Kozhikode: Had it not been for the venue, the people involved in it and, above all, the kind of audience who witnessed it, the entire conversation would have remained nearly an impossibility.
The 40-minute conversation between spiritual guru and bestseller author Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and journalist Sashi Kumar, as part of the ongoing Kerala Literature Festival, made the event an open space for free and fearless interaction.
The conversation, with actress Manju Warrier on stage, had the tone of a heated, yet healthy, argument and often split the audience in two as it touched on burning topics such as religion, new-age gurus and politics infected with religion. The dialogue remained a debate throughout as participants evidently stood light years away from one another in terms of their ideological, personal and political convictions.
Kumar, a Leftist thinker, apparently wanted to provoke the guru with repeated queries and observations about the dangers of the new-age gurus who leave the masses or at least their followers confused.
Looking annoyed by the repeated reference to godmen in the present times, the guru asked, "Who calls oneself a godman, nobody does it."
Kumar directly placed the blame on the Sadhguru citing instances narrated in one of his books.
"You say you created vibrations in one temple in the US, created powers there and made it godly. By the end of the book, you talk like a magician. Of course you don't use the word god but that seems to be more dangerous to me."
The spiritual master retorted to this saying his opponent needed better education of his English as he was "making up things".
The guru's call for limits to logic and science (to understand the world better) were also questioned. "Towards the end of the book you talk about a blind leap of faith," Kumar said.
This time, the guru, who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan last month, said, "Any person who thinks that things he cannot understand don't exist is wearing a crown of ignorance." Kumar continued to criticize the rising trends in political system of the country, saying "Dominance of religion in public spheres is creating more divisions."
The dialog took on explicit political overtones as the guru said he understood that Kumar's concern was the present BJP government at the Center, and the latter admitted it as one of his worries. The guru then made his stance clear that protests against election results, be it in India or in the US, was not a good trend and will lead to disruption of democracy.
"Here (in Kerala) is a communist government and I bow down to it, there is a BJP government in the Center, I bow down to it, there is another type of government in Tamil Nadu and I bow down to it," he said. He criticized those who took to the streets protesting US president Trump's policies saying such agitations will lead to bloodshed.
"If we destroy the (democratic) system, what we get will be much worse than this," he said. Criticizing the guru for supporting the mass movement against ban on jallikattu in Tamil Nadu on the one hand and flaying those protesting against Trump's stances on the other hand, Kumar said he was mistaking majoritarianism/populism for democracy. He stressed the need for listening to the minorities' opinion in a democracy.
The conversation moved to its conclusion by both the participants sharing their views on the idea of seeking (truth). While the guru elaborated on the idea of seeking which is a spiritual quest to know the truth, the journalist-filmmaker tried to detach the idea of seeking from spiritual and mystical grounds saying even poets, writers and scientists were seekers whose search does not end in one lifetime.
Kumar said he was happy to have had the interaction because in the present times "the moment you say anything critical about religion, you are asked to go to some other country." He was referring to several instances when BJP/RSS leaders asked dissenting artists/writers or political rivals to go to Pakistan.
Three decades ago, Sadhguru founded Isha Foundation: a non-profit human-service organization, supported by over seven million volunteers in over 250 centers worldwide.
The second session of the conversation with the guru was led by Malayalam actor Manju Warrier. The guru gave impressive answers to Manju's questions on topics such as love, desire and the guru's passion for bike riding and prowess in linguistic skills.