Biography of Papaji (1910 - 1997)

H.W.L.Poonja, Popularly knows as Papaji

by Papaji

"Who am I?" This is what we have come here to understand, and we have not done this at any time before. This question must be solved but we have postponed it. Everyone has postponed it for millions of years. We will not postpone this here. There is no method to practice. Simply find out, "Who am I?" This is not a method or practice or sadhana. This can be done here and now - in this instant - because the Self is here. Enlightenment means to know thy Self - to know, "Who am I." This is Enlightenment.


Sri H.W.L. Poonja, lovingly referred to as Papaji, was born on October 13, 1910, 910 in Gujranwalla, in the western Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, in a pious family of Saraswat Brahmins. Swami Rama Tirtha, another prominent spiritual teacher was his maternal uncle. Hence, it is possible that his family background might have predisposed him to spirituality from an early age. According to his biographers he had an early experience of the Self at the age of eight or nine.

The experience left a strong impression upon him and left him immobile for an hour or so until he regained his normal consciousness. Later at the advice of his mother he became an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and lived a normal life. When he grew up,  as it was customary in many traditional Brahmin families, he married and took up householder's duties. He had through children through marriage and served in the British army.

During this time, he had many visions of Lord Krishna whom he could envision at will. He also visited many parts of India meeting Sadhus and spiritual people in search of God and find answers to his questions. During one such occasion he encountered an ascetic person (sadhu) at his very house who advised him to meet Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sri Poonjaji took the advice seriously and in 1944, at the age of 31, went to Tiruvannamalai to meet the sage who was stationed in his ashram at Arunachalam. Ramana Maharshi in his typical style told him that God was not an object that could be seen. He could realized only in a subjective state as one's own witness Self. Therefore, he suggested him to find the seer (the seeing one) within himself.

The biographical accounts suggest that Poonjaji was not very much convinced by the advice, he continued his devotion to Lord Krishna. However, circumstances and many spiritual experiences brought him again into the presence of Ramana Marshi who helped him in his spiritual transformation and realize the Self.

He stayed in the ashram of Ramana Maharshi until 1947 and then upon his advice returned to Punjab to move his family to safety from their ancestral home in the newly formed and strife torn Pakistan to Lucknow. He settled in Lucknow and remained a householder, while continuing his spiritual work and looking after his extended family of several disciples, including Mooji, Andrew Cohen, and David Godman, who became his biographer.

Papaji died in September 1997. His biography, titled Nothing Ever Happened, in three volumes, by David Godman was published in 1998, and was approved by Papaji himself prior to its publication.

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Source: Reprinted with the kind permission of the Avadhuta Foundation.  The Avadhuta Foundation was established in 1993 to further the teachings of Sri H.W.L. Poonja, affectionately referred to as Papaji, and to make available the archives of Papaji’s talks in India. You may visit their website from here.