My first trip to India ended with me saying an earnest prayer: if it be Your will, bring me back here again and again.
Little did I know how soon that prayer would be answered. Eleven months later I was back with my Indian family, Anushree Agarwal and her mother, Seema Johari Agarwal, daughter of legendary spiritual teacher and renaissance man, Harish Johari.
It was the second day of 2014. We were on a train from Delhi to the Johari compound in Haridwar, the gateway to Rishikesh. And this time I brought my very dear friend and fellow jiva, Sandy. I just knew Sandy and Anushree would get along great due to their very close proximity in age. The moment Anushree introduced Sandy to the Indian version of marzipan (which by the way is 100% vegan!), it was clear that I read my cards right.
The Johari compound is 20 metres away from a private ghat on the Ganges. The energy there envelopes you in a subtle but sublime way. The first time I did my rounds of the maha mantra on the ghat I felt closer to God at that moment than I had since… the last time I was in India. Vibration pure and simple. Sound is God. Water is God.
The compound itself is made up of two very large 3 level houses (if you have seen the Bollywood classic, Devdas, you would get an instant feel for the place) and Sandy and myself revelled in practicing on the roof overlooking Mother Ganga most mornings. We could hear the morning aarti and see the sun ascend like a giant mango at exactly the moment we practiced our Jivamukti sun salutes.
One day, Anushree opened up the largest room in the house. We were instantly taken in by both its beauty and palpable spiritual energy. There was a shrine with many ancient holy relics as well as photos of Anushree’s very handsome grandfather. And like the rest of the compound, this room was filled with yantra paintings by the maestro himself, and works by his most dedicated students from all over the world. The mark he made on them was clearly profound.
In the coming ten days of exploring the compound, I felt like I got to know Harish Johari a little better, even though he left his body many years before. I could see why he chose this spot in which to be inspired in his work from fields as diverse as numerology, painting, ayurvedic medicine and cooking, the chakras and gemstones. And I could see why he amassed such a dedicated international following: seemingly without ego, Harish Johari was instead able to focus on refining and developing his work which evolved to become a form of deep spiritual and creative expression. Like my teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, Harish Johari was one of those rare souls who lived a truly holistic life. Of course, he was also vegetarian…
Seema, Anushree and countless students all over the world have dedicated their lives to continuing the spiritual and creative Iineage of Harish Johari by holding retreats at the family compound, at the important spiritual sites of India and throughout the world. I myself have gained incredible inspiration from his chakra book which is as comprehensive in its explanation of the form and function of the chakras as it is stunningly illustrated (by Johari himself, naturally). I also love his Ayurvedic Cookbook but that goes without saying.
In between day trips to Rishikesh and the ashram of Neem Karoli Baba, Sandy and I enjoyed exchanging recipes with Seema and Anushree. The kitchen was where these thoroughly modern Indian ladies weaved their magic. It was their canvas and the herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and grains were their palette. My God could they cook! Every meal was an event where one course was simply a flirtatious prelude to the next. Sandy and Anu often had bake-offs and I often enjoyed eating what they made. And yes once or twice I cooked too. After all I am the son of a chef.
I felt sad to leave Anushree and Seema as it was time for Sandy and myself to make our way to Mumbai. But the Johari compound will always remain in my heart; a gallery where art lives and breathes in very many manifestations.

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