Sadhguru: We’re not fully aware of our mortality
The Covid-19 pandemic caught us off guard – as humanity and as individuals. What are the lessons we can draw from this? We discussed this with Sadhguru, a true spiritual rock star, yogi, poet, mystic, and visionary.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Sadhguru, it's so great to have you with us on our programme. Three years on.
Sadhguru: Namaskaram, Sophie, I think it's nearly two and a half years since I saw you last time in St. Petersburg.
SS: And we had quite a discussion in St. Petersburg on the International Economic Forum then. But, wow, now during the pandemic, what a time to really rethink and re-evaluate everything in life. So I'm just gonna go straight in and ask you that... The world right now is somewhat divided over the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some that say that it's just another pandemic, pandemics like this occur once in every century for humanity to sort of purify itself. Then there are others who really believe that this pandemic is some sort of a lesson to teach us and to sort of make us reconsider our future as a species. Where do you stand?
S: Well, if your neighbour dies, maybe it's purification or a lesson to learn. But if you die, or your children die or somebody dear to you dies, I don't think you will think this is a lesson or purification. That's a very cruel way of looking at life. Yes, pandemics have happened in the past. But the level of ignorance we were at that time... The last big one was the Spanish flu, but just after World War I, at that time, what was our knowledge about, you know, these pathogens and our ability to control it, no antibiotics, and today we have all this. In spite of that, we are a little out of control, simply because we have not become conscious enough. All this takes is... because human beings are the carriers, if you and me behave consciously, as we are, see, you're out there, I'm here no way to infect each other. If everybody maintains this because human being is the carrier, all you have to do is some amount of distancing over a period of time it will just die down. But not every human being is either responsible or conscious about it. So it's very important if we really want to take care of this, because the world's population has increased so much, the proximity of human beings is very high today and people are travelling, air travel takes people all over the world. So because of this, it is very important that we create a conscious planet that human beings are conscious about what they do. Right now people are thinking [that] pitching for their compulsive behaviour is their freedom. Somebody wants to drink, somebody wants to have a haircut, so they want to go out. It doesn't matter what happens to your neighbour, what happens to the older people in the society, your parents or your grandparents who are beyond a certain age and they are vulnerable, and other people who have gone through organ transplantations and various other cardiac and other conditions who are vulnerable to the virus and the for them it could be fatal. Not being concerned about the aged population and the vulnerable population is a very serious concern because human beings are supposed to be little more concerned about each other than just saying this is purification. Somebody else is dying and this is purification? No, no, that's a terrible thing to say.
SS: So you're saying awareness is the most important thing in all of this and you’ve also said that humanity has never been so well-equipped to battle something of this scale. But isn't it ironic in a way that we, humans, we're talking about colonising Mars and we're talking about the singularity, and the evolution has, you know, sort of jumpstarted and the technical revolution is so far beyond like anything that we could have imagined 10 years ago, and yet when this pandemic hit, we're battling it pretty much in the same way as we were battling the Spanish Flu 100 years ago just by sitting at home and not socialising?
S: Not really. 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu killed over 50 million people. I don't think such a thing will happen today. And about colonising Mars, well, if you want to ruin this planet and go to another one, that's a very sad way to live. It's very important that it's a privilege of a human being, that we can function consciously. That means we can function beyond our natural instincts. Every other creature on the planet functions within its natural instincts, but a human being can function beyond our natural instincts. That is the significance of being human. That means we have to be conscious. So if this consciousness is something that we do not display, well, it amounts to evolutionary issues within ourselves because all other creatures always function within the parameters of their own instinctual, you know, set-up within them, we can function beyond that. And as you mentioned that there is so much development, there is so much medical science, there is so much knowledge, but still, people are pitching for their compulsion.
SS: One of the most significant revelations that came to me during this pandemic was that many tangible materialistic things that we used to want don't really matter that much anymore. And the things that I'm craving right now are really just very simple things: human contact, freedom of choice where to go after this is over, you know. Do you think that once the lockdowns are lifted and the pandemic is over this feeling will stay with us or we’ll be back to all the greed and consumerism?
S: It depends on how long this virus will trouble us. Suppose in the next two months, let's say, before August, September, if it's gone, probably another three to four months, everybody will be back to their usual stuff. But suppose the virus trouble lasts for us, let's say, 9-12 months, then a certain percentage of people will transform themselves. Suppose a virus stays on for 24 to 36 months, let's say, it is remote but if such a thing happens, you know, the second, third waves, if they keep coming and taking people's lives, then I think a significant percentage of human population will change their behaviour for sure. So it's really unfortunate, microorganism with a millionth of our brain has to teach us a lesson and we have to transform ourselves because the virus comes and threatens our life. It is the beauty of being a human being that we can sit here, look at various aspects, we’ve been given the intelligence and the consciousness to sit here and transform ourselves before any calamity happens to us. This is how a human being should be. But unfortunately, we need to be threatened to transform.
SS: So I suppose whether we come out of this crisis with a clearer idea of who we really are and what we need like you're saying, depends on how long the pandemic will last. I was speaking maybe two weeks ago with a French writer and philosopher Bernard Werber and he told me that humans are bad students, that we would need more devastating lessons like this one to learn something. I certainly hope that's not the case. What do you think?
S: Well, that's what I'm saying. As long as somebody else's life is being taken, you can philosophize. But if it comes to your life, I think all philosophies will evaporate, you will want to survive. So right now, instead of going on weaving and spinning these philosophies, everybody [should] maintain social distance and stay alive for this period. After that we can look at all these philosophies, we can weave as many as we want. But the important thing is, life happens in a certain way. Are we in tune with it or not is the only question. When I say life happens in a certain way, our life is not a separate existence on this planet. Every moment that we breathe, and every moment that we exist here, there's a whole lot of transactions happening. So virus, bacteria are all very much a part of us. This particular virus, which was living in animals has now jumped into human beings, for whatever reason, is mainly one reason you could say is that their habitat, the animal habitat is now shrinking so rapidly. In the sense from 1970 to now, in 50 years time, nearly 60% of the vertebrate population is gone. So, where will the virus go? It has to find some new terrain. So, it’s found us. Whilethis keeps happening often, there are various factors which cause this, but the important thing is, as human beings... We are calling ourselves beings, see, we don't call any other creature on this planet as a being, we don't call a tiger being or a buffalo being or an ant being or anything like this, we call only this one as a human being because we are supposed to know how to be. If we know how to be, we would keep ourselves very conscious. Conscious means if there was a choice right now for yourself or for any other human being, whether right now to be joyful, blissful or miserable and frustrated what would you choose? Definitely the highest level of pleasantness for yourself. So, people do not know how to be, that is the main problem. Otherwise, these are all natural things happening. This is not a calamity, I'm saying, this is not really a calamity, but we human beings are making it into a calamity. All viruses, bacteria have come and gone, we have integrated all this into our system at various levels. These viruses in the past have also caused significant mutations and delved into evolutionary processes within ourselves. So it is not all negative. But right now, this virus is not being carried by neither mosquitoes nor mice or some other animals. No, we are the carriers. All we have to do is you and me like we are doing wonderfully well right now, we keep some distance, - this is it, the virus is over.
SS: Sadhguru, like you're saying, we're the only beings that call ourselves beings and how to know to be is the most important thing. The problem with that is that most of the people whether they're now locked down, or are in self-isolation don't really think about how to be because, you know, you're caught up in a process, you live in a big city, you live in a big country, you're busy, you don't really think how to be, you just are. And now an amazing amount of people find themselves in self-isolation, and it's almost like they have no other choice than to ponder upon how to be, about that way to be. I found myself thinking about things that I didn't want to think about for the longest time, you know, like it's not always pleasant to think about your fears, or, you know, your problems, or your doubts and then you're facing them because you're alone in self-isolation. And from that comes the sense of really knowing how to be and it took some quiet space and quiet time to sort of come to this. What do you think, as paradoxical as it may sound, do you feel like in a way we, humans, in self-isolation have maybe gotten closer to understanding what it is that way to be for us?
S: I wouldn't make such a - what to say - very generous conclusion. Because I live with reality, I am not in a hallucinatory state to imagine everybody's coming into their being. No. Maybe some of them are coming to terms with their own psychological mess. First mistake is people are mistaking their psychological drama as life. See, what happens in your mind is your drama. Your thought your emotion is all made by you. But people think this itself is life. Most human beings, unfortunately, are under that misunderstanding that their physiological and psychological dramas are everything. These are two things you must conduct properly. But both these things are not conducted properly, because everything is happening. This psychological drama going crazy, badly directed psychological drama is creating a mess out of people. Now coming to terms with your psychological mess, is not being, alright? Being means that you are a being as you because you are capable of existing, you're capable of being conscious about your existence. So, you are a being. So it is not something that you have to invent or create. It is already there. All you have to do is you must bring a little bit of distance from your physiological and psychological drama. What you call “our mind” is just a heap of impressions that we have gathered. What we gather can be ours, it can never be us. This belongs to us, but this is not us. All the time it is going through a transition, all the time things are changing within the body, what was yesterday a part of his body today it is not, what was not your body yesterday today is a part of this body. So this is going on, and the same thing is true with your mind. So what you accumulate, the moment you mistake that to be you, then the madness has started. This madness they're trying to fix with religion, with philosophy, with ideologies. It’s not going to work because all you will do is try to adjust the madness, you cannot adjust the madness, you have to distance yourself from the madness. So you are about to ask, how do you do that? There are simple ways to do this. Well, right now, across the world, millions of people are practising a simple process called Isha Kriya with which you can make a distance between yourself and what you have accumulated - your body and your mind. Right now, for all the people, medical personnel who are fighting this virus across the world, we have offered Inner Engineering online free of cost to all of them. And for everybody else, we’ve brought it down to a 50% cost for the whole world because we know at this time, everybody's trying to deal with themselves, which is a big problem. Look at this. Outside, if you have problems in the world, it's okay. But you yourself are a problem. This is a serious problem. In our life, a variety of problems are there in the world, we have to face it. But if we ourselves, my own thought, my own emotion is a big problem,hen where is the solution? Whatever solution you think up, it’s going to be more problems. This is what is happening to the world because a problematic mind, a compulsive mind with which they're trying to find solutions, no solutions will come, you will only complicate the problems more and more, because the problem itself, the source of the problem right now is just in the way we think and feel. If the virus has come and we know that it is there and we could transmit it to each other, what is our problem? Just close our eyes and sit for 15 days, 14 days is all you have to sit. If you sit for 14 days alone, the virus will be gone out of this planet.
SS: I suppose you partially answered my next question, but I'm gonna try to paraphrase it in a way because this crisis yes, has made us reconsider many things, but also sort of lanced all the abscesses of our society, all the downfalls of humanity, human nature, and maybe some are becoming more conscious, but a lot of us are becoming more paranoid. You know, we have this psychotic, xenophobic feelings in us, this fear of the unknown and like you said, for instance, probably in the near future, I'm not going to be shaking hands with anyone, even when the pandemic is over. I’m not sure that I’ll be flying to other countries all the time… So it has also brought this fear of the other in us, this whole pandemic. When you're saying that you need to separate who you are, your being and your problems that you've accumulated, does that work in this particular case as well? Where this is like an all-around fear that you fear a foreigner coming to your country because he's going to bring COVID-19, your fear a neighbour approaching your house because you don't know if he has COVID-19 or not? How to deal with that fear? The same way?
S: See, caution is one thing, fear is another thing. Caution is in terms of action, all right. It is in terms of action taking preventive or pre-emptive action about whatever else. Right now, if you're driving a car, let's say, there was an elephant on the road, or that doesn't happen in Russia, it happens in India, okay?
SS: We have white bears. I’m kidding.
S: Or let's say a bear came on the road, you will apply brakes before you hit it. The best time to apply brakes is well before you hit it, right? So if you apply brakes, do you have to necessarily do it out of fear? No, you can just brake efficiently. That's just avoiding a problem, right? Right now, similarly, there is no elephant, it's not that big, it's a microscopic virus, we just have to apply brakes. Where is the need for fear? Fear is happening because... see, there are two basic faculties in the human being, which sets us apart significantly from other creatures. One is we have a vivid sense of memory and a fantastic sense of imagination. Right now, these two wonderful faculties is what human beings are largely suffering from. What happened 10 years ago, they're still suffering. What may happen the day after tomorrow, they're already suffering. No, no, they are not suffering life. They are just suffering their own memory and their own imagination. So the problem is great faculties that have been given to you... To arrive at these faculties through the evolutionary process it took millions of years of evolution to get to this place of cerebral activity, and now it's become a mess. How great is that, I'm asking. It took millions of years of work to give you this big brain which functions with this many capabilities. Now most human beings are suffering, what is that magnificent machine?! Human beings have turned into a misery manufacturing machine. That's what needs to change - how we handle our own body, our own mind. This fundamental has to change. Right now we think it's our right to suffer. Well, you have the right to suffer, you have the right to die also. But is that the point? Because life is such a brief happening. If you start exploring human potential, even if you live to be a hundred years, it is too brief, a life, alright? We are here just for a brief amount of time, how much mess out of that?! Endless amount of mess. The virus comes - one problem, the virus doesn't come - another problem, endless problems only. You tell me what is it that's not a problem in human life? Toddlers have diaper problems, adolescents have hormone problems, middle-age is a crisis, old-age is horrible, death is terrible. What is not a problem? Everything is a problem. No, nothing is a problem. There are situations and situations. In your mind, if you want to make something into a problem you can make just about anything into your problem. Or you can look at a situation as a situation and do the best that you can do in the given situation.
SS: Sadhguru, you have also said that COVID-19 has made us conscious of our mortality. And that made me think, I mean, do we have more reason to fear death than usual? Because we fear death always, there are a lot of other things that can kill you, other than COVID-19...
S: We have always been mortal, though a whole lot of people go about in their life as if they were immortal. Most people think other people die. No, you and me will die, I'll bless you with a long life but we will die.
S: So it is just that the virus has brought it upfront in our faces that you are mortal. It's silly that a little virus, a minuscule virus has to teach us this lesson, every human being must know that we are mortal. Being mortal what it means is, that means we have a limited amount of time. If every moment of our life, we were conscious that we are mortal, we would not have time to do anything that does not mean much to us, we would do what really matters to us. If all human beings, if you and me are doing what truly matters to us, this becomes a beautiful world. Right now, a whole lot of people are doing absolute rubbish, which doesn't mean a damn thing to them or to anybody, but they keep doing it out of their compulsiveness. So it's important to get humanity to a place where everybody is doing what truly, genuinely matters to them. They don't have to do what matters to me or to you. They must do what genuinely matters to their life. If you are doing what matters to your life, I am doing what matters to my life - believe me, what you do and what I do will not be very different. Right now, we are going by the quirkiness of one's mind, not by the needs of our life.
SS: I think it's another interview to figure out what is it that we need for our life, but I really thank you for those wise words, for your insight, for your thoughts. I think these are much-needed words and thoughts that people need to hear right now, during strange times. I really hope that we meet again, rather sooner or later.
S: You get the virus out of Russia, I will come and see you.
SS: Ok, stay safe.