I began my study of Indian astrology in California when I was eighteen years old under the renowned Jyotish Chakrapani Ullal. Chakrapani appeared quite old then, perhaps late sixties or early seventies. This would make him nearing ninety now. He told many stories, often of Muktananda, his Guru who I also lived with as a young boy, and of Nityananda, the originator of the lineage who wandered India mostly silently from the 1920s-1950s, materializing out of nowhere and eventually founding the village of Ganeshpuri where I spent my boyhood. Chakrapani would tell a story of a 1st class train in Bombay, the Guru trying to enter the car naked but for a loin cloth and the British engineers demanding his a ticket. Here, miraculously the naked Nityananda would pull a long stream tickets from thin air and throw them around the train reveling in the sudden chaos.

It was through Chakrapani I also first heard of the Nadi leaves: a branch of Indian astrological tradition in which leaves from the Nadi tree, endless libraries as I understood it, were passed down among certain families generation after generation, traced back as far as the mythical Rishis who, thousands of years ago, once authored the Vedas themselves. Nowadays you can even search them out on the internet of course. But, as Chakrapani explained, discoveries of  these Nadi leaves were almost always fake, made up by charlatans who claim to carry this or that but really are out for nothing more than any idiots money. To find the true leaves, you had to know where to ask. The story goes that the Rishis wrote down a brief astrological prediction for every possible person who was to come, listed by birth time (and intersected with birth place). Thus if you were to go and search, somewhere deep in the bowels of an endless library of decayed leaves, somewhere hidden in an alley across the vast subcontinent, you would find your own fortune for the right price. Chakrapani would laugh as he told this story, and tell me of different American celebrities he’d sent in search of their leaves. Now to the point of this uncanny tale: it was said that up to the point that you came across your fortune, all that was written would be in order and correct- you had an accident at a certain age, a certain number of children or lack thereof, a great success or failure at a certain given moment, and so on. But, following this moment of reading the leaves however, everything would from then on change thereafter. From this singular point, life would deviate from the predictions of the leaves, the allegory being, you were now aware of your own karma. Ultimately, this is a parable of self awareness. Divination in its many guises is never really a tool of prediction but rather, truly a tool of self realization.

Below are several video interviews from the Washington Center of Chakrapani. One is on the elements, another on the Guru Nityananda and a third on the archetype of the Goddess . There are many insights on both his own spiritual path and his work as an astrologer of which no one is a greater master.

– Peter Matthew Bauer