The Heart of the Matter
July 08, 2008
Looking for the Real


See that guy to your left?

Looks a little intense, eh? Must be on some kind of spiritual trip. Or maybe he's just protein deficient. I'm guessing he's into Eastern things. Probably reads the Bhagavad-Gita and doesn't make enough to pay taxes. Maybe he lives in a tent. Fruitarian? Macrobiotic? I really don't know for sure.

Wait a minute! That's me! 36 years ago. (Now you know why my parents were so freaked out when I was in my 20's.)

After all, I was their golden boy, the carrier of the family name, the hope for the future. According to everyone, I was supposed to be a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist. Maybe even a rabbi.

I coulda been a contender.

What happened? Why the long hair, the sallow cheeks, the penetrating I-can-outstare-anyone look?

Growing up in the suburbs of New York, you'd never think I would have gone off what some people referred to as the "deep end."

After all, I had it good. I had my own room, my own TV, a good looking girlfriend, a dog, excellent grades, played varsity basketball, and went to summer camp. And though my father, unlike Buddha's, was not the King, he had enough money to send me to a fine college -- where I majored in English and existential despair.

No matter. Still, I graduated with honors and went on to graduate school. Not in medicine, law, teeth, or the Talmud -- but poetry.

So there I was, in some fancy-schmancy Ivy League grad school -- hair and shadow growing longer by the day, when I get this invitation to an ultra hip, faculty-student party -- the kind where everyone is either drunk or stoned. Or both.


Feeling especially bold that night, I approached each of my professors and asked a simple question: "If you could be anywhere on Earth, at this precise moment, where would it be?"

Each of them, glad for the audience, began waxing poetic on their favorite place -- the nearest of which was 2,000 miles away.

Doh! No one wanted to be where they were! Everyone wanted to be somewhere else!

And me, the wise-ass, longhair, full of poetic-potential, Vietnam-phobic, draft-deferred 22-year old enduring Beowulf, Wallace Stevens, and iambic pentameter homework assignments was aspiring to be one of them?

I saw the future and it wasn't pretty.

I'd be 45, bearded, smoking a pipe, sitting in this same room being asked by my much younger alter ego where I wanted to be at that moment in time and it was going to be some place very far away.


Enough said. I decided to quit.

Thus began a series of adventures and accompanying odd jobs "beneath my station" that left my mother somewhat speechless around the canasta table -- dish washer, waiter, cook, hotel desk clerk, house painter, day care teacher, and food stamp collector.


Thirsty for less, I moved to an island in the ocean -- a pristine place where I could really get away from it all.

And so I did.

I grew vegetables. I grew a beard. I grew further disillusioned with "the world." I fasted. I chanted. I prayed. I read the Gita, the Tao Te Ching, the Upanishads, the Dhammapada, the Aquarian Gospel, the Zen Teachings of Huang Po, the Old Testament, the collected writings of Chuang Tzu, Meher Baba's discourses, the Life of Milarepa, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and anything else that addressed what life was all about.

I was living in paradise, but I wasn't happy. Not even close. To the casual observer, I had it all -- the house in the country, the girlfriend, the dog, the friends, the fresh baked bread, the mellow job on a 200 acre farm, but it wasn't enough.

I plastered my house with pictures of all the enlightened beings I could find -- Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Shiva, and Meher Baba. I prayed to them all.


And then I got the letter -- the letter from my best friend, Ed.

Ed was the real deal -- a practicing Zen Buddhist, a calligrapher -- a kind of spiritual big brother to me. Five years older (and maybe several lifetimes, too), Ed was deep, soulful, authentic, and cool.

He was also a minimalist. Preferred one flower in a vase, to many. Was a man of few words. Had a huge BS detector and always had a twinkle in his eye. A full tilt individual, he was not the easily influenced kind. Nor was he a joiner of anything that smacked of group think.

I trusted him.

Which is why I was so intrigued to get a letter from him one fine Summer day. Ed, the man of few words, had a lot to say in this missive. Apparently, since the last time I'd seen him, he'd "received Knowledge" from a 13 year old "boy Guru" from India -- someone named Maharaji.


The first thing I did, after reading the letter, was stuff it in a drawer. Something in me knew the jig was up -- that all my seeking was about to come to an end. But I didn't want to give it up. I liked seeking. Seeking was cool. Seeking was exciting. Seeking was spiritual... familiar.. and a proven way to pick up chicks. Seeking gave me an identity -- the seeker.

Finding, on the other hand, was... well... confronting.

Flash back to high school: Seeking is to dating as finding is to... um... er... uh... marriage!

MARRIAGE! Help! Who, in their right mind, wanted to get married? Certainly, not me. Marriage was so... so... final... so entrapping... so end of the line.

And so I procrastinated as best I could.

I knew, in my gut, that Ed's letter was a direct response to a deep prayer within me, but the immediacy of it all made me anxious -- like when a really good teacher called me to the front of the room and asked questions I didn't know the answers to.

But Ed was relentless. He was not about to concede to my procrastination. Two weeks later he called me, inviting me to visit for the weekend.

I went.

The first thing I noticed in Ed's apartment was a framed picture of Maharaji. I found it odd -- especially since my image of "The Guru" was very different than the one in Ed's frame. Where were the sallow cheeks? Where was the long white hair? The robes? The ancient look in the deep-set eyes as if to say: "Come my son, I know you have waited lifetimes for me to incarnate, and here I am -- crossing the universe to come for one of my favorite (and most humble) disciples of all time."


In reality, the picture of Maharaji in Ed's apartment looked more like a second string fullback for a little known high school in New Jersey. "That's the Guru?" I thought to myself. "That's the guy who's created such a stir?"

It made no sense.

Ed, God bless him, didn't care in the least. He just kept on talking and laughing and smiling. When we went for a walk, I couldn't keep up with him. He was a ball of fire -- radiant, glowing, buoyant, alive. Gone was the Zen minimalist shtick. Gone was the dude who mindfully chewed his rice 100 times before swallowing. In its place? Radiant, child-like wonder. Fun. Mojo. Elan. And something neither of us had talked about in any of our esoteric conversations -- happiness.

When I returned to my home on the island, I had a lot to think about.

Could it be? Could this young boy from India be the ONE (at least for me, that is)? Could all of my chanting and praying and fasting and yoga and reading and attempts to meditate have invoked this moment in time? Was Maharaji's appearance on the scene in direct response to my inner calling?

I didn't have to wait long for the answer.

Two weeks later Ed called to tell me that one of Maharaji's emissaries was going to be in Boston and that, if I wanted to receive Knowledge, I should come. The cost? Nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Ed explained there was no charge because what I was about to receive I already had.

Sounded good to me.

I went. I asked. I received.

It was, looking back, the most extraordinary experience of my life. Like coming home. Like waking up. Like discovering I was made of pure love. Everything became so simple, so perfect, so full of essence, energy, and peace.

I could have pulled Redwood trees from the ground.

These, of course, are only words. If you ask a hundred different people who have received Knowledge (and practiced it), you'll probably hear a hundred different descriptions. But all of them will be spoken with the kind of feeling that will catch your attention.

What I'm trying to stay is this:

What you are looking for is within you.

Your thirst to experience this will guide you on your way.

What you will get guided to will be a direct response to your thirst.

You will need to trust your thirst and that which it guides you to (even if I'm not supposed to end this sentence with a preposition.)


For me, this thirst led me to Maharaji and his gift of Knowledge. His invitation is the same now as it was 37 years ago. He's still here. And so are you.

Now that you know, what do you want to do?
It's your move.


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 8, 2008 01:01 AM


Lovely, Mitch. Just a reminder (and I am sure that you don't need it) that there are as many paths as there are people. And there are many masters. I needed to find one that was a total iconoclast. Not for everybody.

Posted by: Sarvananda [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 6, 2008 12:47 PM

Sarv: I completely agree.. and just made a slight edit to the piece to acknowledge your astute point. Maharaji, by the way, never says he is the ONLY way. Yes, there are as many paths as their are people. All I'm saying, in this posting, is that I found a path (and a teacher) that really delivers. (At least for me.)

Stay in touch!

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 6, 2008 01:38 PM

Hi Mitch,

Just came across this in my email and it was fun reading! I would never have recognized you in this picture in your younger days! I doubt if anyone would recognize a photo of me 36 years ago! What amazing, incredible changes and Knowledge is still getting better and finer and sweeter! And I'm so glad and grateful the Teacher is still teaching us! What magic!

Posted by: j bhutu-ji [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2008 04:20 AM

We all have a different story to tell but in the end the heart comes alive and the tears of love flow. How fortunate we are to have been found and to live in company like yours Mitch. I really look forward to your blog. Thanks again Mitch. In the following video I am the one whose head is tossed back with a smile of utter joy.

Posted by: Chris [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 8, 2008 11:11 PM

"I could have pulled Redwood trees from the ground" What a gorgeous line! And your picture is to die for. Also loved blog entitled "Selma Speaks" It's still reverberating. Your canasta playing mom is a loveable character. Aside from a blog, this is the material for a novella or some such extended work.

Many thanks, Mitch, for your continuiing inspiration - It's only been a month and already I look forward to "The Heart of the Matter" as I once looked forward to my Archie and Veronica comics many moons ago - with the same immediate pleasure and anticipation.

Posted by: Jiya [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 9, 2008 03:59 PM

It's 30 years this week since I received the techniques of Knowledge. Really, for me, it's the only thing that makes sense, and continues to bring joy and understanding. Thanks for sharing your stories Mitch. Peace and love, Chris

Posted by: Chris Cantrell [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2009 01:12 AM

Aaah.. Mitch.. As usual a Masterpiece..
I have read so many blog entries of yours where you have focussed on the Knowledge.
This blog dose is really a part of my routine reading now.
Keep Writing.

P.S. : The old photo - Still same Eyes Mitch!!

Posted by: Karmayogee [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2009 10:48 PM

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Welcome to Mitch Ditkoff's blog about what's really important in this life: Peace, gratitude, love, joy, clarity, and the effort required to wake up and smell the roses. Enjoy!

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