MY STORY

My name is Shunya. My students and colleagues ​call me Acharya Shunya, since Acharya is a customary title earned from traditional gurukulam schooling, which means master teacher in Sanskrit.

 

In the Vedic spiritual tradition, it is customary for a spiritual teacher to give his or her student a spiritual name to support the student's spiritual journey of consciousness. I give my long-term students such names when they formally request them from me.

 

The name my spiritual teacher gave me when I was born was Shunya, which is the term used to indicate the great void, from which everything, this material universe, and its beings and gods emerge. In essence, it is the non-manifest, formless infinity, from which finite forms manifest.


When I was young, it was hard to identify with the name Shunya, since it is also the exact term used for the numeral zero in Sanskrit numerals. I am not surprised, since Shunya technically means infinity, and when the Vedic people first gave the world the concept of zero, thousands of years ago, they were really talking about infinity. However, the issue was that besides its usage in mathematics, it could also be used to deride someone, indicating that his or her sum intelligence might as well add up to a mighty zero!

Many children can get away from teasing and name calling most of the time, but not all the time. At times, other children would tease me by saying “zero, zero”, and that was uncomfortable. 

 

So when it was time to formally get admission in a regular school, I asked my father to write a different name for me on the application form. He gave me the name “Pratichi”, which literally means the western direction. It rhymed very nicely with my older sibling’s name (of his choice) – Prachi, which means the eastern direction.

 

Moving forward, it took me almost three decades of life experiences (bitter and sweet), ongoing contemplation on what I had studied from my teacher, along with dedicated living of the knowledge and awakening spiritual practices to fully understand why Baba, a spiritually renowned teacher and awakened being, gave me the name “Shunya”. This included deep meditation ​(and constantly improving upon myself) and a spontaneous spiritual awakening experience in 2004 that is hard to describe in words. 

 

I have, since then, fully accepted this name and use it in my spiritual work, books and other publications.

 

The meaning of my name Shunya, and the spiritual, karmic destiny it guided me along, can be best understood by a beautiful story from the Chandogya Upanishad, which is essentially a dialogue between a young boy, Svetaketu and his father, sage Uddalaka, regarding the true identity of his inner Self.

Father says to son: “Bring me a fruit of yonder banyan tree.”

“Here it is, father.”

 

“Break it.”

 

“It is broken, father.”

 

“What do you see there?”

 

“These very tiny seeds, father.”

 

“Break one open.”

 

“It is broken open, father.”

 

“What do you see there?”

 

“Nothing, father.”

 

Father said: “From that subtle essence, which you do not see there, my dear, grows this whole Banyan tree. Believe me, my dear; all that exists has its Self in that which is the subtle essence. That is real. That is the Self. You are that, Svetaketu.” 

This great tree emerged from an empty seed. 

Svetaketu now sees what he would not have seen ordinarily with his physical eyes, and he understands how the subtle non-manifest essence within the seed is the cause of the manifest tree. The father names and identifies that subtle essence as Atman. Atman is spirit – that which Svetaketu himself truly is. 

 

From the experience of nothing sprouting an entire tree, Svetaketu understands it is that potent “nothing,” which is the true Self, of all.

 

Through this story, the teacher points out that the tree and the seed are merely changeable, and external projections of the one reality, which appears as “non-something,” and yet, contains the potential of “everything.”

 

If non-something has created an entire tree, then can non-something not fuel an entire universe, which is like the tree, extending outwards, sprouting green tender leaves, buds, fruits and flowers, drawing its sustenance from the earth, water, air, and fire of the sun. Yet, it all began from non-something, and at all times, the “non-some thingness,” or Shunya, remains the true underlying infinite reality.

 

I meditate on this potent non-some thingness that dwells within me. What I will get in my life is a result of the seeds that I am planting right now in my self, and in my spiritual life. 

 

The Shunya Samhita extols the nature of the Ultimate Universal Reality, known as “Shunya Brahman:”

 

nāhi tāhāra rūpa varṇa, adṛsha avarṇa tā cinha

tāhāku brahmā boli kahi, śūnya brahmhati se bolāi

 

It has no shape, no color. It is invisible and without a name.

This Supreme Reality is called Shunya Brahman.   [98]

My teacher Baba planted seeds of potent emptiness in my being. They have born fruit of great significance. I am humbled. 

 

Baba predicted at my birth, when I was only a few minutes old on planet earth, that I would move to the western hemisphere, where I would establish a global Vedic foundation and wisdom school to disseminate spiritual wisdom worldwide. 

 

When he made this prediction, no member of my family lived outside India. It was hard to imagine what ‘west’ meant while growing up. It did not matter either, so I got busy in my formative years, studying the traditional Vedic sciences at my Baba’s family style school (gurukulam), besides regular schooling in the daytime. 

The remaining period of my childhood was spent climbing trees, chasing my pet cow (who often ate my homework) and worshipping the common divine reality in infinite expressions. Baba taught me to see the divine in all beings, irrespective of superficial differences. 

My life, for the time I spent with Baba, was a celebration of witnessing spirituality, ​wisdom, altruism and compassion in action. My education was rigorous, to say the least, yet spiritually charged, and always experiential.

 

It was never in my life plan to move to America (and yet, I did anyway). And though I am a passionate ambassador and healer myself, I did not formally plan to head a spiritual and humanitarian non-profit foundation like Vedika Global in California ​(which is a movement of sorts). Or to head the movement for Ayurveda legislation as President of the statewide California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. 

 

Apparently it was my karma, or my spiritual destiny, that decided way before I was born, that I would indeed do the work I am doing and be a teacher for countless students from all ​over the "western hemisphere" as Baba had predicted. 

Indeed, karma decided that no matter who I wanted to be or thought I could be (by hiding from my name and destiny), Shunya is who I am, now and forever. This is why I had the rare honor of being born into a family of teachers, with an uninterrupted educational lineage that has transmitted this ancient wisdom for thousands of years in the plains of northern India. This is why, through darkness and light, ups and downs, my being kept awakening to its hidden potential, no matter what. ​

Besides, an awakened consciousness is every human’s birthright – it is not magic or a super state, as it is often made out to be, especially by gurus from the east (and now west). It is simply resting in our true nature that is enlightened through knowledge of what is actually true versus what appears to be true. 

 

The awakened Self is magnificently expanded. We are here not to struggle and compete, but to be, play and express our inherent wholeness and health.

 

Now, over the decades, I have not only mastered the knowledge academically. I have lived it. And this living knowledge, I attempt to enliven at Vedika, through our various programs for professionals as well as our larger community. 

 

In the Rig Veda (India’s most ancient text), which I studied with Baba​, there is mention of an an auspicious, wish-fulfilling tree, called the Kalpa Vriksha. 

I see Vedika as a wish-fulfilling tree, too. Ah, the tree that is Vedika, each part of this tree arises like the benediction of sacred flames representing our own emerging identity as a wish-fulfilling tree that can satisfy all living beings that come to our shade.

What do all living creatures truly desire…indeed what is the deepest wish that is common to all creatures…what is that which underlies every wish that was ever wished on this planet? 

 

That foundational wish is: may I be happy.

Joy comes from vital wellbeing and health of body, senses, mind and soul, none other.

Sages teach us that happiness is our birthright. From an ant to the mighty human, we are all searching for only one thing, which is happiness. 

But the majority of us have lost our way and sorrow from a life that is often out of control, with toxic relationships, imbalanced body and mind, and the limiting, binding, terrifying ignorance imposed by our own conditioned soul plagues us at all times. Where is the joy?

The sages show us the way yet again. The multidimensional sciences of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Vedanta, which address our physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions - ably put the lost soul back on its path, so that happiness, that deepest wish that a living being dares to wish, can be experienced. 

 

Joy comes from vital wellbeing and health of body, senses, mind and soul, none other.

At Vedika, through our various platforms, in which Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta are utilized for awakening consciousness, uplifting community and serving humanity, we are fulfilling this wish…one person at a time…and supporting the emergence of true abiding happiness by torching ignorance and igniting true knowledge of abiding health of body, mind, and soul.

I invite you to join me to experience deep rest at the tree of Vedika, gifted to me by the empty, yet potent seeds my teacher planted in my being, so that we may, together, embark on a beautiful journey of awakening health and consciousness.

 

I hope this wisdom will change your life, too, for the better, like it did mine. 

 

But first, you have to believe that anything is possible. 

 

Coming to you from Infinity.

 

Shunya 

Study with Acharya Shunya

Transform your life with a master teacher and her expert team showing you the way.

 

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