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Jaggi Vasudev
Sadhguru - February 2019 - 2 (cropped).jpg
Born (1957-09-03) 3 September 1957 (age 62)
OrganizationIsha Foundation
Notable work
  • Inner Engineering
  • Dhyanalinga
  • Rally for Rivers
  • Linga Bhairavi
  • Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga
  • Mystic's Musings
  • Kaveri Calling
Vijaya Kumari (Vijji) (m. 1984)
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]

In 1992, Vasudev established Isha Foundation, which has been involved in various activities in the field of spirituality, education, and environment. The organisation has been subject to mixed reception.

In 2017, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India for his services in the field of social services.


Early life and education

Born in Mysore, Karnataka, India, in a Telugu speaking family,[9] Jaggi Vasudev 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]:39

After his schooling at Demonstration School, Mysore and Mahajana Pre-University College, he graduated from the University of Mysore with a bachelor's degree in English in 1973.[12] Vasudev refused to pursue a post-graduate course, despite parental insistence and instead took to business.[13]


At the age of 25, on 23 September 1982, Vasudev rode up to the 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 conducted his first yoga class with seven participants in Mysore. Over time, he began conducting yoga classes across Karnataka and Hyderabad traveling on his motorcycle, subsisting on the produce of his poultry farm rental and donating the collections received from yoga class participants to a local charity on the last day of the class.[13]


Jaggi Vasudev at Davos, Switzerland in 2007
Jaggi Vasudev at Davos, Switzerland in 2007

Jaggi Vasudev was married to Vijayakumari (also called Vijji). This was Vijayakumari's second marriage. Prior to marrying Vasudev she worked in a bank. The couple had a daughter called Radhe. Vijaya Kumari died in 1997. At that time her father alleged that Vasudev had murdered her; Vasudev termed the incident as 'Mahasamadhi' and claimed she had told him about it nine months before her death.[14][15] The police investigation gave him a clean chit.[14]

Vasudev's daughter Radhe Jaggi is a trained bharatanatyam dancer.[16] She married Chennai-based classical vocalist Sandeep Narayan in 2014 at Vasudev's Coimbatore ashram in a ceremony attended by many Indian celebrities.[17]

Books and public engagement

Jaggi Vasudev is the author of several books. His Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy[18] appeared in The New York Times Best Seller list in the "Health",[19] "Religion, Spirituality and Faith",[20] and "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous" categories.[21] Vasudev is also the author of Mystic's Musings[22] and Death: An Inside Story.[23][24]

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.[25] He has also spoken at the annual World Economic Forum in 2007,[26] 2017 and 2020.[27][28]


Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan to Vasudev at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on April 13, 2017
Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan to Vasudev at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on April 13, 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.[29][30] 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.[31][32]

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,[33] 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.[34]


Yoga programmes

Jaggi Vasudev conducting the Inner Engineering Program at the Bombay Stock Exchange
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 Center in 1994, including a course for the Indian Hockey team in 1996.[35][36] In 1997, he began conducting classes in the United States[37][38] and from 1998 onwards, for life-term prisoners in Tamil Nadu prisons.[39][40]

The flagship program is titled 'Inner Engineering', which introduces people to simple Yoga practices and the Shambhavi Mahamudra;[41] corporate leadership forms a core audience of these programs.[42] 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 acclimatize with unavoidable work rigors.[43] 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 practicing yoga daily for six weeks.[44][45]

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.[46] 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.[47] After three years of work, the temple was completed on 23 June 1999[48] and opened to the public on 23 November.[49] As a meditative space the Dhyanalinga Yogic Temple is not dedicated to any particular faith or belief system[50] and is open to all visitors irrespective of their religion or nationality.[51] A stone pillar named the Sarva Dharma stambha, located at the temple's front entrance, has religious symbols of several religions carved on to it to denote universal brotherhood.[52][53]

Adiyogi Shiva statue

Designed by Vasudev, the foundation built a 112-feet-tall and 500 tonnes (490 long tons; 550 short tons) Shiva statue for inspiring and promoting yoga. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi[54] and has been since recognized as the "Largest Bust Sculpture" by Guinness World Records.[55] It is a part of the Incredible India campaign.[56]

The Tamil Nadu government has since claimed the entire construction as illegal, for which no approval was granted;[57] Comptroller and Auditor General's report further states the construction to have flagrantly violated the rules of biodiversity zones.[58][59][60]

Other consecrations

Vasudev regularly conducts gatherings (mahasathsangs) in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.[61] He also takes spiritual aspirants on annual pilgrimages (yatras) to Mount Kailash and the Himalayas.[62][63]

Every year at the Isha Yoga Center, 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.[64][65][66] He has also established a Linga Bhairavi temple in Coimbatore where women conduct the rituals.[67]

Isha Vidhya

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.[68] The foundation also runs an Action for Rural Rejuvenation program, in over 4200 villages, targeting socioeeconomic welfare of underprivileged populace .

Environmental initiatives

It has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council,[69] and is an accredited observer of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.[70] Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, praised the efforts by foundation for carrying forward Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu.[71]

Project GreenHands

Saplings being readied for transportation at a PGH nursery.
Saplings being readied for transportation at a PGH nursery.

Project GreenHands (PGH) was established in 2004 as an environmental organization. Its activity is largely focused on Tamil Nadu. The organization received the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, the Government of India's environmental award in 2010.[72] The organisation's activities include agroforestry, plant nurseries in schools,[73] and tree-planting in urban centers such as Tiruchirappalli[74] and Tiruppur.[75]

Rally for Rivers

The Rally for Rivers campaign, which ran from September to October 2017,[76] 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.[77] MOUs were signed with state governments.

However, the campaign has been widely criticized by environmentalists for lacking in scientific basis and shifting the spotlight away from real concerns.[78] Acclaimed water conservationist Rajendra Singh alleges that the campaign is motivated by the goal of money and fame.[79]

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.[80][81][82] 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.[83][84][85][86] In January 2020, the High Court ruled that the Foundation needed to disclose details of its fundraising practices relating to the initiative.[87]

Politics, religion and pseudoscience

Critics note that Vasudev shares the sociopolitical ideology of Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindutva.[44][88][89][90][91] He plays a vital role in Indian right-wing politics, using his suave and seemingly apolitical guru persona to spread an exclusionary brand of non-secular ethno-nationalism to an urban audience.[88]

He advocates a total ban on cow slaughter and deems the Muslim Rule in India as centuries of "oppressive occupation", which were far worse than the British Raj.[44] Vasudev has also spoken in favour of the 2019 Balakot airstrike, introduction of a comprehensive GST and Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 whilst deeming the Thoothukudi protests as lynching of corporate industries.[44][92][93][94] In an interview before Times Now, Vasudev had blamed the left liberal sections of the society for facilitating militancy in Kashmir and lamented about how Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid (of JNU sedition row fame) were hogging the public limelight instead of being behind the bars.[95][88] His understanding of realpolitik and history, as displayed in delivering these stances, has been widely criticized.[88][93][44]

Vasudev has also been noted as a longstanding purveyor of pseudo-scientific information across a spectrum of topics, aligning to a politico-religious model.[96][97][44]

In 2015, he propagated long-debunked superstitions in his blog, about food turning poisonous and human health being adversely affected during lunar eclipse; the post has been since been broadcast across multiple mainstream media, for years; over a public discourse, he used a rudraksha garland as an 'energy' measuring device to prove his claim.[44][98][99] AltNews has documented Vasudev to have perpetuated numerous myths around clinical depression; he had also protested against a potential prohibition on the use of mercury for Indian traditional medicines, despite its extreme toxicity which can lead to death.[100][101] His views on the Higgs boson and alleged benefits for the Vibhuti have been refuted by the rationalists and have been labelled as anti-scientific.[102][103] In a talk delivered at IIT Madras, he propounded debunked theories about water memory.[104]

Shashi Tharoor has noted about how the ideology of Hindutva has encouraged gurus to blend religion and pseudo-spirituality into a lucrative business to promote irrationality.[105] Another piece over, on similar veins, documented Vasudev's casting of religious politics into a meta-scientific narrative and popularization of a Hindutva-centered revisionist history featuring atavistic remembrances of a golden Hindu past; among others it consisted fundamental mis-interpretation of Darwin's work followed by appropriating it as something that has been long discovered in India, advocating for Hindu rituals after death since it spared a slow death (as allegedly justifiable from the continued growth of nail and hairs) and claiming of Hindu Tantric 'scientists' being capable of resurrecting the dead by citing the anecdote.[44] Babu Gogineni deemed of him as a spiritualist conman, who built a huge business empire by resorting to a mixture of pseudo-science with science, rather than old age magic tricks which were increasingly getting debunked.[106]


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