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Village Complex, Crafts Museum 2 to 3.30 pm

'The women awakened series' - Workshops/Teachings by Women Spiritual Teachers 

 Organized by Swati Chopra

The wisdom tradition that sprung around the Goddess in India cannot be understood without turning to living, breathing, seeking women. In India, wisdom has often been defined as a felt, tasted experience. It must be lived for it to be real. To us, our divinities are alive; they need to be bathed, fed, clothed, put to sleep, woken up, and about whom we weave stories. At another level, our philosophies embody felt psycho-spiritual truths. The Goddess, who was posited as a kind of 'maximum woman',  cannot be seen and studied without taking in consideration those living women that embody her strength, her abilities and her energy in their lives, their choices, their paths. 

In this festival, dedicated to fostering and engendering a deeper understanding of the Goddess, three sessions will bring those acknowledged as 'women of wisdom' into the circle of discussion. These women are travellers of the inner journey, having chosen a path that took them towards an understanding of life and reality that was different, and perhaps more meaningful, than the mundane, everyday one. Today, each one has spent a considerable part of her life exploring hidden dimensions of life and consciousness. 

These sessions, held each day of the festival from 2 pm to 3:30 pm, are envisioned as a 'transmitive sharing'. The women who will conduct them will share their stories, the choices they made and why, along with insights unearthed as they walked on the razor's edge of the spiritual path. All sessions will include a guided meditation practice.  

These sessions have been organised by Swati Chopra, a writer and editor. Her new book, Women Awakened: Stories of Contemporary Spirituality in India (HarperCollins, 2011), explores the idea of feminine spirituality, and the larger question of what it means to be a spiritual seeker in today’s world, through the lives and choices of eight women. Her previous books are Dharamsala Diaries (Penguin, 2007) and Buddhism: On the Path to Nirvana (Brijbasi, New Delhi; Mercury Books, London, 2005). Her writing, exploring spirituality and its relevance to modern lives, has appeared in several publications in India and abroad.


friday 4th march
2 to 3.30 pm

Empowering the Yogini Shakti – by Yogini Shambhavi

Now, more than ever, women need to open themselves to the flow of divine grace and the power of the Devi, the Mother Goddess, to facilitate the birth of a higher consciousness in the world, not merely at an individual but also at a planetary level. We must recognize and honour the Goddess in all of her forms, of which her transformative manifestations are the most central. Feminine gentleness, nurturing, healing, sustenance and compassion are the key tools necessary to soothe the turmoil, anguish, pain and anger that is burning us from within, stoked by the voracity and arrogance of the commercialisation, ambition and ignorance that seems to surround us on every side.

The Yogini as the Yoga Shakti represents the deep intuitive voice of the ‘Inner Guru’ or spiritual guide. The outer guru works to awaken our inner being and to direct us to the sacred practices necessary to connect with it. The quintessential spirit of the Yogini is to provide an expression for our inner being, who unfolds the flow of divine grace. Without the anugraha or grace of the Devi, we cannot move far on the spiritual path. It is her divine benevolence that steers us into surrendering to the higher consciousness, letting go of our outer confusion and agitation.

My unique Devi sadhana paved the way for the intrinsic lightning dance of Ma Kali to color my life. Experientially one sought Her in the heart as Subhadra the ever auspicious Goddess of beauty, bliss and abundance. Ma Kali reveals the divine magnificence and splendour in all creation. She gently guides us from darkness to the idyllic light of dawn. Kali lends mystery to Shiva’s enigmatic transcendence. Kali is the yogic power of Shiva which dwells beyond the illusory Maya.

I have not experienced Ma Kali as fierce or even intimidating in any way. For me the Goddess represents the soul’s victory over all darkness, sorrow and conflict, encompassing the higher virtues of feminine divinity. Kali is severe with all that is unconstructive, negative, trivial and narcissistic. She gently purifies the heart, mind and body to help us heal through our karmas. Yet there is no divine being more compassionate and blissful. In surrendering to her, she guides us through the vortex of suffering.

Yogini Shambhavi is a mystic Yogini, spiritual guide and preceptor rooted in the ancient teachings and traditions of Shakti worship. Shambhavi is one of the foremost women teachers of the deeper aspects of Yoga, Ayurveda and Jyotish coming out of India today. She shows how to use yogic practices of ritual, mantra and meditation to bring the power of the Goddess into our daily lives. She is also trained in Vedic astrology and teaches special yogic methods of working with the planets. She is noted for her clear, direct and uncompromising expression as well as her power of devotion and her ability to inspire. Shambhavi draws one to the deeper ‘Yogic Reality’, awakening the universal power within us.

As co-director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, Santa Fe, along with Dr David Frawley, Shambhavi offers consultations in Vedic astrology, Shakta teachings, personal empowerments, training programmes and workshops in North and South America, Europe, UK and India. Dr Frawley and Yogini Shambhavi host a special yearly March ‘Ma Ganga Shakti Retreat’ above Rishikesh for spiritual aspirants and Yoga and Ayurveda practitioners worldwide.

Shambhavi has authored two bestselling books – Yogini: Unfolding the Goddess Within and Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess, and a special CD of Devi chants and Bija mantras – Yogini Bhava, Shakti Mantras Invoke the Divine Within (Lotus Press, USA).


saturday 5th march
2 to 3.30 pm

The Feminine Principle in Buddhism - by Khandro Thrinlay Chodon

The feminine principle can be viewed at different levels in accordance with an individual's understanding or perspective. Some of the ways she has been known is as 'the wise crone', 'the nurturing mother', 'the powerful shakti'. Within the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, the feminine principle has a specific meaning, which unveils to us her presence at the heart of everything. She is revered and respected by practitioners as the spacious quality of mind itself, and through deep practice, her truth unfolds unceasingly. Subtle, mystifying, intriguing, nurturing and pervasive, she is actually beyond gender, and is dynamic.

Today, this feminine aspect of our being needs to be respected and reactivated by both men and women. Science has recently broadened its view from seeing the brain as static to seeing it as having a unique ability to constantly change, grow, and remap itself over a lifetime. Of course, the brain, in addition to our being, has always had this plasticity, something the Buddha mentioned and taught some 2,500 years ago, but modern science has understood only now. It is time to harness our innate ability to go beyond our conditioning, for if we do not, we will continue to remain limited, and suffer as a consequence. At this time, our world needs to focus on the feminine principle so that we can develop the ability to surrender expectation and concepts and move into a realm of ever-flowing wisdom. In this day and age, it is vital to master and fully incorporate the feminine principle into our meditative practices.
Khandro Thrinlay Chodon, who is widely known as a living yogini, will lead us in an afternoon session that illuminates this aspect of her spiritual tradition. She will speak both from the heart of her practice, as well as from her personal experience. The session will begin with a meditation and reflection and end with a short question and answer session.

Khandro Thrinlay Chodon is a lay, female Vajrayana Buddhist teacher, who holds her family's yogic spiritual lineage, which is the Drukpa tradition revered in Tibet, Bhutan and the Indian Himalayas. She began her spiritual training as a small child and has studied both Eastern and Western approaches to psychology.

Since the death of her husband, His Holiness the IXth Shabdrung of Bhutan, in 2003, Khandro-la has, with the encouragement of many Vajrayana Buddhist Masters, been teaching in the West. She focuses on spirituality in daily life. Her organisation, Khachodling, engages in spiritual and humanitarian projects in the remote Indian Himalayas.

Khandro-la is the embodiment of warmth and humanness. Her contemporary and profound Buddhist teachings inspire and direct practitioners to deepen in their awareness, and courageously expand into the path of wisdom, joy and compassion.


sunday 6th march
2 to 3.30 pm

Ganga, the Celestial Goddess – Workshop/teaching by Sri Ma Amodini Saraswati

Ganga is a composite of many Himalayan rivers, most notably Bhagirathi and Alakhnanda, and it is only at the confluence of these two at Devprayag that she is recognised as Ganga. She is worshipped as celestial goddess, known as Tripathagamini. She flows in the skies as the starry Akashganga, or the Milky Way; she was specially invoked to descend to the earth to save human civilisation from extinction at the end of a great war. Ever since, the gracious goddess is revered as a life-giving flow of rejuvenation and liberation. She also flows in the netherworld as Patalganga, who releases the souls of those incarcerated there for grave misdeeds, to enable them to begin a fresh new evolutionary cycle upon earth. She is known as Makarvahini, goddess who rides on the back of a fearsome crocodile, an apt vehicle representing the sheer force of the river at her very source.

Ancient rishis and seekers have performed austere spiritual practices by the Eternal River, and legend are the stories of her healing, rejuvenating and liberating powers, woven into the cultural fabric of India across millennia. This river is like none other, and has acquired the status of a sacred river whose awesome powers are intertwined with the cultural history of the country. Kumbh Mela, the largest periodic gathering of people anywhere on earth, is a grand tribute to Ganga and her spiritual hold over the imagination of people, increasingly at a global level.

Sri Ma Amodini Saraswati talks about her personal experiences of the profound transformative powers of the sacred Ganga as a living goddess, especially through her participation in three Kumbh Melas. She gives a fascinating account of how her work in Yogic Astrology-Tarot connects people from over the world with the Ganga in Rishikesh, to enable wholeness, empowerment and transcendence.

Sri Ma Amodini Saraswati is a first class first Social Work graduate from Mumbai, with a Social Welfare PhD from Berkeley, and an International Fellow of the American Association of University Women. It was in the course of her doctoral research on women farmers in a remote forest hamlet in Western India that she began parallel forays into spirituality, including self-directed voyages in kundalini exploration.

Later she met three gurus who encouraged her to engage in brief bouts of fearless personal sadhana in solitude in the wilderness of the Western Ghats. It was at the Mahakumbh Mela in 2001 in Allahabad that Mahavatar Babaji actively stepped forward to connect her with the Ganga. For eight years, this included repeated forays to Hardwar for meditation in the Ganga. Amodini has been led over the years to develop core transformative practices and teachings in River Work, such as underwater meditation, allied with Vipassana, Kundalini Yoga and Surya Yoga.

Amodini shifted to Rishikesh in 2007, taking formal initiation to sannyas at the 2010 Hardwar-Rishikesh Kumbh Mela. For the last three years, she has been engaged in an evolving practice of Yogic Astrology-Tarot with spiritual aspirants from all over the world.

Amodini is also a published writer, traveller, cook, gardener and photographer.