The pathless path — photo credit: Shambhavi Sarasvati

Last year, I combed through our website and deleted all instances of the phrases “classical Tantra,” “authentic Tantra,” and “classical Ayurveda.”

My purpose here is to open the question of the self-validation and violent erasures often being enacted when we use words such as “classics,” “classical,” and “authentic” to describe a text, a tradition, teachings, or our own practices as students and teachers.

My hope is that many of us will consider more deeply the history of these words, what work they are doing for us, and whose work and earned wisdom they erase.

Some definitions

From Wikipedia:
The word Classics is derived from the Latin adjective classicus, meaning “belonging to the highest class of citizens”. …


And P.S. this virus is not our most serious illness

The lack of understanding about how to interpret Covid-19 numbers and the casual misinterpretation of those numbers is causing a lot of anxiety.

I did take statistics in college, but it doesn’t require that to understand why any claim to know the mortality rate of Covid-19 is wildly wrong.

States in the U.S., and particularly California — the most populous state in the union, have been testing only people who are already in a high risk group and who are already seriously ill.

Testing in some states has ramped up in the past couple of weeks, but we are still…


It’s not because I hate technology

Occasionally someone gets angry with me because I don’t publicly livestream many teachings, especially teachings that include instructions for practicing.

They think I don’t empathize with their situation (parenthood, work commitments, financial difficulty, health).

But I don’t publicly livestream because I prefer to focus my limited energy on more intimate and intensive relationships with my students. I’ve discovered over the years that keeping things small and focused is a natural expression for me.

The core of our community, Jaya Kula, is currently about fifty people. While we don’t live in an ashram, our experience is that we are closely accompanying…


Throw away the processed starches and gummy stuff! Includes proof-of-concept recipe for Coconut Cake with Orange-Lemon Glaze.

I used to be a professional baker. I was also chronically depressed. Sometime during my mid-twenties, I discovered I was allergic to gluten.

Gluten went. The depression lifted. My baking career was done.

“Luckily” I found some gluten-free breads, pastas, and cookies. As time went by, the availability and variety of these increased exponentially.

But why was my digestion falling apart?

Here’s a typical gluten-free cookie ingredient list. Ya gotta ask yourself: Is this even food?


from Mother Poems by Shambhavi Sarasvati

Burnt offerings send fragrant smoke to heaven

Failing to hear
the profound communication,
words fail.
The difference cannot be made up
with explanations.

Only poems come close
to minding the gap,
inviting the mind to yield its
childish demands for reasons.

The messages of poems escape
from cracks in time and mind,
like smoke unfurling from
the unremembered worship of the
deep and burning.

Pause the
inevitable words.
Breathe in.
Fill yourself
with Ma’s timeless,
silvery perfume.


It’s not for a job

Divining not deciding

I want to share something personal with you. Or maybe it’s not exactly personal, but just weird and even dangerous-seeming in the context of our secularized, rationalistic lives.

I’ve gotten some occasional criticism and expressions of disgruntlement about our nonprofit organization’s impending move from Maine to the Bay Area. We’re a spiritual community learning and practicing in the traditions of Trika Shaivism and Dzogchen.

These comments are interesting because of what they assume: that I made a decision to move. According to these commentators, I am making the wrong decision.

| A Guided Life

Leading a guided life is one way of describing the…


Read this before you down your next ashwagandha-infused, bullet-proof chai

Not so innocent, are ya ashwagandha?

Yesterday, a student of mine reported feeling depressed and tired. She’s been seeing a naturopathic doctor.

Among the riot of supplements and herbs that this doc prescribed from half a dozen different traditions was, of course, the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha.

| All hail ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is the latest hostage of the ancient medicinals marketeers.

The standard (uninformed) line about ashwagandha is that it boosts your mood, your adrenals, and your immune system.

Some have gone so far as to dub ashwagandha “Indian gingseng” even though, from the perspective of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, these two plants work in an entirely different way…


It’s not so scary or bad

Who doesn’t love a gloomy old graveyard?

Hanging around spiritual types, you hear a lot about impermanence. I confess, I never “got” why anyone finds impermanence to be such an earth-shattering revelation.

Is being traumatized by impermanence a guy thing? Just a thought.

I was standing in line at a local organic grocery store. Apropos of nothing, the woman behind me proclaimed: I feel sorry for bugs. Their lives are so short!

This was in Berkeley, California. Eighty-seven percent of the people are thinking stuff like this instead of looking in their rear view mirrors and using their turn signals.

I hate to break it to you…


Advice for the rest of us

Spiritual retreats are not just for monks and hard-core yogis, and they don’t have to last for years.

My traditions are Kashmir Shaivism from North India and Dzogchen from Tibet. People practicing and teaching in these traditions are mostly householders. We hang out in the world with families, jobs, and cafes.

My Dzogchen teacher used to joke: If you go on a long retreat hoping to lose your attachments, what you might lose is your family and friends and job!

So never fear. A retreat can last for half a day, a day, a few days, a week, or, if…

Shambhavi Sarasvati

Devotee. Spiritual director @ jayakula.org. VIDEOS: bit.ly/shambhavi-youtube BOOKS: bit.ly/shambhavi-books PODCASTS: bit.ly/shambhavi-podcasts

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store