Is Papaji’s teaching the same as Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching?

Whilst I am very familiar with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I am less familiar with the teachings of Papaji. However I have often been struck, whenever I come across excerpts of Papaji’s teachings, that they seem quite different to the teachings of Sri Ramana. Now, is this just because I have only seen excerpts of Papaji’s teachings and these excerpts are out of context? Or is there actually a substantive difference between what they teach? Or perhaps they are pointing to the same thing in a different way?

Before I continue, I just want to be clear that my intent here is not to condemn or criticise anyone. I fully understand that we each have our own unique path and that different teachers and teachings can be a part of that journey. My intent here is to explore the teachings, and I hope this exploration is helpful to you. If it is not, please feel free to ignore this post or give me some constructive feedback!

Well the more I have seen of Papaji’s teachings, the more it seems to me that the teachings are essentially different to that of Sri Ramana’s. Sri Ramana emphasises the need for sadhana, for turning away from the world and towards the Subject-Self, and for the necessity of Self-Enquiry, and Papaji tends to do the opposite – he seems to de-emphasise the need for sadhana, does not advocate turning away from the world and does not state that Self-Enquiry is the sole means to Liberation.

But as I am no expert on Papaji, I would welcome your thoughts. Here is an example of a teaching from Papaji, which seems quite representative of the kind of thing he would normally teach. I saw this posted on Facebook:

There is no sadhana better than just staying as Peace. If you must do any practice, then do Vicar (Self-inquiry).

Joy is also a good sadhana because it destroys mind, so always be happy. Always think of It and be happy: spend the rest of your life knowing you are Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Some practice is better than getting lost in samsara and is good in that it sometimes fatigues the mind, but typical sadhana is usually important only for the ego.

All sadhana is projected by ego so it is on a sandy foundation. This ego projection is samsara so search only for the seeker.“I” is ego so when this meditates there are no good results. Choice of practice depends on the choice of results.

Brahman has no attributes and is beyond mind so no practice will take you to that: It is self revealing.

Ramana says “Simply keep Quiet for it is Here and Now”This is the nearest practice because Brahman is your very nature.

~ Papaji

Notice that Papaji is stating that some sadhana is good – he says here there are two reasons sadhana is good: firstly that it is ‘better than getting lost in samsara’ and secondly that ‘it sometimes fatigues the mind’. Note that he does not state that sadhana is necessary for liberation in the way that Sri Ramana Maharshi does (see later), nor does he state that Self-Enquiry is the only essential method to liberation, which is what Sri Ramana often stated (see later for examples of this).

Papaji then goes on to state that ‘all sadhana is projected by the ego so it is on a sandy foundation’. This is sounding less like Sri Ramana or traditional Advaita Vedanta and more like what is often called neo-advaita, something that Sri Ramana criticised. Neo-advaita often propagates the notion that practice/sadhana is done by the separate ego-I and so it necessarily perpetuates the ego-I.

Note that whilst this seems logical and rational enough, it is actually a belief based on inductive logic rather than a truth. Whilst it is true that this certainly can happen – ie. sadhana can certainly lead to perpetuating the ego-I, this is not necessarily the case and there are exceptions. I explain this in these videos:

Papaji then goes on to state his essential view, that ‘no practice will take you to that [Brahman]’. He then concludes his teaching by stating ‘simply keep quiet for it is here and now’ stating this is what Sri Ramana also said.

Now it is true that Sri Ramana often said that we should ‘be still’ and that this is the practice, but what did he mean by ‘be still’? If we read and examine Sri Ramana’s written work ‘Who Am I?’, we will see what Sri Ramana means when he says ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’. Note that we can trust the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ as an authentic rendition of Sri Ramana’s teachings as they were written by Sri Ramana himself. Let us see: the first time we come across the notion of quieting the mind in ‘Who Am I?’ is as follows:

‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.’

Now on the face of it this is quite a strange statement for Sri Ramana to make: that the world will disappear when the mind is still. Clearly, when Sri Ramana states that the mind is to be quiet, he is perhaps using these words in a different way to how they are normally used. How can it be that when the mind becomes quiet the world disappears?

Well earlier in ‘Who Am I?’ Sri Ramana explains that it is the mind is a power that creates or projects the entire body, mind and world*, so to ‘be quiet’ means not just to still the ordinary thinking mind, but to still this world-projecting power, ie. to remove all of Maya. Ramana repeats this, see here, also from ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: When will the realization of the Self be gained?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer

Question: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.

I have a video here which explains the importance of this teaching. It fundamentally explains why some teachings are liberating and others are not:

Again, I hope it is clear that this teaching of Sri Ramana’s, or at least the emphasis, is quite different to what Papaji is proposing. Papaji is telling us to rest in happiness and joy and ‘keep quiet’ for the Self is ‘here and now’ whereas Sri Ramana is emphasising removing the entire body-mind-world from our consciousness. We can see that Sri Ramana’s teaching is far more extreme – it is this extreme teaching that is needed to remove ignorance and realise the Self.

Papaji is stating that all sadhana is projected by the ego and will never lead us to the Self/Brahman, whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as the only sadhana that will lead us to Liberation. Again, Sri Ramana’s teaching is more narrow and prescriptive in this way, as he maintains that Self-Enquiry is the only way. Let us see what else Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry [Vichara; Self-Enquiry], there are no adequate means.

We can see that Sri Ramana is stating that sadhana or self-enquiry is essential to make the mind quiet, so that when Sri Ramana is asking us to ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’, he is actually asking us to do Self-Enquiry.

Now on the same Facebook post which posted the Papaji teachings above, I saw the following Sri Ramana Maharshi quote, which seems to state something quite different to what Papaji is saying. It states that meditation (Upanasa) is definitely required for liberation – Sri Ramana clearly states ‘this is definite’, in direct contrast to Papaji who states the opposite. This following quote is taken from Sri Ramana Gita, an early text of Sri Ramana’s teachings that was comfirmed by Sri Ramana as being an accurate representation of his teachings:

Now this above quote is taken from Chapter 1 of Sri Ramana Gita. It is worth noting that the title of this chapter is ‘The Importance of Upasana [meditation]’. The next two lines in the same chapter reads as follows:

1.14 When discarding sense-objects, one abides in one’s own true nature as a flame of Jnana, this state of being is termed sahaja sthiti [the natural state].

1.15 In the firm, natural state, through that Supreme Silence free from all vasanas, the jnani knows himself as such without any doubt.

Again, we can see the emphasis on needing to turn away from sense-objects, what Sri Ramana calls ‘removal of the world’ in Who Am I?, and on ending the vasanas, or egoic habitual tendencies to identify as a body-mind.

But how are we to practically do this? How are we to practically turn away from the world and be free from all Vasanas. Well the practical method is to do Self-Enquiry. In Chapter 3 of Sri Ramana Gita we can see the essential method Sri Ramana is advocating:

Question: what in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime innervision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense-objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone brings about the sublime inner vision.

We can see that the emphasis is on continuing to perform the sadhana, as it is this sadhana that leads to the mind ‘becoming quiet’. When Sri Ramana says the mind should be quiet or that thoughts should stop, he means that the entire world projection should cease and all vasanas are to be ended. How to do this? We should ‘strenuously withdraw all thoughts from sense-objects’ and remain fixed in Self-Abidance, ie. we should do Self-Enquiry.

Ramana also states in the above quotes that ‘this effort alone’ leads to liberation, meaning that this is the only essential method which all other methods ultimately bring us to.

But how long should we continue this sadhana for? Sri Ramana tells us in Who Am I?

Question: How long should inquiry be practised?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” isrequired. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.

So as far as I can see, Ramana is constantly emphasising sadhana and turning away from the world, and that this should be relentlessly pursued until realisation is attained, whereas Papaji de-emphasises sadhana, and in so doing de-emphasises turning away from the world.

Papaji and Sri Ramana both talk of silence, but Sri Ramana speaks of a deep silence in which there is only abidance as Self devoid of all objective phenomena, whereas Papaji’s ‘silence’ seems much more superficial stilling of the mind without removing all objective phenomena or removing the vasanas.

Papaji also de-emphases sadhana, or at least does not emphasise Self-Enquiry whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as being the sole means to liberation.

What do you think? Have I got this right? Or are there other aspects of Papaji’s teachings I am unaware of or something else I am missing? In the meantime here is a video of quotes from Sri Ramana instructing us on the essential method:

And here is a video explaining the technique of Self-Enquiry in brief:

If you want to know how to put the teachings of Sri Ramana into practice, I highly recommend you read The Path of Sri Ramana which can be downloaded for free here or see a list of books that I recommend here.

Again, as always, the intent of this article is not to criticise or denegrate anyone, but only to explore the teachings and clarify The Way. In this spirit, I hope this article is of help to you.



*What is called mind (manam) is a wondrous power existing in Self (atma-swarupam). It projects all thoughts…Other than thoughts, there is no such thing as the world….Just as the spider spins out the thread from within itself and again withdraws it into itself, so the mind projects the world from within itself and again absorbs it into itself. ~ from Who Am I? by Sri Ramana Maharshi

14 thoughts on “Is Papaji’s teaching the same as Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching?

  1. Papaji and his student Gangaji have always been surrounded by controversy. Mooji also though to a lesser extent. I am of the opinion that many of these teachers (including many in the current “spiritual marketplace”) have a great, even enviable 😉 intellectual understanding of the teachings and are very good at what they do for the most part. But why bother with second hand when we have the authentic original to trust, Ramana himself and Nisargadatta and the original sutras. One thing I always found odd (involving Papaji) was that David Godman agreed to write Papaji’s bio? But what the hell do I know.
    Warm regards Tom
    Bill C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as I understand, David Godman spent a great deal of time with Papaji’s and was quite an admirer of his. In his videos, he speaks fondly of Papaji. It doesn’t surprise me that he would write a biography. I suppose it’s a bit curious why someone who was a student of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta would be drawn to Papaji — is that what you mean? I agree that the strength of many teachers is their intellectual understanding, and that it is better to go to the source, so to speak.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Walt, Yes many have wondered “Why did David Godman fall for Papaji?”
        His “teachings” clearly contradicted Ramana. The answer is… Shakti. Papaji had some Shakti. As we’ve seen time and time again, one need not be fully enlightened to have Shakti or “give shaktipat”. (Adi Da was one example). So, people were impressed that Papaji “met” Ramana, and confused Shakti for “grace”. That’s about all!


    2. you should not find this at all odd…did you have a chance to read any of the bio?! Papaji was on the level of Jesus…only Ramana was greater ❤ Godman knew this. I've had the chance to speak with David on a couple of occasions actually…


      1. Hi Shivadas, I’m sorry Papaji was NOT on the level of Jesus. He told Andrew Cohen that his work was “done” and that he was “the next Buddha”. Cohen infamously went on to become an abusive megalomaniac.

        Ramana did not declare Papaji to be realized, not did he ask or authorize him to teach. As many know there is no such thing as a “Ramana Maharshi lineage”

        Papaji just self-diagnosed, and self-declared his own alleged realization, and set himself up as a “guru”. He sat in front of a huge photo of Ramana, while blatantly ignoring or changing Ramana’s key teachings on Sadhana.

        As others have commented here, all those that he “asked to give satsang” have fallen to scandals.

        David Godman admits to not being Self realized, therefore he was not in the position to recognize or declare Papaji to be realized. “Only a Jnani can recognize a Jnani”. (there are no Jnani’s that said anything at all about Papaji)


  2. I was referring to the controversy surrounding his (Papaji’s) behavior toward his followers. So many complained that his interview with Batgap was pulled.


  3. Wonderful summary and compilation of Maharshi & Papaji teachings, appreciated contribution. I would say that; Papaji is always tried to point to the ‘Truth’ to his disciples in his own way, I see nothing is wrong in his teachings, in fact it is the immaturity of human minds to say that enlightened masters are controversial, I am saying it is immaturity but not a mistake or wrong to say. Yes, in regard to Sadhana; if we carefully observe the life of Ramana Maharshi after attainment of Self Knowledge is itself gives so many insights. It is one way to say Sadhana is perpetual building of ego as ‘I’, but this is quite applicable in the other paths of Sadhana except ‘Self-enquiry’. If one abide in ‘Self-enquiry’ he always lies in the true ‘I’ so here the Papaji pointing to be simply ‘The Self’ is direct meaning the same state. Finally, I agree with that Sadhana (Self enquiry or abide in Self) is a superior way of life which is led by the Maharshi. Thank you, Ravi Kumar,


  4. The teachings are one in the same. It is only your perspective that makes them appear different. When you become aware of the oneness of existence through the process of self inquiry, your life itself becomes the Sadhana. Whether you sit an ashram all day absorbed in samadhi or drive a taxi to support your partner/kids makes no difference. Samadhi is available and has always been available for all who can let go. Realize there is no “I” except for god and you will come to see you are both the dreamer and the dream. Sri Ramana wanted to spend a lifetime in an ashram and Papaji wanted to get married and eat ice cream. Both had an understanding of the truth and both lived in the peace. Meditation is not to be confused with concentration. Meditation means no thoughts – no objects and no subjects. You do not need to sit cross legged with eyes closed to experience silence. Peace, love and silence are always there. It is only the perceived “I” that tries to convince you otherwise.


    1. Hi Scott, I respectfully disagree.

      Their teachings were not one in the same. Ramana taught ceaseless, earnest effort and sadhana was non-negotiable for removing vasanas. Papaji preached “no effort”.

      I disagree that “Sri Ramana wanted to spend a lifetime in an ashram”. If you know his live, he didn’t have “wants”, or desires. Papaji on the other hand, had plenty of wants and desires. In his 60’s, he impregnated a female disciple in her 20’s while he was still married. David Godman reported that he was “addicted to sugar and grease” to the point of winding up in diabetic comas.

      Anyone can “say” you are the Self. But that’s not true Self realization.

      A point people forget is that Ramana never recognized or declared that Papaji was Self realized. He also never told or gave permission to anyone to teach. Ramana’s foremost devotee was Sri Muruganar (not Papaji) In contrast to Papaji, Sri Muruganar would never dare allow himself to be seen as a “guru”. He knew that Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was the true guru of all. This is true as much now as it was then.

      Papaji’s whole “movement” just became the failed experiment known as “Neo Advaita”. It didn’t produce one single success story. Just a lot of heartache, and loss of money for those embroiled in the scandals of Andrew Cohen, Gangaji, Eli Jaxxon Bear, and Mooji.


  5. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for this post. Just want to say I’m hugely appreciative of what you do. I recognize I’m a bit late on this post, but want to share my thoughts. I welcome rebuttals and replies!

    Respectfully I think this is a slight misrepresentation of the teaching (or non-teaching) of Papaji. Speaking of self-inquiry is so challenging because self-inquiry is not something that anyone does, per se. The moment that the question “Who am I?” is asked, the answer is present. The “answer” has no bearing on any condition and is all that is ever present. You could say the “answer”is the one who is asking, although even that I don’t feel is entirely true. Reality is the fullness of totality and far beyond anything I can ever possibly say. How can it be achieved as a result of any way, method, or practice? It simply cannot be achieved, because any achievement would imply separation. There are no separate entities anywhere.

    It is only Reality that can know Itself. Reality only ever knows Itself. It knows Itself by being Itself, and it only ever is Itself. Everyone and everything is only That. There is quite literally no room for anything else. How could anyone possibly practice what they already always are? 😊

    I think there is an inherent danger in the message because of its radical simplicity. The message has been interpreted through the lens of philosophy. It’s not anti-practice, per se. The suggestion is simply that who you are does not depend on any effort for its fulfillment, being eternally fulfilled by its nature. Effort may occur or not, but it has no bearing on what is beyond both effort and non-effort.

    Reality is fathomless. Who can stand apart to claim realization? Who can know the beginning or end of Consciousness? Who can know anything certain at all? I feel that only after the recognition that there is only Reality that true sadhana begins. It is then a labor of love from Reality to Itself. It is a wonderful and endless mystery how this occurs.

    I want to acknowledge the inevitable futility and inadequacy of my words, though I feel I have to speak them. Sending love to you and everyone on this journey.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sutton, You wrote:

      “How could anyone possibly practice what they already always are?”.

      Indeed, that would be pointless. But because of this fact, Papaji infamously shunned all practices and sadhana.

      His huge mistake was that sadhana has never ever, ever been to “become” something that isn’t already present. Sadhana is and always has been for the removal of obscurations.

      That is what Ramana taught, and what Papaji either ignored, or never understood in the first place.

      The very word “practice” is unfortunately a poor way to speak of sadhana.

      You practice violin to get to a level that is simply not yet present.
      So, of course as you’re already the Self, you don’t need to “practice” this, anymore than you need to practice having a nose.

      Here are some quotes from Papaji that show the glaring differences between him and Ramana (and his lack of understanding of what Ramana’s teachings were)

      Question: What advice would you give a person who is just starting out in spiritual life, specifically regarding the application of the teachings of Ramana?

      Papaji: Ramana has no teaching at all.

      (I’ll interject, um… no Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesha Manjuri, Guru Vachika Kovai? Be as you are is packed FULL of teachings!)

      “Although you could never get Papaji to admit that there were differences between his teachings and those of his Guru*, they clearly didn’t agree on the question of effort.”
      – David Godman

      “No effort, no thought. Just keep quiet.
      – Papaji

      “Of course, everybody, every book says, “Be quiet or still.” But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary.” – Ramana Maharshi

      Let’s get to that asterisk:
      * Ramana wasn’t his “Guru”.

      “I am not a Guru” – Ramana Maharshi
      “I have no disciples” – Ramana Maharshi

      Unfortunately there is a big myth that Papaji was a “direct disciple” of Ramana Maharshi, and that Ramana was his “Guru”. This goes straight against Ramana’s own teachings! When all is the Self, there is no room for Guru’s and disciples (direct or otherwise). There can be no hierarchy, or lineage in the Self. Ramana had devotees, not “disciples”. His universally recognized foremost devotee, Muruganar, never allowed himself to be seen as a Guru, or to teach his own interpretation of Ramana’s teachings.

      There’s a reason they call Papaji “The Father of Neo Advaita”. It’s because he tried something “new”. It’s pretty clear that it simply didn’t work. Many people after dabbling with Mooji etc. realize that they need to discover Ramana (for the first time) and find out what his actual teachings were.

      I’ll leave with a few more quotes from Ramana on the absolute nessesity of practice/effort/sadhana:

      “Effort is necessary to move oneself deeper and deeper in the practice of Self-enquiry, not philosophising on the subject. Firm determination is necessary to achieve experience, not trying to find it at one particular point. This is to be done until the ego is consumed and only the Self remains.” – Ramana Maharshi

      “All the age long vasanas [conditioning and tendencies] carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that effort is necessary, for most people.” – Ramana Maharshi

      “There is a false sense of liberation that aspirants reach that very few ever go beyond.” – Ramana Maharshi

      Liked by 1 person

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