An Intimate Interview with Philip Goldberg, Bestselling Author of American Veda
10/17/2020 59.11 Minutes
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Namaste and welcome to Acharya Shunya’s podcast Shadow to Self, a show created to inspire you to step out of fear and darkness into a place of freedom and empowerment. In each episode, she'll explore humanity's deepest questions about your relationship with yourself and others, illuminated by the ancient and non dual wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, keep listening.
Shunyaji-Welcome to my podcast dear friends. The journey from the Shadow to the Self has become very special for me ever since I began this podcast a couple of months ago. Because so many of you from all over the world have joined me in telling me and reinforcing this theme for all of us: that we deserve light because we are beings of light. That special Self that’s within each one of us (Atma, the boundless one) deserves to come out more and more in our daily life, and the Shadow, which is really our mental clutter, our worries, our doubts, our biases, our conditionings.
We can set it aside once we know about it. It need not spook us. It need not make us bad people, sinful people, stupid people. We can understand the game. Somewhere perhaps we chose it: that we are going get caught up by our Shadow until we know that it is only the Shadow. And the interesting thing is that the Shadow does not exist only in our own mind, confusing us in discerning between reality and appearance.
What is ephemeral and what is important? What is eternal (Nitya) and what is non eternal (Anitya)? What is right (Dharmic) and what is probably not right to do or pursue (Adharmic)? But the Shadow seems to be present in pretty much every area of humanity: in our professions, in our careers, in our politics. But then, believe it or not, even in the arena of spirituality, sometimes the Shadow can strike and then we can think that we have arrived, but we may only be in a state of delusion. We may think we are awakened, and we are ready to enlighten another but unfortunately we may nowhere be near that inner light. We may think we have found our master, our teacher, our guide, but we may be playing out some more of the co-dependence themes that need to be looked at and probably taken care of in therapy.
So round and round we go in our mind: sorting out life’s puzzles, thinking we have got the answer. But unfortunately the answer we get is just one more circle. That’s it. We go round and round and round. That is why the term Samsarah, which comes from that which goes on and on in a circular pattern, that’s how sometimes we feel. And that’s why I thought Hey! Why don’t I talk about this? Why don’t we bring this discussion that perplexes us, confuses us, and frustrates us? And often we feel worthy only when that, "If I could have only known better. If I had only done some more research already. If I had only thought it through, I would have probably out smarted that circular Samsara in which we get caught up in our own mind. And taken a more discerned decision using the faculty of discernment, which is known as Vivekah in Sanskrit and detaching from what is no longer serving us, which is known as Vairagyam in Sanskrit."
So Vivekah, Vairagyam are in a way like the pillars of the path of knowledge or the path of spirituality in which we want to be taking very conscious steps. We don’t want to be just led or told which is one way once we can surrender ourselves to the right person. But we want to, even before we surrender to a master, a guru, a tradition, a teaching. We may still want to think about it and discern Vivekah. And we may want to detach with any version of it that is not true.
So if we really look at what is the real invitation here. Fortunately, this work from journeying from darkness to light, from confusion to clarity, ignorance to incite and ultimately, the Shadow to Self, living by the impulses, whims and ill conceived beliefs of the Shadow or the enlightened wisdom, intuitive knowledge and restfulness of the Self. This journey has been taken by many great teachers all over the world. In fact, if I have to give credit to any deep messiah, sage, yogi, teacher, professor, master I have to say that no matter what religion they belong to, what culture they come from; somewhere within them they have had this conversation that look: it’s not that simple. It’s not just a case of you know, you hear, you can make this journey, you can end up get there and everything will get fixed. It’s not that simple.
We have to bring a greater cognitive evaluation into this situation because we have that faculty as humans. We are not just driven by our impulses. We have something known as a deeper mind, a thinking mind, a questioning mind, an analytical mind, a cognitive mind. Let’s use it. And when we begin using it, it’s really helpful when we can have teachers and masters shed light on that process and show us what ethical, responsible, thinking journey around spirituality can represent. Not only do they talk about it, but they walk that path and for the rest of us, they become light-showers.
I am really fortunate that our guest today is one such person. I will like to introduce you to this amazing person, and we will have a conversation that might really reveal to you some gems about your own journey and help you along the way, as it has helped me. Because I read many, many years ago his writing in his bestseller book, The American Veda, and that really set the theme for me as to what kind of teacher I wanted to be in America, more than even a student.
So he held my back, his knowledge, his illumination helped a teacher who came much later to the American scenario, in knowing what really is the Shadow here and how can I side more with the light than enable the Shadow in myself and my spiritual students. So our guest today is Philip Goldberg, also known as Phil Goldberg. He has been studying India’s spiritual traditions for more than fifty years as a practitioner, teacher and a writer. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books including some of his best sellers: Road Signs On The Spiritual Path, The award winning American Veda and its full title is The American Veda: from Emerson and Beatles to Yoga & Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed The West and then he has written an amazing book called the Life Of Yogananda: The story of the Yogi Who Became The First Modern Guru. In fact, this is a full scale biography of the Paramhansa Yogananda, the one and only renowned Yogananda.
His latest book, which we’ll go more into later, and we will be sharing the link how to obtain that book, and I have been enjoying it, is his Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times: Powerful Tools to Cultivate Calm, Clarity and Courage. It is so fascinating that we will be talking to him at a time when our world is spinning with the pandemic right now. And he has mentioned how when he was writing this, there was so much more craziness was going on. He didn’t expect that when he will be releasing it to the world, this will be such a timely book for us because we all need right now to cultivate calm, clarity and courage. -
Phil is an ordained interfaith minister, and he brings so much knowledge of so many varied traditions into his work and teachings. He is a spiritual counsellor and a meditation teacher. He is an entertaining public speaker who has presented at venues throughout the US and India. And I have to say that in my conversations with him, I have done nothing but walked away enlightened. But there is this lightness about him, this sense of humour that he carries, where it almost makes it easy to have discussions on grave topics. He blogs regularly on Spirituality & Health and Elephant Journal, and he conducts tours of India with American Veda tourists and co host the popular Spirit Matters podcast. And his website, which we will share again in case you missed it is philipgoldberg.com. And Philip, welcome! Namaste! Thank you so much for joining me.
Philip- Namaste! Shunya I have to say that I now have a lot to live up to after that introduction. And you gave away my big secret. You know Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times came out recently, and everybody compliments me on my great timing, and you gave away the fact that I had no idea we will be in the middle of the pandemic when I wrote it.
Shunyaji- I think your soul knew. What do you think?
Philip- Maybe so; Well I didn’t. I knew the times were crazy when I wrote it. They were crazy enough to write up this book. And times you know can always be crazy; maybe my publishers knew it because they are the one who set the publication date. But true, the timing unfolded as it needed to.
Shunyaji- You know, you have talked about, Phil, if I may dive right in because your time is so precious and I have so many questions for you. You know, you have talked about Samsara and you have talked about this like existential craziness that humanity inherits until it finds that non-crazy elements within themselves. Tell us more about it. Tell us more about your own reflections and what moved you to- because this book is not, I mean, I have been going through it, and I am recommending it to my students and disciples because I think it’s a book for every time. Yeah!
Philip- Yeah! That’s when the pandemic hit: there was still time to make some changes for the best opportunity, and all I did was to add a short paragraph in the process. Because you know I took pains that the point of view of the book, the practical message that, I recommend, the guide lines, instructions all of that. These are perennial and I am drawing from perennial wisdom mostly from India and the Vedic traditions. But you know I brought in other insights from other spiritual traditions and from modern science to help people cope with crazy times, whenever you know- if we somehow emerge from this crisis into a new age of harmony and joy and happiness. Individual lives will still go through, you know, difficulties and challenges, just part of being human. And so people, you know at any time, life can be crazy for you regardless of what’s going on.
At the moment we are going through not just a cultural crisis but a global crisis, and it’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on and the degree of suffering out there. So something dark and mysterious and in some ways understandable and discernable but you know, then the other aspects the pandemic is bringing out a lot of what you have been calling Shadow elements- individualized and collectively as well. And you know, maybe in the long run, would be a better offer for them having been exposed and maybe would take steps to make it better. I know since you are spiritual people who are convinced that this is that God or the cosmos is part of the design, that this is a collective cleansing of some sorrows and all that stuff. And I am not qualified to know whether that’s true or not, but my hunch is that whatever the cosmic plan may be, it requires our actions. And it may not unfold automatically; it may not be written if we don’t preordain. It may require us to do the right things to make the future better; to apply everything we have learnt individually and collectively; to bring out the collective into the light.
Shunyaji- But that’s beautiful and I think that is why you will agree with me, Phil, that those of us who are holding on to spiritual practices and tools, by a way of any tradition. Of course we both love, you know, we have appreciated what comes from the Vedas, but be of any tradition, we are more assisting bringing in the light than just staying with the Shadow. So your book is very timely and also just easy to read. I mean there are these just sections which just make it, I would say even reading a section a day, kind of keeps the light bulb on. Was that intentional to write this, kind of you know, this soft landing?
Philip- Yeah! This style I have developed. You know, writing is obviously my Dharma, and people often ask me why you decided to be a writer and I joke that this is the only thing I was good at. That I have enough passion for to do on a professional level. So the writing style- I am always pleased when people compliment it and say it’s easy to digest. I wanted to make the book user-friendly and because it's a very practical book it’s meant to be applied and understood. But I didn’t want to make it over simplistic either. A lot of self-help books, a lot of books on spirituality are just too simplistic. I wanted to acknowledge, as you were saying in your introductory remarks, how complex and nuanced the spiritual path is. I want to compliment you for speaking about the need for discernment. And I wanted my readers in this book to exercise their discernment: to think clearly, to make the proper choices. Because the spiritual path in the Upanishads; it’s called the razor’s edge. It can be difficult to traverse at times. It can be confusing. And we need to use both our intellects to discern and analyze and think clearly, and to know that deepest wisdom within our self we call intuition. And to use the combination and not make automatic decisions because someone told you to.
Shunyaji- That is why I wanted to chat with you, because whatever I have read of yours and I have heard your podcasts you know, we can’t separate this discernment faculty from your teachings. So you are not just a teacher who teaches a feel-good meditation. There is this constant, almost like an underlying narrative going on which leads a person, like say even when you start with meditation and it’s so easy to start a chapter on meditation. And here is how you do: it close your eyes and then you go-
Shunyaji- And the first line you say is public discourse on meditation is muddled. And then you go on to explain, teach classifications, sort out, help people figure out their way through this the muddle, if I may say so. So kudos to you too!
Philip- Thank you I appreciate this.
Shunyaji- Yeah! For really like daring to say it because people need that because if every teacher starts teaching their version of meditation, you know soon as many as plastic bottles we will have as many methods of meditation and no clarity.
Philip- It’s getting to that.
Shunyaji- Getting to that.
Philip- And it’s one of the reasons I felt I should do it. I have been meditating with an authentic lineage-based traditional method for more than fifty years, not to make myself feel too old. I have seen over time meditation becomes so mainstream and so recognized by the medical community, the psychology community, the spiritual community. It’s advocated everywhere; even my health care provider tells me I should meditate for stress. So that’s great, but over time it got more and more muddled to the point where people think they’ll make up some meditation, you know and present it as if the thing they made up carries the same weight, has the same power and beneficial effect and the same data. As you know, the methods that have been used for centuries and have been studied in scientific laboratories, they are not all the same and the media often presents it, as meditation is a thing and you know they are all the same but they are not, as you well know. So thank you for singling that out.
Shunyaji- Yeah! Because I am a teacher of that tradition too, because as you know that Ayurveda is also one of my sciences that I promote. And in Ayurved,a when you go to a Vaidya, a healer, they give you two things: Pathya and Apathya. Pathya is what you should do, and Apathya is what you should not do. And if the Vaidya has less time, we are told to just tell them what not to do. Don’t harm yourself. That’s more important, and a responsible teacher brings both those portions.
I have seen you this guidance for the American, for the Western I would say beyond America, for the Western spiritualist, who is interested in the teachings from the East. How did you even, I know you took like years observing and then writing, but I do want to hear from you about your blockbuster book and what a contribution to society when you wrote the American Veda. And you look at this whole culture of how we are very much living out themes and echoes from what came from India long ago. So much so that Time magazine talks about how Hinduism or the Vedas have influenced, and the Newsweek has done that and many of them quote you. So tell us about this desire for the big picture that you gave the whole gestalt you kind of opened it up. That’s a big journey you took there and that took all of us, Phil.
Philip- Thank you, it gives me great pleasure, especially when people whose heritage is from India, acknowledge the contribution that the book made and that they have learnt from it. I am actually teaching a course, a ten week course, I am starting for the Hindu University of America, taking them through the whole history of how the traditions have affected America. And the effect is so subtle, that lot of people even well-informed people, don’t realize the extent of it. But it started for me back when I set foot on my own spiritual path when I was a young seeker in the 1960s, and I found myself drawn to the philosophy of Vedanta, especially certain Buddhist teachings and to the practices that come from the Yoga traditions. And they transformed my life. That I mean, there was a radical shift in my life as soon as I took up these practices and started studying the tradition of wisdom. And then I saw it changing many other people’s lives, and they became my friends and my spiritual buddies and my community. And over time as I grew up and my life evolved, and I started writing professionally. I kept seeing it happen. I saw that these teachings were influencing psychology and influencing medicine and influencing neuro science. I saw it coming out in the voices of famous people and musicians and artists, and I said, you know, this stuff is filtering into our society. Why? Because it makes sense. And because it changes people’s lives for the better, and there was always better coming up. So time went by and I just became a professional writer and started writing books. And sometime in the mid 80s I thought, well this is really a phenomenon that is affecting the culture! So I wrote a book proposal and no one was interested. And-
Shunyaji- Oh! I didn’t know that.
Philip- Yeah! And so you know this is the mid 80s- late 80s and I thought, that’s disappointing. But maybe this is one of those occasions where I am ahead of my time (usually when you think that is not really true). But this turned out to be the case, and so I felt, well may be one day it would be other people will see what I am seeing and it will be at the right time. So I kept gathering information. I would clip things from newspapers. I would do interviews and all this stuff, thinking one day I will write this book.
And then finally, twenty years later in the mid 2000s, an editor- what was then the double day books- ended up with Random House, had a similar insight and happened to mention it to my agent to put us together and then I said okay! Now I have a book contract. This is real. And so I embarked on more in-depth research because what I thought in the 80s was now in twenty years later- much more of it happened. And that’s how it came to be. It was a result of my own experiences and of my own observations and some impulse that said you should write about this and tell the story.
Shunyaji- Phil, what was fascinating to me, as a teacher because when I read this, I was not you know so to say in America teaching as a spiritual teacher, so it’s more looking as an onlooker. And what I saw in your writing was that, like a lot of lineages or teachers individuals or collectives began with a lot of enthusiasm but sooner or later some Shadow would creep in.
Philip- Oh! Yes.
Shunyaji- And this is more a sign of our times, not so much about an individual faltering. But you know, because the Vedic tradition, as you know and I have been telling our listeners about it, has been here for millennia. For thousands of years there have been gurus and for thousands of years there have been students. There has been you know this Paramapara, this tradition. What do you think is going on right now that Shadow inflicts the gurus, the masters and they seem to topple? We have the era of the top linked teachers and then we have students who seem to exhibit like they don’t exhibit a lot of emotional intelligence in who they’re attached to and how they become enslaved or how they lose their power. I mean, it takes two to tango in a dysfunctional relationship: we can’t just blame the masters. So at a big level ,so that our listeners can, this is really a practical thing because every genuine seeker deserves a genuine mentor. What do you feel people can do so that they stay away from the Shadow because you have looked at the whole deal?
Philip- Yeah! I had to cover up a lot in writing American Veda because I wrote about all the gurus who came to America, who want to have a sizeable following. And it turns out that almost all the ones who came here and became popular in the 60s and 70s had some kind of scandal or fall from grace, at least they were accused of it you know. We can say everything was almost true. And it should be said that there are many many gurus who came here and attracted followings who lived highly ethical lives. There was no scandal, you know. Nothing erupted around them, and we should honor that. And there had been false accusations but there’s also been Shadow stuff that came out and it was usually around sex, sometimes around money or power. Many of the gurus just turned out to have something in the psyche that was not complete. And they fell prey especially in the 60s and the 70s, when the culture was just very different. It was very different from when Swami Vivekananda was here in the 1890s. Even different from when the Yogananda was here in the 20s and 30s. The 60s and 70s were a different time, and some of the gurus succumbed to sexual temptation and the truth is, you know, there are very noble gurus. Even the ones who had scandals around them at the same time brought you know terrific benefits to most of their followers lives, otherwise they would not have become so popular. So it’s a complex picture and they are all human.
And one of the things you learn when you delve into the surface, that no matter how brilliant and even spiritually evolved a human, a person can be, no matter how skilled a teacher, they are human. They are human in a lovable way, and they also can have their flaws and their shortcomings and their personality quirks. I wrote a whole biography looking into the human story of Yogananda: person of fame of all the gurus who used to come here. He used to love people thinking that he is such a perfect human being. But his human stories showed very human qualities, and I came to admire him even more because he worried about money, and he had to deal with this and you know all these stuff. So people need to recognize that the gurus they come in contact with, despite the trappings and the authority and their intelligence and lovable personalities they may have: they are still human beings.
And if we have a need to put a teacher upon a pedestal, we have to be prepared for the pedestal to crumble at some point. And we have to be very discerning and in taking on a teacher. Do not necessarily succumb to this notion that a disciple must surrender to the guru, if by surrender you mean turn off your power and give up your independent thinking and your judgement. There may be a place for that close guru-disciple relationship, especially in a monastic setting, but for most of us, we are not in a monastic setting. We are functioning in the world, and we have to remain empowered to think for ourselves and to have a clear understanding of what kind of a relationship we want with the guru. Do we want somebody we completely surrender to? Well, if you do, you better be very careful about who that person is and how you do it.
Do you want somebody who is a mentor? Somebody who just knows more than you, like a good, skilled teacher? Do you want a friend, a spiritual friend? Do you want a counsellor? I mean there is many ways to define your student’s relationship to a teacher. And the best of the teachers will empower the student to have more discernment and to think more clearly. And one secret that I have learnt is that, I have been around you know too many Satsangs with gurus, where people just wanted to be singled out, for how much they love the guru and how much they can complement the guru. And what I found is that gurus really like people who ask hard questions and challenge what they say because it’s showing that they are evolving. They are thinking for themselves. They like that. They like people who ask that.
Shunyaji- True gurus are not waiting for sheep to follow them around. And I have to say that the word in the Parampara, in the tradition between guru and shishya was not surrender, which is kind of some kind of a Western understanding of the relationship that might happen with the early breed of guru, saying rather than saying surrender your ignorance, it was like surrender to me. But the word was Vinay, and Vinay means bring your humility in the learning process. Because if you’re a know-it-all, you cannot learn new things. And Vinay also means Vinay not just towards the gurus, but the whole journey towards the teaching, the path, the tradition towards each other. It got more of into this surrender and typically, I also want to say, that the students who do surrender voluntarily or they think it is assumed of them, are often the ones who do not want to take responsibility for themselves.
Philip- That’s right. And when something goes wrong and a guru behaves in ways they don’t necessarily like or display human characteristics, they are usually the ones who have the biggest backlash.
Shunyaji- Exactly. Yeah! So it’s a big game, and why we were talking about it dear, dear friends of our podcast is, so that you would be aware that lights are being turned on. This is no longer the era where you just get caught up and then few years later you say, I didn’t know any better. Well I hope you heard our podcast. I hope you read Phil’s books.
Philip- Well I also I think people- there’s a lot of wounds and scars and disappointment from the young seekers in the 60s and 70s. They now have children and grandchildren. They (the younger people now) are little less likely to succumb. Having said that, just in recent weeks there have been you know revelations about; in this case Western teachers who have been many years elders here and also in the world of Hath Yoga and celebrity Yoga teachers you know, sexual misconduct and abuse. It keeps happening. So there are always lessons to learn. It’s still happening to the point that in one of the chapters even in Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times, I have a chapter on how important relationships and other people are for bringing us to the life in crazy times. And I found it necessary to talk about the role of spiritual teachers even there, give people you know, a sense of learning.
Shunya ji- Always. It’s always you are delivering that guidance or those tools, and you must be thanked for that, to play that role because it’s not easy to play that role. I am sure of that, but if the burden falls on some of us and that and we have to do that right thing.
A change of theme. I want to go back to the times, you know Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times. I want to talk about how beautifully you have covered the different Yogas, you know, without like being preachy about it. But you talked about, you know, so it brings in the average person because many average people think that Yoga is really about Chitta Vritti Nirodaha- calming the mind. But then you bring in the Karma Yoga definition of Samatvam Yoga Uchaytay- an equanimous mind amidst difficulties is also striking Yoga. And you wrote, and I love your writing, and you said the promise is not. So when you practice being equanimous through acceptance in life you wrote, “The promise in not the absence of outrageous slings and arrows, but the presence of peace, perhaps even joy, in the midst of the inevitable madness. It’s a declaration of independence from the ravages of life, and it’s strictly an inside job."
I think these lines are beautiful, Phil, and if our listeners are listening, so I would like you to read the book but even as a take-away that you want to take from this podcast, is that Phil and I are talking. We are teachers in this world. We are dealing with slings and arrows. Yoga doesn’t mean only sitting under a tree or a mountain top meditating. I let Phil talk more about it. He is very clear that the imperative for all of us is to bring Yoga, bring spirituality in the midst of our worldly life. So tell us more about it, Phil.
Philip- Well, you know, that when I was first on my spiritual path I found the promise of higher spiritual attainment to be so appealing and I started to see glimpses of it right away, soon as I began my meditation practices and all that. And when I read the Gita, the Bhagwad Gita, for the first time there were a few passages that truly stood out for me. And one of them was where this promise is made that the Yogi will develop equanimity in gain and loss, victory and defeat, in pleasure and pain, and I said, man! I want that. Because I have been buffeted around by all the craziness of life, and I just want the thought of having the inner peace which was so appealing. I just wanted to have more of it, more of it.
But somewhere in my little shadowy subconscious, I took it to mean that a time will come when there won’t be loss and defeat and pain. And so my life got better, and you know it was transformed and it does happen. I would be looking for a loop, and I would be upset, and my heart would be broken, and I would be crazy enough and I said what’s going on here? I thought I would be above all this by now. But then I realized: it doesn’t say that there won’t be any losses and defeat because life inevitably has its ups and downs.
You could live the most blessed life in the world, but eventually you are going to get sick. You would lose loved ones. The economy will crash. Things will happen and they always do. And that the goal is to have that equanimity, that inner stability, that access to, what I call in the book, our inner sanctuary of peace that is our own nature- that is Atma. That is our core essence. It is our birth right, and we can access it. That’s what the whole book is about. Different methods for accessing what is deep within us at our core. The more we do that, the more likely when stuff happens in the world, in our immediate world, in our larger world, we can maintain some composure, some inner stability, some calm some presence of mind. Not only so we don’t get knocked for a loop and you know get sick and get all stressed out. Not only for our rooms of preservations, but so we have a way out to act more effectively about what’s going on in this world.
This is the core message of the Gita and all the traditional teachings. Establishing Yoga for own action and so that’s really the centerpiece, the sort of foundation on which I wrote up to two hundred pages. But that’s, you are absolutely right. It’s that, how do we say maintain equanimity? You do that through regular practice or Sadhana, but you also do it by being available to you message that you can bring in when you need them when stuff happens. Now that’s essentially what I put in Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times.
Shunyaji- Thank you so much because when we; when we teach Bhagwad Gita’s core message which brings me again to what we were talking about: the new era of spirituality with the Shadows. Where sometimes we go to a guru with a desire that it will all go away. All my problems will go away. I will be in the zone of joy and bliss, which is misguided as being some kind of a bliss that can exist by itself without its opposites.
But we live in a kind of a Loka or a plain of existence, where duality is there. So dark is with light. Dukha (or sorrow) is with Sukha. Our Janama (or birth) is with Marana (death). We can’t separate these. And that is why when we go to the deeper teachings of the Bhagwad Gita, dear listeners, we learn to thrive despite the problems or be equanimous and not lose it.
So you know, Phil, when I was growing up and I would lose it, maybe because my pencil sharpener I couldn’t find, or my geography homework was not done and my teacher would not like it. I was pretty young and once I was full of angst, I remember. I went to my father, and he just said “Oh! Shunya Dukheshu Anudigna Manah Sukheshu Vigatspraha he just said that and I was like; what but of course later I understood it. But now to lead that life.
Philip- Could you please translate it?
Shunyaji- Okay! What it basically means for the rest of us is that the one whose mind is not shaken up by adversity, and the one who in joy doesn’t get like, "I want more more more!" greedy Spriha. Because then that takes us away from what we have achieved. That person is known as Stithbudhi person, or a person of steady wisdom and so I remember.
Philip- It sounds like something out of the Gita
Shunyaji- This is the Gita, yeah. This is fifty-six, Shlokha 56, from the chapter two and it started from rejecting that. From wanting a fix as a young person, to having no option but to live with it, as a youth and then as an elder rejoicing in it, discussing it with people like you who live it and bringing it to the world. What a journey for me too, Phil, from wanting a fix to knowing this is the fix.
Philip- And then that naive notion-
Philip- You know it’s very understandable. I succumbed to it too, and I saw millions of people do it. And then we mature and we evolve. And if we were lucky, we also we get to pass on what we have learnt to other people. And if we were wise, we don’t pretend we have learned everything. Because life is still full of surprises and lessons to be learnt even for us elders.
Shunyaji- Yes. And so as we say in the Vedas, that the true elder is not by age but by their maturity and how they handle their ups and downs. So this is an ongoing journey from the Shadow to Self and well said- that we can’t really sit on our lotus and say we have arrived because when we turn around there might still be more ways to go. So it’s an ongoing like a Yatra. It’s a journey.
Philip- Yeah! And I would say getting back to most of the questions of the students and gurus. If you encounter a teacher who claims that there’s no more growth for him or her to have, I would start to be very suspicious. Be very careful about that!
Shunyaji- I would too. I also wanted to bring up the topic of sexuality and spirituality, and I wanted to say that while monasticism is a choice and there are great monastic sages, it’s also good to look at your teachers and Sangas, where sexuality is something that is comfortable. You don’t have to do too many heroic things with it. So in the Grihasta way, or the way where you are a householder, was the way of the Vedas. Krishna was married many times. Arjuna had several wives. I am not- I don’t want to say it’s the only way. That would be irresponsible because there comes a time when sexuality doesn’t feel that important. But I do want to say that if you are a beginning seeker probably integrating your sexuality with your spiritual life may be okay. What are your thoughts on that Phil?
Philip- No I agree. I think one of the difficulties we have had, especially here in the West, was that the prominent gurus who came here were monastics. And they had a monastic, you know that for most part of monastic orientation, most of them knew that they were teaching householders for the most part. But they themselves not only were monastic they were swamis. They were ordains. They were Brahmacharis. But they came from a culture that became very conservative around sexuality. And especially in the 60s and 70s they came to the West, at the time of this, you know, the great sexual revolution as we called it. And so I have sympathy now for some of these men, but some of them were very conscious of the fact that the traditions have become very monastic-oriented. There are a lot of historical reasons for that in Indian history in a way, but the teachings for householders had been neglected so you know, there was a lot of the advice and the framing of these precious teachings were monastically oriented.
There was too much about renunciation. Too much about the material world being illusionary and turn away from it. Sex was not even discussed. Because I remember being around the gurus and asked about sex and everything, and he was a monastic and he said, "This is not my area of expertise." I’ll never forget him saying that. So it’s an issue. Now more and more because people grow up and people in the West become teachers and some of them are also them are also trained in psychology. And so you know, the integration of the traditional teachings into modern lives and all of the aspects of householder’s life- sex of course- but also dealing with money and dealing with family and dealing with the commitment of marriages and all these. These too will have to be integrated into the life of the teachings and is very important for people to realize.
I said this is important in the book with ,especially in the last chapter where I talk about the importance of spiritually grounded people or before you mention all the Yogas. The Karma Yoga aspect of this and doing something of service to help to heal the world is a terribly important component of this fullness of living a spiritual life in the context of a crazy times and context of being a good citizen and a good family member and so forth. And you know it’s important for us to realize that the greatest book on spiritual development, the Gita, the advice wasn’t to Arjuna to go live in a cave, he had to believe in his Dharma and his Dharma was in this world fighting battles.
Shunyaji- As is our Dharma to fight the battles that we can with the right knowledge. This is wisdom for our times. These teachings from Phil come not just from a person who went to India, came back and came back illuminated. He has been teaching this for fifty years. He has been spending time with the top teachers, the top gurus, the top swamis, the top lamas and I am so happy, I mean you know, I really sometime feel that as a Vedic teacher, a feminine Vedic teacher, a householder, I get so alone in a corner saying, wait can we talk about sex? It’s not a bad word. Wait, can we talk about Artha and Kama too, you know translated again as money and pleasure too? Along with Dharma Moksha, which is good stuff and you know Self realization? So it’s really good to have somebody with your expertise, knowledge and depth to come back and endorse and say for our listeners, "You know what? You are not leading any lesser life because you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a partner. You are paying your taxes and a bulk of humanity is asked to fight their battle like Arjuna with Krishna which is your higher consciousness behind you." These are all metaphorical, and say you were to go to the cave you might have more battles to lead there too.
Philip- That’s right, I always keep joking, go to the caves and leave the world but you have to go into the town to get some food and you might find that the Sanyasi in the next cave was a pain in the neck and-
Philip- -makes noise when you don’t want him to do that!
Shunyaji- Or there could be a big black spider in your cave and you have to battle your space there.
Shunyaji- So basically the battle is not an option. How you choose to battle, how you respond is what it’s all about. And you know as a last plug-in for the Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times, I am not doing this because I have to, but I really would like that you enjoy these crazy times with the spiritual practices and see the difference, that’s what I would say. So before we close this podcast I would like to know if there is something you want to share with my listeners anything, any gem in their journey.
Philip- When you were speaking earlier about the presence of Shadow and darkness, one more line that I quoted in the book I wanted to mention. So I would do it now. Was the great song writer Wellman Coleman had a line in a song that’s become famous ,and it says, "There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in." And I want people to remember that because we have, despite the darkness- in the midst of the darkness, we have this sanctuary of peace, the source of light within us. It’s what we are, and there’s always a crack. There’s always a way into it. The best way is regular deep Sadhana on a regular basis, but even in any moment we have access to the light. We are light seeking beings.
Shunyaji- That’s so beautiful. That is so beautiful Philip. And I want to tell our listeners who have joined this Satsang that you and I are having, that, there is a very special invitation in Philip’s work. All of it, which is about using your mind, using your thinking, using your discernment to find that crack and enjoy that light. He always shows that and I encourage you to check out his work and his teachings at philipgoldberg.com. Philip, thank you so much!
Philip- Oh! Thank you Shunya. I enjoyed being with you. Please I have a great admiration for the work you are doing. You are making a great contribution and I wish you continued success with it.
Shunyaji- Thank you so much! We are now going to go off and do our own things, fight our own battles. Make sure and tune in to our next podcast, and thank you for making this podcast in such a short time so successful. Please share this podcast if you like what I and Philip had to talk about. Your reviews, your comments, it’s just creating this beautiful synergistic community worldwide and I will keep bringing these wonderful inspiring friends of mine to share with you. And until next time thank you so much. This is Acharya Shunya.
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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 and 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.