The Nadi Readers 


( Nadi Reader in Old Delhi)

My translator is on the right
The man who performed the reading is holding the Nadi leaves on the table


“The will is not free, it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect- but there is something behind the will which is free.”
-Swami Vivekananda


Imagine if you traveled to a far away and ancient city

and while wondering there you hear of a secret library,

a library unlike any other on earth

and you are given directions to go there

and it takes a long time

and the streets you travel are busy and crowded and filled with people and cars

and the long sought street the library is on,

is non-descript

and does not stand out in any way whatsoever

and you go up the steps

and at the second story upstairs flat

there is an unremarkable door



and you remember the restaurant you ate at once

where you lifted a bowl of soup to drink

on a delightful night of nothing special

and saw the most amazingly wondrous sight-

an orange chandelier glowing in the bowl


and then as you looked deeper you see yourself,

with a different face

living a different life

with different parents

and friends

and wearing exotic clothes

and when you look into the eyes of the one who you see looking back at you

you pass through the bright doorway of the here and now

into a shabby room with faded paint

and dirty walls and windows

where a dark skinned man with a red bindu mark on his forehead

and bright white shining teeth is singing in ancient Tamil

reading off a tiny script no more that 1/8” high

written long ago in Sanskrit

all about you.


More recently, only several thousand years ago

at the direction of a Chola King this text was

translated into ancient Tamil, the South Indian language

The writing is etched in black ink on a palm leaf

which has passed through the more recent ancient dynasties that ruled India:

The Cholas, the Muslims, Vijayanagar, the Portuguese, the Moghuls, the Dutch, the French and finally the British

who last and ignorantly burned and destroyed much of the library

and auctioned off the rest.

(It is now thought that over 60% of the library has been destroyed)


This brown skinned man singing before you, singing about your life

is reading the etchings on a palm leaf

that were  first recited by a Rishi

who had overheard a conversation between the great Lord Shiva

and his consort Parvati. . .

A conversation in which Parvati asks Shiva to tell her the fate of her children,

which Lord Shiva then does

taking a long, long time to do so

and when you hear the story of your own life sung and read to you

starting with the names of your own parents,

Norman and Marjorie,

that they are deceased,

that you have an older brother from your Fathers first wife

and that your partners name is Gilda

your mind is stunned with wonder

and you believe that perhaps you could be Parvatis’ child

and if you understood what is being said

or what is going on here


will no longer exist

and ‘you’

will pass through a bright doorway into the here and now

where you are sitting in a shabby room and there are children playing outside

and you are hearing about your own life

written in a palm leaf book thousands of years ago

and stored in a Temple in South India


This 'book' is written on palm leaves with two strings holding together the pages

It has been pulled down from the dusty, old, wondrous stacks of that ancient library

and found for you

based only on your thumbprint

It is a book with a page written about


as you are right now, this moment, today

your history and how you came to be here

what you did in your past life

what you will do in your future life

and that somehow this book

or the writer of this book

knew that you would come to this library

to hear this text today

right now

it is your Nadi

or destiny

and the chandelier glows in the soup bowl

and turns blue and sparkles and brightens into a white brilliance

it seems that someone has a light

That someone knows ‘you’

where ‘you’ have been

what ‘you’ have done

and what will happen to ‘you’ in the future


'You' hear that this leaf or book was spoken and written

thousands of years ago by someone you never met

by someone your parents never met

by someone your girlfriend never met

who knew the day you were born

the month and the time

and knew that 'you' would come in today

this day, this week, this year, this life

and the book would be waiting for 'you'

every thing entering into this moment

all together

like the reflection of the moon that night

on a still lake in summer,

with your dear friend Anthony

when the universe peeled back it's blanket of stars

and the incredible blessing of it all

full of peace and wonder

poured out over the lake

and swept ‘you’ both away.

It is the 'you' that was then


When the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree,

he remembered all his past lives.

He looked into life as one would look at a mirror

and he saw '


Imagine what it is like for a person to live without a such a mirror

To never see oneself

It would be like not having a memory of who 'you' are


'You' and 'I'

is this person


And, just like that

this palm-leaf book in this ancient library

is a mirror of who you are

have been

and will be


To understand this is  a great mystery

It is to see who arranged the petals on a flower

and because they are so incredibly perfect and wondrous

and because you have so seen them

you became a poor artist or a monk or a renunciate or a parent or a thief


You are both saint and sinner

 lover and hater

and you loved someone or something so much that you cry

and felt the pain

of not getting what you want

and became thankful for that pain

and for all that you have been given

in spite of all that is always taken away

and with your tears

you give up








I am reminded of a dream that Carl Jung relates in his autobiography-Memories Dreams and Reflections

"I was walking along a little road through a hilly landscape;

the sun was shining and I had a wide view in all directions.

Then I came to a small wayside chapel.

The door was ajar, and I went in.

To my surprise, there was no image of the virgin on the altar, and no crucifix either,

but only a wonderful flower arrangement.

But then I saw on the floor sat a yogi- in lotus posture,

in deep meditation.

When I looked at him more closely,

I realized he had my face.

I started in profound fright and awoke with the thought:

“Aha, so he is the one who is meditating me.

He has a dream, and I am it”

I knew that when he awakened I would no longer be."


This is the hole in the universe. If it is true, and it seems to me that it is, then there is something going on in every one of our lives which is a great mystery and has been for a long long time.

All that is implied here is the most amazing 'thing' that I experienced in India.

It was the biggest slap across the face of free will I ever recieved.

It should change your life





The pictures here are Nadi readers outside of Kanchpuram in Tamil Nadu. They are a father and son. Although they looked for my leaf, they were not able to find it.

They were, however, glad to share with me about the Nadi tradition and their understanding and practice of it.

The Nadi readers who did find my leaf, including my parents name and even my Mothers name and middle name were in Old Delhi

(See their picture at the top of the page)

For an Interview with a practitoner of the Nadi

I was so struck with the accuracy and the amazing and life changing implications of what the Delhi readers had told me that I journeyed to South India

to go to the the Saraswati Mandir temple in Thanjavur and

visit the main temple of this tradition where most of the Nadi leaves are still kept in an ancient library.

On the way, I also visited several other nadi readers in Tamil Nadu to see if they also could find my leaf. None of them did.

I never made it to Thanjavur. On my way there, I first travelled to South of India to the state of Tamil Nadu where

I stayed on the beach at Mamallapuram next to where the oldest temple of all of South India is built.

While I was there, on the morning of

December 26, 2004, the Tsunami hit. It changed my 'plans' for the time being.

(To see pictures and read about the Tsunami)

I still hope to find out more about this amazing Nadi tradition that has so much to say, concerning how life works and the law of karma.

Certainly, the Nadi readings are a slap in the face of free will . . .

How could I have used my free will if all of what they told me was true (and it certainly seemed to be at least about this life)

and it was written down over a thousand years ago?

The Indian tradition believes 100% in fate or destiny born of karma and 100% in free will.

(The tendency in India is to put more emphasis on fate. The tendency in the West is to put more emphasis on free will)

Both of these are considered to be true principles of life. Together they offer a stunning paradox.

If the Nadi readings are true, it seems that most of us do not use our free will very much. I certainly had not.

How could my Mothers name and middle name be known and written down a thousand years ago?

They could not of read my mind and then written it down on the palm leaf

I was in the room the whole time.

I was allowed to take a picture of my leaf and had it independently translated.

It had been written down, in ancient Tamil. They were not reading my mind.

It seems that what and who we think we are, we are not.

It seems that almost all of what we think is free will, is not.

I was told that while the readings are considered to be very accurate up to the present (parabdha karma)

As to the future, they are open to the effect of present actions and understanding

which can be changed by the Nadi readings as well as any other action (agama karma and kriyamani karma).

Some people will say, "I do not believe in such things. I do not believe in Astrology"

I reply, 'Have you ever studied the field? How you ever looked into it? Have you ever had a reading?'

I would say that if anyone really explores it, not the short superficial readings that you can find in the daily paper or a magazine,


a full Jyotish  reading done by a competent Vedic astrologer

you will find that Vedic Astrology and what it tells you is simply impossible to dismiss

Water is wet and fire will burn, this is not a matter of belief, but, of direct experience

Even so, all children need to test the flame with their own finger. Just so, you should test astrology yourself

If we know the seed

we can know the tree, what its fruits will be and the 'parents' of the seed

Just so

according to the same principle

it is possible by an 'examination' of any present moment, to see the future and the past

Astrology does not simplify the world or ones life.

On the contrary, by throwing light upon the qualities, processes and events of life, it makes them even more mysterious.

My Nadi reading was the single most amazing thing I encountered in India

Life is a mysterious cloth woven warp and woof of the law of karma-

We call it 'cause and effect'.

The 'cause' is the effect concealed

The 'effect' is the cause revealed

It is incomprehensible

It is worthy of wonder

“The will is not free-it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect- but there is something behind the will which is free.”
-Swami Vivekananda

(picture of nadi leaf)

For more articles about the Nadi on the web:

Interview with a Nadi Reader

Article on Nadi by an Indian Jyotisha

Wikipedia on Nadi

For Related Stories and Articles by Peter Malakoff:

Tragedy Fate and Nemesis- A consideration of fate and free will
This essay and stories within it, consider the relationship between the loss of the sense of tragedy and the rise of 'New Age' thinking.
Stories of DH Lawrence, Carl Jung, Isak Dinesen, Agamemnon, Oedipus, Nemesis, Darius, Tyche Polycrates, Eisenhower and Gandhi are all brought together here.

The Seed and the Soil
A short piece on the ancient metaphor of' the seed and the soil'.
This metaphor provides a fundamental paradox for any consideration of free will and the environment or factors other than 'us'.

Character and Fate
The word for character in ancient Greek was ethos, from which we get our word "ethics."
Heraklitos, writing at the dawn of Western philosophy, held that a person's 'ethos' is their daimon, or fate. "Ethos anthropos daimon"
A man's character is his fate

God Willing
"And never say of anything, 'I shall do such and such thing tomorrow. Except (with the saying): "INSHALLAH" ('God willing).
A look at the Islamic idea of fate and free will, with the ancient Islamic story, "An Appointment in Samarra" as told by Somerset Maughm, set to music

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