• Hema Patankar

Grateful Farewell

The following is a letter of farewell from Hema Patankar, the President of Vedika Global's Board of Directors for the last 10-years.

Dear Vedika Community,

It has been my great good fortune to have been part of Vedika Global since it was founded, to walk with Shunyaji as the President of Vedika's Board of Directors, as she shaped a vision into a living, breathing reality that uplifts so many seen and unseen seekers. When Vedika began, our Board members also served along with Shunyaji as Vedika's Seva team, and in addition, I had the opportunity to study in Vedika's inaugural class, the Beeja or seed group. It was an illuminating, uplifting adventure!

When Vedika began, people thought of it as a school of Ayurveda, though the classes were so much juicier and deeper than the idea of a school might imply. Shunyaji opened up the experience for her students that the wisdom of Ayurveda is primarily a way of living that encompasses every bite, every breath, every train of thought we take.

This was a radical approach at that time. Now, ten years later, Shunyaji's book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom is a best selling book in the field. The wisdom she shared in those early, intimate classes that I had the good fortune to participate in is now being read with enormous interest and out into practice worldwide. And everyone in the field of Ayurveda and Yoga is talking about Ayurveda as a lifestyle, not just a system of herbal supplements. It was Shunyaji's voice that turned the tide.

As I prepare to hand the leadership of Vedika's Board to our next President, the very capable, devoted and radiant Gayathri Raman, I'd like to share a few reflections on the energy of those founding years of Vedika.

  • At a time when the trend in both India and the West was to teach Ayurveda in a way that paralleled the thinking of modern medicine, Shunyaji began teaching Ayurveda at Vedika in the traditional manner of her family's lineage that gave great importance its spiritual dimensions.

  • At a time when Ayurveda was mostly being taught in the West in short professional courses, Shunyaji made Vedika's focus lived Ayurveda: knowledge to be experienced and internalized personally over time before thinking of making it a profession.

  • At a time when interest in Ayurveda seemed to focus on the business opportunities it presented and on placing Ayurveda in the domain of high end spas, Vedika's programs put great energy into making the wisdom of lived Ayurveda not a commodity but readily available to seekers, mothers, and whole communities both local and around the world.

  • At a time when Ayurveda was being taught in formal settings that tried to feel like a college, Vedika was developed a Gurukulam: a nurturing environment of shared exploration, a community that felt like family.

  • At a time when Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda had been housed as separate fields, Shunyaji's teaching presented them as deeply interwoven, for example, leading Ayurveda students in a deep study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and leading Vedanta students in contemplation of verses from Charaka Samhita.

  • At a time when people said that the knowledge of Ayurveda needed to be adapted to the West (by removing all the Sanskrit terms and leaving aside the classical texts which they declared too confusing for Westerners), Shunyaji taught from the ancient texts in a way that was both illuminating and accessible (keeping all the key Sanskrit terms and making them familiar and meaningful).

  • While making Vedika accessible to people raised in the West, Shunyaji always made sure that the knowledge imparted at Vedika stayed true to the way it has been lived and taught for generations in her family.

Several years ago, a group of students accompanied Shunyaji to a huge Ayurveda conference on India. People looked at our smiling, idealistic group obsessed with mung daal, spiced milk and being up in time to greet the sunrise. They wondered what we could really accomplish for the field of Ayurveda. Many people urged Shunyaji to focus on scientific research as a better way to promote Ayurveda. Yet so many leading practitioners and professors of Ayurveda in India were deeply impressed by what they saw in Shunyaji's students and told us that we were in fact living their dreams. To this day they continue to express great admiration for Shunyaji for her inspired and courageous leadership.

It has been exciting to swim against the tide with Vedika. We have been swimming with a constant focus on Truth and dharma, and the light of the heart, confident that in this way the blessings of the rishis would always be with us.

One of my great joys has been interacting with the students of Vedika, watching amazing transformations in health and understanding, watching students flourish at every level of their being. I have delighted in watching fear transform into joy and purpose, shy students become shining leaders, casual visitors become devoted sevites, and curious spouses embrace not just Sanjaiji's delicious cooking, but the teachings of Vedanta.

I do love to imagine all the homes and kitchens that have been transformed and picture the children who are growing up eating the traditional Ayurveda dishes their mothers learned at Vedika. I have found special joy in witnessing dedicated students grow into inspired teachers.

As I conclude my wonderful years serving on Vedika's Board of Directors, I look back with great pride and joy in all that has been accomplished, and all that has been set in motion for the future. And I picture all of you in whom the wisdom taught at Vedika lives and flourishes. My heart is with you.

With enormous gratitude to Shunyaji,

Hema Patankar

About the Author

The author Hema Patankar is a long-term student of Acharya Shunya. Hema now serves as the Ayurveda Program Advisor and previously served for 10-years as Vedika Global President and Director.

Learn more about how you can study Vedanta with Acharya Shunya in her Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.

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