Recently I was talking with my spiritual teacher, Acharya Shunya, about common “buzz words” in the spiritual self-help arena. In the modern new age, spiritual, psychology and even in entrepreneurial parlance the term “radical” is used a lot. Radical Self Love, Radical Acceptance, Radical Candor, Radical Honesty, Radical Beauty, even Radical Spiritual Warfare! All of these sound pretty exciting on the surface – who doesn’t want to make a radical paradigm shift away from mind based unhappiness? It's especially appealing to our ego when it validates our own self interest. “Yes! Let me be radical and different from everyone around me who is clearly engaging in “lower-level thinking”. When I’m radical I’ll be better/righter/more spiritual/richer/powerful/(insert goal here).”
However, what I don’t hear in these same circles is the same level of vigor applied to Accountability. Vedic Dharma teachings (also known as Sanatana Dharma) ask us to maintain a personal responsibility for the repercussions of our choices in all areas of our life. For any action or relationship to be truly Dharmic (in alignment with the natural cosmic order and ethical right action), it must take into account that our lives and our choices affect more than just our own small self-interest. The decisions we make every day – from what we say, to what we eat, to how we earn money, to how we engage with our families and communities – all of these choices have reverberations for the whole of society, and even the natural environment.
I recently taught about Vaak Tapas (Vedic Speech Protocols) – in Vedika’s Awakening Health Course , and I was inspired to take a fresh look at my own communications. The Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads guide us to practice 4 basic rules in our speech – nonviolence, truthfulness, pleasantly/respectfully spoken, and beneficial to the other. I realized that while I have made great strides in my verbal communications, I still allow some unconsciousness, some tamas (quality of the mind associated with inertia, lethargy, and inaction) to remain in my written communications. It’s remarkably easy to avoid being impeccable with my Word with indirect communication tools like phones and email. Avoiding clear communication has a buzz word of its own – it's called “Ghosting” when we just stop responding to emails and texts, and is even expected in the modern era. How many emails or texts have you just not responded to, knowing that eventually it would “go away”?
While I don’t full out “ghost” people, I have noticed there are times when I procrastinate or avoid responding. This usually happens when I am unable (or unwilling) do something and don’t want to create any disharmony in the relationship. It may manifest by not giving a clear “Yes” or “No”. It may come out when I don’t give my full attention or energy to a commitment I’ve made. In effect, this is a subtle kind of violence, and disrespect, and even may lead to a lie by omission, and it certainly doesn’t serve either the other person or myself. So I’ve made a Sankalpa (a spiritual discipline/commitment) for myself – I’m practicing “Radical Accountability” in my communications with others.
This Radical Accountability is my own commitment to my spiritual Self and others to communicate in a timely and direct manner. I started with calling people back and giving them clear and timely updates about meeting them for in-person connection time. Then I moved on to being proactive when I make commitments – if I agree to do something, I make sure I’m actively participating and not resenting the time or effort. I also have started to say “No” to social events that aren’t in alignment with either my capacities or my interest. Rather than avoiding uncomfortable conversations where I might have to admit that I am not always available, not always able to fulfill another person’s desires and needs, I am asking myself to step up and put my values into action, in all areas of my life. This has made for some surprising connections and appreciative emails. Rather than causing disharmony, it has led to more authentic communications.
Thus, much of my student journey in Acharya Shunya's Vedic Spiritual Studies program, has been spent in becoming a responsible accountable person – an ethical dharmic member of society. In addition to becoming an asset to our communities, when we become accountable for our actions and commitments, when we do what we say we are going to do, we build a deeper self esteem. I have more trust in myself because I have worked to become a trustworthy human being. It is a practice of radical follow through - in my Seva (selfless service to others), in my relationships, in my communications. Doing what I say I’m going to do has made all the difference – not only in becoming a person that others can depend on to be a stable and solid pillar, but also in my relationship to Self. I can count on Me.
My ability to discriminate between what is Real and what is Ephemeral (known as viveka) is so much sharper when I am not lying to myself, even in subtle ways. This is making it easier and easier to see the ways in which I contribute to my own unhappiness – and it's always when I am engaging in some kind of pradyna apradha (crimes against my own highest wisdom by not following through in accountability).
Radical Accountability not just in my communications, but also in all of my choices, is my commitment to seeing and ending those self-sabotaging behaviors which keep me farther away from Truth. I am grateful to the timeless Vedic teachings unfolded verse by verse, text by-text by Acharya Shunya. At last, we can go be beyond hype, into truly radical spiritual thoughts, behaviors and actions.
Love and light,
The author Aparna Amy Lewis is a long-term student of Acharya Shunya, and serves as the Dean of Vedika’s Spiritual Studies program.
Learn more about how you can study Vedanta with Acharya Shunya in her Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.