Sadhguru and the Morality Debate
Here is a recent article in Scroll: https://scroll.in/article/848936/why-jaggi-vasudev-is-wrong-to-say-that-indian-culture-lacks-a-sense-of-morality
Sadhguru has always maintained the balance towards living consciously than by moral standards. Consciousness is a much better way of living than going by what is considered as moral by a society as it is very transient. Our moral standards have changed so much in the recent past. What was considered moral and good for society 500 years back, like killing an elephant or a tiger to save someone, is a crime in today’s Indian society!
So, I was interested in seeing why the author was claiming that Sadhguru’s view is wrong. It is a good article but has some fundamental flaws in its arguments. This is an attempt to point out a few.
#1: Hindu is not Indian
The author is coming from a premise that Indian does not necessarily mean Hindu. Indian is a superset compared to Hindu and encompasses Buddhism and Jainism as well as quoted by the author. This is evident from multiple statements made by the author.
“His mistake is the common one of conflating Hindu thought with Indian thought.”
“As I have indicated, Hinduism is not congruent with India, and Hindu thought not the same as Indian culture.”
However, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is coming from the premise that anything that has originated in India is Hindu and he is talking about the Sanatana Dharma that predates even Buddhism and Jainism.
In the Sanatana Dharma, there is no place for morality and rather the emphasis is on conscious living which is precisely what Sadhguru ji is talking about.
So, these two views are diametrically opposite and at best debatable but one cannot call the other wrong completely. Once we take this premise out, everything else if flaky at best.
#2: Mindfulness is Buddhist
“The vogue for mindfulness currently sweeping the globe, which is the largest example of a movement that privileges self-awareness over moral considerations, originated in Buddhist practices.”
While there is no question that mindfulness was made popular by the Buddha, the above sentence is simply incorrect because the original mindfulness concept originated in the Indian Yogic practices which predate Buddhist ideas and practices by several centuries.
#3: Hindu means regressive
I would like to counter Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s arguments from this point of view. As an example, our immediate next generation will also point out something as regressive from what we practice. That does not make that practice evil itself. But it can take that connotation over time.
So, technically one can argue that social evils plague every generation that has come before us and will continue after us. That has no direct correlation with how the society’s self-consciousness levels are.
Even when Krishna was around (if one considers him as just a historic personality), there were people around who did dumb things. The same happened for Gautama the Buddha and the same happened for Jesus as well. That does not mean that the ideal a society strives towards should change drastically. That ideal is the beacon towards which a society should continue to move towards, shedding whatever is unnecessary.
There is always a tipping point in such social issues, at which time one practice gets routed out completely as evil by the society itself and something else replaces it. This is just a cycle and that is precisely indicated in the Sanatana Dharma as ‘Kala Chakra’. Many misinterpret it merely as cyclical nature of time not understanding its direct connotation of social practices and events. These two are inseparable and have to be considered in one breath.
#4: Hindu promotes Caste
Coming to the caste discrimination point, the author is very wrong in his thoughts here. This is his statement:
“Not only can Hindu thought not question caste discrimination, it is constituted in its essence by caste discrimination”
Caste is a loose terminology introduced by the westerners. Sanatana dharma promoted only the Varna system which directly implies only division of labour in the society. The original Varna system was very flexible and it clearly says, even in the Mahabharata, that one does not belong to a Varna by birth but by their actions.
If one is aware of the Hindu historical documents or even the mythological texts, at various points of time, when one varna came to dominance subjugating the others, from within the Hindu society the adjustments happened to correct that process. This is a tenet unique to the Hindu thought.
Parashurama taking the bite out of Kshatriya Varna to re-establish the Dharma is a classic example. Rama tried to establish the ideal Rajya (loosely translated as kingdom or system) where all the Varnas are given equal opportunities. Yudhishthira and Krishna’s attempts were also towards the same. If one wants to look at recent examples, Adi Shankara (Brahmana Varna) led with example by falling at the feet of a Chandala (Sudra Varna) and showing everyone that no Varna is superior to the other.
I would like to quote the example of recent Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Mutth who was predominantly jailed because he tried to erase the “dalit-upper caste” boundaries. Such recent attempts have not been that successful because of various political and counter-religious situations. But that does not mean the Hindu / Indian thought does not have self-correcting measures.
If I have to try and quote examples from the other religious practices, Christians and Muslims are staunch believers of their holy books and cannot stand correcting even one sentence in them. Comparatively, only the Hindu thought has the guts and courage to not only question outdated practices but correct them as required. It has taken several centuries for the Church to even come out in the open and say sorry for the atrocities committed towards Galileo!
#5: A Guru tells you what is right and wrong
This is the precise statement by the author: “A side effect of the contextual nature of truth in Hinduism is the demand for gurus”
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what one seeks a Guru for. It is coming from a more abrahamic understanding, a version of the priest who guides the sheep as to what is right and what is wrong.
A Guru is not to point out what is right for me and what is right for you. If I have to quote Sadhguru himself on this, “Guru is one who dispels the darkness within you” or in other words, he just shows you the path towards consciousness and when the light of consciousness dawns within you, you automatically see what is right for the context and act accordingly.
What Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has said about Morality is probably taken out of context and interpreted by the author. This is a verbatim reproduction of Sadhguru’s statements:
Modern science has proved to us beyond a doubt that everything in the existence is one energy, manifesting itself in millions of forms. Or in other words you and I are the same energy. Suppose for one moment, you actually experienced within yourself that all the people around you are actually a part of you. Not in thought, but an actual experience, just like you experience the ten fingers of your hands. If this happens, do I need to teach you morality and ethics? Do I need to tell you not to harm this person, not to kill this person, or not to rob that person? No.
Yoga is just that. The word yoga comes from the word union. Where you see everything as one in your experience. The whole process of yoga is to evolve beyond the sense perception, so that you can experience the existence as one. If you experienced all people as a part of you, no one would have to teach you ethics. You would joyfully go and do what is needed.
Here, it is very clear that Sadhguru is asking people to go beyond temporary social constructs like morality and strive to live consciously doing what is good and needed for the world around us.
Someone wise told me ‘Morality is social whereas Consciousness is individual’. That is a huge and such a fundamental difference which the author has perhaps confused as to be treated in a similar manner.
So, overall my take on the article is that it points out a different perspective but fails to put a punch in its arguments to prove Sadhguru wrong because they do not stand on a firm ground.
Today, we take rather polarised stands identifying ourselves as leftists or right wingers with no platform for a healthy debate. In fact, most people cannot stand another from the opposite faction. This is a very westernised thought whereas the original Hindu thought is extremely progressive in this regards.
When Adi Shankara wanted to highlight Sanatana Dharma to people who were mass converting to Jainism and Buddhism, he went about debating with such converting masters of other thoughts. He did not go and kill them. Many such masters of the other thoughts in fact became his disciples. Such is the shining power of Indian thought, the eternal Dharma (i.e.) Sanatana Dharma. This is the ideal guide that the world needs today. Hope the author of that SCROLL article gets to read this.