10 Questions Series: Gangaji

August 29, 2013 by Chris Grosso

Gangaji

 

NAME: Gangaji

BIO: Gangaji travels the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life. A teacher and author, she shares her direct experience of the essential message she received from Papaji and offers it to all who want to discover a true and lasting fulfillment. Through her life and words, she powerfully articulates how it is really possible to discover the truth of who you are and to be true to that discovery. 

 

Q: Who and or what, do you attribute the person you are today to?

 

A: I attribute this compilation called “me” to my mental interpretation of every event in my life as this particular person, this living being. There have been a lot of big, wonderful, and horrible things in my life, but the biggest and the best event that happened and has formed me within the last 25 years was meeting my teacher Papaji. He turned my attention toward freedom and limitlessness. He took my life and turned it into the joyous and grateful life that I have now.

 

Q: What are some of the musical albums or musicians/bands that have impacted your life and in what way?

 

A: Growing up for me it was early Rock n Roll. I listened to, and danced to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and some of the rhythm and blues singers. By the time I was in my late 20’s, someone gave me a Joni Mitchell album and that just blew my mind open. I identified with her story and loved her courage in being herself. It was the first time I’d ever heard music from a woman who was actually examining herself as a flawed being and making art with it, so that had a major influence on me.

 

Q: What is one of the most shocking experiences you’ve ever had?

 

A: The first thing that comes to mind is when I was with my teacher Papaji in India and he told me to stop searching. When I finally understood what he meant, I recognized limitless silence­ and it was shocking to me. I also recognized that the silence had always been here. Perhaps it was just as shocking recognizing that I hadn’t recognized what was always here. It was a shock because by then I was in my forties and I thought I was sophisticated. I thought I knew my internal process. I thought I was aware, and I was aware of both wonderful and horrible moods and emotions, but I had never been aware of awareness. It was blissfully shocking.

 

Q: What is one of the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever had?

 

A: I’m here in Maui now, and I lived here for a period of years in the past. There is a recurring yet surprising moment when I step off the plane. I experience the energy here. I come here in the winter and I’m not even aware that my body has been protecting itself against both cold and the busy-ness of mainland life. It’s such a beautiful experience of the body surrendering and the senses opening to the tropical experience that’s here.

 

Q: What is one of the most defining moments in your life and why?

 

A: There was a time when I was 10 or 11 and I had the insight that I was unhappy. I had been unhappy for at least a few years before the actual moment of realizing that I was unhappy. With that recognition of unhappiness also came a prayer for happiness. I recognized that I was unhappy, wanted to be happy, and was willing to do whatever I had to do to find happiness. That began my search for happiness, which ultimately was a spiritual search. I searched in a lot of different ways and came to many dead ends as we all do, but that recognition defined me as a seeker.

 

Q: What do you believe are the benefit, if any, vs. the dangers of mind-altering drugs?

 

A: They were part of my search for happiness. They’ve been very beneficial for me. I’ve seen and heard of them having great benefit with many people. For me the benefit, besides the insights that came, was actually recognizing that when I resisted the alteration of my mind I suffered, and when I surrendered I was in bliss. The biggest trap for most people is that they develop an attachment to the alteration of mind, rather than recognizing that any state we cling to or define ourselves by, is subject to alteration and therefore not real. But there are traps everywhere, in both good and bad habits. Whenever we become identified with a particular state—even a beneficial state—we finally suffer, because all states change. I think our culture and our laws right now are crazily skewed against mind-altering drugs. They’ve been a part of society throughout time, so I definitely am very liberal in my view of them.

 

Q: What are some films you’ll never forget seeing for the first time and why?

 

A: Well I’m a movie lover so this is a big question. I remember seeing The Wizard of Oz as a young girl and being moved by its mythic tale. It’s a tale of a seeker of course, and traps. It’s also really well made. There were also Sinbad the Sailor movies I enjoyed, I remember coming home after seeing one, jumping all over the furniture and seeing myself as some kind of pirate adventurer. I didn’t see myself as female or male, I just felt the wonder of life erupting in that. I prefer inner adventure movies. I also love seeing films from other cultures. They really broaden things for me. I enjoy documentaries, comedies, and love stories. If the movie, or book, or performance enriches and broadens my perspective of life I am enriched by it and grateful for it.

 

Q: Does God exist and if so, in what capacity? If not, why not?

 

A: Who we think God is doesn’t exist because it (he or she) is a creation of our conceptual thoughts. I use the word God to point to life itself which certainly exists. The animating force of life allows us to be human beings and, when we’re no longer alive, is still present. I would say this animating principle is love itself. Life is love. I grew up with a Christian God and absorbed deep imprints of a benevolent and judgmental God, but those beliefs are all just formulations to teach people how to behave toward one another, and they are important, but they point to a fiction.

 

Q: What do you think your greatest contribution to humanity is?

 

A: I’m not an extraordinary, special person with great powers. I’m not always blissful, I go to movies, I read books, I have moods and opinions; I vote. I’m a regular person and that’s really the message of my person. Just as we are, regular human beings, we can discover true happiness and fulfillment. When lasting fulfillment is discovered, we live in peace.

 

Q: What does the human experience mean to you?

 

A: A great adventure and privilege. We have this amazing human brain that has developed over millions of years. There are many possibilities of living a true human life, true in the deepest sense we know, and we are free to explore. Free to dive deeply within ourselves and to really consider the most essential questions. I don’t know about other species, but I know all this and more is possible for human beings. Certainly, the human experience is painful at times, but It’s a blessed experience. It’s powerful to be human, and as humans we’ve often corrupted and misused that power and caused suffering to other species, as well as harm to our planet and ourselves. But within us there is the possibility of discovery of the unknown, of recognizing what we don’t know and then working toward discovering a deeper and broader self. It’s a great privilege. It’s a lucky life, a human life.

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Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I've Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Celebrate Your Life and more. Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner.