Sacred India Tarot Archive – Creation of the Buddha Suit of Pentacles

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Continuing our Sacred India Tarot Archive series, now through the Minor Arcana – Creation of the Suit of Pentacles/Disks:

Buddha and Nasturtium Salad (these peppery leaves & flowers are good to eat!)

Jane’s Notes

Gautama Buddha, born under Taurus, sustained throughout his life and enlightenment, the strong sensuous contact with Earth.  He experimented with the traditional spiritual path of physical starvation, but found it as unwise as the dry “heady” practices to which Hindu spirituality had succombed.   He taught the Great Middle Way;  but also to enjoy, by example, the fruits of life:  mens sane in corpore sano.  The key to alleviate suffering – about which he felt passionately – is balance and moderation.  This he firmly held. Compassion is impossible, when driven by partisan beliefs and malnourishment. Compassion is equal with Mother Earth, who births and feeds us.

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SITA CARD ONE, Ace of Disks – the Birth of Buddha)

Rohit’s Notes to Jane – March 2003:

I am using the Buddha story, because I realized it is primarily an earth myth.  He is born feet first, and as his mother births him in a standing position, his feet touch the ground first, and he instantly walks three steps.  All identifying with earth.  He calls on the earth to testify in his favour when Mara accuses him.  He dies lying on the earth like a lion.

The pictorial references given should in most cases prove adequate to compose the drawings for each card.  We need not range too far from the norm here, as the story of Buddha as explained in the accompanying article (see “Rohit Arya’s Essay on the Buddha”, posted earlier) is now part of the mind frame of all Asia.  This used to include countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, which were Buddhist for almost a millennium before converting to Islam.  Before beginning the cards, please read the article.

One of the compositional issues we are likely to face is, how do we fit in the appropriate number of pentacles or coins, as the choice may be into each card.  I give a picture of coins actually depicting the Buddha, so that we have an idea as to the India style of coins, if we choose that option.  The sort of edge to the coins gives an authentic touch.  Perhaps we can compromise – have a coin ‘feel’ with pentacles inscribed within their boundaries.

The sketches of buildings are solely for the purpose of filling in background.  If need be, they can be used in all the suits.

Even though I started my article by saying that the Buddha was not a prince, that is how mythology remembers him, and that is how we will therefore depict him.

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Ace – Birth of Buddha

The choice was to go with the famous white elephant dream his mother had, or the actual depiction of the birth itself, which I felt was better, as it immediately establishes the link with the earth energies.

So we will use the actual birth of the Buddha.  He was born feet first, and as soon as he touched the ground he walked, a phenomenon of great and complex doctrinal significance.  The illustrations given should prove adequate for the composition, but we might include a little walking baby, suitably halo’d.  In the illustrations the Buddha is shown emerging from his mother’s side, a somewhat improbable event!  The mother is holding on to the branches of the tree to help herself deliver, it being common enough in India for women to give birth standing, as almost all other mammals do.

There is no need to veer away from the traditional depictions of costumes of either men or women.  The bare breasted women picture is for reference only, and comes from Sri Lankan murals, though they show the unmistakable Ajanta influence.

This pictorial reference from Rohit – the only one I can find now – has a more Greek style.

Jane’s Notes

Traditionally, the Buddha’s mother gave birth bearing down as she held the branches of a tree;  surrounded by helping women.  To the bodhi tree he returned, for the Great Enlightenment;  and as the tree lay on its side to die, he attained Nirvana.  My first draft for the Ace of Pentacles card contained a female figure to each side, but these were later removed.

I do not have our correspondence about this card.  Probably it didn’t get printed out. Here is the completed work:

The question of how to depict the coins, was resolved with this first card:  the traditional Buddhist symbol is the Great Wheel of the Law.  We agreed to use this – (with twelve outer spokes and eight inner ones) – for the  Pentacles or “Disks”, by which the teaching reaches the ground, and … walks!

In some scriptures, Buddha is called “the wheel rolling King”.

Wheel rolling King – 1988.  The orbital eye in the wheel is a cosmic atom

The Buddha nature vastly transcends any personal or individual focus.  It is of the order of those great wheels, the galaxies;  the time it takes for a feather’s touch on the Himalayas once every billion years, to reduce the entire range to dust.  The Tathagatha is the in and out breath of Kalpas:  the aeons of innumerable universes and lifetimes of the Buddha.  And yet, when this great being walked our paths, he was tender, shrewd and intensely practical.   Nature on earth is in this way, exquisitely practical:  to the smallest detail – the tides, the cycles and the seasons;  the way our body is made.

But we have to learn to become practical likewise. When we live arrogantly and out to lunch in our heads, and have no conscience with our toxic litter, Nature is our faithful mirror.

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From the Buddha’s teaching …

“THE TOWER is as wide and spacious as the sky itself.

 The ground is paved with (innumerable) precious stones of all kinds, and there are within the Tower (innumerable) palaces, porches, windows, staircases, railings and passages, all of which are made of the seven kinds of precious gems …

 “And within this Tower, spacious and exquisitely ornamented, there are also hundreds of thousands … (innumerable) of Towers, each one of which is as exquisitely ornamented as the Tower itself, and as spacious as the sky.

 “And all these Towers, beyond calculation in number, stand not at all in one another’s way;  each preserves its individual existence in perfect harmony with all the rest;  there is nothing here which bars one Tower from being fused with all the others, individually and collectively;  there is a state of perfect intermingling, and yet of perfect orderliness.

 “Sudhana, the young pilgrim, sees himself in all the Towers, as well as in each single Tower, where all is contained in One and each contains all.

Paraphrase by Suzuki from the Buddha’s AVAMTAMSAKA SUTRA

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The child was born from his mother (who died soon after) and walked at once.

How many others have dreamed about this, perhaps during pregnancy?  I did, many times when I was expecting, and I would like to hear if others did.  Briefly, in those dreams, the baby was born awake, and to my astonishment, spoke to me, and walked sturdily.  I might tell this story in my next post.

In my view, such a child is the delivery of a creative consciousness, and may happen at any time.  Such a child is a way of thought, foretelling a way of seeing.  The gods and devas and Great Messengers download through our psyche – (the atmosphere around the planet) – sometimes as infants fully formed, with their term of growth and realisation.  And they walk!

The more ancient the wise ones are, the younger they apear.  In every newborn’s face flow and flicker the centuries of our Self:  and thus the maternal bond.

A movie was made of the Buddha’s life, starring Keanu Reeves.  The footsteps of the walking newborn sprout lotus flowers, deliciously.  This babe accelerates the inner nature, rather like photo-technology learns to, on the surface.  The Christian tradition of the Virgin birth contains the same mystery, striking any moment, in the most ordinary manner.  Fruit of the womb! Only a fragment of the divine ordination – the Buddha land wherein we live:  the galactic Christ consciousness – gets captured into “what we think”; and then is dogmatized.

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The Law

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Rohit Arya

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. 

Earlier posts about the deck, including the Major Arcana archive are in http://aryayogi.wordpress.com   The deck is copyrighted (c) 2011 to the publishers, Yogi Impressions Books pvt, and available also on Amazon and internationally.

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Jane

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 also 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). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

 

Sacred India Tarot Archive – Rohit Arya’s Essay on the Buddha



Buddha mudra behind a Hebrew Tree of Life

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(In the Sacred India Tarot Archive series, we completed last month 
our posts on creating the 22 Major Arcana.  We now continue 
along these lines, with the four suits (56 cards) of the Minor 
Arcana. In this deck, the traditional Pentacles, Wands, Swords 
and Cups are respectively, Disks, Staves, Arrows and Lotuses. 
The suit of Pentacles is "Earth", and tells the story of Buddha's 
life and supremely practical teaching.  The other suits are tales
from the Ramayana, the Mahabharatha, and the wedding of 
Siva and Parvati.

Here is Rohit's introductory life-story of the Buddha.  The next 
post in the S.I.T.A. series will detail the remaining Grace card 
of the deck - Blessings of Babaji.  (The other Grace card is 
Ganesh, see Major Arcana.)  We shall then proceed through the 
suit of Disks, about one a week.

Seeking images to accompany Rohit's writing of the Buddha, a sky 
blue colour filled my mind, as of old.  For me, the TATHAGATHA - 
a beautiful name for the Buddha - has this radiance of the Endless
One:  jewel in the lotus.  "Tathagatha means one who has attained 
reality...  Tathagatha is further explained as True Nature, that 
which is immutable, immovable, and beyond all concepts and 
distinctions."  Buddha, a Taurean, earthed that light in nature, 
in rocks, flowing water and humanity, and does so to this day.)

J.A. 25.10.12

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Buddha nature

“The Life of Buddha – the Most Popular Story in the World” by Rohit Arya

The sheer volume of numbers who are aware of the Buddha, make the title of this essay a foregone conclusion.  For 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.

Stream, sunlight, teaching

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.

Dharma stone

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.

Wood portal

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.

Austerities

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.

“Blue Lotus”

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.)

Law of Life

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.

Law of Life, with Dharma wheel

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.

Like a snowdrop

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.

Snowdrop (JA 1969)

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.

Sanatana Dharma

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.

 flower sermon

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Ah, so!  Rohit’s writing of the Buddha, has stirred up voices and feelings in me, about the Buddha’s presence and footways in those ancient times, and his teaching.  It smooths my brow, restoring afresh the wonderful blue flower … Vishnu Krishna prototype!  Enjoy walking with this through the SITA suit of pentacles … the peace.

His brilliant 350 page book The Sacred India Tarot, which accompanies the deck, is unique and covers the full terrain, including mythology, yoga and interpretation – available from bookstores, ebooks, and on Amazon.  Visit the Sacred India Tarot website (published by Yogi Impressions) or on facebook.

The deck took us about nine years to create by correspondence.  The first 14 cards’ process work, plus Ganesh and Kali, are on Rohit’s blog http://aryayogi.wordpress.com which contains his other illumining essays on the subject.

Due to technical problems in India during the summer, I took over the archive, and The Major Arcana 15-21 process work was put up on both blogs.

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Rohit Arya

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

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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.