Through this book, you’ll learn the steps to rediscovering your spirituality, creating your own unique life experiences, and finding fulfilment that lasts. The key message in this book is that the path to happiness and joy lies within you. The first thing that will strike you while reading is that you are masters of your own lives and passing the blame onto somebody else would bring you no good. Happiness is not a decision, but a reality. Contentment is not a passing state of mind, but the eternal state of the real-self.
The book is divided into two parts. In part one, Sadhguru lays the conceptual foundations in five chapters. In part two, he goes into the specifics of yogic practice, suggesting various techniques of working with the body, mind, and energies. It covers everyday things from diet and sleeping habits to more enigmatic subjects such as the Chakras, Tantra, and Samadhi.
As a reader, I found eleven major ideas in the book as follows.
Idea #1: The way to a fulfilment that lasts is to look within you.
The people who you perceive to be the most traditionally successful rarely seem to find true happiness in their lives. Unfortunately, this has been a recurrent scenario in the modern world. But why is this? Because digressing from who you really are in order to succeed financially is only effective in the short run. This will never bring lasting fulfilment. Sadhguru uses an Indian story to demonstrate this.
On a certain day, a bull and a pheasant were grazing on a field. The bull was grazing and the pheasant was picking ticks off the bull – a perfect partnership. Looking at the huge tree at the edge of the field, the pheasant said, “Alas, there was a time I could fly to the topmost branch of the tree. Now I do not have enough strength in my wing to even get to the first branch.” The bull said nonchalantly, “Just eat a little bit of my dung every day, and watch what happens. Within two weeks, you’ll get to the top.” The pheasant said, “Oh come on, that’s rubbish. What kind of nonsense is that?” The bull said, “Try it and see. The whole of humanity is onto it.” Very hesitantly, the pheasant started pecking. And lo, on the very first day, he reached the first branch. Within a fortnight, he had reached the topmost branch. He sat there, just beginning to enjoy the scenery. The old farmer, rocking on his rocking chair, saw a fat old pheasant on top of the tree. He pulled out his shotgun and shot the bird off the tree. Moral of the story: bullshit may get you to the top, but it never lets you stay there!
Idea #2: Yoga as a goal in itself.
Yoga helps you maintain the highest level of enthusiasm and joy toward life. It is a mix of intellect, karma, energy, and devotion also known as “Bhakti.” By combining these factors, one may get in line for becoming truly happy, active, and persistent. Our society has consciously or unconsciously learned to attach some end goal to everything. A yogi, must, however, embrace detachment, and leave the body be. Merely the act of paying attention to the breath, going in, and out – focusing on that for a while is a joy in itself.
Idea #3: Your body, mind, emotions, and energy must be in perfect alignment to achieve enlightenment.
When it comes to individual organisms, each part of your entire being needs to work in tandem with each other part to function properly, in sort of like a team. This idea is portrayed beautifully by Sadhguru through another story.
There were once four yogis who believed firmly, one each, in the power of physical yoga, the yoga of the mind, the yoga of prayer, and the yoga of the chakras. When forced with a life or death situation, they had to unite their forces. Sadhguru suggests Yoga as a tool that can help a person achieve a connection to their higher self, bringing their body, mind, emotions, and energy in alignment.
Idea #4: You can guide your experiences in life.
Your emotions are entirely self-generated, in the same fashion that you perceive physical objects within ourselves. Here is an example for demonstration.
There are times when you absolutely love receiving hugs, and yet, there are other times when you’re deeply annoyed by physical intimacy. Another example? If somebody yells at you, you might respond with fear or anger, and these reactions are unconsciously produced by your body. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t make these reactions conscious and under your control. This just goes to show that humans create their own experiences for their lives. Sadhguru demonstrates it as follows.
The Israeli chemist, Raphael Mechoulam talked about this phenomenon in terms of the “bliss molecule”; the chemical Anandamide. It stimulates the nervous system as much as smoking marijuana does. It creates a sense of absolute pleasure with no adverse side effects. To begin producing the chemical, you only need to exercise or experience states of ease and flow while working. But for yogis, even this process is under conscious control. They’re able to produce Anandamide at their will simply through concentration.
Idea #5: Moving from a compulsive response to a conscious response.
The natural way to respond to negative experiences in life is that you tend to obsess over what happened. This tendency to dwell on traumatic events becomes compulsive over time, and people often come to identify completely with these situations. For example, after a bad breakup, one may find himself/herself incapable of trusting a new lover. You need to learn a new way to deal with such experiences, a more conscious way. This involves reflecting on these experiences and carefully learning from them.
The author gives an account of a thirteen-year-old girl and her brother, who were separated from their family by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War. When the Nazi soldiers were packing the children into a cargo train, she lost her temper and scolded her brother in harsh words for not bringing his shoes. Later, boys and girls were separated and that was the last that the brother and sister ever saw of each other. “About three and a half years later, the girl came out of the concentration camp. She discovered she was the only one alive in her family. Everyone else had vanished, including her brother. All that remained was the memory of the harsh words she had uttered the last time she had seen him alive. That was when she made a life-changing decision: ‘It doesn’t matter who I meet, I will never speak to them in a manner that I regret later because this meeting could be my last.’”
Idea #6: What you eat, you become.
There a Latin saying, “Mens sana in corpore sano” or – A healthy mind in a healthy body. Many spiritual gurus and truth seekers walked barefoot because of the connection between them and the earth that helped them to absorb the universal energies. You have to bear in mind that whatever you put into your body reflects in the quality of your life. It would be safe to say that natural ingredients and organic food determine the vitality of your system, and energise your body. You should choose a diet depending on your preferences and lifestyle because one set of ingredients is not a good fit for everybody.
Idea #7: Responsibility increases your freedom.
Responsibility, contrary to popular belief, gives you freedom. It means “the ability to respond” i.e. being able to consider your options, and then deciding to act or not act. You may not be able to fix all of the world’s problems that haunt you, but you can consciously respond to them.
“For instance, imagine you’ve just heard about a hurricane that’s happened on the opposite side of the world from you. The first responsible step would be to figure out whether you’re genuinely able to help the people affected by this tragedy. Do you have the money, the skills, the drive, or the freedom to step out of your day-to-day responsibilities to help these strangers without letting others down? If your end decision is that you wouldn’t be able to help, you’ve responded consciously, which is more effective than simply turning a blind eye to the problem.”
Idea #8: Your intellect impedes fullest life experiences.
The present reliance on science and your intellectual understanding of the universe actually tend to limit your horizon to experience it. The author uses an ancient Greek myth to explain this.
Once the philosopher Aristotle was walking on a beach and staring at the sunset when he came across a man digging a hole in the sand with a tablespoon. When Aristotle asked him what he was doing, he said: “I am emptying the ocean into this hole.” Aristotle looked at this and laughed. The man looked at Aristotle, threw the spoon down, and said, “My job is already done….I am trying to empty the ocean into this hole with a tablespoon. You are telling me it is madness. But what are you trying to do? Do you know how vast this existence is? It can contain a billion oceans like this and more, and you are trying to empty it into the small hole of your head – and with what? With tablespoons called thoughts! Please give it up. It’s utterly ridiculous.” This man turned out to be Heraclitus. You’ll only truly experience life if you finally accept that reality is much larger than you will ever be.
Idea #9: The human body is a part of the Earth and the universe.
As living beings, you are connected to incredibly powerful forces. Throughout your lifetime, you eat food that is generated from the earth and all food that you have consumed since your birth has become a part of you. This food will finally go back to the earth again. Your bodies are thus pieces of the earth itself, and what happens to the earth is bound to happen to you as well. From this analogy, the author goes on to say that all cosmic events also affect you.
To demonstrate this idea, the author uses the example of a man who had made his body so aware of transitions in the environment that he could predict when it was going to rain.
Idea #10: Travel to locations loaded with spiritual energy to kick start your spiritual journey.
Many people, even those serious about their spiritual journey, often struggle with figuring out where to start. Sadhguru suggests starting with travelling to places that are concentrated with spiritual energy. Yogis and mystics, who couldn’t get people to pay heed to their knowledge, released their spiritual knowledge and energy into remote yet accessible locations, such as mountain summits. One of these places is Mount Kailash in Tibet. Another such holy site is Kedarnath. You have to start with the belief that there is a hidden wealth of wisdom and spiritual energy on this planet waiting for you to discover it.
Idea #11: Sadhana
In part two of the book, the author suggests at least twenty four different kinds of Sadhanas or exercises (not all physical), that would help you to connect the dots between your body, mind, energy, and finally joy. You may not feel inclined to implement all of these exercises but can zero in on those you find useful and facile, or the ones you find appealing.
My favourite quotes from the book:
- “If terrible things have happened to you, you ought to have grown wise. If the worst possible events have befallen you, you should be the wisest of the lot.”
- “If you still believe that everything will be okay the moment you find a new girlfriend, get a raise, buy a new car, then it is not yet time for Yoga. Once you’ve tried all those things and more, and clearly know that none of it will ever be enough-then you are ready.”
- “To experience pain and still look beyond, it takes an enormous amount of strength, which most people do not possess.”
- “In Yoga, we transform the physical body from a series of compulsions of flesh, blood, and hormones into a conscious process, a powerful instrument of perception and knowing.”
- “Relief from something that you cannot hold within you is always the greatest pleasure.”
- “A fundamental freedom you have is to think whatever you want.”
- “Without logical thinking, you couldn’t survive on this planet. But at the same time, too much logic is suicide……… If you think a hundred percent logically, there is no reason for you to be alive!”
- “A well established human mind is referred to as a ‘Kalpavriksha’, or a wishing tree that grants any boon.”
- “Pain is a natural phenomenon, and it is good. Without it you wouldn’t know if your leg was chopped off. But suffering is another matter altogether. Pain is bad enough; why make it worse with suffering?”
- “Now today if you are doing something on a particular way and someone asks you why you can’t do it differently, you often declare, “This is my nature. Can’t I do what I want?” This is not your nature. You are not doing what you want. These tendencies have become compulsive.”
This is not, however, the kind of book that you read cover to cover in one day. It is rather one of practically exploring the ideas that multiple stories in the book convey and applying the daily techniques that would help you lead a more enriching life. So, go ahead, pick this book up, and bring a spiritual transformation in your life in the most practical ways.
Sourav Kumar Sharma