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A Long History of Being with Gangaji

Happy Spring everyone. 


As I was contemplating the content for the blog this month, I wanted to write about someone who has had a long history of being with Gangaji.  There are so many beautiful stories of how people met Gangaji, and I’ve found a jewel of a story to share with you.

Suman (left) with Gangaji and Sally in 1993

I first met Suman at the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. She was a founding board member of the Gangaji Foundation in 1992, along with Maitri (Erin Robbins), Shivayama (Sally Ruane), and Gangaji. (Pictured right: Suman (left) with Gangaji and Sally in 1993). Over the years Suman filled other volunteer roles at the Foundation, but rejoined as a member of the Board of Directors again last year. When I asked if I could interview her about her relationship with Gangaji she was humbled and grateful to share her story.



The beginning……

Suzanne, as Suman was then known, first met Toni Varner in Bolinas in 1973, at a time when the local culture was radically shifting. At the time, Suzanne was a graduate student in psychology and exploring life as a single mother with a small child. Mutual friends connected her to the Varners, a couple living on the Coast in Bolinas who were separated, but committed to raising their daughter together. When Suzanne walked into the house to meet them for the first time she saw a beautiful white-haired woman sweeping the floor. Her name was Toni. She remembers being offered a warm welcome by Toni, and in that moment, fell instantly in love. It was the beginning of what would become a deep and abiding friendship between the two. Toni was a dedicated and passionate seeker, and Suzanne was magnetized towards her because of her profound courage and wisdom. They loved and supported each other through many adventures in their lives.



The search for awakening

In their mutual search for awakening Suzanne and Toni were each seeking out spiritual teachers, and in the late 80s came across a student of Papaji’s called Andrew Cohen. He was on fire and meeting with people in the Bay Area. Eli Jaxon-Bear, who was by then Toni’s husband and partner, immediately went to India to discover the source of this profound inspiration. He met Papaji in Lucknow, and Papaji asked that he bring Toni to meet him. She responded to the invitation and went to India. In the time she spent with Papaji she realized her true nature and accepted his invitation to teach. He said she was a Satguru and he called her Gangaji.



When Gangaji returned to the United States she began meeting with people in Satsang. “Eli called me and told me that Gangaji was teaching. I went to sit with her in a very small meeting. There was maybe one other person.  I didn’t know what to expect or what to think, and I have no memory of anything that occurred in that meeting. However, immediately after, I was laughing with joy and crying with gratitude all at the same time.  Beyond thought, I was thrilled and compelled.  When we spent time together in those days as friends, I often had the thought, ‘This is how a Satguru does laundry,’ or ‘This is how a Satguru makes tea.’ I felt that Gangaji’s awakening was my awakening, the same awakening.  There was no separation between her and me.”



In February of 1991, Suzanne decided to go to India to be with Papaji. She was to return again many times after that first meeting. Papaji called her Suman, and he positively acknowledged the support she and others had realized for Gangaji. 


Gangaji was teaching in her own brilliant way with her particular knowledge and experience. She was saying what Papaji had been teaching and in a way that many could hear.



True Love

Suman lovingly shares that Gangaji has played a number of roles in her life. That of a friend, a big sister, a guru, a teacher, a guide and an endless inspiration.


Reflecting over the years she adds, “Gangaji has always been wiser and in some ways, has always been my teacher. I don’t think there is anyone who is offering satsang with more clarity, brilliance and grace than Gangaji. Her integrity and commitment to this Truth is an eternal call to freedom. I tell Gangaji I am so proud of myself for hanging onto her all these years. I’ve held on so tight that she couldn’t let go!!!.”


Thank you, Suman for sharing your beautiful, heartfelt story with us. As always, I’m so blessed to bring these stories to you each month. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I love sharing them with you.


Endless love,