THE MYSTERY THAT IS NADI ASTROLOGY
“Passage to India!”
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
For many, like myself, getting into yoga was like falling in love. Suddenly, it’s like you’ve come home and it’s so beautiful, you just can’t get enough and your heart is full to overflowing. Yet the Honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Doubt begins to creep back in and the real work starts. If we were truly in touch with and honest about our feelings, we could look squarely at it and see that something just isn’t working any more. At this point could either jump ship, or try our best to plug that hole in the relationship. For me, there was no question of jumping ship, because yoga had awakened something in me so deep in those first few years that there was never any way I could go back to my former life. The Beloved had rocked me awake from my slumber and had me knocking at Her door for further sailing.
In the realm of relationships, we have this curious expression in English of being “faithful” to our partner, and one of the greatest taboos in our society is to be “unfaithful” in the realm of love. In reality, how many marriages and relationships that remain intact do so while in a state of shipwreck. Again, is it more noble and courageous to stay with the sinking ship, or to swim for shore? Wisdom suggests that there are no wrong moves in this game of life, yet that wisdom also needs faith to support it and make it more than mere regurgitation of sage advice. In my case, I was left wondering when and where that faith would come from as I had always seemed to get so close, so close…only to have the Great Whale slip through my fingers, leaving me to tell the story of the big one that got away. In other words, I was on a quest for true, unshakeable faith in something that I could hold onto both as a guide and source of continual inspiration. My teachers alone, when I was honest with myself, still left me doubting. This book, and the story you are about to read in particular, is a document of my search for that archimedean anchor point by which I could in a sense prove my faithfulness to my lover and myself.
When I was in Bangalore during my first India trip, my mentor, L, strongly suggested I go get a palm leaf reading. Now, like you most likely, I had no clue what a palm leaf reading was… “Is it like reading your palm?” I asked naively. L laughed and explained that thousands of years ago, in deep meditation, certain yogi sages were able to access the life information of souls who were to incarnate in the future. In other words, they were able to read what has now popularly known in New Age circles and beyond as the “Akashic Records,” which is believed to be an etheric storehouse where all material impressions (karma) are archived. These great seers then recorded this information on palm leaves and the leaves were passed down from generation to generation via lineage with the knowledge of how to read and interpret them.
So essentially, a palm leaf reading (known in India as “Nadi,” or “lifestream” readings) is, at least in theory, a soul analysis done by a highly trained person who knows how to find, read, and interpret a person’s individual leaf. The idea, as mind blowing as this sounds, is that if you go to a palm leaf reader, you’re probably meant to, and your leaf has been there waiting for you for possibly thousands of years, collecting dust until that moment when you arrive to get your reading.
I can see some of you turning this off already, yet hang in there. While it is true there are all manner of frauds in India making one outrageous claim or another, if there is just one that is true, then it is worth examining these matters. Being a seeker myself and new to all of this, I was all for going to the Nadi Reader and seeing if my leaf was really there. I wasn’t that naïve, however; I was trained in philosophy and did know how to think criticially and ask questions. As with Paul Brunton, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with anything more than exact details there on the leaf – names, numbers, past and future events foretold, etc. Having been in India for a couple of weeks already, though, I was realizing that this kind of certainty was going to be hard to come by. Still, I was hopeful and game, so off we went…
[What follows is a reliable reconstruction of the events based upon my journal, recollection, and notes I took during my Nadi reading.]
Praying to Ganesha all along, yet still there are obstacles…First thing that happens when we arrive at the Nadi reader’s place is that it looks like he won’t have time for me today, and after all, I haven’t made an appointment. But we wait it out (my friend, at least, knows not to take “no” for an answer in India) and after an interminable wait with lots of mantras and attempts at meditation, we’re finally led into his inner chamber, which is basically just a little office with a small room in the back of his desk housing the leaves.
This Nadi reader is very sweet, speaks good English and seems somewhat cosmopolitan. He’s probably seen not a few westerners like me, after all. He first asks me some basic questions about my life, which I have no idea why he needs really, but I obligingly answer everything he asks. Then he takes my thumbprint and goes into his little back room to look for my leaf. It isn’t too long before he comes back and asks me a few more questions to narrow down his search. After another trip back into his inner chamber, he comes back with my leaf (or, at least, my reading). He asks me some more questions, and then proceeds to give me the contents of the leaf. He suggests that I take a pencil and paper and make notes as he would not be able to record what he says, which I do. What follows is a transcript of the shorthand notes I took.
My Nakshatra [astrological sign in the Vedic Astrology system] is Chitra. This is the most mystical of signs. Overcoming sexual desire is a big thing, or can be. I was the third child. I was formed first and came last. [I didn’t understand this at first, but later guessed this meant that my fraternal twin is really the youngest, the fourth – something that the psychic in Jerusalem had already told me.]
I have “researching potential.” I know 3 languages, Spanish being one of them [this is true to an extent – I am very familiar by this time with Hebrew and Sanskrit, too]. I will be a writer, philosopher, and teacher. I will write a philosophy book that synthesizes psychology, Vedanta, and religion. [While I have yet to do this, I have begun work on another book dealing with these subjects.]
I will do “unification work.” I will also teach philosophy. I will be a traveler to learn. I want to meet my guru, but my guru is not alive. I will meet many masters, but find my own way. I will find the reality of knowledge and life. [This definitely all spoke to me.]
I am aware that I have some blockages inside. These blockages will go when I learn these “knowledges” and languages.
In my last life, I was born in India, and was a teacher of non-dualistic knowledge and Vikarana [Grammar – didn’t know what it meant at the time.]
In this life, through the practices of Kundalini Yoga, I will learn all Vedanta and grammar. Patanjali’s Yoga system will open my third eye, which will “give brightness in inner life.” He also said: “Yoga will give strength for inner life.”
I was born in Israel in Jesus’ time, and had close contact with Jesus. I was a witness to Jesus’ punishment at the time. [Ain’t I special.]
I went to Nepal at the bottom of the Himalayas. I criticized my masters and gave away secrets to “non-permitted people.” As a result, in this lifetime I have these certain blockages, and due to awareness of these, I am very careful about mistakes in this life. [In the margin of my notes, I wrote: “Is that so?” which is a question the Nadi reader asked me in regard to making mistakes. I answered “yes” because I was becoming increasingly conscious and careful in regard to my every thought, word, and deed, making sure that I was truly living in accordance with the wisdom I was learning, though I certainly was making mistakes (or what felt like them).]
I will also have a lot of experiences in the region of the Himalayas – I will go in this lifetime. [Have yet to go].
I was born in Spain, but the land in which I was born no longer exists now. [I take it this meant in one of my past incarnations, which might explain my interest in Spanish and in studying abroad in Spain at one moment in college, but then again, it’s too general and I wasn’t that interested in any case.]
I have a desire to live in the countryside and do research. I will live in the Southeast of North America [I was then living in the Northeast, and am now in Florida, the Southeast].
The Nadi reader then asked if I have taught? I said that I have taught in High School. He said that I will teach languages in college. He later said I would do many kinds of work. [I have not taught officially at a college as of yet, though I do run a yoga school called “Yoga University.”]
Health: Stomach is sensitive. Must eat slowly. Having a regular time of eating is best. May have an operation on stomach or throat [None such operations to date, though eating slowly has been a challenge]. Pranayama will give good health for me. Also, water therapy: Drink water in the early morning and 30 minutes prior to lunch and dinner.
Relationships: I am separated from my partner. I would marry second important girl in that year. I would find her in 19-20 months. My coming partner will be a good healer and counselor. We would have 1 child “if both minds permit.” We would live together for many years, then marry. [Well, I was “separated” from my partner only in the sense that I was in India and she was in Philadelphia at the time, though it wasn’t long before we were to go our separate ways, and that might have been about 19-20 months later. If that’s what he was referring to, then he was right on, but I did not find someone new that year or in 19-20 months (you can see there were some contradictions there). I wasn’t to get into a relationship for another 8 years, in fact.]
I was told to recite a certain mantra for jnana (wisdom, spiritual knowledge, gnosis). The Nadi reader wrote it on the page in both Sanskrit and English. I was to repeat it 30 minutes each day – 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the evening, and 10 just prior to sleep. [I never kept up with this practice, partly due to doubts about all of this, and — so many practices, so little time!…]
The Nadi reader then asked if I had any questions? Yes, did I ever. First I asked him about meditation…He said I should do Patanjali’s 8-limbed path like he said, and that path includes meditation.
What about music? Do it as a hobby, I was told.
Then I hesitantly expressed my doubts to the Nadi reader, telling him that while there were a lot of accurate things in the reading, some things were incorrect, such as his saying that the woman I am separated from is older than me (not to mention the fact that we weren’t truly separated, though I did not say this). He had a ready response for that: You can read it that she is older than me in knowledge, or spiritually older, not in years. This didn’t seem right, however, as originally he had said that she is one year older than me.
So overall I was not over-impressed, somewhat under-whelmed, yet nonetheless intrigued. Clearly there were some things that seemed pretty right on, yet this could be due to the initial questions he asked (which included my birth date, so he could have based a lot of it on astrology), educated guesswork, and his own intuitive powers. I was even more inclined to think this guy didn’t have the goods when I found out my roommate from Australia got a very similar reading, which included the same curse and the same mantra to alleviate it. Good thing I only paid 850 rupees, or $17, I thought, though this was a good living for him and I’m sure if he was deceiving people, the placebo effect was in effect for many.
Later, though, I was to hear about another Nadi astrologer not too far away in the Chennai area. This guy apparently really was the real deal with a tradition going back to an ancient sage named Agasthya and whose palm leaves contain specific names and other details about one’s incarnation. At the airport on my way back to the States, I ran into a fellow ashramite who had gone to see this particular Nadi reader. He was clearly sold and excitedly told me that his leaf contained the following information:
His Father’s Name
His Mother’s Name
His First Wife’s Name
His Second Wife’s Name
Mind you, this was all written in Tamil so he couldn’t actually read the names himself, yet still…I was so blown away by this that I wanted to go see this guy immediately. My friend said he was going to both film him doing his readings and also try to bring him to the States. I doubt this ever happened, only because I haven’t heard about it, and also because if more people knew about it and this was all more accessible, there would be droves getting readings and I doubt there are that many leaves. I am very glad to be wrong about this.
This is now all pretty ancient history, from way back in about 2001. Since then I have heard of a project to put all of the Nadi leaves onto a computer database that people can access (if they are meant to have a reading). I suspect the readings won’t be as cheap as they are in India.
Also, since my last India trip in 2001, I have heard several more reliable first-hand reports about Nadi readers who certainly seem genuine, including a pretty convincing one on Youtube of a man who apparently went to see the same Nadi reader in Chennai [endnote]. This and the original blog posting containing this story from back in 2008 received several very interesting comments, both for and against. Some said that these astrologers are basically con men who are very skilled at the game of 20 Questions; essentially, you give them all of the information prior to their “finding” your leaf and then they just basically regurgitate that same information in an official and authoritative sounding way. While I would agree that this is no doubt true for some if not many of the Nadi readers, again, we must consider those few and far between cases that are not so easy to dismiss.
Some of the commentators on my original blog piece also begged to differ with those crying “fraud.” On October 24, 2008, someone by the name of Robert Miller wrote in response to one of the comments on the thread that was critical of Nadi Astrology:
“Sorry dude, the permutations and combinations possible even with the info given by you is simply too much to just zero into the right name and date of birth. Try it yourself. As far as I am concerned, I went to a Nadi Astrologer in Kanchipuram. He gave me a different date of birth and insisted that he was correct and that my official date of birth is wrong. I went back home a month later and checked with my mother. My mother told me that the hospital officials gave a wrong date of birth. WOW. I was stunned as I was celebrating my birthday a day ahead for the first 25 years of my life…He [also] predicted that I will completely change direction of education and pursue higher studies abroad. All this apart from [author’s note: I think he meant “including”] many family details and future predictions came true. I was a hardcore skeptic before this incident. Now I am not so sure about things we don’t fully understand.”
Another commentator similarly mentioned how her father went to a Nadi reader when she was 10-11 years old and all of the information told to her father was true, adding that “a copy of the Tamil verses was given to us, which I was able to understand with some difficulty…I don’t think they can cook up or come up with so much info on the fly.”
Another commentator wrote:
“Do not stamp the leaf as fraud. First one in Tambaram West in Chennai I found read out from the leaf that my younger brother was killed in a bomb attack as he was in public service He did not ask me about my brothers and their jobs. My brother was killed in the bomb attack on RSS office in Chennai on 8/8/93. I consulted them on 19/8/93…Later in 2008 I consulted another Nadi [reader]. There it is written that I have opted for VRS and I was working in a financial institution. I did not give my date of birth in Tamil or Christian calendar yet he gave it to me in Tamil year and month. He also said my age now. How can he calculate my age without knowing my date of birth?”
While fairly convincing to me, especially in light of my other research and firsthand reports, this anecdotal evidence still would not be sufficient for the skeptic, and I, too, would still want to witness all of this for myself. In other words, I would still need to go see the Nadi Reader in question and see all of these things with my own eyes to really feel this was real, and even then there might still be questions in my mind. That said, recently I heard a report from a very reliable witness of the truth of Nadi Astrology, a report which I will relate to you momentarily. Before I do, I feel it will be interesting to present one other fascinating response to my initial blogpost on this subject, posted by one Debasish Sen in 2010. This commentator claims to have insider information on how Nadi Astrologers fool the public into believing that they are reading from ancient parchment when in reality they are contacting a “hereditary deity” who is reading your mind(!)
“Nadi Astrology: How it works…just read on…
Recently I was under pressure from family members to visit a Nadi Astrologer. The procedure is that one has to give the thumb impression to the astrologer and answer to queries regarding details of siblings, parents, property owned, placement of letters in names, etc. etc. Such details are to be given by the person but the full names are not asked or revealed. The astrologer then says the full names of all persons and many details of the past which generally are 100 percent correct. He also mentions some of the incidents of the past life. Later he predicts the future and proposes to do some poojas [rituals to propitiate a deity] or yagna [fire ceremonies for same purpose] for 1 mandalam (48 days) or 2 in a far away place/temple inaccessible by the person and also gives an option or a short cut for the pooja by giving the money directly to him. The accurate portrayal of the past generally overwhelms most persons and they happily agree to part with the money for the poojas and the costly service charges. One may find more about Nadi Astrology by surfing the net. This is another method to fool the person and encash his ignorance by bringing into the picture the great saint Agasthya.
Demi-gods or lower gods also finds a place in creation. Some of the services of the lower gods are easily purchased for a so-called “joint-venture.” The percentage of profit is agreed from the temple they purchase it and has to be given to the temple failing which the results could be disastrous. It is not possible to cheat the demi-gods as the demigods are after all divine incarnations.
When the victim approaches the astrologer for help, the astrologer asks various queries – as mentioned above. The answers of these queries are actually questions posed to the demigod to get the correct identity of the person. Once it is got, all other past details are easily available by the demigod. These details are only heard by the astrologer. This may sound unscientific but really is not.
Demigods are unable to accurately predict the future and hence the predictions are mostly not correct. Demigods are also used by astrologers, sooth-sayers, magicians, fraud god-men who materialize processed goods from scratch, which really is only shifting i.e, dematerializing, shifting and rematerializing.
How I came to know about it?
I have a friend who is an ardent Shiva devotee and who made a small portion of his house a Shiva temple. He has been a Shiva Devotee and has been continuing for the past 25 years or so. But their hereditary god is a demigod. It seems the hereditary god also wanted to be revered and so he wanted a separate temple for it. He was also given the privilege of asking questions (or thinking and posing questions) to the demigod and he would get the answer about past incidents. But my friend never used this privilege for monetary gains. For those who come with a problem, he just queries it and suggests solutions for their well-being. He has helped me many times, such as when I misplaced a very important file in my office and also when my colleague created havoc by creating a bad name for me in the office. When I wanted to know about the practice of Nadi Astrology, I asked for his help and he let me know the actual functioning of it by querying it with the demi-god.
Sage Agasthya no doubt was a great sage. But it is ridiculous to say that he wrote the names and fate of persons 1200 years ago as if everything is destined and future generations do not have free will at all. I just wanted to share the information. It is the wish of the readers to believe or not. If at all you believe, please share the information and prevent the cheats from taking over.”
Well, if these individuals truly can communicate with hereditary deities to gain information for their clientele, not only is this worthy of our attention, but we might even be able to overlook that they are fooling the public if their information is accurate and helpful. That’s assuming that this alternative hypothesis about what Nadi readers do is really true. Obviously, if the information is written on a palm leaf in Tamil that can be dated back to Sage Agasthya’s time, then this explanation would be incorrect.
You will note that one commentator on my blog was given a copy of the Tamil verses, though she did not say that she was given a copy of the actual leaf, which means that they could have been written on the spot, however unlikely that sounds. In the video mentioned above, the man who received his reading brought with him someone who could read Tamil and who confirmed what was written on the leaf. This is rather strong evidence, unless what was written on the leaf was composed right there on the spot. It might be a question of to what extent the Nadi astrologers will go to in order to fool the public and keep themselves in business. For me, as with the subject matter of this book, this still remains an open question and a mystery that will perhaps never be completely unraveled in any satisfying way for everyone.
I attended Bhakti Fest for the first time in the summer of 2014 and there had the pleasure to hear Dr. Manoj Chalam give a talk on the archetypes of the Hindu deities. During the course of that presentation, Dr. Chalam seemingly digressed to tell us the story of his going to visit that same Nadi reader that has been rocking people’s world. Someone had told him about the astrologer and on a recent trip to India he just happened to be in the area, so…
Dr. Chalam’s report was similar to the others: He was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the astrologer was not a fraud and had access to information that he not only did not give him, but which the man could not have gotten without access to either a higher power or psychic abilities. Not only did his leaf apparently have very personal details of his past and present, but the leaf also contained the exact time of his death. When the astrologer asked him if he wished to know the date, he said yes. Perhaps this is how some Indian gurus have known the date of their death. On the other hand, if the other explanation of the hereditary deities is correct, then this also explains why some gurus have incorrectly foretold the time of their death, as was the case with Sathya Sai Baba.