“We mark birthdays annually,
but celebrate Life constantly.
For birth and death are virtual,
while Life is perpetual –
a perpetual blessing.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Growing up I rarely thought about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.
Not until a transformative midlife awakening to self-identity as eternal spirit, followed by inner visions of apparent other lifetimes, and meeting my Guruji, who taught about death, dying and beyond, did I begin experiencing deep reflection about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.
And eventually I even began wondering whether our lifespans might be karmically predetermined upon birth. That reflection was triggered over thirty years ago when I received a memorable Vedic astrology prediction that I would die “at age 84”, based upon my precise time and place of birth.
Here is what happened.
Story of death prediction.
After Guruji returned to India in 1980, I met and learned from many other spiritual teachers, in addition to Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma, while always maintaining my heartfelt inner relationship with Guruji – above all other teachers.
Especially after my 1982 pilgrimage to India, for many years I considered myself a “born-again Hindu” and was especially attracted to Indian spiritual teachers. Thus in August 1986 I attended programs given by Sri Hariharinanda Giri, a self-realized Kriya Yoga initiate of renowned Master and Vedic astrologer Sri Yukteswar Giri and of Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, who continued a spiritual lineage beginning with “Mahavatar Babaji” – an etherial being who apparently I beheld at the 1982 Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India.
Inspired by Sri Yukteswar, Hariharinanda Giri [affectionately known as ‘Baba’] had become an expert Vedic astrologer, and offered optional readings to those receiving his Kriya empowerments. So on August 10, 1986, I had a private astrological reading with Baba in which he interpreted my Vedic chart – which I called a ‘karmic map’.
In Vedic astrology or Jyotish, the ascendant sign is often deemed the most defining element in the chart. Both my Vedic and Western astrology charts show Libra – which is ruled by the planet Venus – as my ascendent or rising zodiac sign.
And so in his reading Baba emphasized this significant aspect of my chart. But in his Indian English he unwittingly mispronounced the name of my ruling ascendant planet, Venus. In a tape recorded session, two or three times he approvingly told me: “Your Penus is rising”. And he lovingly offered enlightened advice for my skillful spiritual behavior under that auspicious rising sign.
On conclusion of his reading Baba showed me my written chart, and asked if I had any questions. I pointed to a notation at the top, and asked him what it meant. Whereupon Baba turned off the tape recorder and replied: “That shows when you will die.”
Until then I had never heard that Vedic astrology could determine time of death from a chart based on planetary configurations at time of birth. Nor had I begun to think about my time of death. So in response to this surprising revelation, I simply exclaimed, “Oh!”
Whereupon, without my asking him, Baba voluntarily told me: “You will die at age 84”.
Post-prediction death reflections.
After Baba’s surprisingly specific death prediction, I continued to reflect on death and gradually discovered persuasively apt writings about esoteric ancient Vedic philosophy, astrology and prophesy, as well as about Einstein’s revolutionary relativity science. And I found credible quotes from non-dualist masters suggesting that that not only one’s lifespan but our actions, and even our thoughts, are predetermined by natural laws of causality until we transcend the ‘wheels of karma’. [See Einstein’s Mystical Ideas About God, Death, Afterlife, and Reincarnation; and Indian Astrology, Free Will or Fate? ~ An Amazing Synchronicity Story ]
On my 84th birthday anniversary (on November 8, 2016) I completed a full 84 year Uranus cycle, of exactly 1008 months. So since then I’ve increasingly wondered how much time is left for Ron Rattner; whether he is imminently ‘scheduled’ to say “bye-bye” to this twenty first century.
Life is eternal, but human lifetimes are ephemeral. So as an octogenarian (not knowing when this precious lifetime will end), I have been augmenting and updating my Silly Sutras postings concerning physical death – a profoundly important spiritual subject. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/dealing-with-death-and-dying-rons-memoirs/)
May these writings motivate our reflections upon our inevitable physical departure from this relative “reality”, where “however we may strive, nobody leaves alive”.
And may they hasten fulfillment of our deepest aspirations for Self realization beyond “birth and death”, as Eternal NOW.
And so may it be!
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end,
by forces over which we have no control.
It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star.
Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust,
we all dance to a mysterious tune,
intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Every Cause has its Effect;
every Effect has its Cause;
everything happens according to Law;
Chance is but a name for Law not recognized;
there are many planes of causation,
but nothing escapes the Law.”
~ The Kybalion
“You are truly free when you are not a person”.
~ Deepak Chopra – The Book of Secrets
Introduction to Indian Astrology, Free Will or Fate?
I have elsewhere shared how in February, 1977, I spent a week in New York City, so filled with amazing synchronistic and precognitive experiences, that I became convinced it was possible to mystically transcend serial time perception. ( Synchronicity Story: An Amazing Experiment With Time )
Later, on learning that Sri Yukteshwar, Paramahamsa Yogananda’s guru, was an expert Vedic astrologer, and that the father of my Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, was also a Vedic astrologer, I became interested in astrological predictions and (for the first time in my life) was opened to possible validity of astrology – both Eastern and Western – as an esoteric science.
Indian or Vedic astrology is called Jyotish, which is Sanskrit for “light”; it is an ancient tradition going back thousands of years. Commonly, Indian astrologers (like those from other traditions) cast and interpret a personal chart – a ‘karmic map’ – based on each person’s unique time and place of birth.
But, there is another very rare branch of Jyotish astrology called Nadi reading in which the astrologer, a Brahmin priest, doesn’t cast a personal chart, but through analysis of one’s thumb prints locates and interprets notations supposedly first written on palm bark or leaves thousands of years ago by Indian sage Bhrigu, or a similar saint.
Few people in the world have ever heard about, much less seen, an Indian Nadi reader. On first hearing of Nadi readers, I skeptically dismissed claims of their authenticity and accuracy as too “far out” and beyond my Western programmed paradigm. But gradually I heard credible reports which began changing my mind.
First, two Harvard trained married friends recounted to me their amazing experience with a Nadi reader. Later, I learned that Swami Kriyananda
(J. Donald Walters), a well known Western teacher, author, and direct disciple of Paramahamsa Yogananda, was so impressed with the extraordinary accuracy of his Nadi readings, that in 1967 he had published a book entitled India’s Ancient Book of Prophecy.
In 2011, I was discussing questions of free will and destiny with my long-time Jyotish astrologer friend Jackie Haller, when she reminded me of Kriyananda’s Nadi reading experiences. Intrigued by Jackie’s comments, I soon did an extended internet search about Kriyananda’s prophesy book. It was out of print, but I found online summaries of his amazing story.
The next day, while visiting at the Fort Mason Italian-American Museum, I was informing my friend Joy Massa about Kriyananda’s Nadi readings, when a woman near us “coincidentally” overhead the conversation and joined us. Spontaneously she recounted lucidly and in some detail her personal amazing experience with a Nadi reading in Tamil Nadu, South India. She told us that she’d become interested in such prophesies from friends and after reading about Deepak Chopra’s extraordinary experience with Nadi readers.
Chopra was then well known to me as a knowledgeable and credible spiritual author. So I soon found and read, for the first time, his following life changing prophesy experience, in his “Book of Secrets”, pp 213-216.
“The Book of Secrets” by Deepak Chopra:
YOU ARE TRULY FREE WHEN YOU ARE NOT A PERSON
Several years ago in a small village outside New Delhi, I was sitting in a small, stuffy room with a very old man and a young priest. The priest sat on the floor swaying back and forth as he recited words inked on bark sheets that looked ancient. I listened, having no idea what the priest was intoning. He was from the far south and his language, Tamil, was foreign to me. But I knew he was telling me the story of my life, past and future. I wondered how I got roped into this and began to squirm.
It had taken strong persuasion from an old friend to get me to the small room. “It’s not just Jyotish, it’s much more amazing,” he coaxed. Indian astrology is called Jyotish, and it goes back thousands of years. Visiting your family astrologer is common practice everywhere in India, where people plan weddings, births, and even routine business transactions around their astrological charts (Indira Gandhi was a famous example of someone who followed Jyotish), but modern times have led to a fading away of tradition. I had chronically avoided any brushes with Jyotish, being a child of modern India and later a working doctor in the West.
But my friend prevailed, and I had to admit that I was curious about what was going to happen. The young priest, dressed in a wrapped skirt with bare chest and hair shiny with coconut oil—both marks of a southerner—didn’t draw up my birth chart. Every chart he needed had already been drawn up hundreds of years ago. In other words, someone sitting under a palm tree many generations ago had taken a strip of bark, known as a Nadi, and inscribed my life on it.
These Nadis are scattered all over India, and it’s pure chance to run across one that applies to you. My friend had spent several years tracking down just one for himself; the priest produced a whole sheaf for me, much to my friend’s amazed delight. You have to come for the reading, he insisted.
Now the old man sitting across the table was interpreting in Hindi what the priest was chanting. Because of overlapping birth times and the vagaries of the calendar when we are speaking of centuries, Nadis can overlap, and the first few sheets didn’t apply to me. But by the third sheet or so, the young priest with the sing-song voice was reading facts that were startlingly precise: my birth date, my parents’ names, my own name and my wife’s, the number of children we have and where they live now, the day and hour of my father’s recent death, his exact name, and my mother’s.
At first there seemed to be a glitch: The Nadi gave the wrong first name for my mother, calling her Suchinta, when in fact her name is Pushpa. This mistake bothered me, so I took a break and went to a phone to ask her about it. My mother told me, with great surprise, that in fact her birth name was Suchinta, but since it rhymed with the word for “sad” in Hindi, an uncle suggested that it be changed when she was three years old. I hung up the phone, wondering what this whole experience meant, for the young priest had also read out that a relative would intervene to change my mother’s name. No one in our family had ever mentioned this incident, so the young priest wasn’t indulging in some kind of mind-reading.
For the benefit of skeptics, the young priest had passed nearly his whole life in a temple in South India and did not speak English or Hindi. Neither he nor the old man knew who I was. Anyway, in this school of Jyotish, the astrologer doesn’t take down your birth time and cast a personal chart which he then interprets. Instead, a person walks into a Nadi reader’s house, the reader takes a thumbprint, and based on that, the matching charts are located (always keeping in mind that the Nadis may be lost or scattered to the winds). The astrologer reads out only what someone else has written down perhaps a thousand years ago. Here’s another twist to the mystery: Nadis don’t have to cover everyone who will ever live, only those individuals who will one day show up at an astrologer’s door to ask for a reading!
In rapt fascination I sat through an hour of more arcane information about a past life I had spent in a South Indian temple, and how my transgressions in that lifetime led to painful problems in this one, and (after a moment’s hesitation while the reader asked if I really wanted to know) the day of my own death. The date falls reassuringly far in the future, although even more reassuring was the Nadi’s promise that my wife and children would lead long lives full of love and accomplishment.
I walked away from the old man and the young priest into the blinding hot Delhi sunshine, almost dizzy from wondering how my life would change with this new knowledge. It wasn’t the details of the reading that mattered. I have forgotten nearly all of them, and I rarely think of the incident except when my eye falls on one of the polished bark sheets, now framed and kept in a place of honor in our home. The young priest handed it to me with a shy smile before we parted. The one fact that turned out to have a deep impact was the day of my death. As soon as I heard it, I felt both a profound sense of peace and a new sobriety that has been subtly changing my priorities ever since.
Chopra’s astonishing story confirmed that it is possible to mystically transcend ordinary serial time perception. And it renewed for me these perennial questions about free will and fate, which began with my February 1977 synchronicity experiences in New York:
“Are there really any coincidences or accidents, or is everything that happens to us predestined by laws of causation or karma?”
“Do we really have free will as most people believe?
And if so, what free will?”
Perhaps you, too, will wonder about these questions after reading Deepak Chopra’s fascinating story.
The foregoing synchronicity story, mentions (without including details) Swami Kriyananda’s amazing Nadi readings.
Such details, personally written by Kriyananda, (J. Donald Walters) appear below in a summary, titled: “Astounding Predictions”. Also, (citing Sri Yukteshwar, who was an expert Vedic astrologer, and Paramahamsa Yogananda’s guru) Kriyananda’s summary addresses the perennial questions about free will and fate which conclude the foregoing story.
Accordingly, the summary is herein excerpted from a chapter titled “Experiences of Infinite Consciousness by Swami Kriyananda, (J. Donald Walters)” published in “The Akashic Experience”, by distinguished Hungarian philosopher and author Ervin László.
ASTOUNDING PREDICTIONS, by Swami Kriyananda,
(J. Donald Walters)
Many years ago (1959) in Paliala (Punjab), India, a son of the Maharaja of Patiala, a student who was taking a course I was giving in Raja Yoga came to me one day at the home of Balkishen Khosla, where I was staying, and asked, “Swamiji, have you ever heard of Bhrigu?”
When I couldn’t place the name, he helped me by adding, “Bhrigu is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna [speaking in the voice of God] says, “Among saints, I am Bhrigu.”” Of course then I recognized the name. Bhrigu lived in India in very ancient times.
Raja Mrigendra Singh, my visitor, went on to say, “Bhrigu wrote a sanhita [scriptural document) predicting the lives of innumerable individuals yet to be born, some of whom are actually living today.”
This seemed to me, of course, almost too fantastic. Yet I had already encountered examples of the bizarre and the unusual in that mystical land. To preface what came next, let me recount an ancient Indian tradition, which my “spiritual grandfather” (my guru’s guru), Swami Sri Yukteswar, clarified and, so to speak, “pruned” of inaccuracies that had crept in under the disintegrating influences of time. The tradition concerns four ages, explained by Swami Sri Yukteswar as being brought about by sidereal movements within the galaxy. That system is too complex for explanation here, but it is also related to the Akashic influences.
Sri Yukteswar stated that the earth recently entered Dwapara Yuga, the second of those ages, in which human beings will come increasingly to understand that energy is the basic reality of matter. In this Dwapara age also, humans will gain insights into the essentially illusory nature of space. Thus, in the centuries to come we will learn how to travel to other planets and to demolish the sense of spatial distance. This we have accomplished already to some extent, with the invention of the telephone, radio, television, internet, and air travel.
It is said that in the third of the ascending ages, Treta Yuga, humans will develop insight into the essentially illusory nature of time. We will understand that time and space are much more elastic than they have seemed; time itself will be increasingly perceived as a continuum, comparable to a river that, when observed from a bridge, is seen to consist not only of what flows directly under the bridge but also of the water flowing down to the bridge from upstream. In other words, the future already exists, being the result of flowing influences from the past, and will not change significantly with anything added to the water- perhaps cast into it from the bridge.
Hints of this reality are suggested already even today. They will become so obvious in the third yuga as to be universally accepted. Particularly gifted individuals will be able, beyond the denials of any cynic, to predict specific events far into the future.
Even today, predictions have been made, mostly regarding the lives of individuals but also regarding world events, that have turned out to be startlingly accurate. The knowledge of enlightened sages, moreover, has always shown itself in this respect to be quite extraordinary.
I was told a story, based on the personal experience of someone I knew who had visited a saint in Howrah, West Bengal. He had asked the saint how accurate and how specific a prediction could be. The saint responded by foretelling several completely unexpected events that would occur to him that very afternoon. What he said (and here, I am able only to paraphrase) went something like this: “When you leave here. you will be obliged to take a detour because a crowd will have gathered in the street in
front of a burning building. On that detour, you will see an accident on the right side of the street. but it will not impede you. and you will have a safe journey home.” The details were not exactly as I’ve related them here, but what actually occurred was comparable. I was assured that the prediction had come to be fulfilled in every respect.
Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi contains many predictions of a similar nature. I’d like to emphasize that I myself lived with the author of that book as his close disciple and am fully convinced of its, and of his, veracity.
Back, then, to my own experience with Raja Mrigendra and Bhrigu’s text, which was extraordinary. Raja Mrigendra told me that not many miles from where we were, “in the town of Barnala, there is a partial copy of that ancient document, in manuscript form. It contains predictions of the lives of individuals, including many who are living today. I found there a reading for myself. Would you,” he continued, “be interested in going there to see whether the sanhita contains something about you?”
“Are its predictions only general?” I asked. “Might it say about me, for instance , that I’ve come from a distance and appear to be interested in spiritual matters?”
“Nothing like that!” he replied confidently. “If it says anything at all, it will be much more specific.”
Well. naturally I was intrigued! We went by car the next day to Barnala, a town that in no way suggested mystical wonders, being an assemblage of completely ordinary, somewhat dirty streets and buildings, none of them even interesting. The structure that housed the miraculous document was quite as nondescript as anything in its surroundings. We were the first to arrive. and I was introduced to the custodian, a brahmin whose name (if memory serves) was Pundit Bhagat Ram. He welcomed us, showing my friend the deference due to his social position.
Passing lightly over the formalities, a horoscope was cast for the moment when I asked for a reading. The pundit went into an inner room where the stored document was piled on many shelves in bundles. He retrieved a small bundle numbered (I vaguely recall) 54. Opening the bundle, and dividing it into three piles, he kept one himself, gave one to Raja Mrigendra, and handed the third stack of pages to me, telling the two of us to look for a page showing a horoscope similar to the one he had drawn up. We each went carefully through them. I! was I who came upon a page that seemed to me similar to his design. It was the right one.
“The readings”, Raja Mrigendra had told me, “usually tell a person his last life, his present one, and his next one”· My reading began, as he’d predicted, with my previous life. It told me that in that life I had been born in India. My name was Pujar Das, I lived in Karachi (identified by the first letter in the name of that city, and also by its geographical location), was married, and was financially well off. We had no children. There followed a brief description of my life up to the time where my wife and I went on a
pilgrimage and came to a desert (probably in Rajasthan), there reaching the place where the ancient sage Kapila (founder of the Sankhya system of philosophy) had once had his ashram. There I met my guru, I resolved to stay there and seek God, sending my wife home. A fair amount of information followed, all of it both interesting and instructive, but too personal for inclusion here. None of it was verifiable. of course, though it’s true that in my present life I have felt strangely attracted to living in the desert.
“In the present life”, it continued, “he was born in a mlecha [unclean,’ an ancient word for Western] country, is well known as a seer of Ashtanga Yoga [the teaching of Palanjali), and is traveling and teaching in this country. His name is Kriyananda.” This piece of information brought me up sharply. I was astounded.
Kriyananda is a most unusual name, though two or three monks (sannyasis) have taken it since I did. Several more people had entered the room by now. and I passed the page around to them to see if they could verify whether this name was indeed written there. They all concurred that it was. The “reading” omitted mention of my next life but made a few predictions for this one that were interesting and hope inspiring, if a little vague.
The fact that it mentioned me by name, however, was itself simply amazing. What it said about this life, also, was more or less accurate, though general. Would I have liked more specificity? I’m not so sure.
Sometimes it’s more helpful to have a general sense of one’s direction than to be burdened with too many details, whether alarming or giving comfort.
What was I to think? The reading dosed by saying. “There will be no more readings today.” Everyone in the room, accordingly, left with us.
I was fascinated enough by all this to speak about it to friends. It seemed to offer evidence, above all. that there was much more to India’s ancient civilization –as I of course already knew to be the case –than cowherds, farmers, and primitive villages. Surely what it suggests, rather, is a legacy of extraordinary wisdom. This was ammunition that would help to substantiate any book or lecture on those ancient teachings.
A few weeks later I was giving lectures and classes in New Delhi, where this new interest led to another segment of the Bhrigu sanhita. Here I received another reading. It slated , “I have already given him a reading in my Yoga Valli. That one was according to astrology. This one will be according to the power of yoga .” Instead of once again telling me my last life. it went back to an earlier life.
“In the time of Kurukshetra [the historic war described in the ancient epic the Mahabharata], he was the ruler of a small state in Bharatavarsha [India]. Fearful of having to support the wrong side in that conflict, he handed over his kingdom to his son and went into the forest for a life of seclusion and meditation. There he took initiation from a guru· The reading went on to describe that man’s life, saying that after it, owing to his good deeds. he spent some 700 years in the astral world.
Fascinating! In many ways that subtle region has always seemed more real to me than this physical world, though what remain are strong impressions rather than clear and specific memories. Again. I purposely omit here details of that past life that are personal and not germane to these pages.
What ensued then was even more astounding than the reading in Barnala. “This life,” it continued, “is the eighth since thai one during the time of Kurukshetra. In the present life he was born in Romania. lived in America, [both statements were correct], and his father named him James. [James is in fact my first name, though I was always known by my second name, Donald.] He has two brothers. but no living sister is possible, though one will die in his mothers womb. [My mother admitted to me, after my return to America. that she had had one miscarriage.] After meeting his guru, Yogananda. his name will become Kriyananda. Within two months from the time he receives this reading he will return to his own country. where he will be lovingly received by his (spiritual) brothers and sisters, and will be given [appointed to] a high position.”
Interestingly. I was in fact summoned back to America within two months. On my return voyage, while visiting Japan, I received word that Dr. M. W. Lewis, the elderly vice president of my guru’s organization, had just left his body. Shortly after my arrival in California I was appointed to replace him.
Perennial questions about free will and fate mentioned in the foregoing synchronicity story, have continued for me since I began wondering about them over forty years ago. Accordingly numerous other SillySutras.com writings deal with these questions. The most recent and comprehensive essay with numerous quotations is titled “Free Will or Fate” and is posted at https://sillysutras.com/free-will-or-fate/.
Perhaps an epigrammatic answer to esoteric perennial questions about free will and fate is suggested by the title of Deepak Chopra’s Nadi reading story:
“You Are Truly Free When You Are Not A Person”.