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Lions Roar : November 2018
habad because Daniel Goleman wanted to show everyone the site of an important religious festival. Suddenly, as they were pulling in, someone on the bus shouted, “Maharaj-ji!” Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba, known to his followers as Ma- haraj-ji, was standing in front of Hanuman Temple. “I wasn’t looking for a guru,” says Bush. “Goenka said you didn’t need a guru—you just needed someone to guide you in the practice. I totally believed that, but when I saw Neem Kar- oli Baba, he seemed like the embodiment of everything I had glimpsed and come to value through meditation practice. I was stunned. I didn’t know humans could be like that.” For a year and a half, Bush, her husband John, Ram Dass, and others spent time with Neem Karoli Baba at various tem- ples. Sometimes he’d send them away, and during those gaps Bush took more courses with Goenka and studied yoga at Swa- mi Sivanada’s ashram in Rishikesh. “Maharaj-ji was Hindu and gave us Hindu names—he gave me the name Mirabai—but he never encouraged us to be Hin- du or do Hindu practices,” Bush says. “He talked mostly about basic ways of living your life: love everyone, serve everyone, and remember what’s important to you. He didn’t talk much. He would say, ‘Always tell the truth and you’ll never be afraid.’” When Bush got pregnant, she and Jon returned to the U.S. Shortly after, Neem Karoli Baba passed away. But Bush still remembers the simple things he used to say. “They’ve been enough all these years,” she says. “Just working on loving every- one can take several lifetimes.” WHEN MIRABAI BUSH got back from India, spiritual merch wasn’t yet a thing. All these decades later, she still feels a little guilty that she was instrumental in making it one. In 1975, Mirabai and Jon Bush borrowed a hundred dollars to start a business called Illuminations. They silk-screened spir- itual symbols on clear plastic with a sticky back so people could put them on the windows of their house or car. They traded them in health food stores for peanut butter and rice. Then they did a rainbow, and it sold millions. “We designed the whole business in terms of right liveli- hood,” says Bush. “We had meditation and yoga classes and we looked at principles like ‘Always tell the truth.’” Employers and employees were, as she puts it, “full human beings together.” It was a company culture ahead of its time. By 1983, Bush was ready to move and turned her attention to the Seva Foundation, a nonprofit health organization that com- (Above left) Traveling overland to India had a profound impact on Bush. “People took us into their homes and mosques and temples,” she remembers. “We met people all the way across and loved it.” (Above right) S. N. Goenka’s first Vipassana retreat for Westerners, where Bush was introduced to Buddhism. Goenka believed the Buddhist path was non-sectarian, universal, and scientific. (Lower right) Mirabai and her then husband John Bush with their guru, Neem Karoli Baba. He taught that seva—service to others—was the highest form of devotion to God. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 61