Who are You?

An interview with H.W.L. Poonja

Papaji explains how to get an immediate glimpse of enlightenment.

H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji)

By Jeff Greenwald

The first question is: Who are you?

I am That from where you, me, she, he, and all the rest emerge. I am That.

This article is reprinted from Papaji: Interviews.

What do you see when you look at me?

The seer.

Papaji, how does an awakened being like yourself see the world?

As my own Self. When you see your hands, feet, body, mind, senses, intellect, you know they are part of you. You say, ‘My “I” includes all these’. In the same way you must see the world as yourself, as not different from who you are. Right now you regard your hands, your feet, your nails and your hair as not being any different from you. See the world in the same way.

Are you saying that there is no place where ‘I’ ends and ‘you’ begin?

There is. I am taking you to that place.

Papa, you speak about freedom. What is freedom?

Freedom is a trap! A man who is imprisoned in a jail needs to be free, doesn’t he? He is trapped in the jail and he knows that the people outside are free. You are all in prison and you have heard about outside from your parents, priests, teachers and preachers. ‘Come to us,’ they say, ‘and we will give you freedom. Come to me and I will give you rest.’ That is the promise, but this is only another trap. Once you believe it, you are caught in the trap of wanting freedom. You should be out of both these traps — neither in bondage nor in freedom — because these are only concepts. Bondage was a concept which gave rise to the concept of freedom. Get rid of both these concepts. Then, where are you?


Here, yes. ‘Here’ is neither a trap of bondage nor of freedom. It is not ‘there’. In fact, It is not even ‘here’.

Words seem to me to be a very great trap. Throughout the time I have been here, words have been inadequate to express the nature of the awakenings that take place here. They cannot even express why words are inadequate. I would have to compare them to what was adequate and I can’t do that in words. But one word that is thrown around a lot in the West and in the East is the word ‘enlightenment’. Is what you speak of enlightenment?

Enlightenment is Knowledge Itself, not knowledge of a person, a thing or an idea. Just Knowledge Itself. Enlightenment is there when there is no imagination of the past, no imagination of the future, not even an idea of the present.

I can’t imagine a state with no imagination.

That is what is called bondage. It is called suffering. It is called samsara. I tell you, ‘Don’t imagine. In this present moment, don’t have any imagination.’ When you imagine, you are constructing images, and all images belong to the past. Don’t recall the past and don’t aspire to anything in the future. Then imagination goes. It is no longer in the mind. Everything in the mind comes from the past.

When you tell me not to think of anything, it is like telling me not to think of a hippopotamus. The first thought that comes to mind is, of course, a hippopotamus.

I am not asking you to think of anything. What I am saying is, ‘Don’t imagine anything that belongs to the past, the present and the future. If you are free from all imagination, you are also free of time, because any image will remind you of time and keep you within its framework. In the waking state you see images: of persons, of things, of ideas. When you go to sleep, all these vanish. Now, when you are sleeping, where are all these images? Where are the people? Where are the things?

In sleep these things are still there. They don’t go away when I sleep.

You are describing the dream state. I am talking about the sleep state. I will show you. What time do you go to sleep?

About 11.30 at night.

Think of this last second, the one after 11.29 and fifty-nine seconds. What happens in that final second? Does the sixtieth second belong to sleep or to the waking state?

Copyright © 1993 Avadhuta Foundation. This article is reprinted from Papaji Interviews. Used by permission.

H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji) was a popular Advaitin guru in the late 20th century. His students created the modern satsang movement in the West.

Jeff Greenwald is the author of Shopping for Buddhas. Wikipedia has a page about him.

Related pages on this site

Recommended Books

David Godman, Papaji: Interviews

Papaji: Interviews

Edited by David Godman

As you’ve probably guessed from the book’s title, it consists mainly of interviews. Ten people sat down with Papaji and asked him questions, and the resulting conversations were transcribed. The questioners include Catherine Ingram, Wes Nisker, Shanti Devi, Chokyi Nyima Rimpoche, and Godman himself. The book also includes a 62-page biography of Papaji.

–Editor, realization.org

See it on Amazon.

David Godman, Nothing Ever Happened

Nothing Ever Happened

By David Godman

This massive three-volume biography of H.W.L. Poonja, widely known as Papaji, is one of the most comprehensive attempts ever made to document the life and teachings of a self-realized person. Papaji was a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. He is largely responsible for the satsang movement in the West because he helped hundreds of Westerners attain glimpses of the Self and then sent them home to teach.

–Editor, realization.org

See it on Amazon.

This page was published on October 24, 2001 and last revised on May 27, 2017.


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