Hubert Burda Media

The Wisdom to Make a Difference

Since a new year calls for a renewal of ideas, we speak to spiritual guru SADHGURU JAGGI VASUDEV

For those who find it hard to see past the long flowing beard, earthen-coloured robes and turban, know this: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev isn’t so unlike you and me; he brings his Blackberry to the golf course.
He also spent his 20s chasing economic success, has soccer injuries, likes fast cars, flies helicopters and — perhaps unlike you and me — was conferred Special Consultative Status by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council in 2007 and is a four-time speaker at the World Economic Forum.
Yogi, mystic and visionary, Sadhguru is founder of the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation which addresses aspects of human well-being through yoga and outreach programmes. Isha’s large-scale humanitarian projects include Action for Rural Rejuvenation (which has reached out to over 4,600 villages in India), Isha Vidhya (which provides education to rural children), and Project GreenHands (a tree-planting initiative which has planted 14 million saplings to date).
Supported by over two million volunteers in more than 150 centres worldwide, Sadhguru is a spiritual master with a difference — a leader completely relevant to our times. Who else would have had the profundity and influence to tell a room full of world leaders and captains of industry to stop regarding Asia as an “emerging market”, but to see Asia for its people, as he did in Davos?
Last in town to give a closed-door lecture on the DNA of Success (hosted by DBS Bank), the mystic sat with Prestige for this exclusive interview on leadership as an innate and intuitive process.
What would you say are the hallmarks of a good leader?
A leader is someone who has insight into the situation in which he exists; he sees what others are not able to see. If one is able to pay enough attention, there is nothing in the universe that is not open to you. But not everybody has the same level of attention to details. He must be a symbol of integrity and must be able to inspire the best in those around him. Being an inspiration need not necessarily mean that a leader has to be very charismatic or flamboyant. Many inspire others simply out of their absolute commitment to what they do, for example, Mahatma Ghandi, who managed to move millions of people simply because of an extraordinary sense of commitment. So it’s the three Is: Insight, integrity and inspiration. Maybe that means he needs a third eye!
Does it take a different sort of person to run a company, a country or be a religious head?
Skill sets change, but the essential qualities whether you are running a business or a spiritual organisation are always the same. A true leader is relevant in any kind of situation and in any point in history. The situational leader is different. He is relevant only to a certain time. Suppose there is strife in the streets tomorrow. A certain type of person may become a leader then, but he won’t remain relevant once the situation changes.
Specifically, it is business leadership that forms a large part of your work. Why is this area so important at this time?
A few hundred years ago, religious leadership was the most dominant leadership on the planet. As machinery came, it was military leadership. In the last hundred years, democratically elected leadership become the dominant force. In 15 to 20 years, it will be economic leadership. But till now, business leaders have only thought of profit. Their roles are becoming so big that it’s no more about running businesses; they are actually making nations and creating a world. So my work has been to constantly remind them that it’s time they move from personal ambitions to a larger vision. More inclusive economics need to happen.
When I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, I kept hearing people refer to Asia as an “emerging market” and I said it’s time to stop referring to Asia as that because the continent is made up of people. If you see them as a market place, you will see how to exploit it. But if you see and experience them as people, you will see how to develop their entire situation and a market will develop out of that.
A lot of big businesses are putting more into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts these days. Can this be enough, or is this just step one?
I’m infamous for continuously talking against CSR, because in my mind the business itself should be socially responsible and not just that two percent of earnings that gets channelled to CSR. If you run businesses in a more inclusive manner, you don’t need this CSR fund that you keep aside. Your quarterly balance sheet may be a little lower, but at the rate you will be able to grow — that can be increased. Business is about expansion, not only accumulating profits and that is what will make the business very strong and on a stronger base.
Say I’m a corporate leader who wants to do good, what advice would you give me?
The first time I was at the World Economic Forum, some people were almost resentful that I, a mystic, was at a business meeting. One of them was a CEO of a major computer hardware company. I asked him what he does. He said: “We produce computers.” So I told him, whether you produce a computer, safety pin, spacecraft or a car, essentially the basic business you are in is human well-being and that is my business too. What a corporate leader needs to understand is that regardless of the nature of his business, essentially it is useful to the people on the planet. With that consciousness, that business is all he needs to do and it can be done in a way that is beneficial to a huge number of people. It’s like that African saying: “When a lion feeds, every creature gets to eat.” A businessperson need not start a school or orphanage. I’m not saying they should not; what I’m saying is that, that is not the important thing. So my question to you is this: Are you doing something for your satisfaction or are you seeking a solution to the problems of the world? CSR seems more for personal satisfaction.
How does one know when they have reached that point in their lives when they have attained and achieved enough?
They’ll clearly know it because when they reach it, they’ll be dead! In human life, there is no such thing as attaining enough or achieving enough. Maybe with possessions, you can say: “Okay, I have a nice home and this is enough for me.” But life is an endless possibility. The only question is, are you being driven by something, or are you driving your life?
Desires drive people: Desire to possess, desire to achieve, desire to be recognised etc. If today you desire a new smartphone, tomorrow you’ll want something else. If I give you the whole planet and make you the queen, will you be fulfilled? No, you’ll want the moon and the stars. That is why turning inwards is very important. You’ll do things more consciously. Right now the world is functioning compulsively and that’s our problem.
What’s your role as a mystic among other leaders?
When people get to a position of power and responsibility, it’s very important that they have an inner dimension for themselves. Suppose you are very joyful right now, what would you do? Will you do pleasant or unpleasant things? Pleasant, of course. If you are unhappy, miserable and frustrated, invariably you’ll do unpleasant things to other people, knowingly or unknowingly. There are no good people or bad people in the world. There are just joyful or miserable people. It’s very important that people in positions of power and responsibility are in a certain state of pleasantness within themselves. Because every thought, every emotion, every action that they perform affects millions of people. So my work is to seek them out to give them tools for their inner well-being. If they are joyful human beings they will do pleasant things to everybody, it’s a natural consequence.
Do you classify what you do as spiritual?
The word “spiritual” has to be properly defined. When you use the word spiritual, people immediately think it’s religious. This is a completely non-religious or an a-religious process. In a sense, these are technologies for well-being. Say you ate chicken for lunch. If you wait for another three hours, this chicken will become a human being. Ask Charles Darwin how long it takes a chicken to become a human and he’ll say it takes 10 million years. But look at us. In a matter of hours we can transform a chicken or a piece of carrot into a human being. This body of ours is the most sophisticated, high-tech gadget on the planet. If even a drop of this intelligence became available to your conscious use, you will live magically. So my work is to bring that magic to people’s lives. I’m not giving it to them; it’s already there with them but it is unexposed. I’m giving people the necessary tools, support and energy to explore that dimension within them. That is a spiritual process — going beyond the limitations of the physical and looking inward.
Which world issue gives you cause for concern?
My biggest concern is the irresponsible growth of the human population. In the beginning of the 20th century, we were only 1.5 billion people. Today we are 7.2 billion. The UN has made a prediction that by 2050, we will be 9.8 billion people. That means our children will have to live with 40 percent less resource than what we are enjoying right now. I’m not talking about gold or oil, but water, air and food. It’ll be a miserable life, no matter what happens to the economy. The expansion of the human population is the biggest waiting disaster. Nature may correct it. But when nature corrects it, it will be very cruel. If we consciously correct it now, if we make up our minds that we should be 3.5 billion instead of 10 billion in 2050, everybody can live well. This is an issue that the national leadership of various countries needs to tackle.
Sadhguru will next conduct the one-day programme “Mystic Eye — Meditation, Wisdom and Bliss” on January 12, 2014.