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The Donkey and Elephant Tribes of Politics, The Motorcycle Guru and How I Almost Became Enlightened.

21/10/2016 9:31 PM IST | Updated 22/10/2016 2:40 AM IST

Deepak Chopra says that Sadhguru’s teachings are "a tool to help awaken your own inner intelligence, the ultimate and supreme genius that mirrors the wisdom of the cosmos.” Recently, I was given the chance to interview the New York Times Bestselling writer and mystic, Sadhguru. I wasn’t sure what to expect from meeting a realized being. Would my own intelligence be awakened as Deepak proposed, and could I impart that experience to readers of my intended article?

I sat waiting with members of his team in the conference room of a posh hotel that bordered Central Park South. He walked in wearing a kurta, draped shawl and massive turban looking just like one of the pictures of him that float on the internet, many of which depict him flying on a motorcycle dubbing him the name “motorcycle guru”. Aside from the attire, he seemed like all the other mortals I have encountered during my life. I observed him, myself and the room for any marked changes, but no halo or special vibes were being exuded. I didn’t feel any enlightenment juice. He touched my arm and asked me to move closer, an invitation to intimacy that I was unprepared for. My body and mind stood still with mild shock. Then I remembered the bouquet of fresh flowers that had just been bought at a nearby bodega and the long, woolen shawl that I had brought as a gift. My cousin-in-law who is a devotee had advised that I bring these to show respect and honor, as is customary when meeting a guru.

The movement of rustling plastic shook my conscience back to the moment and I remembered my notepad with prepared questions. I told Sadhguru of my own background. I served 6 years in the US Army, 15 months of which were spent deployed to Iraq. Sadhguru had been named one of India’s 50 most influential people and served as a delegate to the United Nations, the World Peace Congress and the World Economic Forum. His speeches drew over 300,000 people and he even appeared on TED Talks. I began asking him my questions and very quickly the conversation turned to politics.

He said, “I am amazed to see people are committed as democrats or republicans. They are two tribes, which will invariably fight. How they fight may not be with guns, but they fight.” He explained to me that when voters are pre-committed to a party, then they don’t take the chance to consider a candidate on their merits or viewpoints. He said nominees would behave far more responsibly if they worked to offer a solution to what people wanted, but instead they are focusing on the party vote.

Sadhguru said, “In the name of democracy we are going back to a feudalistic existence of being different types of tribes. Right now there is a blue tribe and a red tribe. There is an elephant tribe and a donkey tribe. So I am saying you are becoming tribes. A country like America should not be divided on a tribal basis. This is a melting pot of all sorts of people. Now you are trying to divide by creating a new level of tribe. Democracy should not be handled that way.”

“Right now there is a blue tribe and a red tribe. There is an elephant tribe and a donkey tribe. So I am saying you are becoming tribes. A country like America should not be divided on a tribal basis. This is a melting pot of all sorts of people.”

I reflected that we are conditioned to believe that our democracy, our way of leadership is superior. But is it truly? Is the fighting between candidates that we see currently in the media and debates civilized? As Sadhguru said, there are no guns, but the words of these candidates do incite violence and hate crimes. The deep division that currently exists in our country between political supporters is a growing chasm. So I asked Sadhguru, what is the solution. How do we have peace and maintain sanity?

He told me that leaders have to become meditative. They have to cultivate inner experiences, which will give them insight into humanity. He said, “being meditative means in some way you are not identified by the limitations of the physical boundaries of the body or identified with your clan or identified with your family or nation. There is a larger experience of life beyond your identities. If such a thing happens to the top leaders of this world, everything can be changed.”

He continued, “What are our problems? Our problems are of nourishment, health, and education. Conflict is not even an issue. Statistics say that in the year 2012, we generated enough food on this planet for 18.6 billion people. Today we can get food anywhere in a matter of 24 hours, as much as you want. But still 50% of the population is hungry because we don’t have the inclusive consciousness. We have never experienced ourselves beyond the physical boundary that we are, beyond identities we have artificially taken on in the society we are living in. If the leadership on the planet experiences a deeper dimension of life, there is a solution for everything.”

“Statistics say that in the year 2012, we generated enough food on this planet for 18.6 billion people. Today we can get food anywhere in a matter of 24 hours, as much as you want. But still 50% of the population is hungry because we don’t have the inclusive consciousness.”

We then stopped the meeting and jumped into a black car because Sadhguru had to go to a live taping on TV Asia, the largest Indian-American channel. As we sat in the backseat of the car, he pointed outside to one of the trees and said, “What you inhale, the trees are exhaling. What you exhale, the trees inhale. One half of your breathing apparatus is hanging outside. Just look at the trees, it looks like your lungs actually.” Then he pointed to another tree that had been partially cut off to beautify the Manhattan street, “Except that one…only one left.” We laughed, and he then explained to me that if we experience life, experience the fundamental unity that is there, then there is no need to work on creating empathy, or resolving conflict. It will happen naturally.

“What you inhale, the trees are exhaling. What you exhale, the trees inhale. One half of your breathing apparatus is hanging outside. Just look at the trees, it looks like your lungs actually.”

After our meeting had finished, I checked in with myself. I was still my flawed self. And I was unequivocally spiritually sober. But last night, as I watched the third and final debate between Trump and Clinton, I couldn’t help but see the stark difference between my friends on social media who belonged to different tribes, of how verbally violent some comments were. They forgot that they were in fact friends, or that they had served alongside each other in war.

I didn’t experience any special changes in my psyche after meeting Sadhguru, but his words have stayed with me. This morning as I ordered some specialty grocery items on Amazon Prime for same-day delivery, I recalled the statistic of how much food is available and all that separates its distribution is the lack of inclusiveness, of true global leadership. And later as I went for a walk, I came to a full stop in front of a majestic tree and breathed deeply into my chest. In response, a limb shivered in the wind, perhaps my intelligence was being awakened.

*Another version of this article originally appeared in India Currents.

Supriya Venkatesan is a meditation teacher and a freelance writer covering mind/body/soul. You can learn more about her at www.supriya.ink and follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

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