There’s a reason that the Vedas, a 5,000-year-old collection of celebrated verses from ancient India, have given rise to several world religions and influenced Western thinkers from Emerson to Ram Dass—they provide us with a uniquely accessible and effective path to yogic liberation and sovereignty. With her new book Sovereign Self, Acharya Shunya shares a groundbreaking guide to the wisdom of these classic texts so that each of us may emancipate ourselves from restrictive belief systems and discover our true nature—that which is always whole, joyful, and free.
As the first female lineage holder in a 2,000-year-old line of spiritual teachers, Shunya provides a rare opportunity to receive these authentic teachings from a genuine Vedic master—one with a distinctly down-to-earth, feminine flavor who never lets us forget that our humanity is to be embodied and enjoyed.
Throughout Sovereign Self, Shunya adeptly guides us through the core concepts and practices of the Vedas, demystifying and contextualizing sacred concepts for modern life. We asked Shunya to define for us what she perceived as the Sovereign Self.
Shunya is a Yoga Unify Honorary Qualified Professional, a member of the Advisory Board, and serving on the Governing Council for Consequential Ethics. Click here to join Shunya in the Founding Circle and learn more about YU membership.
* * *
YU: In these trying times, is it more important than ever to hone in on your most sovereign self?
AC: Knowing the Sovereign Self in our heart can alter the course of our life. This knowledge can become a source of inner yoga or mental and emotional equanimity in any circumstance in life, not only when life is fun and people around us are acting supportively and lovingly, but also when we are dealing with a life threatening pandemic, narcissistic leaders, or social and racial injustice. Now, more than ever, the sanctuary beyond fear and impermanence lies within the re-discovery of our true invincible nature. And if you are someone who believes in yogic values of dharma, non-violence, equality, and justice for all, knowledge of the Sovereign Self can act like a flame lit softly in a pitch dark room.
However, here lies a catch. The true Self, that is eternally sovereign and infinitely creative, is non material or non physical, therefore unknowable by the usual means of sensory perception and cognitive confirmation. We have to be led to the Self like the blindfolded are led to a source of light. Only then can we acknowledge its invisible yet undeniable presence, through eyes of wisdom—wisdom that is imparted by one who knows this Self already.
In the meantime, our mind gives birth to an illusory or false self, known as “Jiva” in Sanskrit. It suffers from the “five kleshas” that Sage Patanjali talks about, beginning with avidya or Self-ignorance. The Jiva pretends to be free and powerful but is imprisoned by the chains of false beliefs and incessant thoughts.
YU: Is it possible to dive deep into these ancient texts without a guide / teacher?
AC: All great spiritual wisdom traditions emerging from India suggest seeking out a sincere teacher, who not only talks about the Self, but also walks on the path of inner sovereignty and can impart the awakening wisdom step by step systematically. (who does not ask to be worshipped but teaches you to tap into the divinity within).
Gautama Buddha shared some beautiful words on this topic: “One should cultivate the company of such a wise one… who can point to the hidden treasure. He who cultivates a person like that is the better for it, not worse.” (Dhammapada, 76)
My own life has been a journey from darkness to light. And the light is very much a gift of my teacher (and grandfather) Baba Ayodhya Nath from Uttar Pradesh India – a yogi, a seer, and an awakened teacher. But in the era of false gurus and drive through teachings, until we are five hundred percent sure, we should rely on authentic sources of this wisdom, such as books and source texts.
I hope my book is a step in that direction, and until people find that outer guru who awakens their inner guru, my undiluted writings and exposition on the orginal verses can start them towards a splendid inner discovery!