I first knocked on Papaji’s door in Hardiwar, India, in April 1990. Opening the door himself, he greeted us with a huge smile and flashing eyes. He opened his arms uninhibitedly and, nearly shouting, he cried out, “Welcome!” Over the days and weeks to come, I watched him offer this same welcome to whoever appeared at his door for satsang.
Typically, we would spend the days sitting quietly with him in his room on the banks of the Ganga. Sometimes a visitor would ask a question regarding the search for truth. Always, Papaji would cut to the heart of the question, and always in a way the questioner could most likely understand. With Buddhists, he would use the life or teachings of the Buddha to direct the questioner into a fresh, unique way of self-discovery. With Sufis, he might quote Kabir. With those of no religion or spiritual practice, he would speak unencumbered by religion or practice. No particular formula was needed to receive the direct transmission of truth that his presence freely offered to all. This, for me, created an atmosphere of relaxation, a letting go in my mind of any concepts of what I should be learning, how I should be acting, or what my experience should be.
Occasionally, he would go around the room asking for reports of what had been realized. It was often at this point, through Papaji’s confirmation and confidence in the questioner’s realization, that one or more people in the room would internally catch fire with the all-inclusive expansiveness of consciousness consciously aware of itself. What tears and laughter of pure joy! How contagious it was! One person’s awakening was everyone’s awakening. Whether that awakening lasted a minute or a lifetime, what was directly experienced was one Self.
Sometimes after being in this precious room together, we would have tea, or go for a walk, or visit the local market for vegetables and trinkets. On one such outing, I began to long for the atmosphere of his room, where grace and love were so obvious. Just as I began to follow my thoughts into sentimentality, he caught my eye, and his glance stopped me. What I received from that glance was the certain understanding that here, wherever one might be, is the same grace and love as in any holy meeting, on any mountaintop, or in any cave. Nothing can take it away, as everything, everything, exists only by that grace. The core of Papaji’s teaching revolved around direct self-inquiry and questions such as, Who am I? Where am I? Where is peace, God, Truth to be found? Finally, where is life itself?
Where do we look for truth, for God, for ourselves, for life? To receive the answer to these questions, we must first ruthlessly tell the truth about what has been found in those places where we have continued to look. Only then can we inquire of ourselves deeply, honestly, and ruthlessly: Who am I? Where am I to be found?
Papaji died on September 6, 1997. Those closest to him reported that to be in his presence those last days was to be in the presence of pure peace and bliss. There was absolutely no suffering.
I was profoundly sad at the loss of Papaji’s form, yet I remain exquisitely joyful in the realization that what Papaji is can never be lost. It cannot shift with the dissolution of form. How is it possible that both are included? Because Papaji is life, and everything is included in life. What Papaji’s form always relentlessly pointed to was that which was here before he was born, that which remains after he is gone, and that who he is, unborn and not subject to death, never separate from who you are or from anything at all.
The ruthless message of Papaji’s life and Papaji’s death is to face the inevitable ending of all form, including one’s own. It is the invitation to discover for oneself, without a doubt, that the truth of who one is, is formless presence of being. Not the body or the personality, not the thoughts or the emotions, not the personal history, but the discovery of oneself as the living truth of consciousness itself.
Someone once asked me what my life was like before I met Papaji, and I said, “Before Papaji, I didn’t have a life; I had a story of suffering. But in the meeting of Papaji, I have only life; I am only life.”
In meeting this huge force that has the potential to stop the suffering of one’s life, there is a recognition of what is alive, the living truth. Not abstractly, not theoretically, not in some hypothetical past or future, but the living truth, as it always exists, alive and present in the core of all being. Living truth was the strength of Papaji’s being and his living example.
Papaji’s direct teaching was always to “see the seer.” When this is seen, then wherever you are you will continue the gift that is Papaji.
If you feel a connection to Papaji, from having either met him, or heard about him, or read about him, or even from seeing a picture of him, I encourage you to open your mind so that you can recognize what is already alive and present in the core of your own being.
This profound message, from this profound master, is yours already if you will have it. Papaji’s body is gone, but his teaching is alive within each of us. If his teaching pierces your heart open, it will relentlessly reveal your true identity to be life itself.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.