16 04 2018

Denise Linn was one of the first to popularise the whole modern (and I suppose by that I mean Western) approach to reincarnation: learning how to recall one’s past lives and perhaps also undergoing past-life therapy either by oneself or with the help of a professional past-life therapist. She is a writer and lecturer to whom many (if not all) more recent writers on this topic are indebted.

This does not mean that I, or any other student of reincarnation, is going to agree with everything she says. Personally, I take issue with her on several points.

Let’s start though, as she does, with her being knocked off her motorbike by a man in a car who then got out of his car, aimed a gun at her, and shot her. Miraculously, she survived. But the Near Death Experience she describes in detail changed her life, and led directly to her subsequent studies with teachers and gurus as diverse as Zen Buddhist monks, a Hawaian shaman, a Japanese Grand Master of Reiki, and a wise old Native American named Dancing Feather.

The best part of the book is perhaps the chapter on How to Recall a Past Life, which includes a section of Past Life Clues under eighteen different heads ranging from Childhood Games to Food Preferences to Books and Movies, and of course including Déjà Vu Experiences, Personality Traits, Fears and Phobias, and Dreams (as in the title). (If it had been me writing, I would have at least mentioned aptitude for particular foreign languages, which I consider one of the most significant clues.) In the same chapter there is a section on Visualization Technique with a whole series of “different methods that can help you make a successful transition”. Of these, I particularly like the “time tunnel”, the “river of time” and the ‘room of doors”; the method she calls the “mists of time” was new to me as she sets it out but I have tried it and it works – rather more abruptly and completely than the others, so it should be approached with caution (don’t do it alone first time!). This is followed by an actual script you can either record and play back or get someone to read to you while you set about making the transition.

All this is fine, and as I say, indispensable reading even if much of it has been copied and repeated by other authors.

Where I have trouble is with Denise Linn’s concept of changing the past, a form of past-life therapy she seems to particularly favour. Something that happened in a past life is having a traumatic effect on your current life? Then change it. You weren’t drowned, you survived – you didn’t have an abusive step-father, you had a very kind and loving one – and so on. “I believe that you can actually change the past,” she says, but continues “if this is too much for you to accept, then imagine that you are changing the images that are stored in your brain …”

And then there is the problem of Future Lives. Predestination, and its corollary, possible foreknowledge of the future, is a subject on which the great philosophers of the past have disagreed and modern philosophers still do disagree. I obviously cannot begin to go into it here. I would just like to quote one more line from this book and then leave you to read the whole thing for yourself and make up your own mind.

“The future,” she says, “is as malleable as the past.” But surely it should be much more so? No one has any trouble with the concept of planning the future, it is the concept of planning the past which is difficult to grasp – or to swallow.



13 12 2017

Swami Satyananda Saraswati is the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga and so far as I am concerned this book is the yoga Bible. I first studied it back in the 90s, and I have been referring to it continuously ever since. It is, as it says in the Preface, “the refined essence of the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati to his sannyasin disciples at Bihar School of Yoga [and] is intended to serve as the complete textbook for persons learning and teaching all levels of the basic yogic practices.”

It begins – a section for beginners (but everyone should go on doing this!) – with the Pawanmuktasana series of exercises, and there on the first page is TOE BENDING. Sounds so simple, almost silly, certainly not “yoga”, but it is important and I practise that and ANKLE BENDING (also on page 1) every day, along with various other exercises in this basic series designed to rid the body of excess gas and acid and so ease or remove entirely any rheumatic discomfort. “Though they seem very simple they have subtle effects on the practitioner.”

This is followed by a series of asanas for stiff muscles and joints, another series for the eyes, relaxation postures, meditative poses, and various other relatively easy exercises and asanas.

Then come the Middle and Advanced groups of asanas – not to be attempted until you have mastered all the basic exercises and postures, and even then preferably under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher. (Check on your teacher before enrolling as a student by asking him/her about this book!)

Then, as promised in the title, there are sections on Pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) and on the Bandhas and Mudras. Bandhas and Mudras are physical holds and gestures, some easy to perform, others needing months or years to perfect, but all of which have a profound effect on the practitioner’s psyche.

The book closes with a section on psychic physiology and the chakras, and a brief survey of yoga therapy for specific disorders, though for this last we need something more specialised and detailed, and I will discuss a couple of the best yoga therapy books in future posts.

The paperback edition is available everywhere including Amazon but is quite expensive, so you may be interested to know that a fully illustrated PDF version is available FREE here:-


Saraswati: Hindu Goddess of Aesthetics and Protector of the Universe

11 03 2017

Source: Saraswati: Hindu Goddess of Aesthetics and Protector of the Universe

Widows celebrate Holi in Uttar Pradesh

24 03 2016

Indian widows colorfully break a 400-year-old taboo

widows Holi

On March 21, thousands of widowed women gathered at temples in Vrindavan in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to celebrate the spring festival of Holi. In doing so, they violated a 400-year-old Hindu tradition. More …


27 10 2011

Princess Celebrating Diwali

I know! I’m a day late! But I didn’t get a chance to … anyway you can find a great article on Diwali – my favourite Indian  Feast Day – HERE

YOGA FOR YOUR TYPE by David Frawley and Sandra Summerfield Kozak

28 06 2011

Yoga and Ayurveda have led parallel lives in India throughout the millennia, rather than intertwined and interacted. A little like Kahlil Gibran’s image of marriage as two trees growing side by side, not one tree.

Ayurveda is the traditional Indian medical system. Its sole aim is physical and mental well-being in this life. It begins by classifying people according to the three doshas, Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water). As the authors put it, “Dosha means ‘what causes things to spoil’ and relates to the disease-creating potential of the humors. Vata means ‘wind’; Pitta means ‘bile’; and Kapha refers to ‘mucus and phlegm.’ Wind, bile and mucus are the three main forms of toxins that cause pain and disease as they accumulate in the body. Wind causes dryness, stiffness, nervousness and debility. Bile, which is a form of fire, causes infection, inflammation, bleeding and fever. Mucus causes congestion, edema and obesity.” There is much more detail in the book, but that sums it up neatly.

People are born with one of these doshas prevalent in their constitution, and according to which dosha it is, Ayuveda prescribes an ideal diet and way of life for them. This is not the time to go further into the question of diet and way of life. I will do that when reviewing a couple of the best books on Ayurveda. The book I am considering today, despite the excellent discussion of Ayuveda and the doshas in the opening chapters, is first and foremost a Yoga instruction manual, and a very good one.

What we have to understand is that modern Yoga, and not only in the West, has changed its emphasis, grown closer to Ayurveda.

When Vyasa, in the 4th century AD, compared and contrasted Yoga and Ayurveda (in his commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), he said that in Yoga the disease was existence in this world and the only cure release from the cycle of reincarnation. And that is the point. The traditional Yoga of India is fundamentally life-negating. The practice of the yamas and niyamas, pranayama and asanas and mudras, make it possible for one to meditate without distracting physical distress and discomfort (their main purpose) and may also enable one to live longer and in such adverse circumstances as the middle of the jungle or high in the Himalaya. And, yes, we can talk about different yogas such as Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga so on, but they have little or nothing to do with the maintenance of good health and the treatment of dis-ease, physical and psychological, that we in the West think of as “Yoga” or “Yoga Therapy”.

What the authors do in this book – it is probably the best of Frawley’s many books, and certainly in my view the most useful – is to put the positive, life-sustaining (if not life-affirming) side of Yoga alongside the principles of Ayurveda and come up with a system.

First you must establish your prakriti, your constitution, the Dosha that predominates in your make-up. They provide a questionnaire to enable you to do this. Then for each asana he tells you both the effect it has on the Doshas – does it tend to increase or decrease them? – and how you should go about performing the asana, dependent on your constitution. Fantastic. Really. That, and the long-term programs for pacifying each Dosha in the last section of the book, are perhaps the most helpful and comprehensive guide to yoga practice ever produced.

But nothing is perfect, and we do quickly run into some problems. First of all, what is known as your vikruti, your doshic balance, or rather imbalance, now (as opposed to your prakriti, your natural/innate doshic constitution) is not really taken into consideration. And it is very important. Which means you need more than this book. Ideally, you should find an expert to diagnose your situation, your vikruti, now. Then you will be able to make full use of this book.

Secondly, it is a fact that most people do not fall neatly into one single doshic category. For instance, I am a mixture, physically and psychologically, of Vata and Pitta. A friend of mine is clearly Pitta physically, but just as clearly Vata psychologically. The authors give little or no advice concerning this difficulty. Again, get advice from an expert. A book can only do so much.

And now I would like to warn you against an earlier book by David Frawley, Yoga & Ayurveda. The same subject, more or less, but not nearly so well done. Instead of focusing on the asanas, as the later book does so well, it tries to cover the whole of Yoga and the  whole of Ayurveda. The result is simply a confused and confusing introduction to the two subjects.

But there is worse: an underlying attitude throughout the book that I, for one, find extremely irritating. I think it is the Indian pretensions. For much of it is not really Indian at all, it is simply trendy western greenism which, while it may have a lot to be said for it, has absolutely nothing to do with either Yoga or Ayurveda. For instance, in the chapter entitled “The Era of Bad Food” Frawley says: The quality of food in our culture is generally low, as most of us have come to know. [Because we keep being told so by people like him.] […] Poor food quality begins with bad soils, chemical fertilizers, and the use of insecticides and herbicides on the plants, the long term effects of which are unknown. […] On top of this comes the processing of food, which may include irradiation, freezing and canning, along with additives and preservatives of all types. As if this was not enough, our cooking procedures involve microwave ovens, over-cooking, and an excess [sic] use of oils, sugar, salt and spices.

Compared with Indian food, Western food is virtually devoid of oils and spices. But that is not the point I wish to make. All this that he finds so bad is how the world is fed. Without the use of fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides it would be hard to feed one billion people, let alone six billion. He says the long term effects of eating such food are unknown. The long term effect of not eating such food is, for 80% of the world’s population, starvation.

And another thing. Anyone who says that “the quality of food in our culture is generally low” must have absolutely no notion of what food used to be like before the era of refrigeration and canning and so on. For large parts of the year there was little or no food for anyone, even the rich. People today live longer, and the population is growing, precisely because of the ready availability of good food – yes, good food: meat and fish that does not stink, vegetables that are not rotten, grains that are not mouldy.

He goes on: Unfortunately, the coming century stands to inherit not only bad food, but bad water and bad air as well. Is he not aware that until recently people drank beer and wine all the time in towns and cities because the water was toxic? In the Middle Ages and through to Victorian times, everyone was always mildly inebriated all the time. And as for the air, with  no flush toilets and open sewers and rotting meat and vegetables everywhere …

But, he says, “We can at least get good bottled water.” Really. How many people in India can afford to drink bottled water? How many people in the West can afford to drink bottled water?? At least this shows his view point: that of an extremely wealthy westerner.

Thankfully, in the later book, all this nonsense has been avoided.


23 05 2011

I have been criticised – no, that’s a little harsh, it was simply a comment – because despite all the hints and promises when I started this blog I have in fact posted little or nothing on India or yoga or philosophy. Also, my colleague at Medieval Mysteries, M.B.Gilbride, reminds that I promised ages ago to do something on Indian comics.

So let me kill at least two birds with one post by reviewing an unbelievably good Indian comic, actually a graphic travel book, published by Indica Books for visitors to Kashi, otherwise known as Banaras, Benares, Varanasi. Anyone remotely interested in the real India should head for Varanasi (that’s what I know it as) at some point during their visit to the sub-continent – and by that I suppose I mean at some point during their lives.

The book is called, appropriately, A Pilgrimage to Kashi, Kashi, the City of Light, being the original name of this Holy City, believed by all Hindus to be the oldest city in the world. It is designed not just for foreign visitors, not even primarily for foreign visitors, but for Indians coming on pilgrimage to Kashi from all over India. Remember that India is home to a billion people who, never having suffered under a totalitarian government – unlike the Chinese – still speak many different languages, and that publishing a book in English is one way of making it accessible.

As you see, it is subtitled “HISTORY, MYTHOLOGY AND CULTURE OF THE STRANGEST AND MOST FASCINATING CITY IN INDIA” and that is how it begins – look at the first page, here.

But it manages to combine this with the story of a typical Indian family visiting Varanasi from their home in Bombay (Mumbai) – see the page where they are introduced, here. Notice the different attitudes, especially the daughter’s, which is all too common in India today.

Then we accompany these four people as the uncle, who lives in Varanasi, shows them round the old city and the ghats (the steps leading down to the river) and tells them the myths, the legends and the history. Most of the ghats are ‘bathing ghats’ but two are ‘burning ghats’, where bodies are burnt. You see all this in the book, but one of the best things about it is the way different viewpoints are presented: here the boatman, a poor man, argues with the uncle, a holy man.

We learn about the traditional silk industry, for instance, and the even more traditional courtesans, and much, much else.

I can think of no better introduction to the Eternal City. After reading this – and read it twice, it is ultra-easy-reading! – everything will seem familiar to you the moment you arrive. And that is wonderful – like reading a book set in the Middle Ages then having a time machine to take you there to experience it for yourself! But will it last? Yes, if it is left up to the people of India, but outsiders might destroy it – the Emperor Aurangzeb, a fanatical muslim, came close to doing so once (the story is in this book), and look what the Chinese are doing virtually unopposed in Tibet. They must never be allowed to press down into India.