Don’t Tell Me My Future

November 23rd, 2021

No one can tell what the future holds
You make the choice of how it goes

Kenny Loggins

Around 1998, I was at my friend’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving. Because I was asked to get something or because I’m nosy (I can’t recall which), I went upstairs. There on the wall, I noticed a small, framed piece of paper covered in foreign writing.

When I came back down, I asked about it. And they told me the following story.

In 1962, my friend’s father had just graduated university in the Punjab, India. He decided to move to the United States. His family refused. They said, ‘the only way we will let you go is if Brighu says so.’ Brighu was a nearby astrologer.

He said, ‘I don’t believe in that garbage. Let me go!’ But they hid his passport so he couldn’t leave. He waited and waited, but they did not relent. Finally, one day he woke up and said, ‘OK, let’s go.’

The family all piled into the car. Since the astrologer spoke a different language, they picked up an interpreter and then another just in case.

When they arrived, they stepped into a simple home. The astrologer welcomed him, his parents, and everyone with him by name, including the two interpreters. He went on to tell the family what they wanted to know. This was all the more amazing because the astrologer wasn’t there. He had left a note: the piece of paper, pictured above, that I had asked about. The astrologer wasn’t there for one reason: he had died several thousand years ago.

The reading included the date they had arrived and my friend’s dad’s natal chart. That’s how the librarian in attendance, one of Brighu’s descendants, had looked it up. What happened next is, in his mind, a blur. All he remembers is that Brighu went on to say, “you will soon be departing for the underbelly of the world.”

That’s all he wanted to hear. He said ‘ok, let’s go.’ He soon left for the U.S., where he met and married my friend’s mother. And that is why my friend was born here, and how I came to see, 35 years later, that piece of paper.

My friend’s father remembered being told that there was a second part to the reading that he could come back for. Although he has been back to India many times, he has never gone back for the reading. He’s just not interested.

A year or two later, I went with my friend to a family wedding. I asked around, and some of the guests had had their Brighu readings done too. There were also those who, like her father, knew about Brighu but didn’t want their fortunes told either. They didn’t want to know their future.

Granted, it’s creepy to know when you’re going to die, or that you will be in some horrible accident. But wouldn’t information like that be helpful, so you can at least make the best of it?

There are said to be half a million of these readings in existence. Not everyone ever born has one, only those who will seek it. They are called nadi predictions, and there are nadi “centers” or “libraries” all over India. These are usually run by individuals out of their homes, each with some portion of the collection. Every few centuries, the predictions are transcribed. Last I checked, the average price for a reading was about $10.

Only the centers in Northern India ascribe nadi to Brighu. My favorite story about him (sorry I can’t find a reference for this) is that one day, a librarian decided that his collection could be much better organized. He started rearranging the readings when one fell from the shelf. When he picked it up, he noticed that it said “please do not rearrange my library. I like it the way it is.”

In the years that followed, I thought about going to India to get my reading. I asked people on their way there if they would try to get mine for me. Finally, in 2010, my friend Valerie (she doesn’t mind me using her name) mentioned that she was going to India, so I told her the story. I suggested she get her reading and hopefully, mine. I told my first friend and she wanted hers too.

To get your reading, you need your birth chart. Since everyone’s is  unique, this works like a social security number. Valerie, however, is an orphan. She didn’t know her birthday, so she could not generate a chart.

Even so, Valerie traveled to the same town my friend’s father had gone to 48 years before. What follows is a compilation of two emails Valerie sent me on July 17th, 2010, the day after the reading. They are only slightly edited for clarity, along with photos she later sent me.

We waited four hours, from 10-2, before Trivedi came, and I was pretty exhausted when it finally happened. Attached is a group picture we took afterwards. Three of the people live there and help out Trivedi. All of the others showed up while we were waiting.

It was kind of like Celestine Prophecy: a lot of synchronicities happened during this exploration. One small example was someone calling me from Mumbai out of the blue who I had not talked to in a few years while I was in the taxi going to Hoshiarpur, and I didn’t know it, but he was born there and had some insight.

One couple who had come for a reading told some amazing stories of the time they had been there about twenty years ago. Then others came and I asked them why they had come, and the Sikh in the group told me it was because they were destined to be there when we were. In fact, they had prepared a lunch for us, which we later partook in.

The old Swami you can see in the group picture was very interesting and took me out upon arrival and walked me in the garden, saying I would go to Haridwar and other things. He knew nothing about me, so I was impressed and listened.

Here’s a picture of Pandit Trivedi-ji looking over your chart.

It was weird that I printed out both your chart and [my first friend]’s twice because the first time, only yours printed. So I sent someone to get it printed again, and when I got there, the same thing had happened, and only yours had printed out twice again. So for some strange reason, hers was not available.

He found the reading because vibhuti appeared on it as he was looking through them. [Vibhuti are sacred ashes. Sai Baba (see photo on left side of the altar pictured above) was known for frequently manifesting them.]

All this was done in front of us. Others were there too. The entire procedure of the reading was not like anything I had read about. Trivedi seemed somewhat in trance when it was going on.

The reading was in Sanskrit & we did not have full translation as we thought, but Trivedi himself translated some as he went. I have much of it recorded. My friend Anetti said she would take pictures afterwards, and he replied that many times the writing disappears. So we quickly took pictures beforehand.

It seems the process was that everyone who came was written on the same batch of papers. Another couple who had come let me record their reading, which was first. In their reading, it said that foreigners were present at that time.

In the next reading, your name was mentioned, but he did not give particulars about you. When I get time and find someone who can fully read these, I will attempt to get them translated. They seem to be in Sanskrit and Devanagari.

I thought only readings for you and my friend Anetti would happen, but the next page began a reading for me. Pandit Trevediji asked me if I could read it and showed it to me.

I could barely believe my eyes and actually read my name on it (where the pointer is)!

Furthermore, it did give me info of a past life, how it relates to this one, and some other info. And all that without a birth date!

The reading recommended that everyone that had come with me (which would include you) repeat “hareen nama shivaya” eleven lak times. One lak is 100,000, so that’s 1,100,000 total. This can be done over the next several years.

After my reading, the old swami said I needed to be in Haridwar to recite the mantra. As it is, I will be in Haridwar within the month, but I have already begun simply doing 100 or so with my meditations.

So it’s been a magical mystery journey. Thanks for the inspiration. Just wish you would have gotten more from it. The reading said I would be back two more times. You can always come and be present firsthand!

Love beyond love,


About a year later, I finally got the photos and recordings from Valerie. In December 2012, my friend’s parents were visiting, so I showed them the photos. Her father confirmed that in the first image of the text above, the pointer is showing where it clearly says “Alan.”

Sound intriguing? Valerie tells a more detailed story in her memoir, due out next year.

Today, you don’t even have to go to India to get your reading. There are people offering them over the internet. These may or may not be legitimate, but for $25, it’s easy enough to try out.

The thing is, I don’t want another reading. In fact, I had decided against it before Valerie had even arrived reached Hoshiarpur. And I had come to the same conclusion before. Over the years, each time I had tried to get my reading, I had eventually decided against it. Then I would forget that and try again.

Why wouldn’t I want my fortune? And if you can get this kind of amazing information for just $25, with details that make Nostradamus look like a psychic school dropout, why aren’t nadi better known?

I don’t want to know my future because, like King Midas, I don’t want everything I touch to turn to gold. To be preoccupied with the future would be a similar curse — or worse. To illustrate, I’ll share another story.

Many years ago, I was on a Greyhound bus. The man next to me was from a small village in Greece. He told me that near the village was a cave, and in that cave was a treasure: a real pile of gold and jewels, just like in fables. Everyone in the village knew about the treasure, and no one would touch it. For they all knew that to do so would bring a terrible curse on the village.

Stories like these are hard to believe. Yet these readings are nothing special. There are thousands of them out there. I know someone who, for a documentary, was interviewing hundreds of recipients. I’m told that even Bill Clinton has gone to get a reading three times, although I could find nothing online about it.

Just do a search on “nadi” or “naadi” or “Brighu” (also spelled various ways) and you will find plenty of information. For example, there is a little book, “India’s Ancient Book Of Prophecy,” written by Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters), chief disciple and successor to Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Here are several readings on video.

Nadi, then, are no secret. Why  are they not more widely known? There are at least two reasons for this. The first is mythological; the second, psychological.

First, as I understand it, Brighu was actually granted the power to see the future as a curse for insulting one of the gods. The curse was that this was the only way his lineage would ever make a living, and they would never make very much at it. That, I assume, is why they never get famous.

A similar example: There are hot springs near my home in Asheville, the only hot springs in the east — if you consider 100-104º “hot.” These are said to have a similar curse. Every fancy resort that has ever been built on site has either burnt down or otherwise failed. The current owners are purposefully keeping the facilities modest. So far, so good.

The psychological reason is that the more incredible something is, the less likely that people will believe it — or want to believe it. That’s what the word “incredible” means: unbelievable. After all, curse aside, nobody is hiding this information; people choose to ignore it. Why we choose to ignore things can be because of our ego attachments (see Eckhart Tolle’s work or my article on crop circles) or because life is just set up that way.

Given that I believe in nadi, why would I choose not to take advantage of it?

The first thing to understand is that nadi readings often don’t tell you your future, not in any fixed sense. They only tell you where you’re headed. From reading a number of accounts online, I gather that readings are frequently accurate about the past and present but not about the future. The explanation is that they usually include some kind of prayer or penance to be done, such as a donation to a particular temple. And whether or not you perform these actions influences the future, which is not set in stone.

This is why the first reading you get is usually general introduction; then there can be not just a part two but as many as sixteen more readings, called “chapters,” each waiting for you once you do the exercises dictated in the previous reading. I heard one story of a chapter predicting that someone’s first child would be a boy, then the next chapter predicting that it would be a girl. This is not a contradiction. It reflects the fact that the future changes in response to the present. A nadi reading is more like a GPS than a map: the path changes based on where you are:

We asked him how the leaf was able to predict two different things about the same thing at two different times. He said something freaky – they believe the leaves’ contents change everyday according to what our karma is. It will thus be accurate when you see it. That is why the leaves, when they were discovered in Tanjore temple, came with special instructions not to computerize it. If it was God’s intent to chart out our future, he would not have given us free will.

The point of the nadi, according to several scholars, is not to just tell you your future, as if you have no choice about it, but to hasten the karmic process by telling you what you could call your dharma: your soul’s path. In other words, the nadi are something like a recovery program, a way to get you back on track.

On track to what? Toward enlightenment. If you’re a Westerner, you may not think chanting 1.1 million mantras or placing sweet cakes on an altar every Wednesday for six months is a very efficient path to enlightenment, but then, that’s precisely the problem: you think you know it all.

Granted, my own objection is along these lines. The path of prayer and other devotional practices is known in India as bhakti yoga. But I already have what I believe is an extremely efficient path to enlightenment, and that is staying present (as described by Eckhart Tolle). Staying present may not sound like devotion, but it is: staying present is surrender to God.

For me, “God” is nothing more than everything that is not in my control. The past, future, and most of the present are not in my control. Fortunately, none of these really matter. They are what Tolle calls your “life situation.” They are the trees, not the forest. The God I believe in can change the present, future, even the past at will. If so, is it really worth trying to map out the forest so you can avoid (or “transplant”) a few trees?

The problem with fortune-telling is that it’s idolatry. It is the worship of the created, not the creator. An eminent Vedic astrologer points out that in the Mahabharata, it says, ‘it is not the planets and lunar signs which give auspicious or inauspicious results. It is all the result of one’s own karma, though the popular belief is that the planets compel a person into a right or wrong act.’

The supreme path is surrender. “If you worship God with deep faith, don’t bother going to an astrologer. Then you are appealing straight to the One who controls your destiny…” (K.N. Rao, “Vedic Astrology,” Yoga International, 5/6/94). The one who controls the planets also controls your life.

Even if I didn’t believe in God, I still wouldn’t need to know my future nor very much of my past. What I do need is to be able to face my life with responsibility and contentment. Just as people who have material wealth are not necessarily happier (in fact, they are often less so), I am not necessarily better off — or any wiser — because I have more information.

I’ve even said to myself, about the two great loves of my life, if I’d only chosen other people, I could’ve had families and children… blah, blah, blah. If I were given those same choices again, even knowing that they ended badly, I would make those same choices again. Because I believe in following your heart, and that’s what I do. And it’s worked out just fine. I’ve had an awfully good time.

Phyllis Levy

If I had my life again
I wouldn’t change a thing

Elton John, “Someone’s Final Song”

Peace and joy are not a function of your circumstances but of your maturity, your degree of enlightenment. Eventually, in the course of many lifetimes, we come to see that what we thought were roadblocks were actually building blocks. In “Song of Long Ago,” Carol King concedes that “if it had been as I intended, I wouldn’t have the peace I know.”

To paraphrase Jean La Fontaine, ‘we meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it.’ Think of a wild animal, like a bird or insect, stuck in your house. You try to help it outside, but it only thinks you’re trying to kill it.

The trouble with karma is that it can obscure the soul’s higher purpose even as its snakes and ladders provide the means for attainment of that purpose. The karmic cacophony that accompanies all personal striving and human interaction frequently drowns the background theme in our lives – the soul’s inner struggle to know itself more clearly.

Joel Whitton, Life Between Life

This is how fortune-telling can be distracting and disempowering. Ignoring the forest, it can feed our desire to control the trees. Of course there’s some value in knowing that a hurricane is heading your way, but not if your life is spent avoiding hurricanes. To paraphrase Vivian Greene, ‘life is about how to dance in the rain, not how to survive the storm.’

Nadi, like science, astrology, or any other form of divination — indeed, like life itself — is at best, a mirror for self-reflection. Tarot cards, for example, are just a miniature version of our everyday experience. In 2000, I ghostwrote the introduction to The World Spirit Tarot. In it, I explain that

Tarot is just one way to stop and pay attention to what the world has to tell you. Information, or meaning, is everywhere: wherever we choose to look. Don’t get hung up on the particular channel you tune into, for the power to see any aspect of your life as meaningful lies in you. Divination, if it is any real help at all, is a method of self-empowerment.

I know someone who uses X-Men cards for divination — to great effect. I was once greatly helped by a palm reader who had never studied palm-reading. He had made up his own system for what the lines on people’s hands mean.

Meaning, like the future, is a choice. That’s why good divination isn’t fortune-telling. It doesn’t tell you “what’s going to happen.” Like a good parent, it doesn’t tell you what to do. It gives you things to consider in making choices.

Making choices and “self-empowerment” may sound like the opposite of surrender. But when our choices are guided by our intuition, a.k.a., the heart, we’re following the voice of God.

Ultimately, life is like yoga: the flexibility we’re here to develop isn’t about what you can do but what you can’t. The greatest freedom lies in taking life as it comes. We’re curious, we wander upstairs, we ask questions, and we never know where they might lead.