The website Infocatolica, a Spanish Catholic news site, published an article by José Antonio Gómez Castro for the Ibero-American Network for the Study of Sects (RIES). accusing a Hindu man of being a cult leader and possibly murdering his wife.
The Hindu, Jaggi Vasudev, better known as Sadhguru, operates the Isha foundation.
Frank Report will analyze the accusations, especially the allegation of murdering his wife, to consider whether this Hindu warrants further scrutiny.
Jaggi Vasudev, known as Sadhguru, [is] a character who has built a ‘mystical’ persona: intelligent, non-threatening, charismatic and funny, the same persona any Hindu guru wants today. Hinduism provides the perfect framework for its teachings, … like a twisted, amorphous spiritual amoeba.
This is an ugly dose of religious bias but does not necessarily negate the entire article. Let’s continue.
But behind that smile hides some things that new Sadhguru followers and supporters of his videos are unaware of: His Isha Foundation is no different from any other exploitative sect. It makes its members swear to secrecy, and they have to pay a small fortune for enlightenment.
In fact, if you happen to attend one of their weekend events, a mini yogic retreat in a kind of pop-up ashram, like the one that took place at the ExCel Center in London, it will cost you 650 pounds per ticket (about 713 pounds euros). [$903 US dollars].
It appears that the price is not hidden. Prospective students know in advance the cost, and that no one is compelled to attend a seminar or retreat and no one apparently is admitted who does not pay in advance, making it a seemingly legal arrangement.
If it is a bad bargain, that seems as much the fault of the buyer as the seller. It is generally good advice to do your homework when buying spiritual products just as you would for any $900 sectarian product.
Sadhguru has been accused of teaching material at high prices which he merely stole from others – many of who died centuries ago.
It is likely that nothing is quite new under the sun – or to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, “If a teaching is good, it is not likely to be new and if it is new it is not likely to be good.”
What one learns in Sadhguru’s intensives could probably be gleaned from books costing perhaps a total of $100, or online for free. But he is not just selling the teachings, he is selling faith: that he knows or has realized what he is teaching and, thus, you can trust learning it from him and perhaps can even imbibe something directly from hearing and seeing him.
This is what people, for the most part, are buying and because this is subjective, it cannot be easily judged. In fact, he might be the rogue of all times, but if people believe he is a saint, then it might be true that they improve in ways that no book – even if written by a saint – could help them achieve.
I am reminded of the story of a thief who dressed as a monk being pursued by the police – and not only fooling the police but soon attracting a large contingent of followers impressed with his sincere countenance. The thief became so enamored with this new lifestyle that he actually gave up stealing and began to believe in his own saintliness – and if the old yarn is true, became a saint himself.
Labor slavery and other accusations
Once inside the Isha Foundation, many of its followers realized the mental control that exists, and later they revealed their experiences. Like working for free in the guise of volunteering: there are testimonies, like that of a follower who described being forced to work ten hours a day, seven days a week, receiving nothing more than a straw mat to sleep on.
This sounds horrifying, but the allegations are not backed up with evidence that anybody was forced to volunteer. The idea of conflating volunteers who consent to work into forced labor victims got a huge boost in the Keith Raniere prosecution. But it might be a dangerous precedent. Hindu monks and, for that matter, Catholic ones have been living on straw mats and begging for their food for centuries.
All of this, of course, doesn’t sound spiritually enlightening or particularly legal.
I do not believe it is illegal to volunteer to work in exchange for perceived guidance or the opportunity to be near a so-called spiritual leader – even if his guidance is not good. Only in a victim-centric society could this be considered illegal. And the more victims – the more we encourage victims – the worse for society – not because these are true victims necessarily but because the more we take self-responsibility away from people, the more we weaken the people.
In other words, we want a society where people are encouraged to think for themselves and blame themselves for their errors instead of blaming others – not because there are not evil people but because people will be better suited to judge them if the onus is on themselves to make these judgments.
But for this Sadhguru follower, the problem increased: “Things came to an end when a sanyasi (older monk) molested (sexually harassed) me when I was alone in the dining room,” as he complained.
The Catholic Church is an odd one to publish complaints from an anonymous source about a cleric molesting someone. At least this individual appears to have been over the age of consent. This appears to be a problem wherever power and opportunity combine. One allegation of sexual molestation does not make for a corrupt organization. I would want more than a single incident as evidence of this kind of harassment in order to assume the organization is rife with it.
Killed His Wife?
Sadhguru was also accused of murdering his wife.
It might be thought that this would discourage people who follow him as a close deity. However, the leader has explained the death of his wife as a case of Mahasamādhi, which means leaving the physical body during meditative enlightenment, which makes it perfectly acceptable.
This is a grossly improper allegation. It says he was accused of murdering his wife but does not say who accused him. He was not convicted and it appears he was never charged.
Sadhguru says his wife died from spiritual causes – a kind of suicide of highly exalted Hindu saints – called Mahasamadhi. This is described as an act where an advanced yogi can leave their body at will – through yogic techniques that appear to be associated with controlling the breath and the raising of energy in the spine [kundalini] and out the body through a portal between the eyes called the third eye.
Sadhguru’s wife, Vijayakumari, died in 1997, purportedly through this act of Mahasamadhi according to Sadhguru.
Below is a picture of him with his wife.
- There were hundreds of witnesses to Vijayakumari’s death [by Mahasamadhi] since it happened in a program conducted at the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore.
- A case was filed in Bangalore seven months after her death.
- The case was transferred to Coimbatore police from Bangalore.
- After an investigation, the police decided not to charge Sadhguru.
What does Isha Foundation have to say?
Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation posted their position:.
“On 23rd January 1997, Vijji Maa attained Mahasamadhi — the coveted goal of many a spiritual seeker…. a practice where accomplished yogis with mastery over their life process consciously choose to exit their physical body at an auspicious time. At an appointed time that she had chosen — which everyone in closer circles was made conscious of, including her own 7-year-old daughter — she exited effortlessly, at will.
“Eight months later, those who were set against Sadhguru’s work at the time used Vijji Maa’s Mahasamadhi as an opportunity to file a police complaint, claiming that foul play should be suspected in her passing, the main accusation being that the cremation was hush-hush.
“The fact is the cremation happened 12 hours following her passing in the presence of over 2,000 people.
“To expose these shamelessly false allegations, we requested a full investigation from the police and judiciary, who found there was no substance at all in the complaint other than an intent to malign, and as per Court Order issued on 8/1/1999, the complaint was dismissed.”
Supporters of Sadhguru further argue that his daughter, Radhe Jaggi, who was seven at the time of her mother’s death and was raised by her father, continues to support her father and his claims about her mother’s death.
Sadhguru himself has been quoted on the death of his wife:
It has always been hard for me to explain to people what Vijji is. When I say Vijji, I am not referring to her as my wife or as a woman. Even as a being, she has always been truly wonderful in my experience. But, as many of you know, she was a person of very intense emotions. In her childlikeness, whatever emotions were within her always found expression, irrespective of the situation. Now she attained Mahasamadhi — the ultimate aim of all spiritual seekers — with such effortlessness, and has proved her worth.
This is not child’s play. Even accomplished yogis who spent their lives in spiritual sadhana struggle to attain this. To throw one’s life out of the body without injuring the body takes something else. One has to generate tremendous amount of energy, which requires intense sadhana. She knew the methods to achieve this and she was working towards this. But, at this stage, we never imagined that, without my assistance, she would be able to generate the necessary energy. Anyway she would have trodden this path, but the swiftness with which she achieved this is too much. She just made this possible with her love, probably the only thing she knew.
Let us examine claims more closely.
It is claimed that Vijji passed away at a gathering at the Isha Yoga Center as hundreds of people watched. There do not appear to be any photos or videos of this event. I could not find any online purported witnesses to the death. If they were there, they would have witnessed Viji sitting in front of them in meditation then dropping dead. Did anyone see this?
Questions have been raised by a skeptic and former follower of Sadhguru, a man named Shanmugan.
His points are:
- Viji was cremated, not buried, as is her family custom, and she was cremated within hours of her death.
- Sadhguru declined to wait for his father-in-law to arrive, in spite of his request to halt the cremation until his arrival.
- His father-in-law made a police complaint that he was suspicious about Viji’s death alleging she might have been murdered.
- Sadhguru said Viji planned her Mahasamadhi months before her death.
- Vijji’s daughter was seven years old. Why did the mother leave her child an orphan?
- In a fantastic claim, Sadhguru said he has spent three lifetimes [reincarnation] to complete the consecration of Dhyanalinga [a consecrated sculptural stone structure 4.3 meters tall which is an image of the power, or, as some say the spine, or penis, of Shiva]. Dhyana Linga is also the name of the temple or meditation space.
- In another fantastic claim, Sadhguru claims he decided where and in which womb his wife Viji and others close to him, including his alleged mistress, Bharti, should be born. In short, he picked the parents of his associates in advance of their birth, he claims.
- He said his sole reason for being born in this life as Sadhguru was to consecrate the Dhyanalinga.
- Yet his wife left her body before the consecration was complete though she knew she played an important role in the consecration by purportedly forming an energy triangle with Sadhguru and his alleged mistress Bharti.
- Sadhguru claims he had control over which womb Bharti and Viji should be born, yet apparently had no control over her Mahasamadhi.
- According to Sadhguru, Viji was not an accomplished yogi so, assuming that it is true that an advanced yogi can leave their body at will, it is a mystery how she learned to do it.
- According to Sadhguru, he has the power to hold exalted people on earth if they are about to leave their bodies through Mahasamadhi and other causes. Yet Sadhguru did not prevent Viji from leaving her body.
- Sadhguru said, “I have lots of people around me … [that] are in a certain exalted state…. one more step means they will leave [their body], but we will always hold them down there, so that their physical bodies run their full course. They have much more sense than other people, they are good manure for the world so we want them to be useful in the world. We want to enslave them and use them for everybody’s wellbeing, otherwise all the beautiful people will leave. (Laughter). So we don’t let them go, climb the final step, until their bodies wear themselves out through the natural process of living. When they go beyond a certain age, then we take off the peg — then it is up to them. Until then we fix them down, because if full Enlightenment happens they will not know how to sustain the body unless they put in an enormous amount of study. You don’t like that? Personally, even I don’t like it, but I have some social responsibilities. (Laughs).
- The question Shanmugam raises is “Why wasn’t [Sadhguru] able to stop Viji from leaving her body when he is able to stop everyone else in the ashram from doing so?
- Sadhguru claims that after Viji died, he had to perform the role assigned of Viji as well as his own role and that not only delayed the consecration of the temple stone for another two years but it also caused severe damage to his own body, which almost killed him.
- Why didn’t he avoid this by ‘pegging down’ Viji?
- Shanmugan alleges that Viji was unhappy with Sadhguru’s association with Bharti.
Shanmugan got a copy of the police report and suspects that Sadhguru may have killed his wife [poison?] because of his relationship with Bharti, rushed the cremation so there would be no autopsy, then bribed police to dismiss the case and created a fake story of Mahasamadhi.
Shanmugam has another website http://nellaishanmugam.wordpress.com where he writes about Sadhguru, raising questions about his spiritual teachings and fabulous claims. And also this: Shanmugam P’s answer to Can anyone tell about their experiences with Jaggi Vasudev aka Sadhguru?
The voice of victims
“My mind was questioning everything. I felt so alone and wondered many times if this was brainwashing . I feel like I haven’t been the same since then and I have persistent anxiety and worsening depression. I refused to come back the next day and they were at my hotel door knocking to enter. I spoke to Sadhguru and told him that it was okay, not to be afraid and that I did not like the change. I realized that he knew that he did not believe in anything he was selling ” , laments this victim.
This could hardly be more biased. It starts off with the notion that mind control is real without a doubt – and then moves on to prove it with a single, anonymous student [mistakenly called a former follower] who attended one day of a three-day intensive then went into a breakdown.
How he knows that Sadhguru does not believe anything he was selling is not explained. And why this individual is labeled a victim because he went to a retreat and did not like it is hard to comprehend.
Infiltration in international organizations
But it’s hard to really attack something as nebulous as the Isha Foundation.
It is not explained why it is nebulous. Why is it nebulous?
Sadhguru has shown that he is more than capable of deflecting any complaint or question with spiritual affirmations and charming humility. “All I know is this piece of life,” he says. He claims that he has not read the Bhagavad Gita (a 700-line sacred text that is part of the great Hindu epic Mahabharata ).
He has been a delegate to the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit, has participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, and has seeded numerous successful charities through his organization, but all of this is masking his public relations.
If he has funded successful charities [not named by the writer], this is something admirable. It reminds me a little of the charlatan guru Satya Sai Baba who used to fake the production of gold watches from the ether [actually slow-motion videos showed they were tucked up his sleeve] who funded free hospitals and free schools that appear to have done some true service to humanity.
The Isha Foundation is a kind of 21st century sect . Despite the attendees bowing to Lingams, singing songs about the Hindu god Shiva, and fainting when their leader enters the room, Sadhguru claims that it is all science with no religious affiliation.
Hindus have been singing songs to Shiva and bowing before the lingam for as long as Catholics have been kneeling in front of crosses with a man in a loincloth with nails in his hands and feet and blood dripping and singing to various entities of gods and/or goddesses/saints or trinities. Cults and religions are marvelously similar.
As with the Dianetics of Scientology, the Isha Foundation “Inner Engineering” sells itself as a spiritual “technology” for wellness . Of course, it is an expensive technology: 650 pounds (about 713 euros) for premium seats in a Shambhavi Mahamudra program (as in the weekend that was in London, already mentioned), plus 95 pounds (about 105 euros) for the “ online lighting course”, a prior requirement to attend the program.
The language is a little culty – but, then again, all religions have their own jargon.
In the wake of Osho and other eastern leaders
Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton offers three defining characteristics of a destructive cult: a process of coercive persuasion or “thought reform,” a charismatic leader who becomes an object of worship, and an exploitation, economic, sexual or other types of group members by the leader and his group.
The Isha Foundation hits all the marks, but the guru’s extortion game is nothing new.
Forty years ago, “the orange people” was a common sight in Totnes (Devon, UK). They were the followers of Osho, a guru who established a colony in Oregon (USA), where he housed a fleet of Rolls-Royces and committed bioterrorist attacks against locals who opposed him.
RIES is conflating Sadhguru with Osho. His story needs further investigation to determine whether he was involved in the bioterror attacks. And, of course, how he died. But there is no evidence that Sadhguru and Osho are connected. Or for that matter this Vishwananda dude.
What appeared to be a video of Sri Swami Vishwananda, a guru living in Germany, “vomiting gold” in front of an ashram of crazed Western devotees became even more horrible when it came to light in 2008 that he had been using his brahmacharis (monks novices) as personal sex slaves.
The vomiting gold is, I believe, a trick meant to fool gullible followers that their guru can create gold within his body and spit it out. It appears to be a fraud. The secret, I believe, is that these gurus learn how to swallow, then expel various substances through a hatha yoga technique called dhauti. I read of one guru who could ingest food from his anus and expel it through his mouth.
Despite all that, both Osho and Vishwananda still have a large following, so in Sadhguru’s case, having killed his wife and ruined people’s lives probably won’t be much of a problem for him.
This article takes a huge leap now when it says he killed his wife. This is not journalism. It is not logical. It is patently unfair. We need proof that he killed his wife and, for that matter, proof that he ruined people’s lives.
The Isha Foundation has yet to make headlines, but it is following a familiar path: “the mystic” on its way to becoming the Osho of our times.
Well perhaps it is time to explore this – but it is hard to imagine a less persuasive article.
There are YouTube videos of Sadhguru. He has almost 8 million subscribers but, curiously, some of his videos only get from 50,000 – 100,000 views while others get over one million and one got more than 11 million views.
Video of Sri Swami Vishwananda “vomiting gold.”
Let’s see what happens next on this. I would venture someone or a number of people will provide some info and this story may have a sequel.