"I just wanted somehow to find happiness. I had no inkling that the happiness I was looking for is here, in the truth of myself. I looked for it everywhere... relationships, political activities, social activities and I had, of course, lots of happy moments, but I didn't find lasting fulfillment until I was willing to stop looking for it."
It was about a year ago when I first came across this video "Who Am I...Really?" posted by a friend on Facebook. I was simply mesmerized by the voice of this woman who spoke about life in such a gentle yet compelling fashion. As if allowing me to enter a place I've never known yet seemed familiar. As if I was returning somewhere. It felt like home. I didn't even know who it was that was speaking on the video back then, but I shared it because I resonated so much with it. The message was beautiful, and uplifting.
One year later I was browsing through YouTube and I happened to click on a video entitled "Silencing the Mind" by "Gangaji". I recognize the voice and was happy to find out that this very inspiring clip was by the same woman I listened to one year ago. And I was even happier to find out what her name was, so this means I can seek her out and invite her for Soulspeak! I was exhilirated when she said yes to my invitation.
I read a bit more about Gangaji, and I found out how, after many years of searching, she was led to one of the last people she ever thought she would be led to, a guru. Even more than that, an Indian Guru. Convinced the whole "guru scene" was so abused, she was quite surprised when she met her beloved teacher, Papaji. She knew almost immediately that he had the transmission of silence her being had ached for.
I am blessed. We are blessed for this opportunity to speak with such a wonderful teacher and student of life, Gangaji.
Gangaji is really a student of Papaji and papaji is the embodiment of life itself, which is also love itself. He gave me the name Gangaji and you know names are just names... but to me the name Gangaji symbolizes my role in life. Once he pointed me to this silence, and I recognized that to be the truth of myself. There was really no name to capture that but the name Gangaji was a reflection of that. The name came from a river "Ganga"..That was his favorite , and that's where I met him... I met my teacher by the river. So Gangaji... It's totality itself. A totality that includes you, Juno. Me, Toni. Me Gangaji and me woman. All.. And that's who I am ....It's is who we are.
CAN YOU RECALL YOUR DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS AS A CHILD?
Someone asked me the other day what movies affected me growing up and the one that came to mind was way before your time. It was "Sinbad the Sailor" movie and I remember seeing this movie and coming home and just leaping over all the sofas and chairs, becoming the adventurer I saw. I must have been 7 or 8 then.That was before I identified myself fully as a female. I didn't see myself as male or female. I just felt myself as this free spirit. But that didn't last for long. I wouldn't say I had a happy childhood. I was very unhappy. That unhappiness came about maybe in pre-adolescence. I just wanted to be happy Juno. I just wanted somehow to find happiness. I had no inkling that the happiness I was looking for is here, in the truth of myself. I looked for it everywhere... relationships, political activities, social activities and I had, of course, lots of happy moments, but I didn't find lasting fulfillment until I was willing to stop looking for it.
WHAT IS HAPPINESS FOR YOU?The happiness I was seeking really, was just something that made me feel good. I had a difficult life, my parents were alcoholic. We were middle class so I wasn't starving or anything so in a sense I was happy. But I was "unfulfilled." I think that's more accurate. I was yearning for something and I called it 'happiness' and I called it 'feeling good' but even when I had a happy life many years later... I was in a good relationship, I had a good career, I had a healthy daughter, I had no complaints, but still the yearning was here...a deep sense of something missing. So what I call 'happy' is really what comes and goes, but what I call 'fulfillment' is really discovering what doesn't come and go. Discovering myself as life, as consciousness itself. I don't know if anybody was really looking for that. I knew that I was, and I didn't recognize it. I know that many people who come to see me are looking for that, and they've looked at many different paths for that whether its spiritual paths or corporate paths or relationship paths... They've look in many different places, and when they stop looking, when they stay conscious they discover fulfillment.
WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
I love dancing. Its one place where I felt free and alive. And when I was young I was a tomboy and I was climbing trees. I was very much into my body. When I started my search for happiness, I wanted my body to give me that happiness. Of course it gave me pleasure and it gave me displeasure in different times but I couldn't really give me the fulfillment. Now that I'm older (I'll be 70 in June) I don't dance as much as I used to. I still like to walk. I have a passion for reading, I love to read great works of art and novels. I don't particularly read spiritual books but I did at one time and I benefited from that. I love to read literature of all kinds -- current authors and classic authors, I really love to read good writing. I love being with my husband, I love being in Maui. I love the ocean. You know what my passion is ? My passion is life. That's such a good question. I am passionate about LIFE.
IF YOU CAN CHANGE ONE THING IN THE WORLD, IN AN INSTANT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would have everybody for that instant really directly experience peace. What it means to be peace. Not a flat kind of peace but an alive passionate peace. I guess I could also say I would have everyone experience fulfillment for a moment... Whatever their circumstances, whatever their stories. I think that would be a great moment for human history... for the evolution of our species.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LAUGHED OUT LOUD? Oh, I laugh out loud everyday! My teacher Papaji is great in laughter. He says "Laughter is nectar" and "When you are laughing you can't think"... Even if you don't know what makes you laugh... If you're laughing, you're healing.
My husband makes me laugh. He's very funny and we laugh a lot together. Laughter is the true language... The Mother Tongue. I bet your daughter makes you laugh.
OH DEFINITELY! SHE IS A BALL OF PURE JOY. SHE'S MY TEACHER TOO. YOU MENTIONED YOU HAVE A DAUGHTER TOO. WHAT HAS SHE TAUGHT YOU LATELY?
That she had a mind of her own. She was her own person. I could direct her as her mother but finally she had her life choices. She's a grown woman now with children of her own. She was always a very independent spirit. At that time, when she was a child I wasn't so happy, but she didn't let my unhappiness define her. She was free. She was a great teacher.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOURSELF FROM THIS HUMAN EXPERIENCE?
Well, speaking of laughing, that's the main thing. I say it's a very humbling experience. I mean that in the best sense, the kind of humbling way you laugh at yourself. Life is in charge. We can surrender to what's in charge and serve that and laugh at our own arrogance, ideas of what life is or what should be...or we can fight that and be miserable. I'm continually humbled by life. Even speaking of silence, and the joy of that, or speaking of fulfillment you know none of those words are quite right. So in that recognition that they don't quite capture the vastness of the truth there is a beautiful learning in that.
I remember my teacher used to say to me, "Okay now speak that... what you are experiencing" When he would see something in my face. A state of bliss. Finally I say to him "I can't speak it." and he said "That's right, it can't be spoken but you have to speak it." And so we're given this task that really can't be done but we have to do it and in that we follow life rather than try to lead it. That's what I mean by humbling, in a positive sense.
Oh boy... (Laughs). More than what I learned. I can look at every stage of my life and see this, that first I learn something and then I had to unlearn that. First I learn what would make me happy and then I had to unlearn that. Every time I thought that I knew what I should be, I un-learn that... Take my teacher for instance... I KNEW I was never gonna have a guru, I KNEW I was never going to India... I wasn't interested in any of that but I knew that I needed a teacher. That there's something I couldn't finish on my own. So I prayed for a teacher and in that prayer for a teacher I really had to unlearn my concepts of what that teacher would be. At that time I thought "Oh maybe it would be nature, maybe it would be a goddess, maybe it would be an elder wise woman." I just had to unlearn everything. I was quite surprised to discover that my teacher WAS in India and WAS a guru. It was very humbling. I was delighted in the experience.
I had to unlearn my concepts of what a perfect man would be to be with the man I'm with. He didn't fit my concepts but he's revealed himself to be the perfect mate for me. But if I had clung to what I had learned and I don't know if I had learned it culturally or from watching movies, but it was in my mind of what my mate should be like... If I had clung to that I might not have noticed him, so I'm happy to unlearn all the time.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE 'SOULMATE' OR 'TWIN -FLAME' CONNECTION?
Those words work, those terms work. I use the word partner and husband in a sense of what husband means. I grew up in the fifties and I wasn't looking for a husband. I got a husband initially, my first husband who really fit all my concepts of what the perfect husband was. That's because I was following my knowledge rather than following my heart of even deeper than my emotions.
My husband... He's my spiritual partner and he's my spiritual mate. He's my companion too. We're great friends. And he's "The One Who makes Me Laugh" That's what I call him... He's the one who makes me laugh.
MY DAUGHTER SAID THIS TO ME WHEN SHE WAS 4, "LOVE MEANS WE ARE TOGETHER." WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LOVE FOR YOU?
To discover what love is we have to take the word and look inside the word. To look at where that word comes from in whatever language it is spoken or whatever we are feeling if we trace the feeling of love back to its source. Then that's what love is. But I like your daughter's definition better. I'll use that one.
WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
Well... I don't know what spirituality is because I really don't make a distinction between spirituality and life. At one time I considered myself a "spiritual" person, but at this point I don't consider myself any particular kind of person. So I surely don't exclude spirituality but it seems to me, what spirituality is the inclusion of everything....it's the totality.
When he asked me to go teach I first told him I had never read anything that Ramana Maharshi had written and that was his guru. I said I don't what I would say. It was so important, what he said to me, and he said "That's good then you would speak from your own experience." He actually taught me not to teach. He taught me to respond, and to respond from my experience and not from some concept of oneness or concept of fulfillment to speak. He said "Those people who are attracted to you are ready to not learn anything from you but to receive confirmation from you and to receive challenges from you but you don't need to teach them anything." I had been a teacher, actually. I taught in English and History in High School in my twenties and I was so relieved when he said that because I realized that he was speaking of something totally different from what I had experienced in imparting knowledge... That I'm not here to impart knowledge. I'm here to support who is interested in opening their minds to what is here in the core of your being.
(This interview was conducted via Skype on March 25, 2010)
(This is a shot of the River Ganga, which Gangaji was named after by Papaji)
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All articles written within the period of Oct 2011 through present. © Juno Cristi 2011-2012, All Rights Reserved