Book Reviews — 18 July 2013

A book by Yoga C J Bowers reviewed by Kaiyum.

Yoga & IBMYoga is very clear about his intention with this book:

“I put this book together for my six children but [am] happy to share it.”

It’s not great literature, but Yoga’s record of a journey of some 6 decades that he condenses into 108 pages to reflect the 108 beads of the mala that is so precious to him. It’s a simple story of growing up, falling in love, falling out of love, marriages, divorces, jobs, journeys and discoveries: the awareness that there’s more to life than meets the eye – at which point he awakens to meditation – and that it’s possible to combine a mainstream business career with a spiritual life.

Yoga’s ‘stream of consciousness’ writing style reflects the factual flow that fits a journal setting out the various themes in his life, bringing the reader from early childhood in a foster home – with few memories – to present-day rich involvement in family (his children and grandchildren as well as his greater sannyas family), multimedia projects and global sustainability issues.

The title: ‘Osho & IBM’ …

… soon becomes relevant as Yoga describes the path that eventually leads to a job in computer sales at IBM and soon after to non-sales activities within IBM as a global benefactor in sustainability project.

Many readers will recognise how Osho came into Yoga’s life:

“On the Saturday, 28 November, I attended my first Osho meditation and Kirtan evening. After, I went to a pub around the corner with a Sannyasin lady and, of course, I was raving about how great Osho was, how I loved his books etc., and she asked me, “Well, why don’t you take Sannyas?” And it really was a blast because I can still see it today how my mind literally froze in fear and the reaction as the mind began, in its logical and calculating way to list all the hundred reasons why I, Christopher Bowers, couldn’t become a Sannyasin. Fortunately, however, I was crazy, drunk or courageous enough to jump and say YES.”

He later describes how his maroon clothes and mala were regarded at IBM and explains how the company – despite its ‘Big Blue’ image – yet had a policy of supporting individual expression. Whilst pursuing a fruitful career within the company, Yoga was able to find time to explore his spiritual awakening, writing about many ‘stepping stones’ such as East West Bookshop, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Kalptaru, Medina Rajneesh, Rajneeshpuram in 1982 and 1983, Poona 1990 … and so on.

‘Shaping Ideas of My Time’

This subtitle relates to an important theme in Yoga’s life, that of ‘Our Common Future’, the report on the state of the world drawn up for the UN by the World Commission on Environment and Development – in which Yoga was closely involved – and which he presented to Osho who went on to talk about it in the series called ‘The Golden Future’. As Yoga himself says in an interview in Rajneesh Times International in 1988:

“ … my title says I’m a Corporate Programs Executive but I’m actually paid by IBM to give away money. Basically I arrange donations, equipment and manpower to worthwhile projects.”

Several years earlier, in 1972, Yoga had attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller at the American Embassy in London. This meeting was evidently the seed that later sprouted in his activities at IBM and his involvement in organisations such as the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. Buckminster Fuller’s vision statement was clear, and is as relevant today as it was then:

“To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Yoga adds his own truth, which is definitely worth quoting:

“We are not here just to make ourselves rich, famous or top consumer of the day or decade, or here just for the 3% living in our part of the world, we’re here for all of humanity.”

More themes

Yoga C J BowersAlong with the theme of how Yoga gradually found ‘his’ work and the theme of his spiritual path, the book presents numerous other themes that are intertwined throughout: his dedication to his friends, his marriages, divorces and the (in total) six children he fathered, his involvement in foster care homes, his (earlier) love of windsurfing … and above all his willingness to say YES to life, to do what was needed and simply to experience whatever happened and move on from there. He demonstrates a remarkable flexibility and love of life without making it complicated, and ends the book – in 2010 – in an open-ended vision of optimism, enthusiasm and a welcoming of the future.

‘Wisdom of the Sands’

To do full justice to the themes, it is essential to spotlight how Yoga skilfully uses Osho’s version of the Sufi story of the river and the desert as a metaphor in life. Each chapter opens with the appropriate section of Osho’s tale and, although not referred to directly, serves as a leitmotif in the subsequent text.

Critical notes

The reader – especially the non-native speaker – should be aware that the book would be a much better read if it were better edited, and above all if the often horrific language errors (including punctuation that often seems no more than random), simple spelling mistakes and discontinuous sentences were corrected.

Yoga writes dispassionately and with little introspection. There are no excursions into feelings or ponderings on the meaning of life, rather a straightforward listing of events: this happened, then that happened. Perhaps the most emotional section is how he describes Osho’s death celebration, and even then he writes ‘you’ instead of ‘I’:

“It was an amazing and emotional moment because you were crying, laughing ad singing all at the same time!”

Yes, the book is not great literature, yet a great read for those sannyasins who, like me, enjoy other people’s stories of how Osho called them. It’s a great read for those of the same generation, especially Brits like me who recognise many of Yoga’s milestones. But for non-Brits of other generations it’s still a good read, as an example of how someone takes what life has to offer and makes the most of it.

One nice thing is that it can be read on-line for free at www.blurb.co.uk

Kaiyum, Osho News

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