NDTV Consulting Editor Barkha Dutt engages Sadhguru in a conversation during the Penguin Random House “Spring Fever Festival” in Delhi. Sadhguru speaks about seeking, belief, skeptics, and the possibility of "I Do Not Know."
Barkha Dutt: the business of introducing Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev,
who’s been described in many different ways in my profession,
by people from my profession, we’ve called you a maverick, (Sadhguru laughs)
we’ve called you a monk on a motorcycle,
we’ve called you a glamorous, flamboyant guru
but for your devotees you are simply Sadhguru.
And yet Sadhguru, at a time when faith seems to be in collision with so many other questions that come up as a matter of individual liberty, I think this will make for a very interesting and important conversation for our times, so I would like to thank you for being part of this conversation.
Let me start with the spiritual and I hope what you say today is also addressed to the skeptics. I count myself among a skeptic, who if told that another human being possesses some sort of godly power, I would perhaps as the first instinct, not believe it but I find interesting about what you’ve s… some of your sayings, as captured by Arundhati Subramaniam in this book, is that you’re actually saying that what we experience beyond our five senses, anything that we experience beyond the five senses can be called God, can be called power or can be called yourself. So if God doesn’t necessarily exist, why do we need gurus, why do we need Sadhguru (Laughter)?
Sadhguru: (Audio check) Do you drive in Delhi?
Barkha Dutt: Do I drive?
Sadhguru: Mhmm. (Indicating agreement)
Barkha Dutt: Unlike you (Sadhguru laughs) - I have a fear of wheels (Both laugh).
Sadhguru: So if you drive in an unknown terrain…
Barkha Dutt: Yes.
Sadhguru: …you use these days a GPS.
Barkha Dutt: Yes.
Sadhguru: Usually, a strange woman will tell you, “Turn right,” you turn right. She says, “Turn left,” (Laughter) you turn left. She says, “Make a U-turn,” you make a U-turn (Laughter). Why? Simply because you are… you’re not familiar with the terrain. When you are in an unfamiliar terrain, it is sensible to take instructions. (Laughter/Applause)
Barkha Dutt: So are you… Are you saying gurus are the new GPS (Laughter)?
Sadhguru: Not new, not new, long time ago we’ve been. (Laughter/Applause) For a very long time, way before the GPS came (Applause). GPS means what – Guru Positioning System. (Laughter/Applause)
Barkha Dutt: But you know, I have to say that while I don’t drive, I’ve often sat in the car and heard that girl’s voice on Google Maps and often Google Maps…
Sadhguru: You can actually, you can actually…
Barkha Dutt: …does not… does not adv… does not give you the right advice.
Sadhguru: You can change it to a man’s voice if you wish.
Barkha Dutt: Okay (Laughter/Applause). This beginning of this conversation perhaps underlines that you are atypical. You are atypical of what we imagine gurus to be. We expect people who don’t crack jokes, we expect people who don’t have a zest for life. Somehow, all of our spirituality has traditionally been centered around giving up, around abstinence of some kind, around abstaining from pleasures, from denying creature comforts. Why do you believe that the material can co-exist with the spiritual?
Sadhguru: It’s… It’s not that I believe, it’s only because you have a body which is your physicality, you have a life within. If you did not have a body, if you’re disembodied, I’m not going to talk to you (Laughs) because with disembodied beings you don’t have conversations, okay? I know people…
Barkha Dutt: People do talk to ghosts.
Sadhguru: People are trying to do that these days (Both laugh). Because they’re not on talking terms with the living (Laughter/Applause), they choose the dead (Laughter) because you can make the dead speak whatever you want. The living will speak what they want, it’s a big problem (Laughter). It’s a very serious problem in a conversation because I will say what I want to say ___ (Unclear-but?) if I was dead, you can make me say whatever you want to say.
Barkha Dutt: But can an…
Sadhguru: Because you can do both sides of the conversation.
Barkha Dutt: But if your philosophy – you hate the word philosophy I know – if your technology of Inner Engineering - and we’ll talk more about that in just a moment - is available to all of us to, in a sense find strength within ourselves, Sadhguru, then does that mean that the atheist and the agnostic and the skeptic can also embrace spirituality? Is Inner Engineering only for those who believe or is it for anyone (Sadhguru laughs) who asks questions?
Sadhguru: The previous question is a loaded one, still not answered fully.
Barkha Dutt: Yes, I know (Sadhguru laughs), I haven’t… I haven’t given up on it yet (Sadhguru laughs).
Sadhguru: Coming to this, see you’re putting atheists and agnostics and skeptics together – it’s a wrong classification. Atheists and theists are together, they’re one kind.
Barkha Dutt: Because they both have certainty.
Sadhguru: Both… Both believe something that they do not know. Both are not sincere enough to admit that they do not know. This is the biggest problem. The biggest problem in the world is people are still not straight enough to come to a place, “what I know I know, what I do not know I do not know” because they have not realized the immensity of “I do not know.” “I do not know” is the basis of longing to know and seeking to know and the possibility of knowing. The moment you destroy “I do not know,” you destroyed all possibilities of knowing. So this is atheism and this is theism, they’re not different, they’re in the same boat, they pretend to be different. One believes positively, another believes negatively but they both believe something that they do not know. One (Fumbles) person, a well-known person in the country who goes about claiming he’s an atheist all the time, one day comes up to me, somebody just introduces me first time, I say nothing. He says, “You know, I believe there is no God?” I said, “I don’t even believe that” (Laughter).
Barkha Dutt: Do you mean Javed Akhtar (Laughter/Applause)?
Sadhguru: I… I’m not…
Barkha Dutt: That was a good imitation, so I guessed (Laughter), it wasn’t difficult.
Sadhguru: I am not (Laughs) taking names, I am saying the thing is you also believe something, you don’t seem to understand that. The most important thing is to come to this place of being utterly straight and sincere with life – what I know I know, what I do not know I do not know. If you come to this much, if you closely pay attention to everything around you, you will see with all this scientific exploration, we do not know even a single atom in its entirety, that’s the fact.
Barkha Dutt: So what is it that you know Sadhguru (Sadhguru laughs)? Why are millions of people your devotees because you just said that honesty…?
Sadhguru: They usually don’t…
Barkha Dutt: …is about admitting…
Sadhguru: They… They don’t claim that they are my devotees, you know.
Barkha Dutt: What do they say then?
Barkha Dutt: What do they say then?
Sadhguru: Usually they claim they’re meditators, volunteers, and stuff (Laughter/Applause).
Barkha Dutt: Okay, volunteers then (Sadhguru laughs). But there must be something they think that you know because you just said that life is actually about admitting what you don’t know. The corollary to that is there are things that you do know. We do know we’re sitting at the Habitat Center Amphitheatre at this moment in Delhi – that we know. What beyond this Sadhguru, do you know and what do you not know (Laughter)? I’ve asked you like is there a question of _____ (Unclear) existence now (Both laugh).
Sadhguru: Now, what do I know? I don’t know anything except this one (Referring to oneself). I know this piece of life from its origin to its ultimate. Everything that I need to know about this life, I know. And I see every other life is actually the same thing, if you look deep enough. So in that context, because today modern science is coming to this, there is a… a theory which is evolving, which is called as constructional theory - what they are beginning to say is whether it’s an amoeba or a grasshopper or a earthworm or a bird or an animal or an elephant or you or me or the whole cosmos, the fundamental design is same. It is only a question of complexities and sophistication of the same design. So this is something always the yogic science has been saying, that if you know… you know anda you know pindanda, (Laughs) you know? If you know the atomic, you know the cosmic because the fundamental design is same, it’s only a question of complexity and sophistication of what’s happening. So fundamentally, if you know this piece of life (Referring to oneself) you know everything by inference.
Barkha Dutt: But when you say this piece of life, do you mean yourself, do you mean this moment, what do you mean by this piece of life?
Sadhguru: You are a piece of life, aren’t you? Are you life or are you… are you media (Laughter)?
Barkha Dutt: Are they mutually exclusive?
Sadhguru: No, no, because people (Sounds like: are/have?) mediums, that’s why I’m saying (Laughter).
Barkha Dutt: I would hope I’m a flesh and blood person unless somebody knows better (Laughs).
Sadhguru: Flesh and blood you gathered, isn’t it?
Barkha Dutt: Yes.
Sadhguru: What you call as my flesh and blood, you slowly gathered over a period of time. If this much accumulation of flesh and blood, this much impressions have to be gathered, there must be something more fundamental, isn’t it?