HWL Poonja

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HWL Poonja ( Harivansh Lal Poonja * 13. October 1910 in Gujranwala , † 6. September 1997 in Lucknow , India ; also "Papaji" called) was an Indian representative of Advaita .

HWL Poonja


Poonja sparked a wave of interest in eastern " Advaita " in the west by declaring that enlightenment is possible for everyone through sudden realization and without any effort. He sent a large number of his students to the West as teachers.


HWL Poonja was born in Gujranwala in western Punjab (today Pakistan). He grew up in nearby Lyallpur (today's Faisalabad). His mother was the sister of Swami Rama Tirtha, who was venerated as a saint by Hindus. As a child, Poonja had a strong affinity for Buddha and Krishna . An ascetic representation of the Buddha inspired him to fast. As an eight-year-old he experienced a samadhi , the effects of which lasted for several days. In order to repeat this divine experience, on the advice of his mother, he repeated Krishna mantras and thus became Krishna- Bhakta .

At the age of twenty he was married to a Brahman in accordance with the traditional custom and entered the Indian army as an officer . The couple had two children. Poonja's spiritual experiences continued in the army; Nocturnal Krishna visions, he reported, had intensified his longing for God. Soon he left the army, and then his young family, which he placed in the care of his father in search of a guru. After interviewing many sadhus and swamis , according to Poonja, a mysterious sadhu showed him the way to his future guru Ramana Maharshi , whom he visited in Tiruvannamalai , in the extreme south of India. On Mount Arunachala he initially withdrew for his exercises - Krishna Japa - had many visions and had a rather loose connection to Ramana. One day in 1944, when he was unable to continue Japa, he turned to Ramana, who indicated that further practice would be fruitless since he had already reached his goal. That which is beyond visions, so Ramana, immutable and beyond the gods, is the self. At that moment he realized the truth of Ramana's statement and suddenly came to enlightenment, reported Poonja. This personally experienced statement by Ramana later became the core of his own teaching.

Until Ramana's death, Poonja worked in Madras to support his family. After his death in 1950 he earned his living with a mining company in South India. After retiring in 1965, Poonja returned to Lucknow to live with his family. In 1966 he toured India, Europe and North America. From the 1980s he received people for Satsang in Lucknow . Many followers of Osho came to him in 1990 after his death. In 1997 HWL Poonja died.


In his satsangs, HWL Poonja referred the seekers to the “highest truth”, which is undivided. He is an advocate of a particularly radical form of Advaita- Vedanta , the doctrine of non-duality . His basic statement was that man is already enlightened and that therefore no exercises are required, with the exception of the self-inquiry recommended by his guru (“Who am I?”). He thus taught a way of "sudden" enlightenment, based on his own experience of enlightenment. In contradiction to his decades of practice in Japa- Yoga and Bhakti , he taught that preparation was superfluous. Many of his students report that he was an uncompromising, but lively and humorous teacher. Words could point to the “highest truth”, according to Poonja, but it can never be itself.

It was typical of his Satsang that he threw the questioner back on himself in the dialogue and thereby tried to stop the discursive mind. Many stated that they had a sudden insight into the process. He emphasized the untouchedness and immutability of the self with regard to the relative personality and urged his visitors to exchange the standpoint of their relative ego for that of the universal self. This requires the task of the external mind. Poonja criticized that the search for enlightenment was at the same time its greatest obstacle, since it was carried by the ego, and that every effort to reach fulfillment in this search would strengthen the ego. The title of a documentary about him, Call off the Search (German "Gib die Suche auf"), can be seen as the motto of his teaching. His strong affirmation of enlightenment experiences convinced many that they had made the breakthrough. However, some quickly fell out of this state again. Poonja testified that he was not a guru, although for most he was one. He was against the establishment of ashrams and spiritual dogma.

Several of his disciples are holding satsang events in the west today. Some of them popularize a form of advaita - also called neo-advaita by critics - which mixes traditional elements with Western psychology . The best known of his students are Gangaji , Isaac Shapiro, Eli Jaxon-Bear, Samarpan , Madhukar , Mooji , Ganga Mira and OM C. Parkin . The latter, according to the Swiss information center Relinfo the “Leader in Germany”, got his spiritual name OM from HWL Poonja after Gangaji had sent him to Poonja in India.


Although many of his students state that they were enlightened in the presence of Poonja, his autobiography casts doubt on the accuracy of such statements, since he says that he has met only three people in his life who were fully enlightened. He writes about Andrew Cohen, for example, that he was only supposed to be an ambassador for his teaching. Cohen, in turn, writes in his own biography that Poonja, like many others, confirmed his enlightenment.

Cohen's mother Luna Tarlo writes in her book that both Cohen and Poonja declared her enlightened - against their own beliefs. Also, when they first met, Poonja called Cohen - literally - his son. Later, when Poonja turned away from Cohen for unexplained reasons, he did not tell him himself, but behind his back to others. With such personal statements, however, it should always be noted that personal interests may be behind them.


Individual evidence

  1. Luna Tarlo: The Mother of God , 1997, Plover Press, ISBN 978-1-57027-043-7

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