A Unique Learning Immersion
I am fortunate to have studied with a modern-day sage of Vedic knowledge, my Guru, my grandfather and teacher, Baba Ayodhya Nath, whom I simply refer to as Baba. It is a generic name, spoken affectionately, in the same way that in the West, we might call someone Grandpa. Baba is also the title used all over India to address holy people. Perhaps these mystics, sages, and seers are known as baba because they are collectively regarded as India’s spiritual elders.
Baba was born in 1900 in northern India, in the family of a renowned Hindu saint, Vedic teacher and Yogi with an uninterrupted lineage going back untold years. Baba overcame early childhood disease and went on to live ninety remarkably healthy years, impacting his community with his spiritual radiance, charismatic leadership, profound Vedic knowledge, and social service.
In my formative years, I lived with my Baba and our extended family in our large ancestral home, built by Baba’s great-grandfather in the holy city of Ayodhya in northern India, renowned because King Ram, who was considered an avatar of Lord Vishnu, was born here according to the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana. So it is a pilgrimage town for billions till today.
Over the years, Baba bestowed on me the spiritual wisdom of the Vedas and began my initiation into the transformative wisdom of the related Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, two of the most sacred Vedic texts expounding a rare, universal spiritual philosophy (known as Adwaita Vedanta) teaching self-actualization (dharma) as well as self-realization (mukti) which is the same as God realization (moksha).
His teachings of Ayurveda were truly classical, based on core texts, hands on, practical yet poetic, and sublime at the same time. Baba’s fierce, unflinching belief in the living body’s inherent intelligence to heal itself (with the help of Mother Nature) became my core belief system too.
To this day, I may look at a dying person, and instead of feeling dismayed, I connect with what is vital and amazing in that being, even in that terminal stage. And often enough, the so-called “medical miracles” begin to transpire too. Baba told me, “Never lose hope, as hopelessness is the disease that precedes all symptoms.” This learning has become the foundation of the Awakening Health courses that I teach at Vedika.
Baba’s out-of-the-box personality, calm presence, continuous state of god consciousness, and profound teachings impacted my soul in deeper ways than I could have been aware of at that young age. My essential education happened through observation of a spiritually realized being. I watched how Baba faced the ups and downs of his own life—and how he chose to respond to them from a place of inner restfulness cultivated through a committed art of living inspired by Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta.
I listened to Baba’s wise words even before I could fully understand them. It has taken me the rest of my life to comprehend and integrate the impact of the valuable gift of the knowledge Baba imparted to my soul. My body and mind were that of a child, but my soul was apparently ready to receive this wisdom.
As a result, my life today as an educator and leader in Ayurveda revolves around the paradigm-shifting conversations I had with my Baba.
I believe the direct teacher-student relationship is special and potentially superior to any academic, test- and degree-based system for spiritualized sciences, like Ayurveda, Yoga, and Vedanta, because this personalized process of training creates the meticulous transfer of knowledge, experience, and expertise—the central matters on which wisdom is founded—that cannot be imparted except through a kind of apprenticeship, face-to-face, knee to knee, as has been impressed on my soul by decades of learning from my Guru Baba.
I know Baba’s soul guides me intimately as I continue to lead Vedika Global as its Acharya (spiritual preceptor) today, and through my teachings, my graduates are becoming ambassadors of light and hope in our society and countless seekers are gaining mental peace and physical wellbeing.
An excerpt from Acharya Shunya's book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017).
The book officially releases on February 1, 2017. Learn more about it here.