|Intro||American spiritual teacher|
|From||United States of America|
Eli Jaxon-Bear (born Elliot J. Zeldow in 1947) is an American spiritual teacher and author. He lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife, fellow spiritual teacher Gangaji. Before he met his teacher, Sri H.W.L. Poonja, in 1990, he was best known for his work on the spiritual dimension of the Enneagram. Following his meeting with Poonjaji he continued to teach, carrying his teacher’s message to the West.
Jaxon-Bear was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 1968. In 1965 he was part of a group of students who went to Montgomery, Alabama to take part in the civil rights marches. Later he wrote of this experience, “Getting on the bus represented a much deeper commitment than simply enduring a few weeks of dangerous adventure. Finally, I had to give my life fully to getting on the bus for freedom without a thought of getting off.” After graduating he became a community organizer in Chicago and Detroit. Freedom of Information documents show that the FBI began a file on Jaxon-Bear after his arrest during the Democratic Convention in the summer of 1968. After six months of working in a steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania, he was awarded a fellowship for a doctorate at the Graduate School for International Studies at the University of Denver. He was part of the student strike committee that shut down the university in 1970.
Jaxon-Bear’s eighteen-year spiritual path began after the 1971 May Day Protests, when he became a federal fugitive during the Vietnam War. As he described, “I was brought face-to-face with death. Through grace, I passed to the other side: I awoke to the truth of my own nature as empty, immortal consciousness.” This experience led him on a spiritual search that took him around the world and into many traditions and practices. In 1978, Kalu Rinpoche appointed him the president of Kagyu Minjur Choling, the first Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist dharma center in Marin County. In 1982, he was presented with a Zen Teaching Fan at Cho Sho-ji Zen Temple in Beppu, Japan. Through the 1980s, Jaxon-Bear ran a Clinical Hypnosis and Neurolinguistics certification program at the Esalen Institute. Also during that time, he studied the ancient Sufi wisdom teachings of the Enneagram. His first writings and teachings on the Enneagram emerged in 1989. He was a keynote speaker at the first International Enneagram Conference at Stanford University in August, 1994. His talk was entitled “The Enneagram and Self-Realization”.
In 1990 in India, Jaxon-Bear met the teacher Sri H.W.L. Poonja, who is called “Papaji” by his followers. A few months later, he took his wife, Antoinette Varner, to meet Papaji. She too became a devotee and Papaji named her Gangaji. Subsequent to the meeting with Papaji, both Jaxon-Bear and Gangaji were allowed to teach satsang in the West, and given conditional permission to publish Wake Up and Roar.
Jaxon-Bear’s teaching focuses on the nature of egoic suffering in support of self-realization. Today, Jaxon-Bear offers the living transmission of silence received from his teacher Papaji. He also helps students address egoic identification using the Enneagram as a vehicle for self-inquiry and realization of true freedom. What Papaji called “stopping the mind,” Jaxon-Bear called “ending the fixation.” He wrote, “The great gift of the Enneagram is that it describes who you are not. It shows the veiling of pure, pristine consciousness by habits of egoic identification.”
Writings and publications
In 1990, Jaxon-Bear established the Pacific Center Press to publish books and videos. Volume One of Wake Up and Roar, a compilation of spiritual dialogues with Papaji edited by Jaxon-Bear, was published in 1992. The second volume of Wake Up and Roar followed in 1993. In 2001, he wrote From Fixation to Freedom: The Enneagram of Liberation to reflect the evolution of his teaching of the Enneagram in light of his teacher’s transmission.
In 2004, Jaxon-Bear wrote Sudden Awakening Into Direct Realization. “In this book, I offer you the gift of awakening that was given to me by my teacher, Sri H.W. L. Poonja, a fully awakened satguru called Papaji. Awakening is real: it is actually the only reality. Awakening is permanent: it doesn’t come and go.”
Jaxon-Bear established the Leela Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization offers events, books, videos, audios, and outreach programs dedicated to world peace and freedom through universal self-realization. Jaxon-Bear holds public meetings and retreats in the US, Europe and Australia.
In 1975, Jaxon-Bear met his life-partner, Antoinette Roberson Varner (born Merle Antoinette ("Toni") Roberson) in Berkeley, California. They spent their first five years together living on a small farm in Bolinas, California. In 1989, they were married in a cave in Haleakala Crater on Maui.
In October 2005, Jaxon-Bear admitted to his wife Gangaji that he had recently ended a three-year affair with an adult female student who was at the time employed as the executive director of his organization, the Leela Foundation. After a brief separation, Jaxon-Bear and Gangaji reconciled in December 2005. In October 2006, he disclosed the extramarital relationship to the Gangaji Foundation board of directors and staff. Subsequently the executive director and board of foundation issued an open letter stating, “What was initially seen as a matter between two adults is now recognized to be a betrayal of the teacher/student relationship and an abuse of power”. The letter added:
“The repercussions of this betrayal are reverberating in ways that were never imagined, but are very painful. The deepest truths do not excuse or justify our failures and betrayals as human beings. Gratefully though, without minimizing or spiritualizing the damage done, love remains and sustains all. It is only in love that we can truly meet the pain that comes with being human. Ever more so, we can commit ourselves to the compassion that love provides and to tell the truth more clearly and honestly to others and ourselves.”
Following the disclosure, Jaxon-Bear publicly apologized for the pain he had caused his wife, the woman he became involved with, and his community. At that time, Jaxon-Bear resigned from teaching. He and Gangaji held open meetings to heal the wounds experienced in their spiritual community, as well as holding retreats on the subjects of disillusionment, betrayal and relationship.
Subsequently, in an interview with Bertrand Coquoz of Wegweiser Magazin in Germany, Jaxon-Bear said of his affair, “My worst mistake thus far in this flawed life was allowing myself to be in an intimate relationship with two women at the same time. They were the two loves of my life and they both loved me deeply and truly. But it was an impossible situation for all three of us. I caused suffering to the two people that I loved most deeply. That first mistake led to my lying about my affair. This was a great mistake. I had never lied to my partner over our thirty years together and it was a terrible mistake. It was shocking to see that I was capable of this. Bearing having caused suffering and falling into the trap of lying was the greatest pain that I have ever experienced in my life. It burned a holy fire in a place that had not yet burned. As I tried to satisfy my obligations to both my partner and my lover I continued to make many mistakes.”
In 2007, after suffering severe bone pain, Jaxon-Bear was diagnosed with last stage multiple myeloma, a severe form of blood cancer that attacks the bones. He underwent surgery for multiple fractures of his spine and participated in an experimental treatment protocol that included tandem stem cell transplants at the Myeloma Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. He continues with maintenance level chemotherapy. In January 2008, Jaxon-Bear reestablished the Leela Foundation and returned to teaching.