#13 - The Guru Dilemma (The Garden pt. 5)
I spent an afternoon at Monte Suhaja, an incredible Alentejo "community" in its own right, but really just the estate of Mooji, a famous Jamaican guru. He is the disciple of the renowned advaita master Papaji and a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. For some, he is an enlightened master. His followers work and live at his estate, wearing white robes and wide smiles. People come from all over the world to see him and hear him expound on the nature of the universe. Some bow down and kiss his feet and cry from the weight of his presence. One must be silent on the property, which is an enormous stretch of verdurous hills and valleys used for silent spiritual retreats. The environment is breathtaking.
Several people led me to him along the way in Portugal and told me that his silent retreats are life-changing. I wasn't able to participate in a silent retreat, but I attended a satsang (a spiritual gathering - often to ask questions and/or receive answers from a guru). The room grew hot from the Alentejo sun and the heat of so many bodies packed in the room like sardines for three hours, sitting cross-legged on thin pillows, touching knee-to-knee and toe-to-back.
Some people have intense spiritual experiences at Monte Suhaja, while others are turned off by the sensationalism. Take, for example the Mooji gift shop, which sports Mooji bracelets, Mooji books, Mooji CD's, Mooji apparel... reminiscent of the merchandising scene* from Mel Brooks' Spaceballs.
This was explained to me in a satisfying way by Manu, who reminded me that, aside from special events like the silent retreats, Mooji makes his livelihood from donations. So, purchasing something from his gift shop is a way for him to give you a piece of something to take home in return for your donation. And in supporting Mooji, you support his message of love and freeing oneself from the suffering caused by associating oneself with the ego.
I came to see the enlightened one, but what I found was a man. A man with love in his eyes and a willingness to share the same old exhausting information over and over again to people who needed to hear it. He seemed a patient man who suffered very little, if at all, which was the Buddha's definition of enlightenment after all ("the end of suffering"). I could tell that I would enjoy spending time with him very much... in a proper chair, perhaps for a beer.
And what he said was, in fact, profound. Though it wasn't anything new: suffering is caused by identifying oneself with one's ego and truth can be found only in the present moment. I wondered why, if Mooji really wanted people to understand this path to inner-peace, his gift shop wasn't just full of Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now," which offers the same information more succinctly. But my heart softened when I realized that this is not Mooji's role - he is only a mirror.
I watched one young man struggle, through fits of weeping, to tell Mooji that he feared to leave Monte Suhaja. In Mooji's presence, he said, the divinity of the present moment was clear. But he knew that he wouldn't be able to hold onto that clarity when he came back to living a "normal life." The ego always starts slipping in to distract us again. Mooji listened patiently, lovingly.
This illustrates my dilemma with the concept of a guru: a guru gives answers but yields dependency. And that is not the fault of the guru, but the nature of man - we don't recognize that the guru is inside of us all along.
To recognize this truth, we need each other as a mirrors of ourselves. What I took from my experience at Monte Suhaja was not what Mooji said, but the way he listened - patiently, lovingly. And that's something that we can all do today.