Swami Ekapada

    Standing on One Leg – Nataraja

    “The best thing about Swami Ekapada is that he can neither take a step forward nor back – firmly rooted in a status quo that is pleasant, efficient, and non-threatening. This said, whenever required, Swami is the first to hop in,” says Swami Vibhu, who has known him from the day Swami did his Isha Yoga class in 2000. Together, they are also part of the Isha Home School.

    An architect by qualification, Swami Ekapada is a gifted orator, actor, and drama teacher – a role he accidentally fell into. His extraordinary ability to communicate, control, and project his voice, with equally dramatic expressions, enthralls adults and children at once.

    “Swami brings in a very different flavor of drama. Not the serious kind, but one that makes you take yourself less seriously by the second. Yet another creative way of demolishing the limited personalities we build,” says Tina Jabr, who attended a theater workshop with Swami, which was especially designed for the Ishangas.

    On the last day of this theater workshop, Sadhguru came to watch the Ishangas’ perform their acts. As soon as he came into the hall, Sadhguru looked in the direction of Swami Ekapada and stood on one leg. This is because Sadhguru never misses an opportunity to tease Swami about the meaning of his name. Here we reproduce the short banter between the two from a Brahmacharis’ Meet, for you to enjoy.

    “Stand on one leg and ask, Swami?” said Sadhguru as soon as Swami took the microphone to ask the question.

    Swami Ekapada: Where did I put my chappals?

    Sadhguru:Only one chappal you need, Swami. So one chappal is gone, the other chappal is there; that’s enough for you.

    Swami Ekapada:Sadhguru, this is one question; the other question is… You called me Ekapada, and my real question is: which one is it, right or left?

    Sadhguru: That’s a very profound question! There is a profound meaning to that. That’s not a frivolous question. One chappal missing is not an appropriate question because you need only one.

    Swami: Does Asteya (in Yoga, the yama of not stealing) have to do with identity and seeing that you’re not the body, you’re not the mind? (Swami finally gets to ask his question.)

    Sadhguru: Though you stand on one leg, you’re becoming wise these days…

    Sadhguru then continued to give his answer with his usual precision and clarity.

    Swami Ekapada moved to the ashram in 2002 and was ordained into Brahmacharya in 2004. “As a child, I took what Jesus is said to have taught quite seriously. How he was, what he did, how he described himself amazed me, but I never thought one could experience these things. As, you know, he was ‘the son of God’ – and I’m just a kid. I remember one day, after a particularly difficult moment, I came back crying to my room and sat down for prayer. With tears and pain, I prayed intensely, ‘I only want to know You, my Lord; nothing else matters.’ I didn’t know what that meant that time, but in that moment, that was my wish,” said Swami and continued to talk about how in his life a time came when Shiva became his friend, a way, a goal. “He became everything that I was aspiring for. He was all that was to know about life. Nothing else mattered anymore.” Here we have an extraordinary story of a seeker of truth beyond the semantics of the religions and cultures around the world…

    Before Isha

    As a teenager, observing people around me, life seemed to be set for everyone. People went to school, then college, got a job, got married, kids. Time and time again this bothered me. I often wondered, “Isn’t there more to life? What is it? How can I know?”

    At 19, I read many books, went into healing and tried many things to get to some pleasantness… even turned vegetarian. I was becoming agnostic and a bit of a philosopher. After much seeking, I landed on an experience: a level of pleasantness I had so far never felt.

    This happened in June 1998. With a group of friends, I went to Harissa at the top of a mountain where there was a famous statue of religious significance to people and a place of pilgrimage. We didn’t go there for that – we went because it had the best view of Beirut below. It had a spiraling ramp around that people could climb up on. We stood as far up as we could go on the ramp, to get the best view. At that spot, somehow and for the first time that I can remember, I experienced genuine joy within me without any reason. I firmly believed this was a “spiritual” experience.

    Over time, this experience grew within me – I felt a connection with what was around me and effortlessly had compassion for everyone. My childhood question was answered: there actually was more to life. After six months, I woke up one morning and realized that experience had gone.

    It was like a parched person had access to a well and now could no longer find it. I was devastated and became desperate. I read even more books, attended as many new age workshops and processes as were made available. I started hanging on to any “spiritual” experience that came my way, but the more glimpses I got, the more desperate I became for something deeper, more meaningful, and that I knew I could hold on to forever.

    Isha entered my life

    I first heard of Sadhguru from my mother. She was going through a lot of hardship at the time, so hearing from friends who recommended that she attend the Yoga program, she quickly signed up for the Isha Yoga class as well as the Bhava Spandana program. I thought, maybe it’s just another workshop? Will it work? I waited to see. Once she came back from the Bhava Spandana program, I looked at her face, and I almost didn’t recognize her. Her face was radiant and relaxed, like a huge burden was lifted off her life. I knew that whatever she had gone through worked. I enrolled in the next Isha Yoga program with Sadhguru. During the program, all the class aspects went straight over my head. I cried bitterly when it was over – because I didn’t experience anything…or rather, I didn’t experience what I wanted to experience. Nevertheless, the atmosphere in the class did indicate to me that this was different. Sadhguru was different. This was not another “New Age” gimmick.

    The next time Sadhguru came to Lebanon was a year later. This time, I volunteered for the program. By then, two years had passed since my big experience on the mountain, and my longing was hitting a painful peak. After one of the sessions, seeing Sadhguru, I was sobbing mad, and though I felt embarrassed, something within me just wanted to let go. That is when I realized that there was much more to Sadhguru than I could ever understand.

    During my Bhava Spandana program, I felt drawn to the way volunteers served; I felt they knew some love, some joy that I didn’t have – otherwise they couldn’t treat us like we were everything to them. The way Sadhguru chanted Shiva Shambho, I knew He knew something far beyond me. I melted in longing and eagerness, crying tears like I’ve found something of tremendous value. That is when I first heard about Shiva, and that He was the destroyer. In one of the processes, I decided to give it a full shot. I threw myself completely and I lost any sense of where my body was for a few moments. In another process, intense sensations ran through my entire body. I was shaking and crying uncontrollably! I saw each participant as a divine entity. I naturally bowed down to everyone.

    The explosion of Samyama

    Knowing well that my life would not be the same after Samyama[1], before walking into the newly constructed Spanda Hall, I turned around, said goodbye to the world the way I knew it and went into the program.

    During the processes, I didn’t know what was happening – I was writhing like a snake one moment, growling like a tiger the next. I threw myself with wild abandon. Many times, I collapsed on the floor enveloped by darkness. Through unimaginable experiences, Shiva became everything to me.

    Once back to Lebanon, it was like the emotional connection I had with my family and friends disappeared. I got very involved with my practices, and I often slipped into intense states. Shiva became a friend, a way, a goal. He was all that there was to know about life.

    However, while this was happening on the inside, nothing changed on the outside. I was still pursuing my education, looking at how to establish myself to make a living. Now it made even less sense. Day after day, my longing turned to rage as I didn’t want to waste my life pursuing something that meant nothing to me.

    So I set growth as my highest priority, regardless of what comes. This gave me such a tremendous sense of purpose. I did things I had never imagined I could do. In my experience, it was like an offering. I took every situation I faced as an opportunity for growth. That was the most fearless period of my life.

    [1] Advanced residential program at Isha Yoga Center where participants spend 8 days in silence and experience deeper states of meditativeness.

    Concretizing my longing

    Immediately after graduation, I came to the ashram for 3 months. I jumped into the sadhana schedule with a lot of enthusiasm and gusto. But then, I began to see the madness of my mind. Everything came to the surface and it was quite hard to believe and digest. I was at a loss. On the 10th day, I got an opportunity to meet Sadhguru. The moment I came in the room, I fell at His feet crying, asking Him what was going on. In that meeting, He set a few things straight in me. Along the way, He also hinted at the possibility of me staying here – if I wished. I never realized that this was possible at all.

    On the 14th day, in the ashram, having seen that the source of energy that this place imbibed was what I longed for within me, there was no other option for me. I had to be here: madness or no madness, I had to see this through. Before I went back to Lebanon, I had another meeting with Sadhguru. “There’s a lot of shit to get off this tree to make it grow,” He told me. I didn’t understand what he meant, of course.

    Muddy Pool

    Instead of wading through
    This mind of mine;
    A viscous pool
    Of thick mud & slush

    O Lord, make this pool Yours;
    Pure as the mountain air,
    Still as a windless ocean,
    Stable as a deep-rooted tree,

    That as all wading ceases,
    And the mind’s ripples die,
    I see on its surface
    The Darkness of Your eternal sky.

    I went back to Lebanon, but after 3 months, I was back to the ashram for good. Initially, I volunteered in dining, kitchen, audio, and archives. At that time, I was doing 70 Surya Namaskars in one hour, and things were really getting stirred up. I lost quite a lot of weight by then. I chanced seeing Sadhguru on the grounds one day, and upon looking at me, He shouted, “What are you doing? Go eat. Go eat now!” After that, I started eating… to be more accurate, hogging for one hour every meal. Despite this, I still lost a couple of kilos over a few months.

    I got initiated into Brahmacharya in 2004. By then, too many things were happening that I couldn’t handle, inside and outside. I was on fire – and it didn’t matter. But in activity, I couldn’t do things properly. I could manage with simple instructions well enough, but anything which involved a little more, I struggled with.

    Wanting to be useful – my way

    As if he knew that within me I wanted to be useful as an architect, Sadhguru sent me to Coimbatore city to work with the architect who Isha worked with on a few projects. He was very inspired by Sadhguru. I was to prepare an interior design for a boutique as part of the newly set up Isha Business that would provide financial support for Isha’s social outreach projects. I felt I was given a tremendous privilege and responsibility.

    The work involved design, on-site execution, and coordinating with people. I wanted to make it happen very badly. For the first time in my life, I felt I belonged somewhere – though it was still a strange land to me, with people speaking an unknown language, and having a culture I knew nothing about. I travelled from the ashram to Coimbatore every day on the Poondi[1] bus for three months. I spent so much time on that bus that if someone asked me what work I was doing, I’d jokingly tell them, “I’m in the Poondi bus department.”

    Internally though, I was struggling immensely with my limitations. I found it very hard to connect with people and to understand what to say and do in many situations. Mishaps, misunderstandings, and putting my foot in my mouth happened on a regular basis. I was overwhelmed, and it was hard to process at times. With support from the architect and our brahmachari team, the work happened to the best of our ability.

    With all this happening within and outside, at one point, my bubble burst and I realized I don’t know anything really! This brought me to some painful reflection.

    [1] A village near Isha Yoga Center.

    When I became a true Volunteer!

    Shortly after, a weeklong Brahmacharis Meet was to take place while I was stuck in Nepal due to visa complications. We were meant to be in silence, so I made arrangements to be in silence too and was given a sadhana schedule. On one of the days, as I was sitting for Presence, a soft yet very consuming moment happened, as if I collapsed into myself, and there was Sadhguru. I felt I belonged no more to myself, and I was fired up to come back and be useful to everyone around me. This time, it would not be on my terms.

    Your Way

    I’m swaying on a rope
    Hung from end to end
    Balancing between my poisonous ways
    And Your inflaming Grace

    In my ways, I may make
    poison out of life
    In Your ways, even
    poison becomes life.

    O Shambho,
    Let my life be
    Whichever way You like,
    For my way is my poison
    Your way is my life.

    Once I was back from Nepal, I was totally ready for a fresh start. Sadhguru sent me to Isha Home School (IHS) with one instruction: “To be spiritual and not to talk spirituality.” Of course, I didn’t understand. Are you kidding?

    My first day at IHS: I finished my practices and came for assembly. The day was amazing, the atmosphere in the school was charged with youthful enthusiasm. I thought this is going to be good. And it was.

    One day I went and plugged a mic cable into an amp during an assembly because it wasn’t working. The next thing I knew, I was asked to ensure the audio works every day. Since then, I’ve been in charge of audio at the school.

    A month into the term, I made another “mistake” and said “yes” when an English teacher asked me if I could help a few struggling students to put up a skit. I was always into drama, so it was the most natural thing for me. The skit was a success; the students were motivated to learn and improve. Next thing I knew, I was appointed to conduct drama classes for juniors! Then slowly, classes increased, drama productions evolved into better performances. Like this, things happened.

    Slowly the shell that I was began opening up, and I started including and connecting with others.

    The Invisible Hand

    From 2010 and over the next few years, I struggled with extreme exhaustion. Compounded with periodic physical injuries, many times striving itself felt impossible, and I just gave up.


    What started with love, grief, and raging longing…
    Found intense pain and joy…
    Waded through failures and was propelled by successes…
    Lost and found itself a thousand times…

    I told myself I cannot make it.
    I told myself all the things that made it not work.
    I told myself it was impossible…
    But it isn’t. Somehow it isn’t.

    With the right dosage of madness,
    The Lord may look upon me again.
    He may look upon me again!

    And out of nowhere, support came many times. One day, someone asked me whether I was applying the class aspects or not, and I replied, “Class aspects? What class aspects?” You wouldn’t believe it, but I honestly didn’t know what they were. So for a few years, I participated in a yearly Isha Yoga refresher course. Every year, one class aspect opened up to me – yes, I was that thick – and I slowly became more sensible. Bit by bit, I became more and more responsible for my body and mind.

    In one Shakti Sangamam[1], I focused all my attention on being alert and intensifying my sadhana. I kept a water bottle near me that I would refill during the breaks. Whenever needed, I would drink some of it and pour some on my head to stay alert and continue meditating. My longing grew to know something more. At the closing session of the program, I sat for Guru Pooja with tears swelling in my eyes. The moment the first word was uttered I went into a state that started building up, uncontrollably moving in a direction that I never expected. When I came out of it my perception had changed completely. Although that experience stayed with me for a few hours, it gave me a glimpse of what I need to strive for and not give up.

    In another Shakti Sangamam, I went on an Ekadashi walk. We would fast the whole day and walk, staying aware. I tried to maintain my awareness and applied the tools. As the sun rose above us, the summer’s heat was now at its peak. I looked up at the sun, responding to its glory. All of a sudden, the sun wasn’t just a source of heat – it was a tremendous source of energy. From being exhausted, I was lighter than I ever experienced, surging with energy. From dragging my feet in exhaustion and heat, I was now literally bouncing on the road, looking up at the sun, inebriated with an ecstasy that I hadn’t known before.

    I knew it was Sadhguru’s invisible hand. It comes into my life when it’s needed the most and redirects me towards my sadhana. This experience also hit home what Sadhguru keeps telling us: our four wheels (body, mind, emotions, and energy) need to be aligned in the same direction – then only the vehicle will move.

    Having experienced many highs and lows, I still didn’t know how to really align myself all the time. There was much more for me to learn.

    [1] A program in which Brahmacharis spend two weeks in silence together, doing their sadhana.

    Last time I gave up

    Last year was probably the highest I’ve experienced in the recent past. On one side, I had pains in several parts of my body, and my overall stamina and fitness were still not good. On the other side, I was compelled to take up more responsibility and workload. I was sick and tired of being unfit and wanted to get rid of some compulsions, so I started jogging with a few Swamis. With proper training, and warm up and cool down routine, I was able to gradually increase my stamina, fitness, and strength.

    I had the privilege to go into Lingarpanam[1] a couple of weeks later. It was an absolutely empowering experience as I overcame so much negativity. As I stayed fit, I continued to jog during my breaks. Right after that, Shakti Sangamam happened. Just like before my first Samyama 20 years ago, I again felt that things will change drastically. I said goodbye to the world the way I knew it and came in.

    Right after Shakti Sangamam, I went to Bangalore and participated in a 10K marathon. Despite getting a muscle pull, I still completed it. I never knew I could do anything like that. To think that, just a few years before, I couldn’t walk 1 km without feeling sapped!

    Within me also, a lot of things settled – there was no more giving up. I knew what I had to do to slowly align myself. I bowed down to Sadhguru for the opportunities that lined up, and the guidance and grace that manifested.

    Giving up

    Having met with
    Failure in knowing You,
    In dark corners of my mind,
    I brewed disappointment.

    With defeat at every step,
    Having lost sight of You.
    I gave up many times.
    I spun webs of despair,

    Have You not given me
    All I need to unhinge myself?
    Then what is this despair?
    What is this giving up?

    Till I stop being blind to what
    Is staring me in the face,
    I will be but a spineless fool
    In ignorant disgrace.

    There is no other Truth but You, Shiva!
    I’ll cast off this despair
    And get myself off the floor.
    To dissolve if I dare
    I should give up no more

    I should give up no more!

    [1] Seva in Dhyanalinga.

    What is Sangha and Sadhguru to me?

    The Sangha makes it so much easier to grow because every situation becomes a check and a way for my growth. Not only the Sangha of the Brahmacharis, but the ashramites and volunteers too. In fact, so many times, support came from an unexpected source, and it helped me in my growth. Should I not bow down to everyone then? Are they not His Invisible Hand acting up in my life?

    To me, I experience more of Sadhguru in his absence than in his physical presence. What happened to me, how it happened I can only attribute to Him. I see Him as the one who offers me all possibilities to grow towards my ultimate possibility, I just have to catch it. He’s the Invisible Hand that guides me through obstacles. It’s been my experience that whenever I truly open up to Him, His Grace, His guidance is always there… always waiting for receptivity to blossom.

    A few years ago, in a Brahmacharis’ Meet, Sadhguru told me that I need to remain steady and focused, that my path will be slow, and by the time I’m 40–50, I will start exploring deeper dimensions of consciousness. Well I’m 41 now… As I continue to work on my stability and focus, and strive to grow, I wait… I wait for Him.

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