Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev: The Immensity of “I Don’t Know”

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You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Sadhguru. Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic and visionary who established the Isha Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the cultivation of human potential. Sadhguru is a Yogi that belongs to no particular tradition and his scientific methods for self-transformation have universal appeal. He’s been an influential voice at global forums, including the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. With Sounds True, Sadhguru has created the audio book version of His New York Times best seller, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy.

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Sadhguru and I spoke about an experience that he had at the age of 25 going up Chamundi Hill in India, and the dimension of memory that opened up for him, and how this forever changed his life. We also talked about the spiritual practice of naming what we’re not, so that we can begin to discover what we are, and the inner calling we each have to find what in our experience is limitless. We talked about the power of not knowing and also the importance of connecting with the face of Adiyogi, the first yogi who was thought to live 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, and finally we talked about Sadhguru’s non-profit work as an expression of his devotion to life. Here’s my conversation with Sadhguru.

Sadhguru, I wanted to begin by really delving in a bit to how you see the role of the guru today, especially in terms of developments in the western world. And here’s what I mean. In many ways, I think when people meet you and begin to study with you, they’re confronted with someone who seems like a classical Indian guru with millions of followers worldwide, but then again, you play golf and you ride a motorcycle and you’re a thoroughly contemporary person in some ways. And I think here in the West, many people, myself included, have a certain wariness about people in the guru role, “Are they trying to trick me in some way, or take advantage of me?”, or something like that. And I think some people think, you know, the age of the guru even, it’s time for it to be over. It’s time we all have access to the spiritual realm. We don’t need these people up on pedestals anymore. So how do you see all of this?

Sadhguru: These are all stereotypes coming from certain prejudice, first of all, about a classical Indian guru means, you’re imagining, he must be ancient. Why? Well, India is in contemporary geography, not in ancient geography. So if it is just about a certain nationality or a certain race, well, they have to transcend that. That is an individual problem. But otherwise a guru means just this. The word “guru” literally means, you know, “gu” means darkness, “ru” means light, you know, dispeller of darkness, one who dispels your darkness is a guru.

Whether it was a thousand years ago or today, human issues are still the same, and still people need that help. In modern terms, if I have to put it, if you want to find your way, even in your neighborhood… I remember when we came to find your recording studio, whoever was driving me, they drove me up and down right in front of it not finding it, because their GPS was not proper. A guru today, you can see it in modern terms as a GPS for you, a live roadmap who makes it clear for you. So otherwise, what is right next door you might go around the world and find it. Simplest things. Like, for example, every human being is trying to be peaceful, every human being is trying to be joyful, how to be successful. Even such simple things. This is not the business of a guru, but these are—what would I say? These are the side effects of doing certain things right within yourself. Even such simple things as to how to handle my thought and emotion, people have not learned in these millennias of existence. So how can they say they don’t need any help? If they can help themselves, it is fantastic. That leaves me time to golf or to fly my helicopter, or do something else that I love to do.

But that is not the reality. Most people unfortunately, still can’t figure these things out though as simple and as staring in your face as it is, still, people can’t get it, not because of anything else, simply because you’re operating from one dimension. And the other dimension looks like it’s completely doesn’t exist until you touch it. Until somebody helps you to touch it, life can just go on just the same way. So is a guru relevant today or yesterday or tomorrow? It’ll always be relevant, because dispelling darkness, making things clear for an individual person or to an entire generation of people is always a requirement. It is not something of the past or present or future. It will always be so.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think some of people’s caution comes from watching disciples give their power to gurus and then do crazy things, whether it’s, you know, “Drink this potion, step off this cliff, go into the sweat lodge”, do whatever. It’s like you’ve lost all your discriminating powers because the guru told you to do it. So how do people keep their own empowerment, if you will, about them while they learn from a great teacher?

Sadhguru: These conclusions or these fears are coming from doomsday groups. They’re thinking they are gurus. People are thinking, this is some Jonestown, you know, that kind of stuff. These things come from books and belief systems. A guru does not come from any belief system because this is a pure exploration of life. If you give up your discrimination, how can you make use of a guru?

But at the same time, if you have to do something new, you have to take instructions. Every year, I go trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet region, and this illiterate Sherpa who was guiding me, you know, if two paths come, one looks attractive to me because it’s literally easier on my knees. I say, “OK, why don’t we go this way?” He won’t even bother to tell. He will not tell me, “Sadhguru-ji, come this way.” He will just say “Uh,” pointing his chin in this direction, this is the way to go. I just follow him because he knows the terrain better than me. So on the mountains, he’s my guru. What is the problem about it? So if somebody knows some terrain better than you, it’s best you take instructions. So if you’re talking about the inner terrain, the inner dimension of the human being, whoever explored it before you, you better listen to them. Otherwise, you will go round and round.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). OK. So let’s talk a little bit, Sadhguru, about your own biography and experience and how you became a spiritual teacher. I was reading that at a young age, you met a yoga teacher, Malladihalli Swami. And I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about that meeting and what you learned from this yoga teacher, this Swami.

Sadhguru: I went to him for all the wrong reasons, as many people in America go do yoga programs for all the wrong reasons. I also went to yoga for wrong reasons. In a sense, you know, it was a certain … I was just maybe at that time, probably 10, 11 years old, maybe 12 years of age, and this is a sport for us boys in the summer, we’re just jumping into a well and climbing up. There are no steps or any kind of foot holes. You just hold the rock and you climb up it. It is hard to do. I thought I was pretty good at it. I could jump because it’s just an eight-foot-diameter well. You have to go down straight, otherwise your brains will become a smear on the wall, and coming up is hard, at least anywhere between 50 to 70 feet climbing.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sadhguru: So we were just doing this, and we thought we’re some kind of superheroes doing this, but there over a 70-year-old man was just watching us quietly and without a word, he just walked over to the well and jumped into it. I thought he was finished, but he came up faster than me. I didn’t like it. I asked him, “How?” He said, “Come and do yoga.” So I just followed him like a puppy. He didn’t teach me any great phenomenal spiritual process, nor did I see him as my guru or anything. He just taught me something very simple, a simple yogic process. It’s just that. It was taught in a classical way—not in the studio way as it is being done today—in a classical form where there is a certain dimension attached to it. It’s not just a physical process. So I diligently practiced this, because I thought, “I will become physically superhuman like him”, which he was in many ways. So that led me to so many things that I never thought possible.

Tami Simon: What was the actual practice that he taught you, Sadhguru?

Sadhguru: He taught me what is today, you know, a country cousin of that is being practiced all over. It’s called Surya Namaskar today, but it’s a Surya Kriya, which means, I think in America they’re calling it “sun salutation”. Salutation is a wrong word because you are not saluting the sun. You’re trying to activate the fundamental energy within you. Because all life on this planet is solar powered and you’re trying to bring that out in a powerful manner so that you can perform in a different level of dynamics altogether. In a sense, essentially our life is just a combination of time and energy. Time is running for all of us at the same pace, but energy is something that we can multiply in many ways. If our energies are multiplied, then you will find, what somebody does in 10 years, you will do it in one year, so it looks like you have lived 10 lifetimes compared to somebody else.

This simple process with a few other asanas and things and certain type of breathing practices were taught. All amounting to just about 40 minutes of practice per day. It is just that I stuck to it every day. Though I was not that kind of … I lived my life pretty wild, not disciplined, but somehow this happened from within me. It’s not even like I was doing it, like from within me it was happening. This is what the significant aspect of yoga is, that it has to be imprinted in you in such a way that it becomes like a software within you and functions from within you. It’s not like every day you’re forcing yourself to do it. So once this happened for a period of time, it kind of initially took me apart physically and mentally quite substantially from everybody around me, which I was enjoying for a while, but then it led me to something totally different altogether, which I’d never imagined.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I want to get there in a moment, and you write about some of those experiences in Inner Engineering, but before we get there, just this idea that the sun salutation, which I think many people—anyone who’s ever been to a yoga class practically—has been introduced to the sun salutation. You’re describing it more as an inner activation of solar energy. That’s a different way of looking at it. What is the solar energy that lives inside of us that’s activated when we do that sequence of practices?

Sadhguru: In the making of a human being, in the solar system, the way the solar system is functioning, it is like a potter’s wheel. It has churned us up in a certain way. Because of the nature of the solar system, many dimensions of what is happening in the solar system is happening to us. I mean, I don’t want to go into the mathematics of it. There’s a whole mathematics attached to it, but for simple understanding, we know this much: only because our mothers’ bodies were in sync with the cycles of the moon, we’re here today. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be born. If her body was not in sync with the cycles of the moon, we wouldn’t be born, because moon cycles are only 28 days. Everybody notices it, but sun cycles are for 12 and a quarter years. Most people are not aware enough to notice.

But if you pay attention or even if you look back on your life and see every 12 and a quarter years, there is a certain cycle. Either you go into a new cycle, if you’re living a dynamic life, otherwise, the same cycle repeats itself, but distinctly you can see cycles of 12 and a quarter years in everybody’s life. Sometimes it rolls much more quickly, that is your individual cycle may be half the solar cycle or quarter of the solar cycle, which determines the stability of your body, the stability of your mind and the stability of your energetic situation, depending upon how much you are in sync with the solar cycles. So Surya Kriya is a way of, first of all, aligning yourself to the solar cycle, so that your life happens in its full scope and depth of what it can be. If you go for shorter cycles, it will not be in full scope. It will become much less than what it could have been, so you first synch yourself and then you’ll see how to energize in a sense.

Every life on this planet is solar powered. Whether it’s plant life for which we call it photosynthesis. For everything else, there are different ways it is happening, but without the Sun we will not exist. I’m sure you were enjoying the sun today in Denver. If it just disappears, our life will disappear. If the Sun’s light disappears, all life will disappear in a very brief time. So the entire movement of life that is happening within us is related to the planet earth, which provides us the material to build this body; and the cycles of the moon, which times the feminine aspect of who we are; and the cycles of the sun, which determines the nature and the direction of the trajectory of our life.

So taking charge of that is what Surya Kriya is about. Surya Namaskar, as I said, it’s a country cousin of Surya Kriya. There’s another one called Surya Shakti, which is more like a physical culture just to strengthen yourself. Your muscular strength can be built through that, like these people are making modifications, but fundamentally it’s a process of capturing that solar energy within us and making it grow because that is a fundamental source of energy for all the beings who live on this planet.

Tami Simon: Thank you so much, Sadhguru. That’s very helpful. In the beginning of your book, as I mentioned, Inner Engineering, you described an experience that you had riding up Chamundi Hill. It sounds like the experience you had was quite a big deal, that this was really a line that you crossed in your life and that your life changed radically. So describe this experience to our listeners.

Sadhguru: In Mysore city it was. Chamundi Hill is a small hill. This is a place that I know very well, right from my childhood I’ve checked in this place, I camped in this place. I’ve partied in this place. We’d ride motorcycles up this place. If you have something to do or nothing to do, we go up this hill. So one afternoon between two business meetings, I just have an hour and a half or so, so I just ride up. It’s more an involuntary thing you know, simply like that. You ride up Chamundi Hill and halfway up there is a rock, which I’m familiar with. So I just park there and just walk up a little bit and sit on this rock. It was a fortnight, just about 15 days ago, because a very famous photographer, an award-winning photographer wanted to take pictures of me on this rock. I went there and we spent about two hours on this rock recently, just about a fortnight ago.

So I went and sat there. I’m a young man. Life is going the way I want. Everything that I do is working out well, I’m very successful with whatever I’m doing. When everything you do is being successful, there is this thing that you’ll slowly start thinking that the planets are all going around you, not around the sun really. So I’m in that kind of cocky situation, but I just went and sat here and in a little while, in a few minutes, I did not know which is me, and which is not me. What was me was just all over the place. I’d somehow broken this barrier of being an individual. And I was all over the place. The very air I was breathing, the rock I was sitting on, that [inaudible] around me, everything had become me. As crazy as it sounds, I thought this lasted for maybe 10, 15 minutes, but when I came back to my normal, usual sense of how we are normally, about four and a half hours had passed. And for the first time in my adult life I had tears. Tears in me were just impossible, but tears were flowing to a point my shirt is all wet.

I’ve always been peaceful and happy. That’s never been an issue, but I was just bursting. Every cell in my body was bursting with a different kinds … Different level of nameless ecstasy is going on within me. I had no explanation for this naturally being a super skeptic. When my mind asked the question, “What’s happening to me?”, the only thing that my mind could come up with was maybe I’m going off my rocker. Maybe I’m just losing it, but it was so beautiful, that I don’t want to come out of it. And, this is not like a one-time thing. In the next few weeks, it repeated itself again and again. It became longer and longer. After some time, it just became like a living experience for me, that the experience of life is so exuberant and fantastic within you. Not for anything that’s happening around you, simply like that.

It is much later that you know, this yoga that I’m practicing … The word yoga means union. Union means just this. Once you exist here as an individual human being, in a way, it is you versus the universe. How hard you fight, or you may not fight is up to you, but it’s you versus the universe and it’s a bad competition to get into: you versus the universe. Yoga means either only you are there or only the universe is there, whichever way you want to look at it. But essentially you have broken through the boundaries of your individuality and tasted the oneness of this existence. So, what happened there was just yoga, but at that time it looked like it is the most spectacular thing that has happened to me in my life. And still it is. That is the most spectacular thing and it’s just that I’ve lived it for long enough now that I’ve learned to hold my drink well, that I don’t get into tears just like that unless I wish, or I don’t burst out laughing.

I manage to contain myself because I’m just holding it well within myself, because I’ve gotten used to it, but essentially all that happened was, what was a very well-defined boundary became porous. And what was me and what was not me—the distinctions were lost. This is how life is always. The very fact that without breathing we cannot exist is a living proof that without transaction with everything else, you cannot exist. But somehow, psychologically, we draw boundary as to who I am, and who I am not, what is me and what is not me. This barrier was broken on that day.

And this opened up a completely new dimension of memory and perception within myself, that, it’s very difficult to say this, but last times of memory just descended on me in such a way that it was too overwhelming. So I just moved away and just traveled by myself, sometimes using this travel as a way of a coming to terms with what was happening within me. Because being in familiar situations among the people that I know, it became very difficult to handle this dimension to memory.

Tami Simon: Tell me more about that, the dimension of memory, or are you saying that you remembered your past lives, or what was going on for you?

Sadhguru: Right now everything that you call generally “my life”, let’s say, who are my parents, who is my husband, who was my wife, who are my children, who are my friends, who are not my friends, who are the people I like or dislike? Everything is just memory, isn’t it? So when other dimensions of memory descend upon you, which is far bigger than the life that you lived till now, initially it becomes a little overwhelming to handle this, that you don’t know how to handle the people around you. To be able to handle this memory independent of the people and the situations in which you exist, it will take a certain amount of balancing. That took me a little more than a year for me to come to terms with that.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I understand the difficulty, I think, that you’re describing when you’re being flooded with this much new material to integrate. But I’m curious to know about these dimensions of memory. Was it past life memories that were coming to you?

Sadhguru: Life has no past or future. Life is just life. It’s just one as a phenomenon. It is just that in our mind we try to categorize things as past, present, and future because in the physical sense of things there is past, present and future. In terms of the essential life, there is no such thing as past, present and future. Right now, for example, well, Charles Darwin has told the world that you evolved from so many things, but that past is very much living within you even today, isn’t it? You did not become a human being just like that. I think we can talk about evolution. You are far away in Denver. I’m in Tennessee, where there is a question mark on evolution. [laughs]

Life has evolved in so many ways. Without that memory, we wouldn’t be who we are right now. So whatever our memories are, most of it is not conscious. Right now, let us say, a thousand years ago how your forefathers were you don’t remember, but your body definitely remembers. Without that memory, you wouldn’t be the person that you are. The memory is always there. The question is only whether it’s accessible to you or not. Is it, is it, in the classical term of past life? Yes it is. But I wouldn’t want anybody to believe these things because if you believe something, you will start hallucinating. If you disbelieve something, you start rejecting. It is best to see that there is so much of you that cannot be explained, so there must be some basis and source to that.

Even if a child is just born, if you go into your hospital and see 25 children are born, just-born children, they don’t behave the same way. They behave differently. Obviously there is some software, which is making them behave differently. Even if they are two children born to the same parents. Every mother that delivered more than one child knows that two children are never the same. From the very first moment of birth, they’re different, though the genetics are the same. Same parentage, same everything. Still the two children are not same, because there is a different software in them or a different memory in them. So these floodgates of memory opened up for me, which changed the very perspective of who I was and what I was. That young man who thought he was very smart just vanished on that day.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sadhguru, I think that a lot of people have had experiences of sitting on a rock, and for a period of time, something in them feels this sense of dissolution. All the boundaries have melted away, and there’s this sense, this overwhelming sense of being at one with everything. But it doesn’t last, and they don’t necessarily go through a period of being flooded with deep cosmic memories of their existence since the beginning of time. That doesn’t happen. So what do you think was going on for you? Why did this happen to you? It seems like it happens occasionally to people, but that it’s somewhat rare.

Sadhguru: Yes, it is true that many people have such experiences, especially children below six years of age. Many children have such experiences, but they’re not able to hold it, or they’re not able to stabilize it within themselves. This is why the yogic practices in their classical sense are very important. When we say yoga today, people are thinking, twisting, turning, and stretching their muscles is yoga. No, it is a very subtle geometry. To get the geometry of body right, in such a way that it is stable enough to support something much larger than what you are right now. If you want to, let us say, build a building, if it has to hold a certain amount of weight, you design it in one way. If it had to hold a much bigger, a far more enormous amount of weight, then you have to be very careful about the geometry of what you create. How perfect the geometry is will determine how strong something is and how capable it will become to house a certain dimension.

Similarly, with the human body, when I say body, it includes the mind, the mental structures, and the energy structures and other aspects, the karmic structures. This is what we’re trying to rearrange with the yogic process. Well, today people think they can innovate on everything that is given to them because people want to leave their own footprint on whatever they are doing, all kinds of modifications. You know, it’s … I don’t know how to express this. It causes me a deep distress, watching people doing the kind of yoga they’re doing. Because they think it’s an exercise form. It is not an exercise form. It is a subtle process of arranging your geometry in such a way so that this very human mechanism becomes capable of something far more phenomenal. Though many people have touched that experience, they are not able to hold onto it mainly because the fundamental sadhana of the preparatory work is not there in their life.

This is why the discipline of yoga is very, very important because it prepares you for that. When something happens, whatever is the peak experience of your life, should become the baseline of your life. Otherwise, those peaks don’t mean anything. In fact, they can leave you very frustrated because you tasted something fantastic and after that you’re back in the whatever—the depths of wherever you live in. So it can become very frustrating. I know people who have attained to these kinds of experiences of really touching certain peaks, even using chemicals and stuff, but after that they become mentally broken because they’ve seen something very beautiful and now to live in the regular, mundane way of living becomes impossible for them to live. They become depressed.

So it is very important that creating a human mechanism which is competent to handle much more than what it is handling right now, because every experience has a chemical basis to it, has a karmic basis to it, has a geometric structure to it. Otherwise, you cannot sustain any experience. So to be able to sustain that, first thing is to do the needed work, the fundamental work, which seems like a fruitless work initially because those 12, 13 years when I did yoga, I never thought that something else is possible. I never knew about it. Nobody ever told me. And I just lived just like that, but the practice went on because the system became capable and competent enough to hold that experience. This is what is missing in the world today.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative) you said something interesting, arranging our geometry in a certain way, and you talked about a chemical dimension, a karmic dimension. I think people can follow that, something that’s in our destiny. But this geometric dimension, what do you mean by that, “arranging our geometry”?

Sadhguru: Everything that is physical in existence has a geometry to it. Whether it is an atom or the solar system or the universe or the larger galaxy, everything has a geometry. Right now, planet Earth is going around the sun, not because it is attached to the sun with a steel cable or something. It is just a geometric pattern. If it disobeys its own geometry, it is gone. If it wavers from its path a little bit, it’s over, it’s the end of the Earth. So similarly, even on the level of the atom, there is a geometric pattern. Without it, there’s no physical structure. All physical structure in the existence has a geometry. How well arranged your geometry is, accordingly you become that competent and that capable.

Now, for the example, modern machines that we have. We have engines and let’s say we have a car, and how geometrically perfect it is will determine how much friction there is in the engine. The least amount of friction means the maximum amount of efficiency and capability. The same goes to the human being, and our geometry is not just in our physiological structure. It is in our mental structure, it is in our energy structure, even in our karmic structure there is a geometry. How do you organize these things? This is what the yogic science is about, to fix in the geometry in such a way that there is least amount of friction. Least amount of friction means this machine will go far.

Tami Simon: OK. So now you had this deeply transformative experience in the right human geometry such that it wasn’t just a passing transformation, but it forever changed you. And you said that you keep it together now, something like that. So you’re not, you know, weeping from joy all the time, wetting your shirt. OK. But I’m curious, in terms of-

Sadhguru: I’m glad you said wetting your shirt.

Tami Simon: Yes. That’s what I said, wetting your shirt. In terms of your everyday experience, do you find times when you feel triggered or caught in emotions or experiencing difficulties? You know, the subtitle of your book is “A Yogi’s Guide to Joy.” Are there times where you don’t feel joyful, and I mean, what’s it actually like for you day to day?

Sadhguru: It’s just this. It’s just that everything within me has become so conscious. Not a single thought or the emotion or anything that happens in me can happen by itself. It is always conscious. Tell me, if everything that happened within you is conscious, would you keep it pleasant or unpleasant for yourself or anybody? They would naturally maintain the highest level of pleasantness. Now, does it mean to say people ask me, “Sadhguru, are you capable of anger? We have never seen you angry. We’ve seen you in all kinds of situations.” People who work with me and be with me in all the many complex situations, they said, “We’ve never seen you angry, how is this possible? At the same time, you are not somebody who is sitting in one place quietly, you’re capable of enormous amount of passion, involvement, but still we don’t see you angry.”

I tell them, “You want it? I can give it to you. You think I’m incapable of anger? No, I’m just choosing not to be angry right now, but if you want it, if that’s the only way you know, you understand things, I’m willing to give it to you. What is the problem? I have no issues about that.” It is just that I have not given this privilege of any situation or people or whatever else to determine what happens within me, what happens within me is entirely determined by me. So it happens the way I want it.

Tami Simon: OK, so if I understand you correctly, you feel that you have a certain amount of choice over what you give your energy to in any moment. Is that what you’re saying?

Sadhguru: Absolutely. Absolutely choice.

Tami Simon: OK. So, Sadhguru, you’ve now spent quite a bit of time teaching Westerners this process that you call Inner Engineering, what do you think is the biggest obstacle that Westerners face in progressing on the path, this path of yogic science?

Sadhguru: I think they’re too steeped in belief systems, which is their biggest problem, because religious beliefs are so deep in the West. They may claim that they are not religious, but their religious beliefs are extremely deep. If they have given up their religion, they have taken on another belief system of their own, maybe made by them or made by the club or made by the society around them, but they have this tendency to take up to belief systems very strong. They, if they’re not going by the commandments that we’re given in the past, they have set up their own commandments. This is the biggest barrier for the people from Western cultures. See, for example, in the East, these are lands, this is a culture of seeking. In India, if you go, questions and questions and questions, you know. Indians are full of questions all the time, and if you look at the history of that nation, even when so-called divine entities came, all that people did was ask questions to them.

Nobody could give them a commandment. So if this is taken away from people’s minds: that they’re always seeking a commandment, they’re always seeking something to hang on to that they can believe, rather than seeking and exploring, I think it would become so much easier for them. Things could be done in much shorter or briefer amount of time, but you can’t generalize this for every human being. I would rather look at East and West not as a planet’s geography, but more as different kinds of mindsets. There are many people here in the United States who are very Eastern. There are many people in India who are very Western, so East and West for me is more to attitudes. One, which is a belief system, and another, which is of seeking.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I read somewhere, I thought this was very interesting, that you said, “The whole effort of the guru should be to help the seeker deepen his or her seeking, not to give the person answers.” I thought that was very interesting that you see your role as helping people deepen their seeking. Can you explain that?

Sadhguru: See, if I give you an answer, let us say you asked me a question about something that is not yet in your experience. And I will tell you something. Right now, we were talking about past life. That’s why I’m saying don’t believe those things.

Tami Simon: Yes.

Sadhguru: But at the same time, do not disbelieve those things, because if I tell you something which is not yet in your experience, there’s only one choice for you, either to believe me or disbelieve me. You don’t have any other choice. I think putting a person to that kind of a choice, that compelling you either to believe me or disbelieve me, in my aesthetics, it looks obscene to me.

I don’t want anybody to take to this that they have to believe what I say or disbelieve what I say. I am only giving them methods for them to explore. If they have a question, I will sharpen their question so that question will penetrate deeper. Because question is, after all, a tool to dig deeper.

If your question is not digging deeper or deep enough, it’s my business to sharpen your question, so that you can dig much deeper than you were digging by yourself. It is a question of exploration. It is not a question of giving answers. Because my answers are only going to be stories for you because what is not experience, all said and done, it is a story. The question is only, the story is coming from what kind of authority? So if you believe in the authority, you will make it a truth. Or in other words, authority is your truth, which is a wrong way to approach. Truth should be the only authority. The guru’s work is just this: to establish within you that truth is the only authority. Authority can never be the truth.

Tami Simon: In terms of helping people deepen their own seeking, I’m wondering if you could share with us a practice that we could do right now with you that would help us actually go deeper into our own experience. Let’s just do something together, Sadhguru.

Sadhguru: When it comes to seeking, you can’t do it with other people. Believing, you can do it with other people. This is why believers always are in a congregation or a flock. A seeker always wants to sit alone, because seeking is inward. You can’t go inward in a group, you can go to a church or a temple or a mosque in a group, but you cannot go within in a group. It is only individual.

So the seeking always makes a person wanting to be alone, wanting to look inward, but the moment you believe something, you need the support of a group. Because if you believe something all by yourself, without anybody’s support, after some time, you will feel really stupid. You need another hundred people around you who believe the same thing to make this into some kind of concretization. Is there something we can do for seeking together? This is all you have to do. This is not some kind of a practice. The simple way is this. You don’t have to know, there is no way for you to know what you do not know, just like that.

So what is the ultimate truth? There is no way to know this now, but what is not the truth? If you go on discounting, every day, if you go on discounting, whatever is not the truth about your existence. We’re not talking about truth in terms of verbal truth and lie. We’re talking about existentially. For example, you can start this process right now, otherwise it is a proper well-recorded guided meditation, called Isha Kriya. People can freely download this into their phones and practice this. This is called Isha Kriya.

What this is doing? It’s just discounting things that you’re not, for example, your body, the very body that you carry is something that you accumulated over a period of time. Whatever you accumulate, whether it is money or wealth or property or body, what you accumulate can be yours, but it can never ever be you.

So your body is yours, but it is not you. Similarly, with the mind, everything that you have, the content of your mind is also an accumulation of impressions that you gathered from outside. So this can be yours, it can be your thoughts, it can be your emotions, but it can’t be you. So just create this distinction within you that, “I’m not the body, I’m not the mind.” Because it is mine, but it is not me. What is you? Don’t make a conclusion. The problem with most people, they want to jump into the conclusion, “OK, I am a soul. I am an embodiment of God. I am this, I am that.” Don’t do all this because these are all beliefs that you have. What is the reality you do not know, but what is not the reality, if you go on discounting from your life, today night before you go to bed, sit on your bed and just do one, three to five minutes of reminding yourself, “I am not the body. I am not the mind.”

This you can do using your breath. With the inhalation, you remind yourself, “I am not the body”, with exhalation, you remind yourself, “I’m not the mind”. We can even do it right now. With an inhalation you’ll see, “I’m not the body”, with exhalation, “I am not even the mind. I am not the body. I am not even the mind. I am not the body. I am not even the mind.” Like this, just remind yourself with inhalation and exhalation. Why we’re using inhalation and exhalation and the thought processes?

Because these things are always with you. You can only work with what you have on your hands. You cannot work with what you don’t have on your hands. Now, if you who say, “I am a soul”, it’s not on your hands. Now, if you who say, “I am God”, it’s not on your hands. Now if you if you say something else, it’s not on your hands, but your breath, your body on your talk are there. So make use of what you have on your hands to touch a dimension, which is not yet. So this simple process everybody can do. You can download it on your phone and you can do this for some time with voice assistance, but after some time, you can just do it. Tami, you can actually take that Isha Kriya recording, I think it’s about 12 minutes. You can add it to this and offer it to people. Let them do it.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, Sadhguru, when you start saying, “The body’s not me,” but let’s say you’re having the experience. “I’m breathing. I don’t even know if I would be around if I wasn’t the body. What do you mean, the body’s not me? I feel very connected and part of my body. I’m not sure what’s going to happen when I die, if I’ll still be there.” So you’re having this experience. How do you have the confidence to say as you exhale, “The body’s not me?”

Sadhguru: Ah, no. Is it true you were not born in the same shape and size as you are today?

Tami Simon: I was definitely not born in the same shape and size that I am today.

Sadhguru: Yeah. So you’ve gathered it over a period of time. How? Just the food that you’ve eaten, isn’t it? Or it’s just a piece of the planet that we have gathered in the form of this body? What you gather can be yours, but it can’t be you. Let us say somebody is right now 100 kilograms, and went for some weight loss program and they lost 25 kilograms. Does it mean to say that they lost themselves? In fact, they found themselves, isn’t it, with the loss of the body. Even if 25 percent of the body is lost, they feel better or worse? They feel great.

So this is not really you. It is yours. You have gathered it, you can use it, but a time will come, when it will not even be yours. But right now it is yours, but it cannot be you. What you gather can never be you. It can only be yours. The same goes for the content of the mind and the content of the body, isn’t it? Your current experience of life is determined by the nature of your perception, but that’s what you’re trying to change, to enhance your perception to another level, because only what you perceive, you know. The rest is just imagination.

Tami Simon: One of the things that you point out in Inner Engineering that I thought was so interesting is that part of what fuels our spiritual quest is a desire to find in our own experience something that’s limitless, that we each have this inner calling to continue to know something that doesn’t have any boundaries. So I think that’s so interesting. Even behind this practice that you’ve introduced us here, not this, not this, this idea that we’re finding our way. We have a drive inside of us to find our way to something boundless. I wonder if you can talk about that.

Sadhguru: Whatever an individual human being is right now, they want to be to be something more. How they try to be something more may vary from person to person. If somebody is, you know, they know only money in their life, they’re thinking more money. If they know wealth, they’re thinking more wealth. If they know power, they’re thinking more power. If they know knowledge, more knowledge. If they know love, more love. If they know pleasure, more pleasure. Always more. If that more happens, what? More. If you should look at this, what you’re trying to do is expand. How much expansion would settle an individual human being? If you look at this, nothing is going to settle them. They want limitless expansion. Every human being wants limitless expansion, it wants infinite expansion, it’s fantastic, but they’re approaching their infinite nature in installments.

Now this will never happen. You cannot count one, two, three, four, five, and one day say infinity, no, you will only become endless counting. That’s all that’s happening to life. This is happening because their experience of life is so physical. Their entire experience of life is physical. They think their emotions are not physical, their thoughts are not physical, no, it is all physical. Memory itself is physical, so thought and emotion is physical too. Because it’s physical, it is thinking always in incremental proportions.

Physicality comes with boundaries, but there is something within the human being which doesn’t like boundaries. Wherever you set the boundary, people want to expand beyond that boundary. The moment they become conscious of the boundary, they want to go beyond the boundary. The boundary is not just of the body, or home or a prison cell or whatever. Wherever you set the boundary, the moment they become conscious, they want to go beyond the boundary. Essentially the longing is to become infinite, but the method they’re employing is hopeless because through physical means where physicality is rooted, the definition of physicality is a boundary. Through that physicality, they’re trying to become infinite, which will never happen. It is only the methodology that needs to change.

Tami Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’re saying there’s some kind of leap or something that needs to happen where we know ourselves not in physical terms.

Sadhguru: Everything that is physical about you is borrowed. Everything that is physical about you is something that you picked up from this planet and one day we will put it back to the planet, but if you have to gather so much physicality, there must be something more fundamental. Let us not jump into conclusion what that is. Immediately people will say, “That is the spirit, that is the soul.” Don’t jump into those conclusions.

Learn to joyfully handle your ignorance, because the yogic culture always insisted on being identified with one’s ignorance, not with one’s knowledge. Because our knowledge, whatever it is, how much ever do you know? Even if you read the libraries of the planet, it is still a minuscule compared to this cosmic space. What we know is always very limited. But our ignorance is just boundless, isn’t it?

The moment we identify with our ignorance, our intelligence, our faculties—every faculty that we have will be alert and fully on. That’s all a human being has to do, to keep life fully on. The rest will happen. The problem is with the conclusions we put it to sleep. With conclusions, we make our intelligence to go to sleep, our faculties to go to sleep. It is like this. Suppose you’re working in your office. You can walk without noticing anything, without much alertness, because there is light. Suppose, it is pitch dark and you have to walk. You don’t know where your next step is. Suddenly everything within you, every cell in your body becomes super alert, simply because you have total ignorance about what is next. You do not know what is next, and suddenly everything is alert.

This is the fundamental to come to terms with the immensity of “I do not know”. But “I do not know” has been killed with religious beliefs with theories, with all kinds of concepts and fantastic ideologies. All they’re trying to do is to kill their ignorance. You can’t kill your ignorance. You have to come to terms with your ignorance. You must understand the immensity of your ignorance, and you must look at the potential nature of your ignorance. Only when you realize that you do not know, the longing to know, the seeking to know, and the possibility of knowing becomes a living reality. Otherwise, you just believe whatever you want.

Tami Simon: Very good, very helpful, Sadhguru. I wanted to end by talking a little bit about some of the tremendous nonprofit work that you’re currently involved in because I think it’s one of the things that’s really unusual, Sadhguru, about what you’re up to as a teacher. And one of the things I read is that there are over three million people that currently volunteer as part of the non-profit you founded, Isha. Is that right? Is that the right number?

Sadhguru: The current number is nine million people registered as volunteers.

Tami Simon: Oh, wow.

Sadhguru: Recently, we’ve concluded what is called the Rally for Rivers. I don’t know if you heard about it.

Tami Simon: No.

Sadhguru: I drove from the Southern tip of India to the Himalayan foothills covering 16 states. 162 million people participated in this event. Never before, anywhere in any moment 162 million people have participated in 30 days. In 30-day’s drive, I covered 9,300 kilometers. I did 146 events, and 182 one-on-one interviews like this, some on phones, some direct and all kinds of things. As I was driving, 70 percent of the time I was talking and interviewing with various media. And over, I think, 2600 impressions in the newspapers and magazines in India, over 1700 television appearances in those 30 days. And we also made a draft policy as to how the rivers of India should be treated in future, because the rivers of India have depleted very seriously in the last 50 years. And now that policy has been taken up by the government and it will become a law in the near future.

Tami Simon: I also read that your organization won the Guinness Book of World Records for planting the most trees in one day, planting 850,000 trees in South India. So you focus on various environmental challenges within India, is that correct?

Sadhguru: My focus is on life. Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point in the planet where without addressing environmental issues, there is no life. We have brought the planet to that place. So that is also there. We’re involved in nourishment, health, education and environment because these are the fundamental needs and these things are still not met in many parts of the world. Particularly in rural India, this is a serious challenge: nourishment. India has the largest number of malnourished children on the planet. So these are the issues we’re addressing.

Tami Simon: OK. And to complete, Sadhguru, at one point you said, “Gosh, I see what all these people are doing when it comes to yoga and they feel they need to put their individual stamp on it as a modern yoga teacher, and create this kind of new yoga form or that kind of new yoga form,” and I think I understand what’s behind that criticism, but I’m curious if you think there’s some evolutionary challenge that yoga faces in our time? Do we need to evolve the tradition in some way? Or is it sufficient to say, this is human challenges, they’ve always been around. There’s nothing in yoga that particularly needs to change in the contemporary world.

Sadhguru: The presentation always has to change as per the contemporary requirements. Presentations can be changed, but the fundamentals of life and how … The life making process has not changed. To address this, this happened when the first seven sages who were the disciples of Adiyogi or the first yogi, which we estimate the time is somewhere between 12-15,000 years ago. At that time, they asked this question. When he talked about evolution, I must tell you this, that Adiyogi talked about evolution, almost on parallel lines with what Darwin has spoken, 15,000 years ago, he said the first form of life was fish. The second form of life was a turtle. And the third form of life, he’s talking about a mammal, so he says it’s a wild boar, because wild boar is considered to be the grossest among the mammals, and then he talks about half man, half animal.

Then he talks about a dwarf man. Then he talks about a full fledged-man, but a volatile man. Then he talks about a peaceful man, and then he talks about a loving man. Then he talks about a meditative man. Then he talks about a mystical man, who is yet to come or who is coming right now. So this is not about individual people, because they’re identified as individual people in the tradition, but he’s not talking about individual people. As life evolved, first life happened, you know, waterborne life is what happened and then it became an amphibious. Then all these processes, in many ways, if you look at it, it is running parallel to what Darwin said 150 years ago, but this was said nearly 15,000 years ago. So when he spoke about this, these seven sages, the first seven disciples, asked this question that, “Can we not evolve further? Why can’t we have a larger capacity than what we have? Why can’t we evolve this body? Why can’t we evolve this brain for a bigger capacity?”

Then he went into the mathematics of the solar system and how does the mathematics of the solar system and the structure of the human body, how they’re related and why it cannot develop further. He said, in the physical evolution, you’ve reached a point where unless something fundamental about the solar system changes, you cannot evolve further physically, but you can evolve consciously. Consciously you can evolve to any length that you want, but if you’re thinking of physical evolution, of growing an extra limb or enhancing the size of your brain or something, he said it will not work, because he shows some mathematical proof how it is not possible to evolve further.

Today, modern neurologists are saying something very similar, where they’re talking about why human brain cannot be made bigger. You know, even if we are not in activity, if a person is sitting in one place, 20 percent of the energy in the body is consumed by the brain. The brain is only three pounds and it’s a small piece, but it consumes 20 percent of the energy that you have. So if you increase the size of the brain, you don’t have the battery for it. Right now, I think the Apple phones are going through this problem, [laughs] they’re trying to increase their capacity, but they don’t have the battery. It dies out too quickly, so the neurologists are saying, the only two ways you can enhance the capacity of the brain is either by enhancing the size of the neurons or by packing more neurons in the same space.

If you do this, if you do the second one that is more neurons in the same space, then what will happen is there will be intelligence, but there’ll be no clarity. This happens to many children when they’re born. They are phenomenally intelligent, but they are not stable and there is no clarity, and it will take some time and the body kills a certain amount of neurons and comes to some kind of stability. If you increase the size of the neuron, then you don’t have a battery pack to support that. Your body will not be able to sustain that kind of brain.

But how we use the brain can be changed. You can use the same brain in 100 times more efficient than the way you’re using it right now. That can be done. This is what Adiyogi said. Because of the nature of the solar system, you cannot physically evolve beyond this point, but you can consciously evolve in a limitless way. To change the fundamental dynamics of yoga is a complete no-no, because your evolution has come to a certain place. There is a certain kind of mathematical proof for this as to why it has reached the peak.

Tami Simon: You know, it’s interesting, Sadhguru, that you brought up Adiyogi, the first yogi from thousands of years ago. You know, I’d never heard of Adiyogi before becoming familiar with you and your work. And I learned that in Tennessee you’ve actually built a temple, and that this large temple contains a 21-foot statue of Adiyogi. What do you think is the importance of people becoming familiar with Adiyogi, this first yogi?

Sadhguru: Have here we have a 21-foot thing. In India, in the Isha Yoga Center, we have a 112-foot-tall Adiyogi, just the face. This is the largest face on the planet. Once again, it’s in the Guinness Record, that is the largest face on the planet. 112-foot-tall face, why 112 feet? Because he offered 112 ways in which human being can attain to their ultimate nature, so these 112 ways he expounded. And everything that you can do in the existence falls into this 112 categories of how you could approach it.

Adiyogi becomes important not as a past figure that you become reverential towards, but as an inspiration. This is a movement from belief system to awareness. This is a movement from religion to responsibility. This is what Adiyogi means. He’s the first one on this planet who first of all explored this dimension, for the first time who clearly said, “If you are willing, all the limitations that nature has put upon you, you can transcend. If you’re willing to strive, you can go beyond your limitations.”

This is the first time that anybody ever uttered that at that moment, and that has been the basis of yoga, that you can consciously evolve beyond all limitations, the genetic limitations that you may have, cultural limitations that you may have. Whatever else nature has put on you, all this you can transcend if only you’re willing to strive. I think this is very essential for this generation and the future generations to come. That is why we’re setting up this iconic face of Adiyogi.

It is designed in a certain geometric way that if you look at Adiyogi’s image for a minute, it stays in your mind for your life. This is the experience of every human being who looks at Adiyogi’s face because there is a certain geometric perfection to it. Because yoga is essentially interested in geometry, because it’s the geometry, which makes this physical existence, it is the geometry which contains us. And it is a geometry which can allow us to transcend, because physical existence is essentially geometric in nature.

Tami Simon: Sadhguru, I’ve enjoyed talking with you so much. You are such a unique and interesting character and you’re doing such good work in the world.

Sadhguru: Unique is not a complimentary thing. When you say somebody is unique, it’s an insult. [laughs]

Tami Simon: I don’t mean it that way.

Sadhguru: Don’t get so serious, Tami.

Tami Simon: No, of course, not. OK, I’ve been talking with Sadhguru. He’s written a book called Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, and he’s recorded the audio book here in the Sounds True Studio. Sadhguru, thank you so much for this conversation.

Sadhguru: Thank you, Tami. Thank you very much.

Tami Simon: And for your wonderful work. Thank you. Soundstrue.com, many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.