- Bonder, Saniel
- (1950– )contemporary American teacherSaniel Bonder, formerly a leader with ADI DA SAM-RAJ, left that community in 1992 and has since emerged as an independent spiritual teacher.Bonder was born in 1950 in New York to a Jewish family who moved to North Carolina in 1957. He was awakened to spiritual matters in the later 1960s while a student at Harvard Uni-versity. His turn toward Hinduism was influenced by YOGANANDA’s Autobiography of a Yogi and by an encounter in India with Ramana MAHARSHI. In 1973 he learned of Da Free John (who is now known as Adi Da Samraj), and he joined the small community around him. He became a student of the ADVAITA VEDANTA philosophy that underlies that community.By the beginning of the 1990s, Bonder decided that the experiment in spirituality led by Adi Da had failed, and in 1992 he withdrew from the community. He began an intense period of self-exploration with the assistance of a psycho-logical therapist and a shaman. His experiences, including an encounter with the Goddess, led him to experience what he termed “Onlyness of Being,” what traditional Hindu teachers term SELF-REALIZATION. From that point he began to conduct workshops and to lead daily MEDITATION sessions. A small initial following has grown into a new community organized around his teaching. He discovered that the new relationships were becoming what he called alchemical catalysts for transformation.Bonder has characterized his approach to spirituality as “waking down.” He contrasts his approach to the common idea that escape from mundane existence is necessary in order to become spiritual. He suggests that the ideal is to “fall” into both one’s pure conscious nature and one’s embodied personhood at the same time. With this “fall” we realize that we already are infinite transcendental Being incarnating as human being. Bonder has described his approach as “aspirant centered.” He tries to assist seekers in realizing their divinity as a beginning point for a life of transformation. He defines self-realization as awareness and confidence in one’s basic inte-gration of both infinite and finite natures.Among those who found their way to Bonder, a number of students, including his wife, have emerged as teachers and adepts. They now assist in leading the community that operates under the name Waking Down in Mutuality. Activities are carried out across the United States. Headquarters are at the Ma-Tam Temple of Being in Portland, Oregon. Bonder has written several books and regularly teaches at Ken Wilber’s Integral Spiritual Center.Further reading: Saniel Bonder, The Divine Emergence of the World-Teacher (Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1990); ———, Waking Down: Beyond Hypermas-culine Dharmas—a Breakthrough Way of Self-Realization in the Sanctuary of Mutuality (Portland, Ore.: Mt. Tam Awakenings, 1998); John W. Parker, Dialogues with Emerging Spiritual Teachers (Fort Collins, Colo.: Sage-wood Press, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.