(Here are some things to read about Poonja. Get a tall cup of your favorite
beverage, sit down and be prepared to read for a long time)
Poonja's worst blunder was when he declared that Andrew Cohen was enlightened
and told Cohen to go out and "Start a revolution amongst the young!"
Andrew Cohen went on to become an utterly brutal and abusive guru.
Hal Blacker, former Cohen disciple created a blog, Whatnelightenment blogspot
Three of Cohen's disciples published memoirs
Luna Tarlo The Mother of God
Andre van der Braak Enlightenment Blues
Bill Yenner American Guru
Luna Tarlo, Cohen's mother, met Poonja in the 1980s, and witnessed P'
in those early days and witnessed
Poonja's day to day behavior.
Tarlo reports that Poonja declared that his wife was enlightened, yet his missus still did all the housework. He declared Tarlo enlightened, yet Tarlo found this confusing -- and she became more dependent on Pooja and her son for guidance. (Corboy - to me, this gives the show away.)
Tarlo's very detailed description of Poonja and Poonja's household gives a reality check. You can find this in Tarlo's memoir, The Mother of God
Pooja declared a former Andrew Cohen disciple, Antoinette Warner or Varner
enlightened, and called her Gangaji.
‘Many come to (Andrew Cohen) expecting to find a teacher of enlightenment will give them a profound spiritual experience. Instead they are told off about their lack of willingness to change themselves.
Many people perceive this as a kind of moralizing they can do without, and decide to go to the source itself, and visit Poonja in India, as do some of the students who have been sent away from the community by Andrew. (Cohen
would eject people and order remaining disciples to shun them) To their relief, and to Andrew’s displeasure, they receive a warm welcome. Some of them, having received Poonja’s enlightement, are sent back to the West to teach others.
‘The most importnt of these is an American woman named Antoinette Varner, who had been with Andrew in satsang a few months before going off to see Poonja. Poonja gives her the name Gangaji and sends her out to teach in places where Andrew has been teaching. He tells her to “clean up after Andrew” restorethe proper understanding of Advaita Vedanta, and heal any egos that have been wounded. We hear that Poonja talks about us as “sheep” that merely follow an authority, which he considers antithetical to true freedomnd enlightenment. Enlightenment Blues pp. 101-102 Andre van der Braak), 2002
Luna Tarlo described this same situation toward the end of "Mother of God"
‘A lot of what Poonja said about Andrew was true, that he couldnt tolerate being criticized that his disciples were afraid of him, and that Andrew’s notion of communal sangha life was for sheep. But the fact was, Poonja couldn't stand being criticized, either. And he had shown himself to be a hypocrite.
For example, I heard he told a former student of Andrew’s now called Gangaji, and presently operating successfully as a guru out of Hawaii, he had been waiting for her too, all of his life, and as he had said, after teaching Andrew, he ws ready to die! (She subsequently became Poonja’s replacement for Andrew ....
"When I met Poonja for the first time in India, he was a man in his seventies, who after many years as a guru, had surprisingly few followers. I think Tarlo he was hungry for fame, and when he met Andrew he must have seen a golden opportunity to broadcast his name in America by inflaming this young person’s impressionable mind with ideas of ‘starting a revolution amongst the young’.
‘Then, when Andrew turned out to be unsuitable, it took him no time at all to find a replacement from amongst Andrew’s disaffected following. And the strategy worked. He is now regarded as one of India's foremost gurus.’ (Luna Tarlo, The Mother of God, 1997,286-287)
Gangaji and her husband, Eli Jaxon-Bear, later had a scandal of their own.
] enlightened (An
There's another saying attributed to Poonja:
That he gave people enlightenment experiences to
get them off his back, or as he so compassionately put it,
"to get the leeches off his back"
Long before Moo established himeself on the satsang circuit, there were others
who claimed to have become enlightened via Poonja.
Timothy Conway has observed the "neo-advaita" scene for many years. Here is
an interesting article.