(text written by Chandi Devi)
Hari Wansch Lal Poonja, more affectionately known as Papaji, was born in Western Punjab, to Parmanand and Yamuna Devi on October 13, 1910, out of their deep desire to see God. The family already had one Saint, Papaji’s mother’s brother, Swami Rama Tirtha.
Hari Lal’s childhood was different from most, in the way that at the age of eight, while visiting relatives in Lahore, he had a direct experience of Self, which lasted for three days. Wanting to regain this experience of Peace and Bliss, Papaji’s mother encouraged him to devote his life to Krishna, who would give him this Liberation. Papaji’s spiritual life continued throughout his childhood, marriage, and fatherhood, into his Army Officer career.
Yet his desire for God was not quenched, so he resigned his post and went searching across India for someone who could show him God. His search brought him back to his house, disillusioned. Until, one day, a Sadhu appeared at his door. Papaji asked the Sadhu if he could show him God or direct him to someone who could, and the Sadhu told him that there was a Saint in Tiruvannamalai who could show him God.
Within the next few days, Papaji went to see this Saint, Sri Ramana Maharshi, and during his second visit, after hearing the Maharshi tell him not to look for things that come and go, but to look for what is permanent, and under the Maharshi’s silent gaze, Papaji became permanently and irreversibly established in the Self.
Papaji continued to work and support his family, who were now in Madras, and visit the Maharshi on weekends, until the time of the partition of India, when the Maharshi told him to go and take the rest of his family out of the Punjab, which was soon to become Pakistan. That was the last time he saw his Master in form.
Papaji moved his extended family to Lucknow, and continued to work to support them, while seeing devotees who came to him. After finishing with his family duties, Papaji went to live on the banks of his beloved Ganga, and also traveled to see devotees in all parts of India. In the late 1960s when westerners were traveling to India in search of spiritual awakening, they discovered Papaji, and he began traveling all over the world,
wherever he was invited to give Satsang. Papaji’s message was always clear:
No vessel to empty; no mirror to break!
In the late 1980s, Papaji again settled back in his family home in Lucknow, and westerners began visiting his home to see him. By 1990, Papaji moved into his daughter-in-law’s house, and by 1991, as the Satsangs out-grew his house, they were moved to Satsang Bhawan.
To talk about what it is that has attracted thousands upon thousands of seekers to come to be with Papaji, is to cross into the realm of the unspeakable. And that is precisely what it is, the unspeakable experience of one’s own true Self. Papaji’s every look, every movement, every breath, every glance, every word, comes from, and is a direct expression of, That Self, and can direct all who truly want Freedom back to that unspeakable, unknowable Self. To meet him in any form, is to dissolve into total, unconditional Love, which all are searching for, and to face directly who we really are. His Grace, which showers unconditionally on all alike, continues to expand and deepen the Peace, Love and Bliss that many find as the expression of this awareness of Self. Papaji’s teachings are simple:
Keep Quiet! Don’t stir a thought. Look within.
There, you will find your own True Nature, where it has always been!
Papaji made himself as available as possible to his devotees, sharing meals, birthdays, weddings and more, and giving Satsang five days a week. All were always welcome.
Papaji left his body on September 6th, 1997, and his Grace was felt with great magnitude, as hundreds reported having a deep and alive experiences of his Presence. As his Self, that Self, merged into the Self, it lit the whole universe as its substratum and revealed it as the dream that it is. Papaji is alive, as the Self that you truly are, ever Present. Here. Now.