10 Underrated Books Everyone MUST Read

My underrated favorites highly recommended for 2019.

Here’s my list of books that people aren’t talking about enough, have just a few-thousand ratings or even less on Goodreads, but you should definitely add to your shelves (and also read, don’t just keep them sitting there!).

1. Unthink by Chris Paley

(Goodreads average: 3.55, but it deserves at least 4/5 stars)

Genre? Psychology. Without the boring, scientific details, this short, quick book covers dozens of interesting studies on the human mind (and how it’s being heavily manipulated). Easy to read, keeps you hooked on every page, and will leave you thinking for a long time.

2. An Atheist’s History of Belief by Matthew Kneale

(Goodreads average: 3.82, Me: atleast a 4/5)

I’ll go so far as saying it’s (almost) as fascinating and resourceful as Yuval Noah’s Sapiens. But don’t take my word on it – read it for yourself.

This is an essential book to believers and non-believers alike, as this uncovers questions like, where did the idea of God really originate from? How did idol-worship begin? Why are there strange practices like sacrifices, martyrdom and witchcraft? The conception of polygamy and abstinence, and a LOT more.

Value for money, and a well utilization of 240 pages! No fluke. And you might be surprised by what you discover about your own religion. Brace yourselves, there are some bold revelations!

3. Hypnotherapy by Dave Elman

(Goodreads average: 4.4, Me: 5/5!)

What is hypnosis? Can we be hypnotized without consent? Is it possible that we are often hypnotized even without knowing it? Can hypnosis actually be beneficial? And how can we do it (if at all)?

This is one of the finest books written on the subject, and will surprise you with a ton of information. Mind-blowing!

Disclaimer – the book is rarely published anymore and will be an expensive buy. But most certainly worth it, I assure you!

4. Anam Cara by John O’Donohue

(Goodreads average: 4.31, I’d say 5/5)

Celtic wisdom. Philosophy. Mystical.

If these words intrigue you, pick this book without a second thought. In a world where you get a hundred new quotes per hour on Instagram, the thoughts and ideas in this book still remain widely untouched and uncirculated.

5. Invisible Acts of Power by Caroline Myss

(Goodreads average: 4.06, Me: definitely a 5/5)

“Faith in humanity restored!”
That was my reaction atleast after every 2 pages.

Its a feel-good yet emotion-stirring read. Thought-provoking, yet gentle. An ideal book if you’re finding yourself questioning the ‘purpose in life’, or wondering if there’s any hope left for humanity.

This is written as a series of stories with a deep message and a lot of happy endings (happy new beginnings, rather).

6. Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh

(Goodreads average: 4.49, Me: 5/5 undoubtedly!)

Written by an Enlightened Buddhist Monk himself, this book is such an easy way to understand the Buddhist Way.

Even if not with the intention to become a Monk, or a Buddhist, read this extraordinary piece of work to gain invaluable knowledge about Buddhism, Meditation practices, spiritual discourses, and even a bit of historic recounting (disputes between the monks, rivalries, the Buddha’s passing into Nirvana etc).

7. No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal

(Goodreads average: 4.45, Me: 5/5)

If you see the word ‘UNPUTDOWNABLE’ describing for a book about world history, you know this is a book really, well-written. Narrated with three, poles-apart perspectives – one from a Mujaheddin leader, second from a Taliban member and third from a local citizen of Afghanistan, this book is a personal and immersive experience of what happened to the country, and why it is suffering. Even if you know nothing about Afghanistan (as I didn’t when I read this), this is the only book you’ll need to read.

8. The Terrorist’s Son by Zak Ebrahim

(Goodreads average: 4.09, Me: 5/5 brilliant!)

Haven’t we all wondered how such families are impacted? And what happens to the kids – do they follow their father’s footsteps? This is a (very) quick but brave memoir about the story of a Terrorist’s son. Written by a TED talk speaker, this one is sure to leave a mark on your heart.

9. Return to Life by Jim B Tucker

(Goodreads average: 3.7, Me: 5/5 phenomenal!)

If you want to be challenged into reading something outside your comfort zone, try this. It will question (almost) everything you’ve believed in about life. The major theme is around cases where children’s memories of past lives could be PROVEN, and there are other compelling evidences such as famous people being reborn, animals being reborn as humans (WTF?), psychic powers, near death experiences, and more.

As eerie as this book sounds, it was a breeze to get through and really shook me to the core. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

10. The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer

(Goodreads average: 4.27, Me: 5/5, favorite book ever!)

If there is one book you need to understand how the mind works against us, how to meditate, the concepts of detachment, ego, surrendering, and a vast sea of other spiritual concepts, pick this and you will not have to look further.

This is a beautiful, meaningful and short book that merges psychology and spirituality. I know I’ve brought this one up before, in my list of spiritual favorites, but I think it’s worth mentioning again!

Happy Reading! 🙂

3 Things All Lazy Travelers Should do at Mcleodganj

Lazy or not, this became a trip worth sharing. Do read and share your experiences too!

Mcleodganj became an immersive and life-changing experience for us, simply because my friend and I were too lazy. Ironically, I feel like I should proactively talk about this, because it’s turned out to be such a good thing!

  1. Stay at a Monastery Guesthouse

After a steady 30-minute uphill climb from the bus stand, we found our way to the backside of our hotel. The entrance was blocked by huge hoardings all over the floor, that said ‘welcome’. Not very welcoming, to be honest.

With not a single person in sight to ask for directions, and not knowing what else to do, our first idea was to move some of the hoardings out of the way, and try getting in. But quickly, it became quite obvious, when we saw a few uprooted plant pots and unmanned doors, that the hotel had actually been ghosted. Had OYO conned us?

We then did something more sensible and called the hotel’s reception. So apparently, the actual hotel was another 20 minutes away and Google Maps had played a prank on us. This was a relief, as you can imagine. And so, we began to walk some more.

On the way upwards, we noticed an elderly Buddhist nun trekking down from a monastery. She looked at us with a huge, angelic smile and blew a flying kiss as well. As a stronger believer of ‘signs’, we figured that we’re meant to visit the monastery.

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Nyingma Monastery, en-route Mcleodganj to Bhagsunag

As soon as we reached the road that led up to our hotel, we knew it was going to be impossible. A car had just barely managed to climb that dirt road, its engine desperately vroom-vrooming its way up. We turned around and rushed back to the monastery. And they gladly took us in!

Our stay at the monastery guesthouse was actually quite humbling. The room compromised simply of two twin beds, and a wooden chair. The bathroom was to be shared between all the other rooms on that floor.

We were also blessed with a perfect view of sunrise, sunset and stargazing from a giant window in our room, that looked into the world. The monastery itself was minimalistic and gorgeous. Not to forget, it was unbelievably inexpensive. Just 200 INR!

TAKEAWAY : Book a hotel that allows free-cancellation, because it may not be located where the map says so, and you might find something more soulful, like staying with the monks.

  1. Ignore the ‘Lists’

We went with a list of 5 ‘Must-Try’ Cafes, and we happened to visit all ZERO of them. I have no clue if Shiva Café is overrated or not, simply because we never made it that far up!

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Other Lazy Travelers on the way to Shiva Cafe

Also, again thanks to Google Maps, we never reached Namgyal Café because the cafe has been relocated, but hasn’t been ‘mapped’ yet. Also, none of the locales seemed to know its exact whereabouts, and we ofcourse were too lazy to try finding it out on our own.

TAKEAWAY : Mcleodganj cafes serve better food than Zomato reviewers claim. All 6 of our meals ended up at underrated and sometimes non-digitally-existant places. Because these places are so good, I decided to talk more about them in another blog. Stay tuned!

  1. Visit When His Holiness, Dalai Lama is in Town

We happened to visit the Dalai Lama Monastery when his Holiness was visiting. The streets outside the complex were packed with anticipating travelers and monks, beautiful decorations and chatter. You might have guessed by now how lazy we are, and after about 90 seconds of sincerity and patience, we decided to enter the premise anyway.

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Tibetan Monks waiting with flower bouquets awaiting the arrival of his Holiness, Dalai Lama

What we found then, was a completely quiet and empty monastery! Almost everyone was outdoors, waiting for his Holiness to arrive; save a few security personnel and monks on duty inside.

We were thus able to stroll around at our leisure pace, taking our time to soak in the monastery’s vibe and chuckle at the Choco-Pies and Real Juice bottles offered to the Buddha deities within the temple. How times have changed!

Did we finally get a glimpse of his Holiness? Nope. People were still waiting for him when we came back outside. Not as a sign of disrespect, but sheer laziness, we slowly walked ourselves away from the golden opportunity.

TAKEAWAY : I admit that we probably missed a lot of things that Mcleodganj is most known for. But we discovered a lot of underrated things that you won’t, unless you’re lazy too!

One thing we did do quite enthusiastically, was reach out to the locales and understand their lives. What we found out through these discussions was life-changing, and might be worth your time too. Watch this space for that post!

Universe 101: Ten Fundamental ‘Divine Laws’

To build a strong spiritual foundation, it’s important to wake up to the laws that govern our Universe, and then keep our own thoughts and actions with them in mind. Afterall, you’re more peaceful working with the universe, than against it.

Unlike societal laws, these Divine Laws are never broken. Even if you don’t believe in them, they still apply to you, and to every other form of energy, from a single atom to a giant blue whale. I would consider these the 10 Fundamentals of the Universe, the starter pack to Spirituality, the things that we’ve known all along at a soul-level but have forgotten due to the Amnesia of Human Life.

NOTE: Read with an open mind. These can be quite appalling to what we’ve been taught.

  1. Free Will

    Everyone has the right to decide how they react at every instance in life. That means, among other examples, you can NOT use the law of attraction to attract a specific person into your love life. Hate to break it to you – but you have to stop blaming the Universe, and start respecting personal choices.God does not micromanage, and we are not puppets. Which is also why God doesn’t “stop” wars or terrorism, or child trafficking – WE as a race, as a collective have allowed and brought this upon ourselves, and are thus accountable for it. It’s time we learn to take ownership of our actions.

  1. Karma is not always the bad guy.

    Karma is simply restoring balance for all So any good that’s in your life, is also karma. Your well-being, your finances, relationships, friends that share good food and music, all are a reward of the good karma. So stop being scared of it because you will always get what you deserve, the good and the bad, both. When you know you’re always being watched, you feel a growing responsibility to take better actions. As Maya Angelou says in this empowering video, just do right!

    sharingNOTE: Don’t sit around and wait for Karma to kick in against someone that’s done wrong to you. Neither should you take karma in your own hands. It doesn’t work on your timeline, but that doesn’t mean it’s not already set into motion!

  2. The Law of Divine Compensation

    You’re not wrong to expect something in return for what you do for others. You’d wonder why despite all the good you do to someone, it doesn’t come back from them, and then you’ll hate God some more. Where’d all the good Karma go now, eh?

    Remember Free Will? Well, that person is executing their free will in treating you with less love. That’s not your fault. The Universe however, will always compensate by bringing that love to you through a different means. Let go – you will quickly notice someone much more loving come in his or her place. This isn’t just about romantic relations, it’s true for everything – you will find someone else playing the role of a better sister, brother, best friend, mother, father if you can stop being stuck on the one who’s failing to.

    By holding onto toxic and less-than-deserving relations, you’re the one holding back from the Universe reaching out to you and delivering what you so desire (and deserve). This is what Marianne Williamson calls the Law of Divine Compensation.

  3. Going to churches, temples or mosques does NOT matter. 

    Praying in silence, with an honest heart does. 

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    God isn’t sitting in a temple, the Divine is everywhere and in everything, always listening to you. Let me explain with a funny story.

    A pastor and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.

    ‘Come with me’, said St. Peter to the taxi driver.

    The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St. Peter to a mansion. It had anything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an olympic size pool.

    ‘Wow, thank you’, said the taxi driver.
    Next, St. Peter led the pastor to a rugged old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.

    ‘Wait, I think you are a little mixed up’, said the pastor. ‘Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a pastor, went to church every day, and preached God’s word.’

    ‘Yes, that’s true. But during your sermons people slept. When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.’

    Source : http://jokes.christiansunite.com/Heaven/Taxi_Driver_in_Heaven.shtml 

  4. There is only ‘one-God’, an Ultimate Creator.

    Krishna, Buddha, Allah, Shiva or Christ are not Gods, in the sense that we’ve made them to be. They too are souls, just like us. They are however, Enlightened souls that became messengers of the Universe, spreading the message of Love and Peace, in dire times when the world was losing sight of its direction.

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    Respecting such Enlightened souls is great, following scriptures that talk of their Divine Messages is fine too, and through prayer you are simply seeking their support in your life – but no ‘God’ is better than the other. Everyone is simply following their own Spiritual path, and invoking any ‘God’ is simply tapping into their unique strengths. We are all a part of the Universe, and thus there is only One of us actually here. The Ultimate Creator, and we are Him/Her existing.

    If you’re really willing to open your mind, start praying to ALL of them. Having an entire team working with you increases your chances exponentially of gliding smoothly through life. Which brings me to the next point.

  5. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

    No one is keeping score up there, for how well you managed doing it all by your glorious self. The only thing being tracked, is how fast you’re Ascending and how humbly. There’s no need to struggle unnecessarily, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There are no brownie points for suffering more. That’s all there’s to it folks. Pray all you want – nobody’s judging you!

  6. You are capable of becoming just as Enlightened and powerful as the God you worship.

    You actually eventually will be, FYI. That’s the whole purpose of this journey. I can’t make as convincing a case in a few hundreds words, as a book could. So if you’re looking for a mind-blowing, compelling argument, Conversations with God is the book that will challenge your belief system about this.

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  7. Something that’s meant to happen to you, will Something that’s not meant to happen to you, will not happen.

    A major responsibility in life is to respond to such events with acceptance, faith and grace. You need to understand the underlying lesson and approach it with learning, instead of anger. By this I mean, if you’re not meant to die – you will survive that accident even if everyone else does not.

    If you’re not meant to reach somewhere, you will notice indefinite hardships which eventually stop you from getting there. These are extreme but important examples, because some events in our destiny are planned for us, to challenge our learning. Instead of denying or getting furious, it is better to quickly move into learning the lesson and growing your spiritual strength! It is also important to stop living out of fear just because you’re scared something will happen to you.

  8. There are infinite possibilities and options for you to tap on, you always have a choice – stop placing limits on your life.

    There are people who come to work everyday and crib about how awful it is. What are you doing about it?

    The same goes for relationships – you give excuses in the name of ‘no choice’ to stay in unhealthy relations. And then, you mourn how poorly you’re being treated. It is true for everything in life. Anything you can crib about, is capable of being swapped for something better. It’s available, but the question is – how bad do you want it?

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    The Universe does not want you to be unhappy. You’re the one too scared to explore, too afraid to step outside your comfort zone. And so you see, you’re the one that’s settling for less than the best. The Universe always has your back. You’re the one that needs to make a choice to want more. Once you do, it’ll come in a magnificent scale, something you won’t be able to even believe!

  9. Synchronicities are milestones to cheer you on your path, there are no such thing as coincidences.

    Have you ever experienced this, where you kept seeing, hearing and reading something from various sources? Where psychology will dial it down and call it Confirmation Bias, the Universe does not believe in coincidences.

    Pay attention when the Universe speaks to you. If you’re looking for signs – stop ignoring them when they do happen for you! I like to the follow the rule of 3-times-affirmed, which simply means that if I’ve seen/heard/read about something thrice, I will pay attention and act towards it.

    Note: I’m not talking about social media websites drawing in ads of things you browse. That’s not the Universe, that’s just a lot of creepy AI.

All that being said, if you asked me where you should start from, I’d say start from here. Allow yourself to put these laws to test for you. Let the Universe work with you, with your consciousness focused on the way it works. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re looking for some real-life stories and snippets of how I started seeing this happen to me, I’ll be writing my next blog post on just that. Stay tuned!

Aruna Nagar : A Kin to Buddhism

Here’s everything you can look forward to exploring at Delhi’s Tibetan colony, located in Aruna Nagar.

The Aruna Nagar colony in New Delhi is home to Tibetan Refugees, and might be the closest you can get to experiencing the vibe of Buddhism in our country’s capital.

Here, it is not uncommon to find monks peacefully walking about the gullies, and locals chanting on their beads as they sit outside their houses. In general, the people here seem more humble, and much more slowed down than the contrasting roads running parallel to the colony.

My friend and I paid a visit on a hot summer day, and the first thing I can tell you is – the temperature levels of the colony drops down significantly as soon as you enter!

Getting There

There’s no point going by your own vehicle because you’ll have to walk a long way from wherever you get parking space.

A tried and tested way is take the Yellow Line Metro till Vidhan Sabha Station. And then, take an e-rikshaw, which will drop you at the entry point of the main market gully. You will need to walk inwards to reach the main market, so it’s better that you ask for directions from here, because the GPS doesn’t really help in the tight gullies.

Things to do

The major highlights of a visit here would comprise of exploring the Korean and Tibetan teas and cuisines at various Cafes (which are by the way, REALLY good); shopping at the cultural stalls and stores; visiting the Monastery; and checking out the bookstore which specializes in books on Buddhism.

‘Shubh Arambh’ with Food

The Buddhist Monastery is built in a small, undisturbed corner without much tourist movement. It didn’t feel proper to be clicking pictures, so taking a quick look from the outside, we proceeded into the main market.

And by the time we reached, it was well into lunch-time, so we headed straight for food!

  1. Kori’s Café

A quaint little café, with a Korean menu and a large selection of herbal teas. Compared to the other cafés, it looked like this place was more frequented by the locals, perhaps because of the different cuisine type. Being vegetarians, my friend and I were surprised that the options were still decent – they had a veg alternative to almost everything on the menu! Here’s what we tried :

  • Bibimbap Hot Stone Pot – Full points for presentation! The Bibimbap sauce is the key flavor in this concoction of rice and steamed vegetables. I’ll admit – it does take a bit to get used to the taste. You’ll either love it, or will have to brave through it. I personally enjoyed it.
  • Veg Shin Ramen Noodles – Very light on flavors and a hearty bowl of ramen and veggies. You can ask for something more dense on spices, if you’d prefer.
  • Solomon’s Seal Tea – Very, very subtle flavor. If you didn’t drink it with some focused attention on the taste, you’d probably mistake it as drinking warm water.
  1. AMA’s Café

This place is famous for its desserts. And by the looks of the tables around us, pizza too! We tried out (from most to least favorite) :

  • Affogato
    Why this is delicious – one, they serve a generous serving of ice cream. And two, they serve the coffee base on the side. Pour at your convenience! It’s not a pre-prepared concoction.
  • Mud Pie
    Surprisingly lighter than the usual mud pies! A safe-side kind of option.
  • AMA Café’s Special Tibetan Cake (savory)
    Warning : This is not for the faint-hearted. With a very strong flavor, it was difficult to swallow even one bite of it. The waiters warned us but we dared try anyway.

My Shopping Haul (sort of)

There are stalls lined up, as well as permanent shops. From the stalls, you can expect to get clothes, beads, souvenirs and a tad bit of stuff here and there. I’d recommend stepping into the shops instead, which aren’t that expensive either.

Here are the key things I explored and learned about:

  1. Singing Bowls – These are great for meditation, and the shop owners are polite enough to teach you how to use them. It can be quite fascinating, as a very small bowl is capable of producing an amazing resonance! I had no luck working the bowls on my own, so I resolved to come back next time and try again.
  2. Incense Sticks – Quite different (and better) from the commercial ones in various areas. The entire stick is flammable, and quite thick. I’ve tried a few from the pack, and they have a mild, natural scent in contrast to the artificial, overbearing commercial ones. Also – the smoke isn’t as overpowering either. I got the whole gift box for only Rs. 80!
  3. Prayer Flags – inscribed with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, their vibrant colors add great personality to bed headboards and car backseats.
  4. Tibetan Bells – You could go for the hanging type, used like a wind-chime, or the dorje kind, that you can use during prayer.
  5. Prayer Wheel – it’s believed that spinning the wheel, which too is inscribed with the “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra is as good as chanting the mantra out-loud.

Books

While the bookstore was closed by the time we walked over, there are three timeless books that are highly recommended for anyone who’s been seeking the Buddhist Way:

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The Tibetan colony is rather unfrequented, and while I rejoice in sharing this place with you, I hope that any of us that visit respect the culture and maintain a kind attitude to help preserve this place’s uniqueness. 🙂