I’ve nearly finished reading H. W. L. Poonja’s book of Satsang meetings, and it has been a real help, in order to bring together some of the ideas around oneness. I often wondered if we make our own world, how is it then possible that there are other people in it? Do they also all have their own worlds, and how do they communicate? Of course, the answer is that these other people are also us, there is only one world, one Self. As Ram Dass once said, “it is best to treat everyone you meet as God in drag”, or even ‘yourself in drag’.
The whole idea of oneness is something I have not experienced for myself, and it’s not something you find in Buddhist teachings, but I have been reluctant to dismiss it because it keeps coming back in people’s experiences with psychedelics and you see it in various Indian religions around the word Aum. My intuition tells me it is closer to the truth than other explanations, it is a concept that fits a large number of spiritual master’s teachings.
The whole idea of Satsang seems very true to me, that people come to visit the wise and be guided by them, without a formal association as between master and disciple. It feels more like the original calling of the Buddha as a teacher, rather than what Buddhism has ended up with, laypeople and monks. So Poonja came to a hall in his village of Lucknow in order to give Satsang, and he very often told people not to practice but to just keep Quiet, that a second’s true inner silence would be enough to transform them.
There is a lot of crossover between Poonja’s Advaita and Buddhism. Ideas of suffering, letting go, the problem of craving and desire are all in common. There are also a few notable differences, such as Poonja’s de-emphasis of practice and the different views of Self. It feels more free, less rule bound than Buddhism, there is no Sangha, there are no precepts.