Monday, 23 January 2012

from Hippie Heaven to Guru Junction, Thiruvannamalai, India

They come here in pain.  Seeking relief.  Seeking truth.  Seeking something they suspect exists but cannot name; something they once glimpsed out of the corner of their eyes on one bright spring day.

For some the pain is emotional.  Pain from the past that has fouled their vision like a polluted pond.  For some the pain is mental.  A stabbing diatribe like a sharp stone in your shoe on a never-ending hike up a steep mountain.  For some it's grief or loss.  For others it's the pain of inadequacy.

Some feel lost.  All are searching for a path to the light.

"I just woke up one day and nothing made sense anymore.  All the things I'd worked for.  The things I'd accumulated.  Suddenly none of it meant anything to me.  I just felt empty." A healthy-looking, gray-haired man of about sixty tells the two people sharing the table at the German Bakery.

The "German Bakery" is run by Tibetans.  You walk up one flight of stairs, take off your shoes, and enter to the sounds of gentle Indian music.  One song - one chant repeated to the end of the song.  All the customers sit in multi-colored plastic chairs facing the "holy" mountain.  Mount Arunachala. The mountain outside Thiruvannamalai where Ramana Maharshi sat meditating in a cave for seventeen years.  Needless to say, when he finally exited, he had rid himself of all the excess mental and emotional garbage most mortals carry around with them.  He was "enlightened."

People come to the German Bakery for their fruit salads, mueslis, or whole grain toast and herbal tea before they set off to "Satsang."  "Satsang" is the practice of sitting with a teacher or "guru" as individuals come forward to ask questions and receive clues to wake them out of their dark slumbers.

I come curious.  I come open.  I come skeptical but interested.  After all, life is about new and different experiences.  Isn't it?

Mooji enters the silent hall.  Four hundred seekers sit cross-legged on the floor.  He takes the chair on the stage.  He is short and squat.  Caribbean with massive dreadlocks pulled into a mound at the back of his head, a few straggler dreads hanging down his back, a salt and pepper beard and mustache and an unflappable demeanor.

He wraps his microphone around his head, adjust it and looks out into the crowd.  When he makes eye contact he bursts into a smile that starts in his eyes and radiates to his lips.  He has a contagious chuckle.  Within seconds I find myself totally loving this guy.

"I am all the time suffering pain," one Russian man tells Mooji when he comes forward to the stage.
"I don't feel like I belong anywhere," a German woman shares.
"I reach moments  where I experience the "now" but then I'm back in my thoughts," an Australian man says.

Unpretentious, a great story-teller, with a great sense of humor and no-nonsense words that strike the bull's eye of human existence, Mooji looks at the person sharing with total acceptance and love.  He asks questions  that lead them on a path of discovery.  He invites them to let go of the thoughts that keep them prisoners.  He provokes each to a greater experience of expanded consciousness.

There is no fee for sitting "Satsang."  Mooji asks for nothing.  I f you like you can purchase a book or CD when you leave. Nobody tries to sell you anything.  No one tries to convince you of anything.  Mooji simply invites you to partake of the freedom of higher consciousness.

Mooji isn't the only one, although he's the main attraction.  There's also Unmani, a woman who cuts through people's ego like a Samaurai warrier.  There's Vanna from Switzerland.  Lisa from Australia.  Shanti and Cesar.  All hold satsang sessions.  Some twice a day.

The town is a veritable smorgasbord of spiritual teachers.  In every cafe, every restaurant, every chai shop--the conversation focuses on "enlightenment."

At first I felt irritated.  Non-conformist that I am, I wanted to don a black leather jacket, a studded dog collar and talk about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.  But after 10 - 12:30 satsang with Mooji I beam at the people around me and almost skip out of the hall and along the field on my way to meet two friends for a lunch of thalis cooked and served in an Indian woman's home. 

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