Jivan writes about the Zorba the Buddha Centre in New Delhi, India.
Recently I’ve been helping Ashwin Bharti (the director of the Zorba the Buddha Centre in Delhi) to organise the first ever Osho Tantra Festival in India which will take place there at the end of November. It is a brave step indeed to bring the principles of Tantra back to its birthplace, and this into everyday culture. The Tantra Festival will be the first of many festivals in this new hot spot for Osho in India, so I was inspired to find out more.
Zorba the Buddha, just on the outskirts of Delhi, has been active for seven years, initially as an artist village and for the past few years as a full-on Osho Centre. Visitors were celebrities such as Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, and renowned Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
The programmes consist of classes, events, workshops, performances, festivals and movie screenings which amount to approximately 150 a year and this makes it the most active open Osho centre in India. In the workshops there are usually between 10 and 15 participants and, as all the programmes are run in English, they attract not only educated Indians but also international spiritual travellers, artists and Osho lovers from all over the world.
According to Ashwin, the spirit of Osho is very much alive in the centre and is being brought into the day-to-day lives of the people working and meditating there. It has 80 or so workers who are highly encouraged to participate in Osho’s Dynamic Meditation on a regular basis!
“Whatever we do, we keep Osho’s vision in mind. We offer two free Osho Active Meditations a day, one at 6am in the morning and one at 4pm in the evening – from a choice of Dynamic, Kundalini, Nadabrahma, Gourishankar, Chakra Sounds, No Dimensions, Whirling. All our programmes are aimed at helping people experience meditation. The centre is also open to organisations, corporate events, and international NGOs to do their own programmes – they get baffled by the energy field here. The centre is also used as an artist residency, offering different creative art classes.”
Ashwin continues: “We intend to bring Zorba the Buddha to people’s lives: Zorba by using dance, music, art, theatre and weekly movie nights; Buddha through programmes based on Osho’s vision ranging from Tantra, Sufi, Zen, Shamanism, Vipassana, Shivaism, Tibetan Pulsing, Yoga, Martial Arts, Healing, to Osho Meditations and Psychotherapy.”
The centre is set on three acres of green farming area on the outskirts of Delhi. The land has been transformed into a beautiful park full of trees, waterfalls, ponds and gardens which give it a jungle-like feeling. The buildings are of a unique eco-design in accordance with Vastu, an ancient doctrine which consists of precepts born out of a traditional view on how the laws of nature affect human dwellings.
Sarita, a frequent visitor at Zorba the Buddha, comments: “The original Indian building methods use cow dung and clay and have thatched roofs. However, lest the readers believe that if visiting they will live in utter simplicity, nothing could be further from the truth. Ashwin has managed to create pure luxury in a mud hut! Because the walls breathe, they are deeply relaxing and nurturing for the human energy system, creating deep, restful sleep. Inside there are marble floors, luxurious bathrooms and artistic Indian rosewood furniture.”
To give you an idea of the possibilities and the size of the place I am going to describe the buildings in detail:
The main building is the Utsav Mandir Meditation Hall, a large multi-purpose space with a thatched roof. It is surrounded by a pond and a bamboo grove – ideal for performances, activities, workshops or meditations. Open from all sides, it can hold up to 60 people. Early morning and evening meditations, yoga, special performances, rehearsals, workshops and exhibitions all take place in this space.
The Patanjali Yoga Hall is a medium-sized, air-conditioned building used for yoga sessions, workshops and performances. It can double up as a dormitory for retreats. It includes separate men’s and women’s lockers, showers and restrooms and can accommodate approximately 20 people. It has a seating capacity of approximately 40 people.
The Heart Common Building is a spacious, multi-level structure which accommodates the villages’ administrative office, the community kitchen, dining area and a common area which can be used for special occasions. Numerous large windows overlook the surrounding ponds and gardens.
Sarita says: “One of the claims to fame of Zorba the Buddha is the catering. Ashwin has a connoisseur’s taste, and he trains his chefs with laser sharp precision to serve a sumptuous and delicious array of vegetarian food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Often, he hosts feast nights, where people have on offer not only a scintillating evening programme, such as international dancers or concerts, but also a marvellous buffet. Zorba the Buddha is a true feast for the senses!”
There is also an Outdoor Performance Space, a 1000 square foot multi-purpose open studio. It has an organic shape and is also covered by a thatched roof. It is open on all sides and oversees the gardens and ponds nearby.
When asked about the centre’s vision of the future, Ashwin replied, “Presently we offer more than 100 events, performances and courses a year and now we want to increase them to more than 200 a year! This will revolve around a nucleus of six new global festivals (Tantra, Shamanism, Healing, Dance, NVC and Sufi). And some of our international friends are going to be a part of our management team.”
Ashwin became a sannyasin at the age of 19. When he found Osho, he knew his search for a master was over. Osho helped him find the balance between hedonism and spirituality. Initially he was, as he describes himself, a bhogi (local slang meaning ‘seeking pleasures of life’) and was very much interested in the glittery world of the Delhi arts scene. But when he was introduced to meditation, a new world of ecstasy opened up for him.
Ashwin was blessed to have come from a well-to-do family and to make his fortune working in the family business. Using the money he had made in the Gulf oil boom he bought these three acres where he managed to create an oasis, a spiritual sanctuary, for his own growth but also to help others who are on the path of beauty, goodness and truth. His intention was to bring nature into the city: to be in the society but not part of it, to create a space where Zorba meets Buddha. He wanted, and managed successfully, to bring together his natural inclination for a life of luxury and beauty with his profound experiences of meditation.
One of my favourite descriptions of Tantra is ‘transformation of desire’ and I feel that the Zorba the Buddha centre is a beautiful testament to the fact that when one really rests in the source of one’s desire, adds the magic element of awareness and meditation, beautiful things are created.
For me, there is now a new place on the map of India, a place which I can visit regularly and indulge in the meditations and environment inspired by Osho!
Osho International Festival of Tantra, Music & Dance (28 Nov – 3 Dec 2013)
Interview by Jivan Kavyo (James Stevenson) (with contributions from Sarita)