Indian mystic’s star is high as he visits his Chattanooga-area ashram

Founder of the Isha Foundation, Sadhguru gestures as he arrives to speak with media during a 'Save Soil' event in Mumbai, India, in 2022. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A popular new age mystic said he will grace his large ashram outside Chattanooga with his presence Saturday afternoon at an event free and open to anyone who registers.

Much remains unclear about the tightly controlled gathering to be held at the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences, a 1,000-plus acre spiritual retreat center between Chattanooga and McMinnville. But marketing materials tout culinary and spiritual nourishment, mediated through a man described as a bridge to a mysterious arena of life.

"Immerse yourself in the presence and grace of Sadhguru," said one promotional page on his website. "This event offers an immense privilege to be in the grace of the guru and soak in the environs of a consecrated space. For every seeker, a moment of receptivity and complete willingness in the presence of an enlightened being has the potential to open new doors to deeper dimensions of perception and experience within."

With the classic white beard of the sage and a bouncy giggle, from YouTube to "The Daily Show" to the side of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sadhguru has forged a vast international following promoting what he and others describe as a sacred path to self-transformation.

He maintains one of his main spiritual centers just an hour's drive from Chattanooga.

"If you are willing, you can rewire your brain completely today," Sadhguru said in one recent video, speaking to an Indian audience on his YouTube channel, where he has nearly 12 million subscribers. In 24 hours, he said, you can alter your epigenetic system and be a completely different person tomorrow morning.

The idea, he said, is not about changing attitudes, changing ethics or learning a few tricks, but about deeper changes.

"Making your very chemistry into a blissful chemistry — this is what it's about," he said, as the background music in the video swelled. "In seven steps, transform your life with Sadhguru. This is the program. Inner-engineering."


Born as Jagadish Vasudev, Sadhguru said his enlightenment occurred on a hill in his childhood town in India, where he had an overwhelming experience. It changed his life forever, he said — and meant the beginning of his Isha Foundation, as well as the spiritual process he now promotes across the world.

(READ MORE: 1 city, 2 people — and India's widening religious divide)

The Isha Foundation's presence in Tennessee dates to at least 1998, when state records say it was registered. The nonprofit's initial stated mission on tax forms was to get funds to build a yoga outreach program in Coimbatore, India, where Sadhguru now maintains another center, and then to help people to go there.

Initially the nonprofit, according to tax records, raised $100,000 or $200,000 per year to this end. But soon it reported increasing revenue and was hosting inner-engineering programs in U.S. cities like Detroit, Atlanta — and in McMinnville. By 2007, its tax forms listed a new address: 951 Isha Lane, the site of the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences today.

The volunteer-driven organization's stated mission soon developed into something resembling its present-day purpose: To put on inner-engineering programs for self-empowerment and perfect growth — and to offer "tools to explore the manifold dimensions of life and reengineer oneself through the inner science of yoga."

If finances are any indication, this mission has in the last eight or so years met great success. By 2019, the Tennessee-based organization's assets totaled a reported $45 million, and by 2021 — the last year on public record — this figure had risen to $77 million, on the reported strength of programming fees, donations and values of its property, which public records show to encompass many thousands of acres in the state.

Sadhguru dabbles in many fields. He flies helicopters, and to promote his "Save Soil" initiative, he drove a motorcycle halfway across the world. Opining on architecture, he notes that buildings are essentially in tension. But he said he tells people, "when the buildings themselves are meditating, you should be an easy case."

Sadhguru's website describes him as an excellent cook and instructs those who eat his food to be ready for an explosion of taste and lifelong enslavement of tongue. His sporting exploits are reportedly impressive as well. One time, his website said, he asked how the best golfers hit a ball.

"I took a shot and just hit the ball," he wrote. "It went 325 yards. They said, 'But Sadhguru, this is impossible. You have played golf somewhere.' I told them, 'Even now I don't know a damn thing about golf. But you want the ball to go there, I know how to send it there.' That's all I know with life also. I want it to go there, I know how to send it there. I don't know anything else. And that's all you need to know. Otherwise, you will know everything but you will not know where to go."

Marketing for Saturday's event, to run from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. CDT, invites attendees to arrive before and stay afterwards to intensify their spiritual practice while Sadhguru is on hand. It projects "an uncharted time with Sadhguru where he candidly unfolds his knowing and wisdom, subject to who is sitting in front of him."

(READ MORE: 'It feels so right': Through pagan ritual, Chattanoogans forge link to ancestors and earth)

His visits are not rare — he was reportedly at the Isha Institute in the early summer — but efforts are made to maintain secrecy. Those registering for Saturday's event must check a box agreeing not to disclose or disseminate any portion of the program for any purpose and to refrain from taking notes, audio, or photo or video records. Efforts by phone and email to reach a representative of the Isha Institute to discuss its history and the Saturday event were unsuccessful.

In edited videos of past events, Sadhguru sits in front of hundreds, even thousands, of smiling viewers, listening raptly.

"Once you're blissful by your nature, your life is in your hands," he said in a recent video about mental health. In it, he announced a new format for his seven-step inner-engineering program and pledged it would remain connected to his individual persona.

"All the spiritual offerings that we do will be just branded with Sadhguru," he said.

He explained that nobody wants to do a spiritual process with an organization. People, he said, want to do it with somebody they trust.

Contact Andrew Schwartz at or 423-757-6431.