BOOK REVIEW : More than a life – SADHGURU by Arundhathi Subramaniam
He baffles me and continues to do so. He is a mystic but still a mystery. He is referred to as Sadhguru. In his own words “When someone comes from their scholarship, they are referred to in different ways. If someone comes from an inner experience, they are referred to as Sadhguru. The word “Sadhguru” is not a title. It is a description. Sadhguru means “uneducated Guru.” I am almost hundred percent spiritually uneducated. I don’t know any scriptures, I have not read the Vedas and I didn’t bother to read the Bhagavad Gita. I come only from my inner experience and the only thing I know for sure is this piece of life from its origin to its ultimate.”
For many of us brought up on a diet of the archetypal saffron clad sloka chanting Gurus, Jaggi Vasudev remains an enigma – the jeans clad motorcyclist mystic, the snake handling charmer, a fakir dressed in long flowing robes, a turban on his head, an overgrown white beard or a modern day Moses.
All this aside, he is a charmer. He seems to have the answers to all the questions thrown at him by the media and the likes of Barkha Dutt or the retorts of die-hard atheists like Javed Akhtar. What captivates is his erudition and his slightly nasal but deep voice which holds the listeners attention. Whether I believe all that he says or not, I like to listen to him.
Arundhathi Subramaniam in her brilliant Introduction to ‘More than a life – SADHGURU’ says that “the book is an attempt to share some of that sense of wonder that these years of knowing Sadhguru have been about. More fundamentally it is an attempt to tell the story of an exceptional man.”
The blurb on the back cover says ‘This is the extraordinary story of Jaggi Vasudev or Sadhguru – a young agnostic who turned yogi, a wild motorcyclist who turned mystic, a skeptic, who turned spiritual guide. It seeks to recreate the life journey of a man who combines rationality with mysticism, irreverence with compassion and deep self- knowledge with a contagious love of life. Pulsating with his razor-sharp intelligence and modern-day vocabulary, the book empowers you to explore your spiritual self and could well change your life’.
Arundhathi says that her book is a subjective account of one man’s life journey – or more accurately, life journeys and is based on conversations with the Sadhguru and with those acquainted with him, as well as archival material from the Isha Yoga Centre at Coimbatore. Herself a skeptic she says “Gurus didn’t happen to us urban women. Psychotherapists happened to us. Books and conversations happened to us Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard and Krishnamurti spouting friends happened to us. Gurus belonged to another era – a simpler world where there were simpler divides between the leader and the led. The only guru I could envisage was the sage in a B-grade Indian mythological movie with a candyflos beard and an air of constipated benignity.” Strong words one would agree, but that was all before she met with the Sadguru.
It was in 1997 that she says something decisive happened in her life, she felt she was dying, nothing physical or psychological or depression. In short, one can decipher it is that strange feeling of impermanence of one’s own existence in this world. I may equate it with Sartre’s ‘Nausea’. She says “This strange encounter with death had brought with it an unambiguous picture of what really counted.” She became seeker for she did not want the comfortable uncertainty of the committed agnostic; she wanted the clarity of one who knew. After a prolonged experimentation with various methods and yoga, she came to the conclusion that the answers if any, were to be found within oneself. Then in May 2004 she attended a talk by someone called Sadhguru. That perhaps was the starting point for this book – a way of understanding who this man was and what was it that he conveyed. A skeptic in the beginning, one gets a feeling of a slow but a steady transformation into a believer.
This book is a fascinating journey of a man born Jagdish Vasudev to a Sadhguru. One may or may not believe all that is written in the book about the life of Jaggi Vasudev especially where he talks of his various previous births and the quest to establish the Dhyanalinga, which reaches fruition only in this birth. I am a skeptic, but I also want to believe. I have not been able to grasp the significance of the Dhyanalinga being made up of pure energy and the processes involved in establishing it.
After listening to his various conversations I cannot but agree with Arundhathi when she says “What has always fascinated me about Sadhguru is his breathtaking sweep of knowledge about varied aspects of life and the effortless manner in which he seems to garner it.”
It is not my aim to put down here the life story of Jaggi Vasudev, it is done in a riveting manner by Arundhathi. I found the book engrossing felt totally involved reading it. But I would like to quote some portions from the book here which I found illuminating and of significance to our own questions.
“The mystic is just someone who has realized what is there. Others don’t because they’re too self-engrossed to pay any attention to life”
“Liberation is not my idea; it is the fundamental longing in every form of human life.”
“Destiny is hundred percent your creation. Even now that is so. It is just that you are creating it unconsciously.”
“Self-Realization is less about getting somewhere than about realizing there is nowhere to go. It entails not an acquisition of knowledge, but an unlearning of received wisdom. What was limited knowing has become boundless unknowing. That’s wonderful enough for me.”
As a conclusion I quote Arundhathi once again “I remember what I wrote in my first article on him five years ago: ‘Let’s say we disbelieve the whole story about his yogic mastery and enlightenment. We’re still left with an interesting deal. There’s brazing wit, a refreshing lack of piety … a razor sharp intelligence … a contemporary vocabulary, the teaching of a meditation process that requires no faith, only committed practice. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev wears the air of a man who’s figured out how to lead a life of sanity. Perhaps that is enough?’
About the Author
Arundhathi Subramaniam is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Where I Live: New and Selected Poems. She has written a prose work, The Book of Buddha, and co-edited an anthology of contemporary Indian love poetry in English, Confronting Love. She describes herself as a wondering, protesting, but committed Isha yoga practitioner and perhaps more of a devotee than she lets on.
Poet Arundhathi Subramaniam on Saturday won the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry for her work When God is a Traveller. – THE HINDU January 25, 2015