India Trip Notes
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3-26-11 - Advaita type guru news
Below is a link to Andrew Cohen's Celebration on Saturday. This is to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his awakening that he experienced with his guru, Punja-ji, who was a disciple of Ramana Maharshi. The event will be on the web and is free: register and get the details at this link. - from Bro Lor
Met a guy from France today who has studied with Mooji but who says his guru now is Edward Musica who's in LA now and whose site is Itisnotreal.com. He was a student of Robert Adams who Andrew in Santa Fe turned me on to. Don't know about Mr. Musica but Robert Adams is impressive. The French guy said that Musica was into Zen too. I'll check him out after uploading this.
The first teacher in these times I was aware of as Advaita is the Advaita Zen teacher Adyashanti whom Katrinka and I saw in San Rafael and whom I've mentioned several times on cuke. David Silva turned me on to him. I think he's great - David as well as Adyashanti.
Byron Katie came out of nowhere but I've heard her several times and been fortunate to meet her due to sharing an agent and friend, and even though she has her own method called The Work I see her as sorta kinda Advaita Zen and think she's been very helpful to many people.
Niels Holm was smitten with Papa-ji and read all his books and attended workshops or satsangs with Ganga-ji, an American woman who traces her lineage to Papa-ji like many Advaita teachers do today. (Sri H.W. Poonja, later called Papaji or Poonjaji - a lot of teachers are called Papa-ji but this is the one that's usually indicated if a Westerner is speaking) Dolano, Andrew Cohen, and I think Mooji being among those who trace their teaching to Papa-ji. (See 2-09-11 - More Osho and Dolano)
Due to the presence here of the Ramana Ashram, many Advaita or Advaita type teachers come here during the cooler months - October through February. More of them have a lineage through Papa-ji, but they come here because this is the Advaita Mecca. Katrinka and I went to satsangs of three. First was Mooji, the Jamaican teacher who's very popular and who's been around quite a while. I'd heard in Pune that he was still here and was happy to be able to catch him a few times.
Next we went in the morning to join a small group with a couple, a young woman from England named Karen Richards and a younger man, Benito, from Holland, I believe he told me. Maybe it was Belgium. We went there, not to Belgium but to the space they were using, because Katrinka said she thought they had a connection to her old Advaita type teacher, Candice O'Denver of Great Freedom. Katrinka went back to see them again and we joined them for a farewell party around the pool and dinner at the snazziest place around here, Sparsa. It was a cosmopolitan group. At dinner Katrinka and I sat at the end of one of two long tables with film maker, Rodolfo from Colombia, who was documenting their satsangs and trip to Tiru. Across from me at the end was a fellow from Spain who spoke no English so I got to dredge up as much Spanish as I could find and we all had a good time. Katrinka has now arranged for Karen to give a talk at the Pacific Zen Institute's Santa Rosa Center (PZI) at 10am on Sunday, May 1st, If you're in the area, check her out.
Katrinka and I also went to a satsang by a Venezuelan teacher named Cesar whom I'd heard a lot about around town. There were a ton of Russians in Tiru and Cesar gave two Satsangs a day, one in the morning translated from English into Russian and one in the early evening with just English. A lot of Russians came to it too. He and Mooji seemed to draw about seventy-five to 100 people, each with a few Indians. Mainly Europeans, some Americans North and South. Like all of them, including Dolano whom Clay and I saw in Pune, I had no disagreement with anything Cesar said, but there was the strangest culture of laughter around him.
As we sat and waited, people here and there were laughing. When he came in and sat down there were chuckles. He sat a while and looked out on us smiling and various levels of laughter arose, one woman to my right was getting into fits of uncontrollable laughter. As people came up to ask questions, they'd tend to sit and laugh with Cesar for a while before asking anything. Meanwhile several women continued to laugh in shrieks and wails. There was also simultaneous Russian translation going on in the background so that some of the questions and answers with Cesar were hard to hear with all the competing sounds. One woman laughed so much so loud that she came to dominate everything and Cesar had to sit and look at her smiling until she calmed down. But she just got going again till she crawled up to him and pleaded with him to help her stop laughing and he held her as her laughter subsided and turned into sobbing. There was a little less laughter after that. The whole thing to me was a little bit like being at a carnival where there's a mechanical laughing lady at the entrance to the fun house, except not one but many at various distances and decibel level.
The third time Katrinka and I saw Mooji was his last satsang in Tiru till the following fall. It was held outside with Arunachala to our backs. He was returning to London. The three satsangs we had to pleasure to attend were not scheduled. I'd gone to his center not far from where I live one day to check him out and a nice young Colombian woman had traded numbers with me and she'd text me when to go. He had both Russian and Spanish translation going during this satsang and she did the Spanish. She was following him to London. A weird thing happened toward the end of this third satsang with Mooji. Two of the last people who came up just sat there looking at him and laughing. I knew this had to be bleed through from Cesar. I mentioned it to a Dutch woman friend at a tea stand and she said that she was one of those people and that was just how she felt like expressing herself at that time and it was full of joy. I said, yeah, I know what it's like, I've laughed myself to the point of collapsing in public, and people who are gaga in love are full of joy and can be irritating if they do it public too. She said that she went through a little period of doing that and that it did bother some of her friends and she didn't know where it came from. I asked if she'd been to Cesar's satsang and she said, yes, like me, once, and I said oh then you obviously caught the laughing virus there. I notice she hasn't spoken to me since then though we say hello in passing..
Anyway, Katrinka and I left Mooji's last satsang just full of admiration for him and his teaching. We'd be happy to go back. He's got great vibes, exudes sincerity and kindness and spiritual authority or whatever and he's been at it while, has aged and matured. He's a little tough too when questioned. It reminded me of what it might have been like with the beginnings of koan work in China starting fifteen hundred years ago. One did not meet the teacher in private interview but in public - koan means public question.
None of these satsangs we went to were silent (such as the darshan I was at with Adi Da). There was no charge for any either, though there were low key donation requests, not even announcements, just someone there to take them.
The other day I went to a silent satsang or meditation with a woman guru I'd heard about. She has it every morning at ten and maybe later in the day too- very close to where I live. As I stepped into their entry area outside to take off my sandals, I noticed a sign that said Silence or Please Observe Silence or something. Nothing said. Walk in. There were soft flat cushions by the door. Sit. There were about thirty of us. She comes in, some people bow. She sits. She walked around and stood in front of us going from one end of the room to the other. She went back to her seat. After maybe thirty minutes she left. People slowly left silently. Some kept sitting.
I picked up two sheets of info on the way out. Sri Siva Sakthi Ammaiyar "Mother of the World." I read the first few lines of one page:
"Yeah, that's right," I said then catching myself putting my hand over my mouth. I folded the piece of paper up and there was an auto rickshaw driver by the wall who'd hounded me a bit while I was walking over, asking me to let him drive me back and I said I'd given him ten rupees not to drive me already and that was it and he asked for a loan of five hundred rupees and I said I couldn't afford it and a lady came down the stairs and told me to please take my talking outside. So I went to the other side of the wall and talked to him some more. Oh, that reminds me, when Siva Sakthi was first sitting on her chair before us, there was a man in the walkway behind her talking loudly on a cell phone.
At the Ramana Ashram people are free to stand around and talk right inside the large room with the Ramana altar after evening service even though some are still meditating and others circumambulating the altar. During the service the room is filled, men on the left and women on the right almost but not quite entirely. People come and go during the service and every now and then I see a woman walk in and weave through the men's side on the way to the women's' and vice versa. There's a mix of Indians of various shades and a number of foreigners, many of whom are regulars - ten to one Indians to Westerners whereas the other satsangs are like twenty to one Westerners to Indians.
The chanting is oddly Western-sounding to me. I'd love to know its origins. It comes from two facing groups before the altar, men on left women on right with no exceptions. They chant one side then the other. In some parts I'm reminded of "Where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy?" Looks like anyone can join who can read the chant books. I think it's mainly from writings of Ramana, maybe some done just for chanting.
To me everything else is a side trip, research, something to do. This is my anchor here in the early morning and at six thirty in the evening when I go sit with others and listen to the chanting as others circumambulate the altar.
I was talking to a young guy on his motorbike outside Guru Internet. He said that for him it's just the Ramana Ashram. He said he hated all the others, even Mooji.
There has been a guru in town who from March fist was holding satsangs with the billing of no need to meditate, get enlightened now and that sort of turned me off. Some people in Gita's gurukula said they thought he was out of their group - I didn't remember his name then. It's Sribagatha I think or Sri Bagatha. A lot of people say these Advaita teachers poo-poo meditation but that's not what I've seen. I know that's true with some, but the ones I've been with mainly just don't emphasize it like Zen or Vipassana but most seem to hold it up as a central practice that one must be careful not to let be goal oriented. But why would mediation be any more goal oriented than self inquiry like who am I and looking within. But anyway, I'll go see Sri Bagatha or whatever his name is if he's still around. I like to get out and checking these folks out is one of the things to do around here. There's no entertainment at night I know of and these Indians are not party animals. Just being around them is good practice for those of us coming from the world of instant titillation and constant dissatisfaction.
There's an arch at the beginning of this side street which has the name of Yogi Ram Ashram on it and I haven't figured out where that is or what that is. I spend most my time working in my apartment so I only slowly get to this stuff. But I was talking to a heavy set man from Transylvania in Rumania, resisting the urge to make a vampire crack, and he told me that it's a good place to go and that Yogi Ram has passed but his spirit is still there and it's a great place to meditate and there's a room with his ashes in a crypt or sarcophagus or whatever with a message from Yogi Ram saying that to circumambulate that stone shrine brings five times more benefit or maybe just more benefit than walking around Arunachala, the holy mountain here. So he walked around it thirty-six times, maybe that number was suggested and he said that when he left he noticed that the pain in his knees that had been bothering him had vanished. I asked how long his knees had bothered him and he said since he had them operated on in '72. I asked how long now have they not bothered him and he said five days. Very good I said.
I talked to Katrinka about it and said of course that's all a bunch of nonsense and she said I should try it for my shoulder and I said it's just down the street and to the right then the second left and why not?
I've been sleeping a lot recovering from the attack of the Botox ants and the anti-inflammatory medicine and I woke up from laughing while I was sleeping. While sleeping I'd tuned in to my two repeated phrases, "thank you" and the ever popular Advaita and Zen "Who am I?" Sometimes I combine them into "Who am I? Thank you." In the dream though I was repeating, "How am I? Fine, thank you." So that made me laugh in my sleep and the laughter woke me up and I wondered who was saying that and laughing at it and then waking up to it laughing.
I wonder what's happening with I Am. By that I mean, there was a religion in the US, centered in Chicago I believe, called I Am. I went to their headquarters in 1964 with a man who the president of the Chicago Flying Saucer Club. I met him while handing out flyers for SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) to people in line at an unemployment office. There were light bulbs all around the I AM building and the idea was that if you walk under them you get good vibrations of some sort. I remember them as yellow. Since it was 47 years ago I can't say for sure whether I went there or he just told me about it because I don't remember going in and talking to anyone. Their "I am" came, I'm sure, from the Biblical phrase from God itself, "I am that I am." Ramana Maharshi said that that is the ultimate statement of truth and that that's all there is and everything else is a dream. Just I am and the light bulbs.
Oh I must relate that the fellow in Chicago took me to a cool coffee shop where intellectuals played chess and talked about everything. Then we went to a Theosophy Society lecture and I remember thinking that the man giving the lecture didn't understand what it meant that everything was alive. I was raised on mind only or new thought Christianity. He said that science is showing us that everything is alive and equating that with the sort of omnipresent eternal life that religion talks about. So I asked him if bones were alive and he tilted his head and thought about it and said, "Well, I guess not." I didn't say anything further.
I missed the laughter yoga classes here (Maybe that's where Cesar got it), the Chi Gung (though Katrinka made the last class), James Schwartz, the Vedanta teacher with his Shining World, and more. Too late now. The season's over.
Karl Renz no longer comes here. He's got the coolest opening page for his website. I bet he painted that. He's also got some music CDs still for sale on Amazon or somewhere he said was from a former life. Saw him in San Rafael with Clay and Howie (Clay and he had a lot of good back and forths) and after his talk and Q & A he said he was here fifteen years and just goes to Bombay now. I think he puts down mediation but he puts down everything in a rather enjoyable way - a little like a negative comedian. "They say I hate women and they're right, but I hate men too." He's a trooper for neti neti, not this not that, the via negativa which all the Advaita teachers express in one way or another. Like J. Krishnamurti or the irascible U. G. Krishnamurti featured here in the Santhara section, neither of which call themselves Advaita but at least they're Advaita like. Some teachers I'd call Advaita lite.
That about wraps it up for the Advaita type guru news for today. Until next time, may you be following your bliss and find what you seek.
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