Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev released his latest book, Inner Engineering – A Yogi's Guide to Joy, in the heart of Times Square, New York, last week. Blocks away from where a bomb had gone off only days ago. His audience comprised curious tourists milling around and harried New Yorkers caught up in life's rush on the commute home. The book is one of many authored by him. He's produced over 50, writing them breezily in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, offering new-found wisdom, encouraging readers to be happy and experience joy and wonderment in their simplest daily actions. I don't have a copy of the book, yet. But I will get it. For, the Sadhguru says, Inner Engineering has the potential to change one's life for the better. He is like that, full of cheery promises that spell hope.
People say I'm so peaceful. Rubbish! I'm like a volcano. Peace is for the dead. Why rest in peace when you can be exhilaratingly alive? Sadhguru
One International Yoga Day, he offered me a five-minute, easy-to-practice yoga session that would enhance health, joy, peace, love and success and help me cope with the hectic pace of modern life and realize my full potential in all spheres. But for that, I would have to go to his Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore. I passed up the opportunity. Until then, I had no idea he was into yoga. Sadhguru isn't lithe and wiry like Baba Ramdev. I couldn't imagine him practicing any of yoga's demanding asanas that require grace and flexibility. He was like a rollicking Santa Claus, with a thick grey-white moustache and flowing beard, mischievous dancing eyes, and he dispersed peace, goodwill and joy with a Mysore-accented "Ho-ho-ho" that shook his belly.
I had met him earlier at the release of his book Joy 24 x 7. I thought it was an appropriate title for a mystic whose inspiring sermons were delivered with humor and wit. With me, he struck the jovial note right away. He apologized for not having a visiting card. "You need to have a profession to carry a card," he said, "I'm supposed to be spiritual, you see!" I liked him immediately. He was wearing a sports watch and carrying a cell. And he was dressed in clothes designed by himself—a loose, flowing kurta and dhoti, a colourful shawl, a turmeric turban, leather sandals. In this strange avatar he jets around the world, reaching out to the emotionally bankrupt and spiritually challenged, embracing them with his simplicity and honesty, encouraging them to discover peace and harmony within themselves.
I asked Sadhguru what was different between Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and himself. I wasn't really expecting an answer. Other modern Indian spiritual leaders might have diplomatically dodged the question. But Sadhguru was, well, different. He took it right off the bat. Stroking his bushy beard, he replied honestly, "I don't bother to look at what they do because I'm dead on in what I do. I'm either 100 per cent clear or I don't know anything. And what I don't know doesn't hassle me. The source of creation throbs within me. That is what drives me. If you are driven by anything else, it's an absolute shame. Do you think I'm arrogant? No, this is clarity!"
I don't do any spiritual reading. Why should I? I'm spiritual from within. My own vision never fails me. I don't want to clutter my mind with somebody else's vision. Sadhguru
He's been a special invitee at the World Economic Forum, the UN's Millennium Peace Summit and he's addressed the World Council of Religious Leaders. What did international statesmen think of him? "I don't know," he chuckled, "I don't think they've taken a good look at me!" And what did he offer them—lessons in joy? "I get them drunk," the Sadhguru joked, "I'm not a bottle, but what I have inside is overflowing. I speak a simple language that is related to everyone. This is not the Vedas. People say I'm so peaceful. Rubbish! I'm like a volcano. Peace is for the dead. Why rest in peace when you can be exhilaratingly alive?" It was hard not to like him.
I think Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is as profound as he is pragmatic. He is as much at home in a loincloth and walking barefoot in the Himalayas as he is wearing jeans and playing golf in Tennessee. And he is as comfortable riding a BMW dirt bike on an Arizona racing track as he is familiar with the 4x4 Volvo SUV he uses to zip down the National Highway. He handed me a copy of Joy 24 x 7 with some ceremony. Inside he had inscribed, "Know bliss, love and grace." Looking deep into my eyes, holding my hands, the Sadhguru said, "Everybody is capable of joy. This is not something fluctuating on the stock exchange. It is within you. Outside, you have little stake in the world, you can decide few things. But inside, you have full stake, take charge of it."
Accepting the book, I asked him what kind of reading he did himself. "I don't do any spiritual reading," he replied bluntly, "why should I? I'm spiritual from within. My own vision never fails me. And I don't want to clutter my mind with somebody else's vision." What did he read then, I persisted. "Dennis the Menace, Asterix and Obelix," said Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev roaring with laughter at my amazement.