The Yoga Zapper - A Novel
199 pages

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The Yoga Zapper - A Novel


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199 pages

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Little do Jack and Steve realize that the text is actually a prescription for time-travel. In the midst of a deep conflict, they are transported to different destinations. At time’s beginning, Steve’s heart opens to the beautiful Shanti and learns at last to both love and let go. At the ending age, Jack, sucked into the intrigue and treachery of a civilization unravelling under a dark dictator, is finally forced to become accountable for his actions. The Yoga Zapper uses themes found in the authentic narratives and prophecies of the Indian subcontinent: yogis meditating for thousands of years, Avatars descending from spiritual realms, magical flying craft known as vimanas, and at the end of time (which is also time’s beginning,) a world-consuming battle between good and evil.



Publié par
Date de parution 13 août 2015
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9781771456548
Langue English

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The Yoga Zapper By Mohan Ashtakala Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771456548 MOBI 978-1-77299-524-4 PDF 9781771456562 Print ISBN 9781771456579 Amazon Print 978-1-77299-525-1
Copyright 2015 by Mohan Ashtakala Cover art by Michelle Lee "Artwork and quoted text courtesy of The Bhaktiveda nta Book Trust International, lnc. Used with permission." All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book * * * Dedication To my spiritual teacher H.H. Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami. Thank you for all your blessings!
Chapter One New Delhi, The Present (Beginning of Kali Yuga) The bus toBadrinathleaned badly over to one side. As the doors opened , a sea of pushing, shouting passengers got on and half an hou r later, upon departure, another wave of travelers bullied their way aboard while ha wkers of all descriptions announced their assorted wares in the crowded bus before scra mbling to get off. It puzzled Jack that no one got left behind, run over or pushed off in the overwhelming bedlam. With much grinding of gears and many perfunctory lurches , the bus wound its way out of the Interstate Bus Terminal in the middle of New Delhi. It was only six-thirty in the morning, but beads of sweat already clung to his forehead. His older brother sat next to him. Steve Goode clas ped his long, artistic fingers together, as if hesitant to allow them to express t hemselves. Jack’s fingers, strong but always restless, tapped steadily on the seat, as if looking for something to do. He sighed. Steve’s silent treatment tested his patienc e. “Why didn’t you just stay in Kansas City?” Steve glared back. “I used the last bit of my stude nt loan to join you on this expedition to nowhere.” “Well, don’t be a martyr about it.” The reproach had its effect. “I’m sorry. I didn’t m ean that.” Steve reflected for a second. “I didn’t want to spend the money, but I al ways wanted to visit India.” He returned to his guide book about Himalayan pilgrima ge towns, making notes in his small, ever-present pocketbook. A light gray jacket , a plain white shirt, dark brown slacks and sensible black loafers comprised his out fit. Jack restarted the conversation. “When the hell’d y ou shave?” he queried, scratching his own scruffy chin. He sported a black T-shirt promoting some long forgotten band tour, tight blue jeans, and grubby w hite tennis shoes. “I woke up at four-thirty. Being prepared, you know.” Jack snorted. “Where’d you get the book?” “At a bookstore in Connaught Square. Yesterday.” Just like Mom, thought Jack,both book lovers. He stretched and stared out the window as the bus slowed through the slums in North Delhi. Small, unkempt children played in open gutters. He shook his head.Poor kids, they’ll never get a chance. Never get a chance to go to college, play football or att end concerts.had dropped out of He Missouri after discovering that university demanded scholarship and gave no credit for having a good time. Not because he was stupid—no, e veryone told him he was intelligent—but not a single course held his intere st. After two years of the college grind, he quit. But still, he had his choices and these people didn ’t. The crowded hovels, the poverty, the dust and the heat hit him in the gut.How the hell did I end up here, he wondered, in the middle of a noisy bus crowded to the gills with humanity, on a trip to God knows where? * * * * * They had arrived in New Delhi two weeks earlier and engaged in the usual tourist things a visit to the Taj Mahal, the Purana Quila, the Parliament buildings and the Delhi Zoo. Disregarding the warning that May is the hotte st month on the Indian subcontinent
when only the proverbial mad dogs and Englishmen ro am in the midday sun, they wilted after a couple of weeks. They approached their hote l manager for advice. “Too much terrorists in Kashmir,” stated the man. O n a small shelf behind him sat a picture ofLakshmithe goddess of fortune, garlanded with fresh jasmine. Fair- Devi, skinned, she sported four arms, wore a redsariand sat crossed-legged on a white and pink lotus. An incense stick burned in front of her. “Hey,” enquired Jack. “Where would you go?” “Me?” retorted the manager, with surprised eyes. He reflected. “My father went to Badrinath in Himalayas. My grandfather, same thing. In my life, I pray for chance to have darshan of Sri Badri Narayan, the temple Deity .” Jack knotted his eyebrows. “Darshan means to have audience with, vision of, th e Deity.” “Okay, okay. How do we get there?” The hotel manager arched his eyebrows. “No. Not a t ourist place. Only pilgrims go. Very difficult.” “Hey, you only live once,” countered Jack. “Just gi ve us the directions.” The manager shrugged his shoulders and threw a bus schedule on the counter. “You go by the bus. Only part way. Then you climb o n the foot.” Jack grabbed the brochure and as he turned to go, h e glimpsed, out of the corner of his eye, Lakshmi Devi winking at him. His eyes wide ned, he held his breath and turned around. She stared back, impassive. He shook his he ad. Maybe the heat got to him. * * * * * Jack looked out the window. If a game inside the ci ty, traffic resembled war outside, with every highway a battlefield. The casualties li ttered the roadside huge lorries lay flipped over at depressingly regular intervals, alo ng with broken cars and an occasional dead goat. At night, the traffic became even more hair-raising . Making no concession to darkness, navigated by fatalistic drivers with no f ear of death, the trucks, with six or eight headlights blazing, their sides painted with fierce female divinities carrying swords and axes, careened down dusty country roads at brea kneck speeds. But the next morning, away from the large metropolis, came scene s of great beauty hills garlanded with shimmering green rice fields, snow-capped moun tains reflecting in their blue waters. In the evenings, they rested in tiny villag es where small wiry men of the hills returned home from fields, their lives following th e timeless, primordial cycle of seasons, rains and crops. Stopping in these hamlets , he sensed the simplicity of the inhabitants’ lives. Despite the poverty of their po ssessions, they showed little anxiety. Genuine warmth filled the evenings the villagers sh ared songs and what little food they had unhesitatingly.What does it take to be like them, he wondered.What makes them happy with what they have? Though constantly broke, Jack somehow always coughe d up enough money to impulsively travel to various parts of the world. H e spent last spring in Paris; the previous winter, snorkeling in Mexico. He traveled at every chance, but each trip ended in disappointment, always finishing where he had started—with no idea what his life was about. Maybe India would inspire him, unlike his pr evious adventures. He shrugged. Mom constantly reminded him that he had to stop wan dering and become serious. She no doubt insisted on his big brother coming to watc h over him, as if Steve was his father or something.
He caught himself. That wasn’t quite fair. He had t o admit, his brother rescued him from some tight spots over the years—once Steve dro ve all the way to San Antonio and bailed him out of jail after he got drunk and punch ed out a guy in a bar. Or last year, when Steve pulled together the money to retrieve hi s impounded vehicle. Jack laughed. That’s me, he figured—a hellraiser just like Dad. He understood why Mom wanted him to settle down; she didn’t want him to turn out lik e his father.It’s in my blood, thought Jack,I have to keep moving. And the other thing that Mom always harped about gi rlfriends. He liked the chase, the thrill of getting a woman, but as soon he estab lished a relationship, he’d lose interest. Jack rubbed his chin. Damned if he knew w hy, but it happened every time. It led to some awful scenes, with hurt girlfriends sla mming doors behind them, but he couldn’t help himself. If there were no feelings le ft, he moved on.I can’t be blamed, he supposed,it’s better to be honest about these things. Jack suddenly felt depressed. He took a deep breath and caught himself.Forget about the past, he reminded himself.It’s just an empty place and there’s no point dwelling there.He exhaled and pushed out all the negative thoughts and felt better.Just live for the moment.That’s my philosophy. He looked down on the floor and grinned.If that’s what you call a philosophy.
ChapterTwo Badrinath, the Present (Beginning of Aali Yuga) Their route took them to Haridwar, where the Ganges fl ows from the mountains to meet the plains, and then up to Hrishikesh in the h igh hills, famous for its many yoga ashrams. When they reached Hrishikesh, the temperat ure became bearable, even cool at night, and they reluctantly had to buy thick gre en woolen sweaters at a roadside stand. The three-day bus journey ended at Hanuman Chatti, where they left the rest of the passengers. Grateful to escape the claustrophobia, and with much stretching of cramped muscles, they headed on foot along the pilg rim trail following the blue-green Alakananda river. They climbed for two days, strain ing under heavy backpacks, with the night spent in an unnamed village a cluster of brow n stone huts with gray slate roofs, a stranger to both electricity and indoor toilets, cl inging to the leeward side of a high ridge, surrounded by forests of silver-green Himalayan pin e. By the time they arrived in Badrinath, the sun hung low in the west. Steve took the backpack off his weary shoulders and dropped it on the ground at the edge of the trail. His brother stood next to him. Exactly six feet tall, Steve, twenty-seven, measured a hair shorter than his younger brother and featured dark brown eyes and a mop of pale brown hair curling over his forehead. Jack had sharp blue eyes, an oval face, an aquiline nose, a handsome chin and, at only twenty-three, bo asted broad shoulders with long black hair, which women found irresistible. Slowly bending his aching knees, Steve rested his t hin frame on a large boulder and gazed at the town below. The Alakananda river, fast moving and fed by melting snows, split the town in two. Several buildings, mo stly shops and restaurants, occupied the near side of the river while sweet pine-wood sm oke wafted along the cobblestoned streets. The trail enlarged into the town’s main ro ad, running right through its center, across its only bridge and ended at the front steps of the shrine, while mountains loomed beyond it. The whole place gave off a sense of impossibility, as if arising from the rocky ground rather than having been crafted by human hands. Steve referred to his notebook. “The great Indian p hilosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, originally established the temple almost twelve hun dred years ago. An aura of great antiquity permeated the town’s every nook and corne r, from the ancient weathered stone buildings to the rough-hewn granite temple, w hich looked as if it had been there forever. Even the dust that blew in from Tibet seem ed ageless. Steve continued. “The famous Tapta Kund, hot spring s encircled by terraced stone steps, renowned in antiquity throughout India and C hina, lies close to the temple. The Kund is older than the temple and according to lege nd, built by the Pandavas, five legendary brothers whose names are mentioned in the five-thousand-year-old Mahabharata, the history of ancient India. He recalled his readings from the bus that Badrinat h rested at an elevation of about 11,000 feet above the vast Gangetic Plains. No inha bitants lived permanently in this isolated area as no agriculture, industry or trade could take durable hold; rather, it existed only as a place of pilgrimage and, for six months of the year, when the winter snows closed the mountain passes, the whole town sh ut down and the carved stone Deities, the icons of the temple, were relocated to a lower elevation. In the fading sunlight, Steve straightened, looked down and spied several small eateries.
“I’m hungry. “Hey, I’m famished, added Jack. They scrambled down and found the Ajanta Hotel, whi ch followed the Indian custom of calling a restaurant a hotel. They climbed a fli ght of stairs to an expansive open-air room and chose a hefty, bare wooden table with roug h-hewn benches overlooking the bridge leading to the temple. Several large hissing kerosene lamps hung on the walls. The setting sun lent a golden hue to the snows on t he mountain tops and from across the river came the tinkling of temple bells. A thin, dark-skinned, middle-aged man dressed in a long white shirt extending down to his knees and a clean white-cotton, toga-like, g arment wrapped around his waist and covering his legs, approached them. He parted his b lack hair, slick with oil, neatly down the middle and peered at them through round, dark-r immed glasses. Reminding Steve more of a scientist than a restaurant owner, he pre cisely poured a tall glass of water for each of them. “Yes, sir, he pronounced. “You want to eat, no? “What do you have? Steve asked. “Yes, sir. I have very good food.Iddli anddosa. Alsodahi,sambar, and coconut chutney. Everything vegetarian only. “Nothing with meat? questioned Jack. The man adjusted his glasses. “No sir. No non-veg. This is temple town. It is sacred place. No killing of animals here. Jack shrugged. “Whatever. “What do you suggest? Steve inquired. “I will bring everything, the man replied and abru ptly disappeared. “What’s he wearing? asked Jack. “You mean that white robe wrapped around his waist? “Yeah. “It’s adhoti. It is the traditional dress of India for men, jus t like the sari is for women. And that long shirt is called akurta. Ten minutes later, the man returned with plates filled with food, introduced them and detailed their ingredients. “This is iddli, is made with rice flour and steamed and put in sambar. The iddlis resembled large white dumplings floating in bowls of sambar, a richly-spiced golden broth with an assortment of ve getables. Steam, redolent with the scent of fresh spices, rose and disappeared into th e chill evening air. Steve sliced warily into an iddli with his spoon. It tasted ligh t, almost feathery, with a slight sourdough taste. “Sambar, it is made with lentils, spiced with curry powder, roasted cumin, poppy seeds, and garam masala, the man recounted. Bits o f red tomatoes, fresh green chilies, and coriander leaves floated on top. It wa s spicy, spicier than Steve expected, but the heat drove away the cold blowing in from th e open walls. More food came, and they ate hungrily. “This isdosa. Is made with rice flour and urad dahl. The man waited for a moment. “Urad dahl, is kind of small white lentil. Steve pulled over the dosa, a thin, almost transluc ent, crepe rolled into a long cylinder, golden on the outside and stuffed with sp iced, herbed potatoes. A side dish of coconut chutney accompanied it. He broke off a piec e of the crispy crepe and tasted it. The dosa almost melted on his tongue. “I first peel potato, explained the man, “then I c hop, only a little I boil it, and then I fry in the pan with oil, herbs and spices. It becom es crispy and tasty.  The dosa sent a warm glow from Steve’s mouth all the way to his sto mach. A small taste of the coconut
chutney, seemingly containing equal parts of fresh, green chili and raw, scraped coconut, seared his tongue and left him grabbing fo r water. He concentrated on the dosa. The man pulled up a chair and sat down beside them. “Angrezi? he asked. “No, we’re not English, Steve replied, recalling c oming across that word in New Delhi. “We’re American. Where are you from? “Yes, sir. I am from South India. I am speaking ver y good English! He smiled proudly. “I am owner of hotel. My name is Iyer. It explained the English, more familiar in the South, remembered Steve. “Why you are coming here? “To see the temple. “Achha? enquired Mr. Iyer, obviously puzzled that two you ng Americans would be visiting. “I just graduated from college, explained Steve, “ majoring in languages. The countless hours spent in the library at the Univers ity of Missouri left him with a permanent crease around his eyes, giving him the ai r of a university professor. “I even completed two courses in Sanskrit and Indian philos ophy. So coming to India is in some way a fulfillment of my years of study. I enjoyed l earning the philosophy of India. Mr. Iyer beamed. “So what else is there to see besides the temple? asked Jack “The temple is the town. There is nothing else. “Maybe we can trek in the mountains. “The Valley of the Rishis is up there, offered Mr. Iyer helpfully. “What’s that? “The wordrishi means basically like‘sage’ or ‘seer’, answered Steve. “They’re yogis who spend their lives in meditation. “In that valley are many rishis, added Mr. Iyer. “ Some been meditating there for hundreds, maybe thousands of years! Jack straightened up. “Thousands of years? “Some rishis been there sinceSatyayuga, the golden age, thousands of years ago. They been meditating in cave or under tree all this time. Because they are so much meditating and so much yoga doing, their brain is a ble to keep theVedas, the holy teachings of wisdom, and carry it from oneyugato next. “Wow! exclaimed Jack. Vedas? Yuga? Humans living for thousands of years? Mr. Iyer pushed two small clay bowls containing pla in yogurt toward them. “Dahi. Eat. The cool, creamy yogurt perfectly ended the meal. I t removed the heat left on the tongue from the spices and admirably relaxed the st omach without eliminating the pleasant warmth enveloping the body. “So if we go to this valley, we can see the rishis?  asked Jack, his eyes lighting up. “Ji.Jiinto his eyes, raised a, replied Mr. Iyer. He moved close to Jack, peered finger and shook it professorially. “But only if yo u have spiritual vision. Jack grabbed a pencil and paper out of his backpack and looked expectantly at Mr. Iyer. “I’m into yogis meditating in caves. Tell me more. Steve stared apprehensively at his brother. First o f all, even Jack must know that there are no thousand-year-old yogis meditating und er any trees. Besides, what guidance could any yogi, ancient or not, give him? The best advice could only come from those closest to him and what his little broth er ought to be doing is to get an education or a real job.
Sometimes he just couldn’t understand Jack. Jack al ways ran around without any stability in his life. When Dad died, Steve automat ically got a job—Mom needed the help. Life forced a disorderly existence on Steve a nd academics became his refuge. Reading, writing and spending time with books turne d out to be something he controlled, regulated; a place just for him. The thought of studies brought out his latest dilem ma. He stared out the window at the waters flowing under the bridge. He especially liked languages, but could he pursue it as a career? Or look for a job unrelated to his major? That was a tough one. Not many jobs appeared in his field, especially ancient ones like Sanskrit. But working for a company for the rest of his life? That was a big co mmitment. Yet it seemed inescapable getting a steady income would help everyone. He exh aled, glad in coming to India—he needed to think things through. He shook his head a nd fixed his gaze at his brother furiously writing on a piece of paper. “What are you doing? Jack, his sense of adventure piqued, hardly heard h im. Outside, the moonlight shone silver on the Himalayan peaks while the dista nt chants of pilgrims making their way back from the temple and the rushing sound of t he swollen river echoed in the open room. The kerosene lamps illuminated Jack’s fa ce and threw deep shadows in every corner. He positively glowed. In this wondrou s setting, anything seemed possible. “Don’t worry, retorted Jack. “I know what I’m doin g. Steve sighed but kept quiet. When Jack got an idea stuck in his head, nothing co uld be done. “Sometimes you’ve got to go with the flow, with you r destiny, said Jack. “Anything is possible. Is it by accident that we’re sitting h ere tonight, in this restaurant, getting instructions on how to get to this hidden valley? Steve yawned. “How about getting instructions on wh ere to sleep? Jack stared back sheepishly. It was late. “ T h edharmashalla, the pilgrim’s hostel, is just down the street fro m where you came, said Mr. Iyer. “Go now if you want a place. They paid their bill of a hundred and fifty rupees, about three dollars, picked up their backpacks and walked briskly down the winding, unlit street. The dharmashalla had very basic amenities—a place t o sleep on a hard wooden floor and not much else. No electricity. No running water. The freezing river provided water for a bath and an outhouse leaned up behind t he building. But a place in the dharmashalla was a much sought-after prize it cost nothing and constituted the only shelter in town as neither five-star hotels for the wealthy nor youth hostels for the adventurous existed. Everyone, young and old, India n and foreigner, believer and non-believer, piled into it in the evening, connected b y one of the most basic of human needs a safe place to sleep. In one corner of the huge room they found a couple of thin reed mats and pillows, spread their sleeping bags on top of the mats and q uickly fell into a deep, restful sleep. The next morning they heard, but managed to sleep t hrough, the noise of the pilgrims who arose by five o’clock, bathed and wandered to t he temple. By the time they awoke at seven-thirty, the dharmashalla had almost emptie d. Jack rose bounding with energy, ready for a day of action and adventure. Steve, too , felt bright and well rested. They gathered their backpacks and tagged behind the few remaining stragglers to the river bank. They stripped, wrapped themselves w ith thin cotton towels called gamchasand poured buckets of freezing water over their bo dies. Thoroughly numb, his fingers barely functioning, St eve somehow managed to change into fresh clothes. Then, following the pilg rims and, according to custom, they
first visited the Tapta Kund, the hot springs. At f irst the heat felt unbearable, but after several minutes, the water loosened Steve’s muscles and dissipated the numbness in his body. Women bathed on the opposite side, separa te from the men, fully clothed in their draping saris yet fully wet, displaying a cer tain grace and sensuality. He noticed Jack staring at them. After a long time, they dressed and headed for the shrine. The temple was not large, maybe fifty feet high, and positioned itself in the middle of an enclosed courtyard whose stone walls contained many ancient carvings. Standing in line outside, they awaited their turn to have darshan of Sri Badri Nar ayan, as travelers ahead of them stepped into the inner sanctum of the temple and ra ng large bells hanging from the ceiling. As they strode inside, Steve tugged Jack’s shirt. “ The canopy covering this inner sanctum is made of pure gold, he whispered, consul ting his notes. “Wow, replied Jack. Upon approaching the Deities, the pilgrims immersed themselves in their private devotions. With palms held together in supplication and prayers on their lips, they stood one by one in front of the carved stone Deity of Sr i Badri Narayan, who was dressed in a yellow silk dhoti, a blue silk shawl embroidered with trees and colorful birds and a golden crown encrusted with numerous jewels. The pr iest waved a lamp in front of the Deity. “What’s he doing? enquired Jack. Steve consulted his notebook. “This, I believe, is calledarti, a ceremony of worship. It consists of offering a lamp filled with clarifie d butter in which cotton wicks are soaked and lit. The Deity is also offered flowers and wate r and, finally, fanned with a whisk made of yak-tail hair. “Far out! exclaimed Jack. The pilgrims bent down from their waists, touched t he Deity’s feet with both hands and patted themselves on their heads in a gesture o f receiving blessings. “I don’t know about this, whispered Jack. “I could never bow down in front of anyone or anything. Steve nodded his head. He hadn ’t seen much devotional expression in his life, and certainly not this type . He wrestled with conflicting feelings. The pilgrims’ obvious, genuine, piety certainly imp ressed him but it also jarred his American sensibilities. Yet he came to India to witness exactly this kind of thing. “Are you going to request something? joked Steve. Jack glanced back questioningly. “You think I shoul d? I mean, I don’t know if I believe in any of this stuff. It’s a little weird, you know. “Well, it can’t hurt. We need all the help we can g et. “Yeah, maybe I’ll ask for a brand new Corvette. Or to win the lottery. “How about the answer to a really big question? “Like what? “Like your purpose in life? “Oh that. Jack shrugged but when his turn came to stand before the Deity, he inexplicably folded his palms together and with the straightest face he could muster, requested Sri Badri Narayan to reveal to him his de stiny. Steve laughed quietly and, upon approaching, carefully noted the Deity’s appea rance, the garments, the priest’s actions, the pilgrims’ movements and silently walke d away. Exiting the temple, Steve eyed his watch. Eleven o’ clock. He looked up just in time to see Jack walking up a path toward the mountains. “Wait, shouted Steve. “Where are you going?
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