The Significance of Three
In preparation for the 2013 Vedika Global graduation ceremony, my teacher Acharya Shunya assigned me the task of creating a large mandala (a geometric Vedic spiritual symbol) representing the 3 pillars of our school, Satsangha, Sadhana and Seva (namely a spiritual gathering of truth, a commitment to spiritual practice, and a selfless offering of service). Naturally being a “left brained person” who believed I had no artistic talent whatsoever, this was a huge challenge for me. At the same time, I was recovering from a traumatic car accident, and experiencing living with a difficult roommate which ultimately led me and my family to quickly move out of our home under duress. Talk about the worst timing ever: (1) PTSD from a car accident (2) mental & emotional strain from a volatile home environment and (3) the belief that I can’t create something beautiful to share with my Vedika family! However, because I have shraddha (faith and trust) in my teacher and our lineage, I knew there were things I was not seeing about myself or the situation. I pressed on with the project. Little did I know that this project was the true embodiment of the 3 pillars of Vedika Global.
By the time I embarked on the mandala project I had been a student of Acharya Shunya for 2 years, during which I had many opportunities to sit in Satsangha (a spiritual gathering of truth) learning Advaita Vedanta concepts. ‘I must be a good, devoted student if I am sitting at my teacher’s feet and hearing her words’ was my internal self-talk at the time. I took copious notes and tried to sit still. However, I was embroiled in multiple situations where I embodied smallness and restlessness, totally incongruent to the core concepts of True Self/Brahman/Atman that I was hearing in Satsangha. What I now know is that satsangha, being part of a spiritual community dedicated to truth, while beneficial, is not complete without the contemplation and actions that help to solidify the knowledge. The mandala project Acharya Shunya assigned required me to take the time to contemplate the 3 principles in order to create an honest rendering of the concepts.
To move forward with this important project, and push past the small inner voice telling me not to screw it up, I knew I had to change my mindset to one of devotion. My act of creating a beautiful mandala for my kula (spiritual family) was an act of devotion. Once my mind shifted to view this creation as a sadhana or spiritual practice, I noticed that the mandala began to take its own shape. I became freer and less controlling of the process. I allowed my “right-brain”, innate creativity to flow through my hands to unfold an object of beauty. Even when my roommate stepped on the middle of the canvas, leaving a dusty footprint, I found myself observing my reaction of holding onto frustration and anger then suddenly having those feelings melt into a small wisp of memory. Once I realized that the footprint was an opportunity to pause and reflect on what is happening in my life and how I am holding it, it stopped having a negative power over me. In this observation I truly learned that a trespass is temporary while spiritual truth, like the paint on the canvas, binds all things.
I come from a family of people in service: spiritual leaders, teachers, nurses, social workers, so the act of being in service is very familiar to me. The difference, as I heard from Acharya Shunya in the Vedic Spiritual Studies program is the concept of “selfless service”, or Seva. Initially when I began the mandala project, I thought that being in service was doing what my teacher asked me to do. What I realized, however, that oftentimes that “doingness” is actually for selfish benefit: to be seen as good, smart, loyal, capable, etc. I have found that so much of my service was driven by the deep seated belief that my value is in my “doingness”. How could my teacher give me some thing to do that had the potential out me as inartistic, slow, not competent or inept? Again, because of my faith, I knew that she had presented me with an opportunity to truly be in selfless service. This mandala was not for me or to shine my skills. The act of creating something beautiful for the Vedika Global family to celebrate a rite of passage was an honor and a privilege. Through that understanding, I released myself and allowed the greater community to flow through me. I am forever grateful to my teacher, Acharya Shunya, for gifting me this opportunity to more deeply understand the pillars of Satsangha, Sadhana and Seva. This is an inquiry I am still in today as I move through my day-to-day actions.
In devoted, creative, selfless service,
The author Janya Tuere Anderson is a long time student of Acharya Shunya, and serves as Director of Strategy and Development for Acharya Shunya's Awakening Health Center and Co-Director of Vedika's Awakening Community Circle program.
Learn more about how you can study Vedanta with Acharya Shunya in her Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.