Questioner: Vannakam Sadhguru. I’m Katyayini. My question today is – in the world that we live in today, there exists a multitude of paths to traverse, both spiritually and religiously. For instance in Hinduism, there is both Veda and Vedanta. So I can make a conscious choice as to what I would like to take up. So, but I’m confused and as a millennial, I am I’m really doubting if a ritualistic approach is relevant today. So do you believe that rituals are still hold and are relevant today?
Sadhguru: Well, you may be a millennial, but these choices you have only in this country, you better know that. In many other countries in the world, if you say you have a choice of choosing, generally you will be dead. If you’re not dead, you will be harassed in a thousand different ways. In this country you can choose, which is wonderful because we don’t have a religious constitution which cannot be edited or amended. Here we have various books which can be amended, which can be debated, which can be, something can be done about it.
Coming to ritual, how rituals came into existence is like this. Do you brush your teeth every day in the morning? I’m just asking! You do. Eh don’t do this [shaking head sideways], this means no. Yes. So every day in the morning, you brush your teeth. Some kind of a ritual, isn’t it? In fact people say morning rituals. They’re not talking puja. They mean shit, shower and shave. So anything that you do regularly, not necessarily by choice, but you decide to do it because you have decided it’s good for me, becomes a ritual in your life.
This ritual of brushing your teeth came to you because your parents, maybe your mother insisted. When you were like this [very young], she insisted. “You must brush your teeth.” You say, “No, I want to eat”, She say, “No, no brushing no breakfast.” Are you thankful to your mother she insisted on your ritual? Yes or no? Are you not? That time you’re irritated,” I want to eat what’s the problem? Why should I brush every day?” But now you’re glad that she brought this ritual into your life. It works, isn’t it? At least for everybody else around you, it works.
So similarly, rituals came for variety of reasons. If you are able to – you said, there are multitude of spiritual paths. No, there’s only one. If you say spiritual, you have to turn inward. There are no many inwards, there’s only one. Hello? There’s only one inward. Well, you may go like this, you may go like this, you may go like this, but there’s only one inward. So when it comes to a spiritual path, there’s only one. You have to turn inward.
When it comes to religion maybe there are choices. When it comes to rituals, yes there are choices. So when people were not competent, everybody was not competent to simply sit like this and become meditative Then they taught them simple processes.
I must tell you this – many years ago some institute, these days I don’t subject myself to such indignities, because I can afford that. Many years ago, some institute who thinks they are scientific, they said they – because I was obligated to them for something, and they said, “We want to study the gamma waves in your brain.” I didn’t know I had gamma waves. I know I have a working brain, but I didn’t know I have gamma waves in my brain. They said, “No, no the gamma waves, we want to study that.” I said, okay, what should I do?
They said you sit down here and they put fourteen electrodes into me and they said, “You meditate.” I said, “I don’t know how to meditate.” They said, “Well you’re teaching everybody meditation.” I said, “I teach people meditation because they cannot sit still. I have to teach them so many methods to make them still. If you want me to sit still, I will sit absolutely still – inside out.” But you know research is funded. Scientific research is always funded, they need a name. They need the category of meditation and gamma wave, whatever nonsense. But I’m not going to give them such pleasure. I said, “If you want me to sit and do nothing, I’ll do nothing, but no meditation.”
Then after much discussion probably they found a name for ‘nothing. And they said, “Okay, you do nothing.” I sat, after about fifteen, twenty minutes – you know that funny place in your elbow, where if you do the tong it will go. They taking a metal object and tuk, tuk, tuk they hitting that place. It’s just leaving my palm numb. I thought, “Okay, it’s part of their experiment” and I simply sat there. Then they started doing my ankle, became very persistent and painful. Then I thought why are they beating me up like this? What have I done wrong?
When I opened my eyes, all of them are giving me a weird look. I said “Why, did I do something wrong?” They said, “According to our machines, you’re dead”. I said, “This is a great diagnosis you’re making”. And then they, among themselves they spoke and say, obviously this guy is speaking he is not dead. So they said, “Maybe, your brain is dead”. I said, “Please, I don’t like this second opinion”. If you give me a death certificate, I don’t mind, being dead like this. But brain dead is not good for me, it’ll affect my activity.
Why I’m telling you this is – if you could handle everything internally, no problem with you. That’s the best way to do it. Simply, this is yoga. If you know how to handle this whole machine, all levels of this machine – your body, your thought, your emotion, your energy, your life energies, everything you know how to handle from within – no ritual for you. Never in my whole life have I ever prayed, you know, but I’m prayerful to anything. If I see a mountain, if I see a rock, if I see a tree, if I see a cow, if I see a man, woman, child, I’m prayerful, but I’m not praying. I’ve never prayed to any god for anything, ever.
So, I’m not ritualistic in any sense because if I close my eyes, I can deal with everything that I need to deal with, with my life both internal and external. I want to fix this [self], I close my eyes. If I want to fix that [outside], I close my eyes. If you do enough sadhana, you can become like this. It’s not out of reach. It is available for every human being. They don’t pay enough attention that’s all.
But if you don’t know this – you want to become peaceful, you don’t know how to sit still, then what do I do? I’ll teach you one mantra. Okay, say this every day in the morning, twenty minutes you say this. Now you become peaceful, this is your ritual. If it’s working for you, what is your problem? If it’s not working, drop the damn thing, do something else. Every day in the morning, you took a swim that became your ritual. You felt wonderful. Do the damn thing. Somebody is doing yoga as a ritual. Somebody is doing puja, somebody is uttering a mantra, somebody is singing a song. If it is working for them, what the hell is anybody’s problem?
But what ritual I do, you must also do – there is no such thing. Something is working for me, I’m doing it. It’s not necessary you must do it. But if you ask me – suppose I’m somebody who’s doing every day in the morning, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya, it’s working for me. If you come and ask me I’m feeling freaked what should I do? Hey try this, Om Namah Shivaya, it’s working for me. If you like it you also do it, or you do something else. You do daam, dum, dus, pus. But the thing is, it must work for you. That’s a important thing.
So rituals were fantastic devices created with certain wisdom. Over a period of time, they might have become corrupt in practice. Over a period of time, they might have become tools for exploitation for certain people. But don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. We must be able to see what is corruption in this, eliminate the corruption and use the technique. Don’t throw away everything that the civilization has learnt in thousands of years of living and think you will reinvent the wheel tomorrow – everybody will be queuing up at a psychiatrist, just know that.
The number of people who are queuing up with mental illnesses today is simply because there is no, what we used to call as achara-vichara. There is no debate about what is this life? Why am I like this? What is the nature of my existence, no achara, no vichara and no achara, there is no anything.
See, if your mothers or fathers did not insist that you must have the ritual of brushing your teeth, what an unpleasant place this hall would be right now. Because out of your freedom, some of you would, or a whole lot of you who’d come here decide, “I will not brush. What is the problem?” No, maybe no problem for you, everybody else suffers. If you open your mouth, if you stink – not necessarily because of not brushing, just because of your culture, the way you behave, the way you speak, the way you sit, the way you stand.
If people around you suffer because of your behavior, which is happening everywhere, isn’t it so? Especially for girls, isn’t it so? If you get into a damn bus in the town – because all these things were thought as ritual, this is how you must approach. When we are growing up in our house, our sisters are there. You cannot even address them in singular. You always have to address them with a certain respect, even when they’re little girls. When you grow up with this kind of ritual, now you learn how to treat every woman on the street. Otherwise look at the way people are behaving. Most uncivilized! Uncivilized means what – the necessary rituals of culture are not there in those people, isn’t it?
So, these can be various kind of rituals – social rituals, spiritual rituals, religious rituals, it doesn’t matter. Is it working for you or not working for you? That should be the only question.