By Jeff Greenwald
You have been with him, you must have been with him. Otherwise you would not have asked these questions, you would never have come here. What about the other people, the other six billion people? Why don’t they come to satsang? What about your neighbours, what about your parents, what about your society? Why only you? You have been chosen, you have been chosen for this purpose.
When you know It, you will know It in an instant. In that instant, you will know that nothing ever happened before, and that nothing will ever happen in the future. In one moment you thought you were bound. In that same moment you will find that you are free. In that instant of awakening, you will know that there is no freedom, no bondage. You will know, ‘I am what I am’.
Papa, can the mind assist in the process of realising freedom?
Yes, it can. Mind is your foe and mind is your friend also. When attached to sense objects it is your enemy. But when it aspires to come to satsang, the same mind is a friendly mind. It will give you freedom.
That’s a big relief for some reason. When we speak of realising freedom, who is realising freedom?
This ‘who’ itself is realising freedom. The ‘who’ who is asking the question is the same ‘who’ who feels that this ‘who’ is now bound. After having known this, ‘who’ will show its oneness. ‘Look here, Jeff,’ it will say, ‘I am the same “who” who brought you here!’
It was Saint Francis who said, ‘What you are looking for is who is looking’.
Yes, yes. When you only say ‘Who?', w-h-o, where do you find it, tell me? Where? You have to add something. Only then will the reply come. Who are you? If you simply say ‘Who?', who then will appear to you? Simply say Who? Who? Who?'
I’m going to start sounding like an owl in a minute. You say that the force that has brought us here, that brought us to satsang, will take care of us. What force is that?
The force which has brought you here, the force which is speaking your words, the force which is asking the questions: that force is the same. The force has now become the questioner. The same force is now asking. And this force is also telling you, ‘Keep quiet!’
[Shaking his head.] After you, Papaji, I could interview anybody.
In the scientific view everything that we perceive, from an apple to pure grace, is the result of neural signals and chemical processes. From the biological perspective the miracle of consciousness has a direct physical cause. How can we be certain that consciousness, awareness, awakeness is not just a chemical reaction, and that the realisation of emptiness is no more than a mere quieting of our brain cells?
Science has done very well in its researches. I don’t have any quarrels with science. We are living in the twentieth century and we are very lucky to enjoy the benefits of the results of scientific research. I can’t reject scientific discoveries. Without them you could not have come here from California in just twenty hours. So, we should accept them. But where does the intellect which discovers come from? Discoveries have been made about the nature of the cells in the brain. But where these cells get their energy from has not yet been discovered. I hope that this will one day be discovered.
It is emptiness itself which animates these cells. These cells then send signals throughout the body to the billions and trillions of cells in the body which activate thoughts, movement of the limbs, the senses, the mind, etc. This is creation. In the beginning there is emptiness. Emptiness animates the cells, and the cells then make the intellect and the mind work. Then, once there is mind, the body, the senses and the objects they see, arise. All these perceptions are registered via the cells.
Each cell is giving you a new incarnation. Each cell. Because what you desire will enter directly into the cells and lie hidden there. These desires will emerge from the cells at the appropriate moment and reincarnate in other cells. It is the cells which have reincarnated and become mind. Your question was that maybe emptiness is just something chemical happening in the brain. But who is aware of this chemical happening? Some higher force, some force which is subtler than the cells is conscious of what is happening to the cells. It is aware. What is that force?
Grace, atman. The larger context in which we are all existing in all forms. In asking this question I want you and everyone in this room to understand that I feel grace in your presence, Papaji. I am not denying that, I am just trying to understand and to remove the doubt. So my answer would be ‘grace’. It sounds to me like a force that must encompass everything, even more than everything. It is something that is larger than everything. But it also sounds to me like something I am being asked to believe in, something I must have faith in. Is faith in the supreme force a prerequisite for freedom? Must we have faith in this force to awaken to freedom? Does what you are giving us require faith?
The word ‘faith’ is used by the founders of religions. When you say the word ‘faith’ you must go back to the founder of some particular set of beliefs. Faith means following someone from the past. When you speak the word ‘faith', you must see that your mind goes to the past. Tell me any instance where there is a question of faith that doesn’t belong to the past.
For me, the word ‘faith’ is associated with religions, dead religions.
This word takes you to images from the past. ‘Have faith in this god or that god, in this statue or that statue.’ I don’t tell the children who are here to have faith in anything from the past. I don’t teach faith at all. I teach Knowledge. Knowledge has nothing to do with faith. Faith brings you to the past, Knowledge to the present moment. Between atman and grace there is no difference. When you use the word atman, the mind does not hold onto any person, any thing, any concept. When you utter the word ‘grace', you should not think that it is coming from such and such a person, or an image or a thing. Grace is more than space, higher, subtler, more supreme than even space. Where does the space arise from? That is atman. Through whose grace does the sun shine? The shining of the sun is a manifestation of that grace. The moon in the night, the hardness of a rock, the softness of a flower, the flow of a river, the movement of air and the waves of the ocean. What is this thing which moves the air? Not the movement itself, not the movement of the waves on the surface of the ocean. I am talking about that ultimate power which is the source of the movement: That.
It is the ultimate mystery.
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.
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.
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.
This page was published on October 24, 2001 and last revised on May 27, 2017.