Sadhguru in a conversation during the Penguin Random House “Spring Fever Festival” in Delhi. Among other questions, Barkha Dutt asks Sadhguru about the many statements being made about science and technology in ancient India. Sadhguru speaks about how there was a vibrant scientific community in ancient India, and explains that it is important that we move on from Greenwich Mean Time.
Barkha Dutt: What is it with Sadhguru and motorcycles (Laughter)?
Sadhguru: These days, I’m on four wheels (Laughter).
Barkha Dutt: But you haven’t given up (Sadhguru laughs) your love for bikes or have you?
Sadhguru: It’s just that when I was… I started, you know, trekking in the jungles when I was ten, eleven. I would be gone. If I had ten rupees in my pocket, I would organize my food and I’m gone with this little note in the house. I can imagine my parents (Laughs)… I… I always wished I shouldn’t have a boy ever (Laughs).
Barkha Dutt: Girls can run away too on bikes.
Sadhguru: They run later (Laughter/Applause). They don’t run at ten, eleven (Laughter). And they’re on a pillion… they’re usually pillion and if they find a good rider, no problem (Laughter). That is a different issue. I’m saying the thing was, it’s not about the motorcycle or this or that, it is just that I was a cloud of million questions all the time and wherever I looked, nobody had a sensible answer. Everybody has standard answers that they’ve heard from somewhere, nobody has a genuine experiential answer. So there’s a restlessness to explore just about anything. When I was ten, eleven years of age, I would be gone into the forest for three, four days. Once food ran out and I couldn’t survive, then I would come back.
So, initially lot of excitement but later on they kind of settled down, they knew I’ll get back. So when I became fourteen, fifteen, I cycled across South India, not because I ___ (Unclear-was one?) cycling enthusiast, not like today, wearing a helmet and suited booted for cycling – no, simply I cycled because cycling is little faster than walking. The moment I became seventeen, I still didn’t have a license but I found a motor to my cycle, which became a motorcycle (Laughs). So that because it went little faster. It s… it supported my restlessness to know something I didn’t even know what the hell it is. I didn’t know what I was looking for but I had questions about anything I looked at. Everything in the universe looked like a question mark to me.
Barkha Dutt: But the question about the motorcycle is really to ask whether the motorcycle, the Land Rover or Land Cruiser, which one is it now? Land Rover, Land Cruiser, (Sadhguru laughs) I’m not sure, but whatever, the four wheels, the helicopter, you… I think you once said somewhere that I like… that whether if it moves on land, water or air, I like it.
Sadhguru: This is not… One thing is I like anything that works and machines work (Laughs). The more efficiently (they?) work, the better they are and why it’s important is, after all, what is the quality of an individual human being? How smoothly and how efficiently your body, mind and everything functions is the quality of a human being, isn’t it? So machines always excited me, whether it’s a s… bicycle or motorcycle or because of you know lack of the necessary… probably the fitness that I was at that time, I crisscrossed India on a motorcycle, today it would be hard, so you get into something little more comfortable.
Barkha Dutt: But you know while that makes you a very interesting character to observe, did you ever worry that you’d be labeled or dubbed a Richie Rich (Referring to the cartoon character) person’s guru? This is you know… This is the Sadhguru who…
Sadhguru: See, the thing is…
Barkha Dutt: …flies his own planes…
Barkha Dutt: …who likes his BMW, who like his game of golf, who likes having a little Frisbee match on the ___ (Unclear)
Sadhguru: (Laughs) L… Let’s… let’s come to that. See, the thing is I would… I wouldn’t mind… I even… Sometimes we… I… I ride a bullock cart, nobody reports that though (Laughter). I… I… I love to handle the bulls and I… I still drive that sometimes. But now you… I want to have a conversation with you, this afternoon till two o’clock, I was in Jodhpur, I could have come by bullock cart or a camel cart, (Laughter) you had to wait for five days (Laughter/Applause). I came on time, you must appreciate that (Laughs).
Barkha Dutt: So it’s about efficiency is what you’re saying?
Sadhguru: Yes. So I l… I personally learnt to fly a helicopter where I don’t have the time for these things but I somehow fit in this and learnt because seventy percent of our work is in rural India. Tch, I thought this little helicopter could just… I could set the place on fire because I’m half the time stuck… Half my life, I’m on the road stuck in some traffic driving myself. All the time, behind huge… everywhere… there’s no place in the country where there’s no traffic jams, believe me. Even in rural India, there’re traffic jams. So I thought a helicopter would really revolutionize our work. I picked up the thing, I got my license, FAA license but in India it’s so difficult to get the license because many of these rules were made before Wright brothers (Referring to the brothers who invented the airplane) came (Laughter).
Barkha Dutt: Well, according to some, the plane was also made before the Wright brothers came (Laughs). They say it was made in the Vedic ages, they…
Sadhguru: They're not very wrong. Conceptually, it was made. Whether physically they built or not, we don’t have proof for that. Conceptually, there’s no…
Barkha Dutt: Conceptually, it’s about imagination to think that you can move from place A to place B…
Sadhguru: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. (Overlapping conversation) You cannot conceptually imagine something entirely. Even if you imagine, you must be able to produce some k… You must understand the principles in some way, as to why something flies. If you don’t understand why something flies, it’ll be like that you know once it happened, a little turtle, very… with great effort, climbed a tree, went to the edge of a branch and jumped, fell flat, lot of pain. Slowly, again he crawled up, in another two days, again up, jumped, fell down, again up, fell down. After a few days, two birds who were sitting in the opposite tree, they were talking and they said, “I think it’s time we tell him he’s adopted” (Laughter). All right (Laughs)?
So I’m saying what cannot fly, you cannot make it fly. People thought in detail, as to what can fly, what cannot fly, conceptually they thought. Whether they built or not, we don’t know. And is it… is it… I mean, it is an established fact, they calculated the speed of light. Somebody, some individual cannot calculate the speed of light just like that if there was no whole scientific culture around him. No individual will just drop from heaven and calculate the speed of light, okay? There must have been a scientific culture, otherwise it won’t happen. But we need to understand there is a difference between science and technology.
Barkha Dutt: But there’s also a difference between science and mythology. Some things are just great stories - that doesn’t mean they actually happened.
Sadhguru: See for example, there are… there are images or there are sketches which show, which probably somewhere between three to four thousand years ago were made, where it clearly shows a turtle and a round planet sitting on it and going around. Turtle is the best example, best analogy for a planetary movement because a turtle cannot accelerate (Laughs). Sim… same speed, he just keeps going. So tur… a round planet on a turtle is the best way to describe how a planet moves around. And the very word for geography in this country is bhoogol, which means it’s a round planet. So it is not because of Galileo we know it’s a round planet, we’ve always known. How do we know? We can’t know just one scientific fact and not know the other aspects related to it. So this thing about anything Indian, beating it down, is because one thing is that culture has evolved because half the people, their brains are in Greenwich Mean Time, they’ve still not gotten out of the 1948, whatever happened. We struggled for independence, we came out, not just to send them out but to be who we are.
So, that problem is still there and now there are upstarts who claim all kinds of things. There has to be an even balance, not beating down this or pumping it up in a (an?) unrealistic way. But you cannot deny Indian mind has thought about things that nobody had thought about in those times. There is no question about that. But there is a distinction between science and technology. Science can evolve because of certain intelligence, technology needs material manifestation. Now we are trying to claim technology, which we should not. If we just focus on science, many things will be attributed to India for sure.