Roar Like a Goddess

Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon. I’m the founder of Sounds True. And I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the Sounds True Foundation. The goal of the Sounds True Foundation is to provide access and eliminate financial barriers to transformational education and resources, such as teachings and trainings on mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. If you’d like to learn more and join with us in our efforts, please visit

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, my guest is Acharya Shunya. Acharya Shunya is a classically trained master of Ayurveda and an award-winning and internationally renowned spiritual teacher and scholar of Advaita, nondual wisdom in the Vedic tradition. She’s the first female leader of a 2000-year-old spiritual lineage, and she’s dedicated her life to the dissemination of Vedic knowledge for the spiritual uplifting of all beings. With Sounds True, she’s the author of the book Sovereign Self, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, and a new book, it’s called Roar Like a Goddess: Every Womans Guide to Becoming Unapologetically Powerful, Prosperous, and Peaceful.

I love learning from Acharya Shunya. One of the things I love is her teaching on enlightened vulnerability. That’s the language that she uses to describe how we can be vulnerable, honest, forthcoming, real about exactly what’s going on in our current situation. And we can embody an unlimited light at the same time. Archarya Shunya knows how to introduce us to the living, liberating force of the goddess. Take a listen.

Shunya, you know, I love talking with you and I’m so grateful for this opportunity and this chance to specifically, together, roar like goddesses. What a welcome opportunity. Here at the very beginning, for people who are like, what does it mean? Acharya Shunya is the first female leader of a 2000-year-old Vedic lineage. What’s a Vedic lineage and what does it mean to be a leader of such a lineage?


Acharya Shunya: I’m going to answer your question first. What does it mean to be a leader of this lineage? To be a leader of an ancient lineage, which is spiritual by nature, be representing any tradition, means that you have to be fiercely and clearly connected with your own truth. It can be no self-deception here. And this truth cannot just be the truth that we can track to our own little individual self. This truth has to be, and is always, one with that divine everything. And in my case, I connect to it as divine feminine, as Maa, as mother, as the goddess. And as a leader of a spiritual tradition, it is understood that we are all trying to seek our spiritual identity, our spiritual purpose, our spiritual well-being. Well then, as a leader, I have to be in that state constantly. And I have to be really honest with myself. And I have to embody my vulnerability that comes from being a woman on a hostile planet, on a difficult planet at the least or a confused planet on better days.

And I also have to be enlightened at the same time with the knowledge of the Veda, which literally comes from the root word V-I-D, with, which is not the English with, but the Sanskrit with, which literally means to know, to be aware. Of what? Of your greater truth, of your greater immensity, of your inherent connection with a divine dimension where your impermanence and your fragility of your body-mind is yet strengthened, nourished, and anchored by the invincibility, beauty, harmony, and power of that permanent self within you, which shares intimate relationship with the divine feminine. And for thousands of years, Tami, my family has been sharing this knowledge through its revered scriptures, like the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the philosophies contained in Charaka Samhita, or the Yoga Sutras. And also leading the way to a divine feminine, devotional, empowering practice sourced in the divine feminine scriptures of India, such as the Devi Mahatmyam.

And I inherited all of this as a girl child born in the 1960s of India. But while the Vedas themselves are empowering and they have a name for women like me who are spiritual teachers. And we are called Brahmavadini, which means one whose consciousness is all-pervading. She cannot just be in this box of a wife or a mother or a daughter or a sister. She can be all of those. And yet she is all-pervading because she’s connected with that all-pervading omniscience and truth. But then in the India of 1960s, patriarchy had begun to call the shots. And so what it means to be a leader of this lineage in this 21st century is to call that out, to call a spade a spade, to reclaim my power that I may have even unconsciously given away to it. And then roar like a goddess as a spiritual leader.


TS: What brought you, Shunya, specifically to teach and then write about the goddesses in Vedic literature. What brought that on?


AS: I come from a lineage that is not monastic. There is a choice between a monastic or a householder lineage in the Vedic tradition. And we are a householder lineage and we take on partners, lovers, husbands, wives. And once I, too, was married, but in an emotionally suffocating marriage. I was caught and trapped inside a disempowering story of this arranged marriage in India. And I found the courage to exit it, but the struggles did not end. No matter where I lived or who I encountered, old-fashioned or contemporary, like so many other modern, educated, accomplished women on our planet, I still had to face outer inequality, and then worse. The inner challenges from subconsciously internalized self-diminishing beliefs due to the misogyny doing a number on me somewhere when I was probably asleep. And it had made an impact on me.

The positive news is that, thanks to the way, the wisdom that I had inherited and studied laboriously for years and years and thanks to the goddess teachings, I did not remain trapped in those beliefs, Tami. At least just long enough to write this book, but not enough to forget who I am. And a big part of my remembering who I am and what is my true power and why I should even write this book down the road goes to this divine storytelling tradition in India called kathavachan. And this tradition has died out in the urban cities, but it still lives in the villages or in the small towns. And I was from one such small town. And these stories are sacred stories. They often pertain to the way that goddesses and gods whose legends reveal the goddesses to be leading bold, unapologetic, radically self-respecting, self-accepting, fearless, prosperous, sensual, self-loving, feminine lives.

And these definitely are not ordinary stories. Or at least, I didn’t have an ordinary encounter with them. They entered through my ears into my very being and I churned and churned upon these stories until my entire life, my existence, my heart, my emotions, they became the story. And I became the heroine of those stories. And, in just very simple words, the goddess who was asleep within me began stirring until she awakened within me in what I call her roar today. And today, I’m a kathavachak, a traditional teller of these awakening stories, a conveyor of the goddess’ voice and her desire for us. And now, through my newest book, for which we are talking, Roar Like a Goddess, I really feel that I’m making these stories widely available. And whether my readers and listeners identify with a male gender or a feminine gender or someone who identifies with non-binary genders, well, the Vedas say that the goddess is within each one of us. They literally say that. There are verses and clarifications on that.

And whenever people read, if they would read these stories or hear these stories, I know that she will awaken within them. I know that they will begin to feel empowered and begin to roar like a goddess and own their truth and own their karma from within. Because I was in that place in my life where I had no options. I had really hit the bottom, but it was her stories that awakened me. 

And now I really believe that just like Durga awakened my righteous power, rage, and courage to face the darkness inside me and around me, it’s going to help others, too, who are ready. 

Lakshmi, the goddess, she reminded me that I’m entitled to pleasure and prosperity. And love is a two-way street. I can’t just keep giving. I must receive it, too, like I do now from my present husband, Sanjay. And that unapologetically, then that is going to happen to those who read or listen to these stories through my book.

And then, Saraswati, she showed me how to really discern between what is minor, what is not worthy of my energy attention, and what is significant, what is important for my soul, such as writing this book or talking about it. And how to grow from my pain and trauma every single time. And I know that Saraswati will do the same through my writing and my teaching for this whole world. And that is why I wrote the book.

And just really in short, I want to say, she chose me to write the book because I was working on an academic book on psychology from the Vedas and it was near completion. There was no reason to start another manuscript. But over a nine-day goddess festival, which lasts over nine days and nine nights, I was deep in her contemplation, Tami. And I was writing my book on psychology and my fingers froze. And I felt this clarity that I had to open this new page. And in four months alone, I finished the first draft. And the book is about to come out, or it may have come out when people listen to this. And with barely any major changes, none at all really, just my editor has helped me along. That’s all. It’s really the goddesses wish that has become this book.


TS: It sounds, Shunya, like something happened. You said the sleeping goddess awakened when you started engaging in the sacred art of storytelling, of telling the stories. Tell me what happened. Something was lit inside you, it sounds like.


AS: It felt like something was lit inside me, but that flame was inward. It asked me to be silent for a bit. It asked me to disengage from the world of transactions and reactions and compulsions and conditioning. And I withdrew into myself for a while there, but it was not this dark place anymore. It was this powerful place where there would be a room full of people having a conversation, and I didn’t want to say a single word because none of that mattered. None of those conversations mattered. That paradigm was no longer applicable to me. And I could hear Saraswati and Durga and Lakshmi say to me something in a few words, my higher mind, my own self connected with that divine feminine dimension of this universe, that invisible dimension, would say in one word what would quieten a million words. And that knowing-ness became the raw material with which the new Shunya was morphed and created and crafted.

And I continue to lead a blessed life as a householder with dogs and a partner and a son and family. But there is this place that I can come back to that does not compromise, that does not fall for deceptions externally or internally. And that remains, at the end of the day, full of light and well-being and power. Power to change my life, help the planet, be a friend to animals and trees. All that requires power. Power to pick myself up, dust off any debris that have collected through the passage, through an uncomfortable existence. And new again. New again.


TS: Now, Shunya, I want to get into some depth and explore these three faces of the goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati that you write about in Roar Like a Goddess. But before we do that, I want to address that listener who’s like, god, this is a bunch of mythological, dare I say, outdatedI don’t want to be rude here. But I think sometimes when people think about the Hindu goddesses, they think this came from a different time, a different, mythologically based culture. Is this really going to be helpful and relevant to me? How would you address that concern?


AS: It’s a valid concern. At the same time, it’s worthwhile to consider my response. Mythology is not connected to history. It’s connected to a more eternal dimension. And Hindu mythology is really wise, intuitive, and based upon human psyche. And it forwards eternal characters. And there is a triangle of characters in Hindu mythology. There are the asuras, who are ignorant, blindsided, self-absorbed, self-entitled and they live only to enjoy, for their own power. For them, power is a tool to only benefit themselves. And they would not hesitate to hurt another, to protect their power. So their power is a source of their strength, but it’s an ugly power and we all meet such people in our lives. Like I said, these characters are eternal. You and I and all of us have asuras in our life walking around, stabbing us in the back, gossiping about us, blocking our promotion, spreading negative lies about us. Why? Because they’re trying to hold on to some version of power, which is really based on ignorance, spiritual ignorance.

Then there are the devas. And the word devas comes from the Sanskrit root word dev, which means light. These are the light bearers. These are people who enjoy power, but they share power. They go about cultivating power, but with ethical means. They rejoice for you if you have power and they feel inspired by your accomplishment to achieve more instead of trying to pull you down. And gosh, each one of us really depends on those one or two devas in our life. And we want to cultivate more of those people. And in today’s spiritual vocabulary, there are the toxic people. And then there are those emotionally healthy, viable relationships that we want to cultivate.

And then there is the third character. This is the character that is witnessing both the darkness and the light, the shadow and the self, the confusion and the clarity, the dishonesty and the truth, the pretend and the authentic, the illusion and the reality, represented respectively by asuras and devas. And that is the goddess. And the goddess here is not just an airy-fairy deity somewhere far away or only revered by the brown-skinned people in India. No. The goddess here represents that ultimate divine reality that dwells as a potential within each one of us, even the dark people and the people with light, the darkness-bearing people and the light-bearing people. She dwells within us. And she can emerge from within us through storytelling, story listening, and through understanding her symbolism, understanding her invitation to embody karma. And karma simply means embodying those conscious thoughts, attitudes, ideas, and beliefs that not only make us humane, but make us almost akin to being superhumans in terms of our own power, potential, and invincibility.

To be able to reinvent ourselves again and again, and give ourselves boundless opportunities. So this triangle is what is represented here in my book and in my teachings. Do you want to find the darkness within you too, that those confusions, those entitlements, that ignorance where you think you are just this one-off person? You versus others and you versus the world. Well then, let’s look at that and let us annihilate the seed of that selfishness, which is ignorance, through the goddess wielding her sword of knowledge and karma. And if you have those aspects of your own mind, which are filled with light and clarity and generosity and understanding that you’re sharing this planet and you are passing through this planet and you can make a difference while you are here and you’re not just a body with a soul but you are a soul with a beautiful body and mind to use as a gift for yourself and others.

Then the goddess says, “I’m with you. I’m going to support you. And you want to go and make a difference? You want to light more lights? Just remember me, and I’m going to expedite your power. I’m going to expedite your abilities. I’m going to take away your sorrows while you are doing this work.” So the goddess is that anchor within us. She’s that neutral, transcendental, awakened being within us that we cannot know through our mind. That’s why we use mythology and tales and chanting and storytelling: to evoke that presence within us who can then help us fight our own darkness. Or rather understand it, bring more light to it, alleviate it, and sometimes even comfort it and come more and more into our own blossomed, awakened consciousness as light bearers and as light unto itself.


TS: So Shunya, when I think of the goddess as a force within each of us, I can relate to that really easily. When I think of the goddess as a force outside of me that’s showing up in a story and educating me as an external being that has X number of arms and whatever, that’s when I think, “Oh, this is symbolism, mythology.” How do you suggest people relate to this goddess energy, not just within them but the idea of a goddess appeared? I mean, has that happened in your life?


AS: A physical darshan of a goddess with four arms?


TS: Yes. Something like that.


AS: I’m that goddess now with four arms. My four arms represent my multiplied, exponentialized abilities. My truth, my becoming a true teller, my not being diffident anymore, my leading the life script that I want to lead, my not ever giving up on myself, my future self, my desire to help the world, and my ability to help the world. These are all goddess-like qualities. I think this is where people have to make a leap, where they want to live in a world that is rich with mystical symbolism. All these goddesses with their multiple arms, riding lions or swans. All of this is symbolic. Sometimes if we tells someone, hey, you can ride a lion—it doesn’t make sense. But when you understand that that lion represents a force, that lion represents a majestic being. And when you are told that you are not under it but you ride it, then you can ride it to work. You can ride it to have that conversation with your in-laws that you are afraid to have. You can ask. You can share an opinion. You can make a difference because you know that you are Durga now and you are riding that lion. And I think, Tami, once upon a time Hinduism, and the tradition of the Veda that comes even before Hinduism, was very explicit that these deities or these configurations of gods and goddesses are not the ultimate reality. The ultimate reality is formless consciousness, awareness, and dwells within you too. But these are just tools to access that greater dimension that’s hiding within you too. This symbolism is going to then become part of your internalized learning.

And I tell you, when I was eight or nine years old and I was being bothered by a bully at school, she’d wait for me in the corridor, I dreaded to go to school. I used to walk to school back then. And I just imagined myself like a little Durga with beautiful clothes and everything that I’d seen in my culture. And I imagined riding a lion. And every step I took, I felt like there was this big thud of the lion carrying this little nine-year-old goddess to school. And I met that bully. And for the first time, I looked her in the eye, just because I remember I was on top of that lion, not below it. And you know what? She couldn’t meet my eye. I didn’t have to say anything to her, because when you know inside yourselves that you are an empowered being because you are riding the lion, in slang, then everybody knows it. It’s the silent announcement that I know who I am.

And this is where symbolism helps you. And it’s really worth exploring because it’s timeless. And I have been teaching these teachings for almost two decades. Two people worldwide who are not practicing Hindus, who have never been to India, who don’t understand Sanskrit, but what they do understand is this eternal language that I have fear within me. I have doubt within me. I have self-abandon within me. And these are the demons that my inner goddess is going to annihilate. I have creativity within me. I have abilities within me of an emotional, psychological nature that the goddess will help promote. So we begin leading a much more whole, balanced, and self-affirming life as a result of the same old teachings that are ever-new in every era.


TS: Now, Shunya, you’ve mentioned Durga a couple of times. And in your new book, Roar Like a Goddess, you have a first section on Durga the goddess, and then you introduce us to Lakshmi, and then finally to Saraswati, these three major goddesses. And I wonder if here, as part of the conversation, you can introduce our listeners to each one of these archetypal figures within us. You ready for this, Shunya? By actually taking a moment and embodying the goddess and speaking from her experience. So maybe we could start with Durga and introduce yourself as Durga to the listeners.


AS: I’m always ready for this. Thank you for asking. I am Durga. This name may surprise you. Actually, I have no name. A long time ago, some beings who lived in the banks of River Saraswati discovered me inside their heart. At that time, their heart was full of fear. Fear of each other, fear of circumstances, fear of death, fear of existence itself. But when they discovered me, as their own higher self, they found that all doors opened within them. The fear dissipated. They could see that all of existence is not orchestrating to hurt them but to support them, to help them grow from it, change in the right direction with it.

In fact, I showed them how they are not to fear the world but to play in the world and to be established in the power that I represent to them. I told them that when you are feeling powerless, remember me. When you’ve given away your power, if you’ve never had power to begin with, if you’re afraid of another’s power over you, if you are misusing power, if you are afraid of your own power, if you don’t know how to use power as a force of good, if you don’t have courage to stand up for your power, if you need strength to recover from loss of power, which is then becoming disease within you, if you are afraid period, if you are needing to learn to say no and mean to say yes, but are afraid to say your yes, if you are low on power in any area, then remember me. Because I dwell within you. I am your own hidden ability.

These seers chose to call me as a goddess. They saw me as a mother because a mother helps a child learn to be powerful with their first few steps. But I am that truth, which may be known by any name. I’m ultimately formless, beyond gender, beyond name, beyond culture. No religion can hold me, but your heart can hold me. You can remember me simply by this one sound. Dum, Dum, Dum. As I say this sound to you, I give you my name. Dum. Which is then, Durga.

Dum means removing of obstacles, removal of fear, removal of tiredness, removal of fatigue from this existence, renewal of joy, renewal of courage, renewal of positivity, and renewal of your connection with me, the eternal force. Dum. Dum. Dum. Understand that you have not been born to be small. If I am your mother and you, my child, then your smallness pains me. I am here to show you the role of power, the importance of anger, the value of boundaries, and even the significance of battles fought for dharma to lead empowered and divine lives. When you start walking the path, I shall open within you. When I unlock the obstacles within you, then you shall call yourself Durga deep within, because Durga means the invincible one.


TS: Now, Shunya, specifically, if someone has some kind of challenge related to their own empowerment, like a feeling of not really being worthy or lovable or just something like that, how can they work with this Durga energy to embody her empowerment?


AS: And this is where teachers like myself find our role in connecting people and their self-doubts and their confusions or their separateness from this paradigm to her wisdom, because then I’m able to explain to them, and this will take some time reading the book really, or listening to it in the spoken version. But Durga is of power that is inherent in every power. We already have some level of physical power, emotional power, psychological, spiritual power. But she is that ultimate power. And how to activate that power, take some listening or reading and then internalizing that wisdom. Durga’s archetype helps us understand, for example, the importance of anger. And for generations, for eons, people of a certain gender, non-binary gender, or certain color and race, they’re told that their anger is dangerous while others with other genders and other races and other skin colors can embody their rage, and it’s all fine.

But rage is a divine emotion that Durga wants us to access. And she teaches us, and through her, I teach in my book about three kinds of rage. One is that unconscious rage, which makes us sick and entitled and unhappy. And sure, we need to be aware of it and root it out. But then there is conscious rage, too. And it is connected to the karmic desire to correct personal situations. And it is healthy. It is safe. It protects us from violations of the physical, mental, emotional, sexual, racial nature. When this anger comes up, which is conscious, which is connected to Durga, it doesn’t stay and linger and make us sick and nauseated. In fact, it shows up, it informs us, and then it fades away, but it leaves us more clear. It makes our perception permanently more in tune with reality, rather than telling ourselves stories that this doesn’t matter. And we can put up a disrespect or we can put up with being invisible or we’re OK. And we’ll just give somebody umpteen amounts of chances.

This anger is not vindictive, but it’s correctional. And these kind of teachings, I provide. And then when we learn to have conscious anger, which I do, and I have used this anger. I use it every day. And I’m done with being that false beatific teacher who never is angry and is always talking about peace, peace, peace, nonviolence, nonviolence, nonviolence. All these things have their role. I’m all about peace, but in a given day in my human life, there is time to be consciously angry, sometimes even with my own self or sometimes with the company that is surrounding me. Sometimes with situations that I’ve walked into, because then, this conscious anger will prevent me from doing it again. And finally, it leads to super-conscious anger, which is often global correctional movements, missions to restore the dharma and equality and well-being.

And I feel like I wrote Roar Like a Goddess from super-conscious anger. I’m not just angry because my arranged marriage was suffocating or it fell apart. Or somebody said this to me, or they did that to me.” I’m angry with the sheer ignorance with which we cannot extend a hand of friendship and equality to all genders, to all people who deserve choice and respect and, above all, safety on our shared planet. So these kind of teachings accompany the energy. The teachings without the energy, they’re just teachings. And the energy without the teachings, then, is just riding on blind faith. But together, my work, my mission, is to connect with the mystical element of the goddess, but then don’t just leave her out there in the mystical cosmos, doing things for us in an invisible way. We get to be goddesses in our own life, saying a firm no to those elements of our own mind which are pulling us down and saying a hey, yes to those elements of our own psyche, our life, our situations, which are taking us forward in the evolution of consciousness.


TS: Shunya, as you introduced us to Durga, I thought it was so interesting that you emphasized that actually, she doesn’t have a name underneath it. That there’s a sort of pure energy underneath Durga, even before she comes into this form on a lion. Can you explain that to me, that connection with the pure energy?


AS: This is the core teaching of the Veda. That divinity, that ultimate truth, the satya sai satyam, the truth of truths, cannot be limited to any box or any form, human, animal, plant, or tree. And this is that nondual truth that the Upanishads and the Gita talk about. And then we humans are given this privilege and this opportunity to give this nameless, formless, all-pervading, omniscient reality that is one for all of us—different names, different forms—and go to it as the divine mother and her goddess avatars. Or divine father and those male god avatars. Or even divine mixed agenda. And we have this god with a mixed-gender body, Ardhanarishvara, half feminine, half masculine, or some version of it, as the ultimate reality.

So there was this expansion of divinity where there are 84 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism. And people who don’t understand that tradition say, oh, they couldn’t get it. They couldn’t put their mind together to figure out who’s their deity. But if you go into the tradition and the scriptures, it says, well, who should we include as divine? And who should we exclude? And there are these beautiful verses in the divine mother where, they’re glorifying her to say, “Oh mother, you are peace and you are beauty and you are our mother.” And then in that same hymn, we hear the Rishi say, “And you are the shadow that causes me suffering. And you are the thirst, those desires, that never get quenched. And you are that illusion in which I am lost.”

So this is a very nondual perspective of not just keeping the goddess for the holy but, if she’s part of a wholeness, then she includes even the morbid aspects of herself. And that is why the goddess is there for the asuras and the devas, for all of us to come into greater wholeness, greater understanding, and greater divine reality.


TS: Now I mentioned that in Roar Like a Goddess, you take us deep into three goddess figures. And we’ve very briefly explored Durga. And one of the things that was interesting to me, Shunya, is how you said there was a type of evolution or progression that the energy of Durga transforms, if you will, or evolves into Lakshmi. And then Saraswati. Can you explain that progression?


AS: There is only that one force, nameless, formless, which then appears as goddess. Durga. And she, as that force or that name and that embodiment of that force, is really helpful. We see the law of gravitation. That’s a force. We see the oscillation of the Earth on its own access. That’s a force. Somebody is doing this. We’re not doing this. This is being done for us. You and I both were single-celled creatures in our mother’s wombs. And we have become these people today who are birthing so many things in the world. We didn’t choose this body. There was a greater force again. And that divine nurturing force that comes face-to-face with our own power, it gives us courage. It gives us strength. And it helps us deal with the initial discomfort that existence imposes upon all of its own creatures.

It’s not like the creatures are separate from existence but existence imposes upon itself. Then the force that we want to call upon at that time is Durga. Because Durga then reminds us, wait a minute. You’re not separate from this universe. Wait a minute. It’s not like you study about the law of gravitation and the law of elevation and the law of manifestation and the law of attraction as separate things. They’re all dwelling within you. And if you want, you can remember me as Durga, whose roots sound is Dum, which then starts opening you to all these facets. And if that’s not enough to chant my name, here, here. I’m going to introduce you to storytellers like Shunya, who’re going to remind you that I dwell within you.

But then, when that work is done and we are feeling more safe, more stable, more confident, we are not abandoning ourselves. We are not hiding from ourselves. We are not constantly working for approval. We’re breathing, we’re relaxed. We are understanding life. We’re understanding the law of impermanence and permanence working together. At that time comes along goddess Lakshmi. And it is the same goddess who now starts roaring with pleasure, with prosperity, with abundance. Because she says, yay, now you’re here. You’ve landed on your two feet. You’re feeling safe. You’re feeling comfortable and courageous. Now let’s have some fun. Let’s play. And after we’ve played, let’s also help others.”

So she establishes the law of dharma. She’s known as dharma [foreign language 00:47:23]. She’s the giver of the law of dharma, which says we are all connected and we should be there for each other. And dharma also includes the permissions that we can give ourselves to be materially abundant. That’s number one. To be sexually playful and free and happy with our sexual, sensual self. Enjoy the pleasures of food and luxuries and silks and whatever that it takes in the world in a material sense to be happy. And that’s number two.

Number three, Lakshmi says to us, you know what? While you’re enjoying life, don’t forget that the pain of others is your pain. Try and practice some generosity, some gratitude, and some nonviolence, if possible. Speak the truth. Be compassionate. So she gives us those kinds of teachings of dharma. And fourthly, she represents moksha or mokti or nirvana or what is known as an awakening. She says, you have a pretty good life. Do you want to know what else is there? Do you want to awaken into something invisible, deeper, truer, and more abiding within you? This body shall wither, this mind shall become confused or frozen with time and faded with time, then find that soul. So she represents all of that. And once we are playing with all this, she herself becomes Saraswati, especially when we get more involved with dharma and moksha. And then she starts turning our attention inwards.

She makes us listen to podcasts by Tami Simon and read books by Acharya Shunya, because we’re now interested in a deeper journey. Our quest has gone beyond needing to survive on a hostile planet to then thriving and playing in a beautiful planet to now seeing this planet as an opportunity for our soul to wake up, to see it as a school for souls, and to start our inward journey. And it is said that, at some critical time, Saraswati herself becomes a book. She becomes the Veda. She becomes the guru. And she becomes the true disciple within. And it’s really one nondual dimension. And it’s a deep journey that is described here. And I personally have held on to each of these goddesses at different times of my life.

When I was struggling to find my voice as the first female lineage holder of an all-male lineage in a patriarchal culture, Durga was my go-to goddess. And I just remembered her. And I had to often ride my lion in different settings. And then as I found my new partner, started my school, wrote my books, enjoyed my life, then I looked at my own life and I looked at Durga symbolism, and I wanted to make sure that I’m not spiritually bypassing by being all about the higher two goals. I wanted to make sure I’m materially stable also and I am enjoying my life as a sexual, sensual being. And I bring this balance into my teachings. And in this final era of my life, I feel that Saraswati has been very kind to me from the beginning to ensure that I was born in an amazing family, but then, all that I teach has become a living truth within me, thanks to her blessings. And my books are really her call to the whole world to wake up to who they truly are.


TS: As you write about the impact and energy of Saraswati, you described the energy as the experience of a river of light. And I loved that phrase and the feeling, for me, that comes with it. Can you explain that, river of light?


AS: She’s also described as a river in the Vedas. And there is a river Saraswati. In fact, the Indian civilization is known as the Saraswati River civilization because the Vedas were written on her banks. And she is that flow within us. An uninterrupted flow, just like a river is uninterrupted. And no matter what boulders and obstacles come in her way, she carries every particle of herself forward until she merges into the ocean of supreme consciousness. And within us, we have these three forces in our mind, which are known as Rajas and Tamas and Sattva from Saraswati. Rajas is the kind of force which is the more asura, dark force. And it distracts us in the world and we are never enough and we never have enough. And we are always proving ourselves. And especially if we are someone whose gender, whose identity is a question mark, then we are restless. And we over-explain and over persuade and over-serenade the world.

There’s the other force, Tamas, which is a very heavy force like the dense soil in which you can sink in the river. And that Tamas is where we are so much in self-denial and so estranged from our true being and our true light that we become paralyzed, frozen. We are in despair. We are in the depth. We are at the bottom of our own consciousness. We cannot really even express what we need, what we want. And we waste away and we rot away in the darkness of our own mind. But then there is this third quality, which is represented by the goddess, which is represented by Saraswati, as a river of light. And it is always flowing from within us. And this river of light is nirmala. Light is ever-pure.

What it means is, we don’t have to own this purity through religion or dogma following rules. It is within us. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll be silly and foolish. But we will, again, become new again. That purity is a psychological purity, more than a physical purity. And it is Prakash maya. Prakash maya means it is nothing but pure light. And what happens in that light? We see everything. We perceive the truth, that I’m not just this human being struggling in a small story that has a beginning and an end, but I am this eternal consciousness that has got a human story and human endowments to write the story I want or maybe erase it and start a new one.

And Saraswati, in that light, everything becomes blessed. And the two most big benefits of Saraswati, one is known as anamayam, health and well-being. Emotional health, physical health, psychological health. You just feel so good. And you experience well-being. You wake up in the morning and you go, hello, sun! You greet the moon and you go, hey there. We’re sharing this universe. And in this story, thank you for being there. And who am I? Oh, I’m Saraswati. I am this flowing one.

And finally, you experience sukha or happiness because of this light within you, no matter how dark it is outside, and no matter what darkness people project on you. What shame, what blame, what stains are projected towards you in the world, which is said to be divine mother herself’s incarnation. All that is coming to you so that you can discover in inner light. And once you turn on that inner light, which is flowing uninterrupted like a river within you, then nothing can ever come in your way really. And that’s how I feel nowadays. These are not just words. I’m a regular human being and regular things happen and erupt in my life too. By this river of light within me that comes forward through Saraswati symbolism, mythology, unpacking the meaning of her archetypes, her invitation to lead that life and turn on your inner light, well, it’s changed everything. And I find myself new again.


TS: Shunya, it’s interesting having this conversation with you about the goddesses, because what I notice is that through your own experience inviting us into their energy, inviting us into these forces, being known inside of us. And I wonder if you can share a bit about what the impact you hope will come from both the book and the audiobook, and you’re teaching at this time on the goddesses?


AS: I’m really hoping that through the spiritual knowledge that I provide through my teachings, through my book, through my audiobook, people of every gender will awaken and liberate themselves. They will liberate themselves. Holding onto that archetype in their mind from stereotypical expectations, from any invisible subconscious conditioning that has occurred to them in a planet that is burdened with divisiveness and power games between genders and races and colors. And hopefully the readers can begin trusting themselves and learn to roar against their own habits of conformity or self-diminishing beliefs that they have become accustomed to over time or their society has told them that it’s OK to do that. So it’s a time for people worldwide, especially if you’re someone who has been treated as a second-class citizen, to now look inward and roar with a bold goddess-like self-recognition.

And you asked why it is important at this time to write this book. And I feel that, what I found was I thought that when I leave India, I will not encounter patriarchy. But I encountered it in so many ways. And at the heart of patriarchy is a duality between power and weakness. And the female body or the queer body or the transgender body or the gender-expansive bodies or a different-colored body or disabled and challenged bodies or even younger bodies or children bodies, all these bodies are designated as weak, are designated as weak. And especially if you’ve been a woman, then so many religions have seen a female body and female genitals as an impediment to enlightenment of the males on the planet at the same time. And these bodies not only populate the planet to seduce them, but they even enter their imagination to impede them from their higher goals.

Now, all these subtle things. So patriarchy is not just a woman not getting equal pay, but it’s about looking into our own history, our own mythology, our own eternal archetypes to see if really, really, have women always been this disempowerment? Or were there cultures, eras, traditions, scriptures, and role models of a very different kind of an existence for these different gendered beings who are not on top of the eco-chain, so to say.

So I felt like in my own way, because I represent this tradition, because these goddesses helped me wake up—not with bitterness or anger or some radical rebellion that is now forever making me kind of sarcastic or something like that. But just in a very gentle kind of way, I’ve owned my power. The roar is not just the roar of anger, but the roar of self-recognition, the roar of self-esteem, the roar of pleasure, and the roar of prosperity and abundance. And the roar that I got it and I don’t have to play by those rules. And the very recognition that I have an option is huge. And I exercise that option and hopefully, my readers will do the same.


TS: I’ve been speaking with Acharya Shunya. She’s written a beautiful, empowering new book. It’s called Roar Like a Goddess: Every Woman’s Guide to Becoming Unapologetically Powerful, Prosperous, and Peaceful. There’s also a wonderful audiobook of Roar Like a Goddess, in which Shunya shares spontaneous chants and teachings along with each one of the goddess teachings. Shunya, I always love talking with you. You lift me up and turn the lights on inside. Thank you so very, very much.


AS: Thank you.

TS: Sounds True: waking up the world. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at That’s If you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I absolutely love getting your feedback and being connected. Sounds True: waking up the world.

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