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SELF: Enlightened Masters
The Odyssey of Enlightenment

The Odyssey of Enlightenment:
Rare Interviews with Enlightened Teachers of Our Time

by Berthold Madhukar Thompson

Chapter 2: Papaji

"How can one enjoy something in the state of fear?
Only a wedding with your own freedom, your own Self,
is a wedding which will see no separation.
Very few people will celebrate such a wedding.
And this wedding can only take place after the
cremation of the world of objects.
Then Lord Nataraja will dance
on the rubble of the destroyed world.
Then samsara [worldly illusion] is over.
Then all is over and the Self is realized."

Sri Harilal Poonja,
affectionately known as Papaji or Poonjaji--was born on October 13, 1910, in an area of the state of Punjab that is now part of Pakistan. Swami Rama Tirtha, one of India's celebrated saints, was his maternal uncle. Poonjaji had his first direct experience of the Self when he was eight. Through his mother's strong influence--she was a guru in her own right--he became a devotee of Lord Krishna, pursuing a mantra practice [repetition of a sacred word or phrase] day and night.

When he was twenty, his parents arranged his marriage. In 1942, he joined the army, only to quit less than two years later to continue his spiritual quest. Penniless, he was living in his father's house with his wife and two children when the enlightened master Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi appeared to him in a vision. The Maharshi directed him to the Sri Ramanashramam in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, southern India. There, in 1944, through Bhagavan's grace, his search ended.

During the partition of India, Poonjaji moved his family from the Punjab to Lucknow. He worked as a salesman of sporting goods and heavy equipment, and then as a mining manager until his retirement in 1966. After living on the banks of the Ganges and traveling the world, he settled permanently in Lucknow. From the early 1990s until his death on September 6, 1997, hundreds of seekers from all over the world attended his daily satsangs in Lucknow. The hallmark of his teaching was his capacity to awaken accomplished seekers to their true Self in his presence.

Prior to his death, Poonjaji stipulated that his house should serve as a place for meditation, and that lunch and dinner should be provided for visiting seekers. Surendra and Usha, his son and daughter-in-law, have made it their lives' work to entertain visitors according to Papaji's last wishes. Down the road at the Papaji Satsang Bhavan, a small group of his devotees show daily videos of his teachings.

Surendra and more than a dozen of Poonjaji's disciples are conducting satsangs on his behalf in different parts of the world. Two of his former students, Gangaji [ch.4] and Andrew Cohen [ch. 11], are both popular teachers of enlightenment in the United States and Europe today.

I studied with Poonjaji from October 1991 until the end of July 1993. I was with him almost every day, either at his house or in satsang. At that time I was called Hareesh, a name given to me a decade earlier by my first guru. After I left Poonjaji's physical presence in 1993, I remained spiritually associated with him until his death on September 6, 1997.2 The following exchanges and episodes depicting our time together appear in chronological order.

Contact Information

Papaji's house:
Sec 20/144A Indira Nagar
Lucknow 226016
Uttar Pradesh
phone 91-522-346342 or 91-522-348525
e-mail surendrapoonja@rediffmail.com

Papaji Satsang Bhavan:
A-306 Indira Nagar
Lucknow 226016
Uttar Pradesh
phone 91-522-342884 or 91-522-352991
fax 91-522-352832
e-mail papaji@sancharnet.in
website www.poonja.com

Realize Who You Are
and Then Do Whatever You Like

Upon my arrival, I discovered that Poonjaji lived modestly in an inexpensive, small, single-story, two-bedroom house that belonged to his daughter-in-law, Usha. The house was situated in the ugly concrete jungle of one- and two-story homes in a newly developed suburban township called Indira Nagar, some five miles away from the town of Lucknow proper.

Before British rule, Lucknow was the capital of a small Moslem kingdom called Aradh. But today, only the palace ruins, two mausoleums, and a couple of mosques remind us of the city's past glory. In modern times, Lucknow became famous--or rather, infamous--as one of the most polluted cities in the world. Countless two-wheelers, cars, buses and trucks, plus more than fifty thousand three-wheeled, ten-seater taxis called tempos, fill the roads. Thick black fumes from a half-combusted mixture of diesel, kerosene, and waste oil issue from their exhausts.

To reach Poonjaji's house from our hotels downtown, most of us seekers had to travel the polluted roads in those tempos. Some of us could tolerate the pollution only by wearing military gas masks.

I had heard of Poonjaji's reputation for imparting instant enlightenment to many who expressed to him an intense desire for it. Several of my close sannyasin friends who had made their way from Osho's commune in Pune to Papaji's satsang in Lucknow before me had already been declared enlightened during the past few weeks. Until I heard about the "enlightenment wildfire" that had been set in Lucknow, I was convinced that realization was not such an easy thing to accomplish. Perhaps several lifetimes of austerities and practice would be necessary for me, I thought. But now, all of a sudden, enlightenment became a real possibility.

When I first met Papaji in fall of 1991, approximately twenty seekers were attending the daily satsangs in his living room. I remained silent all through that first satsang, but after the one that followed, I would not be the same person again.

Sitting in my second satsang with Poonjaji, I suddenly realized that I had to ask his help--right now! It seemed as if every single minute of my life had been leading up to this moment. I braced myself to make my request. My whole being was explosively charged. I gathered all my courage and, as I began to speak, it was as if an inner atomic chain reaction had been irreversibly activated.

Madhukar -- Poonjaji, I want to become enlightened here and now. I have heard that with you, I can get It. I have been told you can give enlightenment--transmit it in a split second, in a finger snap. I want enlightenment now.

My heart was pounding as I spoke. My throat was so tight I could hardly breathe. Poonjaji looked intensely into my eyes, and I looked into his. That was all. Nothing was said. No meaning was transmitted. There was no intention anywhere. Then I noticed Poonjaji's lips move and I heard his voice.

Papaji -- You can have it right now. There is no problem. Inquire simply, "Who am I?" Ask yourself now! Do it now! You can do it. Do it!

No thought formed itself in my mind and no word came to my lips. All awareness of myself began to evaporate. Everything became suspended in pure beingness, absolute peaceful beingness--beyond any sense of personality. Time came to a complete standstill. All was silence.

Finally my awareness began to collect itself again. Although my body-mind could not respond on any level other than simply to be, it was nevertheless wonderful to see Poonjaji gently continuing to gaze into my eyes. There was a silent understanding, a deep knowing. In this moment, nothing needed to be done. This was the bliss of "an experience without an experiencer." But was this enlightenment?

My third satsang with Poonjaji was about halfway through. I was sitting right behind Krishna, a devotee from California, who was expressing his deep gratitude to Poonjaji with heartfelt words. At one point, as I listened to his account, my mind stood still and my heart just exploded. Tears of joy and bliss shook my whole being. I'm not sure how long this lasted, but eventually I heard Krishna concluding what he had to say.

Krishna -- . . . All I can say is, "Thank you, Papaji!"

Papaji -- Thank you, too! That is right: "Thank you!" is all that is left to say now.

Immersed in continuing bliss and ecstasy, I heard Poonjaji's voice boom.

Papaji -- You! Yes, you! You come here! [Addressing the other seekers present, he continues] He got it! He did it! Bring him here! Bring him to me!

I was crying and crying, and had no idea that he was talking to me. Seeing that I had not responded to Poonjaji's summons, the people around me shook me gently. Gradually I became aware of their touch, and I began to recognize my surroundings again. I was overcome with an immense feeling of gratitude and love toward nobody in particular--just gratitude and love. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. I witnessed the body shaking with ecstasy and bliss. There was no sense of time. But finally it dawned on me that Poonjai was speaking to me--the body and mind called Hareesh. I couldn't think. I was just there, but at the same time, I seemed not to exist.

I didn't know what to do or what not to do--there was nothing to be done. Everything was being taken care of. Events were just unfolding impersonally. There were no personal speakers or listeners or doers. Yet words were being spoken and heard and actions were happening. The people seated around me helped me to my feet and, with my arms around their supportive shoulders, they brought me forward and lowered me onto the thakt, a small, slightly raised platform where Papaji sat.

Tears were still coursing down my face. I was overwhelmed by feelings of love, ecstasy, and gratitude. I felt Poonjaji place a comforting arm around me, and that made me cry even more. He hugged me, holding me tightly. I felt mothered and completely taken care of. My heart cried out in love, "My Papaji!" (That's what I called him from this moment on--Papaji.) There was nothing else to come, I felt. Nothing at all--this was completion.

Through my blissful tears, I heard Papaji laugh and laugh. I felt the warmth, the vibration, and the shaking of his huge, laughing body. I felt him to be the womb, the ocean, and the universe of all that ever was, is, and ever could be. After what seemed an eternity, my crying and his laughter slowly subsided. Only then he spoke.

Papaji -- You did it! You did your work! How did you do it? Tell the others how you did it!

Papaji's words were heard, but there was no one left to whom he could address them. The speaking and the hearing were occurring as one single, impersonal event. I couldn't make sense of what was heard and was unable to think or to speak. I just sat there, engulfed in bliss, with Papaji holding me in his embrace. Aftershocks of laughter kept erupting. Tears of joy and love kept falling from our eyes. However, I was, and could only remain, silent. Then, I heard his voice again.

Papaji -- Camera! Bring the camera! Ha, good! This is the moment!

Papaji continued to hold me, with my head resting against his chest, while a photograph was taken.

Papaji -- Now tell them how you did it! Tell them how it happened! Tell them what happened!

I was still unable to speak. I didn't understand what he was saying. I just kept looking on in silence and wonder.

Papaji -- Tell them how you did it! How did you get it? Tell me now! Tell me what the key is so that everybody else can use it, too. Everybody will be happy to know how to get it. Everybody has come here wanting it. Everybody is here for only that reason. So now, tell us how you got it! This is a trick. Nobody has defined it yet. I can't define it either. This is the time for you to speak!

I couldn't say anything. My mind was not able to respond intelligently. Then, all of a sudden, my thoughts rushed back again, as if shocked into existence. An inner voice asked anxiously, "What happened? How did this happen? What happened to whom?" But I was still unable to say anything. My silence continued, and Papaji seemed to become impatient, even slightly disappointed, with me.

Papaji -- What is the use of you sitting on the thakt if you don't tell us how you did it? Sit down there!

As instructed by Papaji, I sat on the floor at his feet and stayed silent for the rest of that satsang.

Surrender to the Self
and become the Self

Following these events, my friends who had come to Lucknow before me were all delighted and congratulated me on what had happened, taking it that I was now enlightened just as they were. I, however, was not convinced that the experience with Papaji at satsang was final enlightenment. I was definitely not in the thought-free and doubt-free state that he claimed enlightenment to be. No matter what anybody else said, I felt sure that as long as I had one single doubt about my "enlightenment," it just could not be true. My doubt was all the proof I needed that enlightenment had not occurred.

By evening, the bliss and ecstasy had subsided, but in the interim, I had come to two crystal-clear conclusions. First, I knew with absolute certainty that Papaji was my new guru. I wanted to stay with him and become his disciple. And, for this to happen, I felt I had to tell him about myself and my spiritual search up to the day I met him. I figured that before accepting anyone as a disciple, the master needed to know who they were and where they were coming from. Secondly, my doubt about my supposed enlightenment had by now become so strong that I knew I just had to tell him about it.

In order to meditate and reflect on my predicament, I had stayed in seclusion at my hotel after satsang. That night in my hotel room, I wrote to Papaji. After meeting him, I wanted to practice what is called viewing and speaking of myself in the third person. Within Papaji's framework of understanding, Advaita Vedanta, the body-mind organism is seen as not being a separate entity with an ego-centered sense of free will and personal "doership." But rather, it is known to be part of the divine impersonal expression of manifestation. Intending to practice disidentification from my ego on the one hand, and on the other hand, to keep my interaction with Papaji on the level of his Vedantic teachings, I deliberately wrote my letter to him in the third person.

I had noticed that before or during satsang, some seekers would slip a letter to a spot on the thakt, next to where he sat. At a moment of his choosing, he would pick up one at a time, read it silently to himself or/and out loud for everybody to hear. He would then call the person to sit in front of him on the floor on a cushion--the hot seat.

At satsang the following morning, I passed my letter forward and, shortly afterward, he read it aloud.

Papaji -- [reading] Beloved Papaji. Hareesh's greatest wish is to be totally free. This letter is dated? Yesterday?! I thought you are already free. Yesterday in satsang it happened.

I felt very embarrassed. I was supposed to be enlightened, wasn't I? I didn't have the courage to tell Papaji my doubts about my enlightenment. I was afraid that if I told him the truth, Papaji might not help me any further in my quest for Self-realization. So I decided to lie.

Madhukar -- It's an old letter.

Papaji -- This must be an old letter! That is what I say. The letter has no date. [continues to read the letter to the group] His greatest wish is to be totally free. Please accept him as your disciple. To surrender to you means surrendering to the Self.

Surrendering to the Self is not surrender. Who else could surrender to the Self? What, apart from the Self, could surrender to the Self, if there is only the Self? There is only the Self! Therefore, the Self alone can surrender to the Self, and become the Self. The notion "I am not the Self" has vanished. That is what has happened in your case.

[reads on] The Self, the One, the Whole, is surrendering to the Self, to the One, to the Whole. Please, accept Hareesh's surrender to you, who is the light of the Self. Could you guide him home and support him to be and stay at home?

You are at home, Hareesh! Hareesh, you are at home. Where else could you be? You are not in the fish market! [resumes reading] Could you guide him to stay at home in the ocean for good? Could you guide him to lead a practical life in the ocean? Hareesh became a disciple of Osho in 1980 in Pune, India. In 1982, he moved with Osho to Oregon, USA. When asked, he sold all his possessions and donated them to Osho's commune: his house, fields, business, and money. In 1985, Osho's commune in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon, was terminated and Hareesh was angry with Osho for a few weeks because he had lost everything. During the period from 1986 until 1991, he ran a business for one and a half years, spending the rest of the time with the master in his ashram in Pune.

You ask for discipleship. I have no disciples. And there is no teacher. I don't believe in any teacher, any teaching, or any student. There are no students and there is no teacher. In freedom, in pure consciousness, there is no scope for any teacher or any teaching, and there is no one who is ignorant. This is freedom. Everyone is free in freedom. The notion "I am bound" has got nothing to do with this freedom. If there is no notion of bondage, who could be your teacher and who could be the student? I don't believe in discipleship at all. I have no disciples. I have no ashram and no teaching.

When you come to me, we meet as friends. We talk to each other and we share each other's view. That's all. You have allowed me to sit on this thakt. I obey you. If you don't like me sitting on the thakt, I will sit on the ground with you, amongst you all. There are no high and low, no up and down. We are all one. We are just playing. Someone becomes a policeman and somebody else becomes a thief. This is a game. That's all.

You have no right to serve others
if you have not served yourself yet

During satsang a month later, in November 1991, I asked Papaji for a new spiritual name. He called me forward and had me sit next to him on the thakt. After looking into my eyes for some time, he picked up a sheet of paper and wrote MADHUKAR on it in big letters. He handed the paper to me and then asked me to pronounce my new name for him. When I said "Madhukar," he took me into his arms and hugged me warmly. I asked him if I could kiss him-the Self that was present in his form. He laughed happily, kissed me first, and then offered his cheek saying, "Kiss!"

I did. With this kiss, Papaji became my new guru; despite his nondual perspective about there being no teacher and no student, he had accepted me as his disciple. He said that Madhukar, like my Osho sannyas name, Hareesh, was another name for Lord Krishna. In addition, he related a further meaning.

Papaji -- The honeybee is called madhukar in Hindi. The madhukar collects pollen all day long. By doing so, it is taking the flowers' essence and at the same time it is giving life to the flowers by pollinating them. One evening, the madhukar visits a lotus. And when the lotus closes its petals at sunset, the madhukar disappears forever in an eternal kiss.

For me, the new name was a testimony to the formal recognition of the guru-disciple relationship between my new teacher and myself. Equally important, my new name marked a restatement of the dedication of my life to the sole aim of finding truth and enlightenment.

The stream of new arrivals to Papaji's satsang swelled, and by December 1991, the number of people far exceeded the capacity of his living room. Two of his devotees rented a new house, with a large living room hall, less than a mile down the road from Papaji's home, and from then on, satsang was held there. Papaji christened it Papaji Satsang Bhavan-Papaji Satsang Meeting Hall. Around New Year's Eve, I moved into one of its two bedrooms. I made myself responsible for its expenses and physical upkeep, as well as for the daily flower decorations for satsang. Soon I bought the necessary equipment for Papaji's satsangs to be recorded daily on audio and video, in order to provide seekers and devotees with documentation of his teachings.

At this time, I felt drawn to further deepen my devotion and service to Papaji. In the spring of 1992, I wrote a letter to him requesting him to let me do so. Papaji read my letter out loud.

Dearest Papaji, Master of Service,

Madhukar has devoted his life to finding liberation. After he met you, both the desire for his personal enlightenment and the longing to serve you and your devotees have enormously intensified. Being with you, his deepest wish is to serve you.

Dear master of service, Madhukar witnesses every day how masterly you are in your service by assisting everyone to find freedom.

You became a master of service after you met your guru, Sri Ramana Maharshi. When asked, "What is the best service a disciple can render to his master?" Sri Ramana answered, "To serve not the guru but his disciples and devotees."

Madhukar has no wife, no children, no family. He has no worldly obligations. He has no home or house. He wants to live only for enlightenment and service. Today he finds himself in prostration at your feet, begging you, the master of service, to let him be your son of service. Please, grant his wish and let him serve you and your devotees with all that he has.

In eternal gratitude,
Your devotee and servant

This time Papaji didn't call me forward. Although he used the pronoun "you," he spoke to the satsang audience at large.

Papaji -- First you must serve yourself. You must do your work first. You must finish your work first. Have you done it? Have you done your work? You have no right to serve others if you have not served yourself yet.

Selfless service must be your motto. Your work will be of benefit to the whole world if it is done selflessly. Then it becomes worship. Then whatever you do is worship, even sweeping the floor. There is no difference between dusting the shoes in the shoe rack and meditation. You can have a taste of freedom when you are selfless in work. By doing lowly work with the right attitude, you can even attain freedom.

Papaji's words evoked a further question in me, and so I asked him:

Madhukar -- What is a true devotee?

Papaji -- As a true devotee, you have no right to ask me for anything. One becomes a true devotee only after fully surrendering to devotion. To be a devotee means to be in a state of devotion. Having merged in devotion, the devotee gives up his identity in the same way that a river gives up his separate nature when it flows into the ocean. After merging, the river has no right to say, "I am a river," because that identity and separation disappear when it becomes the ocean. A true devotee becomes what he is devoted to. If he is devoted to service of the Divine, he becomes the Divine. That divineness then stays in the heart of the devotee, for the devotee is the heart of the Divine.

Madhukar -- What is the guru's role in all this?

Papaji -- When the devotee and the divine merge, my role also merges and disappears. There, in that place, I do not know what part is left for me to play.
Om, shanti [peace], shanti, shanti.

Wanting freedom is the only desire
that can lead to total satisfaction

Sometime in the spring of 1992, I allowed my doubts about my attainment of enlightenment to again be voiced in satsang. This occurred by chance rather than by design, as I had not prepared my question in the form of a letter. Papaji had just guided a student through the self-inquiry process, culminating in the student's proclaimed enlightenment. However, the man found himself somewhat doubting his experience almost as soon as he had it. Prompted by their conversation about this important issue, I spontaneously spoke up. What follows is their dialogue, which leads into my questions.

Papaji -- Because you have come to me, I request your whole being for five seconds. Mind you, nothing should trespass into these five seconds. Only five seconds are needed for freedom and liberation-just five seconds in a span of eighty years. I give you five seconds. That's very long. Usually, I don't give that much time to anybody. But you are from New York. I know New York. I have been living there. New York was very friendly to me. [laughter] That's why in your case I am very liberal with time.

Don't even allow a single thought to stir! During these five seconds, not even one thought should rise. That's the condition. I will wait for these five seconds to pass and then I will check your reaction. Tell me now if you have understood what I have said about these five seconds. I will go on explaining them to you again.

Let -- Well, I am just sitting here . . .

Papaji -- Don't make a mistake! I will tell you one more time: You have to spend five seconds without stirring a thought. You used the words "I am." Didn't you say that?

Let -- I used the words "I am"?

Papaji -- You said, "I am sitting here." I told you not to let trespass any thoughts, not even "I am." This "I" has not to arise during these five seconds. No thought should rise from anywhere. These five seconds are going to be your own time. Actually, without the arising of a thought, they will not belong to time at all. They don't belong to the past, future, or even present. If five seconds are too much, I can reduce the time. Five seconds! Do it now! [a long silence elapses] What happened during these five seconds?

Let -- It was dark. But in the darkness there was light. And there was a good feeling, bliss.

Papaji -- That's all! You have done well. You are an honest man. This is it. That's all! This is all you have to do. This is enough now. This will recall you. This you can't forget so easily. I am very sure about it. All the rest you will forget or you must forget. You must have forgotten your boyhood experiences already. But this is going to stay with you and this is going to help you all the time. And this is the only help on which you can depend safely. This is a raft. This is a raft that will take you to the other side of the ocean of misery. You can only use this raft when you don't make any effort. No effort is needed because it is already here. If you make any effort, you will not recognize it.

That's how it has happened. It was already there. I only hindered the possibility that you would make an effort. I helped you to avoid your relationships, efforts, and the thought process-and you recognized it! You recognized it only because I removed the thought process, thoughts, thinking, and effort. When you think and when you make use of effort, you don't see your Self-nature. It is already there. It is always everywhere. The only way to see it is to keep quiet-and you are there. Keep quiet! Simply keep quiet! Then it will reveal itself. It can't withhold itself. It's a revelation, not a gain. It has to reveal itself when you are in love with it.

Do you have any further question?

Let -- How can I do it and not think?

Papaji -- Any work you do comes from not-thinking.

Let -- All work is coming from not-thinking?

Papaji -- Yes. And That you do not know! You do not know That from which the power to work comes. You do not know where the urge and energy to work are coming from. I will tell you. For any kind of work, you need energy. Even to lift a pair of scissors you need energy. My hands are holding this tin of apricots now, okay? Do you know where the energy for this action is coming from? Go back now to that energy. And you will see that it is the same place where you have been a few minutes ago during those five seconds. Whatever you are doing, be in that place! You came to know that place. Now you know it. Before you didn't know it. Knowing That, you know that it is taking care of everything. Now you will not be arrogant anymore and say, "'I' did it." It is the supreme power that is making use of you. You are its instrument. When you know this, you are free. No bondage! You are free. And you will always be free.

Now [since your enlightenment occurred] you can live better in your household. Now you are a better householder, a better husband, a better father, a better friend, and a better doctor. You only had to know where this betterment is coming from. It comes from knowing your own Self. It is your own Self. You are that Self. This you are not going to forget. I am very sure you can't forget It. It has a hold on you. One single glimpse of It is enough. You got it. I am sure, you got it. You got it!

Let -- I got it? If you are sure that I got it, then I am sure I got it.

Papaji -- If you are not sure, you must tell me now. This is the time now. I strike when the iron is red!

Let -- Right, I am very sure now.

Papaji -- Now, the iron is very red. And the hammer is in my hand. And I know where to strike.

Let -- That's why I came to you. That's what I came for. Strike me again!

Papaji -- Welcome! Welcome! Ah, that's why you came! So I will give you a good shape. What is your name?

Let -- L-e-t. Let.

Papaji -- L-e-t. Let me in, then! It is a good name. You were in trouble because of the board "To Let." Remove this board now!

Let -- What? Remove the word "let"? [laughter . . . Let falls silent and remains with his eyes closed for some time, considering]

Papaji -- [waiting] Yes. . . ?

Let -- Okay, no Let anymore. . . .

Papaji -- Yes, no trespass for Let! Nobody can live "in here." "To Let" means to be led out. Once you are led out, anybody can pick you up and make use of you. Now remove this board "To Let." That board you have had hanging around your neck for 35 million years. And you were belonging to others. Some tenants have been living in you for all these long years as long as you wore the board "To Let." And in five seconds, you have expelled everything, everybody, all the tenants--forever. And now you see your own beauty.

Okay! Good luck! Chalo! [Let's go on!]

Papaji's command "Let's go on!" was the signal for me to speak up. Sitting on a cushion on the floor about fifteen feet away from Papaji, I waved my extended arm quite wildly in order to beckon his attention. As soon as he had spotted me, Papaji called me forward.

Madhukar -- Papaji! When the iron is hot, it needs to be hit. My iron is hot! It wants to be hit. My real desire, my only desire, is permanent no-thought. Please, teach me how to be in permanent no-thought.

Papaji -- Your desire is to have permanent no-thought. So, occupy the mind with only one desire. Then it will not allow any other desire to enter. That one desire is, "I want to be free." Because you did not have that one single-pointed desire before, many desires could enter your mind. And they did! But they did not give you satisfaction. Now, all those other desires will be expelled by this one single desire. To be free is the last desire. Only this desire can lead to total satisfaction.

Madhukar -- For the state of permanent no-thought to occur, does the desire for that state need to be present at all times?

Papaji -- Yes, if you are serious and sincere, it will always be present. If you really want that state, how could you get rid of this desire? This desire will not leave you alone. It will scorch you like a man whose clothes have accidentally caught fire. While he is running to the nearby river to save his life, do you think such a man will listen to somebody on the road inviting him, "Come to the restaurant and have some ice cream with me. That will cool you down."?

Madhukar -- No!

Papaji -- What is the burning man's only desire?

Madhukar -- To jump! To jump into the river!

Papaji -- The desire "I want to be free" must be equivalent in intensity to that man on fire wanting to jump into the river. Then "I want to be free" will be an incessant desire. Such a desire can't be commanded. When the right time arrives, this desire will appear.

Why are only a few people here in satsang? Because most other people are merrymaking and are not inter-ested in freedom and satsang. And why will some of the people who are here in satsang run away and also join the others? Because they are not serious in their desire for freedom. They will change their minds. They will want to go merrymaking too.

We have been following quietly what our fathers have been doing and what our teachers have been telling us to do. Religions mean crowds of people. We have been told from birth to go to the church and obey the Book. Very few people here and there will pick up their own path. But they may lose heart, because they will be almost alone. Nobody will agree with what they say and do. And when they will lose heart, they will become disappointed. Only a few, someone here and there, will not depend on the society. But most people want to be in the crowd. Wherever there is a crowd, there must be a dance-drama going on or some falsehood is being practiced.

Mind you, very few will be there with you in your search for freedom. To have the desire "I want to be free" is not common. Why can't we produce a Buddha in every century? Why must two and a half thousand years pass before a Buddha appears again? Because the search for freedom is undertaken by only a few. But it [enlightenment] is so easy that one cannot even do it!

But you want to suffer. You don't want happiness and love. You don't want to keep quiet and you don't want to stay at home. You rather want to disturb yourself and run somewhere else.

Madhukar -- Papaji, you gave me this space. This space of no-thought can be had easily at any time for a short moment, for two moments or five moments. But in my case, this space did not stay permanently. This is my question. How to make it last?

Papaji -- Why shouldn't it last? Why doesn't it last? It can last! The mistake is that you call the space of no-thought a gain. You say it has happened and you consider this happening to be your gain. That is why you are losing it. Don't call it a gain and don't say, "It has happened."

My friend Mr. Let has the same problem. He wants to have that space all the time. You can be directly face to face with "This." But it cannot be acquired. Don't make it an acquisition. Don't call it a gain. Just identify with that space and the problem is over.

Understand this! When you see your face in the mirror, you don't need to ask anybody, "Whose face is this?" Do you have any doubt whose face it is? Do you call someone and ask him, "Who is that person in the mirror?"

Madhukar -- I know that the face in the mirror is my own face. I don't need anyone to tell me that.

Papaji -- That's right! And that's exactly how it is when you have the experience of your own Self: "This is me!" You know it for sure and for good because you are it. How could you lose it? How could you lose what you are?

Madhukar -- With your guidance, I have recognized my own Self in the mirror of your Self. Consequently, I expected the desire for freedom to subside. But it hasn't.

Papaji -- For thirty-five million years, you didn't see your own Self because you were looking at the faces of others. Finally, you have lifted the mirror for the first time and you have recognized your own Self.

Emptiness is the mirror in which you can recognize your Self for the first time. Call out thrice: "This is me! This is me! This is me!" Identify with That! Forget yourself! Forget the visitor that appears in the mirror. You must have been mistaking yourself for the visitor. No! You are not the visitor! The mind was the visitor. That mind has been cheating you, fooling you and deceiving you. That is over now. Let it go! You are at home.

This is called direct recognition. I can't call it perception. "This" is very direct--not a recognition through any of the senses. Until now you have been using your mind and senses. All experiences were indirect: speaking, seeing, hearing. That is indirect knowing.

In order to have a very direct perception, you have rejected your senses, the intellect, the mind, and the body. You cannot lose this direct perception. Anything indirect, anything gained, anything gained in time, and anything gained through the senses can be lost. You have to forget this old habit of gaining and you have to forget that which is not true. What is true is very direct. What is true is not even seeing. This I call darshan.

In the months that followed, I repeatedly stated--publicly in satsang--that I believed that I was not fully enlightened, but Papaji kept firmly insisting that I was. And each time I came in front of him to tell him of my doubts, they would all be instantly dispelled by his unique ability to point to, and let me recognize, my own true nature.

Thus, the experience of satori, or no-thought, which he called enlightenment, occurred for me on numerous occasions. It would last for some time and then the mind would click back in again, and thoughts, doubts, and identification with the body and mind would reappear.

Shout from the rooftops
that you are free!

Then, one morning in satsang, in June 1992, I heard Papaji tell a devotee, "Whatever you believe, you are. If you say you are bound, you are bound. If you say you are free, you are free.

So, just declare you are free and you are free. That's all! It is as simple as that. Be bold! Shout from the rooftops that you are free. You must do it! If you want to be free, you must shout thrice, 'I am free, I am free, I am free!' And you will be free."

Hearing this, a new possibility opened before me. By boldly declaring that I was enlightened, I could actually make it happen! By owning it, I could ease into its advent and its permanent establishment as my reality. This novel approach was one of the few methods I had not yet tried. My yearning for enlightenment was so great, I was ready to try anything to the utmost.

Then one night before my forty-third birthday, that same month, I woke from sleep with a song running through my mind. I got up and wrote it down.

I was ready for the rooftops! All this time, enlightenment had eluded me because I had been begging for it. Now I would follow Papaji's prompting and lay claim to it, declaring it mine--loud and clear. When the song came to me, I realized I would be making this declaration on my birthday, shouting it out-admittedly not from the rooftop of the Satsang Bhavan, but downstairs in the satsang hall itself-from the bottom of my heart. Buoyed up by this realization, and determined to go through with it, I wrote to Papaji and submitted my letter at satsang that morning. He opened it and read:

Beloved Papaji,

When Madhukar arrived in Lucknow some eight months ago, he had the most burning desire to be free. Beloved Master, his wish was granted by your grace. Madhukar is bowing down to you, my father, touching your feet, ever so grateful, in emptiness, silence, bliss, and gratitude.

Why is Madhukar still here with you after finishing his work? The only thing left for him is service and surrender to you and to the Self. The burning desire for freedom through the question "Who am I?" did lead to the Source. There is a deepening conviction of freedom.

Now this burning desire has transformed itself into a huge torch that flares out from the Source in order to destroy the vasanas, the old latent tendencies of the mind.

Setting the letter down, Papaji looked directly into my eyes and declared:

Papaji -- This is not correct. I will correct it. First of all, you have used the word "destruction." I have explained the word vasana in satsang earlier this morning. Cravings for objects by the senses are called vasanas. After the vasanas are destroyed, you have no mind and you are free. In your case, those vasanas are destroyed already.

This desire for freedom is fire itself. The vasanas cannot return because the desire for freedom has burnt all the vasanas. The fire was as strong as the conflagration of a forest. It has burnt all vasanas and desires, and all the ones in waiting. The ceremony of destruction has already been performed. When this occurred, you entered into the source of knowledge, which is the torch you speak about. It is fire, light, and the source of light. This is a very beautiful sentence: This huge torch burning out from the Source toward the mind, toward the old tendencies and toward the no-mind . . .

There are no tendencies anymore because they have already been destroyed. The result is knowledge, freedom. There is nothing left for you to destroy.

Madhukar -- But the fact is that mind comes back, thoughts come back.

Papaji -- With this torch in your hand, they will not come back.

Madhukar -- In your presence, at this very moment, pure Consciousness is present. Of course, in your presence, there are often no thoughts. But when I am alone, or when I am physically away from you, forgetfulness occurs quite often. Then thoughts return and mind exists.

Papaji -- Let them come! Don't fight with them. Let them come! They come to play with you, don't they? They don't come for destruction. Don't destroy them. First of all, they don't exist!

The mind became no-mind, and no-mind is freedom, and freedom is knowledge. This is the torch. It will work by itself. There is no quarrel with your vasanas. Now you can play very well. There is no harm. Now you are returning to the kingdom and you sit on the throne of freedom. Nobody can arrest you now.

Before, you belonged to the public and you were governed by the laws of the land. Now you are the law. Even the gods will bow down before you. This world belongs to you. It is for you and it is beautiful. This world exists for the enjoyment of the enlightened person. For a foolish person, the world is a graveyard and the person suffers.

Madhukar -- So what do I do with my thoughts?

Papaji -- Don't fight! There is nothing wrong with them. Now you have become fresh. You have had a bath in the fountain of nectar. Now you are very young once again. People who see you will be happy. They will come to kiss you and play with you now. For you, doership is finished, ego is finished, ignorance is finished, darkness is finished. So, where are these vasanas now? They were only imagination. This samsara [the cycle of birth and death] is imagination and God is imagination.

Madhukar -- What about the "I"?

Papaji --Even this "I" about which we speak is imagination. You imagine "I," and this imagined "I" has multiplied into this world and the next world. "I" became God and the world. Everything is just imagination: men, words, heavens, sufferings and enjoyments. Freedom and bondage are imagination. Although no handcuffs and fetters exist, you imagine that you are bound. In a dream, some people get handcuffed and put in jail. They suffer in the dream. Only after waking up do they realize that they were dreaming. Their suffering stops because they realize that it was a dream.

Therefore, without knowledge, everybody is handcuffed, chained, and fettered. The world is a vast prison. "I" is the prison. "I" are the walls. But "I" is only an imagination from which you have not woken up yet. One must be released from the "I," from the "I"-thought. But that release is also imagination. Bondage is imagination, freedom is imagination, consciousness is imagination, bliss is imagination.

And this knowledge is freedom-how easy it is! And how difficult!

The perfect teacher
has no teachings

Madhukar -- Whenever the "I" dissolves momentarily, all vasanas dissolve with it. However . . .

Papaji -- Where are the latent tendencies and the dormant old habits? They exist in the old language in the dictionary of fools. A wise man has no dictionary. He does not need to read or study. Studying is not wisdom. Wisdom means not to cling to anything, not to cling to any concept. Get rid of the conceptualization of concepts. Understand this! Without concepts, where are the old tendencies? To understand this is freedom.

The perfect teacher has to say that you are free. The perfect teacher knows that he and you and all are perfect. The perfect teacher has no teaching, because you are free. What teaching do you need if you are free? Only a man who looks at the body, mind, and senses will teach you something. But is he going to teach the body? The body is inert, the senses are inert, the mind is inert. Who is teaching whom?

Papaji's words pointing to my true Self penetrated my heart. The Self knows no differences, multiplicity, or diversity. I understood that my ideal and perfect state could only be rediscovered again and again and stabilized through direct inner experience of the Self. I could not attain it by trying to change or transform my body or mind.

From the point of view of my new understanding, Osho's approach of total surrender to the master in order to attain liberation appeared to be a diversion from the existential and experiential understanding of immediate Self-knowledge: "Knowing myself is being myself." My next question to Papaji expressed these reflections.

Madhukar -- Papaji, sometimes my previous teacher appears to me as a kind of demon. I would like to request you to help me to detach myself, gracefully and finally, from the entire past. I wish to be free forever from all past relationships.

Papaji -- That is past. Now there are no demons. [laughter] Demons are for demons. In the light of the Self, who is a demon and who is God? Who is good and who is bad? This is foolishness!

Only the wedding with your own Self
will see no separation

Madhukar -- Papa, a little song came to me. Can I offer it to you?

Papaji -- Where did it come from?

Madhukar -- It just came to me at three o'clock in the morning.

Papaji -- Oh, very good! What song?

Madhukar -- Perhaps it came from you. A small song. I am shy. I have never sung in public before.

Papaji -- Let us enjoy it. Usually people keep their secrets for themselves. Even with a small secret, people want to see me privately. There is nothing secret. What is secrecy? "I cannot speak to you in front of so many people," they say. There is no secrecy. Because you don't keep it a secret, everybody will enjoy. I want even secrets to be shared with everybody. Which is the song that came to you?

Madhukar [sings]

Papa, I am free, I am free, I am free,
Papa, I am free with you.
Papa, I am free, I am free, I am free,
Papa, so much thanks to you.
Beyond you and me,
Beyond you and me,
Free, free, free!
Singing, singing, dancing, dancing,
Free, free, free, free, free, free,
Free, free, free!

Everybody in satsang was laughing and clapping.

Papaji -- How beautiful! How joyful! Let us have it again! Sing! Madhukar, do it! Yes, sing it!

I sang the song once more. The whole satsang joined in again, singing, clapping, laughing, and celebrating along with me.

Papaji -- All of you have witnessed this wedding. Normally, people are not even happy at their own wedding. This wedding here is such a beautiful wedding. This is an eternal wedding without a groom and a bride. What a joy! Joy is the groom and joy is the bride. Joy is hugging joy in the chamber of joy. How beautiful! He who has been wed just now can only enjoy and sing.

Others will weep at their wedding because fear arises at that time. When two persons meet, fear arises. Whenever there are two, the fear of separation exists, because the two have to separate sooner or later. How can one enjoy something in the state of fear? Only this wedding with your own freedom, your own Self, is a wedding which will see no separation.

Very few people will celebrate such a wedding. And this wedding can only take place after the cremation of the world of objects. Then Lord Nataraja will dance on the rubble of the destroyed world. Then samsara is over. Then all is over. Very good! Very beautiful!

Madhukar -- Papaji, I have one more wish. I would like to express my gratitude. I would like to thank you and everyone else.

According to the ancient Indian tradition, the disciple, having received his guru's final transmission, circumambulates his master thrice as a token of his gratitude. Since Papaji was seated with his back supported by a cushion propped against the wall, I could not walk around him, so instead, I placed a cushion in front of him to symbolize his physical form. Then, with hands folded in deepest respect, I walked around it three times while Papaji sat motionless, watching me. I knelt before him and bowed thrice, touching my forehead to his feet. Getting up, I turned toward my brothers and sisters and, with folded hands, bowed deeply to them three times.

Papaji -- Beautiful! How beautiful! This is done beautifully. Such luck! This should be done! I am really happy, really happy. You have really done everything that has to be done. Nobody else did it yet. Who taught you this? This has to be done! This has to be done!

What Madhukar did is very traditional. I don't ask you to perform this tradition. But you all could see what a beautiful experience he had by doing it. This was very beautifully done. Perhaps, this is wisdom. This is wisdom!

You have to thank everybody, and you have to wish well even those who are burning in hell. You must send your good wishes to them. Perhaps they will be happy to see your light. Your wisdom and your compassion will help them. They are burning endlessly in hell for their sins. You can part with your happiness and share it with them.

What Madhukar did is very traditional. You go around the guru three times. Then you bow down and stand up three times in front of the guru. There are three rounds, one for each of the three worlds: the world of the past, the world of the present, and the world of the future. These worlds were with you and now you thank them, wish them well--give them a good send-off and say a final good-bye to them.

In your happiness everybody is happy.

That evening, I threw a party to celebrate my first birthday--as an enlightened one! The whole Satsang Bhavan was decorated with lights. Papaji made me sit next to him while his devotees expressed their love in bhajans [songs of devotion]. The letters in icing on the heart-shaped birthday cake read: FREEDOM WITH PAPAJI. Hand in hand, Papaji and I cut the cake together. He said, "Marriage-kiss!" And, in front of everyone, he put his arm around me and kissed me on the mouth!

I almost fainted with the intensity of my feelings--surprise, love, joy, and devotion. In satsang I got married to the Self, and now I was married to my guru too. The marriage was consecrated by that kiss.

Immerse yourself in
the holy Ganges and all your
sins are washed away

In the months that followed, I became one of Papaji's closest disciples and, as part of his household entourage, I went with him wherever he went. As one of his right-hand men, I helped out with the various organizational and administrative tasks that became necessary as the number of people attending his satsang continued to dramatically increase. I helped set up and run guesthouses for Papaji's devotees, a bookshop, restaurant, and a publishing operation for printing Papaji's books. I helped organize the many festivals and marriage celebrations that occurred. I also produced a professional video film on his life and teachings [Call Off the Search] and a studio-recorded audio cassette [Be a Lion!] with bhajans devoted to him.

Around the time of my "marriage" to him, Papaji decided that next to the old hall we would build a new and much larger air-conditioned satsang hall with a seating capacity for four hundred people. On his birthday on October 10, 1992, Papaji blessed the new Satsang Bhavan in a special inaugurating satsang. I arranged for him to be interviewed and filmed by Doordarshan, the governmental, all-India TV channel.

Since the summer of 1992, I had been carrying most of the financial responsibilities for Papaji's work and for the Satsang Bhavan building program. I was also taking care of most of the ongoing daily expenses at Satsang Bhavan as well as the upkeep of Papaji's home. On guru purnima of the same year, the day traditionally set aside for renewing a disciple's dedication to the guru, I gave Papaji a letter containing a list of all my bank accounts, plus a check written out to his name for the full amount of everything that I owned to date. I declared that all my possessions were now his own and at his disposal. I said I wished that the master would use them for himself, his family, and the satsang community.

By the fall of 1992, my written will had found its way into Papaji's vault in a downtown bank, and I felt free and surrendered to the mystery of life and my spiritual odyssey. Papaji later ripped up the check; just the fact that the offer had been made was sufficient.

Several weeks later, Papaji's wife died. She was about his age and had lived very reclusively at his old family house in downtown Lucknow. Her ceremonial cremation and the ensuing rituals took place at Haridwar, one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage places in India, on the banks of the Ganges. Besides his son, Surendra, Papaji permitted only three of his devotees to attend them.

We took the overnight Deradoon Express train and arrived in Haridwar in the early morning hours. The city felt holy. It seemed somehow both ancient and familiar. So many of the old buildings were ashrams and temples. The smell of incense was everywhere, accompanied by the sounds of temple bells. I noticed shrines filled with offerings at almost every street corner. Vedic prayers echoed through the narrow alleys, reminding me of Papaji's wife's death and my own mortality.

Along the Ganges, hundreds of holy men lived on small mats, with only a few belongings. Some wore ochre robes and others were dressed only in their own long, matted hair; they meditated and prayed in serene solitude. Down narrow alleys, stray cows would wander and nibble on the unprotected produce displayed in front of the stalls.

It was on this occasion, one day after the consecration ceremony for Papaji's wife's ashes, that I found myself sitting next to Papaji in a small barber shop bordering the Ganges. There he ordered me to have my head shaved like his. There we sat-the guru and his disciple--on high wooden stools overlooking the Ganges on our left. Right in front of me, the mirror reflected a strange sight: our two pairs of eyes were gazing meditatively out of two completely white foamy heads covered from the neck up with shaving cream. The sight made us smile. Still not yet fathoming the importance of the ritual that was taking place, I was reminded of silent mimes or some kind of visiting extraterrestrials. A few minutes later, with all my hair removed, my head glistened in the light. It looked like a shiny newborn baby's bottom, and I felt as though my mind were free and naked.

Silently we left the barber shop and proceeded down to the Ganges. There Papaji instructed me to face the sun, fold my hands in prayer, and to dip seven times into its holy waters so as to be completely covered by them. Slowly, attentively, and with deep reverence, I stepped into the Ganges. From my soles to the top of my head, its glacier-cold, clear waters brought about a total cleansing of my body, mind, and spirit. My mind became empty except for an occasional flood of unfathomable gratitude. Moments of eternity passed. My heart exploded and the Self shined forth in its purity. After completing the ritual, Papaji and I sat silently together for a short while in the holy waters. Papaji finished the ritual, declaring, "With this ceremony, every single sin in all your past lives and on up to this moment is washed away. Now you are free. Stay free by shaving your head every day."

Papaji then took me, along with Surendra and my two devotee friends, to the nearby home of the family pundit [priest]. While we all sat on the floor, a huge book was produced and placed on the low table. The pundit recorded in it the cremation of Papaji's wife's body and the departure of its soul. Beginning with Papaji and Surendra, he also inscribed the names of all five of us present. When Papaji asked me to sign the documentation with my signature, I simply signed "Madhukar."

Later, Papaji and I went riding the streets of Haridwar in a rikshaw [three-wheeled bicycle taxi]. We sat comfortably, arm in arm and holding hands. All of a sudden, he squeezed my hand very hard and pulled me close to him by my arm. With my head fixed right in front of his own, his being surged through his eyes into mine and poured into the core of my heart. "Madhukar, you are more a son to me than my own son is." I heard this and felt his profound love, but I really didn't know what it would mean, practically speaking. I was deeply honored and touched by his words while his intense presence swept my mind away. Then, still mystified, I witnessed a lone thought cross the screen of my awareness. It said, "First I became his 'wife' and now I have become his son. But truly I am always the Self."

Your body may travel,
but the Self remains as it is

In the months that followed, many powerful events and experiences occurred in my master's presence, but doubts about my enlightenment remained, subsiding only occasionally. Finally, after having been in Papaji's presence every day for almost two years without attaining lasting fulfillment, I felt compelled to leave him for a while. With every new day, I was feeling more and more tormented by the discrepancy between my master's insistence that I was enlightened, and my own doubts about it. After all, I still had thoughts, got angry, was jealous, and most of the time felt identified with the body and the mind. So how could I consider myself truly enlightened?

I had come to the point where I could no longer bear the tension. So in June 1993, I asked Papaji's permission to visit the holy mountain Arunachala [in Tamil Nadu, southern India], which is said to be the physical form and manifestation of Lord Shiva [god of destruction] on Earth. I also wanted to visit the ashram of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi [1876-1950]-Papaji's guru-which had been established in the 1920s near the city of Tiruvannamalai at the foot of Arunachala. Papaji consented to my request.

From Lucknow I flew, via Delhi and Pune, to Madras. From there it was a five-hour taxi ride to Arunachala and the Sri Raman-ashramam. Bhagavan's nephew, Sri Venkataraman, the ashram president, invited me to stay there. My small and simple room had electricity and an attached bathroom. It had a view of the holy mountain. During my stay, I spent most of my time sitting in silence either in Bhagavan's samadhi [tomb of a saint] hall, where his physical remains are enshrined, in the Old Hall where he spent most of his life, in the Virupaksha cave, or at Skandashram. (Situated on the slopes of the mountain, these last two locations were Bhagavan's abodes during the early years of his stay at Arunachala.)

At other times, I met and talked with ashram residents and devotees who had lived with Sri Ramana for extended periods. Some of them were now spiritual teachers in their own right. My interviews with these gurus are described in chapter 5 [Sri Annamalai Swami] and chapter 6 [Sri Lakshmana Swami]. I sought them out because they were all former gurubhais [followers of the same guru] of my own teacher. I thought that perhaps they would understand my predicament, help me to overcome it, deepen my inquiry, and assist and guide me further in my spiritual search.

During my two-week stay, I had several insightful and clarifying conversations with them. I came to the conclusion that I needed to leave Papaji's physical presence and continue my life and my search for enlightenment on my own. The day before I left Arunachala, I sent Papaji a fax to this effect. I said that I didn't know what I was going to do, or where I was going to go, or how I was going to live. I told him that I would shortly be returning to Lucknow for a few days to organize my departure. I asked him to bless me in my endeavor.

Before leaving Arunachala, I called Ramesh S. Balsekar, a spiritual teacher living in Bombay, and asked if I could meet him. He readily agreed to my request. I stopped over in Bombay for a few days on my way back to Lucknow, hoping to speak with him, too, about my predicament. This conversation and the full story of my relationship with Ramesh are recounted in chapter 7.

As a result of my interaction with Ramesh, the urge that was driving my search in India for the final truth and enlightenment seemed to drop away. He had influenced me with his teaching that no striving or any kind of effort would further or quicken my chances of enlightenment. I therefore booked myself on a flight to Germany that was leaving in less than a week's time and headed off to Lucknow for a final meeting with Papaji.

On arrival, I wrote a letter to Papaji to inform him of my intended departure. This letter did not say why I was leaving-I felt I had to explain that to him personally. As I awaited our meeting, I found myself telling him in my heart that I wanted only the real thing--permanent enlightenment--not just bliss experiences and the occasional momentary recognition of my true nature. I wanted him to understand that I doubted I would ever attain final fulfillment under his guidance, that something in my core was feeling blocked, and that my burning desire for enlightenment had somehow dropped away. These were the reasons why I felt compelled to leave, I told him in my heart.

For three days prior to my departure, I therefore repeatedly asked Papaji for a private meeting. Each time I asked, he agreed to let me have one. In the meantime, I told no one that I had decided to leave the master for good. I quietly paid all the outstanding bills of the Papaji Satsang Bhavan and of Papaji's household, cleared up all pending personal business, passed all my duties on, and packed my belongings.

Despite his assurances that he would grant my frequently repeated request, no private meeting with Papaji was forthcoming. I waited in anguish and growing desperation. I just could not leave my guru without letting him know why I was going. Finally, the day of my departure came. With no sign of the private interview materializing, I found myself with no other option but to speak directly to Papaji in satsang. The following transcript is from that morning's satsang, which ended just minutes before I had to leave for the airport.

Papaji entered the satsang hall and walked slowly into the room, his right arm held by a disciple named Bharatmitra, his left arm supported by me. Perhaps three hundred people had assembled. After the master was seated, I lowered myself into my regular seat to the left of Papaji. During the customary introductory silent meditation, I opened my eyes and gazed softly at Papaji's form. His eyes closed peacefully. Serenity and beauty seemed to emanate from his being, filling the whole room and permeating each one of us. In my heart I thought, "Perhaps I will imbibe your beauty and enlightenment physically one last time, but your presence and your being will stay on in my heart forever in this eternal meeting in truth-in satsang." Feelings of immense love and gratitude intensified and brought tears to my eyes as I allowed my wet gaze to drift across the hall from one meditative, peaceful friend's face to the next. My heart cried out in agony in the face of my imminent separation from them and from my guru.

Soon, Papaji's deep voice soothed my pain when he, hands folded, opened the oral part of satsang with his traditional and enigmatic invocation, "Om. Let there be peace and love among all beings of the universe. Let there be peace, let there be peace. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti." Satsang continued. Finally, and just before its conclusion, I decided to speak up. In anticipation of his unpredictable response, I heard my trembling voice boom over the loudspeakers:

Madhukar -- Papaji, I would like to say something about what happened or did not happen to me. When I left Lucknow for Arunachala five weeks ago, I still had the very, very strong desire to be free. During my stay at the Sri Ramanashramam, that desire somehow just dropped away. Nothing else happened. But the desire is gone. It just left. It is just like that. There is no desire for freedom anymore. There is just the acceptance of What Is.

I don't know what enlightenment really is, and somehow that doesn't matter anymore. I would like to explain my situation more clearly. But I don't really know anything about my situation. I am not able to explain myself better. There is just no explanation.

I want to let you, Papaji, and everyone else, know that I am leaving today for good. I don't know what I will do. I only know that I have to leave. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you, Papaji, and to all of you assembled here.

My announcement exploded into the congregation like a bombshell. Everyone seemed to be arrested in a state of disbelief. Utter silence, stark presence, and suspense filled the interim between my disclosure and Papaji's answer. After having stated my intention for everybody to hear, I felt instantly relieved, unburdened and free. I felt strong and ready to face and embrace anything-including the possible chiseling or hammering on my ego by the master. And even before Papaji uttered a word, in my mind's eye I saw myself resuming my odyssey of enlightenment by boarding the raft again and setting the sails for destination unknown. I was determined to resolve my doubts. I felt guided by a deep inner knowing.

Papaji -- This happening has to happen. It is not really a happening. Yet this happening had to happen and it has happened. That is why I am very happy about this. There are very few people to whom this happening could happen, and has happened.

Observing what has happened to you, I can only say that it is not a "regular" happening. It is the Self that is happening. It came by itself. So, you take it as it is. I wish you all the best of luck wherever you are. I also wish you luck on behalf of my children of satsang. We wish you the best of luck.

It is not that you are leaving. "You" cannot leave. Let the body go anywhere, but yet "you" are not leaving. How can you leave? But yet I like what's happening with you. Your leaving I like. Leave everything! One day you will have to leave behind everything that you have. It is very difficult to do so while still being in the body. Everyone has to leave his body, his near and dear ones, his relationships, and everything else. The earlier that happens, the better it is. Why wait for tomorrow? Tomorrow nobody has ever seen.

I am happy with this trusting step that you have taken. It is a divine gift. Take it that way. Thank you for everything!

By the time Papaji had finished addressing his touching words to me, the whole congregation was in tears. The master's words had hit the core in my seeker's heart. They encouraged, strengthened, and empowered me on my journey. They supported my inner guidance and affirmed that I was on the right track. I felt deeply blessed by, grateful to, and in love with, my guru.

Leaving satsang, Bharatmitra and I assisted Papaji again, walking together into "Papaji's Room." In that small room, the first thing he did every morning after arriving at Satsang Bhavan was to read through the letters and questions for satsang before it commenced. After satsang, he met and welcomed new arrivals there as well as those who were leaving Lucknow on that day.

Seated on the thakt, Papaji motioned me to kneel down in front of him. First he took the Sri Ramana picture down from the wall behind him and placed it in my hands. Then he picked a red rose out of a nearby bouquet and laid it on the picture. He ordered a rudraksha mala [a 108-bead necklace worn by traditional Hindu sannyasins] to be brought. He then placed the mala around his guru's portrait. Papaji then asked me to touch Sri Ramana's feet. And so I touched my guru's guru's feet.

At this instant, I was overcome with the most intense, almost unbearable, feelings of love and gratitude. I threw myself at Papaji's feet and began to dissolve. I had the impression that my death was imminent. It felt as if I were dying--dying from love when I dissolved into nonexistence at the feet of my teachers.

On my return to physical reality, Papaji looked firmly into my eyes and spoke into my being: "Having filled their cup completely, I wish everybody would be leaving with you today, and on my return to satsang tomorrow morning I would find the hall empty. Then my mission would be fulfilled. Blessed you are. Go with my blessings."

More tears! Could I ever make it to the airport today? Did I still want to get there? It turned out that I didn't need to worry about that. Papaji took care of me. After he had returned to his house, he sent his Maruti van back to Satsang Bhavan with the instructions to take me to my flight.

The truth itself
will go to a holy person
and exalt that person

To my complete surprise, I was back in Lucknow less than five weeks later. Germany had nothing to offer; everything seemed empty and dead. So within two weeks of my arrival there, I booked a flight back to India. My desire to be free had not dropped away at all. Quite the contrary-the craving for final freedom and fulfillment had resurfaced with greater intensity! I was absolutely convinced now that my life's only purpose was to complete my odyssey-and realize the Self. I felt I was getting older very quickly. Time seemed to be running out fast. More than anything else, I wished that my ego would die before my body did. With that spirit of deep desire, I returned to India, and to Papaji. But this time, I felt determined to deepen the inquiry into the ultimate truth of Self-realization through the guidance of other gurus and teachers as well.

I arrived back in Lucknow in the fall of 1993 and celebrated my return with a big party in the Papaji Satsang Bhavan, which Papaji attended. He again invited me to sit next to him while devotees sang their songs of devotion to him. I felt happy and satisfied. Papaji was loving and kind to me, treating me again like a true son. I rented a flat, and was once again a member of the master's household, though without taking on any fixed duties.

But it soon became clear to me that there had been a great change in my life as a spiritual seeker, and a new pattern was emerging. I now discovered that the urge for final fulfillment and enlightenment, which had been burning inside me for so long, now alternated with periods in which I felt overcome by a sense of disillusionment--even hopelessness--about the spiritual search. At these moments, it seemed that the spiritual quest was just an elusive mind game.

At these times, I felt that instead of asking the guru to show me how to get enlightened, I would do better to ask how to drop the search altogether and become a "normal" citizen again. Once again, I knew that my time with Papaji was coming to an end. Within three weeks of my return to Lucknow, I left again--this time for a pilgrimage to the source of the holy Ganges in the northern part of India. I set out to request the river goddess Ganga to lead me to a new teacher who could help me out of my dilemma and guide me onward to the conclusion of my odyssey.

Over the next twelve months, I returned to see Papaji three more times for short visits lasting about a week each. I had sev-eral conversations with the master during satsang; the topics included predestination and the benefits of seeking out more than one teacher. I also attempted, once again, to clarify Papaji's teaching on enlightenment. Here is the transcript of one of those interviews.

Madhukar -- I heard you say that you have not given your final teaching to anyone yet. I would like to request you to give the final teaching to me, today--now.

Papaji -- It is very true. I haven't given the final teaching to anyone yet, because the truth exalts a holy person. Therefore, the truth will go to a holy person. It will itself choose such a person and reveal itself to such a person. It is a very secret and sacred teaching. I cannot give it to everyone. So far, I have not done it.

Some people run away from the teaching because they are rejected by the truth. Only when one is very holy in all respects, then the truth will unfold its own glory to oneself. On the other hand, one has to wait without demanding anything, and then one will find oneself being chosen by the truth. But you have to be chosen one day! Who will be chosen? The one who is absolutely holy and most beautiful will attract the truth.

After winning, do not go
to the racecourse again

By saying that he had not imparted his final teaching to anyone yet, did Papaji mean to say that none of his disciples had actually attained final enlightenment? Wasn't enlightenment the fruition and culmination of the final teaching? And hadn't he declared me and others enlightened? Three satsangs later, I asked Papaji to clarify this issue.

Madhukar -- The other day you told us that the truth exalts a holy person. On the other hand, you used to tell me and other people, "You got it! You did your work! You did it!" What did you mean by that? Did you mean that the truth had come to me or not?

Papaji -- That means: I have seen that you are holy, and I have given you what a holy person needs to be given as a gift. When you win a derby lottery of one million dollars, everyone will tell you, "You got it!" Because you backed horse number six, and it won. That means, "You got it!" It doesn't mean that you got the horse or the jockey. Everybody will tell you, "You got it!" And you got the price that was fixed for someone who is holy. The holy person is given that gift.

Madhukar -- And then? What comes after that?

Papaji -- And then? That person will not ask any further questions, because he has won one million dollars. "And then?" means: He will go again to the racecourse and lose all that he has won. I have seen many people who lost everything they owned in the horse races. They became dropouts and beggars in the streets of Bombay. They could have kept the prize.

That is why I say, "After winning, do not see the racecourse again!"

You must have seen the horse races in Pune. I don't think that anybody is happy who bets in those races. I have even known some people to commit suicide after the horse on which they had bet all their possessions lost the race. Only one horse will win. Among the many, only one man will win.

In truth, too, among the many, only one will win. Who will win? The prize of truth will go only to a holy person. What I have read to you from The Mountain Path [a magazine published by Sri Ramanashramam, Tiruvan-namalai, India] indicates who and what a holy person is and what his qualities are. He has no association at all with anyone who is associated with sense objects. He rejects anyone who is attached to sense objects.

If you understand what I say, then you tell me now who you are. Who are you? For one second, don't think of the one who is attached to the sense objects! Just don't touch that person for one second! For this one second, tell me who you are!

Papaji's words had summoned me again into my indescribable true nature. With great intensity, Papaji looked into my eyes for a long time. Absorbed into silence and That which is prior to sense objects, I felt an unspeakable peace that silenced all understanding.

When all impurities of mind
are dissolved, you will stay quiet

I had heard from several of Papaji's longtime Indian devotees that he had visited and conversed with hundreds of gurus and teachers in India and elsewhere. This went on until the mid-1980s, forty years after his own enlightenment. I wondered what had motivated him to keep seeking so ardently and decided to ask him about it.

One day, Papaji silently watched me move into the "hot seat" cushion in front of him. Sitting there cross-legged, I pulled my letter out of the right-hand pocket of my kurta [Indian style long shirt worn loosely over a pair of pajama-style pants] and handed it to him. Very slowly and gently, he pulled the letter out of the envelope and read it silently first to himself. Then he read it out loud:

Beloved Papaji,

The fire of one thousand suns is blazing within, leading Madhukar from guru to guru and from teacher to teacher. There is no way to resist this force. This force has never happened to Madhukar before.

You yourself visited many gurus, saints, and teachers before and after your years with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Please, tell me what benefit that wandering had for you.

Face to face with the lion, eye to eye, fearlessly--Papaji, oh, Lion!--you are requested to pounce on Madhukar now and kill his ego forever!

In your grace,

Papaji -- My going from teacher to teacher? When?

Madhukar -- I am asking you, "How did you benefit spiritually from your own earlier wanderings from guru to guru?" Your answer may help me to understand my present situation. Right now, this body-mind organism called Madhukar appears to need more help and feels compelled to wander throughout India in order to meet other gurus and teachers. I want to know if this pilgrimage, which takes me away from your feet to the feet of some other gurus and teachers, is right. Is what is happening to me presently a natural stage in a seeker's spiritual quest?

Papaji -- Just now I have read to you the story of Shunya Baba. Like you, he also had gone to many teachers. Finally, he was led to Arunachala, and there his wanderings stopped.

Similarly, you are also wandering. You have to wander! And some day your wandering will also stop. Now you are visiting Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedar-nath, Kathmandu, and so many other places. Something is driving you to these places and to these gurus. There is the urge in you to purify your atman [Self] inside of you. There may be a fault here or there. But when you are purified, the atman will pick you up someday.

No doubt, in my case too, I also have done plenty of wandering in order to find a good guru. Why? Because something was troubling me. Some trouble must have been there that was making me run from guru to guru, from place to place, and from pilgrimage to pilgrimage. So, I have done all these things myself.

And there must be some reason for your wandering, too. You were here with me. Then you went away. There must have been a reason for your leaving me and going away. So, whatever happened and whatever happens to you, is carried out according to "somebody's" wish.

Madhukar -- Do you mean to say the wandering is not my own doing?

Papaji -- Yes. That's why I say, ". . . according to somebody's wish." Your wandering is not because of your own wish. That "someone" doesn't want you to rest yet. He is making you wander about. So everybody is made to do whatever he or she does by that "someone."

The river can't just stop. It has to run until its journey has ended. That is when it finds and meets the ocean. One day, when the cravings of the mind stop, you will keep quiet. Then you will settle down. One day, when all impurities of mind are dissolved, you will stay quiet.

Madhukar -- Thank you, Papaji.

Realize who you are
and then do whatever you like

Two days after this satsang, I left on a flight to Bombay. I didn't know that it was the last time I would see Papaji alive.

Three years later on September 7, 1997, I returned to Lucknow to pay my final respects at Papaji's funeral and to participate in the mahasamadhi [death of an enlightened person] celebrations that marked the physical death of the master. Around three hundred of his devotees participated in the beautiful and peaceful ceremonies. Papaji's joyful and robust presence was all about us, and no sadness clouded my mind. Only an unspeakable gratitude for the teachings and courage of this great teacher brimmed from my heart.

Time seemed to stop during these days around Papaji's funeral. I had plenty of respite to reflect on my own life and what I had learned from my teacher. While Osho taught how to celebrate and savor the richness of life by being total and aware, Papaji tended to discount life's emotional challenges and taught primarily by pointing back to the Self. Osho had taught that life could be transformed through meditation and surrender; in contrast, Papaji focused only on realizing the Self and wasn't interested in developing skills for improving the quality and coherency of one's life. He was not concerned with eliminating or even addressing, for example, fear or anger. Instead, he pointed to the subject or "who it was who had the anger." He simply taught, "Realize who you are and then do whatever you like."

Through his personal guidance in the self-inquiry process during satsang, Papaji facilitated my recognition of my true nature and declared me enlightened for having recognized it. But for me, enlightenment meant an enduring realization of my essential nature. My recurrent predicament of forgetting the Self and becoming upset signaled to me that I was not really cooked. In fact, I found myself still caught in the emotional turbulence of daily life. I judged myself severely for becoming doubtful, angry, and fearful again and again. Wouldn't true enlightenment take the painful edges out of living? Shouldn't I be experiencing continuing selfless love, compassion, and pure service?

Throughout my two-year stay with him, Papaji seemed unable to advise me regarding my doubts or to assist me in transforming them except through the moments when he assisted me during satsang to recognize the Self. I was longing for something that I hadn't yet experienced--peace and happiness that were independent of outside circumstances or intervention. This longing became a gnawing sore that worsened each time Papaji declared that I "got it." As he encouraged nothing else that I could do to cultivate the awakened state, I became frustrated and felt trapped. By the time I finally left Papaji, I had arrived at a seeming checkmate with him and his teachings. I could find no way to break through.

Supported by his personal power, satori experiences seemed to be initiated only through Papaji's "pointing to the Self." Every spiritual experience of his students occurred through him. He contended that the seeker alone was not able to recognize the truth by him- or herself; the guru needed to be present to confirm it. And because of his insistence that I only needed to discern the truth once and would henceforth remain enlightened, he could not acknowledge or assist me in my predicament.

He taught that no spiritual practice is necessary before, during, or after the momentary experience of what he referred to as enlightenment. Full recognition, he insisted, occurs in an instant that is beyond time, and so he deemed all spiritual practices as superfluous. "You cannot practice to be the Self because you are already the Self." Apart from remaining in satsang with him, there was nothing, according to him, that I could do to advance on my path of spiritual awakening.

Despite the shortcomings I perceived in Papaji's teachings, I nonetheless felt a deep devotion and appreciation for his single-pointedness. Although I began to feel quite repressed with him, I was immensely grateful for Papaji's generous love and for the opportunity I had to serve him and his devotees. The greatest gift Papaji blessed me with was his persistent pointing to my own full recognition of the Self.

Despite being so blessed by his proximity, his personal care, and his love, I was now certain that I needed to simply reconnect myself inwardly to the truth without his governing directives. Through my visits to the sages around Arunachala and through Ramana Maharshi's own teachings, as recounted in some of the coming chapters, I became convinced that spiritual practices, especially self-inquiry, were useful and necessary for me. Contrary to Papaji's teaching, I had realized that the recognition of the Self was not enough, but that it takes persistent practice and commitment to the Self to become fully and permanently established in Self-realization. I was prepared to dedicate myself to whatever work was needed for that to occur.

"Om. Let there be peace and love among all beings of the universe. Let there be peace, let there be peace. Om, shanti, shanti, shanti." With Papaji's words echoing within me, my odyssey continued.