Adventure Leads to Yoga
Around the age of thirteen, Sadhguru came across Raghavendra Swami, a yogi popularly known as Malladihalli Swami. He caught Sadhguru’s attention because he was faster and more agile than Sadhguru was, despite being over eighty years old!
Sadhguru: When I was very young, he used to come to my grandfather’s place. I was just twelve or thirteen years old and he was about eighty-one. At the time, I was made in such a way that I could climb anything. In the house where my grandfather lived in the village, there were wells in the backyard which were just six or seven feet in diameter and about 120 to 130 feet deep.The water would be sixty feet below the surface. One of the sports among us boys was to jump into this well and climb back up. If you made one mistake, you would hit the rock walls and that would be the end of you. None of the kids could climb as fast as me but then one day, this eighty-one-year-old man came and did it faster than me. When I wanted to know how, he said “Come and do yoga with me.” That is what set me off initially to go to him and learn some simple yogic practices.
Sadhguru: When I was young, I spent lots of time by myself in nature. When I was young, from the age of about eleven, if I found a few rupees lying around at home, I would buy myself two or three loaves of bread, a few boiled eggs, leave a note at home with the day of my return, and disappear into the forest. I walked around, slept on the trees, caught myself a bag full of snakes and three or three-and-a-half days later when the food ran out, I always came back. The first few times I did this, there was a whole lot of excitement all over the town, a police complaint had been given and they were searching all over the place. After about two or three occasions like this, my parents sort of settled because wherever I went, anyway I came back.
I just walked alone day and night in the forest in total pitch darkness.
I neither had a torch nor anything. I just walked through the forest and learned to live simply. By the time I came out after the third day, with no change of clothes, I would be all mud! This continued even in my youth. Whenever I got a chance, I just got lost in the forest and walked and walked and slept in the trees.
Sadhguru’s adventures continued as he grew older and bought his motorcycle. During one such jungle foray, he came across Swami Nirmalananda, who, Sadhguru says, “knew that I am a yogi before I knew myself.”
Sadhguru: Swami Nirmalanda lived in the Biligiri Ranganabetta hills in Karnataka. He was very closely associated with me for a long time – he knew that I am a yogi before I knew myself. He lived in silence for fourteen years in a four-acre ashram he never stepped out of. A sort of relationship developed between us – not for any spiritual reasons – somehow we warmed up to each other a little bit.
I had heard that there was one little ashram so I decide to go there.
When I was nineteen or twenty, I spent a lot of time trekking in the mountains. I would park my motorcycle in the jungle and go into the forest for about six or seven days. These were the days of adventure and whenever I felt like it, I just went away into the forest without even an extra pair of clothes.
On one particular occasion, I had a really wonderful time and some really close encounters with elephants.This region was full of wildlife at the time. Particularly, I had to stay up a tree for almost 24 hours because a bear was interested in me! I had run out of food within three or four days, which was quite usual. I would actually carry food for seven days but it would always be over in three days, and carrying more than that was too much of a burden. So, I spent another two-and-half days in the jungle without eating anything proper, and I got extremely hungry. It was the monsoon season and was raining. I had slept in the jungle and ended up being covered in slush from head to toe.
I had heard that there was one little ashram so I decide to go there. It was a small space and there were about fifteen steps leading up to a small cottage. I just rode up the steps and went and leaned my motorcycle on the wall. This man who must have been around fifty-five years of age came out wearing the kind of clothing which in India indicates that he is a spiritual person. He looked at me and grinned with one big smile on his face. I said, “I need some food.” He looked at me and tears started flowing from his eyes. He came and touched my muddy boots and held my feet. That sort of threw me off because in my whole life I had never bowed down to anyone – not even in a temple. But this man actually held my boots even when I was in a filthy condition. It threw me off for a couple of minutes and then I recovered and said, “I need food and I am willing to pay.” I always had a small cellophane cover with a little bit of money rolled in and stuck somewhere in my trousers for emergencies.
All he had was some honey and bread. He baked some fresh bread for me and gave me honey which I gobbled up. When the food was done, I wanted to pay him some money but he wouldn’t take it. So, a kind of relationship started. Every few months when I went to those mountains I made sure to take a bunch of bananas or some other fruit which I kept for him. He always made sure to give me four or five liters of honey which the tribals would give him.
Every few months when I went to those mountains I made sure to take a bunch of bananas or some other fruit which I kept for him. He always made sure to give me four or five liters of honey which the tribals would give him.
After sometime, many things happened to me and I completely forgot about this man. I started teaching and traveling big time. Many years later, it must have been almost fourteen or fifteen years later and by then my appearance had completely changed, I went to his ashram with Vijji, my wife, and my daughter Radhe. We sat down and he welcomed us. He was not talking. He was still in silence. He didn’t recognize me initially because I had completely changed. Then I smiled and said, “Don’t you recognize me?” He looked at me carefully and said, “Vroom! Vroom!” I said, “Yeah.” He hadn’t forgotten that I would ride up his ashram steps. After that, a different kind of relationship began between us.
He decided to shed his body in the month of January in ’96, and announced that he would attain Mahasamadhi.
When he was seventy-three years of age, he decided he wanted to leave his body. He wrote to me and said, “Please come. I want to talk to you.” I went and we started talking about things, he started writing questions and I was speaking to him. This is the kind of talk that never happens. No one ever asks such questions nor does such talk ever happen. He was a very gentle saint, a beautiful man but he did not know the tricks of the body, so he was talking to me about that. Vijji’s sadhana started on that day when she heard all this.
He decided to shed his body in the month of January in ’96, and announced that he would attain Mahasamadhi. But there was a big ruckus all around. The rationalist society of Karnataka filed a case against him saying that this man is going to commit suicide, so they put two constables in the ashram.
When I went there, he hugged me and cried, “I have not even plucked a flower from a tree. Even for my pooja I don’t pluck a flower, and they have put police in my ashram.” Just the insult of that hurt him so much. Not once did he even pluck a fruit. He didn’t want to hurt the trees. Only if they fell down he ate them. Otherwise he wouldn’t touch them. I told him, “Don’t worry. What are the police going to do to you?” When the time to leave came for him, he sat outside on a small deck. About forty people were sitting in his ashram including the two constables. He sat in front of them and just left his body.
Sadhguru: To simply live here goal-less is what a spiritual process is about. That does not mean being lethargic and lax. A spiritual process means to live in intense involvement with what is there right now but with no goal. If you have the courage to sit here in such a way – “Wherever the hell it goes tomorrow is fine with me, but right now I will do my best in whatever I am doing,” you will naturally be spiritual.
A few years ago, I met a small group of adventurers who have climbed some of the highest mountain peaks in the world. They walked across the North Pole, and they spent over three months in winter in the Andes climbing to twenty-two thousand feet above sea level. They want to be in a place where they don’t know what is coming the next moment. They had come to meet me and one of our volunteers was talking to them about the Inner Engineering program. I just looked at these people and saw that I don’t have to waste three days with them. I told them to just sit with me and close their eyes and that’s it. Everything just happened without uttering a word.
They never thought of spirituality in their life, they only want adventure – they want to live in a way where they don’t know what the next moment will bring.
I didn’t have to teach them anything, I just had to ignite them because they were well prepared. Their bodies were good and healthy, and the mind was open and ready for anything. That’s all it takes.