Donna Quesada: So much of spiritual practice is about dropping the searching, and by extension, the attachments that we think we need.
The things we think we need to present about ourselves or the things we think we need to have, to be happier, to be whole. Are all desires bad?
Gangaji: Well, I didn’t know so much of practice was about that. That’s great…if I’d gotten that, that would’ve saved me a lot of time. Because in my experience, so much of my practice was really trying to acquire something, trying to get something better than what I have. So that’s beautiful. Thank you for that… what was the second part?
DONNA: Well, there’s so much about this notion of dropping desires, and dropping attachments. So I’m sort of, you know, I guess, playing devil’s advocate in a sense, are all desires bad?
GANGAJI: You know, I don’t think desires are bad. I think if you have the desire to be free, the desire to know the truth, to know yourself…that’s a supreme, holy desire. If you recognize that all the other desires are really, somehow, extensions of that…You know, if I got finished with my suffering, then I would know the truth. Or, if I get this relationship that I want, then I could be happy and at peace. Or, if politics goes away, I am sure it should go, then I would be at peace and the war would be over. So, it’s always a postponement of that primary and sublime true desire —I want to be free. I think we come in as babies wanting to know, Who am I? And we are told who we are and we accept that or we rebel against that. And finally, there’s enough maturity to actually really want to know the truth of that. Who am I, in truth? And that’s a desire and that’s a desire that allows that question to really be asked.
DONNA: You touched briefly on the political situation and we had a very highly publicized trial last week. I want to extrapolate from that and…just something we like to ask here, on Awaken, is about this masculine energy and a proper balance of it with the feminine energy…and I think that’s something we giving attention to these days. You know, this reclamation of the divine, the divine feminine. Could you speak to that a little bit? Do you think a lot of the problems that we see and that we have been seeing in the world, is due to the imbalance of these masculine and feminine energies? And what needs to happen, if so, to make that right?
GANGAJI: What is to happen, I don’t know. I’ll start with that one. And I think there’s a lot of wisdom in the recognition of the imbalance of, just as a species, our aggressive powerful tendencies to conquer, and to own…have really allowed us, as a species, to conquer the earth. And now, those tendencies are, I think, destroying the earth because there’s so many of us. And so, that imbalance of this natural, beautiful, aggressive male energy isn’t tempered by, you know, a sensitivity or an acceptance…just as things are, and a welcoming, so in that really big sense, yes. I think that we have to or we will perish as a species.
But I don’t know how long that perishing will take, you know? We could go through multiple dark ages before that actually happens. But I think as aware, conscious people, we have an opportunity now to see. Especially now, as we know masculine energies are not just in males, they are in females and males, and it is a beautiful energy—it is an assertive energy. And for me, it really gets stimulated when I see something I think is absolutely wrong happening in the political sphere. So then, it’s very easy to go to war with that. And it’s a fine line, it’s a razor’s edge because you can resist something beautifully and assertively without being at war with it. And you can really hate the outcomes of something without hating the beings who are perpetrating those outcomes. And that’s the edge. And I think we all fall off that edge because then you can fall into a kind of sleepiness, you know?…that you just want to withdraw from it. And if you are a recluse, I salute you! That’s a perfect way for you to live your life. But if you are engaged in the world, that is also perfect. And so, that’s more my issue.
I went on your website—on the Awaken.com website because I was curious about the website and I wanted to see what other teachers…and there was a clip there from Marianne Williamson and I’ve never seen her or heard about her for years, and I know people love her. And she was speaking at the World’s Parliament of Religions and it was this fiery, dynamic challenge and she had a lot of people off their seats, you know, applauding. She was a beautiful speaker, I loved it. And you know, there were a lot of people who also were not liking it, but that’s part of it. So to me, that’s part of the answer. Yes, let’s stand up and shout out and let’s also have the capacity to sit down and be still. That we have to, or we have been called to…it seems to me…to discover what balance actually is…and balance means that there is imbalance, but there’s a capacity to come to equilibrium. Whether we will make it as a species, I don’t know. Somedays it does not look promising, at all.
DONNA: Yeah. Well I’m glad you had a chance to look at the site. You know, I had a chance to talk to someone who also calls Poonja, or Papaji, his teacher. I don’t know if you know him, Arjun Ardagh?
GANGAJI: Oh yeah, yeah!
DONNA: He was a student, as well, and speaks of Poonja. Anyway, in our last few minutes together, I would like to ask you about God and prayer. And also, we’ve been speaking of teachers. Maybe let’s start with that. Do you think we need a teacher, first of all? Can we find our own way?
GANGAJI: I don’t think there’s a formula. I know that I found out that I needed a teacher. I was certain that I didn’t need a teacher, but I actually did need a teacher. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily true for someone else. I mean, clearly there are teachers who say they didn’t need a teacher and I accept that and they seem awake. I got a different life with my teacher. I got life. I had a different kind of life, I was upside down, so yeah. That’s… who knows?
DONNA: And I brought up prayer because I know for me personally, that’s something I felt was missing from the Zen tradition. As you know, the bhakti element is not as pronounced as it is, and certain other types of spiritual practices. I think I will always be a little bit Zen because that’s where I started. And I love the discipline for many, many reasons. But that aspect of prayer, for me personally, is so life-saving, in that way…that I wanted to ask, does prayer have a place in your practice and do you think that it’s just simply different for everybody, you know? And if so, who do you pray to?
GANGAJI: I prayed a lot as a child and I felt like it really helped me, and I prayed to God and Jesus. I think for me personally, prayer is sublime. And I can say that I’ve never stopped praying. I may even say, “thank you, God,”like a prayer. But it’s so…It’s like a meditation. It’s just a release and the gratitude and the cry for help, all of those are…yeah, I think that it’s a way of focusing the mind out of its own powers into something that is bigger than can be known. Or, whatever you name that is secondary and God is a fine name…it’s just such a polluted name that maybe it is out of fashion. Yes, I am an advocate of prayer, I think it’s a powerful force.
DONNA: You mentioned meditation. It reminds me of a quote from my teacher, that “prayer is when you speak to God, but meditation is when God speaks to you.”I like it very much.
GANGAJI: That’s beautiful.
DONNA: Because there’s so much attention to getting out of our head, and coming into this moment; is that what God is? What do we mean when we talk about God?
GANGAJI: Well, you know…God. I mean, I really stand by that it is very polluted word. It means whatever you want it to mean. It’s like love or truth. Or I. It has so many different meanings and if we just are willing to look inside the word…what does that word point to?…some…Something huge, something limitless, something that’s not a something…Something that is not our object, that we’re the something of that. And so it’s humbling. The recognition of…Because I’m not…I wouldn’t call me religious,even though I have particular religious rituals like prayer that are still very sweet and tender to me. Or, even a believer in a God. But this mystery…this mystery of being, whether it’s purely biological, biochemical…it doesn’t matter to me. It’s still this huge mystery that is so wondrous and awesome and humbling, to be for a period of some years. Incarnate.
You know, we’re made of the earth, we are made of stardust…we’re…what a mystery! And we are conscious of it. I love the Tibetans always talking about this precious human birth and for a long time, I didn’t get that. What is precious about human birth? It seems like other animals are happier and doing good. And then I got this. I don’t know about other animals…seems like they have some kind of consciousness and maybe some of them have evolved consciousness, but as humans, we actually have the capacity to reflect. As you were saying, “what is God? Who am I? Where are we? What do we want?”And this is a precious human birth.
DONNA: What happens to this body when we die?
GANGAJI: I think it rots and is eaten by little creatures and goes back to earth and stardust, right? Little creatures and goes back to earth and stardust, right?
DONNA: But the soul carries on?
GANGAJI: You know, I don’t have belief systems about the soul. I have experiences about soulfulness, or old soul, but I wouldn’t put them into a belief system of what is.
DONNA: Fair enough. And finally, if you could, if there was one practice…if you had to pick one practice to give to someone as a kind of lifestyle…sadhana or something, what would it be? Would it be meditation or would it be something else? Something that can help us as humans in this life, which is challenging to be sure.
GANGAJI: Well I know what initially began my awakening, or put it on a different level, and that was an experience with nature. The willingness to actually be with the ocean in a particular way, or be with a mountain side, or sky, or a tree, or a plant. I grew up in a rural area. But I never had an understanding, or an experience of the oneness of nature…the consciousness of this whole thing. And so, that was a breakthrough for me…to realize that I am not just located here, but whoa! And that was reflected also in relationships with other human beings, where there was love. So, I would say, if I had to give one bit of advice to anybody, it would be: Find where you love. Find where love is awakened.
DONNA: Nature can give us that. It’s the infinite. I think it’s the infinite I think…vastness.
GANGAJI: And immediacy at the same time.
DONNA: And what would you like to leave our readers, or our viewers, with? What are you up to these days, is there any writing or anything you’d like to point them to, or is there anything else you’d like to share?
GANGAJI: I’m not writing anymore. I feel like, Whoa…I’m finished with writing,which is great. I have a website, if people are interested, they can always go on the website.
DONNA: What is your website?
GANGAJI: It’s Gangaji.org and it’s g-a-n-g-a-j-i. And I have events. I’m not traveling as much as I was in the past, but I’m still going to events, doing an event at Multiversity in California and different places. But really, my message to everyone is that when I say, “trust yourself,”I’m not suggesting that you trust your thoughts, or your emotions, or your conclusions or your activities… but, trust that impetus that somehow has risen in you, to know yourself, to know truth, to live truth and to discover that everywhere. Trust that and it puts you in the right place. With a teacher or without a teacher, it is all secondary to that. That’s the true teacher, the satguru.
DONNA: That’s something not taught in schools, whether that’s intuition or whether we call it a gut instinct, we’re not taught that.
GANGAJI: I think intuition and gut instincts can be wrong, too. Because then we flip onto the other side of that. And if I feel it, if I think it, then it must be so. So then, there’s a humbling of that. We see that everything, where we are located, is subject to mistake. But, there is something inseparable from the successes or the failures of our gut instincts or intuition, that is at peace and free already. It is already who you are.
DONNA: Well Gangaji, once again, I want to thank you for sharing your time with us today.
GANGAJI: Oh, you’re a delight!
DONNA: Thank you! So are you! I’ve enjoyed our time together, immensely.
Read and watch Part I Here: The Practical Ramifications Of Awakening
Read and watch Part II Here: Who Am I? Well What Is Always Here?