Poonja, Sri Harilal
(Poonjaji, Papaji)
(1910–1997) teacher of enlightenment
   Sri Harilal Poonja was a prominent spiritual teacher in Lucknow who had a number of influ-ential students.
   Born on October 13, 1910, in an area of the Punjab now a part of Pakistan, H. W. L. Poonja was part of a family of devotees. His mother was a devoted follower of the Lord KRISHNA, and his maternal uncle was Swami RAMA TIRTHA, a cel-ebrated saint. At age eight, the boy had his first transcendental experience, became a devotee of Lord Krishna, and began a MANTRA practice day and night.
   At age 20, he entered into an arranged mar-riage and later had two children. He served in the army for less than two years, leaving to pursue his spiritual quest. While living in his father’s house with his wife and children, he received a vision of Bhagavan Sri RAMANA MAHARSHI, an enlightened master, who directed him to Ramana’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai in southern India.
   During the partition of India, Poonjaji moved his family from the Punjab to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, where he worked as a salesman and min-ing manager. He later became a revered teacher in Lucknow, giving daily satsangs (teachings). His home and a nearby community building have been visited by hundreds of spiritual seekers and students. The main characteristic of his teaching was his capacity to awaken seekers to their true Self in his presence. The American teachers of enlightenment GANGAJI and Andrew COHEN are two of his best-known students.
   In 1993, the Avadhuta Foundation was set up to further the teachings of Poonjaji and to archive and distribute audiotapes and videotapes of meet-ings with him. He died in Lucknow on September 6, 1997.
   Further reading: David Godman, Nothing Ever Happened: Biography of H. W. L. Poonja, 3 vols. (Boulder, Colo.: Sri Harilal Poonja (Poonjaji), teacher of advaita Vedanta (Courtesy of Eli Jaxon-Bear) Avadhuta Foundation, 1993); H. W. L. Poonja, Wake Up and Roar: Satsang with H. W. L. Poonja (Kula, Hawaii: Pacific Center, 1992).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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