Gangaji is recognized around the world as a student of HWL Poonja, better known as Papaji, who was a deeply devoted direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi as well as a profound mystic and guru. Papaji is also recognized around the world as the primary catalyst for what has been coined; the Neo Advaita satsang movement. Gangaji was born as Meryl Antoinette (Toni) Roberson in June of 1942 and is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. She was first introduced to the teaching of Papaji by Andrew Cohen who had met this powerful guru in the late 1980's.
Andrew Cohen was one of the first westerners to discover Papaji, but he has a nefarious reputation. After spending only a few days with Papaji, he declared he was superior and subsequently began teaching in the United States in 1986. In the inset video, Papaji acknowledged publicly in satsang that the invitation to teach he extended to Gangaji, Andrew, and Isaac as well as several other students was misunderstood. Papaji explains the total time Andrew spent with him in satsang was a mere twenty-five hours, which completely annihilates Andrew's claim regarding his realization.
The limited amount of time Andrew spent in satsang with Papaji was sufficient for a deep awakening, but grossly inadequate for mastery or liberation. The arrogance of Andrew's claims also serves to reveal he was not even properly prepared to be a messenger. Papaji clearly states in the inset video he did not recognized Andrew, Gangaji, Isaac or any of his students as masters, but sent them out purely as messengers to spread the word about satsang throughout the world. He also acknowledges that all of the students he sent out as messengers were still very much at the effect of the arrogance of their ego, which was the perspective he maintain until his death in September of 1997.
The proof that Andrew was not properly prepared to teach is evident in his outrageous behavior as a self-proclaimed teacher. After teaching for over seventeen years, he was forced to step down from his role as spiritual leader of his global non-profit organization amid increasing allegations of physical, mental, and financial abuse by many of his former students. He stopped everything for a short time in 2013 and studied in India before returning to teaching in 2016. Controversy continues to swirl around him and many believe it is highly unlikely he has overcome the deeply ingrained behavioral issues that led to severe abuse of former students. It is also highly questionable whether he is, or ever was, actually qualified to teach. Andrew's experience reveals one of the great pitfalls of Papaji's teaching—awakening can be immediate, even profoundly deep, but liberation takes years, if not lifetimes, of spiritual evolution.
In 1990, a short time after meeting Andrew Cohen, Gangaji, then Toni Varner, traveled to India and met Poonja-ji (Papaji) on the banks of the Ganga where she not only received her name, but recognized him as the Divine Master she had prayed for. Under the guidance of Papaji she had a deep realization of the living truth of her being. Not long after meeting Papaji, Gangaji realized the full profundity and depth of his command to stop, and wrote to him asking if she could offer satang. Papaji insisted that she travel to Bodhgaya India, the famous location of the Buddha's enlightenment, to begin her teaching. She subsequently traveled to Bodhgaya and Sidharta in Varanasi India where the Buddha notoriously began to turn The Wheel of Dharma with his first sermon of The Four Noble Truths.
Teaching in Bodhgaya was an intense experience for Gangaji—the heat, the noise, and the grasping nature of the culture there was not at all pleasant. When she returned to Lucknow she shared how difficult the journey was in satsang with Papaji. He smiled and replied, 'I wondered why you wanted to teach in Bodhgaya,' as his famous giggle echoed around the satsang hall. Gangaji still laughs about this to this day—this is just one example of Papaji's humor, grace, and ruthless pointing to the true Master—the living satguru of the Heart. Once Gangaji returned to the United States she had a profound shift in consciousness at Esalen in Big Sur California. In 1990, only a few months after her initial meeting with Papaji, she began offering satsang full-time in the living room of her home in Maui. In 1992 the Gangaji Foundation non-profit organization was created to support her teaching world-wide.
Kosi was a deeply devoted student of Gangaji for over ten years until the mysterious appearance of Sri Amma Karunamayi in May of 2011, which signified the beginning of the end of the long-term and intimate relationship she had enjoyed with Gangaji. Just before Amma's sudden unexpected appearance, Kosi created the video featured here out of the deepest love and devotion. It was Kosi's attempt to relay to Gangaji a direct realization of emptiness—the entire video was meant to be an expression of the vast emptiness recognized in Buddhism as Sunyata or the vast silent emptiness of your eternal nature transcendent of language. Since it was published in April of 2011, it has been viewed by over one million people world-wide and has been translated into over 40 different languages. To view the video with subtitles in your language, please visit dotsub.com The ethereal voice of Gangaji combined with the deep and provocative images from the BBC documentary entitled Mountains, drives your attention deep into the source of yourself.
The recording of Gangaji's voice was edited from the audio recording of The Diamond in your Pocket, but you will not find this recording anywhere else, simply because Kosi carefully selected the sound bytes that most closely align with the essence of self-inquiry. It transmits the profound power and direct realization that self-inquiry supports. Kosi was the first to combine Gangaji's voice with images of nature and ethereal sound of Lisa Gerrard's song Elegy from the Immortal Memory album. It is the unique combination of her love for Gangaji and her unwavering devotion to Sri Ramana Maharshi serves as a divine arrow that pierces your heart to the core—revealing your immortal memory—the deep realization that who you really are is a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Kosi feels this video made itself after her heart was blasted open by the grace of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai India in December of 2010. She made this film right after she returned to the United States in Kauai Hawaii. The editing of this video was effortless, the images and soundtrack literally fell into place, and the entire video was made in approximately thirty minutes. As profound as this video is, it was not long after creating it that it became painfully clear that the western perspective of Sir Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's teaching, recognized by some as Neo Advaita, is deeply flawed due to a lack of understanding of the very real effort, practice, and time required for full liberation, which is described in detail in Kosi's book Organic Awakening.
It is Kosi's direct experience that the danger in the pervasive western belief in Papaji's emphatic assertion that enlightenment is instantaneous and equates to the permanent liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering has, in many cases, led to the gross and inexcusable abuse of power by many of his students, which is often justified as crazy wisdom. It is essential for any aspiring student who longs for full and final liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering to fully understand the limitations of any teacher or student of Papaji who offers this dogmatic and extremely misleading perspective of his teaching.
Letters From Gangaji
Since first meeting Gangaji in 2001, Kosi, also known as Jill, consistently wrote to Gangaji about her realizations, mystical experiences as well as deep requests for help. She received many letters and emails from Gangaji in support of both her awakening and continuous deepening into the truth of pure being. The correspondence she received from Gangaji is indicative of the intimate and personal support Kosi received from Gangaji over a period of more than ten years. Kosi is deeply grateful for Gangaji's profound introduction to the teaching of Ramana Maharshi. As powerful as this introduction was, Kosi feels that the appearance of Sri Amma Karunamayi was essential for not only her liberation, but the liberation of others. Here are a few letters she received from Gangaji: