• Acharya Shunya

Shadow Separates, Soul Unites.


Note: Shadow to Self is produced for the ear and is designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that is not on this page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Welcome to the second episode of my podcast, Shadow to Self. I’m glad I’ve carved out this space and time to talk to you. This conversation that I want to have on this most important journey, from the Shadow to the Self, darkness to light, illusion to truth, may perhaps be the most important journey. And I want to make this conversation really easy to assimilate. This really has to be a non-academic, knowingness-evoking journey. And let me know if that’s what happens as you keep listening.

I wanted to just start with where exactly is this journey going to transpire. As I mentioned in episode 1 of this podcast, that there seems to be a cosmic spell, or at least so was explained by the ancient Vedas more than 10,000 years ago. Our human minds seem to be very content with leading diminished lives, lives of struggle, lives of loneliness, lives of inner conflict and outer estrangement. We often abandon ourselves, betray each other. We create gods, and then we fight for our gods. Were we supposed to be leading lives like this? Because when we came into this planet as babies, and when we were growing up on this planet as toddlers, until our adults told us and role modeled us, all we really knew was Love. We were expansive, we felt joyful, we felt like we could reach out and catch the moon. Or wave our hands there, and some stardust will fall upon us. We had this memory that we’ve come from something special. We are special. And though we’re having this really special experience until bound. The adults around us, carrying morbid shadows inside them, their egos fully ready with their narratives of victimhood. Even if they are the ones abusing others, they feel deep inside entitled to do that. Because every abuser is deep down a victim. A victim of their own ignorance, a victim of their own lack of enlightenment, a victim of their own Shadow. Every body is consumed with the shadow. And before long, babies, toddlers, little ones, children – we lose our innocence. And this is how we slowly forget. And this is how the shadow takes over. And its all happening in the mind. That’s right, there are no two selves. There really is only one Self. Known as Atma in Sanskrit (the Boundless Consciousness) which is our true nature. And our Self always remains pure. But it is the mind, when it gets indoctrinated, conditioned, scripted, boxed into believing whatever beliefs have worked for a certain people, slowly the mind loses touch with its true Source, the Self. And a shadowy self is created through the intermixing of other people’s ideas, juxtaposition of beliefs, the collective unconsciousness births this sense of self which is a creation of the mind. Its literally a shadow, literally. And the shadow has a word in Sanskrit – it is known as jiva. So whereas we are Atma, the boundless one, the jiva is quite limited. It feels bondage. It doesn’t feel expansive. It doesn’t feel like I’m in touch with anything bigger, eternal, expansive, rich, powerful. The jiva feels, the shadow feels, like “I’m obliged to struggle”. That’s why one of the biggest fears the shadow has is about its own security. I mean, the shadow doesn’t know it is the eternal flame. The shadow wonders you know, how soon will it flicker out? So its busy trying to get more secure.

So typically, the mind that is consumed with the shadow, would be consumed with thoughts around survival, especially emotional survival. Its an emotional cognitive level consumption. Its not an actual survival pursuit, because sometimes we can pursue a job, or try to increase our bank savings, and that all makes sense because we are biological creatures too and we want to be secure. But the kind of insecurity that the shadow possesses is voracious. It’s the thirst that nothing can satisfy. Its an itch that you cannot itch. Because its virtual, it’s a shadow. It never feels secure, so it’s a mental construct that “I’m insecure.” And often you will find that when the shadow is fully functioning, the person may have worked themselves to death trying to be secure. Become sick from overworking themselves, or they may have even committed crime to be a little richer or have more real estate. They could have manipulated or cheated others. And if nothing else they could have worried themselves sick, trying to be more secure. And if we were to go and point out to them that, “look here you have decent savings, you have good skills, so even if you lose this job you might find another one, and it looks like you have some support and friends and family, so you’d never be without a roof in difficult times.” And then this person’s shadow will come back and say “well no but, actually, in reality…” and they would always find a reason to worry and worry and worry.

So what I want tell you is that when the mind becomes consumed with worry, that’s a good hint that we have been taken over by the shadow. Because the shadow has been birthed in the confines of a very limited mind, with very limited time and space constructs. It has forgotten that it is the limitless Atma – apanoti iti sarvam atman – the boundless One. “I have connections with divine all-ness, with the universal intelligence of this universe.” It has forgotten that, so this reflection this pretend make-believe self, the shadow creature inside us worries, and feels entitled to worry. And when you talk to this person, they justify why they worry and its all around security, and its of an emotional nature.

When I was recording this podcast, now that I’ve begun recording it, the first one I just woke up in the morning and recorded it. But then for the second one, I had to stop and think “wait, what am I going to say in this? Because whatever I say is going to set the trend for the 3rd, and the 4th, and (so on).” I’m an “old-school” teacher. I was steeped in experiential, one on one learning with a teacher sitting in front of me. And I, being a disciplined disciple (disciple comes from the word discipline), I would have systematic long term teaching with long winding dialogues, but in recent years, as times have changed, I have morphed myself, and enjoyed reinventing myself, as a teacher who can teach on various platforms. So I have teachings on YouTube, on a private contemplations group (Facebook Vedic Contemplations Group), on Facebook, and now I’m teaching on various online forums. And now comes along this podcast. And it has its own demands, its own requirements. Because I want to have a conversation that doesn’t bog you down with academic details, but at the same time leaves you inspired, and leaves ME happy as I share this. So I had all these considerations going on, and guess what happened? For a few minutes there, my mind got really burdened. So it became clouded, and then the shadow loves it when our mind becomes clouded. Because worry feeds the shadow, and shadow eats the worry. And then when I tried recording this podcast, I was speechless because I had no idea, and I said “Oh my god!”. Because I am always a little bit beyond my shadow, because give me that credit, I have been working with this for some time. I looked at my shadow and said “wow, aren’t you trying to take over my whole podcast experience and convert this into a struggle”, and make this all about “Oh I just want to make this easy, and why do I have to think of all these parameters?”. But because I knew that this was not my only reality, this is the voice of the shadow, I decided to just go sit in my backyard. Fortunately its spring, and my backyard is just blossoming. And I have 50 or 60 pots with roses and lots and lots of flowers in the beds. And recently, because of the change in the rain and the heat cycle, my roses have a lot of challenges right now. They had aphids, then they had a snail infestation, and then they have some other stuff going on, and you know the roses and I are constantly trying to come through this. And still my roses are blossoming huge big flowers – roses as big as small cauliflowers! And as I looked at them, I remembered, no matter what be the challenge, what be the dis-ease in the moment, I have a capacity in me to come back and blossom my own roses. And this challenge that I’m facing with a new podcast, can be processed… Or rather shall I say, NOT processed by the Shadow, and it becomes a reason to lament, and self pity, and be confused. Pretend its alright. Or it can be a reason to have some humour, some light heartedness. When my true Self can look at it and say “You know what? What a great learning experience. Have I not amazed myself? Shunya, have you not amazed yourself by always being able to grow new flowers, based upon the season of the life you are dealing with? Have you not been able to adapt to no matter what is eating away at your roots? What snail, slug, human infestation has bothered you, you have always triumphed, come through and become a light for other too in the process.”

What is this? This is a beautiful opportunity to share with the whole world that how the shadow to self journey is not just a journey we do in time, but it’s a journey we do ALL the time. And even when you become a spiritual teacher, and you’ve overcome your default way of living in the shadow, to living more in the light, the human mind is always being seduced to go into the more dark aspect of itself. Into the lostness, into the lamentation, into the confusion, into the bewilderment, into making every situation into a herculean battle. But we can breathe. We can exhale. We can go sit in the garden of our life and relax. We can see the flowers, we can look at the buzzing butterflies, and we can just relax and let go. And then this podcast emerged when I just let go. When I let go of the worrying. When I let go of how it should be, of what it should look like, and who am I talking to except my own Self in different bodies. You see that is the crux of Non-dual teachings known as Advaita Vedanta from India. These are given in the later section of the Vedas known as the Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita is one of the most famous Upanishads.

If I am talking to Me in You, then how does it matter, as long as I remember who are you. It is what I experience towards you that is going to influence this podcast more than what I say to you. Similarly when you are having the important dialogue with your boss, with your child, with your partner, with somebody you’re about to break up with, with somebody you’re about to say vows with and plan for a future that extends into eternity, you may want to remember the Truth of Self: that Shadow separates, Self unites. We have different bodies but same Self. There is no different shadow self and different true self within us. For teaching or talking purposes, we can say sure there are two selves, choose the one that is true/pure/wonderful/full of light. But that’s only to show you the difference. But really these two selves can be accessible through the same mind.

When the mind is restful, easeful, more trusting of what is flowing, then there are greater chances of you connecting with your true Self. Which is already connected to everything that is infinite, wholesome, beautiful and abundant in this Universe. You don’t have to work too hard. Or when we superimpose a lot of that controlling that we have learned from childhood onwards. When we lost our innocence and started controlling our environment, our adults, our own feelings (suppressing a bunch of them and overexpressing a bunch of them), when we started getting to be like controllers of the whole experience, that is when the shadow was born and said “aha! Now I’m gonna tell you how to feel, how to be miserable, how to suffer.” I would have continued suffering if I hadn’t already worked out this whole journey of saying “Ah! Caught you! I’m not going there!” I had a minute of suffering, but that’s not too bad you know? Considering that people suffer for years, or are not even able to record a podcast or eschew worry of what they have to say.

I have nothing to say to you. Probably for ten years that I’ll be doing this podcast, I’ll have nothing to say to you. All I’ll have is to experience this love that I’m feeling right now, because I am aligned with my Self as my voice comes out and makes some sounds. And probably if you understand the language that’s called English, they make some sense to you. But probably what you hear beyond those words, is my experience of Oneness, my experience of inner clarity, freedom, lightness and joy! At not having to be perfect. Its in those imperfections, its in this non-control, non forced, non regimented communication on this podcast that I invite you to the journey from the Shadow to the Self.

It’s the same mind. When the mind is cloudy, because there’s a lot of mud stirred up in a lake, and there’s wind because of which the waves are too agitated – you can’t see to the bottom where lies some beautiful shining crystals of the Self. But when that mind becomes pure through meditation, contemplation, restfulness and other practices that I’ll keep sharing with you through this platform and other platforms, you’ll slowly realize that your mind itself has become the conduit for peace, wellbeing, amazing creativity, relaxation, restfulness, trust in a greater plan for us by this Universe. It is so beautiful.

So we are going to simply learn to nourish our mind, restrain it, purify it, switch on a couple of lights, until it dissolves into the pure Self. This is true wisdom, and this is true meditation. Everything else is a bunch of didactic discussions really. So now that you know there are no two selves, it really is just that One. But it is the quality of the mind through which you access the true unbounded potential within you, OR the highly limited deviant convoluted shadowy version of you. Then its up to you what you want to do with your mind. That is why the whole journey from darkness to light, illusion to Truth, powerlessness to power IS a journey of psychology – a deep understanding of the mind. And that is why the Vedas are the first teachers of psychology. Such deep deep deep understanding of human psyche that I am just amazed.

I would like to end this episode by sharing with you a memory and a mantra. The memory is of waking up every night in my traditional home. My ancestors are renowned in India for their ability to give this Vedic wisdom from their heart for several generations – 2000 years. My family has been involved in uplifting consciousness, awakening minds, shaking us out of our slumber, questioning our brokenness, smallness, and thunderously reclaiming our true Self. And therefore when I was born in this family, there were certain practices that I took for granted, but now I realize how important they were. They were planting seeds in me. That I CAN accomplish this journey. So I’m hoping this podcast feels like a place where new seeds shall be planted in you too.

So my grandfather, a renowned Vedic sage of his time, Baba Ayodhya Nath, who happened to be my paternal grandfather and took me on as his disciple at age 9, (and then bequeathed me his lineage, making me the first female lineage holder in my lineage), would invite me and my cousins and his students all of us to chant together in the morning. It would be barely dawn, it would be almost dark, and Baba would light a ghee lamp. Ghee is clarified butter and it is considered very pure in the Vedic tradition – it is known as “God’s food” because it enhances immunity (Ojas), it enhances intelligence (Tejas), and it strengthens vitality (Prana). So we like to burn a lamp with ghee, not just any oil but ghee. It has this very steady flame. So it would be dark at night, like it would still be dark, not night but almost morning, and still be dark. And Baba would light this flame. And sometimes my eyes would meet his eyes and I would notice this recognition of the Self beyond the Shadow. Existence of shadows but no fear of them. Its almost like “yes there is darkness, but there is too much light and I am just going to focus on the Light.” So I would see this really fierce conviction in Baba’s eyes, and he would chant from this ancient Upanishad, 10,000 year old Upanishad.


And if you are listening to me, you might want to close your eyes if you are somewhere comfortable, or you could just focus on your breath as I chant from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

Asatoma Satgamaya

Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya

Mrityor ma, Amritam Gamaya

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi

Peace to me, Peace to you, Peace to all Beings.

I would chant this mantra, and I think this mantra has become my life. And it has become the essence of the teachings that I give to the world and to my students worldwide, and now to you.

We really owe it to ourselves to journey from Asat – that which has temporary reality but not eternal reality – to that which is the Truth that can never change. So whatever realities, confusions, tales, those shadows tell of sorrows and inflictions and jealousy and smallness and betrayal may have some temporary reality, but they are not the eternal reality. That you are the Self, beyond all this gossip and drama of the world. And that all beings: the bad guys and the good guys, everybody, is really your own Self coming to you to show you more of you so that you can reclaim all parts of you. To learn and grow and evolve into your true fullness.

We owe it to our Self to journey from Tamas (darkness) to Jyoti (light). Because if we live in darkness, if we subscribe to it, then that becomes our apparent reality. But the more we spend time listening to teachers who teach about the light, reading books that expose this inner light in us, contemplate upon it, meditate upon it, we shall find that our life circumstance may be full of darkness, betrayal, difficulties… and yet! There is this light that’s in our heart that does not make us lose hope, does not make us feel small, does not allow us to abandon our Self. And we deserve to make that journey. Come with me.

And finally this mantra says that we must journey from our identity with the jiva, the shadow, that seems to be distressed/diseased/dying after one birth after another – birth death birth death – its all a bunch of dreams of the shadow says the Veda. We must recognize our Amrita nature – our eternal nature, our immortal nature, that I Am Self. And once we realize that, your birth and death won’t be mandated upon you. You not only have free choice, but you remember free choice. That’s the difference between ordinary people and people who awaken completely to their true Self. In the Vedas, Krishna has said “You and I, we’ve had thousands of births, and thousands of deaths. We’ve had many lifetimes. The difference is, you don’t remember yours, and I remember each one of them with clarity.” Even Buddha is said to have said the same thing. So when we remember what Lasts, beyond what breaks or ends, that’s a whole paradigm that’s waiting for us to explore. I’m going to only give you hints here on the podcast, because how do you even play with immortality in day-to-day life? It doesn’t have to be a birth and death scenario. Its not like your body has to die and then you have to remember your spirit nature. I’m not talking about that right now.

But let me just even give the example of feeling crushed when you felt “Oh how am I even yet going to reinvent myself for a new platform?” That is like a death. And then to come back flowing like the wind, singing like the birds, blossoming like the flowers, shining like the sun, twinkling like the stars, flowing like the river, that is eternal life. And that is what I am experiencing right now. Your immortal nature IS the proof of your eternal abilities to reinvent yourself. Find yet new courage, yet new skills, and yet new abilities. And don’t just take my word for it! Every time you were cornered in life, be it through bankruptcy, betrayal, death of a loved one, divorce, and you thought “its over”, sooner or later you came back. You grew bigger if you stopped, and if you had sense enough. If your shadow was not completely ruling you to make you a permanent victim. There were aspects of your Self that made you even stronger. You may thank the therapist or your teacher, but ultimately it was in you. And that is the journey this mantra is talking about. From being broken, and it feels like you’re dying, to realizing your amazing wholeness and reclaiming your ability to reinvent rejuvenate and recreate yourself again and again.

With this, I take leave right now, I will see you again in my next episode. I am so glad you’re joining me. And for those of you who listen to this episode brand new, I just want to say, I’m Acharya Shunya. Acharya is my title, my official Vedic title, it means Vedic teacher. Shunya is my name, you are welcome to call me Shunya. And I am bringing you wisdom from my ancient lineage and more importantly, I am sharing this wisdom with you from my heart which has journeyed, and continues to journey every day – from untruth to truth, darkness to light, and brokenness to wholeness. Take care.

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Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.


Hayward, California, USA