Padmashri award winning actor and social activist, Anupam Kher, explores various aspects with Sadhguru, including Indian democracy, children, and the power of attention.
Anupam Kher: I feel very proud to be an Indian and I’m sure lot of people feel, but corruption bothers me and I'm sure you also spoke about it. How… Do you think spirituality can help get rid of corruption to some extent?
Sadhguru: See, let’s understand this corruption, because it’s… it’s a very important thing that everybody understands this properly in its right perspective rather than reacting against a bunch of people who are in an advantageous position, okay? (Laughter) Why I want you to understand this is, because for the first time in the history of independent India, these sixty four years, that means two generations of people, they have… at least fifty to sixty percent of them have had such a bad deal. Today you and me, will talk all this and go home and eat well. There’s a whole bunch of people, almost four hundred million people who cannot do that. So if we handle the next five to ten years right, we can change that. It’s a tremendous possibility which is on our threshold. There’s an economic possibility sitting on the threshold. If we conduct this right, we can change their lives, those people who have not eaten properly, those children who are malnourished – which is of the highest level of malnourishment, those who are not educated, those who don’t have opportunities, those who are in that horrible social and economic pit, their lives can change in the next five to ten years if we conduct our act right.
Every Indian should understand this – it is not just about economy means stock market, it is about hungry people who will have food on their plate. Economy does not mean stock market. Economy does not mean foreign cars coming into India. Economy does not mean you wear better clothes or this and that. Improving economy means there will be no hungry children in the country, which is something all of us should do something about (Applause), and that possibility… that possibility is being jeopardized. Wherever I go I speak to various economic and political leaders around the world – everybody says, ‘We want to come to India. India is a big possibility, but the humiliation of corruption, we can’t bear it.’ Because it’s not just about money. They’re willing to pay a percentage and get the work done, but the humiliation that they’re put through on a daily basis, which we have gotten used to, they’re not willing to go through that, they said, ‘It doesn’t matter if we don’t do business, but we don’t want to come there and go through all that rubbish.’
So this possibility is being jeopardized by a handful of people, or it is wrong to say it’s a handful of people – it’s a nation-full of corruption, because how many people in Mumbai streets, if there is no policemen, will stop at the red light? I think only ten percent will stop. So these ninety percent are corrupt people. If they make… If you make them the chief ministers and prime ministers you know what they will do. (Applause) So instead of just calling it by one bad word called ‘corruption’, we need to understand we as a society are trying to move from a feudalistic way of managing our lives to a democratic way. The democratic way has still not sunk into us.
So I’m saying in our psyche we are still feudalistic in nature, but we are trying to run a democracy. Democracy will not happen with (without?) an active sense of education as to what is democracy, what is the power of democracy, what it means, what is the responsibility of living in a democratic society – this has not been done, we just took democracy from the British and we think if they just put their vote and get their fingers dirty once in five years, everything is settled. No, we have not educated people. We are still a feudalistic society acting to be democratic
So how do we… are we politically corrupt… politically completely bankrupt? How do we do that? Means it’s a…
Sadhguru: No, no, no, it is… it is only because common people are not participating in the democratic process. Participating in the democratic process does not just mean once in five years you cast your vote – most people don’t even do that – but I’m saying even if you do that, that is not enough. Democracy is an active sport; it’s not a spectator’s sport. You can’t sit back and say ‘Let somebody do democracy.’ Democracy means you are the boss, you can’t sleep on it, you have to be active to everything around you. If you do not bring that consciousness in people, that awareness and activism in people, it’ll not work. At the same time, for everything you protest, for everything you call a bandh, for everything, you know, it’s our culture. People have understood the technology of how to stop the nation – bandh, hartaal – but how to run the nation, it’s a different technology. (Applause)
Sadhguru: I am saying… I am saying, at least once a month in your street, in your region, whatever is the sticking points in your area, in your street, just make a list of that, get a few people together, whoever the councilor, the MLA, call him for a meeting, talk to him what needs to happen. Casting vote once in five years is not good enough, because you employ somebody and you don’t see that he works – that is not… doesn’t make sense, isn't it? (Applause)
Anupam Kher: Do you get angry?
Sadhguru: You want me to right now? (Laughter) It’s not that I am incapable of anger; I am capable of everything. It is just that I have not given this privilege to anybody that they can make me angry, they can make me happy, they can make me unhappy, they can make me miserable; I’ve not give this privilege to anybody. (Laughter & Applause) If... if somebody need to be shouted at, boom I’ll go. (Laughs)
Anupam Kher: So what makes you angry?
Sadhguru: It doesn’t make me angry. If they need a shouting I’ll give it to them. See, there are different kinds of people in the world. There is somebody here, if I just look at them they’ll understand why they’re being looked at. There’s somebody here, if you at them they’ll just stare back at you. (Laughter) If you tell them gently they will understand. There is somebody here, if you tell them gently they won’t get it, you have to shout at them. There is somebody else here, even if you shout you won't... they won’t get it, you have to knock them on their head and tell them. Different levels of sensitivity in the world. Your action should be appropriate to the situations in which you exist. I am not bound like this, ‘I will not say this, I will be gentle, I will be nice,’ I have no such things. I am just appropriate to the situations in which I exist. What you need, I will do. (Laughs) If you need only shouting I will do. (Laughs) What’s my problem?
Anupam Kher: What’s your shortcoming?
Sadhguru: Hmm? My shortcoming is I am not tall enough. (Laughter)
Anupam Kher: You are the tallest man right now over here, we know that.
Sadhguru: I came little short.
Anupam Kher: I mean if we go into the close of Sadhguru, we know that… so you were while talking. So… what is… do you feel lonely?
Sadhguru: when you’re alone, if you feel lonely, obviously you’re in bad company, isn't it? (Laughter & Applause)
Anupam Kher: It’s a great journey to be talking to you I must say. If you have to describe before we go to the questions to the audience, if you have to describe yourself in one word, what will that word be? I usually do this exercise with my actor students because then we see that if that word is going to be… in fact it’s for all of you, in your mind please think if you have to describe yourself in one word, what that word will be or whether that word will be there, the same word after five years, ten years, or was that word before five years. So if Sadhguru has to decide and if he has tell me to describe himself in one word, one that… apart from mystic. (Laughter)
Sadhguru: Okay. Would you consider ‘wildlife’ as two words or one word? (Laughter)
Anupam Kher: What is the word? What’s…
Anupam Kher: It’s… for you it’s one word. (Laughter)
Sadhguru: One word. So life... life, uncultured, uncultivated just wild and as it is, that’s me. (Laughter & Applause)
Anupam Kher: I grew up in these lower middle class family, small town, as a child I had a great sense of wonder about everything. I, till today, have a great sense of wonder, I am happy to be talking to you. It makes me feel very happy. I don’t see that in today’s children. I don’t see a sense of wonder in today’s children. I think because they are…
Sadhguru: Because they replaced the wonder with ‘www.’ (Laughter & Applause)
Anupam Kher: Exactly, exactly that’s right!
Sadhguru: They know the whole universe before they are six.
Anupam Kher: Exactly that’s... How do… I am sure parents… they know everything. They just to have to press Google and all the information but information does not necessarily translate into knowledge at all. So how do – and they always say this, ‘That’s the way I am!’ I don’t see my grandfather even at the age of eighty-four said, ‘Ah that’s the way I am!’ So what is this, ‘That’s the way I am,’ ‘bored,’ ‘dude,’ ‘cool’? I think that to be bad is being cool. If you say, ‘I am a good man,’ he is a boring man.
Sadhguru: Usually they are. (Laughter & Applause) People who claim that they are good people usually they are boring.
Anupam Kher: Yeah they are for the world, for the marketing part of it.
Anupam Kher: You’re warm also.
Sadhguru: Just life, nothing else. (Laughs)
Anupam Kher: It’s been very enriching talking to you. I must say that I feel rich.
we are becoming people who are constantly made to feel, suddenly in India also that we are living in a world which is not very, very peaceful, which is not to be… which is a dangerous world, we are becoming, pardon my saying, like America, where we don’t look at somebody for a little longer. I was in America two years back, I was looking at somebody thinking whether should I ask him my hotel – because in my hotel there was a mall, so I went into the mall, and when I came out I could not see my hotel because I must have got off from somewhere else. So I was looking at somebody to ask him whether should I ask him where my hotel is. So he said…
Sadhguru: ‘What are you staring at me?’
Anupam Kher: ‘What are you staring at?’ I being an actor I said, ‘Am I staring at you sir, I’m sorry, I did not know I was staring at you.’ Poor fellow actually dropped me to my hotel. (Laughter) What my point is, how do you retain, how does one in today’s time in these times retain a certain amount of innocence, a certain amount of sense of wonder? How does one do that? Especially this is for parents whose children do not have that unfortunately.
Sadhguru: See now there are two things you said, wonder and innocence. Wonder does not necessarily come from innocence. See for example, science... modern science has done phenomenal amount of exploration. They’ve gone to places, they’ve gone into things that we would have never thought possible, all kinds of things. When you were a child you definitely looked up at the sky, isn't it?
Anupam Kher: Absolutely.
Sadhguru: Did you ever count the stars?
Anupam Kher: I used to do that in Simla there was nothing to do.
Sadhguru: You tried. How far did you go?
Anupam Kher: Oh, no, no, nothing I could not go beyond hundred or two hundred.
Sadhguru: Ahhh… So I meticulously sat down on the terrace, counting, counting, counting, trying to make, you know, segments of the sky and trying to count, count count. I’ve gone up to seventeen hundred and then you get mixed up. What was there is not there, what was not there has come. You know it gets all mixed up. But today - that itself was wonder, seventeen hundred just blew my mind - today scientists are telling you there are over hundred billion galaxies, not stars, hundred billion galaxies. So as you explore, as you know the wonder will increase because you realize the nature of the existence, then wonder will just explode. Scientists are so freaked now, they... they don’t know where to go, which direction to go because wherever they look it is looking deeper and deeper than ever it was. Something as simple - you know just on your facial skin right now there are eighteen billion organisms? Do you know this? Don’t imagine them, they are actually there. (Laughter) But you can’t see them, that’s good. I am saying as we look closer at life, it’s just exploding into wonder.
So wonder is gone not because of lack of innocence or because of innocence, because what we call as knowledge - stupid conclusions about life. Nobody is… today people are carrying their attention deficiency like a qualification. See existence will yield to you only if you pay attention to something. Anything in this existence will yield to you only if you pay substantial attention to it. But now people have become like this, they can’t look at anything, everything is chuk chuk chuk chuk. Now in this condition there will be no wonder, only conclusions in your head. There is no perception, there is only, you know monologues going on in your head, there is no perception. If there is perception all noise in your head will just stop. If you’re looking at something absolutely beautiful and engaging everything stops. Why people are enjoying your cinema is just this, you switch off the lights, they’re focused on the thing for those whatever few minutes or ninety minutes or whatever, their usual monologues are gone, something else is happening. They don’t know what’s the next scene or whatever which keeps them on. But the important thing is their attention is engaged continuously, which makes them feel something has happened to them today going to the cinema hall. If you just keep the lights on, you will see cinema will not be effective. Or if somebody is talking to them, it’ll not be effective. They just sit there like this (Gestures), it is the attention which is making the difference, it is not what play... what’s playing on the screen. It is what is playing on the screen is instrumental in grabbing the attention but it is the attention, continuous attention which is making the experience of being there. So this is a rudimentary form of meditation. It’s called dharana, that you…
Anupam Kher: Yes, that’s… it’s mentioned in the seven different forms. So how does one in today’s time retain that attention span?
Sadhguru: One simple thing is… I mean if I say yoga, that’ll be a bad thing because it's like I am promoting it - no. Everybody must do something about themselves. Every child, every school should bring this dimension that a child is required to pay attention to something continuously. It could be music; it could be dance. See you cannot do music or dance unless you pay attention to it you know. You’ll make a fool of yourself if do not pay enough attention. But you can pass an examination without attention. You understand? (Laughs) Above all, if you just… I’ve seen this simple thing, children came to us… we have a Isha Home School, which is a very… run in a very different way. I one day went to the Assembly hall, these six, six-and-a-half year old kids, they’re all like this (Gestures), like this, like this. I said, ‘Why are the kids like broken tops? Why are they shaking around like this?’ Then I just brought this thing, simply every day in the morning, ‘Sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa,’ fifteen minutes, everybody must do. You go there after two months they’re all sitting like this. (Gestures) That’s all it takes.
If you just make them walk in the forest in the night, one night, okay, in the darkness you just make them walk, you will see they will become like this. (Gestures) Their ability to pay attention will become like that. Their sense of wonder will explode. You just take them into the jungle, make them walk for a night, without torches, without cell-phones, without anything, in a protected atmosphere, you will see within one night there’ll be a tremendous transformation in the sense of wonder in the child’s life. But we are making them physically incapable of these things. Sitting just in front of the computers they are becoming physically incapable. When physically it hurts they will protest; they will not do anything. So it’s something that parents must take care off. Bringing up your child does not mean just sending him to school and getting marks and grades and nonsense. Your child in body and mind should grow up to full capabilities. That is when it’ll manifest in his life as success. Just marks will not manifest as success.