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 him in the late 1980's. 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.
Although Andrew Cohen was one of the first westerners to discover Papaji, he has a nefarious reputation. After his profound awakening with Papaji he declared his realization superior to Papaji's and began teaching all over the world, but in 2012, 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 and studied in India before returning to teaching in 2016. Controversy continues to swirl around him and many believe it is highly unlikely that he has overcome the deeply ingrained behavioral issues that led to severe abuse of former students. It is also questionable whether or not 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 full self-realization takes years, if not lifetimes, of spiritual evolution.
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. The video featured here contains two satsangs, one held in the ruins of Sarnath India and the audio recording of a satsang given under the umbrella of the famed Bodhi tree where the prince Siddhartha transformed into the Buddha—the enlightened one (this is one of the earliest recordings of Gangaji teaching).
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 with her husband and with the grace and blessing of Papaji, began offering satsang full-time in the living room of her home in Maui in 1993.
Kosi created the video featured here out of the deepest love and devotion to Gangaji. 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. 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 use images of nature, combined with the famous and ethereal sound of Lisa Gerrard's song Elegy from the Immortal Memory album, with Gangaji's voice. It is the unique combination of her love for Gangaji and her unwavering devotion to Sri Ramana Maharshi, combined with the deep resonance of Gangaji's voice that 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—her heart was blasted open by the grace of Ramana 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.
It was not long after creating this video that it became very clear that the western perspective of Sir Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's teaching, now recognized 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 Warner, 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 contains a transmission of this support that she gave so freely and lovingly over the years. Kosi maintains that Gangaji ruthlessly directed and continuously directs her attention to the living freedom of our true nature. Here are a few of the precious letters she received from Gangaji.