#IDY2016 – the gift of a guru – @SadhguruJV and @Ishafoundation

I met a great teacher last year in India. I met Sadhguru.

Sadh means knowledge that comes from within. Guru is a Sanskrit: गुरु noun that connotes “teacher”. When I met Sadhguru, I met an enlightened human being who is able to access knowledge from within. This is the knowledge of all existence from the beginning of existence.

Attaining enlightenment comes with certain perks.

Today is the second annual International Day of Yoga. One of Sadhguru’s goals is to share the science of yoga. The video above was made last year so that anyone anywhere can access the benefits of yoga. This year Sadhguru and legions of volunteers taught hundreds of thousands of people the simple UPA yoga described in the video. Today Sadhguru taught people from 135 nations live at the United Nations in New York City that same yoga.

I’ve been blessed by my guru. Sharing this video here is a tiny offering of love, gratitude and respect for him and his work. I’ll share more about my experience of meeting Sadhguru at Isha foundation in India in the rest of the post.

Pantanjali - ISHA foundation
Pantanjali – painting at ISHA foundation

Does it sound cliche?  White woman goes to India four times and now she has a guru.

Well, I’m not The Beatles (in their sitar playing – hanging out in Rishikkesh phase) but I do have a new appreciation for the influence their yogi had on their music. John Lennon’s Imagine sums that up beautifully.

My friends in the tourism industry in India tell me that there are many fake gurus in the country. I have certainly experienced fake yoga teachers there. They are charismatic fast-talking con artists with a gimmick-y style of yoga that seduces a resort into hiring them. Fake gurus take this further. They set up fake ashrams and swindle people of their money.

Fortunately, I was guided to the teachings of Sadhguru through a beloved and trusted friend in Tamilnadu (Thank you eternally Charles). I read Sadhguru’s teachings in books, watched his  video lectures and when the chance came, I attended a conference that he personally led.

The conference was a business leadership conference called ISHA Insight: The DNA of Success at the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu in South India. For Sadhguru the purpose of commerce is to serve community and a leader is an inclusive person who treats their employees as attentively as they would their family. I felt aligned with this yogic approach to leadership so I made the journey to attend the four day session. My mantra after attending? There is only success.

That’s a pretty good ROI (return on investment).

ISHA foundation
The public grounds at ISHA foundation – photo credit – Karen Anderson

Maybe this is what happens after hanging out with an enlightened person?

Having access to an eternal energy and wisdom of the universe makes that person a rare kind of life form in the here and now. They can share a great deal of energy.

In Sadhguru the eternal energy within him seems to manifest as clarity. He is organized and articulate and thoroughly modern in his ability to help us understand a path to living fully. He is a great yogic teacher who is motivated to help end the suffering he sees on earth.

Yoga and meditation are not a religion. There is nothing cultish. No brain-washing. Yoga means “union” and is just training or as Sadhguru calls it “inner engineering” to distance yourself a bit from your mind and body and to see what else you really are. When you can drop fear of suffering you can become more fully alive while you have the gift of this life.

Isha foundation, is set in the Velliangiri Mountains near Coimbatore. Sadhguru spent his life searching for this place and when he finally found it he knew it was the sacred place where he would build an ashram for people to come together and work on transformation.

Isha is indeed a beautiful peaceful retreat and ashram but it is more. Sadhguru has built and consecrated meditation centres with profound energy at Isha. These temples at the ashram are open to the public. Just by entering these sacred spaces one’s energy can be aligned. They are non-denominational. They simply are there for any human being to enjoy and benefit from.

Dhyanalinga - ISHA foundation - Coimbatore, India
Entrance to Dhyanalinga Center – ISHA foundation – photo credit – Karen Anderson

So far this all sounds very serious doesn’t it? I’m not going to talk a lot about serious paths to heightened awareness of other dimensions and the devotion that takes except to say that if that’s your path you might do very well at Isha.

Instead I’ll tell you that while Sadhguru is serious and more than a little impatient that we join him on a path to complete awareness, he is also very light-hearted most of the time. He has the sharpest of wits and loves to tell jokes and stories. He is playful and loves to move. He’s a bit of a thrill seeker who has sky-dived and likes to ride a motorcycle at mach two. During breaks at our conference he would play frisbee with the monks. He’s rather stellar at it.

Sadhguru at home at ISHA foundation in Coimbatore, India
Sadhguru is playful and loves to move – photo credit – Karen Anderson

I did not take any photos of the inner life at the ashram village but I can share some of the inner workings. There is a huge retreat centre, yoga centre, boarding school, cottages, dorms, gardens, farm and kitchens. It is lush, green and a very comfortable temperature – being at altitude. Everything is designed with care in the details and attention to beauty and grace. The food is vegetarian and delicious.

ISHA foundation in Coimbatore, India
Volunteers serving vegetarian food at ISHA foundation – photo credit – Karen Anderson

Volunteers work and serve in kitchens and gardens. They work as hosts, as writers and they offer services technically with computers, videos, software, app production and as talented musicians providing a soothing back drop to all activity. Devotees pray, serve, practice yoga and meditate.

While at Isha, I had my own cottage with a comfortable bed, chest of drawers, private bathroom and shower, tea kettle, herbal tea AND air conditioning! We got up at 5:30 a.m., started yoga at 6:30, had breakfast at 8 a.m., attended the conference, had breaks, lunch, meditation and went through until a late dinner and entertainment with bedtime at 11 p.m. I never felt tired. I felt stimulated from the exchange of ideas with some of the world’s best business leaders and I felt respected, loved and cared for by the staff and volunteers. I got to meditate about three times a day with Sadhguru.

One of the things I love about writing about India is the opportunity to change perceptions. I’m wondering if this little glimpse into my experience at Isha is what you thought life at an ashram would be like? I’m not sure how representative it is of the rest of India, truthfully, but this was my experience and so it must count in your ideas about the country all the same.

Many people comment on my calmness and equanimity. I love people and am generally a joyful person. I don’t do a lot of what people in the western world consider to be yoga. I have an attitude of acceptance. I pray as soon as my eyes open with gratitude for another day.

My time at Isha and my practice of yoga and awareness since coming home have  taught me that I have a long way to go on the path to living fully. I’m aware of my frailties, my fear of suffering and my lame excuses and compulsions.

I’ll end this post by saying that while I’m far from where I’d like to be on my path, like the lotus, I’m hoping to rise above some of the mud my roots are stuck in. I want to blossom and to let the rain fall from my petals with ease. I would like to know how to truly savour it all. Happy International Day of Yoga for 2016.

ISHA foundation
Lotus flowers at ISHA foundation – photo credit – Karen Anderson



  1. Tandi

    Karen, this is so timely. Kim just shared the inner engineering website with me recently and I’ve been curious about it. What a wonderful opportunity to meet Sadhguru in person – that must have been so memorable. Thank you for your inspiration to be more fully alive. XO

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