Have you ever thought about being more aware of what you eat? If you’ve ever tried a diet or fasted, then you for sure have.

If you get sugar highs and lows, then you know how easy it is to measure the effect of food on your body after you consume it.

If you knew something more about your food and the subtle impact it has on you because of the vibration it carries, would you care?

I’m a vegetarian, and it is very important in my spiritual path to be vegetarian. My Guru Paramahamsa Vishwananda actively promotes vegetarianism.

Despite that, I never ever thought that I’d care about such things like what my food had been through before I was ingesting it into my body.

And then… I watched Earthlings (<– Disclaimer: this might be disturbing to a lot of people, so don’t click if you don’t want to watch it).

The Vegan-Maker, sort of

Yes, it’s called the “vegan-maker”, but I’ll be honest, that movie wasn’t what made me want to give up dairy. If you’ve watched it, then please don’t think I’m heartless for that!

Then on a rainy Sunday at home in Toronto, I was having a Netflix and chill kinda day, browsing through the documentaries on Netflix and stumbled upon Cowspiracy. It’s an environmental movie, and I didn’t expect it to have a lot of vegetarian type of messaging in it. I was surprised as I watched it because the documentary presents some straight up facts and figures around the impact industrial farming has on the environment.

So now I’m making a better effort to be dairy-free. Trying out this vegan cheese is a step towards that.

Daiya Vegan Cheese Review

Back in 2012, before I started my spiritual journey, I was at the Mind, Body, Spirit festival in London, with my friend Jenny. As we were browsing around the tradeshow floor, we walked by a stall that was selling vegan cheese. I remember thinking that it was the weirdest thing ever. Who would have thought that four years later, I would be freaking out about it in excitement? Oh, life, and its irony.

Giving up dairy is easy because soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk make it easy to stop drinking milk in your cereal and coffee. But what about dairy products like butter, cheese, and yogurt?

After a few weeks going dairy free, trust me, you start to really miss cheese. That’s why when I was at a health food store and saw vegan cheese that actually melts so that I could have a grilled cheese again, (hallelujah!) I couldn’t resist buying it.


Daiya cheddar style cheese smells a lot like real cheddar when you open the package. It even tastes a lot like real cheese when you eat it right out of the package. There is an aftertaste similar to what you get after eating Cheetos. The real question was, however, will it really melt like real cheddar?


And, success! The vegan cheese melts! You won’t believe how happy I was when I discovered the cheese melts. The little joys.

But, there was still another question. How would it taste?


Another success! It tastes good! There’s still that Cheetos aftertaste but I was never opposed to Cheetos, so that was a non-issue.

The real reason why I love vegan cheese

OK, let me tell you the real reason why I’m so excited about such a little things as vegan cheese that melts.

To be honest, it is encouraging and heartening to hear that there are brands out there that are also conscious about the environmental impact of industrial farming. It is heartening to see that there are other people out there, who run entire companies, that are trying to make a difference in the way that animals are treated and to help the environment. It is a symbol of solidarity more so than, “Yay, I get to eat grilled cheese again.”

There are a few things that vegan cheese taught me about spirituality.

  1. I am willing to practice self-restraint when it comes to avoiding dairy but I still will allow myself to indulge in a greasy cheesy treat now and again.
  2. I shouldn’t judge someone based on their diet and eating habits because, in four years time, I could be in their exact shoes.
  3. It is so important to seek out and join up with others (people, organizations, and brands) that stand for the same beliefs as you because otherwise, it’s just too lonely.

So, thank you Daiya, and thank you vegan grilled cheese sandwich. You help to make my journey and my learning that much more delicious.


Ananga Manjari Dasi

You want to follow the signs of the universe and you want to live a life that is Divinely guided. But where do you start? In this video, I share a 5 step process that will help you to live a life that is guided by the Universe. I call this the A.L.T.A.R. process, which is explained in detail in this video. Check it out.

The first letter, A, stands for the ASK step. Ask for guidance, have a conversation with the Universe and with your inner Guru. If you don’t ask for it, the Universe won’t get the signal from you that are seeking guidance.

L stands for LISTEN. This is the most important part of the process and often, the hardest. Listening has to do with patience because the answer from the Universe doesn’t always come super loud and clear. Sometimes, it comes faintly or it’s fuzzy. So, be patient and listen hard.

T stands for TRUST. The other side of the patience coin is trust. Trust your guidance enough that all the doubts of your ego disappear. At this stage, your ego will most likely freak out and try to prevent you from taking the next step! It will try to prevent you from trusting what you are hearing. Ignore the doubts coming from your mind and trust what you hear is the right thing.

The fourth letter stands for ACT. Even if you are a little scared to act upon your guidance, do it. Trust it and just do it. Trust that the guidance came from a place that knows a lot more than you do and therefore is giving you the wiser instruction. 

The last letter, R, stands for REPEAT. You see life is not determined by just one single moment. It is determined by single moments occurring one after another over and over again. The moment that changes your life forever will happen, then another moment will happen that will change your life forever, and so on. 

In order to live a life that is guided by the Universe, you must continue to practice the A.L.T.A.R. process all the time.

If you want to set up a physical altar in your room to help anchor you, that would help. I’ve got one and it is something I come to every single day to pray, to reconnect and to practice A.L.T.A.R. It is where I ask, my meditation practice is where I listen, my altar is what anchors my trust, my daily life and activities is where I act and it is each day that I try to repeat the whole process.

After all that I said, can I tell you a secret?

You are already being guided by the Universe. How do you think you ended up on this page reading this post?

With all my love,

Ananga Manjari Dasi

In 2014, when I was marooned on the great island of Australia, I needed some help. I was alone and cut off from my spiritual family, from Bhakti Marga, as at that time, there were no other devotees of Paramahamsa Vishwananda there. It is an understatement to say that I was in rough shape.

During that difficult phase, one person came to my help and offered himself for me to lean on. Even though he was miles away in South Africa, Swami Paranthapananda supported me more than any person I could physically lean on or hug during that difficult phase.

I made this video back then with the intention of sharing it on my blog. 2 years later, I’m finally ready to release this video and to expose the vulnerability of revealing that difficult phase of my life. I’m sharing this with you in the hope that it will give you support when you need it the most. And I trust that it will, because it has the grace and love of our Guru, Paramahamsa Vishwananda infused within it.

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Swami Paranthapananda twitter: @swamivpp
Our Guru, Paramahamsa Vishwananda’s Youtube channel

Read the story of my very first meeting with Swami Paranthapananda here:

Swami Vishwaparantapa, Swamini Vishwakaruna (Teresa Hale), Ritu Ashrafi


My friend Abida, the founder of Rah Inc. and one of the fabulous 2015 queens that I interviewed last year, came by my place the other night. We had a long chat about life, our work, dreams and goals over dinner. One of the topics of conversation was commitment. As you know from my about page, I’ve had commitment issues in the past and I’ve even made a video about it.

Commitment was one of the early lessons on my spiritual journey. In fact, my journey started when in my heart, I chose to commit to one man for the rest of my life (my ex – but that’s another story for another day).

Our conversation sparked something in Abida and she wrote about it so eloquently in her newsletter the next day that I had to share it here. You can sign up for her newsletter here.


Excerpt from The Rah Digest newsletter.

Last night I met up with my dear friend Ananga Manjari Dasi.  We met after months because she’s been travelling a lot as part of her studies and practice of being an Atma Kriya Meditation teacher.

Check out Atma Kriya Yoga

By the way, we are holding a Meditation and Yoga in the park event on August 21, 2016 at Eglinton Park at 3:00pm.  I would love for you to attend!  Join us for a few transformative hours and see if meditation or yoga would be something you’d be interested in practicing.

om chanting and yoga in the park by abida and ritu
Subscribe to both of our newsletters at www.therahdigest.com and www.thelifester.com in order to attend for FREE!

During our meet up we had a great conversation about life and caught each other up on our individual journeys.  She told me that she changed her name from Ritu to Ananga Manjari Dasi as part of her transformation and commitment to her practice.

I listened intently to her stories, but found myself noticing and zeroing in on the word commitment over and over again.  I have shared with you in the past that I struggle with being committed and disciplined to my goals.  The word commitment stuck out so much because it is something I had to hear someone else describe as a way of life.  She is living, breathing and practicing commitment by devoting herself to her teachings.  As she described making the choice to become committed and living it daily, I felt an intense energy oozing out of her.  It was something I never felt because I didn’t realize how empowering it is to truly commit.  The power within her to commit made me realize the untapped power within myself that I have yet to experience.

abida founder rah inc and rah digest

Commitment is a choice that has to be made.  It can’t be done during times of convenience or whenever you feel like it.  Once it’s been decided you have to stick to it.  It can’t be half-assed.  You have to treat it as a part of your existence.  When you commit to something you are declaring to the universe and to yourself that no matter what life throws at you, you will find a way to accomplish that commitment.

Hearing someone else describe her devotion and commitment the way Ananga did, completely blew me away.  It made me reflect on myself and how relaxed I’ve been with my own commitments.  Ask yourself, are you truly committed to your goals?  What does the word commitment mean to you?  Reflect on that and going forward, really commit to yourself and your goals by treating it as a way of life. Become so committed that people can’t help but notice how much you’ve changed.

Sending you lots of love and positive vibes,

Connect with Abida on Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

The fully realized Master, Paramahamsa Vishwananda, who is my Guru, Tweeted this today:

Sitting and observing how this world is going makes me think that all in this mundane world, together with its illusive relationships and having this body, which is prone to death and diseases, people have forgotten what is true love and true friendship. All that one sees ends with only a view to fulfill one’s own desire. It’s everywhere.

When we forget the love which God has put inside of our heart, we lose this connection to the reality. Then, one starts to fashion a dream reality, which is far away from the true love of God. That’s what makes the mind become insane, because the most endearing thing, and the soul, is Giridhari Himself. And He is the Supreme Lord! So if one cuts that relationship from the source all what one sees becomes deceptive, not real. All just takes a shape of fantasy and a mere show.

All that one owns in life becomes dear only when our relationship is centered in the soul; it’s the relationship which one bears from the soul of soul Himself.

When the soul recognizes its similarities with the love of the Supreme Lord, then only this relationship is established. All fake attachment to the external world disappears as the result of the real relationship to Giridhari Himself, who is the ultimate soul, the soul of all souls; God himself who is the shelter of all living beings.

Let’s analyze this sentence: “All that one owns in life becomes dear only when our relationship is centered in the soul; it’s the relationship which one bears from the soul of soul Himself.”

Before this sentence, Guruji says that if we cut ourselves off from the source, from the Love of the Divine, then we lose a connection to reality. That’s when we start to create a dream reality, a fantasy and just a show.

He mentions three things above that we fashion for ourselves:

  1. Dream reality
  2. Fantasy
  3. A show

A dream reality is self-explanatory. We know that dreams are not real.

A fantasy is like wishful thinking, but we convince ourselves that it’s not a wish, it’s real. We convince ourselves that are fantasies can come true and we go through a lot of effort and do a lot of work to put on a show where the fantasy might come true.

We know that every show has a backstage and there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than what you see on stage. In our effort to put on a show in order to make our fantasy real and to make our dream real, an enormous amount of energy is spent and stored backstage, behind the scenes. Whether we like it or not, what goes on backstage will make an appearance front stage in one way or another.

Coming back to the sentence we are analyzing. When Guruji says “all that we own in life”, I believe he is talking about our only true possession, which is the relationship we have with God. We come to this world empty handed and we leave in the same way. The one thing that we do enter this world with is our soul’s love relationship with God and that’s the one thing we leave the world with, whether we realize it at the time of death or not.

If this is our only true possession, then what Guruji says in that sentence makes perfect sense. The relationship we have with God, which can only be perceived when we are centered in the soul, is always there. But the missing part is that we don’t hold it dear to us and that is our big loss.

Only when we start to center ourselves in the soul do we realize what a treasure that relationship is and start holding it dear to us. Only when we recognize our soul’s love relationship with God do we realize that it’s the most important thing in the entire Universe. And since that relationship is the only thing that we really truly own, we realize that we have everything, we realize we are complete. We realize that we are free because we are eternally in a loving relationship with God.

“All fake attachment to the external world disappears as the result of the real relationship to Giridhari Himself, who is the ultimate soul, the soul of all souls; God himself who is the shelter of all living beings.” Paramahamsa Vishwananda

I’ve been caught up in the storm of the US presidential elections. The high-energy speeches are motivating, inspiring and subliminally convincing on so many levels.

I hope that this election is inspiring a sense of responsibility within you because it is within me and I’m not even American. I can’t vote.

My favorite thing about this election is that there is a well-defined “Evil” character vs an obvious “Good” character.

It’s a real life Good vs Evil story.

But the thing is that the bad guy also has a backstory. Here’s one about the demon King Ravana that my Guru, Paramahamsa Vishwananda (Guruji) once shared during Krishna Janmashtami in 2013.

Ravana was an evil king and he was the personification of the bad quality in humans that is lust. He abducted Sita, the pious wife of Lord Rama because she was extraordinarily beautiful and he wanted her. Clearly, he’s the baddy.

Ravana Sita

Image source

But it is not very well known that he had a secret meditation room in his palace, which no one else was allowed to enter. He would go into this room and cry because he missed and longed for God. He longed for Narayana and although he knew that Lord Rama was an incarnation of Narayana and was on his was to kill him, therefore liberate him, he still had to play his role of a demon and be the bad guy.

The reason why I shared this is because it’s important for us to remember that there is a backstory for every character, even the main characters in an election. It’s important for us to remember that the power and wealth that Donald Trump received and the intelligence and opportunities that Hillary Clinton has received are gifts from the same source; the Divine.

They each have a role to play in this drama and they are playing their roles very well.

We also have a role to play and that is to pick a side and fight. And our greatest weapon in this fight is our vote.

We have a role to play in the 2016 election

No matter what gets in our way, or how long the lines are, how rude the polling station people are or whatever the Universe throws in your way, you’ve got to fight. You’ve got to make sure your vote gets cast.

We’re not just spectators in this drama. We are fellow actors.

And we must do our best to play out our role.


Header image: HillaryClinton.com

Being a Humble Student

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In order to be a good student, you have to be humble enough to be willing to teach what you are learning. Yes, it’s scary to put yourself in the spotlight and give everybody a chance to see what you do and don’t know.

It is important because without teaching you may not truly learn. Be willing to go out and teach the little that you know.

Through teaching you will learn.

It’s not possible to learn in isolation. Learning is also a social activity. Be willing to put yourself out there, be willing to look like an idiot, but be willing to find out how much you know and also how little you know. Then you can make progress.

Photo credit: Vesna Sanders Photography

Being a humble teacher

  • By:

Some of us who try to teach from our hearts only, we tend to look down on someone who doesn’t “feel” the love or the teachings in the same way as us.

This is not compassion or kindness at all.

The better way is for us to try and change our way of teaching or talking to make it easier for someone else to learn. If the student or listener is a thinker and analytical or logical person, for us to teach with logic. If the student is a feeler, then for us to teach with feeling.

Who are we to know who this person in front of us really is? Our student could end up becoming the biggest teacher in the world. Our student could end up being our guru. It happened to Ramanujacharya’s Guru, Yadava Prakash.

Don’t look down upon someone who doesn’t see the world exactly the same as you. Instead, equip yourself so that you can see the world through their eyes when needed so you can serve them in a way that will actually help them.

*This post is an excerpt from a chat I had with a friend who asked me a question related to this Thinking Bhakti podcast by Bhakti Marga: listen to it here.

Everyone makes mistakes. I am not immune to that. Some mistakes sting you the most though, and that’s because these are the mistakes where you hurt the ones closest to you.

I made such a mistake today. I hurt the feelings of a dear friend.

The worst thing is that I only realized how horrible I was being after it was too late. That’s how mistakes work, unfortunately; in hindsight.

What do you do when you’ve realized that you have hurt someone? Should you apologize to them? Some may argue that no, it’s enough to make the mistake and ask God for forgiveness. Confess and be clean of this karma.

im sorry


In reality, it is not that easy. In full honesty, think about this and tell me. Who has the power to emotionally, psychologically and karmically forgive you for a mistake you have made to hurt someone?

The answer to that question is that the only person who can truly forgive you for the mistake you have made is the person you have hurt.

A story about the importance of saying sorry

There is a beautiful story in the Srimad Bhagavatam that my Guru, Paramahamsa Vishwananda often tells. This story is about Durvasa, the ancient sage. He was short tempered and moody (to say the least) and one day, because of a misunderstanding, he got really angry at a king by the name Ambarisa and cursed the king.

angry face

Image source

In reality, King Ambarisa was completely innocent but he didn’t argue against the sage. He accepted the curse and even apologized for his innocent mistake.

Little did sage Durvasa know, but king Ambarisa was a huge devotee of Lord Narayana and he was beloved of Lord Narayana in return. Narayana couldn’t stand such an insult to his devotee and sent his most powerful weapon, his Sudharshana Chakra to finish off Sage Durvasa for cursing Ambarisa and causing him pain.


Image source

When Durvasa saw the Sudharshana Chakra coming for him, he ran to Brahma, the creator, and begged him for protection. Lord Brahma was powerless against the Sudharshan Chakra and told Durvasa that he couldn’t help or protect him.

Durvasa then went to Shiva, the destroyer and begged for protection from him. Shiva had the same answer and said that since the Sudharshana Chakra belongs to Lord Narayana, only he can protect him from it. So, Durvasa ran to Lord Narayana.


Image source

To his surprise, Narayana couldn’t help him either. He said to Durvasa, that the Sudharshana Chakra flew out to help and protect the pure devotee of Lord Narayana since the offense was made against the devotee. The only person that can stop the Chakra is the devotee, not the Lord.

Durvasa then ran back to his starting point, to King Ambarisha and fell at his feet asking forgiveness. King Ambarisha realized what had happened and prayed to Lord Narayana to forgive the sage and stop His Chakra, and by doing that, he saved the Sage.

sage durvasa

Image source

The point of the story is that when you commit a mistake against someone, then you run to God and ask for forgiveness, you won’t find it there. The only person who can forgive you is the one who you hurt with your mistake.

No matter how uncomfortable and embarrassing it is, you must ask for forgiveness from your friend who you’ve hurt.

How to ask for forgiveness and say sorry

Here are three ways you can say sorry after you’ve made a mistake.

1 | Say sorry and blame your bad behaviour on a headache (or being ill)

Sometimes you need a crutch to lean your apology on and a headache or not feeling well is a good excuse for being weird. Even better, if you genuinely weren’t feeling well when you misbehaved with your friend, then this will be true!

how to say sorry

Text: Sorry I was a little out of it. Had a massive headache from the sun at the beach. Let’s hang again soon.

2 | Say sorry and blame it on someone else (a 3rd party)

This is a less desirable way to apologize but sometimes you need a 3rd party to help ease the tension. Also, sometimes it really is the presence of a third wheel that makes you act differently towards a friend and then you end up hurting them by mistake.

how to say sorry excuses

Text: Sorry if that was a little awkward. I think I was being weird because so and so was there.

3 | Say sorry and tell the truth

Once in a while, saying sorry isn’t going to mean much unless you really get down to the root cause of the issue and come totally clean about why the friction occurred between the two of you in the first place. This can escalate very quickly, so be prepared to humble yourself and make yourself vulnerable if you choose to go with this. It really has to come from within, otherwise, you’ll just end up attacking your friend and hurting them much more than you originally had.

Saying sorry is a sign of strength, not weakness. This kind of strength cultivates through looking at yourself and analyzing yourself and the best place to do that is when you are in meditation. If you have never meditated before, look into it. I highly recommend Atma Kriya Yoga as a meditation practice.

Don’t be afraid to say sorry. When you can smile and laugh and just be comfortable in the presence of your friend again who had accidentally hurt, it will be worth it.

With my love,


krishna i didn't do it


What is freedom anyway?

  • By:

Something happened to me recently that has got me thinking a lot about true freedom.

True freedom is acceptance of life and taking it for what it is. I had no idea that acceptance is directly connected to freedom as well, but it is.

I’m not talking about being free to speak your mind or being financially free. I’m talking about a higher level of freedom, one which actually comes from bondage; bondage to duty. Surprised? Yes, I am too. Let me explain.

I know only one person in the world who is truly free and that is Paramahamsa Vishwananda. He is free because he is fully God realized and a Divine incarnation, so I won’t even try to analyze what makes him free.

There is one other person who demonstrated true freedom to me just the other day and this is my attempt to understand the meaning of freedom through their example.

Before I get into that, I’ll tell you the story of what happened to me recently. Just a couple of days ago, it was my Guruji’s birthday and all his devotees gathered in Germany to celebrate the big day. I had flights, accommodation and tickets booked to go to the celebration well in advance.

But something came up and I couldn’t go, and worst of all, I just couldn’t accept that I couldn’t go. I simply didn’t like that fact that I wasn’t there and a part of me disliked that everyone else was there, having fun and I wasn’t.

As I was getting frustrated, sad and a little resentful about this, I had a conversation with that person who I mentioned earlier. They couldn’t go to the party either and when I asked why, they simply said that there were other duties to be done so it didn’t even occur to them to skip the duties to go to the party.

The fact that this person was wholeheartedly bound to their duty made them free of liking or disliking the fact that they weren’t going to go to the party. This person was totally free! They didn’t feel bad at all. They were happy as always.

I was speechless. I mean, who would voluntarily miss the chance to celebrate the birthday of their Guru, who is the most beloved thing to a devotee, to perform a duty that needs to be done?

True Freedom in the Gita

Finally, today, as I was reading the Bhagavad Gita commentary by Paramahamsa Vishwannada, I was given a clue about the lesson this whole experience was trying to teach me. The lesson was about freedom: true freedom.

“No matter what happens, they are fully centered in the Divine: they are free. They are free firstly from the sense of like and dislike. They are renounced from within.” – Paramahamsa Vishwananda’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, pg. 194, Chapter 2, verse 65

You will be truly free

You will be truly free when how you feel, act and are won’t be so affected by what you like and dislike. This is not easy at all. What if something really bad happened to you? How do you not let that make you feel upset, angry, sad or distressed? It’s not easy at all.

But one day when you do get to that state through your spiritual practice, meditation and dedication and when you get the Grace of your Guru and God to achieve that state, then you can be truly free no matter what happens to you on the outside.

It won’t be an easy path because the tests will get harder and harder so you can see how much of things that you dislike you can transcend. With a spiritual practice such as Atma Kriya Yoga, and with the guidance of a Guru, you can get there in this life.

After all, I’m banking on that myself.



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