A report on the months from June to October 2019

I was in Austria  from end of  May, collaborating  at  the University  of  Salzburg  in  the  Biography  project, with  Christian  Hackbarth-Johnson  and  Geetu Garewal (my  biographers  in German  and  English).  At  Pentecost  we  went  to Niederaltaich  for  the  Byzantine  liturgy  and  to pay  my respect  at  the  tomb  of  the  former  Abbot  and  my  spiritual  friend  Fr.  Emmanuel  Jungclaussen  who died in November 2018.

I gave  a  lecture  at  the  University  on  “Tantra:  a  misunderstood   tradition  of   Hinduism”.  On  19th  June  I went  to  Leipzig  to  celebrate Sadananda’s 50th  birthday  with  his  family  and  students. I also used the occasion to  attend  a  wonderful concert of Bach Motettes in the traditional Thomas  Church.  Beginning  of  July  I  went  to  Trins  village  in Tyrol  to  give  a  retreat  on Madhya:  Finding  the  Centre  (see  report  under  Seminars). Walking  in  the splendid  mountains  was  a joy. On 16th  July  was  Gurupūrṇimā  which  we  celebrated  with  a  small  group  and a meditation  near  a waterfall.  End  of  July,  we attended  a few  concerts  of  the  Salzburg  Festival,  Ouverture  Spirituelle.

Two  visits  to  Vienna  were  dedicated  to  meeting  my  sister  Angelica,  and  a  few  friends  and  former  students.

Beginning  of  August  I went  to Usha  Hamm  in  Wiltingen  near  Trier  and  we  drove to  Chevetogne Monastery  in  Belgium  for  the  feast  of  the  Transfiguration  on  6th  August.  The  monks had  just  elected  a new  Abbot,  Fr. Lambert Vos,  with  whom  I  established  an  excellent  connection,  besides  meeting  my  spiritual  friends  Fr.  Maxime,  Fr.  Irenee, and  Fr. Pierre  de  Bethune  who  came  from  his  own  Monastery  of  Clerelande.  The  Byzantine  liturgy  of  Chevetogne  is always  a  deep  experience.
On  12th of August  a small  group  of  friends  and  students  accompanied   me  to  meet  Brother  David  Steindl-Rast  who  is  now 92,  at  his  Monastery.  It  was  a wonderful  spiritual  meeting. On 15th August,  India’s  Independence  Day  and  the  Dormition  of  Mary, I met  the  former  Austrian  Ambassador  to Delhi,  Christoph  Cornaro  and  his  wife  Gail  in their  castle  at  the  Traunsee, reviving  an  old  friendship.

On 19th  August  there was  an  official  meeting  with the Rektor (V.C.)  of Salzburg  University,  Prof.  Dr. Heinrich  Schmidinger,  in order  to  sign a contract  between  the  University  and  myself,  handing  over  all  my  documents,  manuscripts, correspondence,  diaries etc.  to  the  University.  They are  and  will  be  deposited  in  the Bettina Bäumer Bibliothek of the  Centre for Intercultural Theology (Zentrum für Interkulturelle Theologie und Studium der Religionen). 

I returned  to  India  on 27th August into  the  heavy  monsoon  and  the nearly  flooded  Varanasi:  With  Shivam  we  worked  or the editing  of the conference  Volume  from  Shimla  on  “Science  and  Spirituality:  Bridges  of  Understanding”,  which  was  completed  in Phulchatti  beginning  of  October   and  sent  to the  publisher  D.K.  Printworld. 

For  the  retreat  in  Deer Park  (19-26 Sept)  see  under Seminars.

Most  of  the  month  of  October  was  spent in  personal  retreat  in  Ishvar  Parvat,  Phulchatti  before  returning to Varanasi for the winter  months.

30th April, 2019
"The Yoga of Netra Tantra" Book Release

At the end of the retreat on 'Advaita Bhakti: Meditation on the Sivastotravali of Utpaladeva', the newly published book "The Yoga of Netra Tantra: Third Eye and Overcoming Death" was released at Dhyan Mandir, Ishvar Parvat, Phulchatti Village in the presence of all participants. Bettina Bäumer shared her journey with this text over 3 decades followed by a reading of selected passages from the translation by Shivam Srivastava.

Table of Contents: http://utpaladeva.in/fileadmin/bettina.baeumer/docs/NT_Contents_Table.pdf

Available at:

Australia: www.amazon.com.au/dp/8124609667 

Canada: www.amazon.ca/dp/8124609667

France: www.amazon.fr/dp/8124609667

Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/8124609667

India: www.amazon.in/dp/8124609667 

Italy: www.amazon.it/dp/8124609667

Japan: www.amazon.co.jp/dp/8124609667

Mexico: www.amazon.com.mx/dp/8124609667 

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/8124609667 

USA: www.amazon.com/dp/8124609667  

Spain: www.amazon.es/dp/8124609667

28th October, 2016
Consecration of Dhyan Mandir, Ishvar Parvat (Phulchatti)

A Dhyan Mandir (Temple of Meditation) has been constructed in the garden of Ishvar Parvat, in order to provide a space for a small group of practitioners. It was consecrated and inaugurated on 28th October, 2016 in the presence of Swami Ritavan (Spiritual Guide and Head of Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama) and the spiritual family and friends of Bettina ji. Her long-standing dream has been given concrete shape by the wonderful alternative architect, Didi Contractor, who specializes in mud-architecture in a very creative and artistic way. Her students/interns have helped in supervising this unique construction, and the caretaker Shiv Sagar has coordinated the work. The outcome is both, aesthetic and has a contemplative atmosphere. Bettina ji is deeply grateful to Didi Contractor for her genial design and her continuous support of this project. 

A few stone slabs with Sanskrit inscriptions have been fitted in the walls and indicate the purpose and inspiration behind Dhyan Mandir. One sloka from the Sivastotravali (13.6) expresses the movement from meditation to vision, and to union with the Lord. Two Sivasutras express the very basis of the spirituality: caitanyamAtma, 'Consciousness is the innermost nature of everything', and: udyamo bhairavah, 'Uprising or elevation itself is Bhairava'. Below a photo of Shiva the mantra so'ham is installed, leading to identification with the Divine. The Devi is present in her different forms in three niches, one of them being an icon of Mary, 'the Virgin of the Sign', indicating the inter-religious openness of the space. The entrance porch has a welcoming murti of Nandi, and a protecting Ganesha (sculpted in Varanasi).

In the introductory reflection on the meaning of this mandir, Bettina ji referred to her earlier article "From Guha to Akasha", because this space is like a cave for a deep retreat within, in the 'cave of the Heart', but it should also lead to the openness and infinity of Space. 

This consecration was an inauguration of what is going to happen in the newly created space - whether a solitary retreat or a small group sharing their spiritual practice, in meditation, by reciting stotras, or by studying a spiritual text - in order to fulfill the vision and purpose of Dhyan Mandir.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

A Report on 2015

Since I have a website I had stopped writing annual reports, although it is not the same as sharing the life experience. But the year 2015 has been so extraordinary that I am inclined to summarize it and share the essential events – as far as they can be communicated. How much is beyond words and cannot be communicated.

The year started  with a pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai, where a group of friends came together. The Ramanasramam was crowded but the caves of Arunachala, and giripradakshina (circumambulation of the holy mountain) were a deep entering into the silent mystery of this sacred mountain. The other attraction was the inspired teaching of Sri Nochur Venkataraman on Ramana Maharshi’s Tamil Hymns to Arunachala. A real spiritual communion was established between us, involving also a dialogue between the Ramana Way and Kashmir Shaivism. On 13th January we were back at Varanasi, with some teaching in Samvidalaya (my Library), on Abhinavagupta’s Tantrasāra, among other texts. On 25th, the evening before the Republic Day, I received the news that the Indian Government has chosen me for the Padmashri, a high civilian award. The actual conferring by the President took place on 8th of April. On 26th also Frere Antoine Desfarges OSB came to Varanasi for a month, to work with me on the manuscript of Swami Abhishiktananda’s Diary, for a new and complete edition (still far from being completed). It was wonderful having him with us, a strengthening of my Benedictine association of this year.

In February Baba Harihar Ramji of Aghor Ashram came to Varanasi and we re-established a spiritual bond, extending also to Shivam, my dear student.

On 11th February my students and friends from Varanasi celebrated the Padmashri in a beautiful function, with a Dhrupad concert by Ritwik Sanyal and Ashutosh Bhattacharya.

Shivaratri fell on 17th February, with the usual intensity and fervour of the City of Shiva, combined with the Dhrupad Mela music festival. Immediately following the great festival we started an intense retreat-seminar in Veda Nidhi, on an extraordinary text of the Yoginī tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, the Vātūlanāthasūtra (with commentary by Anantaśaktipāda).

Beginning of March I had to be in Shimla for a meeting of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). I was invited as a National Fellow for a period of two years, for which I joined the Institute in April. After a short retreat at Ishvar Parvat I went to Bhopal (M.P.), where I had been asked to teach a 15 days  course on Kashmir Shaivism, at the start of a new “Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies”, located near the famous Buddhist site of Sanchi Stupa. It was a real spade work, with no infrastructure of a University, and a small but very interesting group of students, but it turned out to be an important event for all of us. Fortunately it was also a collaboration with Sadananda Das who was teaching Sanskrit, resuming our long and close collaboration. The main text studied was the Śivasūtra with Vimarśinī. It was combined with very enriching excursions to some of the great sites of Madhya Pradesh: the pre-historic caves of Bhimbetka, the famous Sanchi Stupa, the Udaygiri Caves of  Gupta period, the Bhopal Museum, the Shiva Temple of Bhojpur, and, most exceptional, Chanderi with a number of Shaiva Siddhānta Temples and Mathas spreading out (dating from the 7th to the 13th century), a discovery I owe to my colleague Prof. R.N. Misra who has done extensive research on these archaeological sites.

After this adventure I had to be in Delhi in order to receive the Padmashri. Four days guest of the Indian Government at Ashoka Hotel, with the impressive award ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 8th April, with the President, Sri Pranav Mukherji, bestowing the investiture. I felt it like a secular initiation, and the joy of my work and person being recognised by the very centre of Indian democracy. 

My 75th birthday was celebrated in the quiet of Ishvar Parvat with a visit to the cave of Vasisht Guha. Immediately after I shifted to Shimla with Shivam, to join the IIAS as a National Fellow.

Here I have to say a few words about Shivam. We met at a seminar in Deer Park Institute (Bir, H.P.) in May 2014 where I gave a teaching on the Yoga of the Netra Tantra. Shivam was attracted to Kashmir Shaivism by reading my book “Abhinavagupta’s Hermeneutics of the Absolute”. A brilliant young man from Uttar Pradesh, Shivam has a very different background, having studied technology (I.I.T. Kanpur) and Public Administration at Columbia University (New York), and having held several posts in the U.S.. In 2013 he decided to return to India to study philosophy and spirituality. His intensive search brought him to Kashmir Shaivism. Since then he has attended all my seminars on various texts of Kashmir Shavism. It is a very enriching relationship for both of us.

We both returned to Deer Park Institute  for a seminar on the Spanda Kārikā in May, with a large and excellent group of students.  

The coming months in Shimla I was also busy with two book projects. The first is a commemoration volume for Pandit H.N. Chakravarty (co-edited with Hamsa Stainton), titled “Tantrapuspāñjali; Studies in Tantric Traditions in Memory of Pandit H.N. Chakravarty” (submitted to IGNCA in October, to be published in 2016). The second occupied me till January 2016, containing a collection of my articles (edited by Sadananda Das), titled  “Paśyantī: Insights into Indian Traditions”, which will also be published by IGNCA.

Descending to the plains of Haridwar-Rishikesh in the extreme heat of summer (for some film shooting) I had a chance to meet Swami Veda Bharati on 8th June for the last time. He attained his samādhi in July. Though our spiritual friendship started only three years ago, it was very enriching and supportive.

In June a pilgrimage brought us, Shivam and his family, to the Devi Temple of Bhima Kali in Sarahan, one of my favourite temples in Himachal, with a splendid view of the snow peaks.

On 1st July I flew to Salzburg for a two-month stay (on leave from IIAS). A meeting of the ‘Association Ajatananda’ took place near Lyon, from 6th to 9th, where we discussed about the publication of the spiritual diary of Marc Chaduc/Ajatananda. It was a good meeting. From Lyon I proceeded to Paris, to meet my revered colleague and great scholar of Tantra and Kashmir Shaivism, André Padoux (in his nineties). From Paris Usha joined me to visit the monastery of Frere Antoine at Le Bec Hélouin, a beautiful and peaceful place. Both, the Ajatananda meeting and this visit again strengthened my link with the Benedictines.

My next duty in Salzburg was the coordination and collaboration with the Salzburg Festival (Salzburger Festspiele) in organising an ‘Ouverture spirituelle’ on Hinduism, Indian music, theatre and dance. This was truly an intercultural experience, mediating between the two cultural worlds, with some splendid performances in the University Church (Kollegienkirche). The enchantment was great on both sides, the Indian artists and the Festival audience.

Shivam came to Salzburg for one month in connection with a project from the Centre for Intercultural Theology at the University of Salzburg, and sharing the musical events. On 6th August a small group of friends went to Hochkönig, climbing up to the sacred place which we had discovered during the Puregg seminars. We carried a Devī image (mask) from Himachal Pradesh and performed a simple but deeply significant pūjā. Again an interreligious (and inter-mountain) ceremony!

On 11th August Shivam and I travelled to Trier, and with Usha to Chevetogne in Belgium, my favourite Benedictine Monastery of Byzantine rite. These were days of entering deeply into the liturgical and mystical tradition of the Christian East, with personal meetings with Fr Maxime Gimenez, whose spiritual friendship is the greatest gift of these last years. For Shivam it was an initiation in this tradition with its rich musical expression.

Back in Austria we had a (too) brief visit to Vienna, meeting with my family and my former students. A week-end seminar on Netra Tantra brought us to Innsbruck (Yoga Tirol). On the way back to Salzburg we visited Grossarl, the village where my family took refuge during the Nazi regime in the last year of the World War. It was very moving to see it after all those years and to vaguely recognize the places where I spent the most difficult year at the age of 4-5. Now it is a beautiful touristic village, with a memorial for the priest who had protected us and saved our life, Balthasar Linsinger.

End of August Shivam and I returned to India. After ten days in Varanasi I joined Shimla again in September, this time together with Sadananda Das, to work on our volume of collected articles.

In October I was invited to Srinagar (Kashmir) for a seminar on Sufism and the Rishi tradition at Srinagar University (organised by ICCR). It was the first occasion for Shivam to visit the places sacred to Kashmir Shaivism, the Ishvar Ashram, now empty, Harwan etc. On 26th October when I had to present my paper, I had hardly started to speak and suddenly an earthquake shook the whole building. Everybody ran out in the open. It was the earthquake with its epicentre in Afghanistan. We could resume the seminar and a dialogue between Sufis and Shaivas.  

After our return to Shimla I was also busy preparing my paper to be presented at a seminar on Aesthetics which took place at the IIAS in November. This was an occasion to release the book “Utpaladeva: Philosopher of Recognition”, edited by Raffaele Torella and myself (published by IIAS and D.K. Printworld). It is a milestone in the literature on non-dual Kashmir Shaivism.

After this seminar we left Shimla for Ishvar Parvat for some quiet days of retreat, before returning to Varanasi. In the first week of December we held a retreat-seminar on  “Quest of the Absolute: The Parātrīśikā Vivarana of Abhinavagupta”, at the beautiful and history-rich campus of the Theosophical Society. It was a wonderful group and, with the musical collaboration of Manju Sundaram, an enriching experience. The conclusion was a grantha-pūjā (worship of the text studied) performed by all, guided by Dr. Ajithan from Kerala, with a dance offering by Navtej Johar from Delhi.

The Christmas celebration at my home was again interreligious, and a deep sharing. After Christmas I left Varanasi with Usha for Chennai and Tiruvannamalai, to celebrate the New Year at Arunachala.

Bhimbetka Caves, MP
Phoolchatti Ganga
Hochkönig, Austria
Shankarpal Rock, Kashmir