The Sacred India Tarot{and its creator} gets some praise

dev kohli and sifu

After the 2 day foundational course in The Sacred India Tarot which I conducted at The Integral Space on August 10 and 11, 2013 this gratifying feedback….

 Taking the Sacred India Tarot with Sifu Rohit Arya is like taking a plunge into the vast culture that came before its conception.  Charismatic, sharp and funny, Sifu Rohit has a magical way of telling the stories behind the artwork and the symbolism of the cards themselves. A most concise introduction to a labor of love, Sifu Rohit painstakingly researched, analyzed and created the unfathomable Sacred India Tarot. Who better to teach it’s course? An unparalleled teacher, Sifu Rohit bridges the traditions and practice of the western tarot and integrates the mystical Indian traditions. A sense of history and spirituality is perfectly balanced in his teachings. This beautiful deck and enlightening course is like no other. The discussions on vast Karmic lessons, correct usage and the respect for wisdom which Sifu Rohit imbues to his students, is what one expects from a master practioner. The cards come to life under his guidance. The misconceptions and secrets of the tarot practice combined with the understanding of the Sacred India Tarot inspire a student to use the tarot as a tool for personal growth. A sense of empowerment is a big gift from learning under Sifu Rohit. Being a person who has attended several tarot workshops, The Sacred India Tarot course is a treat to experience with Sifu Rohit’s tutelage of tarot as a discipline. Here lie the secrets that most conventional tarot courses will not divulge. So, one leaves the master with a sense of power in the cards as well as faith in the future.”   Divianshu Kohli Bij, 25 years  from USA, studying to become a therapist.  

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He leads the Ka Sangha meditation group, as well as The Integral Space meditation circle each week.



The Buddha story – A brief overview

This piece was originally posted on {now, alas, defunct}, and also served as the basis for the storyline of the Suit of Discs {Pentacles} in the Sacred India Tarot. Speak memory….  This is one of my personal favorites and Jane Adams who resurrected it is to be  thanked greatly!

Buddhism was the dominant faith of Asia for a clear millennium, and it still holds a significant position there.  It is not normally realized that a great many countries which are Islamic now, were once strongholds of the Buddhist faith, especially Afghanistan and Iraq: the former famous for the now vanished Bamiyam monoliths, the latter for the finest monasteries the world has ever known, till medieval Europe.

Between the first century BC and the fifth century AD, Buddhism was unchallenged over Asia, with only pockets of the Confucian, Hindu and Zoroastrian beliefs holding out.  That makes the Buddha life story the most well known to all humanity, and in sheer numbers who religiously repeat it, it remains the most popular story told even today.

Before we begin recounting this tale however, one fact needs to be brought out.  The Buddha was not a prince.  That was romancing by later biographers, who could not conceive of anybody other than royalty doing such marvelous things.

Also, there was a caste agenda in place by then.  Buddhism was a Kshatriya response to a Brahmin hegemony financed by Vaisya support, and they needed a prince to be the mythical spokesman for the new faith.

The Buddha’s father was the head of a Janapada, a republican state, kingdoms merely having begun to emerge, and no real empire in place in society.  He was undoubtedly a privileged young man, but not a prince.  Since this narrative will deal with the mythic aspects of the life as popularly understood, we will go along with the prince fiction, but the historical Buddha is not the Buddha of invented memory.

He was born according to tradition as well as history, in the year 563 BC, son of Suddhodana, belonging to the Kshatriya tribe of the Sakyas, in Kapilavastu near the border of modern Nepal.  His name was Siddhartha Gautama, the latter being his family name.  His birth was attended by the usual portents that seem to grace the descent of a great Master, notably some dreams that his mother had, that the child she was carrying would be unthinkably exceptional.

The baby was supposed to have been born while his mother laboured standing up, so that his feet touched the ground;  and the Buddha is supposed to have been the only human infant who could walk immediately upon birth, as befitted a future world saviour.  The astrologers gathered around, predicted that the boy would become an emperor if he could be persuaded to reigh.  It was more likely however, that he would renounce the world as soon as he was aware of the reality of suffering.

The mother died seven days after the birth of the super child.  A human frame cannot endure the incredible strain of bringing forth a Saviour for very long.  Suddhodana married his wife’s sister Mahaprajapati, and for once we are spared the evil stepmother routine in myth, as the lady dearly loved the young child.  The doting father was not going to have his son turn to renunciation, so he began a celebrated social-control experiment.  He shut his son up in a great palace, surrounded by high walls that kept the unpleasant reality of the world out of sight, and hopefully out of mind. The young man was immersed in wine, women and song; and that his constitution as well as his mind survived such paternal solicitude, is one of the greater miracles known to humanity.

Siddhartha became the finest young warrior in the land, as well as a formidable scholar and in true epic fashion he wins the hand of his cousin Yashodara after a contest of skill in which he wipes the field of all comers at all contests, except curiously, sword play!  The ancient and enduring Indian disdain for close quarters fighting, which would be its eventual downfall, is here clearly reflected.  The hero could not do something so uncouth and dreadfully sweaty as fight well with a sword, even if he was the greatest warrior who ever lived.  The marriage was blissfully happy, and the king thought he had covered all the bases.  Siddhartha would become a world conqueror.

Then disaster struck, for the young man suddenly had an unwonted curiosity to see the world outside his magnificent prison.  The legend goes, that the gods despairing of him achieving his incarnate mission, promoted his mind with such strange whim.  In collusion with a famous confidante and charioteer, Chana, the young man slipped out and encountered the Four Sights, doddering Old Age, Sickness, a Dead man and finally an Ascetic who somehow seemed to have arisen above these inevitable and implacable miseries.  Later versions claim that in each case it was the god Indra who had assumed these forms to rouse him from his pleasure blinded ignorance.

A little digression would not be amiss here.  Many miracles would be attributed to the man later, but his appalled reaction to the sight of suffering has never got its due as the most important of all the miracles.  For we all know Sakya princes who live gilded cage existences, and it is a bitter psychological truth, that they are not particularly distressed when confronted by other people’s suffering.  They do not have either the experience or the mental concepts to make sense of suffering, looking upon it as something strange and quite unnecessary. “Why don’t they eat cake?” is not a cruel question, but a devastating confession of ignorance, of genuine puzzlement.  Siddhartha’s great leap of self transcendence was the realization that this sick person was like him, not “one of them”.  Somehow he preserved his sense of humanness against all the luxury that was stifling him.

The Four Sights could have been viewed as a freak show, the royal equivalent of slumming, a novel curiosity that amused, but did not touch in any way.  His feeling of despair at the general hopelessness of the human condition, is what should have been most exclaimed over.  In spite of genetics, environment and the prevailing zeitgeist, his spirit flared up when confronted with a moral challenge.

Back home, he became prone to brooding over the generally depressing nature of human existence – decay and pain and death, with an occasional narcotic experience of “pleasure” or “success” to numb the mind from the awful truth.

At this juncture, he was told his wife had given birth to a son, usually a matter of great joy to an Indian father.  It was the last straw.  “Yet another fetter has been born,” he moaned, inadvertently naming the son Rahula, a chain or fetter.   That night, he abandoned his new born son and wife, determined to seek out the secret to overcoming human suffering and sorrow.  It is an act known as the Great Renunciation.  He was 29 years old.

He took to the road, in an India that was an incredible intellectual adventure at the time.  Freethinking and speculation was at a peak never before achieved, or equaled after.  Mahavira the great Jain Master was his contemporary, though the two never met, in what is one of Destiny’s greatest oversights.  Originality of thought was matched by pugnacious championing of belief, and the young man soaked it all up.  However, while he was willing to learn from all, he was usually only too evidently the intellectual superior.  He used to learn, and then move on.  Tradition ascribes to him the discipleship of Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, both Brahmin sannyasis.  He seems to have accepted the need for a belief system, good conduct and the practice of meditation, though he was not convinced they had the answer.

In no time, he had accumulated five disciples himself, and they underwent severe austerities in the forest of Urevala.  Siddhartha tried to gain the knowledge of salvation through terrible fasting and overextended meditation.  The result was he became a living skeleton, and his mind began to lose its sharpness too.  So severely had he subjected his body to austerity, that when he stroked his skin his body hair would fall off, having no flesh in which to root themselves!  He even experimented with eating his own excretions, but he soon realized that this was no way forward.  Always intellectually courageous and integrated, he abandoned the path of self torture as well as the gigantic reputation for holiness it had given him.  His disciples left him, huffing with disgust at such backsliding.

Once his health had recovered, he recalled a mystical experience he had in his youth, and determined to pursue that line.  In the famous spot of Gaya, he sat under a Peepal tree, determined not to budge until he had cracked the secret of overcoming suffering and death.  His formidable will kept him there for forty days and nights, when Mara the Evil One, realizing his days of unchallenged dominance over Life was over, assaulted him with terrors and temptations.  The latter always meant impossibly voluptuous beautiful girls, and was regarded culturally as the greater threat to saintliness.

Siddhartha was unmoved by either fear or pleasure, as his Realisation was now complete.  The desperate Mara than accused him of the subtlest sin of all – egoism – the true feeling of having triumphed over fear and temptation.  Siddhartha merely touched the earth with two fingers and asked it to bear withness if a “person” was present there.  The earth announced that she did not bear on herself any human, there was only the Tathagatha, the Realised One, and ergo no human attributes.  This was the final victory, and the moment he entered into Nirvana, as well as the state known as the Buddha.  (“Buddha” is actually a way of being, a condition, not a title.)

The Buddha stayed in his seat for another forty days, unsure if his subtle and refined doctrine of transcending pain and suffering should be communicated to an uncomprehending world.  Finally, he resolved to risk the inevitable errors of the many for the sake of the few who would understand and profit from the new learning.  He went to Sarnath, a famous deer park, where his disgruntled disciples were living.  They saw him approaching, and resolved to ignore the apostle in their ascetic pride, but his transformed personality compelled them to offer him respect against their wills.  To them he preached his first sermon in the great event known as “Setting into Motion the Wheel of the Law”.  The Buddha was forty years old, and he had another forty two years of preaching ahead of him.

Having been somewhat of an extremist himself in his striving, he named his new doctrine the Middle Path, or Arya Marga, the Noble Way.  His first sermon contains all the key elements of the Megatharian structure that would become Buddhist theology.  They are the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Truths are devastatingly simple.

Existence is unhappiness. 

Unhappiness is caused by desire/craving.

Desire can be overcome.

It is overcome by following the Noble Eight-fold Path

… … which are

Right Understanding, Right Purpose/aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Vocation, Right Effort, Right Awareness/Alertness, and Right Concentration.

The need for chastity, truthfulness and nonviolence were core components of this.


Buddha rapidly became one of the most influential figures in the country.  Even his skeptical family fell under his influence, and the whole country saw a mass movement of renunciation.  He used to wander the land attended by his nephew and favourite Ananda, a petulant weak-willed sort, and therefore under his special care.  Ananda’s recollections of his conversations with the Tathagatha made him an invaluable biographical source once the Buddha was dead, and he was much referred to in the settling of theological disputes.

The Buddha did not care, much to the disappointment of more than a few of the faithful, for miracles and magic, but only in finding the shortest way to end suffering and attain Nirvana.  In a land where spirituality was automatically equated with the ability to work miracles, He stood out as a beacon for rationality and reason.

This may seem strange in a country which produced the Upanishads, but they were a rearguard action against a country that demanded magic, or a reasonable facsimile of it, from holy men.

The Buddha therefore is not only India’s foremost religious figure, he is also first in demanding a grounded view of life, which may yet be his major contribution.

We all know the famous story of Gautami, who had come to him with her dead child, and the usual hopes of resurrecting miracles.  Was he not the Tathagatha, the Ford-Crosser and the most famous holy man of the age?  Ergo miracles were expected.  He did perform one, by assuring her the child could indeed be bought back to life, if she got him some mustard seeds from a house in which death had not occurred.  The many wanderings within the city brought the distraught mother to her senses, as she realized that spiritual giants can offer another sort of immortal life, not the impossible one she was asking for.  He had no greater miracle to offer than the realization of the inevitable truth – suffering exists and can only be transcended, not avoided.

At another time he was told of a great feat of levitation that a holy man had performed, sending his begging bowl sliding up a flag post till it reached the top.  The reporters were evidently expecting a greater feat of supernatural prowess to be exhibited as an answer to their silent reproach – it was embarrassing to be the disciples of a guru who was not doing magic!  The Buddha merely said, in an elegant, celebrated squelch, “Such is not conducive to the cessation of desires and the attainment of Nirvana.”

His most famous conversion was that of the bandit and killer Angulimala, “Finger Garland”, an interesting type who used to keep count of his victims by cutting off a finger and adding it to his grisly garland.  Kings were his disciples too, most famously the king of Magadha, Bimbisara.  His son Ajatashatru slew him when the restraining presence of the Buddha was not there, but he repented and publicly confessed his crime to the Buddha the next time he visited. (Ajatashatru was too great a king for anyone to work up much indignation at his parricide, and in any case succession was usually decided by displays of such vigour.  It was, in a sense, expected behaviour.)  Royal patronage all over the country made the Buddhist stock rise very high indeed.

The Mahaparinirvana, the great and final Nirvana of the Buddha’s long life finally came when he was over eighty.  Never in his mission had he ever asked people to be anything other than sensible and intelligent in their spiritual approach.  “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing on the touchstone, so are you to accept my words after examining them, not out of regard for me.”

He held fast to this doctrine, even on his deathbed.  His final sickness, incidentally, was brought on by his eating badly cooked pork at the house of a poor disciple he did not have the heart to refuse when invited.  The Buddha ate what was available, vegetarianism was a preference not an absolute fetish.  Three times he was ready to let the body go, but each time he was interrupted by somebody desiring instruction, and he held his Nirvana back, “lying on his side like a lion and instructing.”

Then he spoke to the disciples, “What need for the Tathagatha?  Become lamps unto yourselves.  The Buddha is a state, not a person.  Enter therein.  Decay is inherent in all component things.  Therefore work out your salvation with diligence.”

He died then, but the history of mankind had been for ever altered.


Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator for two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga




Asking God for things and Manifesting in the light of Matthew 7

‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:’

I love the Bible. It is an astonishing book, being both a spiritual and literary classic. Perhaps there are about six or seven books which are both. I am a Hindu – Integral Yoga – but I love the Bible. You can get absorbed in the language – the King James version only for me, thank you very much –  and the sheer power that flows from it. Yes there are appalling passages in it, but almost all old scriptures suffer from the flaws of their human transmitters. Who cares about the rubbish? When you are a Yogi, your internal energy knows what is enduring truth and what are specific cultural limitations of a previous time.

I am trying at present to manifest a few things so i was looking up the techniques to get off the rust. In one of those by now normal co-incidences I first stumble upon words of The Mother, Mira Alfassa, shakti of Sri Aurobindo, and she stated categorically that you can ask anything you want! There is no question of appropriateness or shame, you want something you ask for it. The Divine may delay, or in some cases refuse, for your spiritual good but there was no sin in asking. Indeed unless you asked, it could not flow towards you! That was the occult rule.

Then I read Paramahamsa Yogananda saying we are all children of the Divine Mother and Father and we have the full right to ask for anything we want! He went to the extent of saying we should harass God as a child does its parents, for we have the right to do so. Again, the advice was to ask with full Power and Intent.  Now this sounded very familiar, this insistence on asking to accomplish, so I dug out my Bible and began flipping thru Matthew and sure enough there in Chapter 7: 7-11 is a comprehensive toolkit on the process of manifestation.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

There you have it, the full process. There is nothing about ‘deserving’ in there, in fact Jesus knows full well most of us do not – ‘being evil’ – but God will give if you ask Him.

This is just about the most fantastic thing ever.

He is saying this after seemingly excluding people –

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

But that is a yogic perspective. Some aspects of power and spirit are to be communicated only when people are ready. As I am fond of saying{according to my students}, “There are no secrets in Yoga but there is appropriateness.” To get what you desire however comes with no strings on the part of the Divine – you just have to ask. Jesus is a great favorite amongst Yogis for he is spiritual kin to them

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Yogis care only about personal experience and ability, not theology. If the books match their experience – they usually do – well and good. If not too bad for the books. Yoga is practically unique in all spiritual traditions in acknowledging evolution, of techniques, of Consciousness and it never puts a full stop to possibility. The living words of a Master take precedence over books.

So I am going to make a nuisance of myself asking!

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga









Rohit Arya on The Sacred India Tarot, its design and the psychic danger of creating such a Power

In the History of Tarot only two people, Juliet Sharman Burke and I, Rohit Arya have created a Tarot deck with such special parameters. It was a highly creative, and  psychically, dangerous venture. An extract from The Sacred India Tarot Guidebook elucidates the process.

People in India do not understand the Tarot very well; it is too much work! Tarot exists currently as an agreeable variant on the old Hindu science of astrology or Jyothisha and it is in Jyothisha terms of discourse that most practitioners engage with it when they take it seriously. Since the percentage of kooks, overexcited and overenthusiastic New-Agers remains normal in India as the rest of the world, and they drive, with Jyothisha support, whatever interest is there in Tarot, it will be quite a while before serious interest is taken in the subject on its own terms. Given that both playing cards and gypsies originated in India, I am waiting for a similar claim where the Tarot is concerned. The previous sentence may even become the origin point for what will soon be a common notion in India. It is a depressing or hilarious thought; I am not quite sure which as yet.

My approach was to demonstrate the Universality of the Tarot Structure and how it is applicable in differing cultural contexts, because the underlying skeleton is the common psychological and spiritual heritage of Homo sapiens sapiens. Okay, call it Collective Unconscious and be done with it! The myths may differ superficially, or even dramatically, but if they are genuine myths they will always have relevance for, and resonance with, the Tarot.  Juliet Sharman Burke had previously done with Greek mythology what I have now done with Indian myth, found the co-relations in each suit to a story arc that fitted perfectly into the unfolding of both the inherent structure as well as individual meanings of each card in the suit.  This is, in a sense very difficult, which is probably why we are the only two people to attempt a Tarot pack with such parameters. You need a story that will hold up, {where authentic Tarot meanings are concerned, rather than making up your own, in which case it is somewhat easier} for 14 cards. The court cards have to be organically connected to the story playing out in the suit and each card in the suit has to naturally reflect a point in the original myth which is relevant to Tarot meaning and does not involve twisting up timeline sequences. It is an astonishing achievement in that sense; the very fact that there are only two of us who have successfully attempted it is enough proof of its extraordinary difficulty. Perhaps it will be different in future.

In another sense Sharman Burke and Yours Truly probably did not find it that difficult as we understand both Tarot and mythic structures. Then it was a matter of merely sifting through the vast resources of story until we found the authentic fit. The Major Arcana is actually easier in this respect as each card can stand alone and is not prisoner to narrative sequence. When we are dealing with the mythology of India, everybody here knows the stories more or less in the correct order and any attempts to jiggle things round for convenience would have been instantly spotted. Isolating the thread of Bheesma from within the Mahabharatham was probably the most difficult; the swords {arrows} are notoriously a headache and I suffered fully till I found it. The Buddha story was never in doubt; it practically selected itself for discs. The wands {staves} were somewhat of a trouble till I realized that the entire Ramayana is not required. So the three major story arcs of India were covered, the two epics and the life of Buddha. A poem for the cups {lotuses} would have been ideal as ancient Indian literature is primarily in verse. I had almost settled on Nala- Damayanthi from the Mahabharatham or Kalidasa’s play on Shakuntala and Dushyantha, when I had a brainwave and realized that the story of Shiva and Parvati was much more significant to India and packed more spiritual wallop as a choice for the lotuses.

Then I only had to wait for Jane to illustrate the cards before I could get down to writing them. That however is another story.  So I stress again – while the Sacred India Tarot does bring a meeting of minds between the yogic myths of India and the great Western Mystery of the Tarot, it is not part of the Great Python instinct.This was consciously and deliberately done, at least to begin with, and the karma is all mine.  Most Tarot packs and books have been based on European cultural imperatives, as they should be, even if they contain multicultural perspectives. This is perhaps the first time a person engaged with Tarot in terms of another culture, instead of reaching out from within the norms and parameters of the origin culture. For all the Egyptian and Norse and South Sea Islander and South American et al variations of Tarot packs were created by people within the European cultural inheritance. I was looking in from the outside.

The immensity of the endeavour was not clear at first and perhaps it was well, it could have led to hubris or paralysis. To have to take within a transforming alien energy {geographically, not mythically} and find resonances within my context, find the core of universal value and then translate it into a particular cultural sphere was difficult enough. Simultaneously I had to interpret and transmute the sympathetic harmonious vibrations of yoga spirituality into Tarot terms. This was a dangerous endeavour in psychic terms as there is no innate defence of familiarity and place, no historical, cultural or psychological immunities in engaging with such a foreign power. When I finally comprehended the sheer psychological peril in which I stood, I was glad this knowledge was not vouchsafed to me earlier. A complete mental breakdown was possible and only the fact that the Sacred India Tarot was working itself out through me seems to have saved me from catastrophe – though there was enough psychodrama and trauma to satisfy the most masochistic.

In Norse mythology, Wotan or Odin, the All-Father, inventor of the runes, had to give an eye as payment for drinking from the well of wisdom. This myth demonstrates the necessary price to pay for gaining single pointed vision, transformative wisdom, but had it been known that a Hanging Man scenario would play out for years the work may never have begun! Every single card left its imprint upon me, forced me to experience it, to assimilate it. This was unimaginably painful. But as was said in The Tempest, “There, sir, stop. Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that’s gone.” It was also transporting, for the high points are to breathe elation. Without knowing it the organism had embarked upon tapasya, the searing fires of transformative experience that provide maturity, insight and wisdom. At the beginning I thought I was writing the book; by the end the book was communicating aspects of consciousness that had never been clearly articulated before. The first transformation of consciousness the Sacred India Tarot accomplished was of its author!
To accomplish this work is to have suffered much and lost even more. It is not a plea for sympathy; I do not regret anything. For the pain and suffering is transient; the work will endure.

More Information about the sacred India Tarot can be found at

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

The yogi who dances – REVIEWS of The Yoga of Indian Dance and Sutras on Dance

Sutras on Dance and The Yoga of Indian Dance
By Mandakini Trivedi

Shiva is the origin of both Dance and Yoga in the Hindu tradition. He is Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, and the Aadi Yogi, the First Yogi. But curiously, there have never been any recently famous examples of somebody who is both a dancer and yogi. This is an anomaly so breathtakingly obvious, India has chosen to ignore it altogether. For men the reasons for such distaste are obvious. Classical Indian dance is too yin, developing overtly feminine qualities in its practitioner. {My personal explanation for that is there are missing yang sections in Bharatha Muni’s Natyashastra but of that another time}. The great Tamil actor Kamalahasan who is also a very good classical dancer took to body building to prevent the inevitable slide into perceived sissiness ! That was astute, as pumping iron is very yang and makes a male energy of either gender that practice it. The Martials arts alone seem to enhance inherent gender qualities while kicking ass. So dance in India, even though it has the Nataraja, has always to fight this social archetype of being solely a feminine concern. The few male dancers that exist do not provide a persuasive argument to the contrary. I know, I know, gender stereotyping, but come on everybody knows this is what the audience is thinking while smirking upon the sight of the usual male classical dancer.

So dancers do not provide very much Shiva energy so as to speak, but yogis do not become dancers either. Most styles of Yoga have become obsessed with physical stillness – with good reasons- but they have forgotten that the Yogi is also the Ananda Tandava Murthi – The Bliss Dancer. Centuries of foreign rule under suspicious Semitic cultural gazes also left the Hindu curiously apologetic and furtively ashamed about dance. Yogis do not dance even if they could. The last person who could have combined them was Swami Vivekananda, who did dance, though more out of exuberance than training. It was classical music that he was an expert at. The four most ‘masculine’ yogis I have ever met are Jaggi Vasudev, Master Charles Cannon, Gurunath Siddhanath, and the no longer amongst us Justice Dudhat. Not one dancer amongst them, though Jaggi does twirl and whirl a bit when in the mood. It is an extraordinary situation; Nataraja is huge amongst dancers and the spiritual culture of the county, but Yogis do not dance and dancers are not very good yogis.

Well now there is an exception. It is perhaps inevitably a woman who has begun the new trend but she is a very great dancer and a very good yogi indeed, called Mandakini Trivedi. Her form of classical dance is Mohiniattam and she is a hard core yogi too, not a renunciate, I must stress, but a live example that Yoga, the joining of the limited self to the larger cosmos is possible through art as well as asanas. She has written two books to express this unique fusion called The Yoga of Indian Dance and another a book of meditative aphorisms called Sutras on Dance. There have been many good books on classical Indian dance before; in the world India alone has seven classical dance forms – Bharathnatyam, Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, and three forms of classical music – Dhrupad, Hindustani and Carnatic as well as the world’s oldest classical martial art, Kalaripayattu! Yeah I know! Awesome! And all of them are gasping for survival, unable to find funding while the numbers of the philistine rich grow exponentially. That too is reality.
These two books restate the primacy of dance to the spiritual process, the spiritual discipline or sadhana, that it originated as, instead of as a mere performance form. In the circumstances outlined above it seems like an act of exceeding courage, though Trivedi seems to have written them because she felt they should be. The sutra tradition of teaching is also perhaps on its last legs. It was an inspiring method of ensuring the learning became a vital organic part of the student, instead of rote memorization. A terse sentence dealing with some vital principle was offered up for contemplation, somewhat in the much later koan style. The student struggled with the sutra, meditated upon it, pondered the widening implications that surfaced in consciousness, and realized the sutra kept deepening its meaning as one aged. The Sutras on Dance seek to reignite that sensible tradition. They are seemingly simple, perhaps obvious, sometimes trite. A view that is a mistake, and only a superficial first glance could lead to such a blunder. I do not wish to talk about the books in detail; it would be much better if you perused them yourselves. Yes infinitely better. For both yogis and dancers, indeed all creative people, who wish to be integral and meld their creative self to their spiritual side these books should be most valuable.

These are two very significant books, for, -I am aware what I am saying here-, in over a 1000 years in India a dancer AND a yogi has not engaged with the tradition as Trivedi has.