It was interesting to read a high quality article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta on morality and consciousness in response to Sadhguru’s article on the same subject a few days earlier. The articles brought forth remarkable contrast between the views of a respected academic and a popular Indian yogi and mystic on morality and consciousness.
Mehta’s article contains a genuine concern about consciousness, that more evolved forms of consciousness would acquire more authority, thereby reintroducing gradations between human beings. This made one pause and think.
However, there were aspects in Mehta’s article that struck one for being overly pessimistic about Indian spirituality and consciousness movements. The high pedestal which Mehta accorded to morality and his assumptions about Sadhguru’s views on consciousness made one wonder if he had ever read or heard Sadhguru earlier. That he didn’t define consciousness in his article made it even more difficult for his readers to fully understand his view point.
Mehta agreeing with Peter Sloterdijk’s phrase that Indian spirituality was the ‘planetary granary of narcissism’ was taken with a pinch of salt. Spirituality is an experiential dimension and no debate on it gets settled in an academic discussion. This is at the core of the debate between the two gentlemen. For one, it is an experiential reality and for the other, it is a matter of academic debate. Probably, this is the very divide that Mehta points out (and fears) in his article.
Sadhguru talks about consciousness as the ability to experience everything as a part of oneself. That is, the distinction of “this is me, that is not me” gets eradicated. In such a state, one is incapable of doing anything harmful. Consciousness stirs up humanity in a way that one is good effortlessly and doesn’t need morality.
Morality, Sadhguru says, is like ‘trying to be good’. He wonders if one really needed morality if one’s humanity was alive and active!
Curiously, Mehta in his article says it was morality that was more spontaneous as it was based on intrinsic motivation to be good. The reader was left wondering how morality was more spontaneous than one’s humanity!
While Mehta feared that consciousness could create divisions – hierarchical or geographic, Sadhguru says that morality could divide the world into moral sects. No two sects would see eye to eye as moral standards for each would be different. Even moral standards one applied to self and others were different, he often says!
Another surprise in Mehta’s piece was comparing Nietzsche, Aurobindo and Iqbal with Sadhguru on how each saw consciousness. Clearly, he was interpreting Sadhguru purely on the basis of one article while Sadhguru’s work on the subject was extensive and in-depth. It needed a bigger effort to decipher.
Mehta also asserted that all previous projects to raise collective consciousness had failed, that Sadhguru was chasing a chimera and the path was fraught with risks. Not really. India has been an intrinsically peaceful country primarily because of her sound spiritual foundations. That’s how India has assimilated diverse cultures and religions for centuries with relative ease.
However, shocker in Mehta’s piece came at the end of his article where he obliquely advised Sadhguru that instead of chasing the pipe dream of raising collective consciousness and selling easy spirituality to the privileged, he should work towards exposing hypocrites and giving people civic courage by talking truth to power instead of seeking their patronage.
The realisation finally dawned on the reader that Mehta hadn’t seen the stellar work Sadhguru has been doing in the villages and for the poor, not to mention his efforts at environment preservation, education and entrepreneurial development. His yoga programs, public conversations and sathsangs are intended at making all joyful and full of life.
Besides, Sadhguru’s views on morality and consciousness are decades old (much before the current political dispensation came to power) and are based on his own realisation rather than on any need to seek political patronage.
Surely, this is not the last we have heard in this debate between the two. Readers respect Mehta and would love to see his views not only on this subject but also on Sadhguru and Isha Foundation evolve over time.