Becoming Sadvipras

By Satya Tanner

The Arab Spring and Occupy movements of 2011 highlighted the power of collective revolution and the facilitative role of the sadvipra. When the oppression and exploitation of a dominating class reaches a critical breaking point, the floodgates open due to a wave of courageous efforts aimed at restoring balance.

“Sadvipras are inside us.”

As a volunteer yoga and meditation teacher, I have started many of my courses by asking, “What do you want out of life?” Some people answer that they want something material, such as a house, car or food, while others desire something emotional and psychological, such as healthy relationships, a sense of security, or to be respected. The responses tend to confirm Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We then ask each other: “Why, and what do those things give you?” The answer is, without fail, personal happiness.

Turning to Sarkar’s Social Cycle if we were to plot society’s happiness, such as the Gross National Happiness, against time, with each era of the Social Cycle, happiness would rise and fall with the beneficial and exploitative phases.

At first glance, Sarkar’s Social Cycle may seem a little too predictable and defeatist–not another exploitative phase! But herein lies the beauty of the sadvipra concept.

Sadvipras become aware of exploitation as soon as it begins and are ready to act against it, facilitating the revolutionary change of power from one class to the next. They ought not to be confused with unnecessarily destabilizing groups, though their wisdom in knowing when to act and when not to act evolves over time.

As sadvipras develop, the level of exploitation that society tolerates will become less and less. Therefore the duration of each exploitative phase will shorten, and the total happiness will continue to increase in both a cyclical and linear fashion. This gives humanity a sense of control over our collective happiness, freeing us from fatalistic notions of helplessness (shown below).

Where do we find these sadvipras? Perhaps surprisingly, we don’t need to look elsewhere, because they are inside us. Each of us has the capacity and duty to become one. The more we engage in spiritual practice (e.g. meditation and other inner wisdom practices), the more connection we feel with our deepest self and those around us. The more connection we feel, the less we can tolerate exploitation and the faster we will want to act and inspire others to act.

Inner work through spiritual practice isn’t the only criterion of a sadvipra and a clear shortage of them in the world today might make one wonder if this is an overly-idealistic endeavor. However, this pragmatic idealist doesn’t believe so. The qualities of sadvipras can be found in many individuals, though perhaps not all together in one person at this point in history. Some individuals have a tremendous revolutionary spirit which we can learn from. Some teach us how to liberate the disempowered. Some demonstrate unwavering moral courage and selfless service. Others have great compassion, love and spiritual wisdom. The sadvipra self is a collection of the best components of leadership and moral courage, and our movement along its continuum is a natural evolutionary step.

Here are some tips to start you on your evolutionary (and revolutionary) way:

  • Develop your shudra self by doing selfless volunteer service with the homeless, prisoners, mental health patients, addicts, etc. By listening to and working with those who are suffering, you will learn to broaden your compassion, develop humility and realize the importance of human values.
  • Develop your ksattriya self by joining a sports team, doing martial arts, learning first aid and rescue skills, or anything else involving teamwork, action and overcoming challenges/fear. This will help you to develop courage and become a team player.
  • Develop your vipra self by refining your intellect, creativity and intuition through study, artistic endeavors and meditation. This will help you to be more innovative and wise in an increasingly complex world.
  • Develop your vaeshya self by starting a small business or cooperative, joining a fundraising effort, or taking on some managerial/organizational roles in paid or volunteer positions. This will help you learn how to mobilize resources and ideas, necessary for achieving all kinds of goals.
  • Practice ethical behavior and moral courage by standing up for what is right. However, choose your battles wisely to avoid burnout.
  • Develop a Neohumanist mindset by challenging your worldview and removing your “isms.” Look for opportunities to meet, dialogue and work with people from other races and cultures.
  • Become a ‘less-ego’[1] leader through the principles of servant leadership, collective leadership and facilitative/coaching leadership. Rarely are the best leaders single-handed visionary heroes using their charisma to seduce us towards their goal. Rather they are the ones who facilitate growth and learning by empowering others to be part of a revolutionary process–no matter how big or small.
  • Avoid the pitfalls of leadership stereotypes (e.g., the savior, the superhero, the emotionless manager) by breaking with tradition and developing a style that works for both you and those around you.
  • Build your emotional intelligence by developing dialogue, conflict resolution and active listening skills.
  • Build your spiritual intelligence by developing your existential and transcendental awareness, conscious state expansion, and personal meaning/life purpose.[2]
  • Develop critical thinking skills and commit to being a lifelong learner by engaging in reflective action learning and self-analysis.

As more people commit to the journey of becoming a sadvipra (whether consciously or otherwise), the greater is our collective capacity to develop a society that promotes collective happiness and fulfillment. Everybody has the capacity to become a sadvipra–all you have to do is start.


1 Amanda Sinclair, Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving Beyond Myths and Heroes to Leading That Liberates (Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2008).
2 David B. King and Teresa L. DeCicco, “A Viable Model and Self-Report Measure of Spiritual Intelligence,” The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Volume 28, (2009) pp. 68-85.

Rather unconventionally, Satya Tanner combined her vegetarian and yoga lifestyle with a 16-year career as a pilot and aerospace engineer in the Royal Australian Air Force, reaching the rank of Squadron Leader. During that time she was among the first 15 women to become an Air Force pilot; she supported humanitarian operations after the Bali bombings of 2002; she organized national competitions and led teams in military sporting events; and she studied and used empowering, holistic leadership principles to guide individuals, teams and organizations through personal and collective change. She now works as a leadership development trainer for organizations and communities that are in search of liberating leadership and healthy cultures.

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012):

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