The other day I attended a talk by Om Swami at a literature fest where he talked about his 10 bestselling books and his life’s story (he gave up a lavish lifestyle abroad to meditate in the Himalayas, and then became a full-time guru).
He also talked about his app, Black Lotus, that allows his followers to stay in touch with him and his teachings. A guru on an app? I downloaded it instantly even as he spoke.
Now, skeptics will insist that his handsome face and husky voice had something to do with my easy conviction. But in truth, it was something else that got my attention.
A member of the audience asked him: “After returning home from your ashram feeling spiritually uplifted, I was disappointed that the environment in my material life was still the same. The people around me haven’t changed. How do I reconcile my new spiritual state of mind with my regular, conflicted daily environment?”
Instead of direct guidance, Om Swami replied with this story: “Mulla Nasrudin went up to his Imam and told him he wanted a divorce. ‘Why do you want a divorce?’ the Imam asked. Nasrudin replied, ‘Because my wife has terrible table manners. She’s a disgrace to the family.’ The Imam was taken aback. ‘How long have you been married?’ he asked. ‘Twenty-five years,’ Nasrudin replied. ‘You’ve been married 25 years and you only now noticed your wife has terrible table manners?’ exclaimed the Imam. Nasrudin shrugged and said, ‘Well, I didn’t know it earlier. I only got a book on table etiquette today.'”
For some reason, this story, and the half-smile with which it was said, struck an arrow straight into my heart, and convinced me to try out this new-age guru’s app. So I did. And then I was tempted to download SEVERAL other apps to do with Indian spirituality, meditation and mantra-chanting.
And finally, after several days of downloading, trying, watching, listening and deleting, I have zeroed in on these four apps that are now my official favourites. I don’t like giving out my email ID or phone number (I have commitment issues with apps), nor do I appreciate being asked for unnecessary permissions. Yet, these four apps have some cute and wonderful features that got me hooked.
Om Swami’s app has five sections:
(1) Meditation: Meditate on emotions like calmness, peace, bliss, compassion and others at your own pace. Choose between guided meditations or just music. Or meditate live with a global community.
(2) RAK: This is a section that invites you to do ‘random acts of kindness’ such as calling up a parent and telling them how much they mean to you. You earn points for each good deed done.
(3) Wisdom: This is a section with lots of quotes and blog posts to read, and videos to watch.
(4) Events: All Om Swami’s upcoming talks and events are listed here.
(5) Chanting: Five Vedic mantras (more are probably being added) that Om Swami has chanted in his own voice. His own deep, sexy, husky, enlightened voice. Ah, nirvana.
What I liked: No ads. An attractive, easy-to-use interface. Timer for chanting and meditation. You can set goals and see how others are doing, bringing in accountability to your spiritual practice.
What I didn’t like: Giving out my email ID. But this one’s worth the commitment.
You’ll find a list of 24+ Vedic mantras sung beautifully — many in a female voice (I like those) — with minimal background music. Developed by developer Ndroapps, the app allows you to do fun things like adding a conch sound or ring bells during the chanting. You can turn lyrics on or off.
What I liked: No email ID required. Besides a timer, you can see the repetition count of the mantra (for example, if you are aiming for holy number 108).
What I didn’t like: Certain sections of the app don’t work and aren’t even required. The free version has too many ad notifications. But I may spend Rs 70 to get rid of them.
Available free on Android with a paid upgrade (100,000+ installs)
A list of 20+ Vedic mantras in an easy-to-use format, this app by developer Panagola gets straight to the point without any fancy frills. The mantras are all listed in a simple order, and the ads are not intrusive.
What I liked: Repetition count of mantras. Each mantra comes with a text giving you the full meaning and translation of the words. No email ID required.
What I didn’t like: Nothing. It’s cool.
Available free on Android (1 million+ installs)
This is a cute meditation app developed by a Russian. It gives you lots of objects to focus on — you can pick a word or look at a flickering candle. You can earn achievement badges, and customise the object of concentration with colours and so on. There is a variety of background music and a paid option that gives you even more music.
What I liked: There’s something very sweet about its interface and options. It is useful. No email ID required.
What I didn’t like: There are way too many options and too much time is wasted on fiddling around instead of just meditating. It also asks for some permissions.
Available free on Android with paid upgrade (100,000+ installs)
Want to suggest an app to add to this list? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.