After the ‘missed’ adventure of Rally for Rivers last year, Sadhguru is back, with yet another mission to save the nation.
But unlike the last time when some sceptics did the tricky math that revealed that his rally’s carbon footprint alone was the equivalent of 8 lakh trees, this time, it will be difficult to do the cost-benefit calculus of his new ‘The Youth & Truth’ endeavour.
Sadhguru is visiting educational institutions in the country to directly interact with the youth. At the end of his tour, he wants to use these inputs to even draft his own education policy. Starting with Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce on 4 September, Sadhguru is set to travel to pretty much all the renowned institutions of higher learning in the country— IIM-Bangalore, NALSAR, IIT-Bombay, JNU, IIM-Ahmedabad, BHU, among others.
Some students of NALSAR even received an email about Sadhguru wanting an 'adversarial debate' on the theme of 'One Nation, One Election'. This is what the email says, as provided by a NALSAR student (on condition of anonymity):
This news is cause for alarm.
But before we discuss the question of ‘free speech’ in public institutions, what makes Sadhguru such a controversial figure? Unlike many other ‘godmen’, Sadhguru doesn’t rely on the devotion of his followers; he thrives on successful commercial enterprises built around the unholy marriage of science and spirituality. He doesn’t challenge the human senses or rationality; he claims to be ‘beyond them.’ He is not anti-science, but ‘meta-science.’
Even if we ignore the various legal complications his foundation is dealing with, his recorded statements can hardly be ignored – they are not just opinions that liberals might disagree with, they are scientifically incorrect balderdash.
In one of his blogs on the Isha Foundation website, Sadhguru constructs a link between food poisoning and a lunar eclipse. “Certain things happen in the planet where anything that has moved away from its natural condition will deteriorate very fast. This is why, while there is no change in raw fruits and vegetables, there is a distinct change in the way cooked food is, before and after the eclipse. What was nourishing food turns into poison.”
Sadhguru’s Unscientific Statements & Other Mishaps
Sadhguru’s callous statement on mob lynchings, in which he claimed ‘religion has nothing to do with it’, and rather, it is because of ‘growing paranoia about child kidnappings and cattle stealing’, has been condemned by many. His organisation’s understanding of the cause of depression, as revealed through the tweet below, shows both ignorance and apathy.
Worse still, Sadhguru’s theories on cancer are an affront to all cancer research.
This isn’t a question of free speech at all. If you have personal resources to invite someone for a backyard concert on junk science, it is solely your business. But for reputed institutions of higher learning to invite such a figure to propagate his views, that too, “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform,” may not be a responsible move.
Most of these institutions of higher learning like to offer space to diverse voices, with the clarion call to ‘ask tough questions’ instead of turning down a public figure – even a dubious one.
These, in my opinion, are misguided suggestions from liberals. Choosing to accommodate a perspective even when you disagree with it, is to endorse its intellectual validity over a million others. It is a statement of agreement to the other person’s allegiance to truth, if not other values. Having said that, it is unlikely that an institution will ever invite Zakir Naik (or Radhe Maa).
Before inviting a mystic or godman to an educational institution, we seriously need to look into the said person’s background, qualifications, previous work /statements, lest it devolve into a situation that occurred in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha in 2016, when a Jain monk in the nude was invited to deliver his kadve pravachan.
But Sadhguru’s wardrobe, and success in business, don’t qualify him for exemption. If he was invited to talk on say business practices to management graduates, it would have been more understandable.
It appears that Sadhguru is becoming Modi's ‘Ramdev’ for 2019, pushing his favourite ‘philosophical views’ into the mainstream through non-political channels. But make no mistake, truth is nobody's fiefdom.
(Akshat Tyagi is the author of ‘Naked Emperor of Education’. He tweets at @AshAkshat. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)