Updated: May 20, 2020 9:38:20 am
I am not aware of the reasons that pushed Jaggi Vasudev to pen a column (‘I am more left than you think’, Sadhguru, IE, May 15) claiming that he is “far more left than people can imagine, but not crazy left”. But it has exposed his lack of understanding of the Left, communism, democracy, social inequalities, citizenship, liberty, suffering, freedom, power structures and oppression.
He claims that Isha Yoga Center is indeed “absolute left”, a commune. By using the term commune, he is either confusing the reader or believes that communism flourishes in a commune. There are many types of communes and his is consumed within the ideas of a single individual — himself. His commune is a great example of Karl Marx’s often-quoted phrase, “religion is the opium of the people”. Just because everyone wears saffron or white, cooks, eats, washes dishes and participates in activities together, the space does not become equal. Institutions that create mindless followers who do not challenge the power structure controlling them cannot claim equality.
Vasudev explains in his piece: “The Isha Yoga Center is a commune — in a way, it is a communist arrangement. Nobody is asking how much you have, your religion, caste, where you come from, who your father is. We will treat you like we treat everyone else. If you rise and show some special qualities, we will honour that as well.”
Being left (and this comes in so many shades) includes recognising and grappling with issues of religion, caste, gender, political and economic marginalisation. Which means, confronting and questioning all socio-political mechanisms that enable these discriminating practices. So, by claiming that nobody is asked about their religion, caste etc, Vasudev is only reiterating the fact that his Center is a perfect example of the upper-caste privileged milieu where markers of discrimination are brushed under the carpet because everyone is expected to transform into that “ideal” curated by the socially powerful. He is only paraphrasing the often-heard upper-caste quote, “we never discuss caste or religion in our houses”. He must learn that equal opportunity occurs only when unequalness is acknowledged and this means enabling and listening to the voices of those at the receiving end. Vasudev needs to feel uncomfortable with his own words.
He claims, “One aspect of this is that they (liberals) feel only they should have freedom of speech and nobody else.” Odd, coming from this person of enormous power who disdainfully trivialises pertinent questions, often laughing them off in condescension. Unlike his claim that those on the left are “just living in their own home, talking left philosophy”, people of the left cut across our social spectrum, many belonging to sections of society that do not have a voice, including daily wage workers and agricultural labourers, just “ordinary people”.
Democracy and rights are not within his intellectual grasp. Here is a person who believes that it is the job of the citizen to support any government that has been elected by the majority. Citizenry involves being actively watchful of the government. This is a participatory democracy, where the role of the citizen is not just to vote, but to be a partner in the process of building a just society. Decisions are not only made within the precincts of Parliament, but also by consulting the public; this is the magnificence of our democracy.
To this end, protests on the streets are central. Vasudev forgets that we gained our independence only because people came out on to the streets. He forgets that the Nirbhaya Act and the RTI Act were passed because people protested in public spaces. So, we will occupy public spaces, not allocated lots. Of course, public property cannot be destroyed, but disruption is essential and is a positive idea. Here is a person who allows himself to be called a “mystic” missing the essence of a philosophical enquiry.
Vasudev seems to think it is easy for every citizen to go to court. “If you do not agree with the law, there is a court where you can go. If it is in any way illegal, it will get knocked down.” Villagers sit on highways, people oppose CAA-NRC-NPR at Shaheen Bagh when their voices are unheard and suppressed. For a person who professes concern for people and has set up processes for inner engineering, he lacks empathy and the understanding of those on the margins of society.
And finally, this person of spirituality calls those in the Opposition and citizens who oppose the government “losers”. Vasudev is clearly an autocrat who considers democracy a veneer behind which control should remain with the powerful.
This article first appeared in the print edition on May 20, 2020 under the title ‘Unequal Spaces, Hidden Power’.
The writer is a musician and the author of Sebastian And Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers
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