Lessons living with Mohanji – Days 29 & 30

by Christopher Greenwood

Day 29 Lesson – The household chores (or service) – An answer to a question from a listener 

Good morning, everybody. I hope you’re doing really well. 

This morning, I wanted to thank everybody who provided some feedback on the form that I sent. It really helps me get an understanding of whether these messages are useful for people. Also, it was an opportunity to have some questions from people too about what they would like to know about living here in the home. 

So the first question that came back, that I’ll speak about today, was how the inmates contribute to the house chores, which made me laugh because I don’t know if it was meant to be inmates or meant to be housemates because ‘inmates’ are actually the people who are locked in a jail. So I laughed at this, and I’ll take this as ‘housemates’, and I’ll use that for the question. 

I like this question because there’s a very straightforward answer I could give. But I think this would miss some of the subtleties and the dimensions of the environment of this home. I also liked it because it took me back to Mohanji’s latest book ‘Mast’, which he recently released. For those who don’t know, it’s the story of Atmananda. He did a blog series on Atmananda. He is a perfect Avadhoota. It’s an amazing story; it’s really powerful because it delivers the teachings of the tradition in such a beautiful way; I really recommend it. 

In one of the book’s early chapters, I think it’s chapter two; it describes when the young Atmananda Brahmadeva arrives first at Maharishi Shantananda’s house, or the Gurukul, where he comes to study under the tutelage of the master. It painted a really lovely picture of the home: of the house itself, the quarters where people stayed, where people were in the rooms, where people would be chanting or doing meditation. Also, other aspects of the home were described, such as Nandi – the bull, who would come outside and arrive and depart at certain times, and how the fellow students would interact, including how they got on with the chores. 

Having read it, I feel it’s probably very similar. Without having read the book, I probably would have answered that question very differently, and some of the subtle aspects would have probably gone unnoticed. 

First of all, once I arrived, and even now, nothing’s really asked of me, or of others in fact. It is asked only that the respect is upheld, that space is treated well and looked after. Also, we’re asked to be conscious of the food that we use; we’re making sure that the right amount of water is used, as well as with everything we do and any other services. 

I remember when I first arrived, I was looking for the house rota, the cleaning rota, or when we will have regular meetings to decide who would take which chores. That didn’t happen. Before the book was released, Rajesh said to me, “You don’t need to worry about that. Generally, things just flow here; what needs to happen happens”. That’s definitely the case. 

Just like in the book, everyone takes part in the work, depending on what they’re doing and where they are situated in the house. If somebody forgets to take up a task, then somebody else would just come and quickly pick it up. So, it’s like a harmonious dance that happens without much fuss, discussion or communication. It’s like everyone is attuned to the needs of the space. So there are no real complaints or problems. It’s just the understanding that everything needs to be kept in order. 

Naturally, people pick up tasks as needed. So there’s a cook, whose main job is to prepare the food. Ananth does a really good job of helping her in the morning because he’s downstairs. He also makes sure that the lamps are lit and tended to, as they’re down there, and he also makes sure that Mohanji has his morning tea and fruits. 

As I’m on the first floor, I generally take care of those areas. So, the sweeping, the mopping up here, and from time to time, if I see that Mohanji’s room needs to be swept, I’ll do this too. Regarding washing clothes and everything like this, everybody takes care of that; everyone takes their share. It’s the same with the outside of the house as well. We’ve got a beautiful ring of tulsi plants that have been planted, as well as a small patch that’s been set up for growing tomatoes.

We have these tubes for coherent water, so usually, we have those buckets with water. So, after he does his morning Homa, Rajesh makes sure that all the gardens are tended to, that everything has been watered. If the birds and other beings need feeding, it’s whoever happens to be in the kitchen at the time that will take care of this. 

All this is unless Mohanji specifically asks somebody to feed the birds because he usually does this when someone big from another place will visit soon. So he’ll advise to put some food out for the birds. And then quite soon afterwards, you’ll see a big crow come. And he said that usually, this helps people clean karma or lineage karma of the ancestors. 

So, in short, we all do our chores. It happens quite harmoniously in the household, with peace and minimal fuss. But it’s a really nice way that it all happens because there’s no set plan, no set agenda. It’s just organic, and activities happen as they need to, just like in the book. 

So thank you for listening. I hope that was useful. I hope I answered the question, and thank you for sending it.

Day 30 Lesson – If you are on the court, play the game 

Good morning, everybody. I hope you’re doing well. 

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes the best lessons gained here have been unspoken. Through observation, awareness and being alert, it’s possible to pick up a lot from Mohanji. With the day-to-day experiences at the house as well, there are many opportunities for that. 

I don’t know if many people know, but Mohanji really enjoys a game of shuttle badminton. There’s a court close to the house. It’s a full-court – a hall with tall ceilings and plenty of space. For a period of time, we were playing most days. When Devi, Mila, and Jelena were here, everybody would play. Everybody, by the end of the time, really improved. The games were becoming quite intense and competitive, with lots of shouting, screaming and passion. Devi and Jelena were completely fired up in the last days; they were really doing well, winning games. 

Once Devi, Mila and Jelena went back to Europe, it would mainly be me, Rajesh, Ananth, George and Mohanji who would play. We played doubles. When I think back to some of the times making these lessons, I actually learned a lot there. Not just how to play badminton, I had some skill of that before, but it gave me an opportunity to see my own attitude towards playing in games, and also in life in general. Maybe this is applicable to others, too. 

One major learning for me was witnessing my own passivity to life, being passive, and just letting life go, but not really being fully involved. I felt that it was a reflection of my involvement, both in the game and in some incidents in life, and I’ll explain a little bit more. 

So when Mohanji does something, he is fully there, completely; he gives everything, the full effort, full concentration. So, at first, to go and play with him was quite intimidating. You could probably imagine this for yourself; if you were there, standing in front of him on the opposite side of the net, Mohanji in front, and you’re playing a game. It’s especially intimidating because he’s not giving any chances. He’s fully there; he’s fully playing no matter what; he’s there completely. He’s actually good. His signature move is a smash. He has an uncanny ability to be able to smash with full force nearly every shot. So there’s no easy playing or easing into the game. You just have to learn, and you just have to play. 

He would even make jokes with us as well, that we can’t even beat a man nearly twice our age. But this was only joking, not boasting because, after the game, he’s not so interested. There’s no arrogance; it’s just playing, for the exercise and for the joy. 

So, for the first games, I was very hesitant; I’d give some effort, but not my all. I also wasn’t very interested in winning. I’ve never really had that feeling to win games, nor that over-competitive streak. But game after game, Mohanji was consistent. He enjoys giving his all. Even when he had an injury, he would be fully committed. 

So, many people experience a loving side of Mohanji, but he very much has this warrior aspect to him, too. It’s not exactly demoralizing, but game after game, the same situations happened. It was becoming a little bit pathetic. I wasn’t improving, and the same thing was happening over and over again. 

I would mainly play with Rajesh, and Mohanji and Ananth would be on the other side, and we’d consistently lose. For myself, I know I was playing half-heartedly. Mohanji would always ask or make a comment if we’re actually interested in playing or not. After some time, the realization dawned on me that I was not in the game; I was there, I was on the court, I had the racket in my hand, physically present, but actually, I wasn’t there. I was actually more on the side-lines, watching and just doing the motions. There was no real commitment, no dedication, and probably more importantly, no real fire to do my best. So, forget about winning; I wasn’t even playing. I wasn’t even there.

I remember another time, too, in conversation with Mohanji, he instructed a task, and I was unsure about what the next steps were to take. I’ve been probably deliberating for quite some time, and he just told me straight. He said: “You’re sitting there at the side of the water, dipping in a finger, trying to work out whether it’s hot or cold. In the end, you’re not even going to take a bath. Dive in, take the plunge and see where it takes you. There’s no point in waiting, just get on, get it moving”. 

So I picked up on this, too. Within the game itself, I started putting myself into it. I wasn’t so interested in winning, but at least, if I was there, if I was involved, and if I had some role to play, I was going to do it as best as I could. I think this reflected in my work too. So, with his encouragement and inspiration, I think we all began to increase our game actually. We all become quite good, quite competitive. 

Personally, for me, since being here, one of my patterns has been brought to my awareness – that element of passivity, not really fully engaging, almost being on the side-lines or the stands, just watching what was happening, but never quite being fully involved. I know Mohanji doesn’t like that type of attitude. He said before, “If we’re here, if we have a body, if we have time, if we have space, then we should use it to make a great life, live our highest potential of humanity, and do something positive in the world”. 

I’m learning that as well. I can’t say I have learnt because I’m still learning. But for a contented life, it’s not possible to sit on the stands or watch from the side-lines. I have to play, I have to take the plunge and use life well whilst I have the opportunity. There’s no place for a passive attitude within the Mohanji office because there’s a big mission to do, big work to do, and the world needs it. 

Thank you for listening. I hope you have a great day ahead.


Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 6th June 2021


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