Tuesday 23 April 2024



eBook Available on Amazon worldwide

Amazon US: https://a.co/d/7h6Eqqy

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Book Praise

"This is a unique and wonderful story of a character that is integrating all the different aspects of their life, from spiritual to practical to planetary and more. I enjoyed how all of these elements were woven together, including current events, to create a story that was at once mystical and also down to Earth. A fun and mind-opening read for anyone."

- Dr. Anoop Kumar, best selling author, featured on Gaia, creator of healthrevolution.org 


Monday 22 April 2024

Chapter Summaries

 This novel is an unusual life story about a Kashmiri woman named Lalla. Supernatural at times and ordinary otherwise, this fictional tale also borrows experiences from the author's own life. Born into a Kashmiri family, Lalla is named after the famous Kashmiri mystic, Lal Ded also known as Lalleshwari. She has a twin brother, Abhi, named in honor of the legendary Kashmiri Shaivism master, Abhinavagupta. These two souls choose their divergent life paths as an exposition of duality, of light and darkness, positive and negative, evolutionary and destructive. Lalla discovers her life’s purpose to integrate the spiritual into the worldly, by experiencing, understanding and overcoming human problems in order to help others with their issues. Some extraordinary spiritual experiences are woven into the fabric of a pragmatic life, often unbeknownst to Lalla's family and friends. 

(Chapter 1) The story starts with her soul in a heavenly dimension where souls reside, and describes the experiences of souls in between lives. 

(Chapter 2) Lalla and her twin are then born in Srinagar, Kashmir, where enjoy the bliss of early childhood. The narration describes the subtle realm that overlays the physical world, while moving through a very relatable storyline.

(Chapter 3) When Lalla is still a child the family move to the capital New Delhi where her father works as a surgeon. Lalla is different from other children, and has transformational spiritual experiences even as a young teenager. Her twin brother is a stark contrast from her in how notorious he is. College is a cultural shift for a naive Lalla who adjusts and then thrives with college friendships. 

(Chapter 4) In between college and starting a career, Lalla enjoys a summer in Rishikesh (in the Himalayas) while attending a course on Advaita Vedanta philosophy. 

(Chapter 5) As she moves through a more traditional path, after she starts working, she is introduced to a Kashmiri boy who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area as a neurosurgeon. Their courtship defines an ideal supportive relationship, and later they are married in a traditional Kashmiri wedding. 

(Chapter 6) Her twin brother goes through a breakup while she enters a model married life in the Bay Area. Even though her husband Sid, is not spiritual like her, they share a bond of love and respect for each other. While everyone else is engaged in a worldly life, Lalla continues to have spiritual experiences privately.

(Chapter 7) Readers will be able to relate some events in the story which are from the past and present, like the Kashmiri Pandits’ exodus, which becomes a life changing experience for her. Seeing the injustice and suffering of the Pandits, thrusts her back into her spiritual nature.

(Chapter 8) Lalla chances upon a famous channel medium while watching a TV program on past lives. She immediately signs up for a session with this channeler which opens the doors into the amazing world of new age spirituality. This opening also triggered a transformation within her which is the beginning of many changes to come.

(Chapter 9) Even though her life is becoming more spiritual, she fully integrates her spiritual awakening into practical life, which she feels is her life purpose. Her husband Sid always being an understanding and supportive partner. Going deeper into the mystical she not only takes a past life regression (PLR) session, she becomes a  PLR therapist. In the meantime, her twin brother finally gets married to a very nice Kashmiri girl.

(Chapter 10) Lalla’s seeking for a Guru is fulfilled when she finds a spiritual master Sri M. She and Sid attend a workshop where they are initiated into Kriya Yoga. She experiences many things on the astral realm related with Sri M, who is a great master like Yogananda.  (Chapter 11) Shortly after a revelational experience during a spiritual session on ‘Life Between Lives’, COVID hits the world. Unfortunately, Sid catches COVID, becomes critical and has a rather unusual recovery. Lalla consults a clairvoyant/psychic and discovers that there was “walk-in” and there is a different soul in Sid’s body. 

(Chapter 12) Shocking at first, she later adjusts to this pre-destined event. The new Sid is a more evolved soul who also becomes a guide for Lalla. After COVID Lalla starts to counsel and heal many people in her network of friends. All along there is an interlacing of the spiritual with the worldly.

(Chapter 13) Many amazing, mystical phenomena are described, especially as the tale pivots into what we can consider the future. There are social issues discussed and spiritual knowledge infused into the narration. Lalla now evolves into a channel as more and more of higher consciousness flows through her, while the world enters a transition phase of major wars and natural disasters. 

(Chapter 14) The narration about what’s yet to come includes major changes in financial systems, and severe effects to the economy and life in cities from conflicts and catastrophes. With many communities sprouting around the world, Sid and Lalla decide to move to a conscious community in Colorado. While the spiritual community blossoms with spiritual abilities, there is a split in humanity between the spiritual and material, and the material world starts degenerating. This contrast is exhibited in the lives of Lalla and her twin Abhi.  

(Chapter 15) There are three waves of solar flares which carry magical downloads from a higher consciousness that descends on those purified to receive. The shift of the planet and humanity into a new age describe a new race of light beings, and Lalla fulfills her purpose of coming to the planet at this time. Some aspects of the conclusion resonate with messages conveyed by aspirants of the new age spirituality. 

The story is truly a dance of duality, of the evolution of souls through the human experience, and how duality fits into the bigger picture of non-duality. Those who master both, win the game.

Friday 19 April 2024

Dance of Duality - About the Author


Vinita was born in Kanpur, India, lived in several countries around the world, and currently resides in northern California. Her family moved to Zambia (Africa) when she was young. She went to St. Mary's boarding school in Nainital, India, and then to college in the US.

Vinita has been deeply spiritual from a young age, with an urge to know the Truth. She had several mystical experiences from a young age, and after one such transformative experience when she was thirteen, she started meditating and reading spiritual texts from several faiths.

Vinita did her degree from the US in Computer Science with a minor in Comparative Religions. She has studied several faiths, spiritual traditions, mystics, new age spirituality, and ancient civilizations for over 30 years. Her continuous learning in the connection of science and spirituality includes quantum physics, Ayurveda, astrology, Yoga, meditation, sound vibrations, healing, psychic phenomena, and near death experiences (NDEs). 

Vinita has published two books. "Eternal Way to Bliss", is based on Vedic knowledge and was published by John Hunt Publishing. Her second book, "Merging with the Beloved – Mystical path to Oneness", on devotion was published by Partridge (Penguin) India. 

She is now publishing her third, a novel about a Kashmiri woman's spiritual journey interwoven with her worldly life which has past, present, and future events yet to come. 

In 2015 after a life changing event, Vinita entered a new chapter of her spiritual journey. She discovered the realm of psychics, channel mediums, ancient scriptures, and a whole new world of new age spirituality. Vinita spent a few years exploring, researching, and experiencing topics such as, cosmic races (ETs) and their role in our history, ancient spiritual traditions and the connection with the Vedic tradition. 

During this time Vinita received her sound healing certification with internationally acclaimed teacher Jonathan Goldman. Her natural inclination towards chanting, specifically Mantras, led her to a lifetime of practice and learning from several masters including, Thomas Ashley-Farrand. 

She got certified in Past Life Regression Therapy, QHHT, training from Dolores Cannon institute. 

Vinita is a certified Spiritual Life Coach and helps others with their life situations using an intuitive and integrative approach. 

Vinita has been integrating her own inner and outer worlds and has chosen to experience all aspects of life to be able to relate to others' and be a bridge between the material and spiritual worlds. She has worked in the IT industry for more than 25 years, and taken on leadership positions in several companies. She has two adult boys who also live and work in the Bay Area. She still works in IT, owns a home, while she still keeps learning and evolving from overcoming problems, to also then help others with theirs.  

Monday 15 April 2024

Dance of Duality - Synopsis

This novel is an unusual life story about a Kashmiri woman named Lalla. Supernatural at times and ordinary otherwise, this fictional tale also borrows experiences from the author's own life. Born into a Kashmiri family, Lalla is named after the famous Kashmiri mystic, Lal Ded also known as Lalleshwari. She has a twin brother, Abhi, named in honor of the legendary Kashmiri Shaivism master, Abhinavagupta. These two souls choose their divergent life paths as an exposition of duality, of light and darkness, positive and negative, evolutionary and destructive. Lalla discovers her life’s purpose to integrate the spiritual into the worldly, by experiencing, understanding and overcoming human problems in order to help others with their issues. Some extraordinary spiritual experiences are woven into the fabric of a pragmatic life, often unbeknownst to Lalla's family and friends. 

The story starts with her soul in a heavenly dimension where souls reside, and also ends in a realm beyond the physical earth plane. Lalla and her twin are born in Kashmir and later move to the capital New Delhi. As she moves through a more traditional path, she gets married to another Kashmiri who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Readers will be able to relate some events in the story which are from the past and present, like COVID. Many amazing, mystical phenomena are described, especially as the tale pivots into the future. The narration about what’s yet to come includes natural disasters, wars, UFOs, and magical spiritual downloads from a higher consciousness that descends on those prepared to receive. Some aspects of the conclusion resonate with messages conveyed by aspirants of the new age spirituality. The story is truly a dance of duality, of the evolution of souls through the human experience, and how duality fits into the bigger picture of non-duality. Those who master both, win the game.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Chapter 10: Stepping Into a New Realm

 Sid was sitting strumming at his guitar singing a beautiful old Hindi movie song. Some of our close friends were over for dinner and we were enjoying this after dinner entertainment. Sid was of course a good singer, and a poet. Another friend, Anu, followed suit and sang another favorite with Sid accompanying her on the guitar finding the chords impromptu. 

"That was amazing Anu!" I exclaimed as everyone clapped. "Come on Lalla, you should sing a Bhajan. You sing them so well," said Anu. I laughed and said, "Another day". "Hey, you guys are going to Mt. Madonna next weekend right?" asked Jameel. "Yah, looking forward to that. Need a break," Sid replied, putting away his guitar. "I've heard it's such a peaceful place. My friend did his yoga course there. I would love to go there sometime," Jameel said. "And it has a beautiful Hanuman temple, set on the hill, just like the temples in the Himalayas," I added, getting up. All our friends helped us clean up and load the dishwasher before leaving. 

The following Thursday Sid and I were off to Mt. Madonna retreat center for three nights to take the Kriya initiation course being given by spiritual master Sri M. One of my friends, Savitha, had read his book, "Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master," and had already taken the Kriya initiation from him the previous year. As she highly recommended Sri M, I watched his interviews on YouTube, and I could sense he was a genuine master. Sri M belonged to the lineage of Sri Guru Babaji, the Maha Avatar Babaji of Paramahansa Yogananda. Therefore the Kriya Sri M taught was the same as Yogananda's. However; Sri M and his master Maheshwarnath Babaji were part of the 'Nath Sampradaya', which is a school of thought or tradition that descends from Adi Nath (Shiva). Sri M, I found out, was very knowledgeable. He had also studied Kashmiri Shaivism and met Swami Lakshmanjoo. As I was still a keen Krishn bhakt (devotee), it wasn't the Kriya initiation that excited me, it was spending time with a realized master that attracted me. 

The drive to Mount Madonna center was beautiful as we drove through the evergreen forest up the coastal hills. My spirit was lifted as soon as we reached. It was one of my favorite places. Tucked in the hills, amongst tall evergreen and redwood trees, this spiritual sanctuary overlooked the Monterey bay, a beautiful view. On the hillside was the Hanuman mandir (temple), which was built by Baba Hari Das who was a disciple of the great saint, Neem Karoli Baba. The temple resembled the Hanuman temples in and around Neem Karoli Baba's ashram in Kaichi near Nainital in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

After paying our obeisance at the temple to Sri Hanuman, we checked in and were given a room in the  conference center where the meditation center for the course was located. Savitha and her husband also checked in and we went to the dining hall for dinner. After dinner there was a welcome and initiation session in the meditation hall. Sri M briefly came in to talk to us and give us a rough outline of the course. He seemed so modest and sweet, no fuss, no trail of devotees. He was wearing plain clothes, pants and shirt, not the typical outfit of Hindu Gurus. It was a small group of us, less than a hundred, which he wanted, and so he wasn't into increasing his followers. He made eye contact with all of us and after the session he walked by and talked to several of us individually. We just did Pranams as he walked by us as we didn't have any questions. Many of us stayed behind and minged. We met some very nice people who had come from all parts of the country, and we all shared our spiritual stories. The vibrations of Mount Madonna had set in and we went to sleep with so much peace. 

One the first full day of the course Sri M gave us some foundational knowledge in the tradition of Kriya Yoga. He also taught us the "Hum-Sau" Pranayama or Kriya (the precursor to the ultimate Kriya technique). He said that this "Hum-Sau" technique was more than enough for those who were ready, and that collecting techniques is not necessary, but then assured the eager ones that he will give us the Kriya for which we came. 

The next day we sat early waiting to be initiated into the secret and mysterious Kriya. There was pin drop silence as he started giving us an introduction to the Kriya. One of the central aspects in Kriya Yoga is the Kundalini Shakti and the seven Chakras. The Kundalini is represented as a coiled serpent that lies dormant at the base of the spine. With Kriya Yoga this Shakti (energy) can be awakened, and with practice this serpent-like energy can slowly rises up the seven chakras to the top of the head. Sri M also explained the Kriya procedure, as we all listened attentively, while some were writing down notes. 

Sid and I were sitting somewhere in the middle of the hall. Sri M first demonstrated all the steps that are followed before and after the Kriya technique. Then we practiced it together for the first time. During the Kriya our eyes were closed, and at one point I felt a ray of energy emanate from Sri M and enter my forehead (the third eye). It felt sort of like a gentle electric current that traveled through my body. I didn't think of it then but pondering on this later I realized that this is what is perhaps called the 'Shaktipat', a spiritual initiation by the way of transmitting spiritual energy from one being to another. After the Kriya, with my eyes still closed, I felt my energy shoot up, as though I was about to have an out of body experience. 

In the meditation after the Kriya, I saw a golden light between my eyebrows (the third eye). Then I seemed to surge or travel with this ray of light outward into space reaching a grand light form like the sun. I was inside this golden globe of light which seemed like a living being communicating with me. After sometime I receded with the golden ray back into my body. Soon after the meditation ended. As I opened my eyes slowly I saw a golden glow everywhere. Though I could also see the physical bodies and objects, everything was filled with different densities of golden light. Even the space between objects was filled with flowing scintillating golden light. I winkled a few times but it remained. When I looked at Sri M there was a huge aura of golden light around him, and a silver apparition that overlay his physical body. I interpreted that as the presence of Sri Guru Babaji. His face had a brilliant glow and I could barely look at him. I don't think anyone else could see this except me. 

People were asking some questions, and some shared their experiences. Sid turned and looked at me to gauge my experience, but my mind was silent and I was still mesmerized. When the session was over and I stood up, I had so much energy that I felt a bit "high". Sid was finally able to ask me, "How was your experience?" "Brilliant...amazing!" I replied, "How was yours?" Sid smiled and said, "Very nice! Divine". I still kept seeing this golden light everywhere as we walked to the dining hall. While we were having lunch I told Sid about my Kriya experience and he said I should share it with Sri M. It was good to have lunch and feel more grounded. 

We had more sessions in the day but we ended early, so after dinner all the participants got together for a spontaneous Kirtan Satsang in the veranda outside the meditation hall. Sid played his guitar. I was relieved to finally go to bed. At night I seemed to go on an astral travel. Everyone travels out of their bodies into astral realms while they sleep, we just don't remember it. However; this time I was aware. I traveled out into space in the form of a little girl, and there I met Sri M who appeared as a gray serpent with yellow eyes. We had a telepathic conversation. Out into space there was a realm with different hues of blue. Perhaps that was Narayan's Vaikunth Lokh? I pointed in that direction and pleading like a child, I asked Sri M to take me back there. Sri M looked at me with compassion and said, "What do I do with you?" I kept looking at him in anticipation. That vision ended there and I returned to my body awareness. In the morning I shared my experience with Sid, and wondered what he would make of it. "Don't discount it Lalla. I suggest you ask Sri M. He's the master. Don't hesitate, this is your chance". 

It was the last day, we were back in the hall, and Sri M was seated in front starting the session. As I had a few times before in my life, I could see his astral body through his physical body. What I saw was the same gray serpent with yellow eyes! The astral body is translucent and fills the space within the frame of the body. His astral form of the serpent was so prominent that it made me uncomfortable. Was I hallucinating? I knew that the Nath Gurus of the Nath Sampradaya were associated with Nagas, i.e., serpents. In his autobiography, Sri M had mentioned this association. The Kundalini is of the form of a serpent, and in the masters whose Kundalini had fully risen, this etheric serpent can perhaps be seen. I wanted to confirm my vision and understanding so during the Q&A session I asked Sri M to tell us about the Nath Sampradaya. He was so happy to explain it to us, and he also mentioned Sai Baba connection to the Naths. Afterwards when we lined up to take his blessings one by one, he smiled and blessed me saying, "Alakh Niranjan!" [Alakh Niranjan is a term used by Nath yogis to describe the Supreme] I still had to confirm if the serpent form I was seeing was for real, so after the session I followed him out of the hall to the exit door. I called out to him, "Sri M...". He turned around and stopped. I asked, "Sri M, are the Naths associated with Nagas?" He looked at me for a second, then laughed, saying, "Do you see me as a Naga?" I replied fervently, "Yes! yes! I do! I can only see you as a Naga". He said jokingly, "And what if I hiss?" and walked away towards his car. Ah! For me he had just confirmed that what I was seeing was real and I was not hallucinating. 

I went running to Sid to tell him about my exchange with Sri M, I was so excited and he so happy. What a wonderful end to an extraordinary course. I did not realize it immediately but over the next many days, a realization slowly and gently opened up within me. Was it that Sri M had just played the role of a Guru for me? Was the energy transfer I felt the Kripa or Anugrah (divine grace) that I had read about in books? Was it that divine grace that gave me the vision of golden light, the astral travel, and the subtle serpent body of Sri M? Had I just been initiated by my Guru? Wow, what a revelation! Sri M, I found out, was in the Bay Area for some private meetings and events, and I had to meet him again. Over the last few years I had started writing articles for spiritual websites and local newspapers, and was keen on interviewing Sri M to reveal this hidden jewel to sincere seekers who were looking for guidance. I contacted Sri M's local coordinator, Naresh, and got an appointment to interview him in a few days. I was thrilled, to say the least, and a bit nervous as well. I gathered a list of questions from seasoned spiritual aspirants and had to add some of my own. That night, when I was thinking of what questions I would ask Sri M, I felt his presence come into my room through the window like a bubble and then came next to me. I wondered if it was really him. Then he told me (telepathically) that he had a surprise for me when I come.

On the day of the interview Sid and I arrived at Naresh's home in Silicon Valley. Sid would assist me by being the cameraman. We were doing a live event on social media and had spread the word about it. Sri M came out from his room wearing casual clothes, we greeted each other, and he remarked that he remembered me from the course. He was so humble and treated us as his equal, with no airs about being a realized master. He and I sat on either side of the cough and we began our conversation. It was a very engaging exchange, and I was focusing on understanding his answers. In one of his replies he started narrating a story about the musk deer by the famous saint Kabir of the fifteenth century. I was looking at Sri M and it happened again. Within the frame of his body, I saw another man, and instinctively I knew it was Kabir. I was not astounded or distracted, in fact I took it with the flow of his narration, and continued with the rest of the interview without anyone knowing what I had just witnessed. After the camera was off I asked Sri M a couple of other questions that I didn't want recorded, one being about ancient civilizations and Naga Lokh. He told me briefly that he had experiential knowledge of an ancient age as he had astrally traveled to this time that existed prior to the ice age. I wanted to know more, but he had to leave for an appointment so he asked me to come back and continue the conversation. We thanked him, touched his feet and left. 

On the drive home I told Sid about my experience, and wondered if Sri M was Kabir in a previous life, or was it Kabir who came within him to channel the story. Soon after reaching I messaged Naresh to give me Sri M's personal email as I wanted to ask him a question. I then emailed Sri M right away relaying the experience I had, asking him if he was indeed Sant Kabir in his previous life, and requested a confirmation on whether I should trust my intuition. He replied to me the next day saying, "Excellent intuition. Love and blessings.  M". I was so happy to receive his reply, and even though he worded it carefully, I knew he was giving me the validation I seeked. He was seasoned enough to know not to specially say in writing that he was a famous saint in his previous life, that would stir controversy. I tried to meet him again to continue our conversation but it didn't happen then, and I hoped that the right time would come in the future. 

My curiosity about Sri M had risen so I devoured his two book, "Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master," and it's sequel, "The Journey Continues," which is about Sri M's past lives so I found it even more fascinating. I read about Sri M and his Guru's encounter with Shirdi Sai Baba, and heard his talks mentioning his connection with Baba. There were many jaw dropping passages in the book about his past lives, such as the narration about extra terrestrials. Even more, he mentions that the Rishis were highly evolved beings of an extra-terrestrials' race that came to the planet on spaceships, landing on Mount Kailash. The passages related to this went on to say that their spaceship had broken down, and they had to wait a long time for help to come from their planet, and as their extra-terrestrial bodies could not acclimatized with this planet, two Rishis died here. Their bodies lay in mummified form in a Himalayan cave guarded by some Buddhist monks. Sri M along with his Guru saw these bodies and the parts of their spaceship left behind. I had an inclining that these ancient Rishis who lived for so long could not be of human origin. Even the Avatars, Sri Ram and Krishn must be highly evolved beings who incarnated here. So many secrets and truths about our history has been lost. They had nothing to do with religion, there is no religion in space, it's only man made religions on earth. It is about the Supreme, and cosmic order, universal existence, knowledge, and love.
I could feel the presence of Sri Guru Babaji when I practiced Kriya, and I could sense that I could communicate with him and have a connection with him. This true Guru took full responsibility of his disciple, of all disciples, and only wanted what was beneficial for those who had faith in them. I felt protected, blessed and loved. It has to be divine Grace that I had such a Guru in my live. I often felt tears of gratitude flow down my cheeks after Kriya and meditation. With his Grace and continuous spiritual practice I felt more positive, compassionate, peaceful and my intuition also became more pronounced. 

Saturday 12 August 2023

Chapter 4 - Bonding with the Divine

 If there is one purpose I had for this life, it is to bond with the divine. Be one with that which is my very own nature, my Dharm, an innate nature of all things in creation. A mysterious self-guided force towards the Source is inborn in every soul. If at any time my life was not in alignment with the flowing from the soul, I was not at ease. It meant I had lost that connection with my inner Self, and the Self was blocked from expressing itself through me. Therefore there was an inner impetus to re-establish that pipeline between the Self and my personality. As anything that is dedicated to the Divine becomes pure, so I felt a deep conviction to dedicate my life to the Supreme. It was not to prove anything to anyone else, but it was my own inner journey. Though Abhi denigrated and mocked me as a weirdo, somehow it didn't affect me at all. I was happy in my own world. While in contrast, he strived to maintain a self-image of being smart and successful. His general knowledge was impeccable, and I knew more about spirituality than many my age. We were mysterious twins, living in opposites. Complementary some might say.

I had several attractive job offers after completing my undergraduate in Computer Science. I chose one that was in Delhi, so that I could go back to living with my parents. Some of my friends went to Bangalore or Mumbai, and others abroad for their Masters. Mina also decided to take a job in Delhi where she could live with her aunt. Her family didn't allow her to go abroad unless she married someone there. In fact, they already had marriage proposals for her which she escaped for now. I was happy anyway, I had a college friend to hang out with in Delhi. So was she. We could disappear at night to have fun having Chaat at South Ex, or watch the latest Bollywood movie at Lajpat Nagar, or spend an enjoyable day at Connaught Place and Janpat.

I had a break of several months before I joined work, and my friends invited me to join them for a trip to Europe. But I wasn't interested. There was a two months Vedanta course at  Sivananda Ashram, Divine Life Society, in Rishikesh which excited me. I begged my parents to allow me to go. After much persuasion, I as elated when they said I could go, but was to be accompanied by a distant cousin, Gaurav, who would also attend with me. Gaurav was a staunch adherent to our family's spiritual tradition of Kashmiri Shaivism. He was more technique oriented as well as more disciplined than me. I was the opposite of traditional. I was so excited and counting days till I left for Rishikesh. A pull so strong. My parents were afraid I might find a Guru at an ashram and never come back! Well, I was definitely interested in checking myself into a Himalayan cave, but perhaps I wouldn't quite fit the bill of an ascetic Sadhu.

As we crossed Lakshman Jhula, I looked around and reminisced the plethora of saints and sages that had attained enlightenment here and guided so many to attain Moksh. Even the air was filled with divine vibrations. I could not have had this opportunity by chance, things are definitely destined and planned. 
The Ganga Aarti was held on the banks of the Ganga at Parmarth Niketan Ashram which was right across the river. Only a fifteen minute walk over the Ram Jhula (bridge). 
The row of priests, the Pujaris, climbed onto their individual daisies facing the Ganga and everyone fell silent. The ceremony proceeded with chants and chimes of various instruments, and culminating in the priests circulating a giant lamp lit with many wicks, followed by another huge lamp burning camphor. This along with the ringing of bells and blowing of conches really lifted everyone's spirits. 
"Today we will start our journey into 'Kashmir Shaivism in the light of Vedanta'. Which is not a common topic. We will explore the similarities and differences between these two ancient schools of thought" 
Gaurav turned to me smiling in glee, and shifted in his seat with eagerness. He was keen on the theoretical aspects of Kashmiri Shaivism. I was here to learn, but as a realization, to become a part of me, not just to put it into my memory banks. Any adventures to mystical places while I was here would be a bonus. 
"Our contemporary, Swami Lakshman Joo, a master of Kashmiri Shaivism, has also spoken on a comparison of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism, and so has Swami Sivananda," said Swamiji. He gave a summary to start,
"The foundation of both schools of thought are based on the principle of Advaita, which is the ultimate Oneness within which all realities exist. The descent of that One Cosmic Consciousness, is also explained in similar ways. Creation being a reflection of that one consciousness, like a dream, is also explained in a similar way in both traditions. This is a summary of what we will explore in more depth in the sessions that follow. If we can look past the labels and terms used by these two traditions, and focus on the essence being conveyed, we will find more similarities than differences". 
"If Truth is one, why, you may ask, should there be differences between those who have attained the Truth? Their definitions of Truth, that is Sat, and of Moksh or enlightenment may not be the same, and even the terms used by various masters can vary. This can be very confusing to truth seekers. So which explanation of Truth is correct? And which school of thought, path and practice should one choose? 
Though Truth is one, It's expressions and experiences are infinite.
In our inclusive Vedic tradition, all paths to Truth are honored, and they add to the wealth of wisdom available to truth seekers. As is in a university, with many schools, subjects and professors. A student can choose a path they feel the most affinity with, the one which resonates with their nature, and most importantly is the path that is most appropriate for their stage of soul evolution". 

We spent the night in Rudraprayag, and next day on our way back to Rishikesh, we stopped at Devprayag, the meeting of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, and both rivers thereafter flow on as the river Ganga. Therefore it is the birthplace of the Ganges. Devprayag was a slightly bigger town with several buildings and temple complexes. We were sitting on the steps outside the temple which led down to the river. The morning Puja had ended and people were walking out of the temple. There was a Swamiji dressed in orange with a small group of people bowing to him, and asking him some questions. We got up and did Pranams to be respectful. He turned and looked at us and asked us where we had come from. Some of us responded to him, and I said I came to Rishikesh for a summer course. Suddenly, he started talking to me as though he knows me, "Don't worry no matter what you do for a living, you will always stay connected to the Supreme. You rather follow a spiritual life than work or get married, am I right?" I was quite stunned, my jaw dropping, so I stumbled some words out of my mouth nodding, "Umm...yah...yes". He continued with a smile, "You are a devotee of Sri Krishn born in a Kashmiri Shaivite family. Do not feel that a worldly family life is opposed to a spiritual life. In this life you will integrate both". Still quite shocked at his words, I just folded my hands and touched his feet, he blessed me and moved on. I was still absorbing his words, standing still, when Gaurav and my friends huddled around me whispering in exhilaration, "What was he saying!" and "How did he know?" etc. One friend asked someone nearby who he was. We were told his name is Swami Siddhananda who had an ashram in the holy city of Haridwar. 
Well, that was an experience to remember and a story to share. At least we got to meet one of the many evolved souls present in these areas. Bharat has and had innumerable Gurus and Siddhis are common place, not that spiritual abilities are necessary or a sign of evolution, they are a natural outcome as the soul ascends. 

When we reached the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas, I felt I had come home. These mountains were full of the mystical experiences of so many over the ages. 

When I saw the "Sivananda Ashram" painted above the entrance, I flew up the stairs in glee. My feet barely touching the ground. Like magnet pulls steel, I felt drawn to this place. Gaurav was far behind climbing up slowly. The ashram seemed so familiar, and I felt comfortable here immediately. I asked around for where we need to register, got checked in and went to our rooms. I was assigned a double room with another female participant, and Gaurav likewise. After washing up, we went down to the hall where everyone had assembled. A young Sadhu was talking to the participants saying that we will first go to attend the Ganga Aarti at sunset, followed by dinner, after which we will have a short orientation. 

When I first reached the banks of the Ganga, it seemed so vibrant, flowing with such energy. I felt so thrilled, a shiver went up my spine. The Ganga definitely felt sacred, a sentient Being. In fact everything here did, nothing was inert, the whole place was alive, reverberating with a presence one could sense. Through the use of my breath, I attuned my vibrations to the higher vibrations present here, like one tunes an instrument to a musical scale. 

There were many Sadhus and Swamis, Gurus and Pandits assembled for the Ganga Aarti, all draped in shades of orange. 

After dinner and orientation, we went to our rooms. I was exhausted after a long day. I met my roommate, Uma Shankaran, who introduced herself. She was wearing a white sari with a deep red border, draped very neatly. She was holding her night clothes on her way to the washroom. I however; was dressed casually in my kurti and pants, probably looked like a rookie. "Is this your first time here?" she asked me in a serious voice. "Yah...how about you?" I replied coolly. She seemed confident and comfortable here. "Oh...I come here every year," she said, pushing up her eye glasses. "I'm associated with Chinmaya Mission Kerala. Our Guru, Swami Chinmayananda, began his spiritual journey here at this ashram with Swami Sivananda ", she explained. "Oh yes! I've got a copy of Swami Chinmayananda's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita," I responded happily. She nodded and smiled and proceeded to the washroom. Lights out and I crashed exhausted. 

5am sharp we were to be present for yoga. After a quick bucket bath, I ran down the stairs to the platform deck next to the Ganges where we did yoga & meditation. When I opened my eyes slightly, there was the sun, it's gentle hues rising above the horizon. I chanted the Gayatri mantra in my mind. The teacher started chanting some morning mantras and we followed along. Many adherents were on the banks of the Ganga, chanting, offering water to the sun, taking a dip in the Ganga, and doing the Sandhya Vandanam (the ancient morning/evening prayer to purify oneself through mantras). What a beautiful sight. If only the rest of the world was so peaceful. 

Food at ashrams is generally simple and Sattvic (pure). We had breakfast and a break before we went to the main hall where our first knowledge session would begin. Gaurav and I sat next to each other in great anticipation. The senior most Swamiji, Swami Chidananda, entered the hall dressed in an orange robe, and we all got up to offer our Pranams (a reverential salutation). Swamiji was boney, slim, and simple. He had a glow on his face and an energetic presence. After he sat on stage cross legged, we all got seated. I could sense the reverence everyone had for Swamiji, as is the tradition in this ancient culture of knowledge. Swamiji closed his eyes, folded his hands in prayer, and started chanting the Shanti mantras. This is to prepare and purify the space to receive knowledge. 

Everyone's mind seemed silent and peaceful as Swamiji started. 

Swamiji first covered the etymology and meaning of Vedanta and Kashmiri Shaivism. Of course he mentioned the works of Abhinavagupta, after whom my twin brother was named. 

After a short pause and some reflection Swamiji continued, 

With these enlightening and soul searching words, Swamiji concluded the morning session. 

There were about two hundred odd participants in the course. We started mingling with each other over lunch and hearing each others' stories. The table on which Gaurav and I were sitting had a couple of other young aspirants who were talking about going to Mouni Baba's cave. This cave had so many mystical tales associated with it. We were excited to join them. We were like a bunch of high school students on a camping trip.

Mouni Baba's cave was about an hour's walk, and we had to rush to be back for the 3 o'clock session. We crossed over the Ganges and passed many temples big and small, ashrams, centers, and people were busy in many spiritual activities. Then we left the small shops and road side eateries behind, and went into a wooded area in a hilly terrain. The path we took was the Nilkanth mountain trek, and we stopped briefly at the beautiful Nilkanth falls where people were bathing. We proceeded quickly to the spot where there was a sign on the road which pointed towards a narrow pathway to Mouni Baba's cave. The rugged path led down along the hillside to a cemented platform which had a Shiv ling, and a stand above it holding a pot dripping water on the Shivling. No one else was here except us. As we walked around the platform, we saw an opening on the side of the hill, which seemed to be an entrance into the cave, so we walked in. It was a reasonably small cave that could fit a few people, the ceiling was low so we crouched as we went further in. Over the years some people had put some tiles and cement in places to hold the structure perhaps. There were paintings on the walls of Shiva, Gurus and Swamis we didn't recognize. At the end of the cave, in a small niche there was a statue of a Yogi sitting cross legged and under that on a plaque was written, "Shri Guru Babaji - also known as Maha Avatar Babaji". There was a tiny altar under the statue with Puja offerings, a Shiva's trident, a Kalash (tumbler) with water, and other articles. It seemed as though this cave was being maintained and visited often by people. As I turned around, I saw Gaurav had already sat down, cross legged, and started meditating. The three of us got the cue from him and sat down to meditate as well. That is when we truly felt the cave, in that stillness there was so much life. As though the cave was talking to us, transmitting the vibrations of eons of holy sages that had meditated here. The top of my head was tingling, and I either feel asleep or went into a void. The next thing I heard was Gaurav saying, "Let's go..it's time to go, we must not be late". I opened my eyes, still in stillness, and brought myself back into the present moment quickly. Apparently twenty minutes had passed, and I didn't realize it. I felt fresh and recharged. I got up without feeling tired anymore. I folded my hands, bowed down to Babaji, touching my forehead to floor. Then we left the cave, and quickened our pace down the path back to our ashram to join our next knowledge session. 

After dinner we sat for a bit with a group of our newly acquired friends on the platform deck overlooking the Ganga. The river looked so serene, with the moonlight reflecting sparkles on it's waves. The crickets were chirping, and a cool moist breeze made the atmosphere very pleasant. One person in the group, Aditya, was telling us a story about how an astral form of Shivananda appears often in the meditation room in the wee hours of the morning. Some Swamis and disciples who have meditated in the meditation hall between 3 and 4am have seen his form that appears in a light form . Some folks got spooked and left for their rooms. Rest of us were hooked on hearing more mystical stories, especially first hand experiences, but soon we retired for the night for an early start the next morning.

We absorbed ourselves in the knowledge sessions, and often discussed the topics afterwards. It was also a lot of fun interacting with participants, pulling each other's leg, and enjoying our small excursions to ancient spiritual spots that we had only read about in books. 

One weekend some of us decided to hire a taxi and go up to Rudraprayag, a few hours drive from Rishikesh. Located at the confluence (Prayag) of the roaring Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers, it is an amazing site to see, with immense mountains in the backdrop, white water gushing through their lap, a V shaped crag between the two rivers as they meet and a temple perched there at the tip. Several other buildings of ashrams and resting places are dotted here and there. There were many pilgrims visiting this holy site, as well as several ascetics, the Sadhus and Aghori Babas - they are well known in these regions. Aghoris generally reside in remote places away from people, like caves or temples where they do long periods of intense spiritual practices, and are distinctly recognized by their ash smeared bodies, matted hair, holding tridents or a long walking stick. Who knows how many ascetic Yogis were in deep long meditative states somewhere up in the Himalayan caves, we have only heard stories that they exist. Even in the freezing cold winters in the snow, these yogis can be scantily clad and barely eat, as they are able to generate internal heat and energy from their Sadhana (spiritual practices including Pranayama, Yoga postures and Dhyan).

We rested here at Rudraprayag for lunch, and walked down the steps from the temple to the rocky river bed. The roar of the rivers and mist filled the air, with temple bells ringing faintly in the background. It is an unimaginable feeling, not just for the natural beauty, but the divinity of it. From ancient times, great Rishis, enlightened beings, have walked this sacred land, to absorb in the vibrations of their investment, is truly a blessing. 

At each critical juncture in my life some divine guidance always came through someone, like this Swamiji who reassured me about integrating the inner and outer worlds. Towards the end of our two month sojourn in Rishikesh, I hoped we had done justice to this sacred land. Though I felt something was missing, perhaps I had a deep desire to have spent my time here with a true Guru, who would have guided me in the way of the ancient Guru-disciple tradition. Similar to the way Balakrishna Menon had found Tapovan Maharaj, who later became Swami Chinmayananda, and many other such stories. Was this tradition becoming extinct? Or would I ever find my Guru?

It was hard leaving Rishikesh and all the friends we had made. We promised to stay in touch and have a reunion the following year. As we tore ourselves away from the near perfect environment of Rishikesh, and descended down the hills towards Delhi, it seemed as though we exited a bubble of higher vibrations and were back to the land of Maya. Still charged with the pure energies of the holy Himalayas, our faces glowed, we were told, when we returned back home. 

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Chapter 2 - A Child Arrives in the World

 Once long ago my soul was born from the Cosmic Mother, in a similar way this incarnation on Gaia was born from a human mother. It is so difficult for a soul to descend into dense vibrations and Earth's gravity. Initially, I the soul, spent a lot of out of the body in astral realms during long hours of sleep. This made it easy to slowly adapt to my soul's new garment, a baby's body. When the body's base needs for food and poop were needed, the baby cried, though the nature of female body I had adopted was quite calm. My twin brother, however; who was playing the role of fear, cried often and was difficult to breastfeed. My gentle and loving mother's caress and cradling was most blissful. I was happy to have her back as my mother, as in one of my previous lives I had lost her as my mother when I was just a child. That impression of the pain of losing my mother's unconditional love was still with me. Now I was in her arms again. An expression of the divine mother as my mother. My father (who was also my father in the same past life) came to check on my mother and picked me up from the cradle, he smiled at me, kissed me, and spoke to me in baby language. I could barely see anything from my physical eyes, but I felt everything, and knew many things intuitively, as most babies do. 

My twin brother was in another cradle next to mine. My aunt was holding him, with my uncle (my father's brother) looking on. It was the mid 60s on the planet, in the month of September and so much was happening around the world. I was born into a Kashmiri Pandit family in Srinagar, India, a turbulent part of country which was relatively stable when I was born. My father, SadaShiv Bhatt, was a surgeon, working in the medical university hospital where we were born. My parents had recently returned from England where he studied and worked as a surgeon. It had been nine long years of my parents trying for a child, my mother, Sharada, was given fertility pills, and now they had twins. 

We stayed in the hospital for five days, after which we moved to our new home. My parents, uncle, and aunt, lived in a beautiful wooden bungalow on the north side of the famous Dal Lake of Srinagar. The house staff was so happy to see us as they opened the gate to our long driveway. Autumn was setting in, leaves were turning colors and falling from the trees in our picturesque yard. As we exited the car, my father picked me up from my mother's lap, I could feel the cool air for the first time. I was well bundled in hand knitted soft wool jersey, cap and booties. Our nanny, whom everyone called Aaya, was standing at the entryway with others to honor our first entry into our home with a lit oil lamp on a plate with some flowers and rice. The air in the house was pleasant with the subtle scent of Deodar and walnut wood. Aaya ji, as I later called her with respect, said that the children's room had been prepared and kept warm, so we headed upstairs to our cozy room. My twin brother and I were nursed and went to sleep. My mother could also rest now. 

Unbeknownst to anyone else except my twin and I, several family members who had passed on came to see the newborns and celebrate. It is joyous for them as well. This included our great grandfather, and grandparents from both sides of the family. There were also some Kashmiri spiritual masters who came in their etheric bodies that had connections to our family, as well as our guides for this life. These guides where already giving us messages and knowledge pertinent for our days ahead. My twin and I also had long telepathic conversations at the soul level and shared our experiences of this new life. 

The next day, the sixth day from our birth, we were given a herbal purifying bath, which is one of life's milestone rituals, Samskāras, in the Vedic tradition. In the past the umbilical cord was partially left and it dried and fell off naturally, after which this bath was given. Perhaps common in our native traditions as well. Then on the eleventh day is another important milestone, in Kashmiris it's called Kah Naethar, commonly known in Sanskrit as Naam Karan ceremony, somewhat like baptism, where we are given our names according to our birth star, Nakshatra. Each constellation has two or three prominent or ruling stars, which totals twenty seven (27) Nakshatras. Vedic philosophy says that each object has a resonant frequency and so also each Nakshatra is associated with four letter sounds. This sound vibration resonates with the souls that are born under its influence. Therefore when we call a person by the name that starts with this sound it has a harmonizing effect on the soul. Interestingly, as my twin and I were born forty minutes apart, we were born under different Nakshatras

Some family members and close friends had come for our naming ceremony. Panditji (priest) came late and started the ceremony immediately. He had created our birth charts according to Jyotish, Vedic astrology, and wrote our names according to our Nakshatras. My twin brother was given the name, Abhinava, to be called Abhi for short. Abhinavagupta was a famous Kashmiri Shaivite philosopher, a mystic and aesthetician from the tenth century in Kashmir. He was also considered an influential musician, poet, dramatist, exegete, theologian, and logician. I was given the name Lalleshwari, or Lalla for short, which was also the name of a famous mystic saint of Kashmir from the fourteenth century, venerated both by Hindus and Muslims over the centuries. These were names that we as souls had chosen, though as the drama plays out we are not aware of these higher truths. Many masters, divine beings and ancestors were also present at the ceremony in their astral forms. 

The scent of the offerings in the prayer, flowers, camphor, ghee lamp, filled the room and purified the environment. There can be no celebration in India without food! It was the first event after our birth, and that too after so many years of waiting for a child, so the celebrations were grand and many Kashmiri delicacies were prepared for the feast called Wazwan. We as babies were tired and we taken by Aaya ji upstairs to be cradled to sleep while the elders engaged in vibrant conversations downstairs. After everyone left, the dozen or so house staff also ate, and our family sat together talking over Kashmiri tea, kahva, about family and friends who came.

Our childhood was spent in utter bliss, much like heaven, in the shadow of the grand Himalayas, the beauty of the Kashmir valley, crip clean air, open spaces to run and have fun, and be nurtured by our extended family. Occasionally we had Pujas and Abhishek at home to honor the great One undivided consciousness, Rudra or Shiva in Kashmiri Shaivism, or for Narayan the primordial Being in the Vaishnav tradition of our ancestors. On one such occasion when we were four, there was a PujaSanskrit chanting was going on, and the room was filled with scent of incense, camphor, ghee, and flowers. I remembered this fragrance and the feeling of these sacred offerings for the rest of my life. However; Abhi was agitated and restless. He was usually hyper and couldn't sit still, even though my mother tried to talk him into sitting quietly. He threw a tantrum and left the room. I however; couldn't keep my eyes open. My mind was absorbed in the vibrations of the Mantras and I slowly drifting into a deep trance, to be later awoken with the tapping on my shoulder by my cousin who was handing out the Prasaad (similar to a Catholic Mass at the end of which everyone is given wine and bread). My aunt was singing a Bhajan while playing the harmonium, my mother chimed the cymbals, and Panditji rang the prayer bell while chanting some Mantras to conclude the Puja. 

Then I saw a saint like person, a translucent figure, walk down the middle aisle in the room blessing people on both sides with his right hand and smiling. I was neither shocked or scared, I was in a different state of awareness, one in which I seemed to have a 'knowing'. I did not realize that no one else could see him except me, and at that young age I could not differentiate between what was normal and mystical. That recognition came later when I grew up. When he disappeared after blessing everyone I saw the clock on the back wall, the time was 11:11am. Many years later I found out that the saint that appeared was Bhatt Kalshar. He was famous for the hymns he channelled that were written into the Sikh text, the Adi Granth. This was at the time of Guru Arjan Dev, in the latter half of the 16th century. Bhatt Kalshar brought along with him ten other Kashmiri Pandit Bhatts to be with Guru Arjan. All eleven of these Bhatts composed hymns that were incorporated into the Adi Granth, which later became the Guru Granth Sahib. One of the common phrases in Sikhism, "Wahe Guru" was actually introduced by the Bhatts, as it's a common term in Kashmiri Shaivism. Most Sikhs do not know this. Bhatt Kalshar was also one of our family's forefathers, his portrait was in our Puja room.

"Zainab!" I yelled running, slipping and sliding in my slippers, "wait for me". Zainab, my five year old classmate and best friend, ran ahead of me laughing. She ran right through the entrance of her modest home and hid behind the door. Her father, Ali, stood there watching us. I came inside and asked, "Salaam uncle, have you seen Zainab?" He just smiled. Hussain, her seven year old brother, stormed into the room and pulled Zainab out from behind the door, producing her in front of me saying, "here she is Lalla". "Stop it Hussain! Leave my hand!" Zainab broke her hand free from his grab, "Chalo Lalla, let's go upstairs". "Wait Zainab," said aunty from inside the kitchen, "eat something first". 

Four older brothers of Zainab returned from the Madrassa, the Islamic study school where they went after regular school. We all sat around the long wooden table, Zainab's six siblings, father, and us. Aunty and Zainab's eldest sister served us food and pink milk tea. Both of us were in our own world talking about what we would play next while the older siblings and uncle were discussing more serious affairs. Just then, two very intense looking men, uncle's friend and son, came to pay a visit. They were greeted, asked to join us on the table, then served tea and food. Once we finished the elders were moving to the living room area, while Zainab and I were heading upstairs. The young man who had come with his father stared down at me, then suddenly put his hand forcefully on my shoulder saying, "Eh, she's a Kafir! Why you have her as your friend?" I froze with shock. Ali immediately intervened, removing his hand off my shoulder saying, "She's not a Kafir! And it's none of your business!" Young Ali starred daringly into the much taller and muscular young man. Both the fathers stepped in and de-escalated the situation. While my heart was pounding and mind numb with fright, Zainab pulled me towards her and embraced me in her arms. My hands and feet were trembling. I felt too uncomfortable to stay, so I moved away from Zainab, and ran out of the house. Our driver was standing at a distance, "Amir kākā", I yelled, "chalo - let's go!" I opened the back door of car and sat inside panting. "What happened Bitiya?" Amir asked. "Nothing, I just want to go home now," I said. 

That night, in my sleep, as I shot up into the astral realms, like we all do, I was joined by my spirit guides in long flowy white robes and light bodies. There also were the souls of Ali, Zainab and Wahab, the young man who had called me "Kafir", a non-believer of Islam. Here however; we did not have those identities of man made religions or their beliefs used to control humans for power. There are universal laws here, and no one can deny truth or true reality. The lives we were living on the planet were like a dream, like a movie which we saw from here together with our guides, while we slept in our beds on earth. 

So who are we? We are divine sparks of Source, though various in the roles we play, there is an underlying canvas of consciousness that connects us. There really is nothing but Source, the Supreme Being. Here we were, souls from various soul families, that existed in other realms of creation. We came for an important transition for humanity, to evolve beyond human identities. We were here to demonstrate to humanity through our own evolution. Removing the narrow boundaries created from human limitations. There are higher evolutionary virtues like compassion, cooperation, humility, service to others; and lower vibrational vices like fear, hatred, ignorance and arrogance. It was this differentiation between virtues and vices that man ignored and focused on the differences of identity like religion, nationality, gender and status. Simply put, there are good and bad people in all religions and nationalities. It was also important for certain groups to move from exclusivity of "heaven" for "believers" to an inclusivity for all of humanity and beyond. 

Our souls were given telepathic messages by our guides to keep nourishing our intuition and connection with our Inner Being as well as Supreme Being. To live in the realm of energy, while adapting to the world of matter. To follow our inner guidance, and trust our hearts. We were told that by our presence alone we would lift the vibration of earth, and serve others by being an example. Lastly, they soaked us with a blissful light so loving that, that is beyond comprehension. Rejuvenated we were ready to return to our bodies. That is how we spent our nights together, quite a contrast from what our characters were experiencing on the planet. 


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