No Safety Net: Sadhguru on Mental Illness
Karan Johar: Mental health issues like depression and anxiety seem to be rampant in many parts of the world now, including India. What is your take on this?
Sadhguru: Being mentally ill is not a joke. It is a most painful thing. If you have physical ailments, you will get everyone’s compassion, but when you have a mental ailment, you will get laughter, unfortunately. This is because it is very difficult to make out when somebody is sick and when somebody is being stupid. This is the biggest problem for those who have somebody in the family who is mentally disturbed. You do not know when they are making it up and when they are really suffering. You do not know when to be compassionate, when to be hard on them.
Human sanity is a very fragile thing. The line between sanity and insanity is so thin. If you push it every day, you will cross it. When you get angry, what is the expression that is used? “I am mad with you,” or, “I am mad right now.” You may enjoy that little bit of madness – you crossed the line, and it felt like some kind of freedom and power. But one day when you cannot cross back, that is when suffering begins. It is not like physical pain – it is immense suffering. I have been around people who have been mentally ill, trying to help them. Nobody should have it. But unfortunately it is becoming an epidemic in the world.
Transcending the Safety Net
It is happening on a large scale in western societies. India is not going to be far behind. Urban societies in India will especially move in this direction because in many ways, urban India is more West than West. There are more people in denims here than in America.
Mental illnesses are growing like never before because we are pulling out all the supports that people have but we are not replacing those supports with anything. If people become so conscious and capable within themselves, everything would be fine even if you pulled all the supports. But without giving that competence, if you just pull the supports, people will crack.
For a long time, we have been banking on a few things for our mental and emotional stability. But now, all these things are being taken away. One of these things is family. Family gives us a certain support – no matter what happened, there was always somebody for you. Everybody else is with you when you do the right things. If you do the wrong things, they will distance themselves. Family was one bunch of people who were like a net for the circus that you did. Whichever way you fell, there was somebody to hold you for some moments. But that net is gone for many people these days. Now, when you fall, you fall. Because of that, people are cracking up.
In Indian culture, there was a time in the tradition when thirty percent of the population were monks. Consciously, they chose to live without family, to live without support, to live without a home – homelessness not out of deprivation, but by choice. Nobody ever had depression because they transcended the need for the net.
If you learned your trapeze bar act really well, you can do it without the net. But if you are not good at it, you better have a net, otherwise your head will crack. That is all that is happening. We are taking off the traditional support system that we had.
Another aspect is religion. Religion handled human psychological balance effortlessly. “God is with you, don’t worry.” This settled a whole lot of people. Do not underestimate the value of that. Today, people are trying to go to psychiatrists. India does not have enough psychiatrists for one billion people. No country does. And above all, they are very inefficient because they can take only one client at a time, and they need a lot of furniture! With all due respect, we must acknowledge this aspect of religion. It is very inexpensive mass psychiatry.
Karan Johar: Thank you for that, because I know it is definitely a crisis that plagues us, and some, as I said, seek help. At times, the diagnosis is chemical imbalance and medication is given. You have spoken about finding yourself and seeking that pleasantness from within. How can that help in such situations?
An Orchestra of Chemistry
Sadhguru: Human pleasantness can be looked at in many different ways. One simple way of looking at it is that every human experience has a chemical basis to it. What you call peace, joy, love, turmoil, tranquility, agony, ecstasy – everything has a chemical basis to it. Even health and ill health have a chemical basis. Today, the entire pharmacology is just about trying to manage your health by using chemicals. A physician’s job is to try and manage an orchestra of chemistry.
Even mental illness is largely being managed by chemical input from outside. But all the chemicals that you can think of on this planet are in some way already present in this body.
Finding the Right Access
Essentially, health means one level of pleasantness. If your body becomes pleasant, we call this health. If it becomes very pleasant, we call this pleasure. If your mind becomes pleasant, we call this peace. If it becomes very pleasant, we call this joy. If your emotions become pleasant, you call this love. If they become very pleasant, we call it compassion. If your very energies become pleasant, we call this bliss. If they become very pleasant, we call it ecstasy. If your surroundings become pleasant, we call this success.
We are trying to manage pleasantness by putting chemicals in. In the United States, it is said that seventy percent of the population is on some kind of prescription medication. In the most affluent country, where there is an enormous choice of nourishment and lifestyles, seventy percent are on prescription medication. You are trying to manage your sanity and health by putting chemicals from outside.
The human body is a very complex chemical factory. Managing it from the outside is very difficult. You could manage it from inside, but you must have access to your insides! Yoga gives you access to the very source of creation throbbing within you. There is an intelligence within you that can transform a rice grain or a banana or a piece of bread into a human being. With a piece of bread, you manufacture the most complex mechanism on the planet! If even a drop of this intelligence enters your daily life, you will live magically.
The most phenomenal engineer is within you. It is from this basis that we offer Inner Engineering – engineering your interiority to take charge of life. The very way we are born, the way we live, think, feel and experience our life, where we will get and how we will die – everything is determined by the individual.
Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Sadhguru’s discourse at the Isha Hatha Yoga School’s 21-week Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program. The program offers an unparalleled opportunity to acquire a profound understanding of the yogic system and the proficiency to teach Hatha Yoga. The next 21-week session begins on July 16 to Dec 11, 2019. For more information, visit www.ishahathayoga.com or mail email@example.com