The awakening of Gangaji


For a brief period of time in the early 1970s, I was a single mother on welfare. I was involved in political protesting and I went through a painful divorce. Eventually, I came out of those difficult times and pulled my life together with the help of friends. 

By the early 80s, I had become a successful acupuncturist operating a clinic in San Francisco and I was with my soul mate. My daughter had weathered the divorce and the hard times and she turned out okay. So I was in a place of relative peace and success compared to the whole rest of my life, yet this success didn't address a deeper discontent, a deeper yearning. Having a house, making mortgage payments, having a good relationship, having a good career and feeling satisfied with my life still didn't address this deeper yearning. It was a shock to see that. Like many people, I assumed that if I could just get my life together then I would be happy. I was relatively happy, but there was a deeper unhappiness, a suffering. This had to be addressed if I was to be honest with myself, and I was interested in being honest. 

My husband and I felt a call to go into deep retreat. I closed down my practice as an acupuncturist. We sold our house and moved to Maui. While my husband continued teaching and leading groups, I withdrew from everything. I recognized that as successful as my practice was, and as good as it felt to be considered "a healer," there was still some lie in this that was making me sick. I was aware of the lie, but hadn't done anything to uncover it. For me the answer was to withdraw from all my successes and go out on a limb. 

Eventually it became clear that I needed something--perhaps a teaching--to address this suffering I was experiencing. I wasn't looking for an eastern teacher or guru, in particular. I just needed someone or something to help me see what I couldn't see. 

Within two years after that period of retreat, I met my teacher, Sri Poonjaji (also known as Papaji) who happened to be a man, who happened to be a guru, and happened to be an Indian--all the things I wouldn't have expected. What he actually was and is to me had nothing to do with being a guru or an Indian or a man. It had to do with that which is the same in him and is the same in me and in you and in everyone who reads this--this core of being. 

Papaji was in that place of true being. Since he was able to recognize that in me, this evoked the realization of that which is always present, but goes overlooked. He had the force and depth of character to point to it to the degree that I could recognize, "Oh that! Of course, that is who I am!" Even though I had identified myself as woman or welfare mother or successful practitioner, as spiritual or as non-spiritual, as hedonistic or whatever--that presence of being had always been there. All the definitions of myself were overlaid on top of that. In this phase, my self-definition was as someone who is lacking something, even though she has a lot. His direct pointing led me to investigate, "Who is lacking?" 

Asking that basic question changed the whole course of my life. For the first time, I questioned the questioner. Who is separate? Who is unhappy? Who is incomplete? Who needs something? This wasn't a mental questioning. I hadn't read the teachings of Vedanta. I didn't know the correct answer. It simply threw my mind back into the reality of the question. With the mind retreating back into the basic assumption of the suffering, I felt the layers of my identification falling off--woman falling off, person falling off, my name Toni falling off, acupuncturist, seeker, unhappy childhood, human being, all falling off. The question was going deeper than the layers of identification. We were going to a primal beingness. When the question, "Who is incomplete?" hit its mark, there was completeness and total fulfillment. There was no one that was incomplete. All the incompleteness had simply been built into the misidentification of myself as someone who was suffering.

Original article here


We moved to Hawaii in '89 and it was in January of 1990 that Eli went to India and found Papaji, and then I followed in April. What a moment to meet Papaji! In the instant of meeting him there was a deep release, a relief, a being welcomed home. I realized that whatever this being had to say to me was very important, and it was why I had traveled to India, why I had previously stopped all professional identification. He said very clearly, very firmly, "You are freedom. You are truth." He said it in such a way that it penetrated all my habits of denial. It penetrated even any idea of freedom and truth. It wiped out the whole slate. It left only freedom and truth.


Original interview here