July 25, 2005, Santa Cruz
I hadn’t been planning to put on my GRRR hat (Guru Ratings Roving Reporter) until
Don James got on me to go hang out in the presence of someone more awake than me, and I decided that to do so would make a good experiment to test out his world view on myself. So I started looking around for somebody who might be more awake than me. Now Don says this isn’t necessarily something I can judge by lineage, reputation, or presentation, and certainly not by what their disciples are like. I am to judge by my gut reaction to them, my “telepathy” if you will. This makes as much, if not more sense to me than most ways of judging a guru.
One guru in my area who in Don’s experience is wide awake is Baba Hari Dass, but he’s apparently only available to me on a mountain in a forest miles 27 away, during hours when I’m supposed to be at work. So let’s try some more accessible gurus first, OK? Don suggested Adyashanti, who visits Santa Cruz fairly regularly, as someone he intuited was very awake. He also mentioned that Adyashanti had a former student, living in Santa Cruz, who had been “released to teach the dharma of meditation and non-duality” named Mokshananda, so I visited
his web site, and then decided to check him out in person.
His next satsang was scheduled for a Monday 7:00-9:00 pm. I called a couple of hours ahead and Joe answered the phone (Mokshananda’s “real world” name is Joe Sousa). I asked him if there was anything I needed to know before I came, and he explained that a forty minute period of silent meditation started at seven, followed by satsang and questions till nine, followed by a period of tea and socializing. There was a ten dollar sliding scale donation requested, but no one was ever turned away for lack of funds. The address was a place on the west side of Santa Cruz, a block and a half from the ocean, and less than a mile and a quarter from my house. The house’s feng shui is unusual; it’s located right where a cross street dead ends into it, traditionally a notably poor position. Perhaps this is ameliorated some by the white picket fence in front of it. When I got there at five to 7:00 I would have opened the fence gate and walked right up to the front door of the yellow house if I hadn’t run into a nice woman named Celeste who was arriving at the same time.
She led me around to the side and we entered through the kitchen door. A strong smell of incense permeated the atmosphere in the house. She removed her shoes and placed them where some other pairs already were, as did I. I then followed her into the yellow front room where a mix of chairs were set up in an arc facing a sofa against one wall of the room on which Joe sat. There were also two niches on either side in back, with a few chairs in one and a bed in the other. Seating (not counting the sofa) for perhaps twenty-some people. Separating the niches was a fireplace with a mantelpiece displaying prominent pictures of various gurus, of whom I certainly recognized Ramana Maharshi, Muktananda, and Jesus. At the left front corner of the sofa stood a pedestal that supported a photo of Gurumayi (not so large as the ones on the mantel), and to its right, just in front of the sofa a smaller pedestal supported a still smaller photo of Adyashanti.
There were eight or nine people there by the time, very shortly after seven, that Joe began the silent meditation. He and most of the group sat with eyes closed. I did likewise at various times, but mostly I just sat there watching Joe. I was there, in Don’s words, to “[j]ust be completely focused internally on him. Don't think he's a holy man or be thrown by his ‘presentation’. Just realize that you're the same as him and want to know what he knows, ‘knows’ as in feels. Have an attitude of wanting enlightenment. Wanting to be more conscious. And work like a banshee to not let your attention go to your thoughts. If thoughts come up, gently guide your attention back to just awareness. I think I've read those instructions in how to meditate. So that's really it, awakening is being in a continual meditative state.” I watched for signs of this state in Joe’s presence. He was clearly a very experienced meditator. People entered in ones and twos at intervals, even after the silent meditation was over, and Joe’s talk had begun. Eventually there were close to twenty people in the group. Women outnumbered men, but only by about 3 to 2. The ages seemed to range from early 30s to late 50s. Mokie himself (as
Adyashanti likes to call him) is in his late 40s.
Joe’s talk, and his later dialogue with others, seemed like “standard” nondualist philosophy expressed in a light, compassionate way. After his forty minutes of lecture, he opened the floor for questions. He is a practicing psychotherapist, and it comes across, as members of his audience share their problems, confusion, and experiences, and he responds with his insight, humor, and “nonadvice”. I had planned to stay for a few minutes after nine to witness Joe socializing, but apparently when things are still going strong at nine he will extend things to 9:15 or so. I had a seven months pregnant wife and four year old daughter at home who had asked me to be home by 9:30, so I left at five after nine and walked home.
Judging by my intuition, the way Don suggests, I have to say that I sensed no immediate “telepathic” connection with Mokshananda, so in all likelihood he is not the one for me to hang around to test out Don’s advice. But judging by his lineage, reputation, and presentation I would provisionally rate him at three buds, like Adyashanti. To me he seemed like a good teacher of meditation and nondualism for someone who is still seeking. I would consider attending one of his “intensives” just to see if it sparks anything for me. If I do, you’ll probably read about it here on Guru Ratings.
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