No copyright violation intended. This was playing when I had a darshan of Linga Bhairavi as ardent Shiva devotees performed ‘shaashtaang namaskaaram’ (prostrations) to the deity of Union of Mother and Father – the Bhairavi Lingam. Cannot shake it off my system now…
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Didn’t really think much about Isha (Yoga) all these days or years. Decades back, the Isha Yogi Shri. Jaggi Vasudev (popularly referred to as ‘Sadhguru’) was writing a column in the Tamil weekly ‘Kumudam’ (or was it ‘Ananda Vikatan’) He wrote under the title ‘Aththanaikkum Aasai Padu’ (desire everything and anything). I regret missing reading it then deliberately. First of all the Isha Guru was not as popular then as he is now (though he had started making waves). Secondly, his grey beard and unconventional looks didn’t convince me that he was serious about what he preached. His sermon was casual style where he argued, one can be spiritual and materialistic at the same time. The same way, I have also missed the Tamil author Balakumaran. Now I learn of his genius.
Over time, Isha Yoga have spread their wings covering territories. They have planted thousands of trees and they employ rural artisans who they teach and train in various vocations. Foreigners wholeheartedly take ‘Dhiksha’ – the vow here, to become Yogis detaching themselves from material life. Not to be outdone are young and eager and highly accomplished Indian youth who give up every single pleasure conceivable in mortal life to become part of Isha Yoga. Isha, like any prospering institution or ideology, earned its fair share of critics. There were allegations that youth were getting brainwashed. My friends who have been at the center for Yoga training and meditation have always refuted this. The peace and the quiet (?!) and the Yogic nature allure some lost (or otherwise) souls to ascetic way of life for reasons known only to them. How can you mesmerize Americans and Australians and Germans and French all at the same time along with young Indian men and women.
Taking a rubber tube-tyred bullock cart ride, I struck up a conversation with an Australian couple in their fifties who said they were regulars in this part of the country every year. They seemed comfortable in Indian clothes and with Indian food and culture. Yoga and meditation lured them to India.
A mix of nationalities were meditating in varied locations in absolute silence through out the bustling center (which could be bordering on commercialization, but prevented from going that way evidently with great care). Under the trees. In the coves around Dhyana Linga, in the Chandrakund (women’s bath descending down broad stairs, with Mercury Linga at the center), in the Suryakund (stairwelled men’s bath with Mercury Lingam), lost to the outer world, existing in a transcendental hemisphere perhaps. Moving sight. Such a self-discipline is derivable only with an ‘inner calling’. Mind control is the key, for living a hermit’s life is no cake walk. There can be no hypnosis or black magic involved here. Indian youth have left their promising careers and family wealth behind seeking the ‘truth’.
Unlike Abrahamic fold, Hindu Dharma does not believe in conversion. We have no Vatican/Mecca or Bible/Koran. Hinduism or Sanathana Dharma is Free Will. Gurus preach in India foremost that attracts many foreigners. The Beatles and why even Steve Jobs have been to India on their spiritual journey. Once you skim the poverty and deterioration over centuries, you may find what you have been searching for – as these men have done.
Gurus get popular once popular personalities and celebrities start following them. Fake Gurus exist undeniably. Gurus travel overseas because their international followers want them to. With no force or brainwashing or coercion or bribing, some seekers turn to Hindu Dharma for salvation (Nirvana in Sanskrit).
Shiva, the ultimate. When Shiva is here, why do we need a Jesus.
Do Hindu Gurus champion conversion campaigns? Malign others?
What still brings many around the world to Hindu Dharma and Buddhism on their own volition.
Isha Yoga Center to me seems one such an epicenter that draws followers from every corner of the globe. Its impact on native Hindus is remarkable. It is a coincidence that the resurgence of the Hindu Conscience has to happen at the same time. I have not much listened to Sadhguru’s lectures, but he comes across as a practical guru from what little I have gathered. I have followed him once online on his Kailash Manasarovar pilgrimage across Indo-China border in the Himalayas. (Historically these regions belonged with India but China claimed them using aggression). Marvelous.
I do listen to Isha devotional in You Tube always. Nirvana Shatakam to others. Never miss their webcast of Shivrathri celebrations every February. Even Gurus have to evolve with changing times! I don’t find anything wrong with the Dancing Guru. The mysteries surrounding his personal life are immaterial to me. ‘Nadhi moolam, Rishi moolam’ – ignore! Wise counsel of our ancestors.
Isha Yoga center however has been in the eye of controversy for one more reason: for coming up in the Elephant corridor – in the elephant country where the elephants would climb down from the Nilgiris (the Blue Mountains (whose queen is the hill station Ooty), cross the valley and head to Kerala or wherever. I realized this immediately on setting my foot at Isha. It is impossible to miss. Despite all, my heart ached. ‘Isha is the elephant, is it not? Or rather the elephant is Isha?’ I asked aloud no one in particular. Why should it have to be here. Thousands of tree plantations seemed poor deal to me.
Shirking the painful thoughts, I focused on the huge monolith in front of me. The smiling Shiva in polished granite, with His chin tilted up, with His eyes half closed as if in trance, with the moon in His braids, with the snake around His neck. I clicked as many pictures of Him in all angles possible but nothing could capture Him in entirety I know. I made Him my screensaver with immediate effect. Ever since, I cannot put Him out of my mind. The profound impression He has made in my heart will be there forever in my life. The rugged tribal who descended from the Tibetan Himalaya is our Father. The Adi Yogi, the first Yogi in world history who gave India/Hindus the Yoga. Yoga is now universal gift. A gift that can never be matched or compared with any other. A gift like none other. The Adiyogi who dwelt in the cremation grounds, smeared in ash, anointing Himself with ash. A sect of His followers the nude ‘Aghoris’ even today feed on corpses and live life the way He did in cremation/burial sites. Never feeding on another life. Even vegetarians feed on living and breathing trees and plants destroying future offsprings before they are born.
Today happens to be Aarudhra when we celebrate the Dancing form of Lord Shiva – the Nataraja. Shiva’s cosmic dance has stopped the world scientists in their tracks that they have Him installed at CERNE, Switzerland. None has made the connection yet, but the scientific community now suspects of one between Lord Shiva and the creation of Earth. The You Tube is full of stories claiming Shiva is the extraterrestrial who brought life to our planet. To average Hindu, nothing matters. Shiva is our forefather. Father. Shakthi, our Mother.
I have had darshan of Lord Shiva (in the form of Shiva Linga) in hundreds of temples in India and abroad. Lately, in Bali – in caves. Thousands of years of Shiva worship preceded Christianity or Islam. In Isha Yoga, I didn’t find my spirituality rekindled. To me, it was more cosmetic. May be it appealed to others, but not to me. However, the Adiyogi in my mind lingers day and night, refusing to go away.
I forgot the elephant corridor. Hopefully the Indian elephant herds will find a way around. Shiva will find one. The center has refused via legal channels that the Yoga ashram has cut across elephant country. Hopefully this is true. Even if not, the Adiyogi has made it worthwhile.
If anyone is hypnotized or mesmerized or brainwashed, the only one doing it to him/her could be Adiyogi Himself. A lone Mumbai backpacker clicked some pictures for me. In his 30s, he couldn’t pull himself away from Adiyogi. Must be climbing up the corporate ladder – from what I could size up of him.
Shiva will be there for India to eternity. This is His home. He will take care, I breathed in peace.
PS: Wanted to include my friends’ opinion on Isha. They allege that the Christian ‘Karunya’ group of institutions have amassed landed estates (that were primarily agricultural and forest areas) in and around Coimbatore by whatever means but media make no mention of the same. Isha cornered as they are Hindu.
Spending a night in a Siruvani resort, taking a walk along the edges of forest reserve areas bordering cultivated farms and banana plantations, I couldn’t help noticing dried elephant dung heaps that were only two days old. The agricultural lands and estates were off limits to elephant herds, surrounded by electrified fences. Images of India’s wild elephants getting electrocuted, denied their passage flashed in my mind. Man-elephant conflicts are increasingly getting frequent, with bulls raiding villages and barns, routing, trampling over plantations. Troubling images. I knew I was walking down the elephant corridor in elephant country and anytime I could come face to face with a wild tusker. Strangely for a very first time ever, I feared for the life of the gentle giant over mine.