Is there more to dance than just plain fun? Why do some people find it hard to dance? Why are Indian gods depicted as dancers? In his own unique inimitable way, Sadhguru explores the topic of dance.
Sadhguru: In the Indian culture, an enormous amount of attention has been paid to the things that the physical body can do, and the sort of postures and movements that can lead to the advancement of the individual human being who inhabits the body. Based on this understanding, various classical dances were developed. There is a certain mathematics and rhythm to it. These are exquisite expositions of what the body can do, not in terms of acrobatics but in terms of moving the body gracefully and with profound emotional involvement.
Until about a few centuries ago, dances were mainly performed in temples because musicians and dancers mainly performed for the Divine. People could also see it, but that was not the main purpose. This was the basic attitude towards music and dance because they were seen as an expression of exuberance of what human beings can be, and as a means to come to a state of abandon.
This is the only culture where even our gods have to dance. A god who does not dance does not pass muster here because dance was not seen just as entertainment or an art form, but as an exposition of the nature of creation itself. Yoga has always described both creation and destruction as tandava – a wild dance, but phenomenally synchronized.
Shiva, the Adiyogi, is a representative of that, and an entire culture has been bred from that dimension of understanding. In most other cultures, people always understood dance as dancing with someone. But here, dance means we close our eyes and go crazy.
When joy fills your Heart
Even your bony, clunky
limbs become graceful.
All creatures when at their
Best burst forth into Dance.
Not just the graceful
King Cobra or a delightful
Peacock. Even gangly
Cricket and ungainly
Hippopotamus do their own gig.
In this land even Gods,
Sages and Seers dropped
falsehood of serious dignity
and Danced to their hearts content
Make life a Dance of Grace
The 29th of April is International Dance Day. A day for dance is a good reminder for human beings since many of them cannot dance. That is because they are carrying a mountain on their head. Their belief systems, philosophies, ideologies, and scriptures are an endless amount of burden. To dance, you must be a current life, not an ancient life. But people often think for something to be of value, it has to be ancient. They think for something to be good, it must be at least a thousand years old.
It does not take any intelligence or awareness to value what is old. For example, after 5,000 years, so many people worship Krishna. But when he was alive, he faced all kinds of accusations. Only those who had a heart for him danced with him. Others accused him of all kinds of things. One who dances somehow does not fit into people’s logic, so they need a distance of time to appreciate him.
This is not about a particular person – it is about a certain aspect of life. If Krishna or Shiva does not come alive in you right now, you worshipping the ancient one is not of much value. If you are using someone as an inspiration, it is fine with me. But to appreciate something that happened a few thousand years ago is easy. This does not mean you will experience the possibility that they represent.
You will only get identified. You will feel part of it; you will feel brotherhood. If you want brotherhood, it should be with every creature on this planet. But if your brotherhood is limited to certain people, it is the beginning of tyranny. As the brotherhood gets bigger, it will become absolutely tyrannical. That is why most religions have caused more violence than anyone else on the planet – because brotherhood with a limited identity is a disastrous process. That is why you must dance.
If you dance, your brotherhood falls down a little bit. This is very important because all the nonsense you have built on the little logic that you have in your head makes you like a spider caught in its own web. A spider that casts a web to catch prey is a smart spider. But a spider that gets caught in its own web is a stupid spider, and that is what your psychological process is. As this web becomes thicker, your feet become heavy, and you cannot dance.
You must be a little shameless about yourself to dance. Otherwise, you are always worried about how you look. So what if you look like an idiot? If you are really smart, you like to play the idiot for a little while. But if you are stupid, then you are afraid of being recognized.
People are filling themselves with so many things that do not belong to life. If they filled themselves with air, food, and all the sights and sounds of nature and life, they would feel like dancing. But they fill themselves with philosophies, ideologies, scriptures, and all kinds of things. If you look at human history, those who strongly believed in an ideology, philosophy, belief system, or a certain kind of ritual or practice were the people who killed everything else.
The dancing people never went about killing anyone. When your heart is full of joy, it does not occur to you to kill someone because you do not feel threatened by anything. You do not feel insecure because you have nothing to protect. You know that life is the magnanimity of creation; it is for you to make the most out of it. When I say, “Make the most out of it,” some people will assume, “Sadhguru is saying we must party!”
They think they must tank up to dance. But what I am saying is you must empty yourself to dance. I am talking about abandon, while they are thinking of drinking spirits. When you are drunk or drugged, you may act like you are in a state of abandon, but you have lost your awareness.
Coming to a state of abandon and losing your awareness are two different things. If the dance itself is a drug, that is fine. But if you are drugged and dancing, it is not of much value. Dance need not necessarily mean doing something with music on. You can work like it is a dance; you can move like it is a dance; you can do every simple act like it is a dance.