My Lockdown Story In India
In his book Dark Nature, Lyall Watson argues that while genes are selfish, the organism need not be. He cites a compelling example of his encounter with a group of false killer whales in the Florida Keys. There were about 29 whales surrounding a male pod lying on the soft sand, who was bleeding from one ear. He had trouble remaining upright and would have surely drowned had he not been supported by the bodies of the rest of the group, who pressed in close enough to keep him steady and breathing. Any of the whales could have left him at any time, but they stood by him for over 70 hours risking their own lives.
What of humans then? Like with whales, existential crises bring out the best in us too. And if there’s a magnetic guiding force to channel these qualities, we’re quite capable of surprising ourselves with what we can achieve. I had the fortune of experiencing both the guiding force and its all-encompassing magnanimity during my recent stay at the Isha Yoga Center for three months during the lockdown.
The Paradise of Lockdowns, But…
The centre enforced the lockdown on 25 March with 3000 of us. We had great company — 300 cows, 10 dogs, dozens of fish, numerous peacocks and snakes cohabiting a sprawling breath-taking campus. Though this may sound like the paradise of lockdowns, it’s certainly no walk in the park. To survive and thrive through the pandemic, led by Sadhguru, the centre morphed into an innovative, creative and busy hub. It continues to reinvent itself with precision and speed not only to ensure that the virus stays out, but also to support people world-wide in these challenging times.
A few days into the lockdown, Sadhguru announced that it’s his personal commitment that no one should die of starvation during the pandemic if we can help it. Isha, he said, would step out to do whatever is needed. “We're gearing up [to provide daily nourishment to those in need in the local rural community] and today I'm making an appeal to everyone — we need a lot of money,” he said, making a first of its kind appeal.
“We need a minimum of 14-15 crore. We have already, kind of, committed to this.” As always, Sadhguru lands the bomb gently.
My mathematician’s mind goes into a frenzy, “But how? All the yoga programs are cancelled. The center has almost zero revenue, and our survival is under threat, Where will we get the additional crores?”
The Master Stroke
Typically, Sadhguru rolls up his sleeves and goes to work. One day at the evening darshan, crackling wit on full display, he says, “You know, now that I’m becoming a full-time painter and a part-time spiritual teacher...” we don’t have to fill in the blanks as they gently unveil his art pieces — an exploding sunset, a majestic cobra and a gentle feather barely touching the canvas it inhabits.
Ah! Sadhguru will take to the canvas to raise funds! Though for him, it's just a good use of the lockdown time for the well-being of others, for us it's also an artistic treat of a lifetime!
“As a seeker, I have been thirsty for my Guru. But as an artist, I have been curious to see his work and to hear him speak about it,” shares Pallavi Guptaa, a professional artist and a friend.
“He has a flawless sense of geometry, space and composition. Sadhguru touches every other art form with his mystical insight. We have, over the years, seen his abundant creativity take various expressions through music, dance and of course, poetry. Now the intrigue has shifted to see all this translate onto canvas too,” she continues.
“Of course, it came as no surprise to see his unique use of cow dung, turmeric, kumkum and charcoal in order to create everlasting canvases, considering his knowledge is so profound. As a mystic, he is sure to create alchemy and vibration everywhere, which no doubt has also found its way onto the canvas. For a keen observer, it’s an experience at various levels.”
‘To Live Totally!’ Sadhguru’s first painting — a stunning riot of colour and form pulsating with life — went under the hammer last month and was sold for a whopping INR 4.14 crore. For Andrea Wassmer, who became the owner of this masterpiece, it’s nothing short of sublime. She shared from her home in Switzerland, “I am delighted to support such a noble cause. I will cherish Sadhguru’s painting and have decided to donate it to my hotel, the Divota Apartment Hotel, in Split, Croatia, where we have set up a yoga and meditation centre.”
With his hectic schedule, Sadhguru had to paint through the night. It is humbling to know that he did not keep a single penny from the auction of his painting for himself, but instead donated the entire sum to save thousands of people from starvation. If I were him, I would have bought myself at least one fancy bike (oops)!
On June 14, ‘Bhairava’, Sadhguru’s tender tribute to Isha’s iconic bull was put out on auction — an enchanting alchemy of organic material like charcoal, turmeric and limestone with a cow dung background. It is heartening to see that it has already beaten ‘To Live Totally!’ and the bid stands at INR 5.1 crore as of this writing. The bid closes on 5 July 2020, and Sadhguru has already declared that he will donate the amount collected towards the COVID-19 relief work.
Now, Isha volunteers can continue to provide three meals to 18,000 people, as they have been doing for the past 75 days. Isha has also been carrying out mammoth relief operations for 200,000 people in 90 villages around the Yoga Center since the lockdown began. In part because of this swift relief operation, not a single COVID-19 positive case has been reported in the area. It’s impressive considering Tamil Nadu is one of the runaway states where the virus is on a rampage.
A Lesson of Life
To me personally, the most important lesson from this endeavour is how Sadhguru with his compassion and willingness sows the seeds of inspiration and sets the stage, for generous donors to contribute from across the world, and for local communities to respond by pitching in time and effort, to create a harmonious world in a time of strife — and that too with artistic grace and festivity. Something one can never learn at a university.
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