Just Like That | Sadhguru's health crisis and the blend of traditional and modern medicine - Hindustan Times

Just Like That | Sadhguru's health crisis and the blend of traditional and modern medicine

Mar 31, 2024 08:00 AM IST

Sadhguru's successful recovery from brain surgery using allopathic methods underscores the importance of choosing the right treatment based on circumstances

Spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev, also known as Sadhguru, underwent emergency brain surgery at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi on March 17. The surgery was necessitated because of an internal bleeding in the brain. The only symptom he had was severe headaches for some time, which he ignored, until March 17, when he developed a decline in his level of consciousness and weakness in the left leg. The competent neurosurgeons at Apollo realised immediately that it was a life-threatening situation, and operated upon him.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev leaving hospital after being discharged(ANI) PREMIUM
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev leaving hospital after being discharged(ANI)

Sadhguru is recovering well, with all his faculties intact, and his eloquence and wit unimpaired. However, his recourse to allopathic treatment triggered a rather distasteful debate on social media. Many people sneered that a man who was dismissive of modern medicine and propagated Ayurveda and Siddha remedies for health had to, when seriously unwell, find a cure in the same allopathic system he decried.

In fact, Sadhguru had publicly tweeted as far back as 2014 that “Allopathy is purely chemical. Ayurveda is herbal. Siddha is elemental in nature.” In general, he has maintained that modern medicine is only a “chemical manipulation of the system”, and stressed that ancient systems of medicine, like Ayurveda, are better at protecting a person’s overall well-being.

But has Sadhguru condemned allopathy? I believe not.

Sadhguru has praised Ayurveda, but never excluded the relevance of allopathy. It is true that for chronic ailments, allopathy sometimes has limited remedies. Ayurveda, one of the most ancient sciences, has cures based on treating the body as a holistic entity, where often, the underlying cause of a disease has its roots in maladies seemingly unrelated to what may appear as the obvious reason. I have myself experienced a good Ayurveda physician accurately diagnosing a problem by only intently feeling the pulse.

Other sciences such as homoeopathy, naturopathy and Unani have their own utilities. For instance, a trained homeopath will relate a symptom with other unsuspected causes, by asking a series of unrelated questions relating to your moods, quality of sleep, bowel movements and diet preferences. But certainly, such questions, while useful in diagnosing and treating a chronic ailment, will have little relevance if a patient comes with a broken leg that needs immediate allopathic treatment, including possible surgery. After this kind of allopathic treatment, long-term remedies to strengthen your bones and calcium quotient could be provided by alternative forms of medicines.

The real reason behind this unnecessary controversy is that Sadhguru has acquired a larger-than-life persona. His Isha Foundation is a 24/7 publicity machine. His lectures and interviews are widespread across social media, on TV and in print. The celebration of Mahashivratri at his ashram in Coimbatore with celebrities and politicians has become a landmark event, widely promoted across all kinds of media. A good speaker, Sadhguru's lectures have a huge following, with him seemingly having a solution for every problem. His wit and humour, his style of dressing, and his flowing beard have a mesmerising effect on ardent followers.

I have had the occasion of meeting him personally. Both of us were participants in the Hindustan Times Summit in Singapore a few years ago. His personality is affable, and his laughter is spontaneous and hearty. He plays golf, in his usual traditional attire, and plays a good game. In Singapore, he invited me to come and stay at his ashram. I thanked him but said that a strict regimen, with a long list of do’s and don’ts, was not to my liking. Far from taking offence, he had a good laugh and said: “You just come, we’ll see what we can do to accommodate your concerns.”

The other aspect underlining this controversy is that Jaggi Vasudev has strayed from religion and spirituality into politics. He has praised political leaders, and certain political parties and their agendas while decrying others. When a spiritual guru becomes an interlocutor in the volatile politics of the day, he becomes an easy target for critics. Here, it is Sadhguru’s fault. A person who lays claim to be a healer of the soul and the mind should keep to his ken of specialisation.

Controversies are not new to Sadhguru. There have long been allegations of land grabbing, and unfair advantages derived due to political patronage. But for millions, his teachings and practices have provided solace, and many of his devotees consider him, quite literally, an avatar of Shiva. Gurus abound in India, because vast sections of the growing middle class, living in the anonymity and isolation of impersonal metropolises, seek the support, assurance and sense of community of a spiritual anchor.

I am glad that Sadhguru has fully recovered, and remains so. I would advise him now to focus on his spiritual energies and keep away from politics.

Pavan K Varma is author, diplomat, and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha). Just Like That is a weekly column where Varma shares nuggets from the world of history, culture, literature, and personal reminiscences with HT Premium readers. The views expressed are personal

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