Extract "The Cosmic Madhouse"
Bombay, 25th June
I sink into a kind of lethargy, the awful weather and the stinking, grubby chaos of the city confining me to the hotel. Everything is a drudge, a sacrifice. I’m lying in bed reading V. S. Naipaul’s ‘India: A Wounded Civilisation’. The bell-boy brings me a telex from the editors at STERN magazine. It seems a huge convoy of fishing-boats carrying Vietnamese refugees is on its way to Hong Kong, and the editors want us to get the next flight out, and report on the developing story from there.
An inner voice tells me not to leave: “You have to get to Poona!” I put a call through to Hamburg and explain that on the first of July there will be a ‘Full-moon festival’ at the ashram which we cannot afford to miss. Hong Kong will now be covered by another team.
Bombay, 26th June
Breakfast with Khushwant Singh, editor-in-chief of the Illustrated Weekly – India’s largest illustrated magazine. Small, bespectacled and very sharp, he arrives at the hotel coffee-shop wearing a hand-woven polo shirt, a cheap umbrella in his hand.
“Whatever you write about India,” he tells me, “the opposite is also true!”
How right he is! This is valid not just for India; probably, it makes no difference what I write. Everything is true, everything is false, and life remains mysterious. It is just more obvious in India, where life goes on with a certain humanity which is absent from the automatized Western world. Journalism, for me, starts to look more dubious than ever. I spend the rest of the day reading in bed.
Bombay, 27th June
Jay has arranged a meeting at the ashram with one Ma Yoga Laxmi. She seems to be the chief secretary there and Jay tells me that she has almost as much say in what goes on as the Master. In our experience of women, this is not a big surprise. We were relying on her to set up an interview with Osho for us.
We drive to Poona in a rented car, a trip of almost four hours through the pelting rain and the busy, chaotic streets. We check into the Blue Diamond Hotel, a modern-looking concrete box with a swimming pool. Poona is an industrial city with about two million inhabitants. The ashram is only a ten-minute walk away, tucked back in the quiet elegance of Koregaon Park.
The heavy, brass-studded mahogany gates to the ashram are open, and an athletic Indian guard points out the way to Laxmi’s office. We walk along a little path, lined with flowers and shrubs and low-lying walls, towards a simple one-story building. Laxmi’s office is downstairs, behind wide glass windows. Marble steps lead up to a glass-door, and we wait inside on little benches.
A shy little Indian woman is at the reception. She tells us that Laxmi is currently with Osho, and asks if we would like to speak with Ma Arup, Laxmi’s secretary. The secretary of the secretary of the boss – that doesn’t seem very promising. By now it is seven in the evening and the rain is falling even heavier than before.
Arup: a big, strong Dutch woman, broad-faced and full-lipped. Formerly a psychotherapist, her penetrating light-blue eyes are sharp, but smiling, as she enquires whether we would like to go to ‘Music-group’ and then come back in an hour and a half. So we walk over to Radha Hall, which looks like a large garage. A cheap looking lamp throws a little light between the concrete pillars, and a couple of dozen musicians sit in a semi-circle on the ground, improvising light rhythmic music on a variety of Indian and Western instruments.
All the men are bearded, long hair down to their shoulders. At one end of the semi-circle, sit four very beautiful girls with eyes closed and faces turned upwards, humming and swaying with the hymn-like music as it gets faster and faster. The music builds to a loud crescendo, and a hundred or more dancers whirl through the hall, the women in flowing, orange robes next to the men, long hair flying everywhere. Everyone dances alone, absorbed in themselves, eyes closed. A huge bearded guy, his naked torso drenched in sweat, races over the floor like a white devil.
A young mother dances, cradling her baby in her arms, as the little one gazes out peacefully at the scene before him. She stands at the edge of the hall and lays him down carefully in a cotton blanket, and stretches out next to him. As she opens her blouse, the baby crawls towards her, takes her breast. A small white dog sniffs around, tail wagging timidly. And the dancing goes on, the incessant beat of the monsoon rains blending with the music.
I sit on a wooden box, going along with the music, my upper body swaying, and I feel like dancing but I am too self-conscious. Actually, I feel great and I can’t take my eyes off a girl with the most lovely, relaxed face!
Then Arup is suddenly there, bringing me out of my trance, the news being that Laxmi would not be returning to the office that evening. She suggests that we return tomorrow morning at 7.45 to listen to Osho’s morning discourse. “But please don’t use any perfume or after-shave, as Osho is allergic,” we are told.
Back at the hotel over dinner, Jay asks me: “What’s your impression?”
“Let’s not talk about it,” I reply.
Poona, 28th June
We arrive on time at the ashram, and walk past Laxmi’s office towards Lao Tzu House. A long line of orange-robed ‘sannyasins’ is already forming at the gate, through which we glimpse an abundant, fertile garden.
Arup and another woman are standing at the front of the queue, sniffing everyone as they pass through the gate. As I move to the front, Arup bows forward a little, as if about to give me a kiss on the cheek, sniffing loudly she smiles and says: “Mr Elten, you smell of shaving foam. Please don’t sit at the front; you need to stay at the back of the hall.”
What’s all the fuss about? I think to myself.
Shoes were to be left at the gate and Jay had to leave his camera bag outside. The disciples pass in silence down the narrow path, overhung with jungly foliage that sways above our heads. ‘Chuang Tzu Auditorium’ – named after the Chinese mystic – is a half-round hall open to the garden. It has been added on to the house where Osho lives; white-washed walls, concrete pillars and a tiled mosaic-type floor, loudspeaker boxes. From the ceiling a rather tasteless chandelier hangs over the disciples sitting cross-legged on the floor. They form a semi-circle around a low podium.
Silence, not even the odd cough; nevertheless, an announcement comes over the speakers: “Friends, please remember not to make sounds or to cough during the discourse. Please be aware that germs can be spread by coughing. You will not be able to leave the auditorium once the discourse has begun. If you think you may cough, please leave now and the guards at Lao Tzu gate will show you where you can sit and listen to the discourse over the loudspeakers.”
I was eyeing a place where I could sit with my back leaning against a pillar, but a burly ‘swami’, bearded and bald, was standing there, his big blue eyes scanning the hall. As I attempt to sit, he signals me sharply but silently that I may not stay there. Strange way to go about things, I think, and sit down somewhere else, feeling the cold seeping into my bones from the floor. These seating arrangements are definitely unreasonable.
Two sturdy sannyasins, wearing white gloves, carry a kind of arm-chair onto the podium. One of them, with an impressive red beard and a large head, removes the linen dust-cover from the chair and folds it up carefully. He then sits down next to the podium. “That’s Shiva, Osho’s bodyguard,” whispers my neighbour, but the burly guard hears us, flashes a withering look in our direction.
We sit and wait in the stillness, exotic birds chirruping away in the garden; and further off, the sounds of the locomotives from the freight yards. Way up above the sound of a passing aeroplane...
Osho arrives with the silence of a leaf drifting to the ground. He is of medium build, clad in a snow-white custom-made cotton robe. With great care, he steps on to the podium. His hands are folded together in front of his chest; almost imperceptibly he nods, smiling radiantly. Slowly he traces the whole arc of the semi-circle of people in front of him, seeming to look directly at each one. The disciples themselves, sitting ram-rod straight, fold their hands together in front of them in greeting.
Many look as if they are just drinking him in, some gazing at him with wide eyes and half-open mouths.
Osho settles into his chair and a slender middle-aged Indian lady appears, her dark hair tied tightly back under a headscarf; Ma Yoga Laxmi bows respectfully in front of Osho as she hands him a simple clip-board, and he takes it from her without a glance.
It is his eyes that fascinate me from the first moment. Black and full of a razor-sharp intelligence. Suddenly the focussed seriousness transforms into a smile of all-encompassing, impartial friendliness. This is a man completely present in the moment, totally concentrated, powerful.
The broad forehead makes his bald head seem domed, the greying sideburns merging with his full beard. He slips the sandal from his left foot, and slowly crosses his left leg over the right one, then he brings the finger tips of his almost transparent hands together, turns his head very slightly towards the microphone in front of him and almost whisperingly, he begins his discourse. His English is marked with a pleasant Indian accent, his words uttered with ample pauses between them, as if to give space to what he is saying. There is a harmonious rhythm to the discourse, like poetry.
Sometimes Osho’s voice gets louder, and takes on a harsher, metallic edge. Then his eyes open wide, and his gaze drills into the breathless crowd before him. Some people seem to have occasional tics, quivering as if they had just been struck with a kind of mysterious transfer of energy from the master. Others scratch their itches, or gulp drily.
Osho is speaking without notes, his gestures delicate and elegant. Watching him is a pleasure! Slowly, I start to pick up on the meaning of his words and I am astonished at the intellectual and rhetorical brilliance of the talk. These discourses, as his talks are called, are always tape-recorded and so I know that I can buy the cassette of the lecture later on.
Osho was talking about Zen Buddhism. I remember some fragments of what he said, as he explained what imperfection is:
“To be incomplete is beautiful,” he says. “The day you are perfect, you are dead. Perfection is death, imperfection is life. ... Imperfection means you still have a future ... imperfection means tomorrow will be exciting.” He makes a distinction between perfection and totality. If you want to become perfect, you will have to follow some idea, some pattern.
“Totality is yours, perfection is borrowed – that’s the basic difference,” he says. “Be total in each moment – when you are imperfect, be TOTALLY imperfect. ... If you are sad, live it totally. ... Cry, weep, ... let tears come. Pour your whole heart into it. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, don’t be embarrassed. If you can live it in totality you will come out of it more mature, more grown up, more grounded, and capable of living more happily.”
Osho compares Buddha with Jesus. Buddha grew up in a palace, a prince speaking a sophisticated language. Jesus, the son of a carpenter, spoke the rough tongue of fishermen and builders, of farmers and prostitutes. Very few people could understand Buddha, but Jesus was understood by everyone. At the same time as the poor of the third world were being increasingly drawn to Jesus, Buddhism was experiencing a renaissance in the wealthy Western world, especially in the US. The developing world was becoming Christian and the developed world was turning to Buddhism.
With no inhibitions at all, some sannyasins stretch out on the floor, apparently dozing. As long as they don’t snore, this seems to be acceptable. After about an hour and a half, Osho says: “Enough for today”. He stands up and as before brings his hands together in front of his face and, turning slowly, smiles at everyone. As silently as he had arrived, he returns to his house.
Somewhere, a woman sobs. A few sannyasins, heads lowered, quietly weep. Couples lie strewn about, entwined as if asleep. While the red-haired bodyguard and his partner took care of the chair, other sannyasins were kneeling down with their heads resting on the podium, their arms stretched out to touch the place where the master had been sitting. I have the impression that I am surrounded by patients – unhappy, tortured and stressed-out. Eventually the auditorium empties out.
Arup accompanies us on a walking tour of the Ashram. I had assumed there would be a kind of meditative quiet, a monastic remove from the world, but in fact the place is buzzing with activity. In the Buddha Hall, an energetic blonde woman who made me think of some Nordic heroine, leads about a hundred sannyasins in song and circle-dancing. ‘Sufi-dance’ it was called, but it looked more like Alpine folk-dance to me.
In a large open-plan office, young women were typing away, taking care of the international correspondence. There are about 40,000 sannyasins worldwide, and their number is increasing rapidly. However, only a lucky few actually live inside the ashram, close to the master himself; these are the so-called ‘ashramites’. They live and work in five villa-like buildings which are dotted throughout the lush tropical gardens of the ashram. They work as gardeners, electricians, carpenters and craftsmen, photographers and graphic artists, sound-engineers, laboratory staff, tailors, cooks and cleaners and – last but not least – as therapy group-leaders. Arup tells me that the Ashram is the largest psychotherapy centre in the world. The most advanced approaches of the humanistic psychology movement were being integrated with ancient Eastern meditation techniques, and especially with the new meditation techniques which Osho himself had developed.
I had a chat with Swami Prem Gunakar (‘Enjoyer of Love’). He is a small, pale man with an aristocratic air, and his job is to prepare the ashram book contracts with international publishing houses. Three years ago he was known as Jobst von Hanstein and was a lawyer in Hamburg. “I’m now 37,” Gunakar tells me, “and my career is over; I have no money, but I have never felt safer and happier than I do now.” Is he a loser or is he a kind of bon vivant?
The way he describes the effect Osho has on him is: “It’s as if this man has an energy-field around him, in which all your thoughts and feelings and actions come together to serve a higher purpose.”
On the way to the rear of the ashram, we pass some orange-aproned, tanned figures, who are carrying metal containers full of cement on their heads. One of them, a dainty ‘ma’ (the honorific name for a female sannyasin which means ‘mother’) takes Arup by the hand, and shows her a cage with a rat trapped inside.
“What shall I do with it?” She asks Arup nervously, and gets the brusque reply: “Set him free over on the other side of the river!”
On the first floor of ‘Jesus House’ we enter a large, darkened room. A lamp burns beneath a small jade statue of Buddha. The room is largely unfurnished, just mats and cushions dotted around.
As soon as my eyes adjust to the low light, I notice a thin young man who looks like he has just stepped out of a Renaissance portrait of some saint; he sits writing near a lamp, has long silken hair, and a withdrawn, mystic look on his face. In the alternative music world there are many who consider him to be a kind of genius. His name used to be Georg Deuter. Osho gave him the name Chaitanya Hari (‘Divine Consciousness’). He composes the meditation music for the ashram, cassette-tapes of which are on sale. When Arup introduces us, he laughs quietly, “Man, being a journalist is such a bizarre thing to me now! A few years ago I was a reporter in Munich and it seems like a lifetime ago.” He invites me to return when I have more time.
Eventually, Arup leads me to the ashram restaurant, which is called ‘Vrindavan’. Nearby are the therapy rooms, and as we step down in their direction, I hear a long drawn-out scream.
Arup, not batting an eye, just tells me drily: “Individual therapy happening.” She opens the door to a windowless room which is covered in green mattresses. “The walls are all padded, so that if someone freaks out, they won’t hurt themselves,” she informs me.
By this time, I was starting to think that an article about this place would be sensational!
Laxmi: the expression in her eyes is completely new to me – innocence and intelligence together. She sits at a glass-topped desk; behind her are shelves full of Osho’s books.
An air-conditioning unit hums somewhere. I recall the submissive posture she had this morning as she gave Osho the clipboard. Laxmi as little grey mouse – that’s how she looks, but in fact she is the boss of a large organisation, self-confident, accustomed to command.
“Perhaps you will not be understanding everything here in the beginning,” she says in her sing-song voice. “Have patience, open up, be vulnerable.”
When can she give us an appointment for an interview with Osho? With some regret, she tells us that Osho does not give interviews. “Actually, he is not there.” Not there?
“But I just saw him there in the discourse!”
Laxmi chuckles patiently: “You are not understanding. Osho has no ego. He does not exist as a person. He is the existence!”
I stand up and thank her for the friendly reception. She tells me to be patient, to have fun with my work and promises me her full support.
Back to the hotel for lunch. A couple of hours siesta, and a dip in the pool, in the rain. The humid climate is making me feel weak.
Later, over a coffee in Vrindavan garden, I meet up again with Swami Prem Gunakar, the aristocratic lawyer. He has his arm around the slender waist of a ma. Smiling, he says to me, “So; are you completely confused yet?” I sit next to him. What is this guy doing here, I am wondering. He was once a typical ladder-climber, he says, a member of the young-businessman’s association, getting ready for a future political career.
“I always went along with other people’s expectations for me – especially those of my family. I even went to all the social events of the local nobility. That seems kind of weird to me now! Gradually I started to feel that I had no centre of my own whatsoever, that I wasn’t ‘me’ and was just acting out a role. Then one day a copy of Sannyas Magazine fell into my hands – that’s the magazine which the ashram publishes. That was the first time I read an Osho lecture: it was really a revelation! A few months later, I arrived in Poona.”
How long was he planning on staying? He just looked at me, astonished, “Forever, obviously!”
Evening – I visit the musician, Chaitanya Hari. Another swami is also there, and they sit together cross-legged on the floor, candle-lit. A spacey kind of harmony-of-the-spheres music is playing. I sit down and listen and notice how gradually a deep peace suffuses me. I feel really good, relaxed, happy even. Nobody says a word, and after a while the music fades away. We just keep on sitting quietly, and I slowly leave the room. I take one of the motor-rickshaws waiting outside the ashram and go back to the hotel. Diary-keeping until midnight, and then reading the Sannyas Magazines, which Arup gave me, kept me up until three in the morning.
(Context: 1978; Satyananda has moved into the ashram to write his book; he has been given three groups, Leela, Encounter and Hypnotherapy)
Poona, 26th October
The Leela group is over and the two older women are sad; they look about ten years younger; it’s quite amazing. I’m also told that I look younger, softer. I’m actually happy that the group is over. Even though it’s been good for taking me out of my isolation and sadness, I still find it hard to stay relaxed when other people come physically close to me. The Leela group is mostly about dissolving such fears and blocks in your energy flow, opening up to others, allowing your own feelings and trusting where they lead you.
I catch myself often going to the notice-board where the arrival of new mail is listed, to see if I have a letter. Even this has something to do with my time in the Napola – I used to wait desperately for mail, mostly with no luck. These are painful memories for me. At the end of term, I was about the only pupil who was not excited about the upcoming holidays. Still today, I find it unbelievable that my parents, who were divorced, could never agree on which one of them I was to spend the holidays with; my father wrote that he was looking forward to seeing me and my mother wrote that she was counting the days until she could pick me up. I, however, dreaded the start of the holidays as it meant I would have to decide what to do. As far as I was concerned, it was a curse. All this had vanished from my memory, only to reappear once again here in Poona.
I have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes. I am treated with the utmost care here, and I don’t think it’s because of my previous role as the writer of the STERN article. I am still living alone in the guest room, which I interpret to mean that Osho does not want me to have a hard time here. Nothing seems too far-fetched anymore; not the sense I have that my fate is no longer completely in my own hands, nor that there is a gathering here of old friends who knew each other in previous lives. None of it seems completely absurd. And the more that I consider that to be possible, the more I withdraw from the people who used to be important to me.
Samvado is in the Encounter group. She showed up in the garden of the ashram restaurant on the second day, with a black eye and bruises on her arms. “There’s a lunatic in the group,” she tells me with amazing restraint, “he’s smashing everything and anyone that gets in his way”. Vivado and I still have Encounter to look forward to. The group has apparently become more heavy and I regret having agreed to do it again.
The pressure is on everywhere in the ashram. Krishna (Chaitanya’s delicate Brazilian girlfriend) sits all day at a lathe making the beads for the malas. Nobody seems to take time out for a cup of coffee any more, and the breaks are strictly regulated.
This morning, Osho was full of hope for humanity’s future, for capitalism and the atom bomb! I don’t understand anything anymore! I find his argumentation infuriatingly simplistic!
“When I think about the atom bomb I see great hope. I am not a pessimist at all. I believe things are going to be better every day.”
The Third World War is not going to happen according to him, because an atomic war would destroy the whole world and nobody would take that risk. But there will be increasing discontentment, especially in the West. Osho is in favour of that, too.
As he puts it: “My own observation is, a person becomes a meditator only when there are only two possibilities: suicide or transformation.”
People go on insisting, Osho says, that it is industrialisation and technological progress that have made man a robot. This is completely wrong: “Man has always been a machine. Industrialisation has only revealed the truth. ... Buddhas have always been telling you that you exist unconsciously, that you exist like a robot; that you are not yet a man, but illusions persisted. The modern world has taken the last illusion from you; it has revealed the truth to you: that you are nothing but a machine; efficient, inefficient, but a machine.”
Now people are becoming aware of their mechanicalness and: “In fact, for the first time in human history millions of people will be able to become Buddhas.”
Osho states that capitalism is the only way to make humanity wealthy. Unlike communism and socialism, “capitalism needs no enforcement from above. ... And capitalism is also very psychologically true, because no two persons are psychologically equal. The whole idea of equality is false, inhuman, untrue, unscientific. No two human beings are equal; people are unequal. ... And I am not saying that there are not wrong things in capitalism. They are there – but capitalism is not responsible for them. … It simply reflects man, with all its illusions, with all human errors, with all human stupidities; but it reflects perfectly well. ... It is the most perfect in available systems. … Communism is an effort to live by bread alone. … Communism is the system that reduces everybody to the lowest denominator.”
Osho for sure knows that most of his sannyasins lean politically to the left. Is he provoking them out of their established belief-systems? When I obtain the transcripts of the discourses, I see that his arguments are not unreasonable. Maybe for him, it’s more about the truth which lies behind his arguments – that life is a mystery, illogical, unpredictable and full of surprises. Every attempt to categorise life is against humanity, against religion. This would explain his uncompromising attitude to communism, not forgetting the fact that an Osho ashram would be unthinkable in a communist country.
Bombay, 13th November
We left early this morning for Bombay in the orange-coloured ashram mini-bus. Our team: Krishna Prem, a slim Canadian in his early forties with his lovely, long curly locks and beard, and a constant worried look on his face; Madhura, his witty English assistant who used to be a successful comic actress on the London stage; Divya, from Costa Rica, Lao Tzu resident and Doctor of Psychology, primal therapy expert – an iron fist in a velvet glove; Somendra, Leela group leader, energy specialist and author of the best-selling book, ‘People, not Psychiatry’, well-groomed, eloquent and despite his extroversion, a shy man who hides it well beneath a volubility which is tiring as he often talks fast and quietly.
Our mission: to neutralise the negative attention which Jay’s photos of naked participants in the Leela and Tantra groups stirred up and to explain the objective background to the psychotherapy groups in the ashram.
It was Osho who put this team together and I still have no idea why I am part of it. The obvious explanation – that I can contribute some professional insight as a journalist – is certainly not the whole story. Osho is a master of the art of killing several birds with one stone. I can imagine that my being part of this trip is a device to confront me with something that I have avoided until now: presenting myself in the public eye as a sannyasin and identifying with the Osho ashram.
In the luxury of the Taj Mahal hotel, we have rented the ‘Princess Room’, a conference space, complete with tea and biscuits, white-jacketed waiters and an audio system.
Madhura busies herself with the slide-show. Somendra is nervous; he does not think that it will be possible to explain the concept of group-work to Indian journalists.
“Even Indian sannyasin men are still so sexually repressed that therapy groups are impossible for them,” he tells me. “And as for the Indian sannyasin women, it takes them about a year before they will even hold hands with a man; and another before they are ready to take their bras off!”
Around forty reporters arrive, and for me it’s a remarkable feeling to be sitting on the other side of the fence, not as an observer, a reporter, but as a ‘player’. Actually I quite like it. Two of them come up and shake hands with some warmth – two years ago I had met them as colleagues, and now they are looking me up and down, frankly astounded: “What has happened, that you…”
“What indeed? Look, you ought to know. Right down the road from you, there is a once-in-a-century phenomenon taking place… that’s why I am there!” They keep looking at me, both curious and worried. I know this look already and am gradually getting used to it.
Krishna Prem (KP) insists on playing a thirty minute extract from one of Osho’s discourses, in which he attacks the current Government administration, blesses Indira Gandhi, and mocks journalists in general. About half of the reporters are pro-government and the other half are Indira supporters, so they get into immediate conflict with each other, but are unified in their opposition to us. Complete misunderstanding, hate, loud shouting...
“Why don’t you all go off to some Communist country? We want nothing to do with you dirty hippies! Are you trying to pretend that there is no group-sex happening in the ashram?”
There is no question anymore of showing Madhura’s slide-show, instead there is chaos, tumult, and no interest whatsoever in information. KP is trying stubbornly to make it clear that we are simply harmless spiritual seekers, on the search for God and a few thousand acres of land where we can live undisturbed and continue to develop this wonderful, important experiment.
But the reporters are not listening, they are yelling and KP starts to lose control of the room, appeals silently for help to Divya, who grabs the microphone, and thunders: “Whenever there is any mention of nudity, what I see in your eyes is nothing but lust!”
She’s got their attention now.
Quivering and charged with energy, she continues to harangue them over the mike: “You are sexually repressed, that’s why the naked body is ugly and dirty to you; ‘nudity is wrong’ – this is what I am hearing here…”
“But what about the group-sex in the ashram?”
“Excuse me, but I am not finished yet!”
And she goes on, telling them that the function of the groups in the ashram is to discover who you really are. Hopeless!
I have already accepted that this press conference is a waste of time, and I sit back in my chair and enjoy the show: KP’s offended confusion, Divya’s witch-like fury and Somendra’s stage-fright.
Finally it’s his turn and he tells them that the ashram is like a laboratory in which people are doing self-research. It involves a certain energy which is mostly repressed in many countries and particularly in India. This energy is not sinful but very natural, and as for Osho, he is there to help people return to their true nature, beyond the completely false norms of society…
The audience is losing interest fast, and it’s only when Somendra says: “I had a successful career in the West, and earned lots of money before I came to Poona,” that they start to take notice again. And why had he not stayed in the West, where he was so successful? Because he wanted to be part of this experiment that is so important for mankind, he says.
More interruption: Why were we in conflict with the government? Did we want to bring people back down to the level of animals? If Osho is God, why does he have all these difficulties...?
I try to throw oil on troubled waters by appealing to them as colleagues and inviting them to visit Poona. “Let’s stop discussing politics,” I tell them, “come and have a look at the ashram and then you will see why this is such an important happening, something flowering in your own country, in India! You actually have the chance to support this experiment; you could be helping us to buy land so that we can build a bigger ashram…”
Once the journalists have finally left, we sink, dazed, into the imitation Louis XV chairs, and wonder what has just happened.
“This is what happens when you belong to a small, persecuted minority,” I say and everybody laughs. It looks like Osho has been the director of this show: for him, it was never about winning over the press but rather creating a huge stir. In fact the Indian journalists really are such a bunch of sleep-walkers that this strategy of confrontation is the only way to go.
We are not staying at the Taj Mahal. The days when that would have been an absolute given for me are now over. The ashram driver drops us off at a little house near the airport, owned by an elderly Indian sannyasin couple. Lovely people, they make us dinner and give up their bedrooms for us. They definitely impress me; it takes a lot of courage to wear an Osho mala in India. Sleeping on the mattresses on the floor of their bedroom, I feel like a local, much more at home than I would have been in a luxury hotel. I have a new sense of belonging and I am also quite proud of our team.
Poona, 3rd January (1979)
Yesterday, I was almost ready to leave. I feel stressed and the general atmosphere is very volatile. All the ashramites are dealing with strong mood-changes these days.
Getting hold of the discourse transcripts is a battle and the girls in the office treat me with the disdain one might have for a street-dog.
When I was about to start working, the nice Japanese translator came by: “Very sorry, Satyananda, but you are sitting on my chair.” She pulled it from under me and it was only then that I noticed that mine was missing. Stolen… now I know why people write their names on their chairs! I went to the office and talked to Vidya, a strong redhead from South Africa who met my enquiry with a curtness which has become very familiar (the honeymoon is over!) “If your chair has been stolen, then go and look for it!”
There is a Swiss woman who I am paying to help me with the writing – she arrived punctually this morning but I had to send her away as I had neither stool nor work for her. I still have not been given the taped discourse transcripts. I waited for Madhunado this afternoon, but it was good that she didn’t show up as my chair was still missing. The weather is humid and heavy, and I feel down.
(Just now Chaitanya came by and I told him of my woes, and he just laughed encouragingly, and said: “What else do you expect in a refugee camp like this?”)
Purna was fast asleep when I came back about 11.00; I think I got it very wrong with her. Osho called her once in discourse, ‘the German rock’. That’s one side, but she is also warm-hearted, spontaneous and lively. She has a quick wit but can be touchingly naive too.
Sometimes at night, Laxmi drives the yellow Mercedes in rapid circuits around Buddha Hall. The car needs to be driven at regular intervals. Osho forbade Laxmi to drive outside the ashram, following an incident when she had wanted to drive the car to Bombay and Osho had said no, so Laxmi took a swami along as her chauffeur. On the way back, she asked him to let her drive the car: “Osho only said no to my driving it from Poona to Bombay, but not for the return journey…” An hour later, she had a serious accident, crashed the car and was hospitalised for weeks. The wrecked car was left in front of the main gate, like a gruesome exhibit.
It’s dawning on me that writing this book is actually a ‘device’, good for my own growth. It forces me to confront myself and to deal with what’s going on around me.
I need to let go of this idea that I am doing some really important work for the ashram, and therefore deserve respect and support. That is the story my ego has to tell, but the reality looks very different.
Today I asked to borrow some typewriter paper, but the ma in charge of the translation office gave me a no. Since I am not on the approved list for stationary, I had to go into town to look for supplies. The girl in the office had nothing against me personally; she is only a cog in this machine which is designed to be so irritating to anyone who feels they are entitled to an extra piece of pie.
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