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I have seen some videos in Youtube (here and here) where it seems that just by standing in front of Papaji, people start laughing without control.

Somehow it is implicitly said that this reaction is related to an awakening/realization experience.

My questions are:

  • Is this true ?
  • How is it that just the presence of a teacher is enough for such an experience ?
  • Can we say that this experiences are real Enlightenment ?

Answers with references are strongly appreciated.

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The references below give a goods indication of stages of insight leading to enlightenment.

... people start laughing without control ... Is this true ?

I am not sure if any one would burst out laughing at any stages of insight. This looks like hysteria to me.

How is it that just the presence of a teacher is enough for such an experience ?

In a Theravada perspective, this is un true. The Dhamma is something you should realize through your efforts and not something someone can give you. Hence a mere presence of a teacher is not enough.

Can we say that this experiences are real Enlightenment ?

Looking at the references below this does not look like enlightenment but some other experience induced by a different kind of practice which is neither Samatha or Vipassana in the Theravada Buddhist sense.

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Some Wikipedia references, in case that's enough to start with.

  • Subitism is an article describing 'sudden enlightenment' in Buddhism
  • I thought that Zen 'satori' was supposed to be sudden, but Attaining satori says,

    Satori is considered a "first step" or embarkation toward nirvana:

    Ch'an expressions refer to enlightenment as "seeing your self-nature". But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen your experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enlightenment experience again and again and support them with continuous practice. Even though Ch'an says that at the time of enlightenment, your outlook is the same as of the Buddha, you are not yet a full Buddha.[7]

    Even then,

    The student's mind must be prepared by rigorous study etc.

  • Those are nice videos but maybe Papaji is more accurately described as Hindu than Buddhist. The subject of the second video, for example, was about "seeing God."
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I recommend Sam Harris's "Waking Up" for a decent discussion of this topic in general, and of Poonja (Papaji) specifically. The relevant part of the book is Chapter 4 "Meditation", specifically starting on page 127 (hardback).

Based on Harris's account, which is both respectful of Poonja but also healthily avoids being overly credulous, I'd say that the answers to your questions are:

  • Yes, it can be true, but not everyone who appears to be experiencing it actually is. In other words, sometimes laughter is just laughter.
  • "How" as a mechanism, I don't know. I'm not sure anyone does. But if you read past the Poonja stuff and onto Harris's description (same chapter) of the "pointing out" aspect of Dzogchen, particularly as he experienced it under Tulku Urgyen, you'll get some clues.
  • Similar to the answer to the first question: I imagine that in some cases a genuine awakening experience is present. However, as Harris explains in the section on Urgyen, even the genuine experiences may be only a first look at what is possible with more extensive and deeper practice of insight

Also, as ChrisW says, Poonja isn't formally Buddhist. I think he'd be more accurately described as an Advaita practitioner, although even that may be more precise than is fair (to Poonja or Advaita).

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