Mirabai Bush speaks about her root-teacher Neem Karoli Baba (Part 5)


By Nithin Sridhar

Mirabai Bush

During a time when people across the world are struggling hard to manage work-related stress and balance professional and personal lives, Mirabai Bush has helped thousands to harmonize their lives and optimize their outputs through contemplation and mindfulness practices.

She is the co-founder of The Center for Contemplative Mind and Society and teaches contemplative practices and develops programs that apply contemplative principles to organizational life. She had also helped Google create its ‘Search Inside Yourself’ program, and was one among those who introduced Buddhist practices in the West in the 1970’s.

She traces her spiritual practices to her root-teacher, Neem Karoli Baba and other masters in India from whom she learned various Hindu and Buddhist meditation practices. In an exclusive interview with NewsGram she spoke about her life, her work, and her stay in India way back in 1970’s.

Interview with Mirabai Bush- Part 5 (Concluding part)

Mirabai Bush and Neem Karoli Baba

Neem Karoli Baba was the root-teacher of Mirabai Bush and others like Larry Brilliant, Ram Dass, and Krishna Das who were with her. Speaking about her time with Neem Karoli Baba and his teachings, Mirabai Bush said that Neem Karoli Baba never taught them any practices. Whenever any of them wanted to learn meditation from S.N. Goenka who was their Buddhist teacher, he used to say “of course, of course. Go to the course.” She further said that, he did not teach them Kirtan (chanting) as well. But, Maharajji would have kirtan done when he came in (to give Darshan) at different times. So, they kind of figured out that they could practice Kirtan as well.

neem karoli baba2
Neem Karoli Baba

She gave the example of Krishna Das, who was one among Maharajji’s western disciples who had a very good voice and whose Kirtans are now played in many of the Yoga studios in the US. She added that Krishna Das’s album was also nominated in 2013 for the Grammy Award.

Returning back to the topic, she said: “So mostly we just sat and we drank tea. When people came to him, occasionally he would give them some advice. He really did not talk about philosophy but only gave simple advices. He is most famous for telling three things: love everyone, Serve everyone, and remember God.

“One time, Maharajji said to me: ‘Never go where there is no love.’ So, when I came back to the United States, I thought that ‘never go where there is no love’ meant just staying with people who are loving. So, I did that at first. But when I started working with Seva Foundation I thought that the message must have been bigger than that. I felt that if I am loving, then I can go anywhere, because I will bring love with me. So I started trying to create loving situations like the work in Guatemala. Then, in the recent years, the message has changed for me. Now it means that I should just be there and be aware of or be able to discover love that is in everyone.

She said that in the last 20 years she has been working on The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and it aims to bring these contemplative practices into mainstream secular settings so that common people are benefited. She has been working with corporates, judges, lawyers, academic professors, ex-gang leaders, and with the army. She said: “I found that it’s always just us. If you can be present enough to be here and see the purity in any human being, then it is always there.” It may be people in the army or those who are in the corporates, but beneath all the outer stuff, there is always a heart. She described this ability to see the inner heart in others as the “greatest gift that Neem Karoli Baba gave to me.”

Mirabai Bush about her name

When asked about how she got the name “Mirabai”, Bush cheerfully stated that she got that name from Neem Karoli Baba. She continued: “It’s a tradition with a Guru, to be given a name, a name that acts as a practice for life. You reflect on ways in which you can embody what that name stands for. And Mirabai philosophically stands as an embodiment for loving God as a lover. I was young when I was given that name and I felt it was great. The day Maharajji gave me my name, he asked-‘Do you know who Mirabai was?’ But, I did not know.

“So, from another devotee who was present there, I got to know about the story of Mirabai, how she was a queen but gave up all worldly goods to sing for Krishna and love Krishna. I also came to know how her in-laws did not wanted her to worship Krishna and when they could not stop her, how they tried to get rid of her. I was also told about how a snake sent by her in-laws turned into rose petals when she opened the basket. I started admiring all these stories and I just felt that it was a very wonderful name.”

And she laughingly recounted how, after she got her name, her then husband John got up and ran out of the temple. She said: “Maharajji sent Ram Dass to bring him back and when they both returned, Maharajji asked John ‘What’s the matter?’ John replied that he did not wanted to be the husband who keeps his wife from God! To this, Maharajji replied: ‘No. You are Krishna. You are the one she loves!’ So, it’s been a great name for me and people love to say it.”

She mischievously added: “If you Google Mirabai Bush, then there is only one name and that’s mine!”

Mirabai Bush about her current project

At the end of the interview, when asked about the projects she is currently handling Mirabai Bush shared about her teaching programs and how she teaches various groups of people including students in the Amherst College. She said that she is also working with Ram Dass on a book titled “I am Dying” that attempts to give a contrast between the culture surrounding death in India and the West.

More in the Series:

Mirabai Bush speaks on Mindfulness and its application in Google (Part 1)

Mirabai Bush speaks on her stay in India and the Guatemala Project (Part 2)

Mirabai Bush speaks on Yoga and its uprooting (Part 3)

Mirabai Bush speaks on Right Livelihood & Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (Part 4)