“an incredibly powerful memoir”

Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love, Visakha Dasi

In 1971, at age 20, Visakha had just published her first book and was beginning her ascent to fame and fortune through a career in photojournalism. She dreamed of bringing the people of the world closer by sharing their common kinship and values through her photographic essays. Then, at the invitation of her college boyfriend, John Griesser, who was working on his MFA thesis in India, Visakha traveled east, where she first learned about bhakti yoga – the yoga of devotion – from a simple Indian sage. The bhakti tradition seemed irrelevant to Visakha, and she rejected it. 

Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love is Visakha’s deeply personal account of the emotional upheaval caused by her doubting her own cherished convictions, by her discovery that the alarmingly unreasonable – bhakti – could gradually become alarmingly reasonable. Visakha portrays her own and others’ experiences in India, Europe, and the United States as they grapple with knowledge and a culture that is at once utterly foreign yet also resonant with their hearts. And she reflects on the profound, life-altering questions that we all sometimes ask. Written by a fellow seeker who maintains a healthy dose of skepticism, this is the heartwarming, funny, colorful, bizarre, surprising, informative, and upending true story that will help questioner-skeptics see life from another perspective, one likely different from their own. In Five Years, Eleven Months, Visakha beautifully weaves together her personal losses and gains with an age-old tradition that enfolds her, creating a moving narrative for anyone who has ever asked, “Why?”

Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love is a moving memoir that will take its readers on a transfixing and insightful journey that will stay with readers for a long time. Memoirs are my favorite type of book to read, I love memoirs because they give the reader insight into a person’s fascinating life. In particular, I love memoirs with travel themes and religious themes because the reader is whisked away on a journey that is exciting as well as poignant and if the author of such a memoir is brilliantly descriptive about the places he and or she visits, the reader will feel as if they are right there experiencing every moment the author is and that is wonderful! Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love written by the extraordinary Visakha Dasi is just this type of book; it is an incredibly powerful memoir that whisks the reader away to India as well as a few more countries. The reader thanks to the author’s impeccable descriptions will feel as if they are right there so already I would have to implore you lovely readers to have a read of Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love!

Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love is a memoir written by the author and focus of the story, Visakha Dasi. Visakha throughout Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love will take her readers on the journey through her life and the many key factors in it that shaped her life. In 1971 Visakha who was only twenty years old at the time had published her first book which started her very successful career in photojournalism and her dream was to bring ‘the people of the world closer together by sharing their common kinship and values through her photographic essays.’ I had to take this quote directly from the description book lovers because I could not explain it any better!

Visakha will one day meet her boyfriend John, and he invites her to India, and it is then that she travels to India from her home in Long Island, NY to shoot films and travel. During the year of her traveling to India, there was a movement starting which involves the Hare Krishna and this movement is the foundation of the book and how Visakha spent six years of her life traveling the world with Srila Prabhupada, the founder of Hare Krishna. What follows is an insightful, moving and captivating piece of nonfiction that will take readers a spiritual journey that will leave a lasting impression among readers.

The exceptional author of Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love poignantly takes her readers on a journey through her experiences and the subsequent emotions she felt, and this makes for extremely emotive literature that compelled me from start to finish. However, despite the book being in part memoir it is mostly a history lesson about the Hare Krishna movement and shows a side to Srila Prabhupada which has not been seen before, and I think that is so wonderful how Visakha was able to combine her memoir with the movement and that is so special to me.

The profoundness in Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love is sensational, and many readers will feel a host of different emotions while reading this book. Visakha effortlessly inspires thoughts and feelings in her readers as well as compel them to read from beginning to end. I found myself reading Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love at an alarming rate because it was captivating as well as engrossing; her incredible literature will have you turning the pages like a mad woman, and I adored how she was able to do this! As well as Visakha writing her novel in an incredibly compelling way, she also is excellent at describing the settings and places in her book. Visakha’s beautifully descriptive writing of India and the other places in the world the reader encounters will make the reader feel as if you are right there, this is how I felt, and because I did, I felt as if I was with Visakha on her journey of discovery and that for me was incredibly enjoyable.

Overall Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love is an inspiring, moving memoir and because I adore memoirs as well as memoirs with a travel theme, it is no surprise that I have fallen madly in love with Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love! Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love, of course, gets a dazzling five stars from me!

Thank you so much for reading book lovers! I appreciate it so much, I love discussing wonderful books with all of you so please comment below and let me know your thoughts on Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love. Do you see yourself reading this book? Do you love the genre? Please let me know your brilliant thoughts below and I will be sure to comment back. Thank you so much again for reading!

front coverRGBwIndieAward copy

P.S. Below I have attached some links about the author and this wonderful book so if you would like to learn more about the author and the book then please have a browse. Thank you so much again for reading book lovers, I can’t wait to read your thoughts on this book!




The Unseen. Felt.

After four days of suffering in hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, a bitter Long Islander said, “I am screaming mad because this is an inhumane way to live in the highest property-taxed area of the state.”

Some years ago I’d have agreed with him, but now I don’t. Money can, no doubt, reconnect power lines and repair damaged homes, but it won’t solve the problem underlying the cause of this inhumane living. The destructive winds and rains of hurricane Sandy, widely seen as a result of global warming, are byproducts of our modern lifestyle. Lower impact living, not higher tax dollars and levies, is the answer.

Lower impact living means being satisfied with less. But how is that possible in a culture that continuously beacons us to buy? It’s not possible—until we realize the deep flaw in our modus operandi: rampant consumerism not only creates ecological disasters, it doesn’t even deliver its promised satisfaction. Our possessions don’t bring lasting happiness, and the cumulative effect of consumption creates the havoc of a Sandy. The intelligence we used to create the global warming disaster can also be used to make the life changes necessary to counteract it: By reassessing and simplifying our wants we can become responsible consumers.

At Saranagati Village, B.C., the community where my family and I and about twenty-five other families live, our electricity is homemade (from solar panels), our water gravity-fed from mountain streams, and our heat from wood. If you ask any one of us, we’d tell you our happiness level hasn’t declined from this simple lifestyle. On the contrary, we’ve become more appreciative of life’s beauty, of its bounty, and of each other.

Most people won’t choose to live so naturally, but everyone can do something to help reduce humankind’s negative impact on this planet. The alternative, as the bitter Long Islander has discovered, is bleak.

Inside Nostalgia

To visit a dear friend, last week I drove to Upstate New York. As soon as I crossed the state border I was surprised to feel the green, undulating hills say, “You’re home!”

New York is my birth state and where I lived and studied for my first twenty years. I’ve moved around in the forty years since, so I had to laugh at that “homelike” feeling and the swell of my dusty pride in the state’s geographic beauty and cultural diversity, long history (one of the original thirteen states of the Federal Union), industrial and economic strengths, and famous residents (Groucho Marx, Robert Oppenheimer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Walt Whitman). As I drove, I rejoiced in the deep, saturated oranges, reds, yellows, and greens of the wet fall leaves, sights I miss now, living among evergreens. And later, when I kicked a pile of fallen leaves during an evening walk, I had an acute rush of nostalgia for those fall days, half a century ago, when, after playing soccer with my friends until it was too dark to see the ball, with similar kicks I’d sent colorful leaves flying high into the evening sky.

Looking deeper, my nostalgia isn’t really for the state I happened to grow up in or the kicked leaves but for that place I know, in the innermost chamber of my heart, is actually home. It’s a place where my friends don’t suffer from life-threatening diseases, where time doesn’t gnaw at my and everyone else’s vigor, where no one lives with assorted internal and external misery. That place is an emporium of rich relationships – richness glimpsed at in this world in a mother’s love for her child and that child’s charmed laughter, and in the joy of selfless service and the inner glow of that service accepted graciously.

The beautiful verses of the Bhagavad-gita, one of the most brilliant stars on the horizon of the spiritual sky, describe our real home as a world of pure love and service. That world is not so utopian that we can’t touch here and now; it’s a matter of meditating on sacred teachings and inviting their wisdom into our heart, thoughts, and daily life.


One Dear Friend, One Dear Daughter

Yamuna Devi, my close friend of forty years, passed away last December. She was prepared to go; she passed with dignity and grace and in good consciousness. I miss her piercingly truthful insights, her charm, wit and laughter, and the loving pokes she gave me to draw me out. Yet I’m relieved that she’s finally relieved of her many bodily troubles. Her mature, confident God consciousness shores up my hope that one day I may be likewise.

Last month, Priya, my sweet eighteen-year-old daughter, left for her first year of college. Fearful, tearful, and confused about her career goals, her luggage weighed in at 150 pounds and her heart seemed heavier. She hasn’t liked change her whole life, which is a bit problematic since everything in this world changes.

One who’s practiced at flying soars when the final test comes. And one new to the art flies when she pushes herself out of the nest.

Cycles and Their End

One morning last month we woke to find our entire bed of lettuce had been eaten to the ground by a bear and her cub (we saw their pawprints). Also last month, my husband suffered a severe backache, our daughter got a painful sunburn, I had a toothache that caused a fever, and it was over a hundred degrees for weeks together.

after a black momma bear and her cub visited our garden last monthNow it’s August. The lettuce has grown back, all three of us have recovered, and the weather is glorious. Our little garden is prolific, providing lunches of salads and steamed greens, which, combined with dressing and homemade whole wheat bread, fully satisfy us. But this phase will also be short-lived. Soon approaching hibernation time will make the bears ravenous, the lettuce will go to seed, and our daughter will be leaving for her first year of college.

The Gita tells us miseries and pleasures come and go like the winter and summer seasons and that we shouldn’t be gloomy in one and elated in the other but equipoised in both. Although it seems like we’ve been in this world forever, we’re here only for a lightning-strike visit. This place is not where we’re supposed to be.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains My abode never takes birth again.” (Bhagavad-gita 8.16)


After months of traveling, with its constant stream of new people and places, I’ve reunited with one small tract of unhurried land and watched my seedlings grow into Swiss chard, red leaf, romaine, and butternut lettuces, basil, oregano, and parsley. Here my good-hearted neighbors, the pulse of country life, evenings filled with the cows’ bellows and the bluebirds chanting their final chorus, all give me a sense of rightness, of connectedness. Life’s frailty and temporariness, as well as my body’s inescapable, gradual demise, somehow become vivid during the quiet, closing moments of a country day. I won’t be getting out of this world alive.

In my simple, off-the-grid life, I don’t want to settle into complacency but into soul qualities: faith, gratitude, happiness, and the sense of abundance. Why splendid and tragic things happen in this world is beyond me, but I know it’s not happenstance. The hand behind all happenings may appear tender or iron-fisted, but the heart behind that hand is always a loving one. We miss that point when we think the sliver of life we’re experiencing now is all there is. Actually, this one lifetime is like one drop is to the Pacific.

Last Saturday was Sharangati’s annual farm festival, complete with a parade, singing, dancing, an epic play by the students, games, a bonfire, and feasting. My husband and I got more than a few compliments on the bean salad we spent two hours making. Plus there was rice, vegetables, fresh salad, cauliflower pakoras with chutney, sweet potato fries with ketchup, cake, and a refreshing lemon drink. Please join us next year!

water dunk game by Lake Sharanagati

Rite of Passage

Last Saturday here at Sharanagati Village in British Columbia, we had a ceremony for the three students who graduated from our small, K-12 school. All the village parents, children, friends, community members, teachers, and former teachers attended. Many spoke at the event.

Ms. Cummings said, “I’ve been teaching for nineteen years, and that one year some eight years ago when I taught at the Sharanagati school remains my best teaching year. I don’t expect that to change in my teaching career; my year here will remain my best year.”

graduation gratitude and ecstasyGopal Fournier, one of the graduates, said “At first I didn’t want to be emotional at this time, but then I realized when I see all of you, the beautiful people who have sheltered, supported, encouraged, and loved me my whole life, I couldn’t help but be emotional from the gratitude and love I feel for each one of you.”

Afterwards, some of the teachers and I talked about how small village schools are healthy for both students—who, with their friends, are nurtured close to home—and the community—which is infused with the youthful energy of their own children. Students at our Sharanagati school are happy, which means discipline problems are virtually unknown and academic achievement is often high. Schools like ours aren’t experimental but were the norm a century ago.

I also considered that for those who accept the idea of reincarnation, high school graduation, which marks the end of childhood and beginning of adulthood, is a bit like death: it means stepping out of one stage and into another—it’s a change of bodies. In the words of the Bhagavad-gita:

“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”

family, friends, teachers, neighbors, students


I notice with dismay that an apple tree my daughter and I planted seven years ago as well dead for no apparent reasonas my dear Montmorency sour cherry tree that my friends and I feast from each summer aren’t leafing out this spring. It was a mild winter, so it wasn’t the cold that killed them.

I’m discouraged. Why buy trees, chip holes for them into the rocklike soil, plant, fertilize, water, and prune them only to have them die for no apparent reason? I’d rather lie in the sun reading the Bhagavad-gita.

That reasoning wilts before my wise, pious friend Patricia. Now nearing 60, she’s successfully battled serious cancer and today has the buoyancy and brightness of a youth. Unhesitatingly she tells me, “Try again or try something else.” Her simple words lift me from my defeat. She’s right. Two trees died but ten lived. Why not see that?

Humans are not meant to give up—on trees, problems, people, or ourselves. In consistently, optimistically trying to bring health and spirituality into the world and its occupants, we gain the same for ourselves.

I can try again. And then I can read that book in the sun. And when I do read, the Gita’s words will enter my heart – the heart of a budding optimist – and resonate there, as they would never do for a cynic.

Behind the Scene

Armed with chutzpah and other people’s credit, Marc Dreier, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, hatched one ingenious scam after another and used the proceeds to maintain a lavish lifestyle, including owning a $10,000,000 apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, beachfront properties in the Hamptons, a valuable art collection, several expensive cars, and an $18,000,000 yacht.

Gita Nagari farm, Port Royal, PABefore he began committing his crimes, Mr. Dreier earned about $400,000 a year. So, one may ask, why did Mr. Dreier engage in fraud? The classic spiritual treatise, Bhagavad-gita, explains that a person in the grips of the mode of passion (called raja guna, in Sanskrit) has unlimited desires and longings.

Gita Nagari farm, Port Royal, PAA guna is a quality that, due to our desires and activities, entraps us. In the case of Mr. Dreier, after pleading guilty to his crimes he wrote a letter to the judge explaining that he began stealing in 2002, taking money from the settlement proceeds owed to a client. He had hoped to repay the money quickly, but instead he stepped into “a quicksand of spending” and found himself “running a massive Ponzi scheme with no apparent way out.”

When there is an increase in the mode of passion, the Gita tells us, uncontrollable greed develops.

In his letter, Mr. Dreier also told the judge that colleagues and clients were doing “better financially and seemingly enjoying more status” than he was, and he felt “crushed by a sense of underachievement.”

A person in the grip of passion is never satisfied with the position he or she has, covets higher positions and more possessions, and becomes disturbed by not having them and envious of those who do. Then, the intelligence smothered, that person ignores morality.

Or, in Mr. Dreier’s words, “I can’t remember or imagine why I didn’t stop myself. It all seems so obviously deplorable now. I recall only that I was desperate for some measure of the success that I felt had eluded me. I lost my perspective and my moral grounding, and really, in a sense, I just lost my mind.”

Greed, the Gita tells us, is one of three gates to hell, and any action done under its influence tastes like nectar in the beginning and poison at the end.

Mr. Dreier was convicted of fraud for bilking hedge funds and other investors out of at least $400 million and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He commented: “It’s easy to say you would never cross the line, but the line is presented to very few people.”

And it’s true. Anyone can succumb to greed – and have to experience the misery it brings.

There is a bright side, however. Anyone, including Mr. Dreier, who is sixty-two and may spend the rest of his life in prison, can reflect on and learn from the glorious Gita. This passage, for example, could give all of us pause:

“In the mode of passion, people become greedy, and their hankering for sense enjoyment has no limit. One can see that even if one has enough money and adequate arrangements for sense gratification, there is neither happiness nor peace of mind. That is not possible, because one is situated in the mode of passion. If one wants happiness at all, his money will not help him…” (Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s purport to Bhagavad-gita 14.17)

A Circle Completed

The GPS (my gypsy friend) on my dashboard sometimes sends me on complicated routes, promising they’ll be faster. Often I’d rather go the few extra miles to avoid confusion. But overall my gypsy guides me efficiently on this 8500-mile tour of the U.S., occasionally on routes I haven’t considered. And at the end of each day’s journey, when she announces, “You have arrived,” with that wonderful tone of finality, it’s as if I’ve done something noteworthy.

In reality, all I do is manage to stay alert each driving day, a feat I accomplish by almost constant nibbling. Nothing else—not singing, listening to music or talks, observing the scenery, slapping myself—keeps me as alert as nibbling, especially on puffed kamut and puffed corn (both organic). It’s that crunch of teeth on the puffies that keeps me thoroughly awake.

The last few days of the trip I set out before dawn, the big, brilliant moon before me and the sun slowly brightening the sky in the rearview mirrors. Another kind of alertness, an alertness of the heart, is remembrance that God is the light of the sun and moon and whatever happens is his kindness.

Portland (Rainland), Oregon, where it’s fated to rain/ snow every day this week, marks the end of this book tour circle. The camper, parked in the driveway of a friend’s home on a quiet street, feels extra cozy on wet days. Grateful to be dry, warm, and safe, I’m quite certain that in this lifetime I’ll never become a truck driver.the journey's end, March 22, 2012