I am republishing an answer that I wrote in Quora for the question “What are scientists’ opinions on Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s IIT Madras talk about water having memory and his abilities to manipulate its taste via telekinesis?” . The question had already received many answers when I answered it but I wanted to address some key issues using my answer. Here we go:
I am going to answer this question with a totally different perspective. I am going to be neutral throughout this answer and I have made some suggestions too. I request you all to read the complete answer.
There are a lot of great answers from people like Asher Nitin who are well versed in science; there are also answers from people who love Sadhguru , who wants to prove that Sadhguru was right. They are not able to stand negative criticisms against their beloved leader who has been their inspiration; They have no doubt that the guidance from their leader has been life changing for them.
But as a consequence, I see that Sadhguru lovers have taken some of these answers very seriously and personally, feel offended and even write comments like ‘Some sick dogs are barking at Sadhguru’.
So, let me talk about it a little bit before I begin..
While I do understand your feelings, please remember that this kind of abusive comments are not expected from people who are really practicing the techniques from Isha. And I see this as a growing trend among some people who support Isha. They constantly judge people, call them ‘ignorant’, ‘arrogant’, ‘stupid’, ‘fool’, ‘haters’ etc.
(Please note that I am not saying everybody does it. There are probably thousands of people who have become peaceful, less reactive and more compassionate because of regular practice.
In fact, I wonder if these people who use such abusive language ever practiced the kriyas taught there. These people are probably the ones who just watched some 10–20 youtube videos of Sadhguru but never did any serious spiritual sadhana)
Anyway, I would like to answer the question in such a way that the nature of this answer does not in anyway belittle Sadhguru, ridicule or criticize him. I am going to be as kind and as friendly as possible and I apologize in advance if this answer hurts your feelings in anyway.
If your mind is not clear now and if you think that you cannot read this answer line by line with neutral mind, then please don’t continue. If after reading a paragraph, you find yourself mentally preparing a comment for my answer instead of paying attention to everything that is said and considering it, then please don’t continue. May be you can try later. The better time would be probably just after you finish doing a session of Shambhavi Mahamudra. Don’t comment anything without reading and understanding the complete answer.
Here is my answer:
Let us Understand the Question that was put to Sadhguru First
First, if you read the link in the Isha website, you can see that the questioner wants to know if there is some kind of evidence for the water memory so that it can be verified:
You said that water has some memory. Is there any viability to bring that memory level to our life or something? Is there any scientific evidence or spiritual evidence or some other evidence is available for that? Basically, as I’m a chemist I’m telling this.
Note that the questioner is not asking if water memory is true. The questioner is asking if water memory has any verifiable evidence. I hope you understand the difference; but let me give an example from our life to distinguish between the two.
What is an Evidence?
Let us say you have written an exam. You know you have written it very well and you are going to pass the exam. You can tell others that you will pass the exams and it is guaranteed. But there is no evidence yet. The evidence is obtained only when you get the results in your hand.
Also, as you know, exams are written in controlled conditions so that no one is allowed to copy, carry any written material, speak to anyone etc. And extreme care is taken to make sure that the question paper is not leaked out before the exams. All this is done so that the results of your exams are not influenced by anything else.
Science- Experiments, scientific control and peer review
Same works for a science experiment. The experiments are conducted in completely controlled conditions to make sure that there are no errors and that the results of the experiments are not influenced by any other variables. You can read more about it here: Scientific control – Wikipedia
The results of the experiment can be challenged by future experiments anytime. The results should be always reproducible. If the results are not reproduced by future experiments, then it is not considered as evidence. (science people, please correct me If I have made any mistakes or missed out anything here. Feel free to suggest edits).
The Quality of online articles that claim scientific evidence
This is very important to understand. Because, not everything that you find online is a genuine scientific evidence. Just because an article describes an experiment done by a scientist and shows the results of an experiment, it doesn’t mean that it is a scientific evidence. That is why you can find a lot of things in Google Search which seem authentic to many people even though they don’t have any strong scientific evidence.
If you haven’t read the above paragraph, please read. If you have read it, then remember this for the rest of your life.
The scientific nature of Sadhguru’s answer has been already analyzed brilliantly by others. But some people still seem to think that there is a scientific evidence for it (the comment ‘Some sick dogs are barking at Sadhguru’ was made by one of my Indian brothers, because of this misunderstanding). So, I am going to address that alone here.
Here is what Sadhguru said at the end, about the evidence part:
There’s substantial scientific evidence today about how the molecular structure of the water can be rearranged without changing the chemical structure, even with a simple thought or a touch.
The nature of the experiments which were claimed to support water memory
- Luc Antoine Montagnier is a French virologist who won Nobel prize for discovering HIV virus. He published a controversial paper called ‘Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences’ which concludes the following:
Diluted DNA from pathogenic bacterial and viral species is able to emit specific radio waves and these radio waves [are] associated with ‘nanostructures’ in the solution that might be able to recreate the pathogen.
The paper has been met with harsh criticism for not being peer-reviewed, and its claims unsubstantiated by modern mainstream conventions of physics and chemistry. No third party has replicated the findings as of March 2015.
Supporters of homeopathy claimed that this experiment supported homeopathy but this claim was criticized by the scientists worldwide.
On 20 October 2010, Harriet A. Hall responded specifically to these claims by homeopaths: “Nope. Sorry, guys. It doesn’t. In fact, its findings are inconsistent with homeopathic theory… Homeopaths who believe Montagnier’s study supports homeopathy are only demonstrating their enormous capacity for self-deception.” She went on to analyze the studies and pointed out a number of flaws, stating: “…even assuming the results are valid, they tend to discredit homeopathy, not support it… Homeopathy is a system of clinical treatment that can only be validated by in vivo clinical trials.”
Please note that this paper is about bacterial DNA sequences and nothing to do with water memory anyway. I included it because someone quoted it as a direct evidence for water memory.
2. Jacques Benveniste
“In 1988, Jacques Benveniste published a study supporting a water memory effect amid controversy in Nature, accompanied by an editorial by Nature’s editor John Maddox urging readers to “suspend judgement” until the results could be replicated.
In the years following publication, multiple supervised experiments were run by Benveniste’s team, the United States Department of Defense, BBC’s Horizon programme, and other researchers, but no team has ever reproduced Benveniste’s results in controlled conditions.”
3. Masaru Emoto
I think Sadhguru’s statement was mainly due to this guy Masaru Emoto. Emoto claimed that different water sources would produce different crystalline structures when frozen. For example, he claimed that a water sample from a mountain stream when frozen would show structures of beautifully-shaped geometric design, but those structures would be distorted and randomly formed if the sample were taken from a polluted water source.
He did an experiment but he did not publish the result in any authentic mainstream scientific journals. Also, it met with harsh criticism from scientists stating that the experiment lacked controlled conditions, was prone to manipulation or human error influencing the findings. Emoto was personally invited to take the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge by James Randi in 2003, and would have received US$1,000,000 if he had been able to reproduce the experiment under test conditions agreed to by both parties. He did not participate.
To conclude, there is not even a week scientific evidence for water memory as of now contrary to Sadhguru’s statement that there’s substantial scientific evidence today about how the molecular structure of the water can be rearranged without changing the chemical structure, even with a simple thought or a touch.
My opinion on this
As many people have said, we can’t expect a yoga guru to be scientifically correct. No one goes to Sadhguru to learn science either. In this particular instance, the actual question that was asked to Sadhguru was that if there was a scientific evidence for water memory and hence Sadhguru had to talk about science.
While we don’t have any evidence that water has memory, Sadhguru’s statement that science does have evidence is obviously incorrect. This probably came from what he has heard or read. And, considering a hearsay or a random article as an authentic source is due to a lack of awareness on how scientific experiment and peer review works. Not only Sadhguru, majority of well-educated Indians are not completely aware of how to discriminate between a real scientific evidence and false claim. (I learnt about it only last year, by the way).This is just due to the lack of general awareness on this topic among public.
But I have also come across instances where Sadhguru voluntarily talks about science and claims that many things the science is discovered now has been already discovered by yogic methods. He may be probably doing this to create more appeal to yoga and spread it to more people with good intention.
But this is what creates a lot of arguments and questions among people. First, we don’t have any evidence for the fact that any kind of factual knowledge can be obtained through practices like meditation or yoga, even though we have been hearing such stories since ancient days. This claim and claims to do miracles have been misused by many fake spiritual leaders in our country which naturally makes people to be extra cautious and even harshly criticize all spiritual leaders. Until there is a solid evidence that such claims have any scientific basis, such criticism will even continue in the upcoming generations. This will actually make Yoga to become less appealing in the future. There is no way to stop it unless we do something about it in this generation especially when an influential public figure like Sadhguru, who claims to be able to do many things that a normal man cannot do, is alive. I can actually offer a simple solution for that. But before that, let me tell you something very important that many people are not aware of.
Burden of Proof
This is an important concept to understand. Because, I have noticed many people saying that ‘If Sadhguru has made a claim, it is the responsibility of the person who is opposing the claim to disprove it’. In other words, they say “If you don’t believe it, then prove that it is wrong’..
It is absolutely necessary to correct this common misconception. Actually, if somebody is making a claim, it is the responsibility of the person who makes the claim to prove it. It is an universally accepted fact in philosophy, logic and science. You can read the citations given for more details.
Now, imagine if just one of the claims made by Sadhguru is proved to be true. Just if one claim gets scientific evidence, it will create a lot of world wide attention, appeal and a respect for what Sadhguru says. People who have been accusing Sadhguru for different things may start to wonder, ‘there must be a lot of truth in what this man is saying’.
I remember an interview that a reporter had with Sadhguru. The reporter asked ‘Is this Adiyogi statue that you have created has been created to seek attention?’ For that, Sadhguru said ‘yes’ and explained to the interviewer that it has been created to attract worldwide attention to yoga so that a lot of people will be interested in yoga. And he clarified that it has not been created for a personal attention seeking but rather for a good cause, to create worldwide attention to yoga. While it indeed created attention, it also raised a lot of questions and accusations.
Well, there is actually a better way to create such an attention.He can start with just proving one of his claims to science. Remember, this is not a problem unless people make it a problem. It is actually something very simple to do.
Sadhguru has claimed many things which are extraordinary . He has done it indirectly by quoting incidents where he could do things like that. I will quote a claim mentioned in the same article that is given for this question, that can be very easily verified with an experiment.
So this lady in the house brought water for me and she’s like Kali suddenly, not just kathak, she’s like Kali. I looked at her – she’s a nice lady, today she’s in the Kali form – so I looked at her and she offered water to me and I said, ‘Amma, I don’t need this water. I don’t need to drink this water. You’re like Kali right now, I don’t need Kali’s prasadam right now, I’m fine.’ She said, ‘Why, will I poison it?’ I said, ‘No, you don’t have to poison it, it’s already done.’ Then I told her, ‘You take a sip from this glass.’ She took a sip from the glass, then I said, ‘Give me the glass to me.’ I held in my hands for two minutes and I just gave it to her, ‘You drink it now.’ She drank one sip and burst into tears and started crying, she said, ‘It’s sweet.’ I said, ‘That’s all the difference it is.’
This is an extraordinary claim! But all he has to do is get a glass of plain water from you, hold it in his hands for two minutes and give it to you. If it tastes sweet, that is all there is to prove.
It can be verified with a scientific experiment very easily. Proving such a thing has many advantages too. Other then getting attention, Sadhguru and Isha foundation will gain more trust. It will stop people from turning way from Isha just because these claims are made. It will stop unnecessary hot criticisms filled with hatred and verbal abuses that we see all over internet. Sadhguru may win a nobel prize and Isha people will love that. He may earn millions of dollars which can be used for social welfare. Because we all know that Isha foundation already needs money for upcoming projects and currently have to rely on donations alone. In fact, many people who oppose him will start to trust that he is doing everything with a genuine interest for people’s well being and willing to donate even more. Tell me one reason why this is not a good idea!
If you understand this and are genuinely interested to make it happen, we can find a way to pass it on to Sadhguru. You can republish this answer anywhere, share this answer, upvote it or directly send an email to Isha. If each missed call can count, each upvote can count too.
Thank you for taking your time to read this.