Man with a plan? Man with a vision? Man with an uber cool swagger? However you may want to characterise him, the man in question will seldom be satisfied. Labelling oneself or being labelled isn’t Sadhguru’s style. Jagadish ‘Jaggi’ Vasudev, better known as Sadhguru, doesn’t believe in labels because labels can be limiting. And being limited, in any way, isn’t something the 64-year-old yogi and mystic, who recently embarked on a motorcycle journey of 30,000km across 27 nations, is keen on.
As an active mode of self-preservation, Sadhguru has been riding from country to country in hopes of awakening the citizens of the world to rise to the occasion and ‘Save Soil’. “What’s ticking away is not the clock. What’s ticking away is our life,” announces Sadhguru as he stands before a room full of people gathered together for his first talk upon his arrival in the UAE, organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India’s (ICAI) Abu Dhabi chapter.
Settling down after his whirlwind on-road journey battling clouds of sand from Bahrain to the UAE, we sit down with the yogi, mystic and visionary to hear more about his masterplan. In an exclusive conversation with Khaleej Times., Sadhguru talks about various factors — from ego to technology, eroding urban consciousness and how soil is the one unifying factor that can bring humanity together. “Let’s make it happen,” says Sadhguru.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
I’m sure it’s been a long journey. How are you feeling?
Sadhguru: How am I feeling right now? I’m feeling like sandpaper because there are particles of sand in every pore of my body (laughs). Within the last 24 hours, we’ve covered nearly 930km and almost all the way, there’s been a sandstorm.
Do you feel exhausted at all?
Sadhguru: Do I look exhausted?
No, but as a fellow human being, I must ask this question.
Sadhguru: I’m also human only. This is what my whole life is about, to make people realise they don’t have to be superhuman. Being human itself is super. But people are always using the word human in terms of their inabilities and weaknesses. Even in the evolutionary sense, humans are on top of the pile, isn’t it? Yet, people never say ‘I’m human’ with pride. They say ‘I’m only human’. Why is that? You are the number one species right now in terms of capability, competence and intelligence. But you say ‘I’m only human’, you must say ‘I’m human’ with lots of pride.
You’ve been rallying across the globe, spreading awareness on why saving our soil from extinction is the need of the hour. But how can one, at an individual level, take inspired action to help Save Soil?
Sadhguru: When it comes to soil ecology, our national boundaries mean nothing. This is a human problem. What we set up as pieces of geography in the form of nations — mainly for administrative purposes and political purposes — we’ve started thinking of it as an absolute. We think the planet is some kind of a cake that we can cut into pieces and each take a piece and walk away. You cannot take it anywhere.
Life on this planet is happening as one. Well, we can administer it separately. We can manage it separately, we can enjoy it separately. But we can’t take it away because life is happening as one. The microbial life in the soil is happening as one massive phenomena. The moment you disturb that, life starts dying. On an average, 27,000 species are going extinct per year. At this pace, 35-40 years later, it’s going to be a very serious problem but we’ll start facing the pain within the next 15-20 years.
You often mention our existence is not independent of the sources that created us. Does this irreverence towards our planet stem out of an inflated sense of ego?
Sadhguru: I’m sorry, I’ll say something which is not a commentary on women’s fashion. I call this the high heel life. It’s not about the physical high heels but I say this in a sense that everybody is above the ground. They don’t realise the very body that we carry and the soil that we walk upon are not two different things. It’s the same thing. We don’t even think we belong to this planet.
Everybody thinks they belong elsewhere. Nobody seems to belong here. It’s very important we understand we come from the soil, we thrive off the soil and when we die, we go back to the soil. We need to recognise soil as a living entity. We are still treating it as an inert substance. In many societies, they call it dirt. If that is dirt, you and I are dirt bags, isn’t it? (laughs)
As a society, how can we be more conscious and selfless?
Sadhguru: No need to become selfless because that is just an empty ideal. The only way a human being can relate to life is through the self. How can you be selfless? Only if you’re dead, can you be selfless. I am saying you’re selfish anyway, so why are you stingy about your selfishness? At least be selfish in a total way. Right now, what is it that we call selfishness? It’s when we say we want to live well. It’s there in you and in every human being and in every life for that matter.
Why don’t you expand a little bit and say, ‘I want everything and everyone to live well’. When you’re alone, you think ‘I want to live’. When you get married, you say, ‘Me and my husband should live well’. If you have three children, you will say, ‘Me and my family should live well.’ So you’re capable of expanding your intent for wellness, isn’t it? So why don’t you extend it for all life and say, ‘I want every life to live well here.’ That’s all I’m asking for. At least in selfishness, don’t be kanjoos (stingy). Be generous in your selfishness.
As our digital lives become more connected than ever, there’s an ironic sense of disconnect that has permeated our off-screen lives, where we feel detached from our surroundings. How do we forge a better relationship with our environment?
Sadhguru: That’s happened at various levels, you can’t reverse that. We have gotten used to the comforts of four walls. Developing a connection with nature right now is a very romantic idea. It’s nice, it’s wonderful. You putting your hands into the soil and doing something in your kitchen garden are very cute. But it’s not a solution. Even if I’m doing something reasonably big, it’s nice. But it’s not a solution.
Solution will come only when every nation on the planet makes a policy and acts on it. Nearly 71 per cent of the land is farmed. This land has to be taken care of. Everybody wants to take care of the rainforest. Everybody wants to take care of the ocean. It doesn’t need your care. You just stay out of it, everything will be fine. For one year, if you don’t fish, just watch the ocean bounce back in ways that you cannot imagine. Urban people like to talk about exotic things for which they don’t have to do anything. Agricultural land is the land where the human hand is tending to on a daily basis. This land is in serious trouble. It’s part of our food security and our nutritional system. It’s part of our commerce. It’s part of our stability in the world itself. If there is no food, there is no peace anywhere, isn’t it?
There’s a certain part of the population that feels issues such as climate change are too big to have any real influence over, leading to a general sentiment of helplessness. That one can’t really make a difference.
Sadhguru: Today, you have a voice like never before. Never before was it possible for any human being to sit here and talk to the world? This is the first time, isn’t it? Many great beings have come to this planet but when they spoke up, even 10 people could not hear them. Today, you may be a nobody in the world but you can sit at home and make the world listen to you. You have that capability. Do you have the commitment? That’s the only question. This is all I’m asking. Raise your voice. Raise your voice for a few weeks, and keep it up.
The narrative needs to change. This is how human societies work. First, you must think about it, then your emotion should get attached to the thinking and then your voice should rise. Once it rises, slowly action will follow. But if you’re hesitating to raise your voice for something so vital, it shows that you don’t care. If you’re 90 years old and you say you don’t care about the future, I can understand because your life has passed. But as a young person, if you say you don’t care about the future, where does it come from?
Where does it come from?
Sadhguru: It comes from an absolute sense of ignorance of thinking your life is on your phone screen. You think food is coming from Uber Eats, not from the land. But somebody is cooking it, somebody’s growing it somewhere. Delivery is happening to your doorstep and you’re mistaking that as the source. Today, almost every nation is referring to soil as a ‘resource’. All of us have fed upon the breasts of our mothers. So, do we call our mothers a ‘resource’? Or is she the source of our life? Soil is the very source of our life.
You mentioned you don’t like labelling generations as Gen Z, millenials etc.
Sadhguru: It’s only the Gen Z that I don’t like labeling. ‘Z’ is the last alphabet. That’s what scares me. The Z of life means it is the last stop. Are you the last generation? It’s a crime even to think that way.
We don’t wish to be the last generation. So, what is the one thing we need to get right?
Sadhguru: You were born after the phones arrived. But as young people, you can use this phone in many ways that I do not know how to use. Please use your smart friend. Use your smart friend and make the world talk about soil, not about me, not about my moment. Talk about soil because it’s your moment. This is a generational responsibility. So within the people who are alive here, I am ‘A’ somebody’s ‘B’, somebody’s ‘C’ and you’re ‘Z’.
We are constantly seeing how to find differences. Age, gender, caste, creed, religion, nationality, race and more such nonsense. So, soil is that one unifying factor. It’s a common factor. At this stage in our life, when we are so technologically empowered, finding common factors, common denominators among all of us, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what specie you are, finding a common factor is important right now. Without a common factor, we will destroy each other.
Gen Z is also called generation burnout. If the new generation is burning out, isn’t it a serious problem?
If by the time you’re 20-25, you’re burning out, it means obviously, you’re not resilient enough for life, isn’t it? The lack of resilience is simply because we have become very frivolous in how we use our minds. It’s important that in your body and your mind, you become tenacious enough. If you last here for 100 years, still, you can have a meaningful life. Isn’t that important? What is burnout? You just don’t know how to conduct your own thoughts and emotions. That’s why you’re burning out. So, let’s do some inner engineering.
Lastly, if there was any advice you’d offer to your younger self, what would it be?
Are you talking about my younger self as in the past? (laughs) I’ve been riding for nine to 10 hours straight on this journey. We’ve been riding since yesterday evening, with little breaks in between. And today, I just walked straight into the talk here in Abu Dhabi. Once someone asked me, ‘Sadhguru, how do you do this at this age?’, I said, ‘What do you mean this age? So, you think I’m old?’ The problem with me is that I’ve lived my life so intensely, I never had the time to get old. It takes a lot of time to get old. So, if you’re living your life and there’s no time to get old, you will stay this way.
Take a moment and think of the words you use regularly in your day-to-day conversations and even with yourself