Sadhguru critique

I was reading up on this guy as I’m currently living with somebody who has recently converted to basically worshipping him (literally: they have a shrine with his picture in front of which they meditate for several hours each day) and doting on his every word, and I wanted to educate myself on what he’d done or what he stood for. Looking at a few youtube videos it all seems pretty bland and unimpressive, apart from the beard of course, cobbled together from basic yoga/meditation traditions, new age psychobabble and corporate-friendly self-help to be contented in your role within the human zoo and with the general death urge of modern capitalism. Do a search for ‘sadhguru’ on youtube and dozens of them show up.

Anyway the reason I’m mentioning it here is because I saw he’d just started a motorcycle tour of ‘spiritual’ America in which he makes a series of massive sweeping generalisations about native american culture and spirituality, apparently informed by little more than a few things he has read off placards and what he himself has intuited from the landscape. Some examples:

My favourite parts where his thoughts about it being such a wide, open landscape and how that influenced their thinking, how one tribe starving another shows we should all stop being ‘cruel’ to one another and see ourselves as ‘one humanity’, and how native american women were strong because they could give birth quietly when white soldiers were around.

This seems par for the course for his arrogance and fake authoritative declamatory style. He apparently doesn’t speak of gurus he himself has learned from, said this of learning Sanskrit:

Even though I have a deep appreciation of Sanskrit, I never bothered to learn it because my own vision had never failed me and I did not want to read ancient texts written in Sanskrit and clutter myself with all that traditional whatever. - (cited in a critical essay in Gurus of Modern Yoga)

and generally appears to be driving a cult centered on his own personality and supposed great originality and spiritual insight. He seems to have found some Native American leaders to lend their support and kind words, however I wonder if the support is unanimous considering he built an Isha center on the trail of tears, I’m going to guess without permission from or any serious involvement with the native people:

In many ways, I was drawn to this place not for its beauty, but more for its pain. About fifteen years ago, I was close by, at the Center Hill Lake, and I happened to encounter a very painful situation. A frozen spirit, bleeding with pain. The encounter with this being was probably one of the most painful moments in my life. It was then that I started noticing such a deep sense of pain in many parts of this land. Whether we are conscious of it or not, it will play out in human lives. If a rock can suffer, a human being will definitely not be spared; untold suffering will simply happen without any obvious reason.

Something that you cannot understand, something that you cannot grasp, something that you cannot contain within yourself must happen to you.

Much later, I came to know that this area is known as the Trail of Tears, where immense suffering and pain happened to Native Americans. These people are as much a part of the earth as the trees, and because of their nature, their pain does not float in the air – it sticks to the earth. We have witnessed this in many places. One way or the other, those who are in tune with what is around them, particularly the land, will leave imprints – whether it is their joy or their misery. The people who walked this land were not people who wanted to go to another planet. They knew they had come from the earth, and their entire process was about how to deeply connect with it. That is their knowing, that is their wisdom, and that is their life. So when they suffered, they left pools of pain all over the place.

Those of you who came during the first couple of years when we moved here could feel the brooding sense of pain all the time. Now, it has largely been cleared, and in many ways, this consecration will be the final step of clearing this up – not just for our property, it will generally do that in the region. This is not about some kind of special interest I have in Warren County – it is just that pain is good manure if you know how to use it. Where there is good manure, there will be good flower and fruit. Many things are bound to happen in the coming years – with us and beyond us. (link)

How good of him to impose a spiritual tradition from halfway across the world on a place still suffering from the last time people tried to … impose their own traditions from halfway across the world!

By the way his domestic politics stink too, praising Indian armed forces, building a massive statue without proper permission, planting loads of trees while ignoring environmental assessments of those in the know, supporting Modi’s racist census, responding to a police crackdown that killed 12 people protesting against a copper mine by blaming the victims because ‘Lynching large businesses is economic suicide’ and ‘India has immense use for copper’ along with the usual barrage of faux-scientific claims and generally preying on the gullible and easily-led to enrich himself…

I guess this has been a bit of a rant! I would, however, be interested to hear of any critique centering on the US Isha center, from a native or other perspective, or if anybody would like to join in and have a go at phoney new age gurus and their expansionist ambitions more generally that might be fun :wink:


A simplified iterative explanation of where a guru might fit in could be;
shamans and priests replaced by philosophy which is replaced by psychology which is replaced by neuro-psychology which is nullified by transhumanism/gene editing/singularity.
I like the idea of finding help to develop a coherent Weltanschauung --but at this point it is probably safest to look to nature for all answers of import instead of a guru.

Agreed, though not sure what you’re meaning by ‘fit in’. A spiritual leader might be able to help along the rewilding process, but most seem very happy carving out their niche in the capitalist system promoting practices that do little or nothing to threaten the status quo. Indeed, some practices might help adherents adapt to the toxic modern environment, thus helping perpetuate it or make space for it to get even worse.

Another jaw-dropping moment in this interview with the native guy from the Black Eyed Peas:

We have to arrive at some common thing because cultivating and retaining 500 ways in today’s world is going to be extremely difficult. Five ways, at least we can do, maybe three ways we can do, one way would be easy, but maybe it’s not acceptable to everybody. But we must, the community should arrive at some kind of thing, that some common practices can be merged together and all native american children are learning those aspects, maybe a few aspects of their specific tribe, but the larger aspect of the indigenous people must become common. […] Today it is all about branding … I don’t think native american people, their products, their language, their clothing, has been branded properly. I think it needs branding.

He puts all sorts of disclaimers about it being controversial, or maybe it’s not for him to say (ya think??), or that he understands why people would want to hold on to aspects of their culture, but that doesn’t stop him putting forward a program basically of ethnic cleansing … as a marketing exercise! Unbelievable, the nerve of this guy after spending five minutes in the US and talking to a few native people feels entitled to lecture them on how they should present themselves for consumption by the global capitalist system. Black eyed peas guy introduced the notion of cultural appropriation and the need for sensitivity and permission when using tribal artefacts, but he still somehow viewed this cretin as some kind noble visionary with opinions worth listening to. In fact he’s just another grubby salesman who doesn’t care how may thousand-year-old traditions he bastardises or smashes to bits in the quest to sell his product. Look how generously he offers access to his ‘inner engineering’ online course to this young recovering alcoholic and all native americans ‘at a very very low price, in terms of just covering costs for ourselves’:

Aw bless, he just wants to help them. Puke…