December 17, 2014 on 10:58 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I love that you have an interfaith philosophy at Ma’s India. For example, I was so happy to buy this beautiful silver crucifix that was really reasonable in price. Thank you. Melinda P., Winnetka, IL

Sterling Silver Crucifix

Sterling Silver Crucifix

Dear Melinda: I’m glad you like our sterling silver Crucifix. It is not always easy to find a crucifix with Jesus on the cross. In fact, my Catholic friends tell me that Catholic churches are more likely to have Christ on a cross available whereas Protestant churches prefer crosses without the body of Christ affixed.

The crucifix is a representation of Christ submitting to the highest sacrifice that a person can make: a willingness to surrender one’s body to show devotion to their highest calling. In The Last Temptation of Christ, we see a woven story, perhaps mythological, of Christ being tempted to forego this ultimate sacrifice through visions of a happy marital life and children. At the end, of course, Christ decides to make this choice which affected the course of history.

The story of Jesus Christ speaks of the surrender to someone’s highest calling. His surrender was an example of supreme love and self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is not unique in holy person’s lives. There are tales of many gurus, saints and sages who are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of humanity. Even Buddhists, who are not willing to speak of God, will talk about taking vows of bodhisattva, which means they agree to not seek enlightenment for themselves until all sentient beings are enlightened.

In the book Initiation by Elizabeth Haich we are treated to a story of an acolyte climbing the hill of liberation. When she arrives through arduous training to the fourth chakra, a handicapped man asks her for help to climb to the next level. Putting her own desires aside, she assists the man and as a result, she was immediately catapulted by spirit to the next level.

Crucifixe are made of vertical and horizontal stipes. The vertical stipe signifies the male and the horizontal the female. The crucifix represents the union of male and female in its highest form,

The crucifix is seen in many religious homes. Not only are they seen on the doorjambs, but sometimes affixed to a wall, it is a well-known symbol of devotion.

Many people view the image of Christ on the crucifix as an acknowledgment of his great suffering. There are some who are critical of this representation. But if seen in the proper light as sacrifice, one feels the beauty and integrity of such a sacrifice.

The crucifix is a wonderful gift to be given to young women who take their first communion or for weddings, a child’s baptism, or confirmation. The crucifix is also suitable for personalized engraving. Thanks for writing.

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December 12, 2014 on 10:57 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I was so happy to see an acknowledgment of women saints in the book Daughters of the Goddess, The Women Saints of India. It is a great book and one that reinforced my own sadhana. Robin W., Minneapolis, MN

Daughters of the Goddess

Daughters of the Goddess

Dear Robin: Your letter about Daughters of the Goddess, The Women Saints of India, reminds me of a response from a friend of mine. When I remarked to her that Sarada Devi, the spouse of Ramakrishna, was quite an exceptional saint, she retorted that you had to be a saint to live with a saint. That’s really true when you think that many of us when meeting our own respective spouses wish to be the primary object of love and attention by them. However, when married to a saint, you can forget those desires. The typical saint, while acknowledging a special relationship to his spouse, considers his chelas, including his wife, equal to his love.

Linda Johnson, authoress of this book about women saints, wrote this book in 1994. She was asking a pandit of India why there weren’t any Indian saints. The pandit quickly referred her to the many female saints and yoginis who live in caves and forests doing penance in an anonymous fashion. He further told her that most women saints actually remain with their families, purifying themselves by serving others. This pandit then referred her to one of the great, well known women saints, Mirabai, who worshipped Krishna to the end days of her life, going from place to place in search of him.

Encouraged by her spiritual friend, Ms. Johnson set out to meet some of the great women masters of our contemporary time who form the new wave of spiritual energy that floods the east as well as the west.

Encountering her own resistance to the humility and non-assertiveness of these saints against western feminism and the patriarchal energy dominating religion, Ms. Johnson had to truly ask herself whether she could truly adopt the attitude of humility and egolessness attained by these saints at this time in history, What Ms. Johnson came to realize is that these women saints had true humility rooted in unshakable strength and that their selflessness emanated from a profound understanding of the workings of the self.

Daughters of the Goddess is beautifully written, capturing the inimitable quality of these saints in poetic and lyrical form. These women saints in their attainment encourage and remind us of what we long for: union with the Divine.

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December 10, 2014 on 11:00 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: Is it true that Autobiography of a Yogi is usually recommended as the first spiritual book to read for someone starting out on the path of enlightenment? Carol L., Salem, MA

autobiography-yogi

Autobiography of a Yogi

Dear Carol: I think Autobiography of a Yogi was almost the first spiritual book I read that made the most impact in my own path. It is a wonderful story that Yogananda weaves about his own journey, meeting remarkable saints and sages. When asked, many people on the spiritual path recount that they have read this wonderful book numerous times. Autobiography of a Yogi is a book meant to be slowly read and digested. In fact, similar to the Osho book I reviewed, it feels as if Yogananda conveys through the simplicity and elegance of his language a remarkable essence of spirit.

Beginning with Yogananda’s childhood family life, Autobiography of a Yogi takes many side trips along the way which includes meeting his guru, becoming a monk and then establishing his teachings of Kriya Yoga meditation in the west.

I will never forget Yogananda’s story of meeting his guru. From a very early age, Yogananda began a search for his guru. It was as if Yogananda was “cooked”, a phrase commonly used to describe somebody at an early age not interested in the mundane secular life and always drawn to deep spirituality. One day as Yogananda was walking down a street, he happened to look down another street and saw Sri Yukteswar, his guru. Yogananda immediately recognized Sri Yukteswar as his guru and ran to meet him where they embraced as long-lost companions. This was one of the most touching moments of this book.

Sri Yukteswar always demanded that Yogananda complete his studies even though Yogananda wanted nothing more than to stay at his side. A wonderful story about that is when Yogananda missing many of his studies had finally to take his final exam. He was truly afraid he would not pass. Sri Yukestwar repeatedly told him he would have nothing to worry, and in fact,Yogananda did indeed pass his exams. Some time later, Sri Yukteswar requested that Yogananda travel to the west. Yogananda subsequently lectured and traveled across America, finally establishing his teachings and an ashram in Los Angeles, California.

Autobiography of a Yogi gives such fascinating glimpses into the lives of the many sages and saints that Yogananda encountered in his travels; I don’t know if another spiritual book that I have read has been as interesting with the many different looks into these remarkable people’s lives.

Autobiography of a Yogi is an introduction to the methods of attaining God realization and to the spiritual thought of the East which had only been available to a few in 1946. We must be personally grateful to these wonderful saints who have opened our eyes to an eastern vista.

In print for over 65 years, Autobiography of a Yogi has been translated into 34 languages by Self-Realization Fellowship, which Yogananda initiated. It is a stellar read and a book that will continue to be compelling throughout your life. Spiritual Explorer

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December 5, 2014 on 12:16 pm

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have long been a fan of Osho and particularly love his Osho Zen Tarot Deck and now am reading Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic. I must confess that I don’t understand what he meant by “spiritually incorrect.” Jan F., Sanibel Island, FL

autobiography-incorrect-mystic

Autobiography of a
Spiritually Incorrect Mystic

Dear Jan: When Osho writes about “spiritually incorrect,” in Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, it’s with tongue in cheek. In actuality, Osho claims to bring about a new religion that is without religion. Osho had many methods in his arsenal as to how he would accomplish this with his students.

Gurus and teachers come in many forms. I have long been grateful for that since we, as seekers, also are very unique. Osho, particularly, had a certain style and way of teaching that was what some would call “radical.” My own teacher Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati was known as a “crazy wisdom” teacher. What that means and particularly is very evident in Osho’s Autobiography is that Osho was not your usual boilerplate guru who just blessed and hugged people. No, he awoke people through both his unconventional wisdom, extraordinary insight and his brilliant words.

In fact, in the 70’s when Osho was very popular in California, his reputation of collecting many Rolls Royce’s shocked many people. Osho did not care about how people perceived him. Because of the acquisition of those cars,some would say that Osho was interested in material wealth, but those drawn to Osho really understood how his purpose was to awaken people from an ordinary way of viewing reality through shocking means. Osho meant to awaken people to a vista beyond conventional reality into the blissful reality that he inhabited. Osho in his book gives a wonderful account of how his enlightenment occurred.

Yes, he was outrageous in his form, and so-called spiritually incorrect. With emphasis on free sexuality and other unconventional teachings, the people of Oregon where his ashram resided were at a loss to understand who these people were who had landed in their midst. If you are interested, you might read about the effect he had during that time.

In his Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Guru, Osho speaks of his upbringing with his grandparents who cared for him during his first seven years. Osho expressed gratitude that they allowed him to mature in his own unique way. In fact, he said that they rarely even spoke with him, so careful they were not to influence him in a harmful way. There was a lot of silence and love in his grandparent’s home. Although the amount of space they gave to him seemed strange to him at first, he began to value the silence and aloneness and as a result, Osho became very uniquely individuated. Not being told what to do, he developed his own unique sense of behavior and morality. When he was returned to his father after seven years, his father felt great consternation of how to deal with this young man who had his own mind about how things should be done and how Osho was to be treated.

Having for himself the freedom to follow his own guidance, Osho expressed that same desire in his teachings with his chelas. This included sexual freedom among his many freedoms. One of his quips when asked whether he believed in sexual freedom, he responded, “Well, I don’t believe you should pay for it.” This singular statement really typifies Osho’s wonderful sense of humor, which runs rampant throughout this book and the many, many books he wrote.

In the 70’s I read many of Osho’s books and in fact was so impressed by them that I wondered if I too would be Osho’s devotee. However, that did not come to pass. What I always said about Osho’s writings is that they are brilliant and enlightened. One thing I have always noticed about true spiritual teachers is that they are able to convey an essence and enlightenment through the reading of their words. Osho’s incisiveness and clarity cannot be duplicated. I still continue to read his books and marvel at his enlightened way of looking at things. You will love this book. Spiritual Explorer

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December 3, 2014 on 12:15 pm

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have long known about Judith Lasater and am excited about her new book Relax and Renew. Can you tell me anything about it before I purchase it? Renee P.,Woodstock,NY

relax-and-renew

Relax and Renew

Dear Renee: I knew Judith Lasater when I worked at Esalen Institute in the 70’s. She is truly one of the pioneers of Restorative Yoga. In fact, after people got Rolfed at Esalen, they usually took her course or a made an appointment with her to learn how to walk and deal with their new body. Rolfing is a form of bodywork developed by Ida Rolf that attempts to bring the body back into balance through very deep massage and work with the fascia of the body. Relax and Renew is but one of the many books and articles Judith Lasater has authored over the years.

Judith Lasater was in those days considered a very innovative American yoga teacher who was an early disciple of Iyengar and helped to popularize both Iyengar and Restorative Yoga. To add to her credits, she is one of the founders of the famous Yoga Journal magazine where she continues to serve on its advisory board. Considered one of the foremost yoga instructors, she has given workshops in almost 44 states plus abroad in various countries.

Relax and Renew is a great book with a comprehensive program of “active relaxation,” timely written in these days of stress. Judith begins with basic poses and particularly the basic relaxation pose, which is the heart of Restorative Yoga. Since she is at this time also in her later years, she is particularly attuned to poses to accommodate aging bodies. Relax and Renew has many special routines for back pain, headaches, insomnia, jetlag and breathing problems. There is also a special section for women’s practice during their menses, pregnancy and menopause.

Iyengar yoga is famed for props, giving people an opportunity to practice poses that might not be within their reach. As a student of Iyengar Judith Lasater provides a guide to yoga props and how to utilize them to provide the best relaxation and renewal possible.

Having been a physical therapist, Judith Lasater is an unbelievable authority on the body, through her knowledge of both yoga and physical therapy. She is very familiar with injuries that could possibly be sustained and lets one know the proper way to avoid being hurt through the various poses.

A wonderful book from a true pioneer of western yoga, this book is a delight!

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November 28, 2014 on 12:14 pm

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have begun a true study of mantra. It seems I am living, breathing, eating and sleeping mantra. Am I becoming obsessed? Trudy P., Washington, DC

Cotton Indian Mantra Shirts

Cotton Indian Mantra Shirts

Dear Trudy: In these times of multi-disasters and complexities of the world, you are not alone when turning to mantra. It seems as if one wants to do something to help, but feels inadequate as to how to do so. When mantra is suggested, perhaps chanting or recitations of mantra for peace and harmony, it is felt as a great consolation. I am going to be wicked now and suggest that you not attempt to decrease your attachment to mantra, but perhaps increase it by purchasing a mantra accoutrement in the form of our Indian Mantra Shirts.

As an aside, I am reminded of a famed psychologist who when asked by a patient how to lose weight, suggested she gain 20 pounds. His patient became so miserable doing so, that when she reached the number he had requited, she was happy to lose weight and did it joyfully. While I like this story, I don’t think this will happen with your passion for mantra. Sometime when I am desperately looking for a solution to the world’s madness I too find myself involved in practicing sadhana and mantra more obsessively. I don’t think obsession with sadhana or mantra can be harmful. Eventually, as with everything, we tire of it. It seems to be the western way of doing things: first enamored, then weary.

All of my spiritual advice aside, I think you will truly enjoy the colorful Indian Mantra Shirt. Our Indian Mantra Shirt is a very comfortable and lightweight shirt, really appropriate for all occasions. The mantra shirt comes in white, yellow, orange and blue with many images of Hindu deities upon it. There is the dancing Shiva, Ganesh, and Krishna plus extremely powerful mantras written in Sanskrit upon them. I particularly love the attractive wooden buttons at the neck, adding a bit of elegance to the mantra shirt.

I am guessing from your letter that you have found yourself in a sea of different mantras. If that is the case, I suggest that you choose one mantra at a time and do it diligently. From what I have heard from mantra masters, you can do them all day long if you desire—the more the better for greater success it seems.

I think you might have what they call mantra madness; but of all madnesses in this world, it might be the sanest thing to have. Good for you! Spiritual Explorer

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November 26, 2014 on 12:12 pm

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: As soon as I destroy one part of my ego, it feels like another part crops up. Can you suggest for me a deity that will lend me some power in my spiritual pursuits? Nancy P., Oklahoma City, OK

Goddess Durga on a Tiger

Goddess Durga on a Tiger

Dear Nancy: It’s like the multi-headed hydra of mythological fame. As soon as one head got lopped off, another grew back. And that seems to be what occurs when one attempts to fight elements of one’s personality. An interesting take on this from a spiritual friend of mine suggests that it’s like peeling an onion. It’s not that there is another piece waiting around to appear; it’s that it lies beneath in another form, but is still the same layer. It is all but ego, she says, in all its multi-leveled manifestations. However, given all that, I am going to recommend a powerful statue that Ma’s India just received. It is the Durga on Tiger, a formidable ally in your struggle with ego.

Put this Durga statue on your puja table and see what happens. If nothing else, Durga’s colorful appearance will enliven and re-encourage your struggle. Here Durga is shown with many arms to fight attachment and in her hands are many weapons. Durga’s many weapons acknowledge the fact that the ego is a slippery and intransigent foe, willing to re-awaken and re-surge at any moment.

The conch sound that Durga holds in her hand is the sound of Om, the sound of creation. It is the promise of Durga that you will eventually be victorious in your fight with your ego.

Unlike the Goddess Kali, Durga is depicted and acknowledged as a very beautiful goddess. Durga is the golden goddess, capable of inspiration and elegance; notwithstanding her grace and intelligence, however, this Durga will give you the courage, power and strength to continue your struggle against that wily ego.

As you meditate in front of your puja to Goddess Durga, feel her power flowing into you and her inimitable strength revitalizing you. I promise you will feel energized and re-inspired when you do this.

That Durga is astride her tiger that is her ally is certainly a plus in your courageous battle. It is customary for many gods and goddesses to have an ally when doing battle. And I would say that having a tiger as your companion in battle is quite encouraging.

In the midst of this entire struggle, however, I am reminded of the Buddha who feeling discouraged while seeking enlightenment, finally just rested. And when he did relax, he achieved his great accomplishment. Sometimes, we think we know the way to fix ourselves or fight ego, but because our minds are involved, we actually complicate the matter. Perhaps you just need to surrender to yourself and accept those parts of yourself that you have called the ego. Remember that it is our ego that first inspires us to renew the struggle against it. It is a spiritual paradox and one that cannot be won through the mind. Perhaps a cup of tea is all one needs while sitting in front of a virtual tree. There, perhaps the mind can relax and one may attain her goal.

Good luck to you; you are a true spiritual aspirant on the way! Spiritual Explorer

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November 21, 2014 on 11:00 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: One of the women in my office is getting married and has advised us to forget the intimate apparel and give her things for the house, all for under $10.00. Any ideas? Bree F., Long Island, NY

om-cushion-cover

Om Cushion Cover

Dear Bree: If there’s one thing that wears out more than anything in a home and takes abuse, it’s a cushion which people don’t always replace readily. However, if you have the beautiful Om Cushion Cover, the cover can easily be removed for cleaning and thus preserves the cushion. Our Om Cushion Cover comes in red or white, but what distinguishes it is the design of beads configured in an Om symbol. This is not a mere cushion cover but one that has a symbol reflecting spirituality.

As you rest your head on this pillow cover, especially if you have some advanced knowledge of its meaning and significance, I think you will have a deeper, more restful sleep or rest.

Did you know that Om is the smallest mantra even though some purists insist that it actually contains three syllables, A-U-M, kicking it upstairs in size and significance. A-U-M represents the divine energy of Shakti united in its three elementary aspects; Vishnu, (preservation) Braham (creation) and Shiva (destruction). Om is the reflection of the absolute reality; it is said to be without beginning or the end and embracing all that exists. The mantra “Om” is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme. It is the tiniest of mantras, but if said with sincerity, the most profound and powerful. It’s the sincerity you attach to a mantra that makes it powerful, not just mere recitation of words.

One can say Om very easily a myriad of times without becoming tired of it. I once asked a Chanting Master why that was. He told me that it was because each Om as it is recited seems to blend into the next Om, not causing any interruption or pause and therefore produces a flow that is very exhilarating and blissful. Just another way to think about the power of smallness. Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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November 19, 2014 on 11:00 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: Does the Om Dum Durgaya Namah mantra heal mental illness or should one recite Om Namaha Shivaya for mental healing? Please throw light on this. Regards, Pryankur, Chandikar, India

Durga Mantra Bracelet

Durga Mantra Bracelet
“Om Dum Durgaya Namah”

Dear Pryankur: I do know that saying mantra or japa consistently can bring peace of mind to someone who is troubled. I know that people who are in the throes of an illness, be it mental or physical, do not feel peaceful in the throes of their discomfort. Nevertheless, your Om Dum Durgaya Namah mantra is a very powerful mantra used for healing, both physically and mentally. It means Om and salutations under the protection of the Goddess Durga. One asks that Goddess Durga bless us with her protection and love. The Goddess Durga is the supreme feminine manifestation of deities in the Hindu tradition. Dum in this mantra is the seed sound for Durga, who is the personified goddess of protection. As a suggestion, you might also want to invoke the power of Durga by wearing the Durga Mantra Bracelet, which Ma’s India carries, that carries the mantra on its surface. Wearing this bracelet is a sacred reminder that reminds us of the protection we receive from Durga.

Om Namah Shivaya is also a wonderful mantra to rely upon. Shiva sits upon his mountain in contemplation and represents ultimate peace. He is rarely disturbed in his contemplation and saying a mantra of Om Namah Shivaya can bring strength, endurance and resilience in the face of any challenge. It is said that if one recites the Om Namah Shivaya mantra for many years, one eventually accumulates knowledge and spiritual clarity of the deepest type.

I, as your Spiritual Explorer, am at a loss to tell you which mantra would be most beneficial. But I would be willing to bet that if this person for whom you are praying and you yourself were to say either of these mantras, that it would be of great assistance in times of trouble. Remember, that the gods are full of compassion and even if we do not recite things in the proper manner or form, they know our intent. And one thing I do understand and know is that the gods are so happy when we pray to them and ask them for favors. They wait for us to do this so that they may fulfill their own godly nature, which is to serve us as well as they can.

Om Namah Shivaya is an extremely powerful mantra. Many people think that they must find some mysterious mantra to gain the gods’ attention, but in truth, the very popular Om Namah Shivaya or Om Dum Durgaya Namaha are mantras that have been used consistently for thousands of years by many devotees, and these mantras are as powerful today as they were when the esoteric scriptures were penned so long ago.

Blessings on whomever it is that you are chanting for. Both of you will be rewarded for your caring and kindness. Thanks for writing a really good question. Spiritual Explorer

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November 14, 2014 on 11:00 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: What is spiritual cannibalism? Mae R., Warwick, RI

Spiritual Cannibalism

Spiritual Cannibalism

Dear Mae: It is a term coined by Swami Rudrananda, otherwise known as Rudi to his devotees and followers. Rudi, as he was affectionately called, was a unique teacher of spirituality. Completed before Rudi’s death, Spiritual Cannibalism is the only book that he wrote and published himself.

One of his lessons to his students was that one could continue to lead an active life and still be spiritually connected, as opposed to strict monasticism. Rudi was unique in that he dispelled common misconceptions of spirituality and challenged his students to lead a fulfilling life.

Rudi, himself, was an entrepreneur and importer and met many of his students through his store in Greenwich Village where he collected Asian art. Wonderful stories are told of his meeting and connection with each one of them. Rudi had an amazing psychic gift and related his experiences with these students in great detail. Rudi’s unique experience with his students was to sit with them and gaze into their eyes for 5 to 10 minutes and transmit Shakti energy to them.

According to his autobiography, Rudi’s first spiritual experience occurred at age 6 in a park where two Tibetan Buddhist lamas appeared out of the air and stood before him. They told Rudi they were going to place within him the energy and wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism. Many mystical and spiritual experiences followed Rudi throughout his unfortunately short life and he was greatly influenced by the teachings of Swamis Muktananda and Nityananda.

Spiritual cannibalism as explained by Rudi is really about a student’s desire to grow and the role played by a teacher in the student’s growth. Spiritual cannibalism is about emptying out misconceptions of spirituality and preparing oneself in many ways for the presence of the Divine.

Rudi taught an eclectic blend of techniques he called “kundalini yoga” He called it “a yoga which is used to collect energy within yourself and bring through your own chemistry the energy that is in the universe. A human being is only able to do that by internalizing energy and bringing it through their system.”

In his book Spiritual Cannibalism there are many exercises to release negative energy, which includes cultivating gratitude, sitting with deceased persons and advanced breath exercises to draw in “cosmic energy.” This is a very inspiring and useful book to any aspirant.

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