The Fire of the Adiyogi
Written 13th April 2017
What Shiva is trying to display is, every cell in the body is ecstasy. This is not sexuality, this is spirituality.
Exactly one month ago, I was watching the moon rising across Lac Leman, from the dining room of Indian Ambassador Gill’s residence, in Geneva, as we discussed yoga. I’d arrived back from the ashram only two days before, and on returning home after our dinner, I just had time to lie briefly in shavasana before packing my case again and returning to the airport for a 5am check-in, this time for Costa Rica.
Three continents in less than a week – and all for yoga. The life of an Isha Hatha Yoga teacher is never dull! Just one day after arriving back in Europe from Latin America, I was hit by a car, so finally I now have no choice but to stop a while and reflect on all that’s been happening.
Costa Rica brought lots of firsts for me, and some amazing memories. The moment after the first Angamardana class, when I’d been doing demo to Guillermo’s instructions in Spanish and someone asked me, surprised: “I heard you don’t speak Spanish?!” Yes, that’s true. Or the experience of teaching Bhakti Sadhana on a beach, just before a very beautiful sunset unfurled across the sky. Costa Rica was definitely a wonderful place to connect with both the “Ha” and the “Ta” of Hata Yoga. The cycles of the moon serve as reminders of all that has happened in the last month.
But it was a different set of planetary alignments that had taken me to India for the Yogeshwar Consecration and the unveiling of the magnificent Adiyogi statue. Sadhguru had scheduled these events to culminate in Mahashivarathri. Already a huge and popular event at the Isha Yoga Centre, this year, it drew around half a million people, including Prime Minister Modi, and close to 14,000 attended the Consecration.
Inevitably, out of such a large crowd, there are going to be plenty who know you. One of the beautiful “distractions” of these big Isha events is reuniting with people who’ve been with you in different programmes. There are 2 joys to this. One thing is that we instantly recall those moments where profound experiences were shared. That’s a blessing, the way that someone’s presence itself sparks so many memories and flashbacks, to help us be aware of who we were, who we are and who we want to become. Another thing is to witness how our “Isha family” is evolving.
The way Sadhguru has designed our sadhana, it has a physiological impact, as well as on an emotional and energy level. As we keep doing it, something about us changes. For some, it’s their body shape, for others, the way they walk. For many, the face actually takes a different shape. I’ve seen this especially clearly in the people I went to Kailash with. That and BSP have changed people so I could hardly recognise them. I would have easily believed they were their own brother, for example.
People used to say I looked just like my sister. They don’t any more, and I’m pleased. It can only mean that the genetic pull is having somewhat less of an impact on me. In the ashram this time, I met someone who I’d last seen in a sadhana programme in 2014. She said she would never have recognised me. Yes, it’s three years ago, but there were only four people in that programme! I take it as a compliment.
The number of participants at the Yogeshwar Linga Consecration made this easily the biggest residential event Isha has ever held. Sadhguru had said that he didn’t want to deny anyone this possibility of being part of it. When registration numbers kept increasing, and people thought it was getting unmanageable and wanted to close it, he said no. He wanted everyone to be included. He could have done the process without any of us, that’s for sure. It would have been far less complicated, less risky. But he knew what a life-changing experience this could be for us.
“Participating in a consecration of this nature is a tremendously powerful process. If you had to earn what is being offered here, without guidance, it would take lifetimes of heart-breaking sadhana. Here it is radiating free. If you imbibe this, you must also radiate and reverberate.”
Sadhguru had said that you never know whether the person who is first to register will be more receptive than that person who wanted to register, but just missed the deadline. The same is also true for all the ticket categories, and the respective levels of physical comfort for seating and sleeping.
Normally, only people who have already participated in a programme are volunteers for it. At this consecration, many people were both participants and volunteers, bringing a different dimension to the process.
When I was helping with registration in the days before the consecration started, I encountered all sorts of people. Some were going to be sleeping rather rough, while others, even in the most “luxurious” accommodation that could be offered them, were going to find their own experience challenging because of the contrast from their normal standards.
I registered one young man who mentioned having a stage name. He was clearly used to being recognised, and I wondered whether it was his bad luck or good fortune that to me, a foreigner, he was no-one special. Actually, I hoped that with everyone in white and mainly silent, he would not be noticed, and would be free to immerse himself in the experience he had come for.
I met one lady for whom physical difficulties seemed not to have been holding her back, but actually making her more open and receptive what was unfolding. Not for the first, time, I heard someone call out: “Nano!” It’s the name of my Yoga Facebook page. A surprising number of people had recognised me from Facebook, and thought Nano was my real name. I went over to her, and we talked for a minute about the Facebook postings. They I saw a wheelchair next to her. I asked her what had happened.
She explained that on the first day, she had slipped on the stairs, and broken her foot. Somehow, she had managed to pack her things together, and was preparing to leave, when a young anna asked her what she was doing. She explained her situation, and he replied: “The problem is only with your foot, isn’t it? Not with you?” She agreed. “Then stay. You’ve come here because you want to be here for the consecration. We can make arrangements about your foot.”
As she told me this, tears were welling up – in her eyes and in mine. She was not crying from self-pity but from gratitude that she was able to be part of the consecration! From joy, that she had been able not just to witness, but to participate in, such a significant process. It was a very humbling moment for me.
Just how the whole consecration happened, I honestly can’t say. I joined in the chanting, saw the “ingredients”, watched every step keenly, but it was way beyond what I can hope to understand. Any attempt I make to describe the process step-by-step will fall short. Nothing can convey the energy and intensity of what happened during those days.
I was glad that we were encouraged not to use our phones etc. during the process, because much as I wanted to include others in what was happening, it would have been frustratingly futile to send messages. Somehow, Sadhguru was able to integrate our energies into it all. To use our voices and energies to help breathe vibrancy and life into the linga.
I was volunteering in the hall team, so I spent a lot of time in the Adi Yogi Alayam. It was very clear how things were changing from one session to the next. I had to be there several hours before each session, to clean the hall and make other preparations, and on my way to and fro, collecting brooms and so on, I was lucky to catch a few moments close to the linga. It was clear that something was growing, which was affecting the atmosphere inside the hall. As I greeted participants entering the hall, I could also feel a different level of lightness and exuberance as the consecration progressed.
Sadhguru seemed to be pleased with our participation, and several times said that we were getting ahead of ourselves! He said at one point that he hoped we could see what was happening. He said if we were receptive enough, we would be able to experience the whole process just as he was. I was a long way from that, but there were definitely times when it felt like what was being done to the linga was actually being done to me. This was especially strong during the fire processes.
A heartless yogi
Sadhguru created the linga with 5 chakras: “Mooladhara, swadhisthana, manipuraka, vishuddi and agna – no anahata. A heartless yogi.” As he explained, where there is complete inclusiveness, there is no need for “love”. I experienced that inclusiveness very profoundly after the consecration process was over but before the linga had been moved out of the hall.
It was the end of the day, and it was mainly the hall volunteers left. There was some time where we could simply sit with the linga. I sat and it was a very blissful experience. Then the time came to open my eyes. Normally, after sitting in meditation among other people, when I open my eyes, there’s a brief moment of “coming to” again. Like waking up. Some kind of minor disturbance, as I become aware again of all the other people around me.
That time, there was none. And I realised that all those people had been part of the oneness I had felt. It’s not that I’d had to block them out to feel it. It was through them, with them and in them that it was achieved. And when I opened my eyes, the only change was they were included also in my vision.
Of the Yogeshwar Linga, Sadhguru said: “There are 2 dimensions – one is of extreme discipline. One is of absolute abandon. One brings painful precision. Another brings nameless ecstasies.”
For me, celebrating Mahashivaratri in the presence of the 112 foot Adiyogi and the Yogeshwar Linga was abandon manifest! There was hardly anyone in my bay who I knew, but that didn’t matter a jot. Simply everyone who was around me was good enough company. I didn’t feel the need to be selective: “Tonight, I want to spend my time with this person or that person.”
Next to me was a man who’d come to the ashram for the first time, from Muscat. Within a few minutes of him sitting next to me, he discovered that the woman a few seats away was also living in Muscat. Beat that for coincidence.
Behind me was a lady who I‘d met in Tennessee. As she volunteered for my BSP, I will always feel a bond of gratitude. But I didn’t know her much at all. However, when the music started, it was clear that the sense of abandon was with us both in a very strong way. We threw ourselves into the dancing, and it was wonderful to see how people responded. Even the most timid, older Indian ladies were soon joining in, and stacking the chairs to make more space.
Selfies with a Star
For the rest of my days in the ashram, I felt such a longing to be with Adiyogi and the Yogeshwar Linga that my first thought in the morning was to be with them. For a few days, I crept out quietly like a naughty schoolgirl, to do Guru Pooja alone to them. That was amazing! Then, there was a different security guard, who said I couldn’t go out of the ashram till 6am. I had to go to the collective Guru Pooja first, and then go. I found it rather endearing how the guard would look at me questioningly, and ask: “Guru Pooja?” I had to nod and point to my watch, and only then I was allowed to go. It was like it was the secret password. How funny, the man who’s there to check on security becoming the man who checks on your sadhana!
I used to love getting there early, while it was still really quiet, and simply sitting with the linga. Pouring water over it helped me to connect, but the fact that I was there during the consecration made the connection very easily accessible.
It was amazing how people were with the 112 foot Adiyogi those first few days. Everyone wanted selfies! It was really like he was a pop idol or a film star, the way people were acting. Total infatuation! Many neglected the linga entirely, because they were too busy with their cameras. I was surprised that there were no signs up asking for quiet. People were allowed to be expressive, excited, jubilant.
After some sitting, I still had sadhana to be getting on with, and I discovered that in the presence of Adiyogi, I lost any shred of shyness about doing my yoga in public. As long as I was there! Yes, I was also under the influence of his magnetism!
Making Peace with the Past
Throughout the consecration process, Sadhguru had a picture of Sadhguru Shri Brahma (his previous incarnation) next to him at the front of the hall. Apparently, there’s only one image of Sadhguru Shri Brahma, and it is very intense. Sadhguru says that in his previous life, people were terrified of him, because he seemed to be always angry. “He was not angry with anyone – he was simply ferociously intense. Sadhguru Sri Brahma was like fire – simply on.”
Sadhguru explains that he’s consciously created himself to have a different impact in this life. “This time around, our social competence has improved. I consciously civilized myself to the extent that is necessary to function in society. Today, we have social skills, which we lacked then.”
As reincarnation is not part of the culture I grew up with, and as I have no actual evidence of it, I’ve always found the concept difficult to accept. I’ve been grateful that Sadhguru never insists that we believe anything he says. He encourages us neither to believe nor to disregard things that are not true in our experience. So, this other guru, Sadhguru Shri Brahma, I’d always had some difficulties with. I’d heard he was very capable, but at the same time, I couldn’t relate to him. Actually, I’d initially had problems even accepting today’s “media-friendly” version. When I saw Sadhguru’s face on leaflets and posters on my first visit to India, I felt very wary, because he looked too intelligent and charismatic.
I admit it: Sadhguru Shri Brahma scared me. Quite apart from the stories is simply how he is in the image. Luckily for me, Sadhguru’s quite fine with us being loyal to one version. He says: ‘It is important for any disciple to see that their Guru is the best for them. Otherwise, their mind will not stay focused. Unless you think that your wife is the best person you can have in your life, you will look all over the place. Similarly, only if you see, “There is no better Guru for me,” your mind will be capable of staying with it and benefiting from it.’ I didn’t understand how the image could help Sadhguru with the consecration, but then, as that was just one of so many things I didn’t understand, I decided to leave it aside.
There were moments during last year’s Samyama programme, and again during the consecration, when I seemed to catch a brief glimpse of Sadhguru’s true capability. Now, that may sound strange, but perhaps less so in the context of him saying that he normally functions at only 3% of his full potential. Even if he only operates like that, how much of that 3% am I ready for? Unfortunately, far less.
But sometimes, for a brief moment, I glimpse more. What I can appreciate of his potential isn’t limited by his potential but by my own limitations. So, whether it’s the preparations required for some encounters with him, by the external factors, the way the situation is created, or my own willingness at that particular moment, I don’t know, but sometimes I seem to perceive just what he is capable of as a being. Both the immensity of what he’s doing in my own lifetime, in my physical presence, and the way that will resonate for lifetimes to come.
As it’s just on the boundary of my awareness, it’s not something I’m able to describe. That’s frustrating, because I want others to know it too. But that’s not going to happen just by me talking about it. By working on myself, by being the best Isha Hatha Yoga teacher I can be, and offering people tools for self-transformation, they might see it too.
What really blows me away, though, is knowing that even if I only have brief moments when I am aware of who he really is, and the magnitude of what he’s doing for human well-being on this planet, that immensity is always “on” and he puts it. That potential is always there, simply waiting for our readiness. I think that to have a brief awareness of that immensity was one of the real gifts of the consecration. He’s transformed metal into something that throbs with life, and the more we work on ourselves, the more those energy forms can offer to us.
A few days before I was due to leave the ashram, I saw an announcement that there was an opportunity to visit Sadhguru Shri Brahma’s ashram in Yedapalli. I went along, not knowing what to expect. After a beautiful drive through misty tea plantations, we arrived at a small village, and disembarked. Across a small stream, we could see – and hear – the celebrations.
Coming from a very small temple, down the hill towards us was a procession. A large photograph of Sadhguru Shri Brahma, heavily garlanded, was being carried on the shoulders of a group of men, who were chanting intensely. I had no idea what was happening. We watched as the procession came closer. As it reached us, two groups of men with drums joined, walking ahead. So, there were three different sets of music and chants happening simultaneously, and all with such fervour.
Suddenly - tears. These people had never met their guru physically, only heard about him from their forefathers. But there was such earnestness in their devotion, it was quite overwhelming. Did I feel Sadhguru’s presence then? I don’t know. Which Sadhguru, even?
There were plenty of brahmacharis from the Isha ashram among us, who’re devoting their lives to spirituality under the guidance of one guru, and these people in a far-off village dedicating themselves to a previous manifestation of the same energy.
Once again, I was in a place where logic couldn’t help me. I just gave in to the energy, and embraced the experience. It started to rain but that didn’t dampen people’s spirits one bit! I knew that there was a choice to spend some time in the small ashram, meditating, but I couldn’t leave these people. The fervour and festivity were intoxicating. Tears were still flowing down my face, and I was still utterly confused, but I needed to stay.
So, we processed round the village. People came out of their homes to bang more drums, give offerings and pay their respects to the swamis. Amongst the dancing and devotion, I made my peace with Sadhguru Shri Brahma!
“What Shiva is trying to display is, every cell in the body is ecstasy. This is not sexuality, this is spirituality. This dimension where just a look or a touch can send you to nameless ecstasies – on one level we have enshrined that dimension into the Yogeshwar Linga. There is a certain way to access this. You must come some day and find that.”