Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati – 2nd Interview Transcript

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, 2nd Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done over 600 of them now and if this is new to you and you’d like to watch previous ones, go to, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. My guest today is Sadhvi Bhagavati Saraswati, PhD. She was on BatGap a few years ago and in a minute I’ll review some of the stuff we talked about in that interview, but I would also encourage you to watch it because we’re not going to recover all the things we covered then. We’re going to get on to new stuff. Sadhvi is a renowned spiritual leader, author, and motivational speaker based primarily in Rishikesh, India. She’s originally from Los Angeles and a graduate of Stanford University. Sadhvi has been ordained into the sacred order of sannyas, which is a recluse order, by her guru, His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, and has been living at Parmat Niketan Ashram for the past 25 years. She is the Secretary General of the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance, an international interfaith organization dedicated to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. She’s the president of the 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 Parmat Niketan Ashram, which has been covered in Times, CNN, New York Times, and other publications, and has been addressed by both the Prime Minister and Vice President of India. She serves on the UN Advisory Council on Religion and on the steering committees of the International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development, and the Moral Imperatives and 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, which is an interesting story that she talks about in her book. We might get into it. 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. So, welcome, Sadhviji. Welcome back.

Sadhvi: Thank you, Rick.

Rick: You’re welcome.

Sadhvi: Thank you, Rick. It’s such, such a joy and blessing and honor to be with you.

Rick: Well, I really enjoyed the first one, and I’m really looking forward to this one. As I was telling you before we started, I listened to your whole book. I converted it to audio and listened to it and enjoyed it a lot. I thought that it really sort of, it was very candid, and you know, you talked about things that people would often be uncomfortable talking about, you know, for fear that it might diminish people’s estimation of them or something. But to me, it increased my appreciation for you, because I like candor and directness, and also because it portrayed you as a human being, you know, you’re not trying to, you’re not being pretentious, you’re not trying to pretend you’re something you’re not, but what you have become as a result of your whole spiritual immersion and transformation is really beautiful, and something that, you know, we should all aspire to, I would say.

Sadhvi: Thank you. I’m so touched that you listened to the entire book, especially since I know that you only had a couple of days to do it by the time that we had the interview get scheduled.

Rick: About a week.

Sadhvi: And I’m so touched to hear how you feel about it, because yes, that’s exactly for me why I was so open and why I was so honest, because as you say, it makes you realize I’m a human being, and that may sound obvious, of course I’m a human being, and yet in especially the world of religion in the East, but not exclusively the East by any means, but especially in the East, there’s really this sense that if you are a religious or spiritual being, and especially if you’re a leader, that you’ve left your humanity far back, that we’re transcending not just ego and ignorance and, you know, lust and greed, but that we’re actually transcending our basic humanity. And we’ve got leaders who really did come out of the womb enlightened. I was blessed enough to find a guru who really is like that, and there are a handful of those in both the Hindu and the Buddhist traditions who are just these beings who really are cut from a different cloth. And yet the dilemma is that that’s not most of our story. It’s certainly not my story. And what I’ve seen is how many people feel disqualified from a spiritual awakening, disqualified from grace, disqualified from freedom, because they don’t fit that mold. And so, Rick, it actually was deeply, deeply important to me that people realized I had not transcended being human, nor was I attempting or looking to transcend being human. But actually, for me, what I find so beautiful about the way that I’ve been blessed is to be able to be a bridge and to help build bridges between spirituality and humanity, because that’s what we need today. We need people who are mired in struggle and conflict and anger and frustration and stress to recognize that they can become spiritual beings and that it doesn’t require no longer being human, that it’s not about a suppression or a repression or a denial of that which makes us human. And on the spiritual side, for those of us deeply identified as spiritual beings to recognize that that is not a denigration of our basic humanity. And I think today we really need to build this bridge between spirituality and humanity. We need to know that fully embodied humans are spiritual at our core, that we are spiritual beings having a very full human experience. And my story is one, I think, that really shares that. And it also was really important to me for people to understand that I had not been cut from a different cloth, that I, yes, knew freedom and awakening and ecstasy and sustainable peace and joy, but that I also knew challenge and conflict and trauma and struggle. And that one does not preclude the other. And that just because we are conflicted or struggling or traumatized doesn’t mean that we’re not worthy of grace, doesn’t mean that we cannot have the awakening experience, doesn’t mean that we cannot fully know on every level that truth of who we are as divine. So I’m really glad that that came out. And that’s actually why we finally ended up on the title that we did of “Hollywood to the Himalayas.” We had gone through so many titles and ended up finally on that one because it was so clear from the title itself that we were talking about not just a journey but actually a bridge. That yes, physically, I journeyed from Hollywood to the Himalayas, but the story and the teaching is a bridge of that stereotypical full humanity and the struggles and the conflict of humanity that we experience, metaphorically in Hollywood, but otherwise, everywhere. And that spiritual ecstasy and truth and awakening and freedom that we experience and associate metaphorically with the Himalayas.

Rick: Yeah, that was one of my motivations for starting this program actually, as I live in a community where several thousand people have been meditating for decades and some of them were having profound spiritual awakenings and, you know, the typical of the kinds of things that had been predicted that you would have if you meditated long enough. And they would tell friends about it and the friends would say, “Oh, you couldn’t possibly be having that. You’re just Joe Schmo, you know, and you can’t levitate and you don’t seem to have a big glow around you or something like that.” And so they would get that kind of blowback and then they just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. And so I thought, I’m going to just take some people who are having these awakenings and do interviews with them so that people can see that this is happening to their peers and that it could also happen to them. Because a lot of people had adopted the attitude of, Oh, well, I’m never going to get enlightened and I think, you know, meditation is restful. I’ll just keep doing it until I die. But they’d kind of given up the high hopes with which they had started it. So anyway, that was one of my motivations for starting this.

Sadhvi: Well, it makes perfect sense and it’s such a wonderful offering, not just to your small community, but to the global community into which it has grown. Because I think number one, it inspires people that they too can have these spiritual experiences. But also, it shows people a path of how to integrate those experiences. Because also, as we all know, simply having that experience does not undo your humanity. It doesn’t undo patterns. It certainly gives you an experience of what it is like without them. And if it’s powerful enough, it may certainly, you know, short-circuit a lot of your neural networks in a way that you do become free, even in that moment of a lot of patterns. But a lot of them still stay with us. And yet, what that spiritual experience gives us is the awareness of, Oh yeah, that’s where I’m going. That’s the truth. And so we then are able to do the work necessary to peel away all of that, which keeps us from living in that every moment.

Rick: Yeah, I want to ask you some questions about that. Let me first briefly review some of the things we talked about in the first interview, and then I’ll ask you a question. First of all, you talked about going to India, and it’s funny, in the first interview you just somehow obliquely mentioned you had a traveling companion. It turns out that it was your husband that was revealed in the book, so that was a little interesting dynamic. But then you went down to the Ganga when you got there, then you had this profound shift, and we’ll talk about that more in a minute. And then you know, you happened to wander—I’m just reviewing some of the things we talked about in the first interview so we don’t repeat them—but then you walked through, back to your hotel, and you eventually happened to find this ashram, and at a certain point you decided, you had a voice came that you should stay here, and at a certain point you were physically unable to walk out of the place. We talked about that, and people can hear that story in detail in the first interview. We had a detailed discussion about gurus, whether they’re necessary, and all kinds of things about gurus. We talked a lot about seva, you know, selfless service, and Paramahansa Niketan, and all the wonderful things your organization there does, which I also reviewed in the introduction. And you talked about both kind of internal and external service, and seva as sadhana. And then we just, we also talked a little bit about different paths, bhakti, jnana, etc., all leading to the same thing. But I wanted to come back to that initial experience you had when you arrived in Rishikesh and wandered down to the Ganges, and all of a sudden there was this profound shift in your awareness, and you really began to perceive the divine and everything, and wherever you turned your vision, the divine was kind of the predominant view, and perhaps what you were looking at, the trees or the god or, you know, other people or something, that was kind of in the background, and the divine had become predominant. Just elaborate on that a little bit before we proceed.

Sadhvi: So you’ve picked the one experience that no matter how many years go by I don’t get better at explaining it semantically. It was an experience, as you say, where we had just arrived in Rishikesh. It was the first place we came to in all of India, and there was no Google at that time. We had a 500- page Lonely Planet guidebook, and…

Rick: It probably took up half your luggage allowance.

Sadhvi: Oh yeah, exactly, exactly, the really heavy, heavy book, and opened it up and said Rishikesh, and get to Rishikesh, and of course I had chosen the one hotel in all of Rishikesh at that time. Now there’s hotels everywhere, but at that time, 25 years ago now, there was only one hotel where the ashram in which I now live, Parmarth Nikakan, where that ashram is situated, and it’s also the only hotel that required us to carry all of our luggage across the bridge. And it’s so interesting to me, and I won’t go into this now because I know you asked about that experience, but the ability to listen to an inner voice, the ability to listen to an inner knowing, when all rational thought says, Okay, now wait, you didn’t give these people a credit card, you haven’t paid them one rupee in advance, all you did was make a phone call from Delhi to this hotel to make a reservation. There are dozens of other hotels that you could get dropped off at right in front of, right now. Why not choose them? Forget the place where you made a reservation. Why do you want to schlep your bags across, you know, a several hundred foot long foot bridge and then down a marketplace? Because of course the driver had not told us that there was a boat that would have taken us across. He hadn’t told us that there were coolies and sherpas who would have carried our bags, so we carried them. And yet, as rationally, intellectually crazy as that sounded, given all of our other options, I knew that that was where we were meant to go. I wouldn’t have articulated it like that, I simply knew no, no, this is the place. So we carried our stuff across the river, put our bags down in the hotel, and I said, “I’m going down to the river.” I didn’t know Ganga was holy, I didn’t know anything other than I was hot and I was tired, we had schlepped our luggage across the bridge, and I wanted to just put my feet in the river. And I get there, and I have this extraordinarily profound experience in which it felt like a veil was pulled off of not only my eyes but off of every way of seeing and knowing that I had. How I saw the universe, how I saw myself, how I saw my place in the universe, my relationship to the universe, this veil was just pulled off.

Rick: And you weren’t even a spiritual seeker at that point, really, I mean, you went to India because you were a vegetarian and you figured you could get good food there, you know, and your husband wanted to go.

Sadhvi: Exactly. Exactly. My husband was on a spiritual path, and so I had agreed to come to India because he had wanted to come. But yes, you’re absolutely right, the only motivating factor for me was, well, at least I won’t have to grill waiters in languages that I don’t speak about whether there’s, you know, chicken broth in vegetable soup or, you know, beef bouillon powder or chicken bouillon powder in the stock of some kind of sauce or eggs in a salad dressing. I knew in India vegetarian meant vegetarian. So I was definitely not a spiritual seeker at all. I didn’t know that spirituality was available for me.

Rick: And yet you had this experience.

Sadhvi: Exactly. I was really one of those people who, if you had said to me a week before this experience about being one with God or being a spiritually awakened being, I would have said, “Well, no, I can’t be.” Because, and I would have given you a list of things that had happened to me, things that I had done, patterns I lived in, patterns of thought, patterns of identification. I would have given you a whole list of reasons why I was disqualified from a spiritual existence, a spiritual experience, a spiritual life. So here I am then on the banks of this sacred river, handed suddenly, spontaneously, this spiritual experience that just literally knocked me to the ground. And I was suddenly aware, not just visually but also visually, of the presence of the divine in all. And yeah, as you described so aptly from the interview before, that presence of the divine stayed really as kind of the foreground of my visual field and of my experience. So here’s a tree, here’s the ghat, here’s steps, here’s a pillar, here’s children playing. And those changes were taking place on a background level. But the foreground was divinity. And I was aware of that presence of the divine in all. And of course I couldn’t have articulated any of this. A) because I didn’t understand any of it. I had no framework in which to put it. But B) because I had become completely non- verbal. All I could say for a really long time was just, “Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. Oh my God, it’s so beautiful.” And yeah, that was the first moment on the banks of Ganga and really the turning point for me in my life of understanding who I really am and my connection to the divine and my connection to the universe.

Rick: Having read your whole book and gotten to know you pretty well through that and through our previous interview and everything, I just, and believing or understanding what I do about the way the universe works, you just to me seem like an obvious case of somebody who had done a lot of spiritual practice in past lives, probably in Rishikesh, and you were just primed for that breakthrough. And the sequence of events that led you there was very full of grace, and you were just kind of following your impulses, your intuitions, but they were spot-on in terms of getting where you needed to get. Do you feel the same way, and have you ever had any actual cognitions of any sort that would verify that?

Sadhvi: I absolutely feel like that, and I remember I had been in Rishikesh maybe, I don’t know, a few weeks, and I had to go into downtown Rishikesh. So where Parmarth Niketan is, where many of the ashrams are, is in a part of Rishikesh that’s called Swarg Ashram area, and Swarg Ashram literally means heavenly abode. So it’s an area that has many, many ashrams, and it’s across the river from downtown. And I had to go into downtown in order to run some errands and take care of some things, and it obviously took longer than I had anticipated. Everything in India does. And by the time I got back to Parmarth, our sacred Ganga Aarti, the beautiful lighting ceremony that we do every evening on the banks of Ganga, had started already. And I rushed in, and I had this immediate awareness, and I spoke it. I don’t think I spoke it out loud, but I certainly spoke it within myself of, “Oh my God, it’s so good to be home.” And it just was this sense of, “Thank God I’m home.” And although in that moment I had meant it only as in, “Thank God I’m out of downtown. Thank God I’m back here,” as I said it to myself, I was palpably aware that there was a deeper meaning to the home than just this place I am staying in temporarily. So I knew that it was home. I have had other very, very powerful past life memories in the area. So I had a very powerful one in a place called Devprayag, which is a confluence of rivers where actually Ganga is formed a couple hours north of Rishikesh. And so I know inside that that is home, and I certainly have been there. But other than moments of just knowing I’ve been here, and even having a bit of a visual memory of that, I haven’t had any verifiable scientific sort of actual past life memories that we could say, “Yes, one can go back and verify that,” or anything that would convince someone who didn’t already believe in that. But it’s certainly enough to convince me.

Rick: Yeah, that kind of stuff is a little hard to verify, although next week I’m going to interview a guy named Jim Tucker at the University of Virginia, who is the successor to Dr. Ian Stevenson. And between the two of them, they have documented thousands of cases of young children who remember past lives in great, great detail and very, and really verifiable. And so that’ll be interesting. But usually as we get older, we lose those memories if we had them to begin with. That experience of divinity being predominant down by the river, I’m sure that you’re, you know, you didn’t just, you’ve obviously gained the ability to say things other than, “Oh my god, it’s so beautiful,” but so in other words, you’ve integrated it. But would it be fair to say that you’ve actually never lost it, in a sense? It’s just gotten more integrated, and then you know, obviously, there’s been a great, there’s been a great deal of deeper unfolding, but that was a turning point from which you didn’t retreat, I imagine.

Sadhvi: Absolutely. So yes, fortunately, my ability to formulate coherent sentences did come back. It was beautiful, though, to be just non-verbal for a while. It just, it was beautiful. It took all of the responsibility of explaining away. And you know, so many of us, it feels so important to us that others understand. And so we use so many words to make others understand how we feel, how we think, how we see the world, what we’re experiencing. And to be just rendered non-verbal, I mean, I would open my mouth to say something, and tears would just stream down my face. And I finally, I finally gave up. I finally realized, all right, I am non-verbal. And that was great. It was such a blessing. It was also a blessing, eventually, to be able to speak coherently again. But you’re right, I didn’t, I didn’t lose it. I’ve never lost that. And the, bear with me with a paradox for a moment. So I’ve never lost that experience, that awareness, that knowing. And there is simultaneously a lot of work that I’ve had to do and that I continually do to stay rooted in that experience. And I know that that sounds like those two things can’t go together. And yet, when we look at different levels of consciousness, they do. So my deepest awareness, my deepest knowing, my deepest consciousness, has stayed rooted and anchored and grounded in that experience of oneness with God, oneness with all of creation, of seeing the divine in all. And yet, because, re-reminding people of where we started, because I am very much human, I still struggle with living every moment and every minute and every second in pure awareness and consciousness. And what that means is that there are still moments that I slip into subconscious patterning. There are still moments in which someone is doing something in a way that my brain will say, will pass judgment about. It’s not right, it’s too slow, it isn’t intelligent, whatever it may be. And in that moment, I’m not seeing that being as divine. I’m seeing that being as an obstacle to the fact that, you know, I really wanted to get through this line a lot faster than this checkout lady is permitting us all to get through this line. Or I really wanted to reach home a lot faster than the car going eight miles an hour in front of me is permitting me to reach home. So on my deepest level, I’m always there. But I’m not yet at a space where I could tell you that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, I am living only in that deepest, highest state of awareness. It’s certainly what I’m working toward and I certainly month by month and year by year get closer. So the percentage of each day that I spend in that awareness is a lot higher year by year. The amount of time it takes me to get back to it when I realize I’ve lost it is a lot shorter. It also takes me a lot less time to realize I’ve lost it, to recognize that I’m passing judgment on the way somebody is ringing up items at a grocery store or someone’s driving their car or someone’s thinking about a particular political leader or a particular political argument or policy or somebody’s choices in the world. So yes, I still live in that. Yes, that is the truth and yes, my spiritual practice on a day-to-day basis is one of anchoring and grounding me in my own conscious awareness that knows that and lives in that every minute and every moment.

Rick: Nice. Even people like Nisargadatta have said things like you just said, that he never claimed to be anchored in the absolute 24/7. He said, “Sometimes there’s a momentary lapse, but it doesn’t, it just comes right back again. It doesn’t take long.” And you know, Jesus said something about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. I think that when we have a spiritual awakening such as you had, it kind of impels us to clean up the wineskin, so to speak, to to refurbish the container of that awakening so that it becomes fit to hold it. So all kinds of changes can get kicked into high gear once we have a shift like that. And if we deny or resist the tendency for that to happen, we can get into trouble. People can become megalomaniacs or, you know, just sort of got some spiritual juice, but they aren’t developing the concomitant humility and innocence and surrender to divine will to handle it appropriately or responsibly. And I’m not alluding to you, of course, because I feel that you are doing just that, handling it responsibly.

Sadhvi:Thank you. Thank you. Well, it, I think it comes from a space of acknowledgement of that very humanity. I think the dilemma comes, and where people get in trouble, is with that shame around being human and the shame around admitting that one isn’t living in divine union or awareness of that divine union that wherever one may be on a spiritual path, however far along, whatever experiences one may have had, whatever vows one may have taken, that those do not preclude in and of themselves basic aspects of human nature from arising. What they do is give us a different way of responding to them, a different way of thinking about our choices and our actions, but it doesn’t preclude the presence of the emotion or the feeling or the thought or the urge, but where we build shame into that in the religious and spiritual world, you end up with a lot of people trying to convince themselves, not just convince the world, that they don’t have any of that because those are those are shameful, those are sinful, we should not have them. And if I’m a spiritual being, it means that I am totally free of anger and lust and greed and fear. And if I find any of those arising, well, I’m just going to suppress it or repress it or deny it because it’s shameful. And of course, as we all know, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. If suppression worked, fantastic, why not? But it doesn’t actually work. And so it just bubbles and festers within you and then it leaks out in all sorts of other ways that get people into all kinds of trouble within themselves and their own practice as well as in the communities.

Rick: Yeah, I never really think much or worry much about what state of consciousness or development I may be in, but as a general rule I found it helpful and kind of a safeguard to tend to underestimate whatever it might be rather than to overestimate it. You know what I mean? It’s just like, you know, it’s safer. It’s like Adyashanti, you may know Adyashanti, he often says, you know, “I always consider myself a beginner,” and maybe that’s what in Zen they mean by beginner’s mind, I’m not sure, but and Amma says that too. She says it’s always safest and best to sort of have the attitude of a beginner.

Sadhvi: Absolutely, and the most enlightened masters I have met are the absolute humblest ones. When people ask me, you know, about how do I find the right guru or how do I know someone’s right for me, I always say there’s no equation to know who is the right one, but I can give you a really good equation to know who isn’t the right one. And the one who’s trying to convince you that he or she is the right one, the best one, the most enlightened one, the most powerful one, run as far as you can in the other direction because there’s no enlightened master, not just who I’ve met personally, but that I’ve read about or heard about who wasn’t so extraordinarily humble, not just in what they say or how they act, but in their own self identification. There was this beautiful, beautiful leader who left his body a few years ago based in Pune named Dada JP Vaswani and he died just a couple weeks short of his 100th birthday. But watching him and my guru Pooja Swamiji together was always such a blessing because here you’ve got these two amazing awakened enlightened beings and all they want to do is like put each other’s shoes on the other one. They’re always fighting over over who’s going to hold whose shoes out for whom and you know and who’s going to feed the other one and who’s going to touch each other’s feet and it was just, it was so who’s going to give who a chair and just to watch these two was so beautiful to behold this absolute unfolding in time and space of that experience and Dada used to say I just want to be the dust on the feet of the devotee of God and so he would go around bowing to everyone and of course it makes people very uncomfortable because he’s this amazing saint very elderly in years but also in stature and he would bow to everybody and try to touch everybody’s feet because his his perspective was you are a devotee of God I want to be blessed by the one who loves God and so let me if you love God let me touch your feet.

Rick: There’s a saying in India that you may have heard that when the mangoes become ripe the branches bow down low so people can pick the mangoes you know you know actually I meant to say that I think that was one of the things your book did very nicely was not only convey, not only enable us to get to know you but to get to enable us to get to know Pujya Swamiji. I think you portrayed him very nicely and really I really got a feeling for the man you know after going through the whole book and certain qualities just became so clear such as his well there’s so many beautiful things I mean he’s very authoritative but without being you know pushy or or you know strict about it but he would have a oh there’s a line from a Dan Fogelberg song “Leader of the Band” it goes his gentle way of sculpting souls took me years to understand. You know that song so that there was that and also his absolute focus at every moment you know I mean you’re you know you go to Hawaii for a break and he’s sitting there ignoring the beautiful scenery you know working out plans for building toilets at the Kumbh Mela you know that kind of thing so there was that and what else just a just a sort of a grace an openness to living in tune with God’s plan whatever it may be and a sort of a sensitivity to what it would be as he moved through his his day-to-day activities you know just to sort of a like you told me before we started this recording he always says yes I don’t know maybe you could just elaborate a bit on him now if I could probably think of a few more things but you could do it better.

Sadhvi: Sure well I feel so deeply blessed to have found him and to be brought to him for innumerable reasons you know yesterday was Guru Purnima the full moon dedicated to the guru and it’s such a beautiful metaphor because the word guru the Sanskrit word guru literally means the one who removes the darkness and who brings light but it gets misunderstood in this way that we are dark we are wrong, bad and the guru somehow magic wands us into beings of light and it’s not that at all what it really means is that the guru shines the light that enables us to see our own light through that darkness of ignorance that without the grace the blessings the wisdom the guidance of the guru we live mired in darkness darkness of ignorance, we identify as the body we identify as our careers we identify as our relationships we identify in all these ways that cause suffering for us cause separation and then enable us to bring suffering to others in that separation whether it’s just you’re a separate being whether it’s you’re a different gender or color or race or religion or sexual orientation whatever it may be that ignorance that darkness of ignorance causes suffering within us and causes us to bring suffering unto others and the guru is the one who shows us the light of ourselves who shows us the truth of ourselves which is divine and whole and complete and one with divinity and love and truth and consciousness i mean whatever word we use whether we say soul or spirit or divinity or god or consciousness whatever word we use that’s the core of who we are the buddha nature that’s the core of who we are the guru is the one who helps us see that so the light of the guru is not a light that the guru is shining on himself or herself but a light that the guru is shining on you so that you can see you it’s not a light of you should look at me it’s a light of you should look at you and that that really is what puja swamiji has done is he shows us the light within ourselves and yeah you’ve shared so much about him and to me what is so so inspiring on so many levels is to just watch him move through the world and live that humility that total surrender to god i mean he’s one of the most revered spiritual leaders in india he’s very frequently the representative of india or of hinduism at the united nations or the world bank or the parliament of religions or the world economic forum or any of these massive international platforms the ashram has been visited by prince charles by you know vice president of india i mean you were you giving it in your intro he’s very very very revered by the highest level political leadership social leadership religious leadership all over and yet he is just the most humble surrendered being and one of my favorite stories about him is he sits he meets people sitting on the floor he always sits on the ground no big like throne like thing that so many of the leaders and in the world of religion have just on the ground and that ground where he meets people is a it’s made of something called gober which is cow dung mixed with straw and it dries and it’s it’s wonderful it’s a natural anti bugs and it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer so on that gober is a very very thin kind of straw mat that he sits on and he’s got lots of animals that live in his garden he loves animals and he loves flowers and

Rick: like what kind of animals like monkeys and birds and

Sadhvi: monkeys and cats and birds and yeah and and he loves he loves them all he takes care of all of them and in fact in fact we frequently get baby birds being born in the vines of his garden and he sleeps outside sometimes with a stick by his bedside when there’s baby birds in nests because he’s also got cats and he wants to make sure that in the night the cats don’t try to get the baby birds in the nest and so in the daytime he’s there he’s meeting people and the cats mostly stay away but in the night you know cats are nocturnal and so he wants to make sure that while everyone’s sleeping the cat doesn’t do something to the bird so so he actually sleeps outside with a stick to scare away scare away the cat.

Rick: Now it’s telling that he doesn’t appoint somebody to do that but does it himself.

Sadhvi: Oh absolutely absolutely he’s a I can also do it type of person I also have hands I have legs why not I will do it so he was sharing recently though that in the morning when he gets up not when he’s been sleeping outside but normal day he gets up and he finds that on that straw mat that he sits on where he meets people that the cat sleeps there in the night and he said you know it’s such a beautiful lesson he said so many people are filled with such a sense of arrogance of like this is my place this is my role this is my asana this is it and he said yeah as long as I’m sitting on it it’s mine and the minute the minute I get up and go inside well the cat thinks it’s

Rick: that’s great

Sadhvi: and and these are the sorts of lessons that pour forth from him just in the day-to-day movement through the world of what what is there to be so proud of or stuck with yeah yeah you’ve got your title yeah yeah you’ve got your awesome your big chair your whatever it may be and long as you happen to physically be sitting in it sure it’s yours but the minute that you’re gone whether gone because you’ve gone to sleep in the night or gone because you’ve left this earth it’s not yours so dedicate yourself to that which really is eternal that which matters that which is lasting rather than my title my career my corner office my this my that because nothing is really mine anyway

Rick: your story reminds me of a story of I think it was Muhammad who cut off the sleeve of his coat because a cat was sleeping on it rather than disturb the cat

Sadhvi: absolutely absolutely um

Rick: well it’s good this topic came up because someone named Kieran from San Francisco sent in a question he said uh i’m desperate to find my guru how do i find the guru yeah Kieran could also be a girl’s name how do i truly make myself receptive enough for my guru to find me

Sadhvi: beautiful so first of all you have to, in that receptivity, think about the word receptive that you’ve used Keiran well receptive is the same root as the word receptacle and a receptacle is a thing into which you put something right so we talk about a trash receptacle into which you put trash or a different type of receptacle that you put things into but what makes a receptacle functional is that it’s empty only then can something be put into it and it reminds me of one of my favorite stories about the guru and finding the guru which is the story of the man who was looking for a guru to give him enlightenment. he had done a lot of sadhana a lot of work and now knew that he was ready for enlightenment and asked everyone like who’s the most powerful enlightened guru who can give me enlightenment and everyone directed him to this one guru sitting in a cave on the mountain and the man crossed the river and climbed the mountain and he gets to the cave at the top and he bows down and he starts to tell the guru where he’s from what he’s done what he’s experienced what he’s learned what his challenges are what he needs and the guru says have a cup of tea and the man is like tea i didn’t come for tea i don’t have time for tea i’ve come for enlightenment and the guru says have a cup of tea. so the guru goes to the back of the cave and he returns a short while later with a pot of tea and two tea cups and he puts the tea cups down and he starts to pour into them and he’s pouring and he’s pouring and the tea is now filling the cup and now the tea is overflowing outside the top of the cup and onto the floor of the cave and the man says stop what are you doing the cup is full it can’t hold anymore and the guru says “your mind is like this cup. you are so full of what you think you know, what you think you need,. who you think you are that there’s no space in you for me to give you anything. until and unless you empty this cup i can’t give you more tea and until and unless you empty yourself i can’t give you anything” so Keiran, i would say begin by emptying yourself. there’s a beautiful practice of meditation called neti neti, not this not that. i’m not the clothes i wear i’m not the blood flowing in my body i’m not my skin i’m not my organs we move through the whole being into i’m not my thoughts i’m not my emotions i’m not my history and ultimately you just allow yourself to realize i am none of this and into that space that the buddhists tend to refer to as nothingness, shunya, and the hindus tend to refer to as everythingness, pourn into that space grace flows and into that space the guru can arrive. so that’s the first piece, i would also say you may have come into contact with your guru. it’s not always, that in that first moment, that it’s, you know, sort of falling in love across a crowded room and you behold the guru and you know instantaneously. sometimes it’s like that but it’s not always like that because sometimes we have to get our own egos out of the way. sometimes there’s something in our sight that we need to clear before we can realize that someone we have already encountered actually is our guru. and third, until you find that guru, align yourself with the teachings of so many gurus. there are so many masters who have given us so many teachings. read those, listen to those, implement those in your life, until you find the one who feels like your guru.

Rick: yeah i’ve heard so many stories from people about how just the their sincere desire for god or spirituality or whatever set in motion just the right sequence of events to lead them to the teacher that they needed to find or you know resulted in perhaps finding some technique or practice that worked really well for them or something so i think Keiran is on the right track in terms of the intensity of desire or sincerity of desire that kind of gets the ball rolling, i think in terms of you know what’s going to manifest in one’s life. a few minutes ago we were talking about you know you had this profound awakening and then obviously all those years ever since it’s been a matter of continuing to refine and purify and you know adjust and so on and someone sent in a question akshay from puna india sent in a question relevant relative to that, he said, “is it because of your leftover patterns or vasanas that you are not able to stay in pure pure awareness all the time”?

Sadhvi: we all come into this world with karmic packages, that we enter this world with,, and then on top of those karmic packages that we enter the world with, we create more what in india we refer to as sanskaras, in the world of science we would call it our neural network we could speak about patterns but they all refer to the same thing which is a a way of our mind to work that becomes automatic that isn’t something we are planning but that just happens on its own. people have a sanskara, toward for example anger, and it becomes, you know, the the simplest study on these is pavlov’s dogs, right, he rang the bell then fed the dogs, rang the bell fed the dogs, rang the bell fed the dogs and very quickly even with no food could get those dogs to salivate just by ringing the bell because the dogs associated the bell with food so much that even when there was no food the ringing of the bell caused their mouths to secrete saliva, to digest the food that didn’t even exist. and in the in the same way as we move through this life we have experiences, in childhood, especially those are the most powerful years for laying sanskaras, laying our neural networks, but we continue to lay them as we move through the world and they create these unconscious subconscious patterns and those can only be changed through bringing consciousness to it and this is where practices like mindfulness are so powerful because for example when most of us walk very few of us are actually aware of walking walking happens on autopilot. we are talking on our phones or window shopping or planning something in our minds walking just happens but in walking meditation that we do in mindfulness practice we actually learn how to bring full consciousness to walking or to eating as templates for how to learn to move through the world not on autopilot and so it’s not so much a matter of a vasana, it doesn’t feel to me like that, it feels much more just like an automatic pattern, of for example, you are standing in line at the grocery store, you’ve got to get home you’ve got a meeting for a project, so naturally the mind is thinking about that project you’ve got an upcoming meeting you’re planning in your mind what you’re gonna say in the meeting, how you’re gonna do the next project or maybe you’re on your way to the office or you’re on your way home and you’ve got to have a difficult conversation with someone when you get there so maybe there’s some anxiety of what that conversation is going to be like, but in either case, you’re not there, in your body, in your breath, standing in line. you are somewhere else. now the lady is taking too long or the gentleman who’s ringing you up is taking too long and in that state of not being present because you are already in the meeting or you’re already in that difficult conversation, the subconscious mind, that autopilot mind, notices how slow this checkout person is being and sends a thought into the mind that says something like, oh my god, like could you be any slower? it’s a it’s a reaction of an autopilot programming that is left to run the show of the being who’s standing in line because my conscious mind isn’t there, my conscious mind is planning the meeting or planning the difficult conversation and this is why the practice of mindfulness is so powerful because it teaches us in the simplest circumstances how to stay conscious and present. how to stay in our breath, in our bodies in every moment because if standing in line i wasn’t planning the meeting or planning the conversation and i was present with my breath, present with the truth of who i am, present with the truth of the divinity in that man or woman at the checkout counter there is no way that the subconscious mind would take over and send such a negative judgmental thought rooted in separateness into my mind and that’s why all of our spiritual teachings have these injunctions like be present, be mindful, be conscious, be here now, because if i’m not here that’s when the subconscious takes over

Rick: although sometimes you can actually be productive in moments like that without being fragmented. Einstein worked out his first the first of his theories of relativity while working in a patent office and Archimedes was said to have just, you know, come up with the idea of some principle of physics while taking a bath because of the displacement of water and so on, you know, so sometimes in those innocent moments, when perhaps we’re not engaging the mind so much an intuitive insight can dawn on us that

Sadhvi: absolutely

Rick: yeah it wouldn’t dawn if we’re focusing on it maybe yeah

Sadhvi: when the what you’ve shared are two times when the mind is free so Einstein could do his job basically mindlessly because it was so easy for him and Archimedes is in the bath obviously doesn’t require a lot of attention so the mind is is free and spacious and it’s able then to have those moments of insight come in but if we are wrapped up in anxiety, in planning, in fear, in stress, in grabbing and grasping and all of that then it’s going to pull me into a place where the being who is left to respond to the present moment is not one who’s conscious.

Rick: This topic reminds me of a couple of points in your book there was one at which you were sitting at the river every day I guess this was early on in your first visit to Rishikesh and I found it interesting that you could just sit there all day every day without your mind wandering a lot or getting bored and then another and I think you’ll have I think I know what you’re going to say about that but then another was New Year’s Eve in 96 you were home working on your PhD and you sat down to meditate instead of going to some or you were going to go to some parties or something but you just sat down to meditate first and the next thing you know it was morning and you’d been meditating all night and I think you didn’t fall asleep it was like you just went into samadhi so you know and this actually relates to Akshay’s question about vasanas and so on because usually if there’s a lot of vasanas in the system or samskaras we can’t sit like that for long periods of time without getting kicked out you know with stuff bubbling up and distracting us

Sadhvi: yeah it was an incredible blessing, an incredible grace and Rick that’s actually one of the things that I really wanted to emphasize in my book and I’m so glad that you picked that up because a lot of us feel like in order to have experiences of grace, in order to have spiritual experiences, there’s a lot of work to be done and I had never meditated, I had never done spiritual practice, not in this life, in any case, and yet there I was given this experience of a stillness of the mind, this experience of just samadhi of just that full yoga union oneness ecstasy bliss non-separation and it is something of course that our practice of meditation enables us to get to more and more but it’s something that I was given without that as well and so I’m glad you picked it up and I hope that everyone who reads it picks that up that yes we have to do our spiritual practice, and yes, there is this incredible possibility of it happening for you now. it’s not like school where until and unless you successfully complete fifth grade you cannot under any circumstances go into sixth grade yeah that’s normally how most of us do it we work through first and second and third and fourth and we kind of move through a practice and there is also the possibility with full surrender and full openness to the experience of grace that it can just happen and I am far from the only person who’s had this experience where through no merit of my own I was handed this experience and I had it also the day when I was officially ordained into sannyas, when my guru Pooja Swamiji and the other saint Pooja Swamiguru Sharan Nanji Maharaj when the two of them had done my sannyas ceremony together and then together they put their hands on my head and it felt literally as though they just commandeered my mind to stop and I didn’t even know that their hands were no longer on my head because my mind was just so still and so spacious and so ever expanding and again that’s another another funny paradox if it’s already spacious and infinite how can it be expanding and I don’t have a rational explanation for that other than to say that the felt sense experience is of a spaciousness that is both infinite and also continually expanding and that’s an experience that I was given at those times and it’s been so so exquisite of knowing what is possible and of holding that then as something to return to in meditation.

Rick: Nice. A little bit of an abrupt segue here but another point in your book that I found very candid and that also really told us something about Pujya Swamiji’s status was that at a certain point you developed romantic feelings for him and unlike what may what certainly has happened in many other circumstances he didn’t take the bait at all he didn’t waver at all and he really just his reaction just made it an evolutionary opportunity for you. So I was just impressed with that. I mean it seems like why should one be impressed with that but there’s so many examples of it not going well in those kinds of circumstances with various teachers that I was it just increased my estimation of him that’s all.

Sadhvi: Yeah it was it was extraordinary on so many levels, one being the level you’ve mentioned, which is here you’ve got a has been celibate his entire life and who has a young woman who isn’t from a tradition in which she thinks there’s anything wrong with this and basically make herself fully available not only available but actually wanting that and not only did he not respond in any way of engaging, but he did something remarkable, which was he turned it into such a transformational experience for me and such a healing experience for me because to me it was inconceivable that he wouldn’t want it, not out of some arrogance or conceit, but simply out of the way that I had always understood myself as a woman which was a sexual being and that if a man is giving you attention and care and time, well surely he must want something of you and in a case like this you know there was there was nothing nothing else and here I was like ready and wanting and he just kept sending me back to me, sending me back to me, meaning there was no shame about it, he never made me feel badly for feeling it, he never made me feel badly for wanting it, which is remarkable because in the tradition of renunciation, as we spoke about earlier, there’s a whole system of kind of shame around sexual desire and so I could have very easily heard someone else in his position basically say to me you shouldn’t feel like tha,t you shouldn’t think this, this is wrong, this is bad, but he never did, he just kept taking me beyond it and saying you know move beyond this, go higher than this there, is a way that is higher than this, that is more than this and you are not just the body and stop over identifying as the body and for me it put me into this extraordinary situation of I don’t understand, here is a man, telling me I’m wonderful giving me time and attention and care and respect, and yet who doesn’t want me physically or sexually. and I did not know what to make of that and it was so distressing to me because it it forced me to really try to find an entire new way of self identifying and in that that journey of well who am I and what do I have to offer this world if it isn’t my body I had such such a powerful experience of healing and transformation.

Rick: that’s great another somewhat related story where your natural instincts kind of kicked in at a certain point was you’d already been ordained as a swami and all of a sudden you had this feeling I want a baby and you went to you went to puja swamiji and he said “what?” but then the the interesting part of that story is you actually got one and raised her tell us about that

Sadhvi: oh what what a blessing, rick, of just how the universe, how the universe is there for you. you know, we all or most of us, I assume, in school or in some kind of corporate team building experience have done a trust fall, where you have to just fall back into the hands of friends, enemies, colleagues, you know and and we all know that no matter how much the person behind us may be stabbing us in the back at work or maybe our arch enemy at school, that they’re just not going to let us fall on the ground and we fall back and we’re caught and we need to learn how to just trust fall into the universe because the universe catches us and so yeah this was a time it was early early 30s I had taken sannyas, official vows of renunciation, a few years earlier and I had this incredible overpowering sense of just I need a baby, I need a baby and I remember going to puja swamiji and telling him this and he says all right, you know, no problem, yes, theoretically your vows were supposed to be forever but it’s okay we’ll find you a nice, you know, a nice husband we’ll get you married and I was like no no no I don’t need sex I just need a baby. I don’t want to get married I just need a baby and I remember him looking at me and saying something like you’re the scientist here, like how even even I the lifelong celibate know that in order to get a baby you’ve got to, you know, have a man and you’ve got to have sex and and it was so funny because I wasn’t having yearnings for a relationship, I wasn’t having yearnings for sex, I just had this like biological hormonal thing through my female body, I mean it was very Darwinian in a way, it was just like the the laws of evolution and survival of the fittest were sort of screaming in me, propagate, propagate, you’ve got to have a baby, you’ve got to have a baby and I sat with it obviously I knew I didn’t want to stop being a sanyasi, I didn’t want to get married, I didn’t want to break my vows, I just knew I needed a baby and the universe sent me one in this beautiful amazing young girl who was four at the time and who I really adopted um and she she lived with me for quite some time I then sent her to boarding school and she still has her parents and she’s still, you know, with them at the moment, actually in lockdown in India, she’s with them now that she’s graduated from university and she’s on work at home so that relationship with them stayed and yet I was really the one raising her and taking care of her and her parents were very happy for that and happy to let that let that happen and to realize the amazing opportunity that had been given to their child and she she became just the most remarkable young woman she’s just graduated with a degree in software engineering from a very prestigious university in south India and she’s working remotely for Deloitte, she just got hired by Deloitte, and it’s such an such a beautiful experience of the universe really giving you that which you need in the way that you need it and of course along the way and there’s a lot of stories that I share in the book but along the way I also realized how not only was she a gift and a blessing but she was also there to take me further on my spiritual path because there were moments where my mind became so attached in a very maternal sort of way that I found myself kind of coming off the spiritual path and to learn to love and to care in a way that wasn’t out of alignment with my spiritual path, to love and to care in a way that wasn’t grabbing and grasping, but that was loving the fullness and the essence and the being of who she is.

Rick: yeah, and it certainly had an impact on her life she came from a poor family and who knows what she would have ended up doing if she hadn’t you know come under your care, so it was a beautiful synchronistic thing. Another major theme of your book is forgiveness. You speak of your biological father having sexually abused you when you were very young and I found it was interesting that he was a psychiatrist you know one would hope that those in the profession of helping people improve their mental health would be mentally healthy.

Sadhvi: But wouldn’t that be nice?

Rick: Yeah it’s like how can they function in that profession and be in such a such a mental state as to be inclined to do such a thing. But anyway you dwelt on that subject very nicely the subject of forgiveness and there were some beautiful things you said about it perhaps you’d like to we’re getting short on time but perhaps you could comment on that.

Sadhvi: Sure well yeah that was really a core theme of the pain that I suffered and the the catalyzing experience that led me into pain and conflict and suffering and self-hatred and addictive behavior and fears and so much and Pujya Swamiji really shared with me and I don’t want to tell the story because it’s in the book and it’s such a powerful story of letting it go into the river of Ganga and Ganga taking that pain but I think the core lessons around forgiveness are that we don’t forgive because what the person did was okay. I always felt like I can’t forgive because somehow that’s going to absolve him in the universe and it doesn’t. We are not the karmic police. The universe doesn’t say to us, hey, you know could you let me know what you think we should do with this one over here. That’s not in our hands. There’s a law of karma that gives fruit to seeds and our forgiveness is not something that absolves someone of what they’ve done. Our forgiveness is something that acknowledges that regardless of what they’ve done we deserve to be free and that our freedom is our birthright and our freedom is our highest dharma and our highest purpose and our highest calling and that just because someone else acted in ego and fear and separation doesn’t mean that we offer up our freedom on the altar of their ignorance. They hurt us once or many times but for us to carry that pain into today is to become the perpetrator of our own abuse and to prevent ourselves from being free and so forgiveness is that which we do when we realize that we deserve to be free and that was such an extraordinary lesson that I was given which is yes this happened to you and yes you are divine and yes you deserve freedom and yes you need to let go.

Rick: Yeah, that’s good. I remember that story about the two Zen monks walking along and one of them they got to a river and there was a beautiful girl there who couldn’t cross it and the older monk picked her up and carried her across and put her down and they kept on walking and after a while the younger monk said, “I can’t stand it anymore. Why did you touch that girl? You know we’re not supposed to touch women.” And he the older monk said, “Oh, are you still carrying her? I put her down way back at the river.”

Sadhvi: Yeah, exactly.

Rick: So we can burden ourselves by hanging on to these things. We do and it’s what drives so much of how most of us live. When we sit in satsang and people ask questions, one of the themes that comes up over and over and over again is how we deal with how other people hurt us and whether it’s something as majorly traumatic as what I experienced or whether it’s simply being bullied by an in-law or a colleague or a neighbor or a boss or whether it’s something regarding our business. Somebody betrayed us or cheated us or lied to us. Maybe in our relationships we’ve been betrayed, cheated on, lied to, harmed in some way by some being at some time. And we hold on to that. And for me, the way that I love to think about it is, if you have a brand new beautiful white couch and your friend comes over and you go into the kitchen and you make your friend a piping hot cup of coffee with your own hands and with lots of love and you hand it to your friend and your friend proceeds to spill the entire cup of hot coffee onto your couch, accidentally or on purpose, you don’t even know and they then stand up with no explanation no words they then stand up and walk out of your house. Now what’s the first thing you’re going to do? You’re going to chase them down the block?

Rick: You’re going to try to clean the couch.

Sadhvi: Exactly. First thing you’re going to do because you understand intuitively that that stain is going to get worse every moment. I can deal with them at any time. First thing I need to do is get that stain out of my couch because I’m the one who has to live with it. And when we take such good care of our couches it’s tragic that we don’t take such good care of our own hearts and when someone hurts us on purpose or accidentally, instead of cleaning that stain on our heart right away, what most of us tend to do is the metaphoric you know chasing them down the block. Hey get back here. Fix this thing, say you’re sorry, apologize make it right. Or, we let that stain grow and fester and collect all kinds of bacteria and ants and bugs and whatnot so that we can you know take a picture of it and post it on social media and tell everyone what this guy did to me. Look at this, for everyone who comes over we can say you see this? that guy, and I had just made him a cup of hot coffee with my own hands with such love, look what he did to me. And that’s how most of us sadly work with our the stains on our heart, that which we would never do with the stain on a couch. So yeah forgiveness is a very powerful and essential component on our spiritual path.

Rick: And I would say I mean people shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong with them if they can’t just snap their fingers and be rid of you know accusations or you know pent-up feelings. Of course. Like my father was an alcoholic and he had a rough time in World War II and came home with a lot of PTSD and and inflicted that on the family throughout my childhood and you know it’s taken me decades to kind of work through it and deeper and deeper and therapy might have helped I never did that, but you know, it’s come to the point where I just really don’t ever dwell on that kind of stuff that he did and I just sort of feel like you know he did the best he could under the circumstances and I remember him taking me skiing and taking me to Boy Scouts and all the good stuff and his creativity as an artist and all you know the wonderful things he did and somehow that all just sifted itself out but it didn’t happen overnight, so

Sadhvi: absolutely and you make such an important point which is we should never feel badly about ourselves and how long it takes us at any stage on this path at any part of the path. What’s important is that we understand the necessity to do that work and that forgiveness is essential and yeah it’s work, it’s not a snap your fingers and do it, it’s absolutely work. That which happened to me in Ganga happened to me almost 10 years after I had been in a lot of therapy, doing a lot of work in and out even of inpatient facilities. I mean so I had done

Rick: oh yeah,there’s a lot in your book about that stuff that we didn’t even get to.

Sadhvi: I had really I really had gotten a lot of psychological help that readied me to be able to finally and ultimately let go. But you said something Rick that I wanted to just draw everyone’s attention to which was you said that “your father did the best that he could” and that really is I think the core component of forgiveness is the acknowledgement that everyone here is doing the very best they can with the toolbox that they have and that no one is waking up in the morning saying hey I’m gonna go out and wreak havoc upon Rick’s life.

Rick: Or even if they say that they’ll probably be feeling like this will be the best thing for me for Rick it’s really what I need to do you know.

Sadhvi: Exactly exactly but now because they’re in their ignorance or their PTSD or their confusion or their alcoholism they can’t see clearly.

Rick: Yeah, forgive them father they know not what they do.

Sadhvi: Exactly and you know it’s like a mad dog biting you well the mad dog bit you because the dog has rabies when we say mad dog it means the dog has rabies. The dog has a disease that is why it bites and in the same way in life so many of us are living in a state of dis ease. Dis-ease in anxiety, in fear, in confusion and in that state of dis-ease we harm others and to realize that those who have harmed us have done so in their state of dis-ease and in the same way that we would never blame the mad dog or hate the mad dog or carry with us great resentment toward the dog we understand. Okay yes now I need to go to the hospital and get my leg taken care of and get a rabies shot and it’s not fun by any means but it it’s not something that I’m going to carry with me forever as resentment toward the dog because I understand the dog was sick.

Rick: Yeah, good, well there’s so many more beautiful points we could talk about but we’ll wrap it up, I know you have to go. You know that the Keiran who asked earlier about finding a guru can people come to Parmat Niketan? I mean maybe not now with COVID going on it must be difficult but under ordinary circumstances I mean could Pooja Swamiji be their guru if they wanted him to be?

Sadhvi: Of course, of course, absolutely, the ashram is open to everyone and yeah, they should just everybody should just go

Rick: Can you go there now or with COVID is it kind of really?

Sadhvi: The international travel wouldn’t let you go. If you live in India yes you can go but in internationally hopefully they’re going to open up for tourists again in August or September,, so when it’s safe to travel absolutely come people can just see the website of the ashram at and register and come.

Rick: Good and I’ll be linking to that website and to your website and to your books and all that other stuff from your page on

Sadhvi: Oh wonderful yes and I have I can

Rick: hold your book up this is

Sadhvi: yeah, sure this is this is the book

Rick: Zoom it in a little closer yeah come towards the camera

Sadhvi: Yeah

Rick: It’s very nice it’s not it’s good

Sadhvi: the joy, the joy of autofocus on a camera did that work?

Rick: It’s pretty good *Hollywood to the Himalayas” I can read it

Sadhvi: Yeah, Hollywood to the Himalayas and it’s it’s my it’s my journey, it’s my journey from literally living in Hollywood, growing up in Los Angeles, with all the privilege, all the opportunity, a degree from Stanford and yet struggling and suffering internally into finding myself standing on the banks of the Ganga river in the lap of the Himalayas having this spiritual experience and then what the 25 years since that happened that was 1996. What the last 25 years of living in India have given me have taught me how I’ve healed and transformed and although it’s my story and it’s a fascinating story, a funny story, in many ways, it made me so happy to hear people say oh I laughed out loud because I certainly take myself very lightly but it was really nice to hear people say there were parts that were really funny because the human psyche is actually really funny, the ego is funny at times and when you can look at it and kind of laugh with it rather than feel shameful about it or run from it it brings a a very bearable lightness of being into life and so although it’s my story, ultimately the point is that it is your story and it may not happen for you in Rishikesh on the banks of Ganga, it may happen in LA or New York or Paris or anywhere in this world, it doesn’t matter, because the lessons that I learned are not ones that have to be learned in a specific place, that’s just where I happened to be my dharma, was to be there, but your dharma is to be probably somewhere else and wherever, wherever your dharma is for you to be,, those teachings and those insights and that transformation and that healing is available for you and so I’m very very excited Rick for this book to get into the world because I am really knowing that when people read it they’ll realize oh if she can do it I can do it, oh she’s not cut from a different cloth, oh she knows freedom and samadhi and ecstasy but she also knows stress and suffering the same way so many are stressed and suffering and that people will be able to really see themselves in it and then allow themselves to unfold and to heal and to be transformed so I really look forward to hearing everyone’s, everyone’s thoughts and everyone’s reactions when they when they get it and you can you can order it right now, the official launch date is August now on Amazon they’ll actually have it it says in your home on August 3rd, so you can be the first to read it and I really do hope that everyone will share with us how how it’s touched you and how it’s changed you and how it’s opened you because

Rick: how can they share it with you do you have some kind of oh you mean like comments on Amazon or something that kind of thing

Sadhvi: comments on Amazon comments on my website comments on your website comments on there’s there’s a website for the book called Hollywood to the yeah I mean so many on social media so many different ways

Rick: yeah

Sadhvi: just to just share

Rick: Good. Well I think you did a good job with it and I enjoyed the book and

Sadhvi: thank you thank you I’m so happy

Rick: Yeah It was like you said I mean I just I kind of got into your world you know and could feel myself kind of in your shoes going through all the things you went through and I think that’s what a good biography or autobiography does so I appreciate it.

Sadhvi: Wonderful well thank you so much Rick I appreciate you and this whole podcast interview satsang because that’s really what it is series and opportunity that you’ve created I appreciate it so much to enable people all over the world wherever they are to sit in the presence of truth, to sit in satsang, utilizing the powers of technology it’s a wonderful gift you are providing people with so thank you so much

Rick: Well, I think as you would say or as Punja Swamiji would say “I’m not doing it you know it’s just kind of I don’t know I’m just an instrument”, that well whether feeling is very clear

Sadhvi: absolutely and whether it’s our Hindu tradition Buddhist tradition or whether it’s the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi “Oh Lord make me an instrument of thy mercy” that’s what it’s all about, being, being that instrument. So thank you for being that instrument and thank you so much to your whole community for being with us today.

Rick: Well, thank you for being the instrument that you are we’re all sort of sense organs of the divine aren’t we each performing our little functions. All right, thanks Sadhvi, it’s been great spending some time with you and thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching and as I mentioned earlier next week I’ll be interviewing a gentleman who’s spent his career researching children who remember past lives which I think is an important topic because if that’s the way the universe works, you know, it it must have a profound impact on one’s psychology or mentality to either understand and accept that it works that way or to not understand it and it must be a completely different perspective and personally I’ve always taken it for granted at least since I got on the spiritual path and I can’t imagine not seeing it that way, but anyway, uh, you’ll see when you watch the interview. All right, thanks, see you next time.