To say that I have had but one teacher would be misleading for I have learned from many things and many people - throughout the world, throughout various cultures, throughout time. From them, as well as my own experiences, I have gained knowledge, skill, and, hopefully, some wisdom. That being said, there are two profoundly significant strands of influence in my life - one is the Olmec and Toltec teachings of South America which I studied for over twenty years and which offer very helpful and practical insight into skillful living, and the other is the teachings and beloved presence of the man I honor as my true teacher and spiritual father, Sri H.W.L. Poonja of India.
At first glance these two strands may seem somewhat divergent, but the little known fact about Poonja-ji is that he was also an adept of the Toltec teachings and practices which, at that time, were kept tightly guarded by its followers. We had many discussions together about this subject and I discovered that Poonja-ji had studied with the same Toltec teacher that I had worked with - an interesting coincidence!
Poonja-ji referred to Ramana Maharshi as his beloved teacher. Today if you read the biographies or visit the websites of these two men you will find that they are being remembered primarily as saints. But in all honesty they would tell you that they are no different than you and me. Like us, they were human beings, in a fully human form, living life on a day to day basis with all its difficulties, paradoxes - and beauties. As very young children, a Beloved Mystery was calling them and they became "enlightened" before the age of seventeen. However, it wasn't until they were adults that they began to communicate and share their experiences and knowledge with others.
In summation, the enlightenment of Ramana Maharshi arose spontaneously from an experience of the immortality of his own essence. He knew that the essential "I" of his being would never die. Poonja-ji's enlightenment was in two stages - the first being able to see and engage an aspect of the Infinite, the second stage, prompted by Ramana Maharshi, was coming to see that the Infinite, what I call the Beloved Mystery, was a constant within his own being.
I met Poonja-ji because my own son, who was also quite involved with the spiritual quest, was traveling to India to visit him. When my son called me to tell me how he was doing, I could hear that he had found someone very special. So I decided to go and see for myself. I had many questions, especially revolving around immortality and my own fear of death.
The very first meeting with Poonja-ji left me with a life-changing understanding of the authenticity of the Beloved Mystery within my own being. My essential questions were answered. My first visit with Poonja-ji lasted a week and ended my spiritual search, although I would continue to visit him off and on over the years until his own transition in 1997.
In 1992 Poonja-ji asked me to offer satsang in America because he wanted people in the West to know that enlightenment was not something reserved for people in certain places like Tibet, India or Machu Picchu or who had lived only a spiritually focused life. He wanted everyone to see that spiritual fullness could be had in their own backyards, living ordinary lives of business and careers, family and community, entertainment and sports. Poonja-ji wanted to remove the implication of spiritual privilege and hierarchy from the truth and availability of enlightenment.
At first I wanted no part of this but I eventually agreed to do as he requested. "The Beloved Mystery Within You" is compiled from many satsangs (informal talks) over an eleven year period (1994-2005) in California.
The fact that you are reading this, that you have an interest in these things, tells me that that same Beloved Mystery is calling you today, just as it called to Ramana, to Poonja-ji, and to me. I honor that calling within you.