Forays into Hindu spirituality from a seeker's perspective covering some of the core ideas of adhyatma and how to interpret them in today's time and context. Based on experiences and interactions with different Yogis and sadhaks, the book also contains an exploration of some common and uncommon deities from different branches within Hinduism.
Rajarshi Nandy has worked as a technical writer for a decade before switching to the role of an editor/columnist for online portals like India facts and Sirf News. His abiding interest lies in exploring, experiencing and experimenting with the spiritual practices within the fold of Sanatana Dharma. He runs a website and a popular Facebook page named "Adhyatmikta" dealing with these topics.
I had started my explorations into Hindu spirituality in 2005 right after the annual Durga Pujas. It was a challenging time personally with problems on multiple fronts and no clear solution in sight, when a chance encounter with a great Yogi (whom I call Jethu) completely turned things around, gave me a glimpse of a world different from what the five senses can capture. It also landed me on a path of sadhana, to explore and find out for myself if there were any truth in these things.
In fact days before that eventful meeting, I had a first conscious and concrete experience that defied normal logic and rationale. I was inside the Durga Puja pandal in Bangalore and as it happens in Bengali Durga pujas, there was a typical ambiance of chatty socializing in a holiday mood. I was looking around seeing the people and their activities and the decorations of the murti and comparing it in my mind with other murtis in other pandals when suddenly, without warning, it felt as if all noise around me has been cut off and I was inside a zone of absolute silence and before my eyes I could see not an idol but a pair of living eyes, and a powerful, undeniable presence. Organically, without mental calculations, a prayer rose from the heart and I asked for two specific things: an unquestionable demonstration of the truth, or otherwise of this experience. The second was something more private. Right after this, within a week, I got to meet Jethu, who incidentally is the greatest Devi upasaka and one of the finest human beings I have encountered till date, and he inspired me to start a routine of daily japa of a mantra. This carried on for a year until again during the next Durga Puja I had another experience which was not only beyond the mind's capacity to comprehend, but also quite unnerving, at least temporarily.
Eventually, a few months later I felt an urge to start doing homas regularly as a sadhana, and in April 2007, after coming back from a trip to the Kumbh Mela in Prayag, started with fire rituals as an experiment to see where it leads. I was well aware that I lacked ritual proficiency at that time, but in order to make up for any lacunae, I ensured a greater sincerity and devotion towards the deity whose upasana I was trying to accomplish. Soon homas became the mainstay of my spiritual practice. After about 2 years, I found out a more structured manner of performing homas from the writings of Vedic astrologer and Sanskrit scholar Sri Narasimha Rao, and then customized the process further based on observations of fire rituals performed by different experts, into something that suits my personal sadhana best. From 2007 till 2018, as I write this, fire has remained a constant in my spiritual practice irrespective of the deity I was or am worshiping at any given time. While a homa may not by itself make someone spiritual, in fact no ritual performed mechanically can, it is still a very powerful method, which I believe can be tried by anyone who is sincerely desirous of spiritual progress.
That one trigger in 2005 led to a long journey of sadhana which went on parallel to regular life. I explored, evolved, practiced, met advanced Yogis and sadhaks, visited ancient temples and reputed place of special spiritual potency, experienced altered states, analyzed my own convictions, took U-turns galore when something did not match up, deconstructed my beliefs and assumptions, and eventually settled into a personalized understanding of the spiritual Dharma and process. A landmark stage in own development was the discovery of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's writings. Another was Ramana Maharishi and the mystical power of Lord Arunachala. Throughout the book, you will find references taken from the lives and words of famous saints, specially Ramana Maharishi, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, when explaining a point. In spirituality merely bookish knowledge is insufficient. One needs to match experience with contemplation on texts, and an objective reading of the thoughts and biographies of spiritual giants. Every new experience gives a fresh way of looking at old ideas. In this age it is a given that mistakes will be made. Smartness lies in recognizing the same, rectifying, and moving ahead with sadhana again with a clean aspiration and faith on the ultimate benevolence of the Divine.
This book is not meant to act as a primer on Hinduism or the more accurate term, Sanatana Dharma. It is not for those who believe in the calendar-art version of pop-Hinduism that amusingly normalizes Dharma into banal quotable quotes. Neither is it aimed to warm the cockles of the orthodox hearts, or the literalists, or self-appointed guardians of any specific sampradaya, but only those who are keen to experience the gods for the joy and richness that such an experience can bring may find this book useful, not in the sense of a final or definitive text of adhyatma, but more as an exercise in honest exploration of the spiritual path and process involved, with as much objectivity as one may subjectively muster.
The first half of the book contains a collection of thoughts and observations on different topics related to adhyatma, and the second half contains essays on some deities within Hinduism. Some of these essays have been published earlier in magazines and online forums. Though I have made an attempt to arrange the material in the first half based on the progressions in sadhana, one may read the book from any chapter.
Finally, I would like to especially thank Markus Horlacher for kindly allowing the use of this photograph of the Red Mountain Arunachala for the book's cover.
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