Isha Foundation is a volunteer-based, non-profit organisation founded by Sadhguru. It is an essential resource for those who wish to explore the ancient science of yoga in all its depth and dimensions
You can’t miss him, especially if you are visiting Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. The white bearded man smiles at you from every corner of the city. There are many bill boards along the main thoroughfares showing him in different moods, but looking at you, straight in your eyes, and giving simple advice and gyan on various aspects of life.
He is none other than Jaggi Vasudev, more popularly known as Sadhguru of the Isha Foundation.
His impressive Isha Foundation campus is about 40 km from the city of Coimbatore and there are a number of buses from the city bus terminus. The route is bumpy, back-breaking and time-consuming. It takes anything upto two hours to reach the Isha Foundation.
The services start early morning and continue up to 9 pm.
There are many localites who make it a point to visit the place every day and there is also a steady stream of visitors from outside. Entry is free and if one is lucky he or she can meet Sadhguru himself and interact with him during his evening discourse sessions.
And, these discourses are not one-way traffic as in most cases. Here he speaks for some time and then engages in free conversation with those gathered there.
Everything can be discussed, from personal life to spiritual doubts. He patiently answers all the questions.
In the Foundation, there are five major activities going on simultaneously: the Yoga centre, Project GreenHands, Isha Vidhya, Action for Rural Rejuvenation and Rally for Rivers. Isha Foundation is a non-profit, spiritual organisation founded in 1992 by Sadhguru. The foundation offers yoga programs under the name of ‘Isha Yoga’.
Yoga classes are also conducted for corporate leaders to introduce them to what Sadhguru calls “inclusive economics,” to introduce a sense of compassion and inclusiveness into today’s economic scenario.
There are two ashrams: the Isha Yoga Centre at the Velliangiri hills near Coimbatore and another at the Isha Institute of Inner Sciences at McMinnville, Tennessee.
The foundation regularly organises Maha satsangs with Sadhguru where he gives discourses, conducts meditations and indulges in question-answer session with the masses. It also organises annual yatras to Mount Kailash and the Himalayas under the banners Kailash Manasarovar Sojourn and Himalayan Dhyan Yatra.
Social And Environmental Initiatives
Isha Foundation was founded by Sadhguru, to create an inclusive culture towards global harmony and progress. Its powerful yoga programs for inner transformation and inspiring projects for society and the environment are appreciated worldwide, reflected in Isha’s consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Isha Foundation is an essential resource for those who wish to explore the ancient science of yoga in all its depth and dimensions.
Action for Rural Rejuvenation
Action for Rural Rejuvenation (ARR) is a multi-phase program aimed toward improving the overall health and quality of life of the rural poor. It was established by Sadhguru in 2003 . As of 2010, ARR has reached over 4,200 villages and a population of over 7 million people.
Isha Vidhya, an education initiative, aims to raise the level of education and literacy in rural India by providing quality English-language-based, computer-aided education to rural children. There are seven Isha Vidhya Schools in operation which educate around 3000 students.
Mobile health clinics
There are mobile health clinics operated by the foundation. These MHCs were launched in 2003 to service less accessible rural areas and provide timely medical care to people who would not have access.
The clinics provide basic health care, distribute medicine and create health awareness among the rural public. The clinic is equipped with a medical laboratory, diagnostic equipment and a pharmacy and is staffed by a physician, two paramedical staff and a yoga teacher who provide health care services and yoga training to patients. The mobile clinics are capable of attending to around 100 patients a day.
Isha rural health clinics
Isha Rural Health Clinics (IRHCs) provide communities with round the clock affordable and expert healthcare services. Currently, four IRHCs are in operation in the districts of Coimbatore, Tripura, Salem and Velayuthampalayam. Each IRHC serves up to 30 surrounding villages and is equipped with a diagnostic lab, a subsidized pharmacy and minor surgery facilities and offers allopathic and alternative medical services at low cost, emergency medical services and minor surgeries. Apart from an in-house doctor, the clinic also has a team of visiting specialists for gynaecology, ENT and paediatrics.
Health awareness campaigns
Health awareness events and medical camps are held across Tamil Nadu under the Isha Arogya Gramam Plan launched in 2008. Patients are screened and treated for general health, eye, ENT and dental problems. The “Wave of Health” or Arokia Alai programme also works to support this endeavour by spreading awareness on nutrition, disease prevention and hygiene and sanitation to the rural people through talks and media presentations
The foundation and Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society have collaborated to establish a community care centre for treatment and counselling people living with HIV/AIDS. The centre offers medical treatment, consultations on illnesses related to HIV and AIDS, treatment of opportunistic infections, counselling services for patients on issues such as drug adherence, nutrition, use of contraceptives and positive living and a free ambulance service which serves as an emergency transport and for transporting patients for lab investigations.
It is an annual event to showcase rural sports and art forms. Over 500,000 people from 900 villages attend this event. Performances are given in various rural art forms such as Silambattam, Oyilattam, Karagattam and Tapattam. Handicrafts and traditional food from various regions are also displayed. Rural olympics are also conducted as a part of the Gramotsavam.
Technologies for Wellbeing
Inner Engineering is a comprehensive system, derived from the ancient science of yoga, to establish a deep and lasting personal transformation. It is a method of aligning one’s body, mind, emotions and energies to function at their peak and in complete harmony. It does not require any physical fitness or previous knowledge of yoga and is easy to integrate into any lifestyle. The program includes Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya – a powerful 21-minute process that incorporates the breath. If practiced daily, it can enhance your perception and experience of life.
The Isha Foundation is a totally volunteer-run, non-profit, human service organisation dedicated to cultivating human potential, says the Sadhguru. There are over 9 million volunteers, sources said.
Deeply touched and transformed by their personal experiences, volunteers bring to life Isha’s myriad activities, forming the vibrant force of dedication and love that makes Isha truly unique.
Apart from part time volunteers, there are over 4000 full time volunteers who are involved in the Yoga and meditation programs, the 4 major social outreach projects, running two boarding schools, conducting major leadership programs, Rally for Rivers, etc. In the Coimbatore ashram itself, nearly 1000 volunteers are staying in dormitories. The main focus is on several large-scale human service projects to support individual growth, revitalize the human spirit, rebuild communities, and restores the environment, it is said.
The centre offers various residential accommodation facilities and yoga programs of different durations, which one can make use of. Both program participants and guests are provided wholesome sattvic food as part of their stay. Isha Yoga Centre provides a supportive environment for one to shift to healthier lifestyles, seek a higher level of self-fulfillment. “INSIGHT – The DNA of Success” is a leadership programme offered by Isha Leadership Academy, which provides one with practical takeaways that multiply capability to manage both external situations and inner growth. Bringing together the tools of professional and personal empowerment, INSIGHT is designed as a practitioner-oriented package that draws upon the experience of several highly successful business leaders who have built and grown world-class organisations.
The interesting thing is nothing much is known about the hierarchy within. After sadhguru, who is going to guide them? I ask. “Every initiative has its own leadership. Anna (brother) and the entire wheel moves smoothly” they say. ‘Anna’ is how affectionately they address you and volunteers are there all around to attend to any emergency inside the ashram.
Sadhguru is ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, and was conferred the “Padma Vibhushan” by the Government of India in 2017.
Very little is known about his personal life though insiders say he hails from Mysore but came to Coimbatore to set up the foundation as he was influenced by the ‘poorva janma’ , memories that he had spent in the Velliangiri hills adjoining the place where the Isha Foundation today stands. He first set up the Dhyanalinga, a Yogic temple which was consecrated on June 24, 1999. It is a lovely cubical structure with an egg shaped roof under which the tall shiv linga stands. It is a centre for meditation and devotees sit all around in total silence and meditate for hours. The temple is consecrated using prana prathista and is dedicated for meditation.
‘Dhyana’ is a Sanskrit word which means meditation, and linga means form, he explains. According to Sadhguru, the Dhyanalinga has all the seven chakras fully energized .The Dhyanalinga Yogic Temple offers a meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith.
As we enter, the large ellipsoidal dome catches our attention. The dome was designed by architect Satprem Maïni and the Auroville Earth Institute, and constructed by volunteers of the Isha Foundation using only country-fired bricks and cement-stabilized mud mortar, without steel or concrete, we are told.
The dome is 76 ft (23.2 m) in diameter and 33 ft (10.1 m) in height. The lingam is 13 ft (4 m) in height made of high density black granite.
The Sarva Dharma Sthamba, located at the front entrance, is unique. It has sculptural reliefs and symbols of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism and Shinto inscribed as a universal welcome.
It is the theerthakund, where we are first taken by the volunteers. It is a subterranean tank located 35 ft (10.7 m) below the ground and holds three lingams immersed in water. It is believed that the lingam is made of solidified and 99.8% purified mercury. The mercury is said to have been solidified at room temperature.
We take a dip in this water before going to the Dhyanalinga temple. A semi-circular brick vault covers this tank, the inner sides of which have murals in pure natural dyes.
Visitors coming to the Dhyanalinga experience meditation by chanting the mantra ‘Aum’. This is said to relieve people from numerous physical and mental issues. The Dhyanalinga offers a set of activities throughout the year aimed at creating and promoting universal values and religious harmony. Daily activities include non-lyrical chants, offered by a talented group of singers, originating from various countries and cultures.
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