Cohen and Poonja, from MBFM’s link /2008/08/28/cohen-and-poonja-from-mbfms-link/

Cohen and Poonja, from MBFM’s link

Here is the material from one of the links MBFM provided:
Concerning Maharshi, Poonja (aka Papaji), Gangaji, and the Seekers Scene [,12906,58790]

Ramana Maharshi’s name is invoked for legitimation purposes by quite a few who seek to create resumes for themselves and it appears a key stem in this ‘resume pedigree’ was someone named HWL Poonja who went by the name Papaji among those devoted to him.

Ive read some scattered citations that after Rajneesh self destructed, a lot of his orphaned followers took up with Poonja/Papaji. This might be worth a Google session.

Regarding Poonja–his first major influence was on Andrew Cohen


plus two memoirs in book form, Enlightement Blues (2003)-Andre van der Braak (left after 11 years in 1998)and The Mother of God (1997) by Luna Tarlo–Cohen’s own mother, who left after 3 years, in 1989. Tarlo saw a great deal of Poonja and her descriptions are of the utmost interest.

Sudden Enlightenment, Instant Teaching Credentials-Poonja Style

Andrew Cohen reportedly achieved sudden enlightenment following his
meeting HWL Poonja (papaji) and then after just a couple of weeks, Poonja told Andrew to go out and ‘start a revolution amongst the young’.

To learn more about Poonja and Andrew Cohen get and read a memoir by Andrew Cohen’s own mother, Luna Tarlo, entitled ‘The Mother of God.’

[Poonja, according to Tarlo, went around telling quite a few people they were enlightened, including Luna herself. In her case, she didnt feel any different and she reported this merely made her feel confused and more dependent on the people who had told her this.

Maharshi Reportedly Left No Lineage and Designated No Heir

Later, in the process of leaving her son, Luna had a conversation with a friend of hers who met an Indian born professor of philosophy Naryayana Moorty, who taught (in the 1980s) at Monterey Community College in Monterey California.

Tarlo wrote (pages 251–252, Mother of God) ”In the course of a long conversation, Andrew (Cohen) was mentioned. July told Professor Moorty that Andrew was a guru in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi., and Professor Moorty interrupted her to say–and this surprised Julie–that Ramana Maharshi had no official disciples and no official lineage.’

Poonja/Papaji had claimed to be in the lineage of Maharshi.

But…Maharshi had died in the 1950s, honored, celebrated…and in no position to contradict claims made by those eager to use his numinous name as a source of legitimation.

Poonja Dumps Andrew Cohen and according to van der Braak and Tarlo, Designates Gangaji

(Gangaji, formerly known as Antoinette Warner or Varner, was, according to the accounts given by Tarlo and van der Braak, a student of Andrew’s and then left him and became a student of Poonja’s.

After Andrew Cohen and Poonja quarrelled and broke up, Andrew later became involved with Ken Wilber, and gradually Andrew Cohen’s What Is Enlightenment? magazine turned into a house-organ for KW’s ideology, what some have termed ‘Wilberism’. Andrew’s earlier tie to Poonja was set aside and gradually de-emphasized.

Meanwhile, Poonja took over Antoinette as his protege, though some accounts state that Eli Jaxon Bear was the one who introduced them.

In 2003, Andre van der Braak, the first editor of Andrew Cohen’s What is Enlightenment? magasine, and who had left Andrew after having been his disciple for 11 years, wrote a memoir, Enlightenment Blues. (Andrew has a substantial following in the Netherlands and German speaking countries–interesting for an American born guru-entrepreneur)

Andre van der Braak mentions this:

‘Many of them come to (Andrew Cohen) expecting to find a teacher of enlightenment will give them a profound spiritual experience. Instead they are told off about their lack of willingness to change themselves. Many people perceive this as a kind of moralizing they can do without, and decide to go to the source itself, and visit Poonja in India, as do some of the students whove been sent away from the community by Andrew. To their relief, and to Andrew’s displeasure, they receive a warm welcome. Some of them, having received Poonja’s enlightement, are sent back to the West to teach others.

‘The most important of these is an American woman named Antoinette Varner, who had been with Andrew in satsang a few months before going off to see Poonja. Poonja gives her the name Gangaji and snds her out to teach in places where Andrew has been teaching. He tells her to “clean up after Andrew” restore the proper understanding of Advaita Vedanta, and heal any egos that have been wounded. We hear that Poonja talks about us as “sheep” that merely follow an authority, which he considers antithetical to true freedom and enlightenment.”

(quoted from pages 101-102 of Enlightenment Blues by Andre van der Braak), 2002

Luna Tarlo, Andrew’s mother, who left him in 1989, writes in her 1997 memoir:

‘A lot of what Poonja said about Andrew was true, that he couldnt tolerate being criticized that his disciples were afraid of him, and that Andrew’s notion of communal sangha life was for sheep. But the fact was, Poonja couldnt stand being criticized, either. And he had shown himself to be a hypocrite. For example, I heard he told a former student of Andrew’s now called Gangaji, and presently operating successfully as a guru out of Hawaii, he had been waiting for her too, all of his life, and as he had said, after teaching Andrew, he ws ready to die! (She subsequently became Poonja’s replacement for Andrew…When I met Poonja for the first time in India, he was a man in his seventies, who after many years as a guru, had suprisingly few followers. I think’ writes Tarlo ‘he was hungry for fame, and when he met Andrew (Cohen) he must have seen a golden opportunity to broadcast his name in America by inflaming this young person’s impressionable mind with ideas of ‘starting a revolution amongst the young’.

‘Then, when Andrew turned out to be unsuitable, it took him no time at all to find a replacement from amonst Andrew’s disaffected following. And the strategy worked. He (Poonja–since dead) is now regarded as one of Indias foremost gurus.’ (Luna Tarlo, The Mother of God, 1997,286-287)

Poonja Claims He Never Enlightened Anyone

After acquring disciples for himself, Poonja Poonja allegedly stated that he never enlightened anyone and that he was pestered by people who kept asking him.

Around the time Poonja told Andrew Cohen he was enlightened, he told the same thing to another man, Karl and, as he had told Andrew, P told Andrew he was qualified to teach. But…Karl was wise enough not to.

Karl wrote:

“much abridged)


Back to my story, I’d waited long enough to meet Poonja. A former Muktananda Swami and I somehow got permission to visit Poonja in Delhi. We left Andrew and crew in Rishikesh.

Within a few weeks of meeting him in Delhi, Poonja Ji had declared me enlightened as well, and given me permission to teach as he had given Andrew permission to teach. I believe I was the second appointed teacher of Poonja’s.

((It seems highly dysfunctional in relation to all the Asian traditions to declare someone is ready to teach after just a few weeks-it takes longer than that to learn to be a capable bike mechanic))

At this point, I don’t believe Poonja had an idea of what exactly he expected from his emissaries. It was certainly not the case, as some have suggested, that Andrew’s role was to attract followers to Poonja Ji in Lucknow. Poonja’s health was in serious question in 1986. He had no ashram, no attendant disciples, no history of collecting followers, and there was no talk of changing that. He didn’t even have a “teaching” in a conventional sense.

The reason I relate the story above is for the sake of those who would make the “enlightened” man’s behavior and pronouncements infallible and sacrosanct. I was, and am, more than capable of mistakes of all sorts, of being swayed by lust and greed, and plenty of other weaknesses and vices. I am totally confident that Andrew is in the same boat, only with his own individual set of faults and vices. ‘……

Unfortunately, we are all silly humans with faults. Our ego is scum floating on the ocean of truth and it gets slimy over anything that emerges from that ocean. It’s easy to see how a man, observing “miracles” happening in his presence, being showered with love, respect, and obedience from everyone around him, could believe that his scum was as pure as the ocean below.

When I returned to the United States, I determined that if I were to serve the Truth with integrity, I wouldn’t depend on the “Andrew method” of proclaiming myself be the Most High and expecting folks to fall in line. I would let the Spirit guide my destiny.

It turned out that I quickly fell in love, fell into drama, and fell into more attachment than I had suffered in my “pre-enlightenment” phase. I moved through those challenges but am not fooled that my human side is obliterated or beyond influence.

I’m happy to suspect that I’ve had a positive influence on my friends and community nonetheless, without placing myself in an unnatural position of power and authority in relation to them. ”

Here Poonja, aka Papaji claims he never enlightened anyone. He comes across less as a father and more like a petulant man who resented the responsiblity of caring for all the needy people who showed up on his doorstep after he had put himself into the very role that elicits regression and neediness–BEING A GURU AND ADVERTISED AS SUCH (sorry to shout)

Poonja Disowning Responsiblity for the Regression He Elicited (My Reading–C)


David Godman interviews Papaji:

David: “You used to give experiences to a lot of people.
Why did you do it if you knew that the effect would not be permanent?”

Papaji: “I did it to get rid of the leeches who were sticking to me,
never allowing me to rest or be by myself.
It was a very good way of getting rid of all these leeches in a polite way.

I knew that in doing this I was giving lollipops to the ignorant and innocent, but this is what these people wanted.

When I tried to give $100 bills to them, they rejected them. They thought that they were just pieces of paper. So I gave them lollipops instead.

David: Many of the people you gave lollipops to left Lucknow thinking that they were enlightened.

Does the fact that they accepted the lollipop and left indicate that they were not worthy to receive the $100 bills?

Papaji: “If one is not a holy person, one is not worthy to receive the real teaching. Many people think that they have attained the final state of full and complete liberation.

They have fooled themselves, and they have fooled many other people,
But they have not fooled me. A person in this state is like a fake coin. It may look like the real thing. It can be passed around and used by ignorant people who use it to buy things with.

People who have it in their pocket can boast of having a genuine coin,
but it is not real. It has no value. When it is finally discovered to be a fake, the person who is circulating it, claiming that it is real,is subject to the penalties of the law.

In the spiritual world, the law of karma catches up and deals with all people who are trafficking in fake experiences. I have never passed on the truth to those whom I could see were fake coins.

These people may look like gold and they may glitter like gold, but they have no real value. There are many people who can put on a show and fool other people into believing they are enlightened.”

“Why does hearing the truth only work in a small percentage of cases?
The simple answer to that is that only a small percentage of people are interested in the truth.”

David: “Many people have heard you say, ‘I have not given my final teachings to anyone’. What are these final teachings, and why are you not giving them out?”

Papaji: “Nobody is worthy to receive them. Because it has been my experience that everybody has proved to be arrogant and egotistic…
I don’t think anyone is worthy to receive them.”

David: “Though Papaji has consistently said that a living human Guru is essential for those seeking liberation, he does not intend to appoint anyone to carry on his teaching duties when he dies.

He remarked in one of his satsangs a few years ago,

‘Wherever there is a lineage, impurity enters,’ and cited several instances to back up his statement.”

Interesting to note that many of those who teach using Papaji’s name
talk about their lineage. How gracious of Papaji to give so many pointers to let us know that all those who are teaching and giving supposed “satsang” in his name are false coins.

Papaji said that he had only met two Jnanis (Awakened, Enlightened, Liberated Sages) in his lifetime. One was Sri Ramana Maharshi. The other was a man who came from out of the Jungle near Krishnagiri ( a city in South India).

Sometimes Papaji would add one or two people to that list.However, never did Papaji add any of the people who came to see him in Lucknow,
or any of the people who teach using his name, etc. to that list.

It is clear then, that none of the thousands of people who came to Lucknow to be in Satsang with Papaji are Liberated Sages according to Papaji. …”

i]**(What is fascinating in reading Luna Tarlo’s description of how her son changed after his encounter with Poonja, reads also like a sudden cure narrative. However, Andrew had been an avid spiritual reader and seeker before he went to India, so he might have had chances to learn from quite a few people before meeting Poonja. He did a layover studying Insight/Buddhist meditation and may have studied elsewhere, as well. The full roster of teachers AC studied with prior to Poonja may may never be known. Tarlo, Cohen’s mother may not have known and in her memoir, made it seem Poonja was the sole agent of her son’s transformation into a guru.

It is worth recalling that psychologist Len Oakes in his book Prophetic Charisma tells us that the 20 spiritual leaders he had interviewed had spent years in various forms of self education before they went public. C)[/i]

Confused yet?

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