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Jaggi Vasudev

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Jaggi Vasudev
Sadhguru - February 2019 - 2 (cropped).jpg
Sadhguru in 2019
Born (1957-09-03) 3 September 1957 (age 63)
OrganizationIsha Foundation
Notable work
  • Inner Engineering
  • Dhyanalinga
  • Rally for Rivers
  • Linga Bhairavi
  • Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga
  • Mystic's Musings
  • Kaveri Calling
Vijaya Kumari
(m. 1984; death 1997)
HonorsPadma Vibhushan
Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar

Jaggi Vasudev (born 3 September 1957),[2] known publicly as Sadhguru,[2][a] is an Indian yogi and author.[6][7][8]

Vasudev earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Mysore and has been teaching yoga in southern India since 1982. In 1992, he established Isha Foundation near Coimbatore, which runs an ashram, hosts a yoga centre, and has been involved in various activities in spirituality, education, and the environment.

Vasudev is the author of several books, including Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy (2016). As a public speaker he has spoken at the United Nation's Millennium World Peace Summit, the British parliament's House of Lords, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the International Institute for Management Development. He has also spoken at the annual World Economic Forum in 2007, 2017 and 2020.

In 2017, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, by the Government of India for his services in social services.


Early life and education

Jaggi Vasudev was born on 3 September 1957 in Mysore, Karnataka, India to a Telugu speaking family.[9] He was the youngest of four children – two boys and two girls. His mother was a housewife and his father an ophthalmologist with Indian Railways.[10] Due to the nature of his father's job, the family moved frequently.[11]

After his schooling at Demonstration School, Mysore and Mahajana Pre-University College, Vasudev graduated from the University of Mysore with a bachelor's degree in English, despite a spotty attendance record and an irreverent attitude to tuition.[12] Defying his parents’ wishes, he refused to pursue a post-graduate course and took to business instead.[13]


Aged thirteen, Vasudev took yoga lessons from Malladihalli Raghavendra, and kept practicing asanas and pranayama[14] daily throughout his youth, albeit without spiritual aspirations.[15] At the age of 25, on 23 September 1982, he went up Chamundi Hill and sat on a rock, where he had a 'spiritual experience'.[13] Six weeks afterwards, he left his business to his friend and travelled extensively in an effort to gain insight into his mystical experience.[13] After about a year of meditation and travel, he decided to teach yoga to share his inner experience.[13]

In 1983, he taught his first yoga class with seven participants in Mysore. Over time, he began conducting yoga classes across Karnataka and Hyderabad travelling on his motorcycle, subsisting on the produce of his poultry farm rental and donating the collections received from his students to a local charity on the last day of the class.[13]


Jaggi Vasudev, with wife Vijaya Kumari (left)
Jaggi Vasudev at Davos, Switzerland in 2007

Jaggi Vasudev was married to Vijaya Kumari, known by her nickname Vijji. This was Kumari's second marriage. Prior to marrying Vasudev she worked in a bank, a position she retained until early 1996.[16] The couple had a daughter named Radhe. Kumari died on 23 December 1997. At that time her father alleged that Vasudev had murdered her; Vasudev asserted that she had attained mahasamadhi and claimed she had told him about it nine months before her death.[17][18] An FIR was filed against Vasudev but the police eventually closed the investigation due to lack of evidence.[17]

Vasudev's daughter Radhe Jaggi, born 1990,[19] is a trained bharatanatyam dancer.[20] She married Chennai-based classical vocalist Sandeep Narayan in 2014.[21]

Books and public engagement

Jaggi Vasudev is the author of several books. His Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy[22] made The New York Times Best Seller list in several categories.[23][24][25] Vasudev is also the author of Mystic's Musings[26] and Death: An Inside Story.[27][28]

Vasudev is a frequent public speaker who has been invited to address many prestigious forums and conferences across the globe, such as the United Nation's Millennium World Peace Summit, the House of Lords, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the International Institute for Management Development.[29] He has also spoken at the annual World Economic Forum in 2007,[30] 2017 and 2020.[31][32]


Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan to Vasudev at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on 13 April 2017

Vasudev received the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award from the Government of India in 2017 in recognition of his contribution to the field of spirituality.[33][34] He stood 92nd in The Indian Express' list of 100 most powerful Indians, in 2012 and stood 40th in India Today's list of 50 most powerful Indians, in 2019.[35][36]

Isha Foundation

Located on the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains, forty kilometres from the city of Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India,[37] Isha Foundation was established as a non-profit organisation by Jaggi Vasudev in 1992.[7] Its social initiatives have been awarded with the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar.[38]

Yoga programmes

Jaggi Vasudev conducting the Inner Engineering Program at the Bombay Stock Exchange

After the establishment of the ashram, Vasudev began conducting yoga programmes on the premises of the newly established Isha Yoga Centre in 1994, including a course for the Indian Hockey team in 1996.[39][40] In 1997, he began conducting classes in the United States[41][42] and from 1998 onwards, for life-term prisoners in Tamil Nadu prisons.[43][44]

The flagship program is titled 'Inner Engineering', which introduces people to simple Yoga practices and the Shambhavi Mahamudra;[45] corporate leadership forms a core audience of these programs.[46] It views depression as the result of a false widespread belief about an ability to change the world according to one's desires, and offers to teach the technology of mental well-being, to help one acclimatise with unavoidable work rigors.[47] Vasudev has frequently cited a study by the University of California which supposedly found mahamudra to lead to highly elevated levels (221%) of neuronal regeneration in the brain; it has since been noted that the study appeared in a fringe journal published by a discredited alternative medicine advocate and his allies, and that it merely reports lower levels of subjective stress from a medium-sized uncontrolled group practising yoga daily for six weeks.[48][49]

The Dhyanalinga

The Dhyanalinga (composed of the terms dhyāna and linga) is a consecrated sculptural stone structure standing 4.3 metres (13 feet 9 inches) tall.[50] Its creation and consecration, according to Vasudev, was his life's mission entrusted to him by his guru, Palani Swami.[13] In 1998, the structure of the Dhyanalinga was ordered and arrived at the ashram, where the Dhyanalinga Yogic Temple was being built to hold it.[51] After three years of work, the temple was completed on 23 June 1999[52] and opened to the public on 23 November.[53]

The Dhyanalinga Yogic Temple is a meditative space which is not dedicated to any particular faith or belief system,[54] and is open to all visitors irrespective of their religion or nationality.[55] A stone pillar named the Sarva Dharma stambha, located at the temple's front entrance, features symbols of several religions to indicate the venue's universality.[56][57]

Adiyogi Shiva statue

Designed by Vasudev, the foundation built a 34-metre-tall (112 ft) and 500-tonne (490-long-ton; 550-short-ton) Shiva statue for inspiring and promoting yoga. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi[58] and has been since recognised as the "Largest Bust Sculpture" by Guinness World Records.[59] It is a part of the Incredible India campaign.[60]

The Tamil Nadu government has since claimed the entire construction as illegal, for which no approval was granted;[61] Comptroller and Auditor General's report further states the construction to have flagrantly violated the rules of biodiversity zones.[62][63][64]


Vasudev regularly conducts gatherings (mahasathsangs) in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.[65] He also takes spiritual aspirants on annual pilgrimages (yatras) to Mount Kailash and the Himalayas.[66][67]

Every year at the Isha Yoga Centre, Vasudev celebrates an all-night Mahashivarathri, the annual Hindu festival in honour of Shiva. It is estimated that these celebrations were attended by as many as 800,000 people in 2013.[68][69][70] He has also established a Linga Bhairavi temple in Coimbatore where women conduct the rituals.[71]

Educational and social initiatives

Isha Vidhya, an education initiative, aims to raise the level of education and literacy in rural India by providing quality English-language-based, computer-aided education. There are seven Isha Vidhya Schools in operation which educate around 3,000 students.[72]

The foundation also runs an Action for Rural Rejuvenation program, in over 4200 villages, raising the welfare of the underprivileged.

Environmental initiatives

Isha Foundation has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council,[73] and is an accredited observer of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.[74] Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, praised the efforts by foundation for carrying forward Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu.[75]

Project GreenHands

Saplings being readied for transportation at a PGH nursery.

Project GreenHands (PGH) was established in 2004 as an environmental organisation. Its activity is largely focused on Tamil Nadu. The organisation received the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, the Government of India's environmental award in 2010.[76] The organisation's activities include agroforestry, plant nurseries in schools,[77] and tree-planting in urban centres such as Tiruchirappalli[78] and Tiruppur.[79]

Rally for Rivers

The Rally for Rivers campaign, which ran from September to October 2017,[80] intended to rejuvenate India's depleting rivers by growing large forests along their banks. Promoted by Vasudev all over the country, the campaign received support from a broad range of celebrities and the urban populace.[81] MOUs were signed with state governments.

However, the campaign has been widely criticised by environmentalists for lacking in scientific basis and shifting the spotlight away from real concerns.[82] Acclaimed water conservationist Rajendra Singh alleges that the campaign is motivated by the goal of money and fame.[83]

Cauvery Calling

The Cauvery Calling project aims to support farmers in planting an estimated 2.4 billion trees through agroforestry, thereby covering one third of Cauvery basin with trees, as a means of conserving it. The project has received acclaim from politicians and members of the movie industry.

However, environmentalists and public intellectuals allege that the program presents a simplistic view of river conservation, sidesteps social issues, and has the potential to harm tributaries and wildlife habitats.[84][85][86] A Public Interest litigation has also been filed in the Karnataka High Court questioning the legality of the fundraising practices for the initiative, and the usage of government owned land for a private purpose without supporting study.[87][88][89][90] In January 2020, the High Court ruled that the Foundation needed to disclose details of its fundraising practices relating to the initiative.[91]


Critics claim that Vasudev shares the ideology of Bharatiya Janata Party's Hindu nationalism (Hindutva),[48][92][93][94][95] and that he takes an "intolerant nationalist" stance in his media appearances.[92] He advocates a total ban on cow slaughter and characterises the era of Muslim Rule in India as an "oppressive occupation" that was far worse than the British Raj.[48] Vasudev has also spoken in favour of the 2019 Balakot airstrike, the introduction of a comprehensive GST, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, while denouncing the Thoothukudi protests as a peril to industry.[48][96][97][98] Vasudev accuses leftist liberals of aiding and abetting militancy in Kashmir, and has suggested that Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, known for their involvement in the JNU sedition row, should be put behind bars.[99] His understanding of politics and history has been repeatedly questioned.[92][97][48]

Vasudev has also been accused of promoting superstition and misrepresenting science.[100][101][48] He propagates the claim, unsupported by science, that cooked food consumed during lunar eclipses depletes the human body's pranic energies.[48][102][103][104] He also perpetuates numerous myths regarding clinical depression, and opposes the potential prohibition on the use of mercury in traditional Indian medicine, despite the substance's extreme toxicity.[105][106] His views on the Higgs boson and alleged benefits of vibhuti have been rejected as unproven by science.[107][108] Moreover, he propounds theories of water memory that are not supported by science.[109] In addition, Vasudev has been accused of popularising Hindutva's revisionist history of a golden Hindu past; of fundamentally misinterpreting Darwin's work as a Western appropriation of ancient Indian wisdom; of advocating for Hindu death rituals; and of claiming that Hindu Tantrics are capable of raising the dead.[48]


  1. ^ "Sadhguru", alternatively spelled "sadguru",[3] means "real or true guru".[4] The term has also been translated as "senior sadhu; eminent preceptor."[5]


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External links