H.W.L. Poonja/ Papaji
H.W.L. Poonja’s First Experience with Enlightenment
H.W.L Poonja (aka Papaji), a native of Pakistan (formerly British India), H.W.L Poonja had a spiritual experience when he was 8 or 9 years old which he later described as “a direct experience of the Self”. He had fallen into a coma-like state of paralysis which he described as, “a peaceful, blissful, happy state”. He recalled being in the midst of pure beauty and happiness, and although he could not respond to his family or the mulla (a Muslim spiritual leader or theologian) to whom Poonja had been brought for treatment as they thought he may have been possessed by an evil spirit and required an exorcism, he was still able to hear and comprehend everything they were saying to him. He was unable to respond to their questions or touches, even when being lightly pinched and slapped in an effort to awaken him. The mulla sent him home, advising that with rest, he would recover fully. He was right, and after two days spent at home in his bed, still in his paralyzed state, H.W.L. Poonja woke up. It would be his first experience with enlightenment.
H.W.L. Poonja’s First Encounter with Krishna
When Poonja awoke, his mother, who was a Krishna devotee, asked him if he had seen Krishna and he told her about the blissful state and that it had not included an encounter with Krishna. She felt that he had and just didn’t know or understand it yet, and continued to ask Poonja about the experience, suggesting that he had indeed seen Krishna. She showed him pictures of the popular Hindu deity and proposed that if he were to acknowledge his meeting of Krishna, he would likely have a chance to revisit the rapturous state he had experienced. Soon afterward, the child Krishna began to visit Poonja regularly, and he could see him even when his eyes were closed. His frequent presence soon became a major distraction to Poonja, causing him to have trouble at school because his mind was focused on the blissful state that would overtake him during Krishna’s visits.
Papaji’s Pursuit of God
A few years later, Papaji saw a group of sadhus (Hindu monks or ascetics) passing by his house. Intensely curious and longing to find God, he asked if he could join them, lying that he was an orphan. He was gone for a few days before his father finally found him among the sadhus. His father, furious, began to scold him for getting lost, but rather than being repentant, Poonja inquired why his father would want to take him away from God. At around the age of thirteen, Poonja came across a picture of The Buddha meditating under a tree in one of his school books. He made a decision that day to emulate him and began fasting, wearing orange robes, and sitting cross-legged under a tree (although it would be years before he learned the practice of meditation). His simulation of monkhood grew more and more intense, and he soon began begging door-to-door for alms as he had seen other monks do. He further embarked upon his quest to become Buddha-like when he learned that The Buddha had given public sermons. Poonja’s utter lack of knowledge of Buddhism did not dissuade him from public oration in the town square, drawing the attention of many in the village, including his neighbors, who promptly informed his mother of his new hobby. She soon put a stop to his Buddha impersonations, although she expressed no anger toward her son, understanding that H.W.L. Poonja was still on his search for God.
Additional Spiritual Encounters for Papaji
After eating pakoras (fried vegetable snacks) infused with cannabis leaves, Papaji awoke in the middle of the night and entered into a deep meditation from which he could not be awoken. His parents, worried, fetched a doctor to come to the house and treat him. When the doctor arrived and examined Poonja, he assured his parents that he was just under a deep meditation and in perfect health. Remaining in the meditative state throughout the night and well into the next day, Papaji began chanting. His parents did not know what he was saying until a passerby informed them that he was chanting the Yajur Veda in Sanskrit, which is an ancient Hindu scripture that is focused on the gods. Poonja had never learned this—at home, school, or from the monks he had left home to travel with for a few days as a young boy.
Another incident occurred when Poonja was 16 years old and a student at a boarding school. After chanting the required “Om, Shanti, Shanti” (“Peace to the whole universe”) after the flag-raising ceremony, Poonja again fell into the blissful coma-like state of his youth, and was accused of insubordination by his teachers. As his classmates ridiculed him and feigned funeral rites, he remained in his trance-like state, unable to respond or object to his teachers’ and fellow students’ behavior. After awakening the next morning, he was sent to be disciplined by the headmaster, who was kind-hearted and listened to Poonja’s objections. He let Poonja go without imposing the expected punishment of caning on the boy once he heard that he had been so affected by chanting the Hindi phrase “Om Shanti”.
Papaji, Military Man?
H.W.L. Poonja’s focus on finding God distracted him from his schooling to the point that his grades suffered, and continuing on to university was not an option. Instead, at his father’s insistence, he settled down, taking a wife (arranged by his father) and having two children. He took a job as a salesman, traveling throughout India selling sporting goods. After the British invasion, he said he summoned spirits from a ceremony and directed them to fight the British when they attempted to colonize India as well as joined a guerrilla group to try to sabotage the British military. Feeling unfulfilled and determined in his search to reunite with Krishna, he began a journey throughout India, both spiritually and physically. After meeting with many spiritual leaders, swamis, and Shankaracharyas, and asking each one, “I want to see God now. If you can’t show Him to me right now, I will look for someone else who can.”, he returned home, receiving not one satisfactory response from the spiritual teachers.
He returned home and would soon meet a man who could answer his question with a “yes”: Ramana Maharshi. After encountering a sadhu asking for alms, he asked the monk if he could show him God. The sadhu told Papaji of Ramana Maharshi and directed him to his ashram which was quite far from his home. After traveling there, he found that the sadhu who had directed him and the Ramana Maharshi were one and the same. He was angry and thought he was being tricked but was told that Ramana Maharshi had not left his ashram for 48 years. He was not convinced, however, and confronted Ramana Maharshi, demanding to be shown God. Ramana Maharshi explained to Papaji that showing him God was impossible, for God was within him and everywhere, and not a separate entity. Papaji felt his “spiritual heart” opening up as a rosebud opens and he began to tremble. He describes the encounter in this video: https://youtu.be/n8CuG1osxXU. In spite of the spiritual experience he had with Ramana Maharshi, having been raised as a worshipper of Krishna, and seeking to revisit the blissful experience he had with Krishna as a child, he left the ashram, telling Ramana Maharshi he already had a relationship with Krishna and no longer required his help.
An Encounter with the Gods
After Poonja left the ashram, he decided to immerse himself in his spiritual pursuits during any hours he was not working. He began chanting a mantra (received in a dream from Raman Maharshi) for seven hours each day. One morning at 2:00, he was astonished to find the gods Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman at his door. The ghost-like, glowing figures stayed through the night. Afterwards, Poonja found himself unable to continue reciting his mantras, meditate, or even read spiritual literature. Remembering that Ramana Maharshi had taken the trouble to transcendentally visit him (disguised as a sadhu) to guide him to his ashram and provide him with his mantra in a dream, he returned to the Maharshi’s ashram. He explained his sudden difficulty with his spirituality and his visit from the gods. Ramana Maharshi explained that his recitation of mantras, spiritual readings, and meditation were the ways by which Poonja had pursued God and that they abandoned him because he no longer needed them. He had found the Self or God which he had been pursuing throughout his life. He gazed into Papaji’s eyes and Papaji realized he was one with God; with himself. Papaji said of the encounter, “Under that spellbinding gaze I felt every atom of my body being purified.”
After he experienced his own enlightenment, Poonja became a disciple of Maharshi, spreading his spiritual teachings and meeting like-minded individuals. He was soon christened “Papaji” as a term of endearment as he was beloved throughout the world, as much for his kind-hearted character and calm demeanor as his spiritual teachings. Papaji taught that to reach spiritual enlightenment, a few things would be required. One was a desire or “fire” for God which is constantly kindled and stoked and a dismissal of all other desires. The other is the presence of a master. Papaji said that it was only when “the Maharshi’s gaze met my vasana (desire)-free mind” that the Self could be realized. And the realization of the Self was the objective.
Papaji remained in India throughout his life, receiving visitors and sharing his teachings of realization of the Self with all who search for God. Although his physical body died in 1997, his teachings remain with us today in the many books, videos, and websites devoted to spreading Papaji’s word. This video shows Papaji answering the question, “Can you show me God?”: https://youtu.be/iqOwPteS_Xg.
© 2017 5th Dimensional Quantum Healing & Awareness by Author: Roisin Herrera