Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Musings of Guru Jaggi Vasudev

Spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev talks about the true nature of intelligence and the pitfalls of success

Published: Feb 14, 2011 06:56:29 AM IST
Updated: Oct 3, 2011 04:46:30 PM IST
Musings of Guru Jaggi Vasudev
Image: Mallikarjun Katakol for Forbes India
Jaggi Vasudev, Mystic and founder of Isha Foundation

NAME: Jaggi Vasudev
CALLING: Mystic and founder of Isha Foundation
HE SAYS: Moments of extreme logic are moments of suicide; people commit suicide in instalments. Extremely logical people can barely smile or laugh. The more logical they get, the less alive they become.

I had no idea who he was until Tuck School professor Vijay Govindarajan told me about him a few years ago. It was in the context of a learning trip to India for the executive MBA students he shepherded every winter. While explaining to me the structure of the programme, he mentioned a session the students always had with a mystic named Jaggi Vasudev. “The Guru who rides a BMW motorcycle and plays golf,” Vijay told me. Over the years, Jaggi Vasudev’s free-wheeling sessions with returning batches of hard-nosed American executives have become one of the highpoints of the learning programme.

I was intrigued when I heard of him. And I waited until one day Jaggi Vasudev came visiting as I was leaning over the hedge and wondering about the very nature of intelligence. So when he stepped in, I asked him if intelligence is necessarily a good thing.

“I think one distinction we need to make is between intelligence and just intellect,” he says. “When we say intelligence, we often are referring to intellect; to the logical dimension of the intellect. In today’s world, because of the nature of the education that most people receive, unless you are logically correct, it is not recognised as intelligence. If I say something right but logically incorrect, you will drown within yourself. If I say it a second time, you will flinch outwardly. Third time if I say it, you will want to get up and leave: Because illogic as intelligence is unacceptable today. It is because of the nature of the education that most people have received today. Logic is useful to sort material things out. As an example, if you want to know whether to enter this room through the open doorway or through the wall, you need logic. Have you heard the story of Isaac Newton and the cats?”

I am just a gardener. I have never heard that one. So he tells me the story.

“Isaac Newton had a cat,” he says. “When he used to be in the lab, the cat would go out and after he left for the day, it needed to go back in and sleep inside. So Newton cut a hole in the door. Later on, the cat had a litter of kittens. So, he made a smaller hole for the kittens to go in and out, not thinking for a moment that they could also go through the existing hole. His mind was somewhere else totally. He did not realise the illogic in his act.”
I want to know more about illogic.

“Intelligence need not be locked up in one’s logical dimension. In many ways, what is considered illogical turns out to be the smarter thing to do. We have many examples of people in the world of business who succeed because they do not heed so-called logic and go on to build super successful business models. Like Google. But when people start worshipping illogic they also go to ruin. If logic is stabilised, it can be refined. Even crude logic can be refined at different levels. So the whole spiritual process is about refining your logic. At the finest point you realise that even if you refine your logic further, it does not scale any more. At that point, you open up a different level of intelligence to seek another dimension.”

So, I ask, life is not just logic? “The life process is far larger,” he replies. “The logic of life is such that if you logically go about your life, without thinking about the beautiful things in your life and not look at the flowers in the garden, your child’s pretty face, but just get up, get ready, eat, go to work, sleep and then repeat the same routine for the next 50 years, you begin to wonder if it is worth doing.

“Moments of extreme logic are moments of suicide; people commit suicide in instalments. Extremely logical people can barely smile or laugh. The more logical they get, the less alive they become. These people, in the name of becoming logical, become torturous human beings. If they are failures, they are hugely stressed. If they are successful, their head is cracking. Successful people on this planet are actually suffering much more than people who have not succeeded in their lives. That is a misfortune because the reason every human being seeks success is for the dream of wellbeing. But when he gets there, he suffers. That doesn’t sound logical. But nobody seems to be looking at it that way; that is why I said logic has to refine itself.”

Unlike a gardener, a mystic is able to see the future. So now, I ask him to tell me about the rains; about what lies ahead for all of us.

“Years ago, power was essentially in the hands of military leadership. In the last hundred years, it has moved from military leadership to democratically elected political leadership. In the next 10 to 15 years, a significant shift will happen. Power will move into the hands of economic leaders.

“Power is a privilege that some human beings get. So when such a privilege and responsibility is placed in your hands, every action and every thought that it generates, every emotion that you can form, can touch and transform millions of lives. I think the kind of thought you generate, the action that comes out of you, has to be looked at from that perspective.”

A gardener goes nowhere but a mystic must move on. But before he leaves, I have a question for him. How, I want to know, does one build a sense of purpose?

“Transcend the limitations of your small identity. Instead, allow the humanity within you to be stirred up and flower, and you will know the purpose. The very nature of the human being is that he doesn’t like boundaries; he likes to move to a boundless state. That process can be turned on only if the humanity within you is sufficiently on.”

Subroto Bagchi is co-founder & gardener, MindTree and a best-selling author. His brief:  Every fortnight, exchange tales of the road with successful entrepreneurs

(This story appears in the 25 February, 2011 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)