Acharya Shunya

Acharya Shunya is an internationally renowned mystic and a classically trained master of nondual Advaita, Ayurveda, and Yoga. The first female head of her 2,000-year-old Vedic-Hindu spiritual lineage from India, Shunya facilitates authenticity, self-remembrance, and divine feminine pathways to awakening.  She is founder of The Awakened Self Foundation with its international headquarters in California, and is the author of Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, Sovereign Self, and Roar Like a Goddess.

Author photo © Sanjai Mathur

Also By Author

Roar Like a Goddess

In this podcast we join Sounds True founder, Tami Simon, in conversation with Acharya Shunya, a master of Ayurveda and an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and scholar of Advaita (nondual wisdom). Give a listen to this informative dialogue to hear about Acharya Shunya’s book, Roar Like a Goddess, and her empowering insights into : Awakening the inner goddesses of the Vedic tradition; the progressive revelation of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati; “ugly power” based on ignorance, and the devas (or light bearers) who cultivate power ethically; how symbolism helps you discover your power; healthy rage and “correctional, super-conscious anger”; the divine, ultimate truth of nonduality at the core of Vedic wisdom; the river of light that flows within all of us; and more.

Acharya Shunya: Sovereign Self

Acharya Shunya is a classically trained master of Ayurveda and an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and scholar of Advaita nondual wisdom. The first female leader of a 2,000-year-old Indian spiritual lineage, she has dedicated her life to the dissemination of Vedic knowledge for the spiritual uplifting of all beings. With Sounds True, Acharya Shunya has written a book titled Sovereign Self: Claim Your Inner Joy and Freedom with the Empowering Wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Acharya Shunya explore our spiritual journey from feeling afraid to feeling powerful, from bondage to sovereignty. Offering unique perspectives that come from being both a woman and a householder, as well as the spiritual leader of her lineage, Acharya Shunya describes the boundless essence of spirit we all have within, the importance of breaking free from the cultural limitations that prevent us from remembering our true spiritual freedom, and how Vedic wisdom provides us with a timeless guided journey to spiritual sovereignty. 

Meet The Author of Sovereign Self

The Author
Acharya Shunya is an award-winning and internationally renowned spiritual teacher and scholar of Advaita (nondual wisdom) and a classically-trained master of Yoga and Ayurveda. The first female head of her 2,000-year-old Indian spiritual lineage, she has dedicated her life to the dissemination of Vedic knowledge for the spiritual uplifting of all beings. She is the president of the Awakened Self Foundation with its international headquarters in San Francisco and founder of the spiritual nonprofit Vedika Global. Learn more at acharyashunya.com.

Sovereign-Self-3D-CoverThe Book
A comprehensive guide to yoga’s most influential texts, making their profound teachings both accessible and immediately practical for modern seekers. Filled with hidden insights and engaging guidance, Sovereign Self will help you awaken and recognize your potential to be joyful, resourceful, abundant, limitlessly expansive, and sovereign.

 

 

 

 

Show us a day in your life.

I lead the life I want to lead, every day,  my heart leading me, and not because I must.

Acharya-Shunya-Saying-a-Prayer-to-her-Guru

 Acharya Shunya Meditating in the Early Morning

In the early morning I say a prayer of gratitude to my guru and meditate on the beautiful and divine, forever sovereign presence in my heart, that is my true Self. 

Self rises silently in meditation to fill my heart with light, and bless me from within.  I become, as if renewed, to meet my day with my spiritual power, full on.

 

 

 

 

 

out and about

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many spiritual seekers and members of my Vedic lineage often join me through my day.

Acharya Shunya Hiking with FriendsAcharya-Shunya-Teaching-MomentAcharya-Shunya-Teaching-Group-scaled

I go hiking with students, lead them through meditations, and impart Vedic wisdom from my 2000-year-old Vedic lineage from India.

in-hill-house-study-roomworking-on-my-book-copyConducting-fire-cermony-in-mid-morning-to-evoke-Universal-Peace

From lunch onwards, I like to be mostly by myself in my study, to think and imagine, to feel and to surrender to my higher Self, and capture my inspiration in words. On many days, I spend time in Vedic ceremony and its consciousness awakening inner rituals and meditations.

Acharya-Shunya-with-her-Chef-Husband-Sanjai

I also value spending time with my husband. Sanjai is a trained Ayurveda chef. Here we are enjoying the fruits of his labor in our kitchen.

Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

Shunyaji

In today’s uncertain world, embracing one’s unimagined power can open up possibilities as we synchronize with our true Self. 

According to the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita—India’s oldest body of sacred yogic wisdom—human beings can be inspired to awaken from conditioning, shed limiting patterns and shackling attachments, and tap into the wisest, boldest, and most authentic and fearless parts of ourselves—which dwell as an invisible potential inside our heart, called Atma, the boundless one. This mighty Self, with all its hidden powers, becomes activated through right knowledge, meditations, and insights, making us true masters of our destiny, able to forge a path of sovereignty in every circumstance, good or bad.

 

Knowing the sovereign Self in our heart can alter the course of our life; this Self-knowledge can become a source of inner equanimity in any circumstance in life, not only when life is fun and people around us are acting supportively and lovingly, but also when life is unpredictable and people’s behavior is shadowy and dark. 

Naturally, this book has taken on a new meaning since I wrote it because today, our world is besieged by uncertainty and possibilities of disease; death is stalking each one of us, invisibly. To add to our collective sense of anxiety, we’ve also witnessed one of the most polarized elections in this country’s history. Social and racial injustice is at an all-time high. Our reality and our values stand to be changed forever. Now, more than ever, the sanctuary beyond fear and impermanence lies within the rediscovery of our true, invincible nature. 

If you are a sensitive and evolved soul who believes in dharma, nonviolence,  equality, and justice for all, my book, Sovereign Self, will be like a balm to your soul, a flame lit softly in a pitch-dark room—a path revealed, where none existed before.

Share a photo of you and your pet. Did your pet have a role in helping you write your book?

Acharya-Shunya-with-her-pet-and-writing-companion-Noddy

Noddy, my six-year old labradoodle, has been my constant companion through the writing of Sovereign Self, which took almost three long years. The process required me to let go and descend deep within the mystical realms of my being, and connect with the true Self—the boundless essence, Atma, which I talk about in my book. 

It is from here, from that boundless essence where I have always been perfect, complete, and inseparable from Source, that ideas would emerge spontaneously and words would become sentences that shall become path-showers for seekers all over the world. Many times, I would meditate and be lost in trance for hours. Noddy would sit patiently by me, and even sacrifice his desire to bark at his arch-enemy, “Mr. Squirrel.” As long as my eyes were closed, my baby would be quiet as a mouse. But the moment my eyes opened, he would greet me with an explosion of love and affection: “Woof, woof, welcome back to my world, mama; how was your inner world, mama, did you find me in your heart, mama?”  

Noddy and our next-door neighbor’s German Shepherd, Peet, have unresolved karmic issues from a relationship in their former lifetime. As a result, whenever Peet barks, Noddy barks back with recognition and emotional resolve to sort the karma issues in this lifetime itself! As I wrote and talked about the human ego and how it becomes lost in the chase of relationships and things, the experience of watching them go back and forth in their dance of egos, through playtime and tug-time and wagging-tail-time and angry growl-time, made me smile, and reminded me that we really are always enough in who we are. This is what Noddy means to me—when he kisses me with all his inner sweetness intact, he reminds me that while my ego may be employed in worldly tug-of-wars, my true Self remains whole, happy, and incredibly sweet within. Noddy, you are such a reminder!

Sovereign-Self-3D-Cover

Learn More

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Perry Garfinkel: Experimenting with Becoming Gandhi

In a confessional reflection on writing his new book, Becoming Gandhi, acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Perry Garfinkel says, “It was so difficult I almost gave up twice. I thought, ‘I can’t write this book. It’s too big a subject. Who am I to try to become Gandhi?’” Garfinkel persevered, and in this podcast Tami Simon speaks with him about what he discovered along the journey—and how practicing (not perfecting) six universal principles of the Mahatma can transform each one of us. 

Tune in to this highly aspirational yet very down-to-earth conversation on the poignance of the human condition and the elixir of laughter; the Tao of Gandhi; satyagraha, an insistence on and holding firm to the truth; considering “how to Gandhi” a situation you’re faced with; the notion of “good enough”; nonviolence in thought, word, and deed; the connection between words and feelings, and the step-by-step process of personal transformation; simplicity; faith as the driver of our moral compass; celibacy and making love; Gandhi’s life as his message—and making peace with his imperfections; and more.

What does it take to “Be the change you want to see ...

Excerpted from Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma’s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times by Perry Garfinkel.

Let the Journey Begin

By reading this preface, you have just joined what will hopefully be the experiment of a lifetime that will change both of our lives.

Let me set the ground rules, parameters, frameworks, timelines, caveats, excuses, permissions, and other details that will help you navigate your way—if not to be Gandhi, then to become a person who leads a more ethical, principled, spiritually and morally based, truth-full life.

As you will read in chapter 1, I first thought to undertake this effort more than a decade ago. It took me another twelve years to build up the confidence, belief in my commitment, and, frankly, the funding to actually begin this arduous journey, both inner and outer, including travel to three countries plus my own US. Little did I know how much it would change me, how many miles I would travel, how many inspirational people I would meet, and how many disappointments I would encounter, both in the world and in myself.

I began to take it seriously in the summer of 2019. That was when I started finding and  contacting knowledgeable sources in each country. As a dogged reporter who prides himself in finding the email and phone number for anyone anywhere in the world, that deep dive, which necessarily required a lot of reading and googling, was a relatively easy and very enjoyable and informative exercise. You may also want to research anything additional to what I write here and experiment with your own ways to follow the six principles. I can’t speak for Gandhi, but you have my wholehearted permission and encouragement to think outside the box and off this page.

The Big Goal here was to see if, in the face of a sociocultural climate that appears bereft of moral integrity, one could follow Gandhi’s moral compass, on the one hand, and on the other, to travel to countries where he spent considerable time to see how much had changed in the years since he left them. In other words, did he leave an enduring footprint that others followed or were Gandhi’s tracks swept away and forgotten by time and human nature? In these times of questionable ethical values, of increased violence and rampant lying, I was prepared to admit such evidence might be hard to find. In fact, one too-current example of the failure of the nonviolent movement, which was one of Gandhi’s primary pillars, is occurring as I’m writing this: CNN is reporting that thirty-nine mass shootings have taken place in the United States in the first three weeks of 2023 alone, killing more than sixty people, per the Gun Violence Archives.

I knew the hard part of this goal would be living these principles day in and day out on a personal level. There would be a lot of inner work, mental adjustments, a veritable paradigmatic shift of attitude. I would have to change my mind in the most fundamental ways. Change my habits, modes of thinking, daily actions.

The ground rules were simple: try to rigorously follow the six principles on a daily basis, keeping them in mind through the day, whether hanging out with friends and family, alone in my apartment, or out there in the world. But also to give myself some slack. If I “fell off the wagon,” I would forgive myself quickly and get right back on it. The latter would happen with frequency, as you will read. But I realized very soon that once engaged in this experiment, even when I fell off, there would be no turning back. Once the veil is lifted, it’s hard not to see the world for what it is, and see yourself for who you are, who you are not, and who you aspire to be.

People started wondering how long this experiment would last and asking me when or if I would drop vegetarianism and return to eating meat as soon as it ended. I had planned to dedicate one full year to this project. It expanded to some eighteen months of strict adherence 

to all of the principles, and even some that Gandhi didn’t consider in the course of things. I admit I slacked after that but, as I said, once you know which way the compass is pointing, you can’t completely turn back; you always return to your true north. You find the balance that suits you best, or at least better than before you started.

I frame this journey and this book around the six principles. Some sources list up to eleven Gandhi principles. I chose only six; already you can call me lazy.

Truth. In practice, truth is simply telling the truth, but Gandhi meant it to mean more. He said, “God is Truth,” later changing it to “Truth is God.” He coined the term satyagraha—loosely translated as “insistence on and holding firm to truth”—as a form of nonviolent resistance. I take this on, first focusing on practicing truth in thoughts, words, and actions, with particular attention to lies I tell myself. I look at how society views truth now.

Nonviolence. Although Gandhi was not the originator of nonviolence, he was the first to apply it as a strategy to move the dial in the direction of justice, as a peaceful weapon to protest social wrongdoings. His motto: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Taking it from the political to the personal, I look at how we all act out psychological violence—in passive-aggressive behaviors, in road rage, in clenched jaws, in couched (and not-so-couched) language—that sabotages our best interests. I myself am guilty: I was once a featured guest on The Phil Donahue Show, speaking about my own passive-aggressive behavior in my previous marriage.

Vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions, the setting in which Gandhi was raised. In his London years as a law student, he embraced it more seriously to not only satisfy the requirements of the body and his religious beliefs but also to save money by not buying expensive meats. His book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, along with articles he wrote for the London Vegetarian Society’s publication, became my personal diet book. I was a meat-and-potatoes kind of kid, just like my father. I became a macrobiotic many years ago, had defaulted to meat in recent years, but an Ayurvedic diet I went on last fall convinced me I need to clean up my eating habits. Don’t we all?

Simplicity. Giving up unnecessary spending is the simple maxim Gandhi had in mind, and because this concept flies in the face of conspicuous consumers on spending sprees in shopping malls, it also has ramifications for our gluttonous nature, which thinks that more of anything automatically provides more satisfaction. But Gandhi also had a political motive in his so-called Swadeshi movement: by making their own clothes using a spinning wheel (charkha), Indians would deal an economic blow to the British establishment in India. These days consumers boycott various brands and stores to protest their company policy, a Gandhian spin. The contemporary “voluntary simplicity movement” draws directly from this Gandhian principle. I will closely examine my spending patterns and make budget slashes. Gandhi called it “reducing himself to zero.”

Faith. Gandhi meant belief in a higher power, no matter what religion. He wrote, “Mine is a broad faith which does not oppose Christians . . . not even the most fanatical Mussalman. I refuse to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds, because I try to see them from his point of view.” It’s the ability to see things from the point of view of someone from another faith that tests the faith of mankind. How are we doing with that? Not so good. The majority of wars in the world are religious wars. My challenge will be to find some balance between my practice of Buddhism, the religion of no God, and Judaism, the religion that invented the One God. I will test the boundaries of my acceptance of faiths I don’t believe in.

Celibacy. Called brahmacharya in Hindi, sexual abstinence was a spiritual path to achieving purity, according to Gandhi, who took the vow of chastity at the age of thirty-eight. Some people question whether Gandhi himself actually adhered to this, with stories and allegations he slept next to teenage girls to test his restraint. Celibacy is not for everyone. Is it for me? I will endeavor to find out, keeping copious notes on my fallings in and out. With my luck, the woman of my dreams will walk into my life and fall in love with me. What will I do . . . or, more precisely, not do?

I never intended this book to be categorized in the how-to or self help genre. I think or hope you can help yourself without my telling you how. Nonetheless, as I made my way around the world, around my mind, and finally around this book, I realized it would be helpful to at least sum up each chapter with what I learned, some tips for your (and my own) benefit. I call these end-of-chapter sections “How to Gandhi.”

With these guidelines and to-dos and with no further ado, here we go. Next stop: becoming the change.

Perry Garfinkel is a veteran journalist, editor, frequent speaker, and author of the bestselling Buddha or Bust. He has contributed to many sections of the New York Times since 1986 and has written for National Geographic magazine, AARP The Magazine, the Huffington Post, the LA Times, and others. He has appeared on CNN and CBS This Morning. He is a frequent guest on WCBS-NY radio’s Health & Well-Being Report.

Tsultrim Allione: Turning Towards What’s Difficu...

What if instead of trying to avoid or attack the people or situations in life that we don’t like, we chose to “invite them all to dinner”? In Tibetan Buddhism, this counterintuitive approach is known as “feeding our demons.” In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Lama Tsultrim Allione about making the choice to turn toward what we usually avoid—and the healing and integration this choice can lead to. 

Give a listen to this inspiring conversation on the need to reclaim the sacred feminine at this time in history; the dakini principle in Tibetan Buddhism; balancing the energies of the masculine and feminine; the courage to stand up to authority; cultivating self-trust; the Great Mother of pure potential; the union of wisdom and skillful means; becoming an emanation of an ever-evolving mind stream; the legendary yogini, Machig Labdrön, and learning to move toward what we usually avoid; the practice of “feeding your demons”; creating wholeness by integrating the shadow; working with grief and loss; and more.

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