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Middle Rungs Shaky
Ram: This was an unsolicited evaluation sent to me by a person who attended one of Mooji’s recent events.
Seeker: It’s the third day of Mooji’s intensive, time to make a critique. Mooji is warm-hearted, he is charismatic and he is sincere. As an enlightened being he lives in a space of clarity and non-duality – this I see and I honour him for this. But his communication of this is not always clear.
It is like a ladder with some rungs missing. The bottom rungs are good, with his description of the ego/mind and the tricks of the ego/mind as it identifies with stories, belief systems, desires, fears and judgments. The top rungs are good, his injunction to remain as awareness which is the true self, and that enlightenment is the stabilization of this knowledge so that the apparent self can no longer be troubled by illusions of the mind.
But the middle rungs are shaky. “Just drop the mind,” he says, and then there is some kind of gentle encouragement or a teaching story. Or, “Witness who is behind this thought,” he says, and who is behind this next one, like a whole series of Chinese boxes. The only problem is that once you get to the self there is no self behind the self and the self isn’t a witness either, which would imply duality. So a statement like, “Who sees the seer?,” is meaningless to me. This kind of enquiry is fine to get from mind to witness (still held within the intellect), but not to a knowledge of self. As Ram emphasises, the self is not an unknown; as awareness, the self is the substrate of all knowing.
I sense a frustration that comes up for people as they are told to cross a chasm but then cannot find a bridge. And then they feel like they are not good enough or clear enough or committed enough or strong enough. “You can drop it right now,” says Mooji. “Freedom is now.” But then when someone asks a question about how to get there from here, the path isn’t very clear. He is told to simply let go of the doubts or witness the doubter who wants to get there from here, as if that would be the end of the story. It’s so simple is the implication… why identify with the mind which makes it so difficult? But unless the listener is established in the self already, it sounds like he is speaking in riddles or talking in koans, and it’s frustrating as well as demeaning to hear that. It becomes an impossibly difficult task of grappling with the mind from within the mind even as I am told to drop the mind and stay as the self.
It’s no wonder that so many people find themselves in a guru-disciple relationship with teachers like Mooji. If someone is not given clear enough directions where they can find the bridge by themselves, and if the desire to cross the river is strong, then unless they are unusually clear-headed in their quest, they will feel the need to follow him as the only one who knows. They will make him into a bridge, and hold onto him and give their power to him. There is room of course for a genuine guru-disciple relationship where each knows they are simply playing a role until it is no longer needed, and certainly this is there with many people also, but somehow I sense that sometimes there is a fawning energy here, which is not always helpful.
I am not judging Mooji or his followers, simply exercising some discrimination here, which could equally be my own unconscious projections of frustration, arrogance, ignorance or envy. Mooji is warm, playful and dedicated, and very charismatic in his presence. But the litmus test would be to see how many people have become enlightened with these teachings and not just experienced temporary enlightenment states in his presence. Of course ultimately even to say that “I am enlightened” makes no sense, because that implies that the self can somehow become enlightened… all I can say, like Jesus did, is, “I am the light, I am all there is, I am”…
Having said this, and having fixed the ladder with Ram’s help, I have enjoyed walking up and down this territory as unlimited, actionless awareness, and it has been a wonderful testing ground for the teachings of non-duality to sink in deeper.
Ram: This is an excellent observation. Mooji is typical of the Neo-Advaitis. He has no road map to get the seeker from A to Z. He can only talk about Z and exhort his devotees to “get there.” But “getting there” is not something you can do on your own. You need the help of a complete teaching and you need to be qualified. Then it is easy. The Neo phenomenon will get you started by pointing out the goal and identifying the obstacles – the body/mind/ego – but there is no means of knowledge or any way to prepare the mind for self-knowledge.
Most of these so-called teachings are usually directed at the ego in terms of “dropping” or “seeing” or “getting.” But “dropping,” etc. is not something you do. It is something that happens when you understand something. And you need a teaching that brings understanding by revealing the unexamined logic of one’s own experience, as Vedanta does. And “dropping” is not really the point either. The point is to drop the dropper. But when you ask the dropper to drop itself, you come up against a brick wall because the dropper is the last one that is going to drop itself, even if it was possible – which it isn’t, because the dropper would not be there to enjoy the results of the dropping.
Self-inquiry quickly becomes frustrating without a means of purification and knowledge. As you astutely note, the lack of a means throws them back on the personality of Mooji and he seems only too happy not to disabuse them of the notion that he can save them. You see the signs of a cult of personality, a “fawning energy,” as you say, developing there. More than signs, actually.
The Mooji phenomenon is not evil, but it is not completely harmless. One of his devotees came to me to say that he tried to exorcise her and not only did it not work, she became more disturbed as a result of his efforts. She is typical of a certain type of psychologically unbalanced person who wants to self-medicate by looking for a spiritual solution when what is needed is good old-fashioned talk therapy with a worldly psychologist. I told her so and she went back home to get some proper help, tears of gratitude streaming down her face. Spirituality is for healthy people. Only a completely unconscious person could fail to notice the plethora of psychologically unhealthy seekers wandering the streets of Tiruvannamalai.
Mooji is not a bad guy, but he did not take time after his realization to purify his stuff. He went for the guru thing before he was ready. That needy person inside has achieved its wish and is the center of attention. You would be surprised how many guru types are love-starved and need adulation to keep them happy. There is a downside to this kind of fame. You may become a prisoner of it. An old proverb says, “When doing evil, avoid punishment. When doing good, avoid fame.” Fame is a nasty, sticky trap. The only way you can avoid the effects is to know for certain that you are the self. Then you can take it or leave it.
The middle rungs of the ladder are the yogas, particularly karma yoga. People need sadhana to prepare them for inquiry. Ninety-nine percent of the Moojiites are not sanyassis – meaning they do not have contemplative temperaments – so they cannot contemplate the meaning of the words – even if he had a proper teaching to assist them. So since they cannot do formless meditation on the words, they are reduced to meditation on Mooji’s form. This would be fine up to a point, but a person who has not done sadhana will meditate with all his or her projections active. Then Mooji becomes a big mother/father surrogate. It does not work. If there is no purification of the subtle body there is no moksa, only occasional fleeting samadhis. And fleeting samadhis are “useless,” to quote an ancient text, Tripura Rahasya.
Most of those people are there because people are there, the crowd phenomenon in action. People like being a part of something big. It makes them feel important. Every time I ask a Moojiite what his teachings are the conversation immediately revolves around the “incredible energy.” This is because there is no actual teaching. There are words spoken by an individual about some experience he is having or has had and some conclusions drawn from it, to wit: you can do it too! It is okay to exhort people to get enlightened, but you need to show them what enlightenment is in a practical way. Otherwise they will remain frustrated.