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In Search of Siddhashram

Aug 27 2011

A version of this article is also available at india travelogues Travel Section.

It was the month of July and it was the rainy season again. Almost 2 years had passed since I had undertaken the Journey to Mahavatar Baba’s Cave in 2009. The journey of a week involved mystic experiences with people and places alike. After last year’s torrential floods and landslides in Himalayas and most of Northern India, in 2011, despite being the rainy season, the weather gods kept the days clear. At times, mist and fog rolled in, clouding our view completely, but it wasn’t too long before the sunlight shone through.

The places we visited during this trip are tucked away quietly amidst the lap of the Himalayas, far from the crowds and rituals of modern day temples. With advancing times, many siddha places have not remained protected from the onslaught of tourists. Yet some places remain silent and unnoticed, as destined by Providence. I strongly believe that one can only get to these places when the divine call comes. No map or planning will lead you there. Such has been my experience. I consider, and rightly found, myself blessed on visiting these places. For obvious reasons, I will give everyone an idea of the locations, but leave it to the reader to follow their own beckoning and visit the places, if it be the will of the Divine.

Click Here to see some of the Photos from our Journey

After a long flight from US, I landed in Delhi at about 6.30 in the morning on 19th July. The very next day we set out on our journey in the Himalayas. Father and I made a night stop at Haridwar to drop my mother off at Jolly Grant where my Mamaji is a doctor at HIMS (Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences) established by Swami Rama.

To Lansdowne…

The next day, we left for Lansdowne located in the Garhwal range of Himalayas. Starting early, we left Haridwar at 8.30 after a heavy breakfast of Poori Bhaaji. We encountered Kawariyas during most of our journey through the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The scenery became hilly as we approached Kotdwar, which is a small and bustling town about 40 kms from Lansdowne. We arrived at the outskirts of Lansdowne at about 1.30 pm. We decided to stay away from the populous areas and halted at Kasang Regency Hill Resort, 5 kms outside Lansdowne. After enjoying a panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains from our room’s balcony, and having imbibed a decent lunch, we set out for our destination: Tarkeshwar Mahadham.

Tarkeshwar Mahadham

This is a 600-year old sacred shrine located on a hill-top nestled within a deep forest at about 6,800 feet above sea level. The ancient Tarkeshwar Dham is also where Swami Rama of the Himalayas is said to have attained enlightenment. Here Swami Rama and his master would come often for Tapa.
Amazingly, the wild animals ambulating about are quite indifferent to any human inhabitant, as Swami Hari often found out in his encounters with Bears, Tigers and local Cobras (The Laughing Swami).

Around February – April in 2010, during the time of the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, I had some strange visions with one of them being of Swami Hari. Back then, I had merely read about Tarkeshwar a few times, including a reference to it in Swami Rama’s book Living with the Himalayan Masters. It was a surreal dream where Swami Hari and I talked about random things beside a temple in the mountains. He invited me to visit Tarkeshwar. Afterwards, the dream remained etched in my memory as if I had met Swamiji in real life.

Things became more intense when a friend told me that Swami Hari had left his mortal body in June 2008, which was almost 2 years prior to my dream. I knew that Tarkeshwar beckoned strong – but it would take 2 trips to Himalayas before my Sankalpa became a reality

Back to the journey now
The road to Tarkeshwar was more or less deserted as there is no habitation along the way. We did not encounter any villages, not even a tea shop. It was definitely one of the most desolate roads I have seen in Himalayas. We saw barely 3 or 4 vehicles that passed us in the 1 hour drive of 39 kms. There were severe landslides at places and the road was narrow but being repaired constantly. The environment was serene, quiet and filled with a vibrant energy, as if the sages from time immemorial were (and probably are) still engrossed in their tapasya. The 15 minute walk to the shrine is along a narrow paved path. Before you arrive at the shrine, you pass through the meditation hall and a dharamshala on the left, located on a hillock. The entire area is surrounded by thick blue pine forests, oak trees and dense deodars.

A feeling of rejuvenation enveloped us as we arrived at Tarkeshwar Mahadham. There were a few cows grazing. There was no caretaker. And no visitors, other than some lads who left within a few minutes of our arrival. My father absorbed the ambience of the environment and went his way, while I sat in dhyana at the yagna kund. As I dived deep within my psyche, I imagined Swami Rama and Swami Hari performing a yagna.

Siddhashram at Sitalakhet – Hariakhand Baba

After paying silent obeisance to the Siddha Bhoomi and Swamiji, we departed from the sacred shrine after an hour or so. We did remember to have a cup of hot and sweet Himalayan tea at the only tea stop located at the entrance of Tarkeshwar. I tried my utmost to capture the entire journey through my camera lens, but to drink in the vibes – one must visit the place, when the beckoning comes.

Siddhashram at Sitalakhet – Hariakhand Baba

There are many places throughout India, especially in the remote reaches of Himalayas where routine visitors do not step foot. The sound of constantly ringing bells and arti will be missing. There will be no sign-boards to guide you – nor will the place be listed on any map. Such places can only be found if the Divine guides and beckons you.

learnt of Siddhashram at Sitalakhet when I read the book Sri Babaji: Immortal Yogi of the Himalayas by Romola Butalia. Siddhashram is associated with Hariakhand Baba or Hairakhan Baba. There are many names and spellings by which people know the Siddha Yogi. However, such siddhas are beyond name and identification. As stated in the book, “Some people refer to him as Mahavatar Babaji, from Lahiri Mahashaya’s meeting in 1861, made popular by Paramhamsa Yogananda-ji’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Others have mentioned the legendary Kripacharya, or the Chiranjeevi Ashwatthama from the days of the Mahabharata, when referring to him. He is also known as Kriya Babaji. As a perfect siddha, he has been associated with Guru Gorakhnath, also known as Shiva Goraksha.”

It is best to not get confused in attempting to identify who is who, but focus on the eternal truth which is ever present.

In 2005, I had visited Hariakhand Baba’s ashram, at Chiliyanaula, about 5 kms outside of Ranikhet, made by Bhole Baba, who was regarded by many as an avatar of Hariakhand Baba. Since then, my inner experiences have always kept me in close proximity to Babaji. I’m sure there is a divine wish behind that, which is not always easy to comprehend by our mortal minds.

We left Ranikhet around 9 am on 25th July for Sitalakhet, also known/spelled as Sheetalakhet, Sitlakhet. Its is a small paradise at a distance of 38 kms from Ranikhet. You will not find Sitalakhet on any map or GPS device. Just two kilometers below Sitalakhet there is the village ‘Khoont’, which is the ancestral village of the late Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a famous freedom fighter of India.

Siddhashram is not located within Sitalakhet, but one must turn off the main road before Sitalakhet. I am not drawing an exact map of the place because I believe that such sacred places can only be visited when the Divine beckons you. Then the map will automatically unfold in front of you and you will be led by an invisible force. This is what happened in our case and I trust it will be the same for you.

After meandering back and forth along the narrow mountain road we discovered a slight uphill incline. Along the hill Siddhashram stood tall. There was an unmistakable silence that echoed. The unpolluted air reverberated with divinity that engulfed the place. After paying our respects at the mandir made by Babaji, and doing aarti – our host, guide, narrator and the ashram care-taker, Joshiji, invited my father and I into the main building for a hospitable cup of tea. The ground floor of this building was built during Babaji’s time as the dharamshala for visiting seekers. While Joshiji attended to his duties, we sat in silence reflecting on the several artefacts and photos of Babaji as well as several others.

After finishing our tea, we exchanged conversations about several incidents and legends associated with Hariakhand Baba. In the Kumaon hills, Baba is popularly known as Hariakhand Babaji and many tales are told about him in these parts dating back to mid 1800’s. We talked about the formation of the ashram, about the sacred trees, Nar and Narayan, that stand where they were planted by Babaji in early 1900’s. There is a sacred water source that flows here ever since the day Babaji Invoked mother earth to provide the locals with the nectar like water. Needless to say, the first sip of the water rejuvenated all our senses.

The ancient kutir which Babaji had built for visiting sadhu-sants still stands, from the years when he himself resided at the ashram, though the kutir in which he lived is no longer there. When the ever-moving yogis and siddhas descend from the higher Himalayas, which itself symbolise those very realms of siddhas and yogis, they invoke the sacred energies present here through havan and anushthan.

We spent around 3 hours at Siddhashram, and conversed with Joshiji as he took us around the ashram and spoke about Babaji. I then spoke to him of a common acquaintance, a well-known author, that added yet another surprise factor to our visit. An impromptu conversation then followed on the phone with both Joshiji and I taking it in turns to talk from Siddhashram. Does anything happen here that is not at the direction of Babaji?

After a promise of a return visit soon, we took Joshiji’s leave and in farewell, paid our respects to this sacred place. As Romola Butalia, a well known author, whom I know, put it: “The time spent there was in an entirely different realm of timelessness, perfection, and infinite possibilities”.

On our way from Sitalakhet to our next destination, we passed through Kainchi where we had tea and paid silent respects to Neem Karoli Baba’s Ashram

Sombari Baba at Padampuri

Sombari Baba and Hariakhand Baba often travelled and did tapasya together in early 1900’s across Kumaon region of Himalayas. The region still echoes with legends about them. Sombari Baba was also one of the teachers of Swami Rama whose master, Bengali Baba had sent him to Sombari Baba during his early days. People began to call him Sombari Baba because he held a public bhandara (feast) in his ashram every Monday. Gudari Baba, Sombari Baba, Hariakhand Baba, were among the sages of the highest state who travelled and did tapasya in Himalayas. I believe that only by an inner urge to seek them or by divine will can one come to the point of visiting the places associated with them.

Numerous tales about Sombari Baba have been told over last 90+ years and I will let the reader find their own beckoning to visit the place. As was the case with Siddhashram, the call from Sombari Baba came to my Father on several occasions and I found divine play behind all of the stories that he told me. And that was what took us to Padampuri, which was a 106 km journey from Sitalakhet.

Most people I met along the way had not heard of Padampuri. It is better known as the birth place of veteran Congress Leader, Narayan Dutt Tiwari.

 

Padampuri is about 30 kms east of Nainital. You will need to leave Highway 87 to travel for about an hour on narrow mountain roads. Be prepared for bad roads and landslides if you travel during the rains.

Swami Parmanand Puriji Maharaj, born in 1889 AD, was not present at the Padampuri ashram, but was living at the Palara ashram where Sombari Baba’s gufa is located. Since it was almost twilight when we reached Padampuri, we decided not to proceed to Palara. That would have to be another trip, if destined. Atal Baba who stays at the Padampuri ashram when he is not at the gufa at Palara, or at one or other places of tapasya in the Kumaon Kailash kshetra, sat engrossed in front of the dhuni. He spoke at intervals about Sombari Baba, but mostly sat engrossed in another world. It seemed as if he was “half here, half there” which is often said about siddha yogis.

There was a timeless environment in the small room filled with the warmth and fragrance of the dhuni and of the burning dhoop (incense). After accepting Prasad, we sat listening to stories of Sombari Baba, narrated by a local villager who was visiting. Atal Baba spoke with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes while conveying mystic messages. Towards the end of our visit, Atal Baba gave his message in yet more cryptic terms to my Father. I sat quietly and observed the divine play at large. Towards the end, we accepted his blessings, and went down to pay our respects at Sombari Baba’s Samadhi, where Baba’s presence is tangible.

After a long mystical day that took us from Ranikhet to Sitalakhet to Padampuri, as the sun was about to set, we left for Haldwani. The 40 km drive back to Haldwani was mostly covered in silence for obvious reasons. There was some exchange of thoughts on what had gone on during the day. Upon our return to Rishikesh the next day, several strange visions followed. But that is best left for another narration..

Wishing you all well,
Gautam Dhar, Anupam Dhar

 

Distances:

Lansdowne (Kasang Regency) to Tarkeshwar: 39 Kms
Ranikhet to Sitalakhet: 38 Kms
Sitalakhet to Padampuri: 106 Kms
Haldwani to Padampuri: 40 Kms
Almora to Padampuri: 68 Kms

Photos from the Journey

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Comments So Far..
  • G,Nirmala 13 July, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Gautam [ hope you don't mind my addressing you this way ] how did you meet Maheshwarnathji? I can't believe this ! Please share the experience.

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  • Gautam 14 July, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Hi Nirmala [G],
    It was out of the blue actually. I know nothing about him other than what's Sri M has mentioned. It was a surreal kind of a dream/vision. I'll send you an email.

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  • veena 14 July, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Gautam, I would request you to share your experience of meeting Maheshwar nath ji on this forum so that rest of us can also enjoy and benefit.We look forward to read about you divine experiences.
    god bless.

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  • Gautam 14 July, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    @ Veena Ji,
    It was not a physical meeting, but an astral one. I trust that such things must be experienced and learned from on a personal level, so I don't think I can do justice to it by trying to word it out 🙂

    Peace

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  • veena 15 July, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    I understand gautam, thank you .

    I am curious to know about Maheshwar nath ji .Is he the Kashmiri saint from the Dhar family of village khanmoh near srinagar Or some one else?What is his connection with sri M and who was Sri M's Guru whom he mentions as babaji.Is he talking about Mahavatar baba?
    Thank you.
    God bless ,Veena

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  • G,Nirmala 15 July, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    This is in reply to Veena's question of who is Maheshwaranath ji. He is Sri M's Master, whose Master is the immortal Mahaavatar Babji who in Sri M's tradition is known as Sri Guru.

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    • Gautam 15 July, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks Nirmala. I asked my father to reply to see whether he has heard of this area [[village khanmoh]] in Kashmir as Veena points out.

      @ Veena..yes Sri M has mentioned that his master Maheshwarnath Ji once revealed to him that he belonged to Kashmir. My father's tauji who was known as Papaji Maharaj (Link 1, Link 2) - who was also a Siddha in Kashmir may have shed some light on this were he alive.

      Sri Baba Ji mahavatar is Maheshwarnath's Guru as Sri M reveals. You can read his book for more.

      GD

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  • NIRAV 15 July, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Gautam,

    What is "M" in Master M stands for. Which book you mentioned reading. I will appreciate if you let me know the name of the book and what M stands for. thanks.

    nirav

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  • Gautam 15 July, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Book: Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master by Sri M
    ISBN: 9788191009606
    Available on all major bookstores online.

    M stands for Mumtaz (Ali). Sri M was born in a Muslim family.

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  • Anupam Dhar 16 July, 2013 at 11:39 am

    @Veena:Taking cue from Kalhana's Rajatarangini, a authentic history of ancient Kashmir, Tibet, Ladakh, Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan formed one large' country' in Bharat.
    Lord Shiva is known to have materialised on the border of Tibet and Kashmir's Ladakh boundary. So narrated my uncle Papa Ji maharaj. After he married Sati, the daughter of a mountain kingdom in Srinagar, the sapta Rishis advised them to procreate so that a exclusive lineage from the marriages of the daughters of Kashmir to the ascetics would be created. Thus descended the Kashmiri brahmins with different "gotras" deriving their nomenclatures from the names of various Rishis. You would probably not find this information in any written literature. For this reason all brahmins of Kashmir are known as Shaivites.Their religion derives its strength and source from Shaivism.

    Mahavatar Babaji, who goes by various names is a manifestation of one of the 'shaktis' of Lord Shiva and therefore immortal. All great ascetics of this country including Sankara were initiated at different times by Mahavatar Babaji. My uncle's guru was also initiated by Babaji. My uncle did not reveal to me the name of his guru. I was just a ignorant but very curious 20 year old collegiate in Srinagar.

    During his period of intense 'sadhana', my uncle was visited by Jesus Christ. This was during early thirties, much before the partition of India. And he muttered during one of his conversations with me that Jesus Christ was also initiated by Mahavatar Babaji. While talking, my uncle was always in a semi trance. And during the course of his yogic sadhana, his guru had instructed him to roam the forests of Lahore and eat only when offered by forest inhabitants. One such day, he came across a person who introduced himself as Ashwatthama. He was unusually tall and very broad chested. On enquiry, he revealed to my uncle that he was cursed to roam the forests and mountains for only 3000 years and not for eternity as is generally believed. And since he was immortal, he would give up his body only when he obtained complete realisation.
    Jesus Christ, after his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, walked all the way to Kashmir, and lived there till he gave up his mortal frame at Anantnag, a suburban township of Srinagar.

    I hope that attends to some of your queries.

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  • Gautam 16 July, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Very useful input from Dhar sahab. As revealed by some old timer saints in Kumaun, Himalayas - Ashwatthama is supposed to have manifested as Haidakhandi Baba who roamed in Himalayas from 1800s to 1922 when he disappeared at the junction of Kali and Gori rivers in 1922".

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  • veena 16 July, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much Nirmala , Gautam and Anupam Ji for your contribution. This whole conversation has been very rewarding and enlightening.
    I am definitely going to the read book by sri M.

    Anupam ji on checking some of the sites like kashmiri saints and sages ,koausa.org etc.I was very pleasantly surprised that in Kashmir we have a had a chain of saints even till very recent past otherwise I had only heard of Lalded in my childhood.The historical facts given by you actually match with so many other stories one has heard here and there.
    Incidently right now I am reading Amish's book 'the secrets of the Nagas ' although a piece of fiction but narrates the story of Shiva's migration from Mansarovar to Kashmir.
    Anupam ji you are very fortunate to have had a highly spritual person in your family.My father's elder brother sri jainath kaul a disciple of Anandmayee ma was also a householder turned sanyasi, left a great impact on all of us .

    A million thanks to all of you and would love to see this gyan ganga flowing on this forum.

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  • NIRAV 16 July, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Dear Gautam,

    I will appreciate if you mention the name of the book you addressed written by Shri M and the full name of the author. Thanks.

    nirav

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  • G,Nirmala 16 July, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    M stands for Mumtaz Ali and the name of the book is Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master, the autobiography of a Yogi.

    Nirmala

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  • Bibudha 17 July, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    This is in addition to Nirmalaji 's reply to Nirav ji- Shri M- stands for Mumtaz Ali & after initiation from His guru Maheswarnath his name was Madhukarnath. He will be known as Shri M- this was told by his guru.

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  • Nirav 10 September, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Hi,

    Does anyone knows any company arrange a trou to Mt Kailash and Mansarovar from USA? Please let me know. Thanks. Nirav

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  • raju 8 January, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Gautamji,
    Reading your experience ,it seems ,the words carried me down all the way with your search of Sidhashram and at last ,great joy inside. Since I read your journey in search of Babaji's cave I new that you are a pure soul in great humanitarian spiritual family,that we all can see through your work you are involve in now.
    I always want to visit Pondicheri Shri Aurobindo ashram but time has not come yet, can u guide me please. I try to Google which has too much info. I just want to visit for 2-3 days.
    om namah shivaya

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    • Shathish 19 April, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      It is in pondicheri. 120 km away from chennai

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      • Raju 20 April, 2016 at 10:21 pm

        Thank you Shathish.

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  • G.Nirmala 2 April, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    what news of Sri Mahaavatar Babji? I so much long to listen to any information that is given on this ageless Guru.

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  • Gautam 5 April, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    G. Nirmala...certainly Internet is the last place to find any information on the net 🙂
    Travel, meditate, explore and may be if we're lucky we'll have his grace with the right sanskaras, and right time. Peace~

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  • raju 6 April, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Hi Nirav,
    Your inq. about Kailas Mansarovar tour name is "travelorg.usa" and click Trivadi, Bharat. He is handling tours from USA and travaels with pilgrims. If you need more info ask again. Rest upto you...Om namah shivay

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  • Raaja 12 August, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Dear Sir,
    where is Sombari Baba cave located.the place name
    TQ

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  • Gautam Dhar 13 August, 2014 at 8:34 am

    About 40 mins further from Padampuri where Sombari Baba's samadhi is.

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  • Kavita Uprety 23 December, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Very Interesting Post... Thanks for posting.. It is said that at every point in time there are Siddhas present on this earth to guide the mankind.. They choose to come back (though not bound like an ordinary human being carrying the fruits of karma and have to come back to settle the karmic accounts) again and again on the earth plane as instruments of God and guide and spread the message of humanity.. I am from Nainital and blessed to be under the kind protection and guidance of a Great Siddha who never discloses his true identity.. A shiva devotee and many, those who are very close to him are sure he is probably an incarnation of a great Himalayan sage.. It's a divine experience to be with him and feel the divine vibrations around his Human body.. He is known to very few people and choose to be in isolation unlike most gurus who love to be in public..

    I feel blessed to be born in such a holy place.. _()_ Jai Gurudev..

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  • nirmala 6 January, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Gautam I am so fascinated by what Kavitha has said. Howblessed is one to know such Masters and be under their protection. Can I have Kavitha's contact number or mail id so that I can talk to her? Thank you

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  • nirmala 6 January, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Nirav you may contact me via mail or phone . Mail id is nimmiemail@gmail.com cellno. is 8970755064

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  • Kavita Uprety 8 January, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Nirmala,

    Just saw your comment.. My mail id is kavita.uprety@gmail.com

    I will be happy to share my experiences with like-minded people like you..

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  • Nirmala 15 March, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I always had thought that people with spiritual leanings are at least a little different from those totally rooted in the material world. But, I realise bitterly that it is not so. This I learnt after I got in touch with two people. who had posted their spiritual thoughts on your site. I was so excited when they promised to share their experiences with me . But one of them backed out saying that it is time consuming and the other's word is yet to materialize. If Masters also did this how spiritually poor this world would have been.

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  • Gautam 16 March, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Nirmala Ji,

    I think it's ok since each individual has a different temperament, perspective and characteristics. If you had unpleasant experience with someone, please continue discussing anything here that you feel comfortable sharing. 🙂

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  • Nirmala 16 March, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Richa you may get in touch with me and I will suggest a remedy

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  • SURESH 5 October, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Wonderful knowledge. I was very much interested to know about all above. Photography inexhaustive and nature can be experienced. The whole experience is in fact cannot be described in words. Few things are to be realised and merged with the Self' at that moment only. Please continue to send more....

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  • sachin raturi 15 June, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Someone has in some way come across to some info which guide their urge to commene the inward journey. Blessed are those who are in divine protection of the self realised souls. May god guide every truthseeker's way towards the journey to him...that is where the goal is....may god bless and guide us all.

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