Appendix. Poona One
1. Bernard Levin. Four features on the ashram in Poona. The Times, 1980.
2. Introduction / Ma Prem Maneesha. In ‘Get Out of Your Own Way!’ (1977).
3. Ma Satya Bharti on her first books written in Poona One. 2015.
4. Amongst his Books / Ma Prem Madhuri. Osho Lao Tzu library. 2011.
5. Foreword by Dr. Lawrence Blair. In: My Diamond Days with Osho. Shunyo 1999.
6. The New Commune. Rajneesh Foundation, Poona, 1979. One page factsheet.
7. Groups, Therapies and Individual Sessions. March 1979. 8 pages.
8. Darshan. Guidelines. Undated. One page.
9. Shree Rajneesh Ashram. General Information. 20.01.1981.
10. The Shree Rajneesh Ashram 1974 – 1981. Ashram Names.
11. Der Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona. Zur sozio-ökonomischen Struktur und Entwiklung einer religiösen Gemeinschaft/ Sw. Deva Bodena.
1. Bernard Levin. Four features on the ashram in Poona. The Times, London, April and June 1980.
– Stuck by enlightenment in Poona. 08.04.1980, p. 12.
– An extraordinary journey to the interior. 09.04.1980, p. 14.
– The joy of shedding their chains. 10.04.1980, p. 14.
– A rather special kind of loving. 05.06.1980, p. 18.
* Stuck by enlightenment in Poona. 08.04.1980, p. 12.
“The scene is a huge makeshift auditorium, roughly oval in shape, a marquee with a flat stone floor; it is open all around but has a simple roof of matting and corrugated iron, supported on slim, crude wooden pillars. On the floor some 1,500 people are sitting: the frailer among them (including me) have thin cushions. They all face a raised marble platform set midway along one side of the hall: on it there stands a plain swivel chair (it looks a good deal more comfortable than my bit of the floor, cushion and all); a microphone on a stand projects over the chair’s arm. The time is a quarter to eight in the morning. We are in Poona.
The first surprise is the colour; almost literally every person in the place is wearing orange. There is a very wide variety of garments but in the colour, though the shade varies from almost yellow to almost red, is common to all. The second surprise is that there is total silence throughout this orange sea; over a loudspeaker there comes an appeal against coughing, but the plea is unnecessary, for the silence is unbroken, and deeper than the “Bayreuth hush” itself.
Accompanying the silence is stillness, the orange sea is frozen, row upon row of graven images. Among the men, beards and long hair are overwhelmingly prevalent.
The silence is broken by the crunch of a car’s wheels and the accompanying purr of an expensive engine. A large, gleaming, yellow Mercedes [later replaced by a white Rolls Royce] comes into view, being driven round the perimeter of the hall. (I was to see the car later, being washed, and to gain the distinct impression it is washed several times a day). As the car approaches a covered walkway just behind the platform with the chair, I experience the third surprise: mine is the only head that turns.
An orange-clad attendant, on the watch for this moment, moves forward to open the car door; out of it steps, with unhurried graceful movements, a figure dressed in a white robe, beneath which his feet are clad in simple sandals. He walks slowly into the hall, his hands together in the traditional Indian greeting, and mounts the steps in the marble platform. He stands in front of the chair and turns through 180 degrees, extending the silent greeting to the whole hall: it is returned by the orange audience. He is tall, though not exceptionally so, bald on top but with long hair hanging down behind, and luxuriantly grey-bearded. He smiles, and sits down in the chair. Another attendant steps forward and hands him a small folder. He puts it on his lap, opens it, takes a slip of paper from it, and speaks for an hour and three quarters without pause, hesitation, repetition or notes. This is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh: Or, many in that hall believe, God.
The lure of India is almost as old as India herself; in recent years, however, it has become much stronger, and her seers and sages and sannyasin have provided new hope for more and more of the jaded spiritual palates of the West. Europe and America sense that the nirvana which, in their dissatisfaction, they seek, is what India has always offered, and India’s holy men are now doing a roaring trade in the provision of peace to the angry and tormented souls of those who come to learn how they may be healed, how the psychic split may be mended and the ego dissolved in the true self. As Rajneesh himself puts it, “When you have everything the outer can provide, then a natural desire arises to explore the inner”.
Holy men, like unholy ones, differ. In Bombay, I sat at the feet of an aged prophet, Nisargadatta Maharaj, who speaks in a tiny room reached by a rickety flight of stairs in a house in one of the poorest quarters of the city (and the poorest quarters of Bombay are poor indeed). Later, in the same city, I heard Krishnamurti speak to a throng in the open air, his voice that of the cultured West, his words those of the feeling East. Everywhere, the seekers compared notes; many spoke of other sages, in Goa and elsewhere, exchanging recommendations like tourists singling out restaurants. Rajneesh, it is clear, has three stars.
In the most important sense, of course, they are tourists. Many, indeed, have come to Rajneesh after a long time spent trying other roads. Now: heureux qui, comme Ulysse… they all feel they have come home, that whatever it was they had been seeking, they have found it. I have to say, after spending several days at the Rajneesh Ashram last year and after a further visit last week (when I discovered that the Mercedes has now been replaced by an immense white Rolls Royce), that I am not the least surprised.
There are, to be sure, some taxes to pay, which is what I meant when I said that holy men differ. The essence of Rajneesh and of his teaching I shall discuss in due course; the essence however, is wrapped in showmanship of a remarkable quality. To start with, those going to the morning discourse, which is open to all on payment of a trifling admission charge (and it takes place every day of the year, except on the rare occasions when he is ill – or, as they carefully specify, “unwell in the body” – being given, month in month out, in English and Hindi alternately,) must first pass through an experience that brings to mind the Roman yoke; two of the Rajneesh’s Praetorian Guard stand in the path that leads to the auditorium, and as the long queue shuffles forward they sniff each discourse-goer as he or she passes between them.
The official reason given for this curious practice is that Rajneesh is allergic to perfumes of any kind; visitors are warned not to use scented shampoos, deodorants, or even after-shave lotions, and those who fail to pass the sniffing test are forbidden entry, though I saw borderline cases being allowed to proceed after a scarf was bound over their offending hair. Now since nobody at the discourse sits within 18 ft. of Rajneesh, and some as far as 30 yards away from him, it seems clear that the official reason is nonsense. The sniffing, like the car (which is used only to bring him a few yards from his own quarters on the ashram and return him thither after the discourse, and must therefore have the lowest mileage of any car in the world), like the legends propagated by his disciples (does he really read 50-70 books a week?), like the tape-recording of his every word (all his discourses are published in book form and on cassettes), like the four stipulations which each sannyas or initiate is asked to accept (the donning of an orange garment, the wearing of the mala, a string of 108 beads from which Rajneesh’s portrait is suspended in a locket, the adoption of a new name, and the daily practice of meditation), not to mention his triumphantly stage-managed entrance for the discourses themselves, all these trimmings must be accepted and digested, by anyone wanting to understand Rajneesh, before the kernel of his mystery can be approached.
And they can be regarded in two ways; either as irrelevances – distracting, trivial or suspect according to taste – or as a minor but subtly essential part of the mystery itself, designed to shake his hearers loose from preconceptions and make them more open to what they are to hear and experience; a close parallel in fact, to the “meaningless” riddles of Zen, which also irritate those who miss their point. For my part I have no doubt at all that, with one exception, which I shall discuss, the trimmings should be regarded in the second light, and that for anyone willing to suspend traditional forms of judgement long enough to understand, they serve the purpose for which they are designed. That purpose, as I say, is the emotional freeing of those who wish to hear, and benefit from, Rajneesh’s teaching.
The process of disorientation takes many forms. Another very significant one, which provides a valuable test of understanding – to recoil from it suggests that those who recoil have missed the point – is the way in which Rajneesh sprinkles jokes, some of them very rude indeed, throughout his discourse. They are meant to illustrate his theses, and are thus the equivalent of Christ’s parables; but they are also, particular the blue ones, clearly designed to de-mystify and de-sanctify Rajneesh’s own personality, to bring him down from the heights on which his followers inevitably tend to place him, to the human level on which they live themselves. (Some of the jokes, incidentally, are very funny, like the one about the poor cobbler who goes to the farmer for a pound of butter and is told that he can only have it on payment of a pair of woollen socks. Woollen socks being beyond the cobbler’s means, he and his family face a butterless diet, until his wife says that she will unravel part of their woollen bedspread and knit a pair of socks with the wool. She does so, and the socks are handed over in return for the pound of butter. Next time the family needs butter, the same procedure is followed and gradually the bedspread disappears, until finally there is only enough wool to knot a single sock. The cobbler takes it to the farmer and asks if he can have half a pound of butter for it; the farmer however is in an expansive mood, and says he can have the whole pound. “You see”, he says, “I don’t wear the socks, I give them to my wife, who unravels them for the wool. She’s knitting a bedspread and she only needs the wool from one more sock to finish it.” This story was used by Rajneesh to illustrate the futility of so much of the modern worlds’ striving and endeavour, and seemed to me to do so rather neatly.)
Nevertheless, the showmanship and what goes with it is not all quite so innocent or salutary, which bring me to the exception. As those of my readers who have followed my accounts of Mrs Gandhi’s subversion of Indian democracy may readily suppose, I found a substantial bone in my throat at this statement of Rajneesh’s views on her:
She possesses a better vision of the future and more understanding of the present. She is flexible, open, vulnerable, ready to understand anything that is happening in the modern world. But she is also a criminal and a tyrant.
The reason for Rajneeshs praise of Mrs Gandhi and concomitant attacks of her democratic opponents lies in the fact that the Morarji Desai government showed itself hostile to Rajneesh and his movement, and indeed to the Indian “Godmen” generally, feeling that they damage India’s standing abroad by perpetuating the myth that India is a country full of strange rites and fakirs on beds of nails, not be thought of as a modern state with a modern state’s role to play in the world. Rajneesh’s people claim that there was a history of obstruction and harassment of their activities on the part of Morarji’s government, ranging from the blocking of legitimate acquisition of land to the banning of a British television team that wanted to make a film at the ashram; doubtless Rajneesh feels that he will get more favourable treatment from the resurrected Mrs Gandhi. But the Enlightened are supposed to be above such considerations.
In a different area altogether, though no less disturbing, are the claims the Rajneesh Foundation makes to be operating a university on the ashram. I have no doubt that the wide range of consciousness-expanding therapeutic techniques practiced there (they include Massage, Reflexology, Alexander Technique, Acupuncture, Rolfing, Postural Integration, Hypnosis, Councelling, Rebirthing, Dynamic Meditation and many others) are of the greatest value for the growth towards wholeness of those who shop at this amazing spiritual supermarket, but there is clearly nothing that can be seriously described as University-standard teaching, and the claim that there are courses at a “International University” there, “leading to a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts or Doctorate of Philosophy degree” is nonsense, while the further assertion that “in many cases academic credits from Rajneesh International University can be applied towards degrees at other colleges” is even greater nonsense. I do not believe that this provides the explanation for the air of hostility to the activities of the Rajneesh ashram that could, certainly on my first visit, be distinctly felt in Poona among Indians themselves. There are the usual tales of dark doings with hints of sexual impropriety, that such movements invariably attract; there are the equally inevitable allegation of drug-use, no doubt because long hair among young people (the overwhelming majority of Rajneesh’s followers are young) is always associated, in popular mythology, with drugs. And, of course, these allegations have been picked up, embellished, and printed in the West.
Yet even a brief visit to the Rajneesh headquarters is sufficient to dispel such beliefs: I shall have a good deal to say about the disciples I talked to, but for the moments I want only to say that the gossip conveys more about the gossipers that about the subject of the gossip – as indeed, is commonly the case – and that in this instance it conveys something of very considerable significance. What that significance is I shall discuss tomorrow.”
* An extraordinary journey to the interior. 09.04.1980.
“In introducing yesterday an account of my visit to the Poona ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, I concluded by drawing attention to some of the manifestations of the hostility this remarkable teacher has attracted. It is not surprising. For Rajneesh is beyond any doubt a deeply disturbing influence. At the end of the path which leads towards the discourse auditorium (which is called Buddha Hall) there is a sign reading: “Shoes and minds to be left here.” The shoes present no problem: but every instinct of Man revolts, screaming, against the second position. And yet it does not take years of meditation to recognize that all the most important, and all the most forceful, achievements and influences that affect human beings by-pass the mind altogether to have their effect; art, laughter, fear – none of these can be understood by the mind, nor are the workings of any of them understood by the mind. And of course there is one more such area in human beings that does not depend on the mind for its existence, and cannot look to the mind for an explanation: love.
That is the business of Rajneesh, as it was the business of Christ and Buddha and Lao Tzu and all the other Enlightened Masters who have born witness through the centuries to the same two principles: that love is the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, and that everything we need to be, wish to be and ought to be, we already are. Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Or, as Rajneesh puts it:
“My message is: Drop the mind and you will become available to God. Become innocent and you will be bridged with God.
Drop this ego, drop this idea that you are somebody special.
Be ordinary and you will become extraordinary.
Be true to your inner being and all religions are fulfilled.
And when you don’t have a mind, then you have a heart.
When you don’t have a mind only then your heart starts pulsating, then you have love.
No-mind means love. Love is my message.”
Or, as he puts it even more succinctly:
“Everybody is born perfect, with the signature of God; imperfection is a learnt thing.”
Leaving my hotel in Poona at 7 am, I paused to ask the receptionist for directions to the Rajneesh ashram; she gave them, but I thought I detected a slight smile on her lips as she did so, and when I got outside I realized what she meant. For nobody could fail to find the way to the extraordinary magnet that Rajneesh has become; from every part of the town orange-clad rivers flowed in the same direction, until the tributaries all met in the same stream, and I found myself outside the gates.
I have described the scene as the audience waits for Rajneesh to appear and begin his daily discourse. It now falls to me to do the same for the discourse itself. This is a much more difficult task; for although I can convey something of his technique as a speaker, and of course quote his words, the astonishing effect it has – an effect which seems to bathe the hearer in a refulgent glow of wisdom and love – is something which it is easier to experience than to describe.
His voice is low, smooth and exceptionally beautiful; he has a habit of lingering on any final consonant, not just an s. His English is surprisingly idiomatic and syntactically almost, though not quite, perfect. His gestures are hypnotically graceful and eloquent; he has extraordinary long fingers, and he uses his hands, particularly the left, in an endless variety of expressive forms. At a distance, he looks far older than his 48 years; this is the effect of the patriarchal beard and hair, but from a close viewpoint, it is clear that his face is unlined, his eyes penetrating and clear.
What he says is couched in language of great power and fluency; he is one of the most remarkable orators I have ever heard, though there is no hint of demagogy in his style, and no hortatory or pedagogic feeling about the content of what he says. He uses quotations and references very freely (these seem to be written down, as are some of the jokes, but they constitute the only notes he uses); in the three discourses I heard, on consecutive days, he quoted Bertrand Russel, William James, Norbert Wiener, e.e.cummings, Nietzsche, Whitman, and others. Some of his references seem dubious: was Freud phobic about looking into others’ eyes? Did Jung have a phobic fear of death and fall psychosomatically ill every time he tried to set out on a long-desired visit to Egypt “to see the mummies”? Is there a suicide-rate among psychiatrists twice as high as among the rest of the population? Is the average time an American spends in one dwelling three years, and is the average length of American marriages the same?
Se non e vero… Rajneesh is not trying to purvey information, but a truth that bypasses conscious thought and all that belongs to it, just as the most important activities of human being bypass the mind. I filled pages with notes of his words, but I am vividly aware of the fact that quotation can offer only a string to apercus, divorced from the context (itself meticulously constructed and shaped, despite the absence of notes) of passion and conviction in which they are set. Nevertheless:
We are called escapist, but if your house is on fire and you escape, nobody calls you an escapist.
A man who is split can never be the master of himself.
I have never seen humanity; I have only seen human beings. People love humanity and kill human beings.
Just as illness is infectious, so is health.
How can you love others if you do not love yourself?
If you go to Hell willingly you will be happy there; if you are forced into Paradise you will hate it.
Twenty centuries of dependence on God, and man had accumulated such hatred for God that God could not be tolerated any more; that is why Nietzsche said, “God is dead and man is free”. The person you become dependent upon also becomes dependent on you; slavery is always mutual.
The politician who climbs the ladder until he gets to the topmost rung looks foolish because climbing is the only skill he has, and there is nowhere further to climb; he is like the dog that runs barking after every car and looks foolish when it overtakes one.
The question-mark represents the snake in Eden; when Eve asked a question she fell from grace, and when she provoked Adam to do the same, so did he. Man left the Garden of Eden, and returned to Paradise through the Garden of Gethsemane.
A person who is not open lives in a grave.
As I say, such statements stripped bare, cannot convey the effect of a Rajneesh discourse. (These incidentally are all published verbatim, involving an output of some fifty volumes a year, and they are all also published in cassette-recording form. And apart from the effect and persuasiveness of his words, and – an even greater force – the torrent of love-imbued energy that is released into the surrounding atmosphere as he speaks, there is, and remains with me, the profound meaning of what he was saying.
This is, as I have already suggested, what all the great teachers have also said. At the heart of it lies Rajneesh’s insistence that the relation between man and God is not one of “thou and I”; in a dozen different ways he made the point that man is not separate from God, and I was reminded that Christ, too, said, “The Kingdom of heaven is within”. Nisargadatte Maharaj, in his tiny Bombay eyrie, argues ths same thesis. In an even more complete form: for him there is no “I”, and the whole universe floats within each of us: all we have to do is to recognize the fact.
Rajneesh developed his theme through the argument that we must first learn to love others; in that learning we will also learn that we are no more separated from the other than we are separated from God. (He discussed this theme, incidentally, in two of the three discourses I attended, and although the argument was of course the same, there was no repetition whatever in the development of it, let alone the words.) Throughout he stresses that each of us is capable of finding the way unaided, and that these are the only terms in which the search can be understood or have meaning; any picture of Rajneesh as one who lays down prescriptive rules for others to follow is as far from the truth as it is possible to get.
At the end of the discourse (he invariably signs off with the words “Enough for today”), he leaves in the same showman style that marks his entry. I watched the crowd after he had gone, and to do so was in itself profoundly instructive. Many remained seated as they had been while he was speaking, continuing to meditate silently on what they had heard. Some came to the marble platform from which he had spoken, and prostrated themselves across it, clearly seeking to absorb some of the energy that he had expended, and that could indeed be thought of as forming a pool in which the seekers could soak themselves. Some couples embraced, remaining enwrapped for minutes on end; nobody paid them any attention, let alone exhibits embarrassment. It is not difficult to see an explanation; Rajneesh’s teaching is, at the bottom, of love, and the air is full of it. The love to which he points is not, of course, the body’s rapture, but it is hardly surprising that for some the route lies along that path. It is no doubt this fact, together with Rajneesh’s argument that we have to work through our impulses before we can transcend them (since they will take their revenge if we attempt the impossible task of suppressing them altogether), and the various encounter groups that operate on the ashram, that the gossipers outside have in mind when they circulate their stories of dark deeds.
But as I moved out with the rest of the audience, I embarked on an experiment that I had tried a few weeks before, in London – to be precise, in Selfidges. On that earlier occasion, I had passed among the shopping crowds consciously examining every face I saw, seeking to discover how many of them showed that the individual in question was possessed of that wholeness, that serenity, that issues in happiness, but is not itself happiness, and that denotes one who has mastered the external circumstance of life by first understanding the mastery within. I gazed into a couple of hundred faces, and then could gaze no more, so universal was the withered misery I saw, the tension of unresolved conflict, the emptiness and loss, the pain of separation, guilt and fear.
Now, among the hundreds into whose faces I looked as we emerged from Buddha Hall, I could see hardly a single one that resembles those in London. These faces were not lost or even resigned: they were not the faces of men and women who had laid their burdens on another; they were not the faces of those who had given up the struggle and chosen to ignore a world they could not face; almost without exception, these faces were alive, expressive, contemplative, serene, interested, eager. In a word: innocent. From then on, I spent my time at Rajneesh’s ashram talking to those faces; tomorrow, I shall conclude this series by recounting what they said, and what I concluded from their words.”
* The joy of shedding their chains. 10.04.1980.
“It is true, and I cannot see how it could not be, that a tree must be known by its fruit, the followers – he calls them neo-sannyasins – of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh are in general an exceptionally fine crop, bearing witness to a tree of a choice, rare nature. The first quality a visitor to Rajneesh’s ashram notices – and he never ceases to notice it – is the ease and comfort with which they wear their faith. Though they are unshakably convinced (I met only one with any residual doubts) that Rajneesh has enabled them to find a meaning for their lives and for the place in the universe, there was no trace of fanaticism in them and in most not even fervour. A prominent British journalist would have been a considerable catch for them, and they were plainly aware of it, for the efficiency and thoroughness with which they met all my requests, answered all my questions and showed me all I wanted to see, made it quite clear that the administrative side of the enterprise is fully aware of the world outside and the way it runs; whatever else these people are, they are not spiritual troglodytes. But if they would have been pleased to land me, there was never a glimpse of a net; the hours of talk were absolutely free of any proselytizing. They have truly understood what Rajneesh meant by the words I quoted yesterday: “If you go to Hell willingly, you will be happy there; if you are forced into Paradise you will hate it.”
The joy with which they are clearly filled is, as anyone who listens to Rajneesh must deduce it would be, directed outwards as well as in; I cannot put it better than in saying that they constantly extend, to each other and to strangers, the hands of love, though without the ego-filled demands of love as most of the world knows it. They have shed their chains, and they demonstrated their freedom easily and unobtrusively, though the results at first can be startling; a young married couple I met spoke within ten minutes of a martial problem not usually discussed before strangers (or indeed at all), yet there was no exhibitionism or inverted vanity involved, only innocent naturalness of the nakedness in Eden before the fall.
They come not only from haunts of coot and hern, but from all over. I met an accountant, a journalist, a psychotherapist, a housewife, a farmer, a lecturer in Business Studies, among others. Few of them are pursuing their own professions on the ashram (the lecturer in Business Studies agreed cheerfully that there was not much call for such things chez Rajneesh) and those who live full-time on the premises or – for the place is very overcrowded – in Poona itself, are commonly assigned tasks which are themselves designed as part of the learning process, the point being that when an individual finds himself doing the floor-scrubbing with real joy, he is already a long way towards the goal.
Of course, everything that happens on the ashram is designed for the same purpose. The workshops are extensive and impressive; these are no fumbling amateurs messing about with batik and linocuts, but serious craftsmen turning out furniture, metalware, silver inlaying, screen-printing and the like, of high quality. But the point is that almost all of them started without any skill at these trades. The further point is that they are all obviously happy in their work, and the point beyond that is that they would obviously still be happy if they were there doing something else entirely; this is not the story of people who discover an unsuspected talent in themselves, but one of the searchers who find in themselves something of which all talents, indeed all activities whatsoever, are gleaming reflections.
The encouragement of this discovery is also the purpose of the therapy groups and the various forms of “dynamic meditation”. Liberation from the ego must start with liberation from the layers of self-consciousness in which we are wrapped, as in the “sufi dancing” (I don’t think Omar Khayyam would have noticed much of the sufis’ teaching in it, mind you). This consisted of some simple (though not simply spontaneous) steps and movements, with constant change of partners and such exercises as pausing to look into the eyes of neighbours. I was dragged onto the floor by one of my new-found friends (“You don’t have to do anything!”) and even this limited experience of the disembarrassing process made me see its necessity and efficacy.
There is a jargon, of couse. An experience is “heavy”: someone is “into” this or that technique; asked what he had been before coming to the ashram, one young man replied, not “a musician”, but “I moved in music energy”. Clearly, it had never occurred to any of the full-bearded, longhaired men that they were unconsciously trying to resemble Rajneesh: instead, there was much easy talk of the difficulty of shaving in cold water and the poor quality of Indian razor blades. (For that matter, it did not require psychic gifts to see that many of the women are plainly in love with Rajneesh.)
They are, as I say, free of doubt: but they wear their certainty like a nimbus, not a sword. A Canadian girl I met had an ease and naturalness that were like magic; she made me want to hug her; though I hardly need say I didn’t. (Only afterwards did I realize that if I had done so she would have taken the gesture for no more than it was: an innocent salute to her almost incredibly vitality.) Even more relaxed was the formidable Laxmi, one of the only two people who ever see Rajneesh alone: she is the administrative head of the enterprise, and she glows with a force that nearly knocked me down. And she was the first to say, in answer to my questions to what Rajneesh was to them, that they regarded him as a God. I invited her to elaborate, and she willingly did: but if he is God, he is a very undeified one, and certainly in his discourses there is no hint of “Who say ye that I am?”, only a powerful sense that he is a conduit along which the vital force of the universe flows. (One of the ashram-dwellers, when I asked the same question – what do you regard Rajneesh as? – put it impressively in two words: “A reminder.”) But there is no doubt that Rajneesh is regarded, at the very least, of being possessed of psychic powers. He never now leaves his quarters, except for the morning discourse (the evening gatherings are held on a terrace abutting on to his room, and he has even given up his former practice of walking in his private garden; when I asked why he never looked in on the various groups to see how the work was going, the reply, immediate and without affectation, was, “But he does – only not in the body”. He speaks for himself at the daily discourses, of course and for the rest of the time Laxmi speaks for him. On my second visit, however, last week, I could almost have wished she had not, for she told me of his views that Mahatma Gandhi was wrong in his attempt to break the hideous grip of the caste system, to call the “Untouchables” Haridjans, meaning “Children of God”, for this had the effect of boosting their ego – a remark which must rank high on anybody’s list of the dozen most ridiculous things ever said.
There is a constant talk of a move to the new ashram, for which planning permission is still being laboriously negotiated. This is to be so large that all the sannyasin who want to live on it will be able to do so, and it will be entirely self-supporting: I was even shown detailed coloured drawings of the projected layout and buildings. On my first visit I sensed or thought I did, that the whole project was chimerical, that the new ashram was to remain a dream, and that the dreaming was itself part of the technique, but on my second they insisted that the project was realistic and their intentions definite. I have heard the sannyasins’ temporary sojourn at the ashram (any come for a month or so at a time, often using their annual leave for the purpose) described as a holiday with remarkable therapeutic qualities, for I met no one who did not testify to the gains the experience had brought, and none who lacked the visible signs of such gains.
Is anything lost? I think not, but I am not quite certain. For some, perhaps, is a softening of the wrong kind, a loss of definition, of individuality in the better sense. I found myself wondering how they would get on in the extreme situations, of privation or persecution, or even flung back into the pressures of the life the rest of us lead. Perhaps some would be unable to cope (but then, look at the numbers who are unable to cope right now, without having had any transformative experience). Certainly they all feel secure – not in Rajneesh’s protection but in their own new-found wholeness.
Outside, too, there were reminders of a world elsewhere. In Poona I saw the reception after a Parsee wedding, opulent beyond imagining, set in a fairy-lit garden with Strauss waltzes amplified into the night, and a present-laden receiving line that stretched on for ever. I also saw the old man with a legless child, begging by the roadside, and the tents of sacking beneath the bridge nearby. Inside the tents could be glimpsed neatness and order among the pitiful possessions, a people still unbroken by poverty. To Rajneesh’s followers, the wedding-guests and the tent-dwellers are suffering the same spiritual wan, and so no doubt they are: but I think it will be some time before either group recognises the fact.
At the evening darshan Rajneesh initiated new sannyasin, discoursing beautifully and poetically to each on the theme of the new name he or she had acquired: he welcomed back with a huge and radiant smile and apt words of greeting, those who had been away; he gave a third group an extraordinary “energy-transfer”, pressing with his middle finger (like a violinist stopping a string) on the centre of their foreheads, over the “third eye”, in which experience reactions clearly varied from nothing at all to something close to convulsions: and he said an equally individual farewell to those who were leaving, ending in each case with the same formula, an inquiry as to their destination followed by the words, “Help my people there”.
Some would say they would do better to stay in Poona and help the tent-dwellers; some, more subtly, would argue that they should help the wedding-guests. Some, and on the whole I rather think I am one of them, would say that both arguments have missed the point of Rajneesh’s teaching, which is concerned to enable the individual to put himself right, since until that is done he can hardly hope to put others right. I came away, impressed, moved, fascinated by my experience of this man (or God, or conduit, or reminder) and the people (“be ordinary and you will become extraordinary”) around him. I came away, also, to a haunting fragment of time: beside the road leading to the ashram there was, in addition to the beggars, a peddler selling simple wooden flutes. As I passed him for the last time he was playing a familiar tune: how he had learnt it, what he believed it to be, I could not even begin to imagine. It was “Polly put the kettle on.””
* A rather special kind of loving. June 1980.
“A few weeks ago I wrote a series of three columns after returning from my most recent visit to India, about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the work he is doing at his ashram in Poona. I tried to convey something of the extraordinary refulgence of love and wisdom that emanates from this very remarkable figure in his daily discourse and that seems to surround almost tangibly the dwellers on the ashram and his other followers who live scattered throughout Poona (accommodation in the cramped conditions in the ashram itself is very limited) and come in each day to hear Bhagwan speak and to take part in the work and practice some of the techniques to self-realization that are taught there.
[Photo caption: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh: Dignity throughout a violent episode in Poona]
Bhagwan speaks month and month about in English and Hindi
alternately. On May 22, he was speaking in Hindi in his usual place of address, the open auditorium called Buddha Hall, when an attempt was apparently made on his life. At about 8.30 am (the discourse starts at 8) a young man rose in the audience (the listeners sit on the floor) and ran towards Rajneesh crying “You are speaking against our religion! We won’t tolerate it!”
Rajneesh’s ashram has guards whose job is to maintain security (not only his, of course) and these grappled with the man; before they could do so, however, I am told that he flung a large dagger; this passed in front of Rajneesh (who speaks from a raised platform roughly in the middle of one side of the roughly oval hall) and fell harmlessly onto the floor. My information from the ashram is that there had earlier been a tip-off from the Poona police to the effect that an attack was to be expected that morning.
The man was taken into custody by the police; he was identified as a member of an extreme Hindu organization; a police statement later said that a second weapon had been found on him when he was searched, together with a document criticizing Bhagwan, in what terms is not at present known.
Rajneesh remained undisturbed throughout the episode; his first words on it were to the effect that no authentic religion needed to be defended by assassins, and that by such actions the individual was not protecting his religion but demonstrating its weakness. In a statement made afterwards, Laxmi the executive director of the ashram, pointed out that the man was not treated roughly by Bhagwan’s neo-sannyasin. “The teachings of our Master”, her statement ran, “are such that our disciples did not react in an angry or violent manner. The man was gently apprehended, removed from the hall in silence and handed over to the police.”
(I may interpolate here that from all I saw and heard on my two visits to the ashram that is precisely what I would have expected.)
In his discourse the next morning, Bhagwan said that there would be other attempts on his life, and urged his followers not to be angry if one should succeed. This is what he said:
Don’t think that there will be only one man: there will be many more. But no anger should arise in you, nor should there be any place for counter-violence in you. Even if someone succeeds in future, even if my body is snatched away, your love, your bliss, should remain as it is. I am happy that no one among you caused that man any injury. What he did was trivial, but what you did has an immense significance. You have made me immensely happy. You carried him with love. Even police officers were surprised because they thought you might beat him, but you did not even slap him once.
And Rajneesh continued, broadening his theme as he did so:
That is why I am thankful to you – that you ran and picked him up as one picks up someone who has fallen in the street. You treated him with love, with respect, with goodwill. This should be the quality of a sannyasin. This is the mark of religion…
For centuries Hindus, Christians and Mohammedans have been murdering each other in the name of religion. But no person who is truly religious can be a fanatic. Religion has nothing to do with fanaticism.”
These articles by Bernard Levin are also available at sannyas.wiki. They are copyright Times Newspaper Ltd., and quoted here as ‘fair use’.
Further articles and comments. See on sannyas.wiki:
– An ideal way to clear the mind. 03.05.1978, p. 16.
– Loving with the mind. (Letters to the editor). 22.04.1980.
– Causing a scandal in Poona. 25.04.1980, p. 14.
Obituary in The Times, 10.08.2004. It starts with the words:
“Bernard Levin was the most famous journalist of his day. Prolific, controversial, passionate, versatile, maddening, enthusiastic, sometimes irresponsible, always courageous, he was recognized instantly in the street by people of all ages.”
Also obituaries in The Telegraph 10.08.2004, and The Guardian 10.08.2004.
2. Introduction / Ma Prem Maneesha. In: ‘Get Out of Your Own Way! A Darshan Diary’ (1977).
“Gurdjieff once said to his disciples that if people could understand his words only, they would never understand him, because he was trying to convey something beyond words.
The same might be said of Bhagwan Shree. His words are only indications of what cannot be said, but words, too, he uses with an incredible sensitivity, with a feeling for every subtle nuance of each syllable. Words have a habit of dancing from him quite of their own accord, as effortlessly and abundantly as if vying with each other for expression. Bhagwan seems to be merely the excuse, the medium, for the rivering of words.
One is reminded of a passage in Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’, where Almitra, the seeress, thanks the prophet for his words to the villagers, saying: ‘Blessed be this day and this place and your spirit that has spoken.’ The prophet replies: ‘Was it I who spoke? Was I not also a listener?’
Bhagwan has lent a whole new perspective to the English language. The same words that we bandy back and forth with careless abandon, he handles as reverently, as delicately, as lotuses. As with the princess in the fairy story from whose lips fell rubies and sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, so words drop, pearl-like, from Bhagwan – some dazzling, fiery, others softly aglow with an inner richness.
It is difficult, at least initially, not to be seduced by his words – and yet it is not as though he is saying anything extraordinary.
‘I feel as if he is saying many things that have been on the tip of my tongue, but which I have not been relaxed enough to be able to think, say, feel.’
Sometimes he will say something that evokes an almost physical response – as if your tendermost part is being touched. At the same time it doesn’t seem as if it is Bhagwan, as an external force, who is doing it, but rather as if you are contacting yourself; as if you have heard a call from many lives past, from your innermost core.
Just hearing him speak, the things he says touch me so profoundly in such a deeper place. I’ve never been aware of such depth in myself.’
Bubbling up through his conversation with sannyasins is Bhagwan’s incomparable sense of the humorous. He has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of jokes, witticisms and anecdotes, drawn from his prolific reading, from incidents in his own life and that of a personal acquaintance, Mulla Nasrudin.
In the recounting of jokes, Bhagwan has the capacity to remain quite unmoved by his own wit, sitting absolutely straight-faced while reducing his audience to a heaving mass of orange, gasping helplessly for breath.
That we are a source of delight and pleasure to Bhagwan seems unbelievably apparent. His laughter is not at but with… as if everything is a colossal joke, a cosmic play, if we could but see it.
In the informal setting of the evening darshans, the unrehearsed and unsophisticated attempts to verbalize confusion and fears, the expressions of surprise, relief, joy, the statements of appreciation and confessions of love, seem to touch Bhagwan more deeply, moving him more to spontaneous laughter or a loving chuckle, than any preplanned and clever repartee.
Even when he is not laughing overtly, somehow one senses a chuckle constantly hovering around Bhagwan’s face, a smile playing on his lips, as if there is an undercurrent of merriment, and a refusal – nay, an inability – to regard anything as really serious. In fact, Bhagwan says, the only thing that he takes seriously is humour.
The temple that is Bhagwan’s presence could hardly be further removed from the sobriety and long faces of churchgoers on Sunday. ‘The day laughter goes out of the church, God also goes out. Let laughter be your temple.’
But what in fact transpires in darshan is an answering not of individual questions, but of our very questioning. Having sat fairly bursting at the seams with a million and one questions, each seemingly more insoluble than the rest, on encountering Bhagwan those self-same questions take one look at him and flee with no more ado. Somehow they don’t belong – and they sense that.
Drinking in each of Bhagwan’s words, one begins less and less to follow any intellectual progression of sentences. Individual syllables and sounds begin to expand and explode like dynamic bubbles of energy, each a seed that’s born, sprouts and flowers, permeating one’s being with the fragrance that is its message. Finally the mind, saturated, drops, and in that mindlessness, conversation ceases and communion – a holy communion – happens.
But words – beautiful, poignant as they are – are ultimately simply toys to play with, an excuse to make contact: noises between silences, utterances whose intermittent absences make gaps. As the silence that follows the striking of a cymbal is as intrinsic as the sound itself, so words are simply means of providing a more silent silence.
If Bhagwan’s words soothe and delight the intellect, his actual physical presence, the grace of each movement, seems to convey a deeper message on a more subtle, feeling plane. A sannyasin once asked Bhagwan about the significance of his seemingly meaningless gestures and hand movements. Were they simply pointing to the moon, she asked? Exactly so, he replied.
If the movement of the branches of a tree caressed by a summer evening’s breeze are meaningless, then too are Bhagwan’s gestures, ‘mudras’. The dance of the tree is without meaning and yet tremendously meaningful, signifying a something that defies articulation. The message of Bhagwan, like the tree’s, is more a sensory experience; his message, massage; each movement seeming to conduct the ensemble of his words into a hidden harmony.
More than that which is conveyed intellectually, deeper than that which touches one’s feelings, is the energy that Bhagwan transmits, that Bhagwan is.
Have you ever been in a cathedral, alone, and experienced the awe-inspiring beauty, the overwhelming grandeur of an organ in its rendering of a Bach fugue? It is something more than a merely aural experience, more than a series of quavers and semi-tones arranged in melodic patterns. It is a total experience. One’s body receives the vibrations of the music like embraces of a lover. Every pore is aquiver, trembling, thrilled; energy merges, diffusing with energy. Something in one’s inner being clicks, turns, falls into place; there is a chemical, an alchemical transformation.
You are never quite the same again.” (Six unnumbered pages)
3. Ma Satya Bharti on her first books written in Poona One:
The Ultimate Risk: Encountering Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Bharti 1980). Drunk on the Divine. An Account of Life in the Ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Bharti 1981). Death Comes Dancing. Celebrating Life With Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Bharti 1981).
“You ask where I got the idea for them. To start with the first. After travelling back and forth between India and the States for two years – first running the Rajneesh Meditation Center in NYC with Christ Chaitanya (my boyfriend); then, at Bhagwan’s direction, travelling around the USA and Canada running weekend meditation retreats at growth centers – Chaitanya and I moved permanently to the ashram in Poona in mid-1975.
As I sat in the front row in Chuang Tzu near Vivek that winter, listening to Bhagwan give a series of lectures in Hindi, the first words of an intricately detailed novel flowed through my mind. When the discourse ended, I hurried to my room to quickly write down what I’d ‘heard’ before beginning work. (I was coordinating the distribution of Bhagwan’s books outside India at that point, in addition to handling all foreign publishing matters.)
Words continued to flow through my mind every morning as Bhagwan talked, and after 21 days I realized I’d ‘written’ – if it can be called that: it felt like a transmission – a funny, satirical, yet spiritual novel, with Bhagwan and the ashram at its center. ‘In Meditation (Please Do Not Disturb’) – the ‘Do Not’ crossed out – the title I gave the book – barely needed a word changed. I gave it to Vivek for Bhagwan to read. When she returned it the next day, she told me he’d read it in one sitting, laughing out loud. He loved it, and wanted me to get it published.
I sent the manuscript to Barney Rosset at Grove Press, a publisher I knew from my pre-sannyas days. A few weeks later, his secretary phoned the ashram to say they loved the novel and were rushing it to press; the contract was in the mail. Grove was told that their Contract would be with Rajneesh Foundation, not me. (I gave them the rights to it.)
Laxmi was thrilled to have another well-known NY publishing house interested in Bhagwan. But after the contract was signed and returned, she became concerned that no one on her staff had read the manuscript. The fact that Bhagwan had was immaterial. She wanted someone on her staff to read it, giving it to, I believe, Arup (now, ‘Garimo’.) I was soon told the book couldn’t be published: that it made a mockery of Bhagwan, the ashram and sannyas. How could I have written such a thing? I was instructed to phone Grove and tell them that the by-now-signed contract was being rescinded and the book wasn’t to be published. (Laxmi was present when I called.)
In Grove’s eagerness to get out the book, which they expected to become a cult classic, they’d already added it to their ‘list’ (of soon-to-be-released books) and had begun advertising it. (It was now called ‘Drunk on the Divine’. I’m not clear whether Bhagwan suggested the name change or Grove did.) Grove had a signed contract for the book and pressured Laxmi to honour this. Legal threats may have been made, although I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that Laxmi didn’t want the book published, but also didn’t want to antagonize a prestigious American publisher. To resolve this, I was instructed to write another book for Grove, giving it the same title.
(Bhagwan, via Vivek, had had me give a copy of the novel to a departing sannyasin with publishing contracts in England, who’d been told to find a publisher for it. Upon his return to England, he read the manuscript and was appalled by it. Come to think of it – this just occurred to me now – it may have been his reaction that made Laxmi question whether the book should be published. The amused, satirical tone of the novel presumably didn’t convey the impression this staid, upper-class Englishman wanted his peers to have of his guru. He seems to have dropped sannyas after this – I certainly never saw him again – and the only existing copy of the manuscript sent to Grove Press vanished with him.)
The new ‘Drunk on the Divine’ was published by Grove Press in 1980 and, under the title ‘The Ultimate Risk’, by Wildwood House (UK) that same year. Contracts for it were signed with publishers in The Netherlands, Italy, Spain Latin America and Germany. As with Bhagwan’s books, the translations were done at the ashram.
While I handed all foreign publications rights, I made no attempt to sell my own books to foreign publishers. The first foreign language contract was signed with the Dutch pubishing company Mirananda, which had published ‘Meditation: The Art of Ecstasy’ in Dutch in 1978. The book was a success and the head of the company came to India to visit the ashram. (A more mainstream publishing company, Ankh-Hermes, had bought the rights to the Dutch version of ‘I Am the Gate’ and ‘The Psychology of the Esoteric’, and Mirananda didn’t want to lose what was fast-becoming a lucrative market for Bhagwan’s books.
On his visit to the ashram, the Mirananda publisher asked to meet the person who had negotiated and drawn up the contract for the book they’d published. As this was me, he was directed to my desk on the busy porch outside Laxmi’s office where I worked. He told me they’d wanted to meet me because he’d never come across such a strict, precisely-worded book contract before. I explained that I was a writer, not a lawyer, so when I drew up a contract I made sure it would be clear to anyone reading it, whether or not they had legal training.
He asked what I was writing at the moment, then pleaded to read it. I was mid-way through what became the new ‘Drunk on the Divine’, and Laxmi said to give this to him. The next morning he told me he’d stayed up all night reading the manuscript and wanted to publish it. Laxmi (presumably with Bhagwan’s blessings) agreed to this, stipulating only that ashram sannyasins be allowed to translate it.
The idea for the book had come to me after reading ‘The Book of est’ by Luke Rhinehart (author of ‘The Dice Man’). What Rhinehart had done with est (Erhard Seminars Training) I thought could be done for the movement around Bhagwan; that is, a narrative describing what people experienced when they first heard about him; met him or heard him speak; visited the ashram; did therapy groups or not; took sannyas or not; and began working at the ashram or not. Like Rhinehart, I’d write about composite characters that typified the people coming to Bhagwan and their experiences in the community.
With Bhagwan’s endorsement of the project, I conducted in-depth interview with new ashram visitors, most but not all of whom took sannyas. I went to darshans and therapy groups with them, following their process at the ashram while continuing with my other publishing and book distribution responsibilities.The book interwove each character’s subjective story over a period of several months.
I’m not sure which was released first, the Grove edition in the US or the Dutch version by Mirananda (both came out in 1980). Harper & Row had, by this time, come out with Bernard Gunther’s popular ‘coffee-table book’ of photos and quotes from Bhagwan (‘Dying for Enlightenment’). I’m quite sure (but not 100%) that Rajneesh Foundation didn’t own the copyright to this, Gunther did. In any event, he handled all arrangements for the book privately, and while the book was sold in the ashram bookstore, I don’t believe RFI otherwise earned money from it.
As foreign-language publishers began inquiring about the rights to ‘Drunk on the Divine’ (which Rajneesh Foundation did own the rights to; I’d signed over the rights to all my writing to them), sannyasins in the translation department who had previously been tanslating Bhagwan’s discourses were given the job of translating my book. While I still ran the translation department, Bhagwan and Laxmi decided which sannyasins were to take on this work. They weren’t all thrilled about this. Sarjano, for one, resented having to translate my ‘crap’ into Italian; he preferred translating Bhagwan’s words and felt he could write a better book than mine himself. (He later wrote his own books about Bhagwan.) In translating ‘Drunk on the Divine’ into Italian, he said he improved it tremendously – which he may well have done.
English publisher Routledge & Kegan Paul (now, Routledge) brought out ‘Roots & Wings’ in 1979 and ‘The Supreme Doctrine’ in 1980. Sheldon Press was also publishing books by Bhagwan in the UK. But Wildwood House had the UK contract for ‘Drunk on the Divine’ (English title: ‘The Ultimate Risk’) and Routledge asked Laxmi for another book by me to publish. She wanted to send something to them quickly so I converted the diary notes I’d been taking intermittently for years into a book, ‘Death Comes Dancing’, which R & KP published in the UK, US and Canada in 1981.
I’d meanwhile been told to pass on all my work responsibilities to others and concentrate on writing my own books about Bhagwan, the ashram, and my own experiences. I was already living in Bhagwan’s house by then and, along with several others, was allowed to do my writing on the porch above his room. I was asked to comment on a manuscript by Divya, which I felt needed much editing to be suitable for commercial publication outside India. I wasn’t asked to edit it. I was supposed to be writing my own books.
No matter how fast I worked, it wasn’t quick enough for the ma’s in the office (meaning, presumably, Laxmi – and by extension presumably, Bhagwan). Vidya – who was now Arup and Sheela’s secretary; they, in turn, being Laxmi’s secretaries – finally told me I was to produce at least a book a month. Bhagwan after all, she said, ‘produced’ at least three books a month (each based on a series of discourse; he was now spaking on a daily basis). Maneesha was also writing her darshan diaries, which I believe the ashram started publishing in 1977.
I don’t recall how many volumes of my writing I completed and handed in before being sent back to the States in February 1981. But the only writing of mine that survived the ashram’s move to the US was a hand-written notebook retrieved by my ashram roommate Champa (one of Bhagwan’s mediums) as the rest of my work was being destroyed… The manuscript to my novel – the book Grove Press had under contract before it was pulled and ultimately replaced – was never recovered either. Later on, the writing I did at the ranch in Oregon was confiscated, too.” (Satya Bharti. E-mail. 18.06.2015)
More on Ma Satya Bharti’s writings on the Ranch in Oregon are in Part Five Oregon / 5.8 Editing.
4. Amongst his Books / Ma Prem Madhuri. Impressions from Osho Lao Tzu library in the mid-1970s. September 2011 on www.oshonews.com/2011/09/18
Madhuri remembers her time working in Osho’s library.
In the mid-seventies I spent a year working in Osho’s library. My boss was Italian Lalita, who wore glasses, had slightly sticking-out teeth, and was sedate, serious, and secretly bosomy, like any good librarian. Her boyfriend, the famously-endowed, brown-skinned, tall skinny Kabir, had many Gopis to play his flute to, and often did not come home to Lalita at night. The next morning she would be repressedly unhappy, and, in her difficult fashion, would confide in me.
But mostly she didn’t like me at all. I did many things in a way that did not suit her:
– Every day, when I took a rickshaw to M.G. or Laxmi Rd and went round the bookshops searching for religious or philosophical books for Osho, I also ran into my tailor’s and ordered clothes. Lalita instructed me not to take these side-trips, but it was like telling the wind not to blow.
– I wore amazing outfits: I remember one strapless dress with a huge frill at the hem and a tie above the bosom, worn with a matching turban. The cloth draped in such a way as to emphasize my plentiful derrierre, and I enjoyed incidents such as the time Scottish Pramod came up behind as I was walking through the Gateless Gate and remarked sotto voce into my ear, “It’s sa nace an’ rrrooooond!” I had a backless jumpsuit with an empire waist and spaghetti straps which I wore with gold high-heeled sandals. And so on. Lalita wore strictly nursey-dresses, high-necked, short-sleeved, and tailored. All my flagrant wantonness must have reminded her of Kabir! She was generally cross with me.
– Every tea break and lunch break I would dash out of the rarified bliss of Lao Tzu to the big world of the rest of the Commune, and flirt with boys. I was very often late back to work. This did not set well. Lalita would grit her teeth and finally overflow with vexed complaint against me.
– Despite my best efforts, she was not satisfied with my filing skills. I was so annoyed and flustered at being disliked – yet so determined to plow my course regardless – that I no doubt messed up out of nerves.
– Here was my weirdest sin (and it would freak me out too, the other way around): I was obsessive-compulsive in those years. My extremes of behaviour were as much addictive as exuberant. Starting when I was a mere nymphet of fourteen, I had for a year and a half taken the ultra-strong birth control pills that had just come out, and they had made me ill and messed up my hormonal system so much that it took me many years to find my balance again. Meanwhile I was subject to terrors, compulsions, and extremes.
Meditation was slowly sorting me out, but it was a long road back to natural hormonic ease. As a teenager, to combat the awful sloth and heaviness the pills induced, I had established a rigorous dominion of Will, and could not let it go, though Osho often chastised me for Doing. If I did not want to do a thing, I did it – just to make myself; just to know I was not a half-dead coward. I did not like Lalita as much as she did not like me; therefore I would insist on hugging her. I would ask first: “Can I hug you?” She would snort annoyedly through her nose, but how could she say no to such a spiritually-correct request? So she would say yes, and I would step forward and wrap my bare, sexy, outlaw arms around her, and we would have a silly, uncomfortable hug. And she would snort in embarrassment and we would pull apart. I often did this when she was really irritated at me, which made it particularly strange.
Working in the library was, of course, an aesthetic delight, boss notwithstanding. The silent, watchful, bliss-drenched vibe… the thick walls, cool interiors of the house – the long covered porch off the large room, where jungle foliage pressed against the railings. The library doors were always open onto this porch and I would sit out there on my haunches cleaning the huge stacks of books I’d brought home from town. With a wet cloth I’d swipe the top of the book – around the sides and bottom where the page-edges were; then the front and back covers. Open book at front – wipe inner pages where, for some reason, dust tended to collect – then the last pages. Flip through pages quickly to dislodge dust. Place book upright and open to dry. (I still clean books this way, when I bring them home from secondhand bookstores or garage sales; it makes them fresh and vibe-free, ready to be mine until I’m done with them and pass them on.)
I enjoyed this work, alone out on the balcony, with rain dripping down, or with summer sweat, or in lovely cold winter. I was out of Lalita’s line of sight, it was peaceful, satisfying work, and I could ponder the strangeness of Osho’s book choices: He actually wanted books from the Christian bookstores full of stuff about Jesus! I supposed that this was a desperate measure, Lalita sending me to those places; it was for backup books, when nothing better had shown up.
Osho went through an enormous stack of books every day then, reading fifteen or twenty and marking them all up in felt-tipped pen, underlining this and that, so he really read them. He always needed more. It was understood that this was one of the ways he managed to stay in his body.
The piles and piles of dusty Christian books, and the philosophy books I’d manage to find at Manneys’ Bookstore, which filled the floor, and half the seat, and behind the seat, of the rickshaw I’d taken, all had to be lugged in, cleaned, then allowed to dry. Then they were put outside the door of his room. Next day the stacks would be back, with just a few books chosen from them to be kept. I’d return the rejects to the shops, and look, hopefully, for more.
Meanwhile, disciples from English-speaking countries shipped to us boxes and boxes of much better books – shiny and new, colorful and weighty and worthy and cutting-edge. Books about new therapies, about social issues, women’s rights, Zen, mysticism in all its expressions. These books were not dusty but they stank of newness – printers’ ink, colored inks in the jackets, paper, glue. They too had to be cleaned, then left to dry. Sometimes a book would still stink even when it had aired for a week or two.
Sometimes a particularly desirable book just couldn’t be sent in to him at all because the smell never came out. Lalita and I spent a lot of time sniffing books. And the books which passed muster would go in to him, he’d read them with the speed of light, and back out they’d be, to have a card made for them and then be put on the shelves lining the large library itself and the long corridor of the house. Though there was the card system, the placing of the books had no logical order; they were, at his instructions, put in such a way as to have their tops make a wavy line. So all up and down the corridor the books surged and subsided like gentle movements of the sea.
When I first began working in the library Osho was still painting those magical, astonishing designs on the frontispieces of certain books. It was like caressing jewels to find them, to gaze at them – it was like falling into outer space/inner space, where the patternless flow of stars seduced you. It was like looking at a thousand different kinds of flower, or like glimpsing the inner machinery of some fabulous robot tall as a skyscraper. Gears, crosshatches, supernovae, marchings of brilliantly-colored creatures over a sea floor – things that tugged at the observer and brought her into unexplainable awe. The grace – the sureness – the finality, totality of those paintings – their color-drenched impact – was a constant accompaniment to my work. But he stopped doing them when he became allergic to the smell of the magic markers he used.
Sometimes I bumped into him in the corridor. I would be flustered and agog and joyful all at once – most of all I would be, somehow, completely disarranged in my existence as to what I had heretofore assumed was ‘me’ – and I’d stand in hasty namaste until he’d passed. Then I’d be shaking for half an hour, uplifted, disarmed.
One night I was in darshan when there were important visitors: Werner Erhard, founder of EST; a friend of his, the friend’s new wife, and Diana Ross of the Supremes. Osho was gracious and welcoming, suggesting the visitors stay a little longer than the two or three days they’d allotted. The friend of Werner said proudly that he and the woman with him had just been married by Muktananda at his ashram, and asked for Osho’s blessing.
“When you want to get married, go to Muktananda,” pronounced Osho genially, “and when you want to get divorced, come to me!” The visitors sat there gobsmacked! All the rest of us laughed!
Next day as part of their Commune tour the party traipsed through the library. Diana Ross was at the back, and she drifted her fingers across things – piles of books on tables, the filing cabinets, whatever. (She must be a tactile lady.) When they’d gone, Lalita fussily attacked all the touched surfaces with soap and water and a cloth, to get the unenlightened vibes out.
It was a good job, the library; full of beauty, a job done in clean and hallowed rooms. But it did not suit me to be an underling, and when eventually I was sent to reorganize and manage the newsletter office, whatever workiness is in me was full of discovering delight – in this life I’d never been a boss, and I found it suited me well, and Osho was pleased.
But I am so happy I had that year in the library – like a long visit to a temple – the high priestess’s disapproval being another matter! Lalita, I’m sorry I was compulsive, and importuned you. I’m not sorry I was so wild. I loved the shopping part, too.
5. Foreword by Dr. Lawrence Blair. In: My Diamond Days with Osho / Ma Prem Shunyo (1999)
“It is fitting, that I should write a foreword for Shunyo’s book, for it is I, as she puts it, who started her off on her adventure and waved goodbye as she boarded the plane to India seventeen years ago. She was to become an intimate disciple of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who became known as Osho (Zen Master) shortly before he died in January 1990.
This is a story of what it’s actually like, in our lifetimes, for a Westerner to tread the path of the ‘bhakti’, the way of devotion… to seek, recognize, and follow one’s true Teacher – the gateway to one’s own enlightenment. He may not be your master or mine, but in Shunyo’s limpid telling, the truth becomes abundantly clear in the old saying: All pathways with heart lead to the summit of the same mountain – and the nearer they are to the top, the more they resemble each other.
In Shunyo’s case, her path was the notorious “sex guru” of the popular press, thumber of his nose at the establishment values, amasser of Rolls Royces and tens of thousands of uninhibitedly joyful red-robed ‘sannyasins’. The guru who was unceremoniously deported, vilified by the media, his Oregon Ashram crushed, was then – in ill health, with a few close disciples – hounded by the U.S. government from nation to nation for a year until returning to India where he died shortly afterwards of unclear causes.
For fifteen years Shunyo devoted herself to following Osho’s pathway to enlightenment, as well as to washing his clothes and caring for his basic needs. She was always the “quiet one”, the “Mary Magdalene” of the long-surviving intimates.
A dark Celtic beauty from the wilds of Cornwall, Sandy Pengelly danced, looked for love and meaning, and strived to make a living in the flower-child years of London. In 1975, she abandoned everything and went to Poona, India, to see if Osho matched up to his writings. He did. He renamed her Chetana. And much later, shortly before he died, he renamed her again: “Shunyo” – which she rather proudly explains means ‘Zero.”
This is the diary of the roller-coaster ride of her inner and outer adventures, which proved to be both life and sanity threatening yet profoundly rewarding.
After six years in Poona, Shunyo accompanied Osho when he visited America. She was washing his clothes for him in Oregon during the explosive years of ascent to international attention and infamy. She shared with him being shackled in chains and imprisoned in North Carolina (with no charge against her) and finally being deported – with no explanation. The ailing, fragile Osho, with a few intimates, was hounded from nation to nation, seeking refuge under constant threats and harassment. This vulnerable and astonishingly special family of people experienced years of hatred and rejection, on an international scale, before braving the return home to India – which Osho had last left under a political cloud. At Bombay airport they were nearly crushed by the tumultuous welcoming crowd.
Shunyo was with him over the following years, as he withered quietly – in body, but not in light – of a fatal wasting disease, which was unanimously diagnosed by various independent sources as resulting from thallium poisoning, administered while in the jails of America. It was in these final months that Osho, as he was now called, released Shunyo into the understanding that she had really been following her own path all along, and it was now, like her prose and her heart, clearer than ever.
I’m sure you’ll recognize this book as truly written from the heart. It has three powerful things going for it. First: it describes the inner path of a 20th century ‘bhakti’ with such innocence and literacy that it speaks to everyone who has ever tried going inwards regardless of their path.
Second: for those who haven’t, and wonder what all this “enlightenment” bit is about anyway, it’s a record of what it’s actually like to be a high mountaineer of the often cynically referred to “consciousness movement” of the last thirty years, a fly on the wall at one of the most interesting events of our time, and witness to the perennial mustering of the dark forces of ignorance against the candles of predictive clarity.
Third: because Shunyo’s path happens to have been the man who cast as long a shadow as any cult leader recently in the popular imagination, her tale is a sobering and valuable contribution to our time. And anyway, on looking back, who in history is more interesting than those who lived ideas which cast the longest shadows, and caught the greatest flack in their own lifetimes? Dr. Lawrence Blair, Author: ‘Rhythms of Vision’ and ‘Ring of Fire’. Film maker and lecturer.”
6. The New Commune. Rajneesh Foundation, Poona, 1979. One page factsheet.
7. Groups, Therapies and Individual Sessions. March 1979. 8 pages.
8. Darshan. Guidelines. Undated. One page.
9. Shree Rajneesh Ashram. General Information. 20.01.1981.
11. Der Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona. Zur sozio-ökonomischen Struktur und Entwiklung einer religiösen Gemeinschaft.
(The Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona. Socio-economic Structure and Development of a Religious Community) / Michael Grosse, Dipl. Geograph (Swami Deva Bodhena). Preliminary study 1979 for a Ph. D. thesis in the field of Geography / Regional Planning. Based on research done at the Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona, India; November 1977 – April 1978 and November 1978 – June 1979. The project was supervised by Prof. Dr. W. Haffner, Geographical Institute, University of Giessen, Germany. In German with quotes in English. The lecture survey was conducted together with Klaus-Peter Horn (Horn 1982). 200 MB.
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