Anthony Paul Moo-Young (“Tony” or “Mooji”) was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, on January 29, 1954. While he was still an infant, his mother emigrated to England without him. After his father died, his mother invited him to come and live with her in Brixton. This he did when he was sixteen. His mother’s church, which was just behind where they lived, helped him to settle into his new community.
After attending school and college, Mooji became an artist, working as a painter, street artist, and stained glass maker. He was forced to grow up suddenly in 1985 when the police accidentally shot and paralyzed his sister, triggering race riots in Brixton. Under the pressure that followed, Mooji had to quit working for a while.
One day in 1987, a passer-by noticed some of Mooji’s stained glass in his front door. The stranger, who also worked in stained glass, called to inquire who had made it. Thus Mooji met Michael.
Mooji and Michael immediately became firm friends. Michael was a devout Christian, who organized a house church. Mooji and Michael met often, and when they did, they had long conversations on spiritual topics. Mooji loved these meetings with Michael.
One Sunday, Mooji asked him: “Michael, when you pray again, will you pray for me?” Michael offered to pray for him on the spot. They prayed together, with Michael laying his hands on Mooji’s head. After Michael had left, Mooji noticed that he felt incredibly happy.
The next morning, Mooji’s entire sense perceptions had been clarified and intensified. His consciousness had a light, tingly, happy quality to it. He was full of energy. Within a few days, he noticed an abiding sense of peace and joy. This he attributed to the presence of God within him. Sometimes he felt as though his inner world was being cleaned out, and he began to notice connections between his inner life and outer events.
Mooji continued teaching at Brixton College for a while, though he would eventually quit when they asked him to take some courses some distance away. Somehow, he knew he had made the right decision. He felt complete with his career.
The next six years were spent in a state of contemplation, living in a spare room in his sister’s home. It was a time of increasing surrender and openness. He felt he had walked out on his old life, and he had the urge to throw everything that was old within him into this fire of surrender.
In the beginning, he read very little, being satisfied to trust his own experience. Then he got the urge to read about other people’s understanding. He first tried a Christian bookstore in Streatham, but he found the energy of the store too full of words. A year later, he stumbled across Watkins Books off Charing Cross Road. Downstairs, he discovered a small book of Ramana Maharshi’s sayings. Mooji liked the peaceful look on Ramana’s face on the cover, but found the contents inside very intellectual. He though the printer had accidentally put the wrong cover on the wrong insides! Instead, he bought the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
In 1993, Mooji visited India, intending to make a sort of pilgrimage to Dakshineswar. However, while in Rishikesh, he was invited by some people he met to come to Lucknow to see H.W.L. Poonja, known to his followers as “Papaji.”
Mooji travelled to Lucknow. As was the custom, he wrote a letter for Papaji. In his letter he wrote:
“My spiritual awakening began six years ago. After a prayer, my whole life and nature underwent a great change, inwardly and outwardly. There wasn’t any real effort for me, except my consistent trusting in that thing within, which was making me feel safe. It was then that my real faith in God began. I found that I could talk with God freely, intimately, that I was being loved and guided from within and without. And a great love and peace, trust, arose in my heart.
“Since then, I have continued over the years, and through much trials and tests, to try and give over my will and way entirely to the Divine. I saw there was one universal spirit, which was called by different names and worshiped in different ways. I prayed I might reach a place of complete surrender and march in the divine will as Self. In spite of the grace, many powerful experiences, and deepening relationship with God, the vain and proud ego was not to be destroyed and continued to trouble.
“While in Rishikesh I met three of your devotees, who told me about their wonderful master, Papaji. And now, by the grace of God, I am here at your feet. I know I was led here. I feel the presence quite strongly here, flowing out from you, and love of satsang family, and the flame of inner peace, joy, silence, which I felt so strongly before, is ablaze again, though it had never really gone out.
“I had heard of Sri Ramana Maharshi and noticed books about him, but felt no real attraction at all towards him until I met you three weeks ago. The path of self-inquiry was new to me, as my usual way of worship was self-surrender, and that felt natural to me. Still, it is the same, one reality which leads me here to you.
“Now I feel coming before you represents my death, dying to all the false ideas I have of myself, and I feel a little afraid. Also, I experience some doubts toward you, but I am fully ready to die in my yearning to fully live. I have had enough identifying with ego, its pride, vanity. Being here has enabled me to identify the culprit more clearly. I see how it has robbed me of the true light of the Self. Also, I see that somehow, all along, I have cooperated to some extent in the whole scheme. At the same time, I am always aware that the Self is there in the background — still, unshakable, silent, reassuring — and I hold on to it.
“Now I want you to chop off my head and put it fully into my heart, where it belongs. I don’t know how. Pure my motive is for seeking realization. I know that I want, with all my heart, to realize, live, abide in the true Self. I have benefited from sitting here silently in your presence. I feel things shifting, though this knot within is still clearly felt.
Papaji called Mooji to the front of satsang, read out his letter, then said in reply:
“As long as one has ego in him, I don’t think he can succeed in any way. Even God cannot help if you have arrogance in your mind — ego. So surrender, you see, surrender to God is not surrender. You have to surrender your ego. Then this is called surrender. Then God within you is your friend. It will reveal itself to you at once. But if you go with the ego, two things cannot meet. God you have to merge as the river merges into the ocean, you see. Like that, you merge your ego into the divinity and become one with it. That is called surrender, you see.
“Maintaining yourself — even this ‘I,’ ‘I pray, I go to God, I go to church’ — all these things will not help you. And when you go to God, surrender. Remove this ‘I’ from you. And then you will see how close you have been. So when praying, when sitting, when meditating, don’t say, ‘I am meditating,’ ‘I am praying.’ So this ‘I,’ you have to remove. This is cutting off the head.
“That story — remove the ‘I’ out of the satsang hall. Enter without ‘I.’ ‘I’ means body. ‘I’ means body. Otherwise, ‘I’ cannot be identified with anything else, you see. So body. How this body can see the divine light? Going with the body and asking for divine prayer, happiness, grace, is not possible. So when praying, don’t accompany the ‘I’ with you. Going to satsang, don’t take ‘I’ with you. So if you understand what I am speaking, instantly, when you remove the ‘I,’ first of all, you tell me, who is praying whom?
“It is the ’I’ that has trouble. It is the ‘I’ that causes suffering, you see. ‘I suffer,’ you see. ‘I am dying.’ Only ‘I’ is troublesome. So you have to get rid of this ‘I.’ Instead of searching for God — God you cannot search anywhere else, he is everywhere — only “you” disappear now. Then you will see God is everywhere. ‘You’ have to disappear. So you want God to appear, and also ‘you’ want to appear — this is not possible.”
As Papaji said these words, Mooji felt so insulted that, for part of the time, he literally could not hear Papaji. Mooji left the satsang in a rage, intending to pack his bags and leave for home. While out for a walk, though, all his anger and shame suddenly dissipated. His personality-self had disappeared!
Mooji visited Ramana’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai then returned to Lucknow, where he got the news that his son had died of pneumonia. Mooji went back to London as quickly as he could.
His life in England continued to be characterized by a natural state of surrender to what is. He sold imported incense on Electric Avenue in Brixton.
In 1997 Mooji went back to Lucknow and visited Papaji briefly for the last time.
Back in London once again, a friendly shopkeeper allowed Mooji to set up a table to sell his incense and other imported goods. Mooji began to write down spiritual sayings and offer them to people he met, asking them if they wanted a “Thought for the Day.” These thoughts for the day led to conversations, the conversations led to cups of tea, and the cups of tea led to Mooji holding his own satsangs.