• Acharya Shunya

Time to Quarantine Your Ego


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.

Yesterday I had a disagreement with my partner, my husband of two plus decades. Disagreement? Aren’t I a spiritual teacher? Yes, disagreement. Because I’m a human first. If I said that there was no disagreement, then that would be called spiritual bypassing – pretending to be a spiritual teacher. But here’s where the spiritual part comes in.

At night, when I was trying to go to bed, those thoughts kept coming back “hmm, I could have taken this opinion…and this makes sense… and this is right…and that is not right…”. As if I was in a courtroom, and my ego wanted to win. Or at least it was posturing to be very helpful, when really all it was doing was taking away my sleep. Because I am a spiritual teacher I saw right through it. The Ego, known as Ahamkara, is really the Story Maker, the Great Shadow. It spins a shadowy story after a shadowy story. Because Ahamkara in Sanskrit means the Kara, the creator, of the Aham, the “I”. And that Great I is an illusory I, that goes to the courtroom when its time to go to bed.

Well, Mr. Ego… Yup, I got a male ego… Its time to Quarantine you. Its time to take shelter in my true Self that is beyond the courtroom, and that recognizes that I and my partner share one Is-ness, one Self. And its not a big deal! And my Self knows that even if I end my marriage, it will be from light. If I live in this marriage, it will be from light. If I argue in this marriage, it will be from light. I just don’t want to be drawn into the shadow – to believe that it is so important, to lose sleep on a trivial matter just because that matter, mattered… at noon. It should matter at 2am. It should matter so much that I can’t sleep, I can’t think, I can’t record my brand new podcast, I can’t bring into it my truth, I can’t speak to all the millions and billions of humans who are going to hear this hereafter, and think that somehow a spiritual teacher should speak from her Shadow and talk all about God and beauty and wonderment and Joy that’s oozing out of her. Instead of a couple of hours of lost sleep due to the Shadow.

Hello everyone. I am as you know, Acharya Shunya, and I want to talk to you about this journey that each one of us is asked to make. Every day. Every moment of our life. From Shadow to Self.

Hello everyone, you’ve already been introduced to my name, Acharya Shunya. You can call me Shunya. Acharya is my title, it means a Master Vedic teacher. I was born in an ancient Vedic family that goes back at least 2000 years in Northern India in a tiny holy city known as Ayodhya. It is said to be a pilgrimage town. Millions of people show up there every year because the beautiful sacred river, the Sarayu, flows through it. More importantly, Rama, who is said to be the avatar of Vishnu, a Hindu God, is said to be born there. We believe that to be true. It’s a place where everybody shows up, and they all take a dip in the river Sarayu. And before they take a dip into it, they think they are, their inner being, is just crawling with sorrow and unhappiness and misery. And after they emerge from that depth, they feel cleansed. Long ago, when I was a child, I asked my grandfather, who I called Baba (who was also my teacher) “why do they report such an instant change? They have walked into that water feeling so miserable, and they come back with this big grin”. And Baba said “Shunya, they went into that water with this deep deep intention that they wanted to let go of the Shadow – their false beliefs, imaginations and projections of their mind. That is not leading them to a greater truth of their own true being, being One with the supreme consciousness. Instead the shadow is leading them away to be lost in the corridors of worldliness and worldly roles, and now they’re feeling really sorry – these dads and moms and bankers and doctors and lawyers and real estate people. Then they go back to the Mother River Sarayu. Because they know their god Lord Rama too, when he wanted to shed his shadow (the body) he walked into that river, and he found his way back to the light. Because he was light, and he had just descended for a short time to be amongst us mortals. So clearly the river knows a way, and lets do that.”

And then, India being India, everybody tells everybody, and before you know it for an uninterrupted period of 10,000 years, millions billions trillions of people report “I got rid of my Shadow at least temporarily, I’m gonna have a cup of chai and hot samosa right next to the riverbed and rejoice!” And then you will find a lot of people being super happy after their dip, and it’s a really cheerful place. I recommend you check it out next time you’re in India. But for now, you are with me. And I feel inspired to convert my podcast into that river Sarayu that I grew up with, and talk about all the time. If you read my book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, it’s a book on Ayurveda – Vedic medicine. And I was supposed to be all grown up and writing it, and my inner child just jumped out and wanted to cowrite that book. And we wrote about trips to the river Sarayu, and what we learned.

I was wondering “what will I say to you?” on my first podcast, and it doesn’t matter anymore. Because if it is holy – not from the shadowy holiness that religions teach us to embody – but its holy from the wholeness that lives within us, that I’m going to ask you to reclaim from within you, then it doesn’t matter that I began my first podcast with how I was myself taken over by my shadow. Albeit for a few hours, until I annihilated it, and I returned back to who I am. My true Self. Feeling more expansive than ever, more generous than ever, more enlightened than ever. Because that is the true nature of our being.

You know, you don’t have to believe me. I didn’t have to believe Baba, who was my teacher. He was the teacher of thousands of people when he was alive, in India. So was his grandfather. Our family goes back 2000 years in India. The Vedic tradition says “You don’t have to believe us. You don’t have to have blind faith in us, because that’s just being your shadow. Who wants your faith which is full of shadows? We’d like your reasoning, to come with that faith.” So why don’t you give me functional faith for now? Just hear me out. See. Try it. So the first stage is called “hear me out” or shravanam. The second stage is “think it out”, called mananam. The third stage is called “try it out” or nidi dhyasanam. Try it out. In your own relationships or at night, when you’re awake because of your shadow. Your ego telling you things it has no business of telling you. And if what I teach you or share with you, and feel inspired to bring forward in the podcast helps you, then you’ll know. You took a dip in the river Sarayu, that special river of wholeness, in which you can walk in with some brokenness and emerge whole.

But here is another one. What if I told you, that river Sarayu, that river that makes you whole every single time. That removes the darkness, and fills you with light every single time. That takes away the curses, and fills you with blessings every single time, lives and flows and bubbles along, right inside YOU. How about that? Well that’s what the Vedas, this ancient body of wisdom that is taught and learned and lived in my lineage, since time immemorial, says to us. It says that your true Self is beyond every possible shadow.

As long as we don’t know about it, the Ego, the Ahamkara, the Story Maker, can fabricate every possible story. Or at least if it’s a real life story with facts, can really build it up and make you either a tragic hero/heroine, or a super conceited hero/heroine because you’re winning it. But the reality is your true Self is peaceful, it knows how to share power, it is compassionate, its understanding. Above all, it is invincible. That’s right, you’re invincible, deep inside you. Deep inside you there is no darkness. Do you know how you can believe that? Because no matter how terrible you’ve been, and in the past your shadow got you, and other peoples shadows cornered you. Its like, with the world, it’s a dark alley where your shadow goes for a walk and other people’s shadows accost you in the corridor because you were the guy with less power, or less money, or less good looks, or not the “right” gender or the “right” race, and bam! The shadows win over one shadow – you. And so you were down and out. But then for a few moments, you went inside – maybe guided by a teacher like me, maybe you were in meditation. Maybe you saw a sunrise and your jaw just dropped in disbelief… and for that one moment, you came out of your shadow. And in that few moments, those milliseconds, when your shadow wasn’t actively telling you how to feel, how to think, how to behave, how to be defensive, for those few seconds…you became empowered again. Enlightened again. Whole again. You became invincible. And then you could go back, from those few milliseconds of connection with your shadowless Truth, back to those shadows. Back through those alleyways. But this time nobody dared accost you and pin you down in a corner.

I’m not even sure if I’m using the right English words, bear with me people! English is not my first language. It is my third language. I have Hindi, I have Sanskrit, then I have English. And it doesn’t matter if my shadow mispronounces and takes the wrong word for the right word. Because my Self has this option of communicating with you. Self to Self. Not shadow to shadow. It is the shadow that wants to be perfect. It is the shadow that worries about being judged for its perfection. It is the shadow that thinks it must win or lose an argument. It doesn’t realize that there can be so many different opinions. That there can be so many versions of truth, in the shadow world. Because the shadow world is not meant for Truth. It is meant to be seen as a complete falsehood, where only shadows are vying for supremacy. And the only way to really regain that Truth is a turn inwards. The Truth beyond the falsehoods, and the truth pretending to be falsehoods, the Light that never dims, the wholeness that can never be taken away by any amounts of brokenness, lives right inside you. And according to the ancient Vedas, which were given to me as a legacy in my family, by my Guru Baba Ayodhyanath, to his disciple Shunya, who he chose as the first feminine leader of his 2000 year old all-male lineage, said: “You are Atma, apanoti iti sarvam atma – That which is boundless is You.” That is what the Veda are telling us. Boundless power, boundless light, boundless abundance, boundless creativity, boundless ability to reinvent ourselves, and boundless ability to even accommodate different opinions. And boundless ability to supercede every opinion if we think we have the light and others don’t, and it becomes our dharma, our spiritual duty to uphold that which we believe to be true.

But to keep on this journey, its so important to know the difference between the Shadow and the Self. And this is what is going to be my task. Every week, I’m going to sit there and thread apart my shadow and my Self, so that you can be journeying from your shadow to your true Self. You know the Vedas is a complex body of literature. There are the four Vedas, known as Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda. These are about 10,000 years old. And I’m not just saying it – there’s anthropological, paleontological, linguistic, historical evidence that a long time ago, a good 10,000 years ago and more (not less), wisdom was at its peak in ancient India. This wisdom was spiritual, secular, scientific, and always concerned with the greater Truth of our Being. There were these Vedas, and then the later part of the Vedas were known as the Upanishads, which have the highest philosophy of Non-dual teachings, known as Vedanta come from the Upanishads. Bhagavad Gita, is one of the most popular Upanishads, it has something like 700 verses, which I teach all the time. They are available everywhere for people to benefit from. And then we have more teachings, more commentaries, such as one of my lineage ancestors, Adi Shankaracharya, who lived in India in the 8th century. And his commentaries, and his teachings, and his writings are such an eye opener! So I’m going to be quoting a lot from all of these texts occasionally, ok? Occasionally! Nothing heavy, don’t worry. I don’t have this shadow called the spiritual shadow, trying to prove what a scholar I am. But I do want to quote from the Svetasvatara Upanishad where it says “forgetting our light filled, truth filled Self. Oh humans! All of us have become ensnared in the world of shadows. And here we are caught in our own darkness. Bewailing our helplessness. But when through right knowledge we are able to see with our inner eyes, the glory of the Self, adorning our own heart, we go beyond all sorrow.” That’s right, tragically humanity, you me everyone, we have forgotten our true inner spiritual core of true light, invincibility, wholeness, fullness, which is the Self. Therefore we need wisdom reminders. That is why, because of this forgetting, we are filled with a behavior that doesn’t look or be or behave with boundlessness. We are like grasping creatures, needing creatures, just so afraid. Fortunately, this wisdom came true, and at some point I learned that there are two parts of my Being. The Shadow and the Self. The Ahamkara, which is the Story Maker, it is born in a story, it lives in a story, it creates stories, it will die in a story. A tragic one or a glorious one. And then I have Atma. Which is beyond all stories. Which is accessible within my own heart. And its mere remembrance, like you are doing right now, through this podcast, which is like a river that restores wholeness, you are feeling right now more restored. This is my hope and my prayer for you. Especially because on this day, I’m recording it at a time, when our planet is overcome with the Shadow. We are so afraid for our very existence, because a pandemic known as COVID19, is circling our planet. A lot of us are very afraid. A lot of us are so scared. Uncertainty, transience, suffering – something that we know is all around us, all the time, is actually standing in front of us! We can’t avoid it anymore. But here is a time now for us to not be caught up in the shadow if we want, and unearth the truth of who we are. Feel into our raw heart. What would it be like? If we were able to reclaim something whole despite the brokenness around us. And so therefore, what would it be like if we were all able to reclaim something unbroken from inside us. It may be a great time to quarantine our ego, that is constantly consumed with news and numbers of dead and dying. Keep yourselves up to date, with whatever is happening, whatever the law requires of you, to be safe and to keep others safe. But beyond that, why not journey into your true Self. Find something creative to do. Even if you had some honest tears, and that would be just fine. Ive seen people walk into that river of wholeness, sarayu, that I’ve been talking about from my hometown of Ayodhya, and they walk into it crying. They’re afraid. And its ok to be afraid, because all of us are caught up in Shadow land, and we don’t even know why we got here, we don’t know why we get attached to a few people around us. They’re dying or diseased or vulnerable. There is Death stalking us at every moment. This is a moment to be true about our fears. And again not bypass saying we’re ok. We can only be ok after we accept that we’re not OK. We can only really find our true Self, once we accept we are caught in the shadow. We can really only begin the journey of reclamation of our true abiding wholeness only after we accept that we have ascribed to brokenness. And our broken identity has become our narrative. We don’t want that to happen. And if you don’t want that to happen, stay tuned.

I’m going to try my best. Honestly I can’t promise, but I’m going to try my best. My Shadow wants to make all kinds of promises, but my Self can tell you I enjoyed having this conversation with you. And I spoke from my true Self.

If you benefited, I’m going to recommend you share it. Love, which is our true state, is what’s going to flow through my podcast. Sometimes I’m going to speak on something that may be hard to digest, but you should know it came from love. Because the Shadow likes to pander and please and prewrite a script, and come with perfect lofty words. But my aim was not to impress you, my aim was to reach out to you. Because I too need support during this pandemic. We are all a little bit vulnerable. We are all invincible. And when we accept both parts of ourself, we come into Wholeness.

Take care. Until next time, we’ll keep this conversation going.

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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