Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Ph.D. is a renowned spiritual leader, author, and motivational speaker based in Rishikesh, India. Originally from Los Angeles and a graduate of Stanford University, Sadhviji has been ordained into the sacred order of Sanyas by her guru HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and has been living at Parmarth Niketan Ashram for the past twenty-five years. She is the Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an international interfaith organization dedicated to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; president of Divine Shakti Foundation, a foundation that runs free schools, vocational training programs, and empowerment programs; and director of the world-famous International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh—which has been covered in Time, CNN, the New York Times and other prestigious publications and has been addressed by both the Prime Minister and Vice President of India. She serves on the United Nations Advisory Council on Religion and on the steering committees of the International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and the Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty, a campaign by the United Nations and World Bank. She was also the Managing Editor for the monumental project of the 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism. She oversees a variety of humanitarian projects, teaches meditation, lectures, writes, counsels individuals and families, and serves as a unique female voice of spiritual leadership throughout India and the world.
Some of the topics discussed in this interview:
How Sadhvi’s journey has bridged spirituality and humanness.
Grace doesn’t discriminate. Spirituality is available for everyone!
The ecstatic story of Sadhvi’s awakening on the banks of the Ganga and the healing and transformation that followed.
The lifelong process of integration and embodiment of spiritual awakening experiences.
How we can see the Divine in all beings and how that increases our spiritual experience.
The role of the guru: the guru shines the light that enables us to see our own light, thus dispelling our darkness of ignorance.
How Sadhviji’s guru Pujya Swamiji inspires her to dedicate herself to awareness of that which is eternal rather than things that quickly fade.
Becoming a vessel for the flow of grace.
Everyone enters the world with their own karmic packages, and awareness of our own and others’ packages is key.
Mindfulness teaches us how to stay conscious and present.
In order to experience grace, sometimes there’s a lot of work to be done!
Sadhviji’s childhood trauma and how she was taught to forgive and let go so she could be free.
Forgiveness: regardless of what others have done we deserve to be free. Freedom is our birthright, our highest dharma, purpose, and calling.
Stephan spent a decade practicing Zen intensively as a monk but left the monastery because he sensed that the rigorous practice of meditation was obscuring the truth he was seeking. After studying Dzogchen for several years, he met his guru, Jean Klein, a European teacher of Advaita Vedanta, who told him to stop meditating and instead discover the meditator. Shortly after meeting Jean, he had a profound awakening to his true identity as timeless presence. After Jean’s death, Stephan met Adyashanti, and in 2001 Adya gave him Dharma transmission and invited him to teach.
Trained as a psychotherapist, Stephan also offers individual spiritual counseling and mentoring sessions to people throughout the world. His approach blends direct, experiential, nondual wisdom with the insights of Western psychology to support students in realizing who they really are while inquiring into the stories and patterns of thinking and behaving that continue to cause suffering.
Some of the main points discussed in this interview:
What does spiritual integrity really mean?
Absolute and relative levels of truth
“There is no right or wrong, but right is right, and wrong is wrong.”
The role and deeper meaning of ethical precepts.
Understanding the power dynamics of the teacher-student relationship.
How teachers abuse their sacred responsibility and act out of integrity.
“The teacher represents a whole world of meaning to the student.”
Teachers who claim to be enlightened may relegate their students to endless endarkenment.
Why narcissists are drawn to becoming spiritual teachers.
How students are taken in by misguided teachers.
The crucial role of discernment on the path: “The true guru is inside you”.
The importance of peer feedback and personal counseling as teachers mature in their role.
Sex in the forbidden zone: Wanderers, predators, and boundary confusion.
Acknowledging and integrating the shadow.
How to know when it’s time to leave a teacher.
The future of the spiritual teacher-student relationship in the West.