Lani speaks about her life after leaving Rajneeshpuram; her travels (Israel, Greece, India, Korea and Russia during Gorbachev’s time), to promote Osho’s books at fairs and to find suitable publishers and, of course, about how she ‘became’ Osho’s World Ambassador.
Read part 1: Ants in My Pants
When Sheela left the Ranch I freaked out, “Oh my God, this can happen around a master?” I left and went to visit Israel. I was there in September 1985 when I read in the Jerusalem Post, the English paper, that Osho had been arrested. I saw Osho in chains, a photo credited Charlotte Associated Press. “Charlotte Associated Press?” That’s where I grew up! So I called my father and asked, “What is going on over there?” “Well, the Bhagwan has been arrested and your mother has been arrested with him.” “What?” He told me that Hanya had met him at the plane and that she was now out on bail. Osho’s lawyer was actually my mother’s divorce attorney… I got on a plane from Israel back to Charlotte, immediately. I arrived in Charlotte the day Osho was on his journey back across America. Then Hanya and I flew to Portland and we arrived on the Ranch the day Osho left to go back to India. So I said goodbye.
At the end of the Ranch I went to Laguna Beach. Osho went to Crete so, of course, I went to Crete. My job was to make duplicate cassette tapes of the discourses. I was actually in the house when Osho was arrested and saw how fearless he was. It was amazing to watch the whole thing. I remember Anando coming in the house saying, “Lock the doors and the windows, the police are coming.” They broke through a window to get into the house and I remember Osho said, “Just tell them I am getting dressed.” He was so easy about the whole thing. When he was being escorted out the front door and Mukta was arguing with the police – I will never forget him saying, “Mukta, silence, they don’t have heads.” He then got into the car and they drove him to the police station and finally to the airport (to which I didn’t go). We all didn’t know where he went. That’s when he started his World Tour.
So I returned to the States and became a travel agent, because I love travelling. I went to a travel agency school, then worked in a travel agency in New Port Beach, about half an hour from Laguna Beach. Many sannyasins started calling me to get tickets to go to India because Osho was in Mumbai. I had never been to India! So I sent myself to India in October 1986.
I arrived in Mumbai and it was like coming home. I loved India. I was invited to come listen to Osho every night. It was such a gift for me. On the Ranch I didn’t go to Lao Tzu House as Hanya, David and Kaveesha did — I only went once. So I felt so honored to be able to sit with him every night. When Osho got sick I spent a month in Goa. When back in Mumbai Osho spoke for a few nights and then stopped again. I wanted to go see Pune, so one day I was on the train to Pune with Viyogi. I asked him, “Do you think Osho will ever go back to Pune?” And he replied, “I don’t know, he doesn’t usually do the same thing twice.” When we arrived at the Pune train station the rickshaw driver said, “Biiiiig happening in ashram, maaaaany people coming.” We get to the ashram and Latifa greets me, “Osho is coming in a few days, can you start working?” I said, “Sure!” Again, I felt so honored. I am telling you, that’s how things happened.
The first place I lived was on Jesus House roof, literally sleeping under a tree with a mosquito net on a sofa-bed. It was the most delicious thing to sleep outside. When it started raining I moved to Krishna House. My first job was interior decorating, because the ashram was very run down. I used to go to MG Road to buy carpets and bed covers. I had curtains made and was dealing with the tailors who made them. And what’s the name of that place that sells all the materials for saris? They got to know me!
We had to leave every six months when our visas expired. When my six months were over nothing in me wanted to go back to America, nothing. So I went to Nepal with Shunyo. We stayed in Darshan’s place, Sue’s husband, in Kathmandu. We even went for a jungle ride on elephants. Also Haridas showed up; I felt so blessed to start meeting people intimately. In Rajneeshpuram I got to know many people just riding on the bus with them, but I didn’t really know them intimately.
Haridas and I decided to travel back to Pune together. Our plane stopped in Agra and I really wanted to see the Taj Mahal. At the airport we had a little bite to eat and I said to Haridas, “You know what, this [pointing to her head] wants to go see the Taj Mahal, but my heart wants to go back to Pune.” So I got back on the plane with him, back to Pune. First thing I meet Greek Amrito who was going to Athens to do a press conference about Osho’s book on human rights that was published in Greek. She asked me, “Do you want to come with me?” I said, “Yeah, I do.”
Before I left, Uma who was working with Neelam told me that Rebel Publishing had been invited to the Moscow Book Fair to present Osho’s books. My family comes from Russia, so I said to myself, “I have to go, I want to go!” From Athens I flew to Germany to get a visa for Russia.
While I was in Cologne, all of a sudden I am meeting people involved with Osho’s books. They were talking about the possibility of publishing Osho in Hebrew. I was given so many options and I didn’t know which way to go. But finally I went back to Pune and then flew to Moscow from Mumbai. In Moscow I met the team: Shahido [from Germany], Mohani [a German sannyasin who translated Osho’s books into Russian] and Nirvano [the German translator of Osho’s books].
When we arrived at the book fair I was in tears, I had goose bumps a lot of the time. There were still curfews in Moscow. It was the time when Gorbachev opened the doors and here we are with Osho’s books that hadn’t been allowed before. At the book fair people would come up to us whispering, “I am a sannyasin.” They were able to come out for the first time. You can imagine! I met for the first time Shantam, who organizes groups in Odessa, and Nisargam, the painter. Our stall was about 3 metres square; we displayed all of Osho’s books and the most beautiful photograph of Osho with his long beard and a fur cap playing chess. He looked like Tolstoy.
We had a whole wall of the booklet The Basic Human Rights which had been translated and published in Russian. The second day I noticed that some of the books had been stolen. I got in touch with Hasya and told her about it; the next day she said, “Osho said to tell you to let people steal the books.” So we started giving the books away, because it wasn’t a book fair where we could have sold the books. We were there only to display them.
I knew the KGB were watching us; they had put us strategically under a catwalk. We had brought a video of Osho speaking about Gorbachev that we dubbed in Russian. So the KGB would come with their cameras – I knew it was them from the way they dressed, I told them to come closer so that they could take a better picture. When we put the video on, I asked, “Do you want me to make it louder so you can hear better?” People were glued to the screen and crying. We were even invited into people’s homes. It was the most amazing experience for me.
Back in Pune Anando asked me, “Would you like to get involved with Osho’s books?” Well, here I am with books again – considering that I don’t like to read. But you know, when you get asked to do a job like that you don’t say no. So our first job was to look where to publish Osho’s books, the best quality, the most economical and the most practical for worldwide distribution. So of course we started in Mumbai; the quality was terrible.
Then Anando suggested, “What do you think about going to Korea?” I said, “OK!” but the next day I asked her if she was joking. “No,” she answered. “I don’t mind going but I would to love to work as a team with somebody.” So they recommended I call Vibhavan. Someone had heard he was coming to Pune and stopping in Hong Kong, maybe he would take a detour and go to Korea with me. So I called him. I didn’t even know who he was but at the Hong Kong airport we recognized each other instantly. We checked publishers in Hong Kong, beautiful quality but very expensive – and went on to Korea. He had done business in Korea, 28 trips, and was familiar with the scene and swore he would never go again. When we arrived in Korea we went to a bookstore to look for names of publishers. In that bookstore we found 32 of Osho’s books translated in Korean.
Nobody knew about them. I called Hasya again. At that time there were no copyright laws in Korea. We called one of the publishers and asked them how this was happening. They said people were translating the books and being paid. So we asked for the phone number of one of the translators and we started meeting people. The first one we met didn’t even know Osho was alive and was in tears when he heard he could take sannyas. And that’s when the first Koreans started coming to Pune – from this trip. And the next man we met was a guy who was mimicking Osho; he was like a mini-guru. Osho talked about him in Satyam Shivam Sundaram, about how people can misuse others.
Back in Pune after this trip, one night after discourse Nirvano motioned to me. I asked, “Who are you talking to?” She said “You.” “Me?” and she said “Yeah, you.” She said, “Osho wants to see you.” I had never met Osho before. He was talking in public but I had never had a one-to-one with him. So my heart jumped into my throat.
I was wearing this most beautiful sari – I loved wearing saris – and Hasya and I went to see him together. The minute I walked into his room I completely relaxed. Hasya sat in the back of the room and I sat right in front of him. And he said to me, “I hear you have been doing very good work and, if you know of anybody who can translate my Hindi discourses, the Korean people would really appreciate them.” And then he went on, “You will now be my World Ambassador.” I said, “Nooooo,” because I was in shock, and he said, “Yes!”
I said to him, “It’s so funny, I talked to my dad a few days ago on the phone and he said to me, ‘The way you travel around the world you are like a foreign ambassador.'” So Osho had a little giggle and then said to me, “There is going to be a book fair in Delhi next month. I want you to take my books and make the biggest most beautiful stall at the book fair.”
I went to Delhi for three weeks and worked with the Delhi sannyasins. Before I left he asked me to make a business card saying “Osho’s World Ambassador – Ma Shantam Lani.” He was very specific. He even chose a photograph of himself and cropped it and wanted it silver-foiled. I still have these cards. I thought, “Oh my God, what does it mean to be his ambassador?”
I thought it had to do with book fairs because all my experiences have been with books. So I got a list of book fairs around the world but didn’t know how to prioritize. I said to myself, “You know, the world is a big place.” So I sent Osho a couple of questions. My first question was how to prioritize where to go. Do I go to China, do I go to Yugoslavia which existed at that time? He said, “No need to go to China, no need to go to Yugoslavia; you go where the energy is needed, you follow your energy.”
Then I asked him if I should start embassies around the world and he replied, “Wherever your suitcase is, is an embassy.”
The Osho Centre in Rio, Brazil called me in the summer 1992 when the global summit was happening there. They asked me, “We want to participate and make a stall with Osho’s books, can you recommend someone to help us?” I answered, “Me, I am coming!” So, that simply happened like that.
At that time I was the Director of the Welcome Center; it was such a joy for me to receive the people, I also worked with Hasya in the International Office. I traveled with her to Italy, Japan, Holland, Germany. Then I traveled to Singapore and England for more book fairs.
Then it was time for me to leave India. That was in 1993.
To be continued…
Lani was interviewed by Punya
Read part 1: Ants in My Pants – Lani talks to Punya about events during her young adulthood and seeing Osho for the first time