Excerpt from Deva Abhiyana’s just released book, ‘The Long Reach of the Dharma’, Chapter 44.
When you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose
[In the previous chapter, Sheela had asked me in Poona to take “a few things” to the Chidvilas Osho center in New Jersey. It was still a state secret that Osho was leaving India. I was to be on Osho’s flight to New York, but at the last minute, he was delayed. My own luggage was mixed with his entourage, and I found myself alone on the flight out of India with only the clothes on my back.]
Arriving at JFK in orange robe and sandals, I stood uncomfortably before the Customs lady for what seemed an eternity, while she looked me over and suspiciously perused my passport. “You’ve been gone for almost two years, and you don’t have any luggage?” I told her: “You’ve probably never been to India. There’s nothing worth taking from there.” She laughed and stamped my passport, declaring: “Welcome home, son!”
Predictably, there was no one waiting for me. I called the New Jersey telephone number I had been given. Making change from my one and only $20 bill to use a pay phone (this was long before cell phones), I began to sweat in the cold New York night. Deeksha, the woman in charge of the kitchens in Poona, answered the phone. Ah, was I glad to hear that shrill Italian voice! While I was in the middle of explaining my situation, Deeksha shouted: “Ah, please you no-a come. We have no-a more room. Call back in a few weeks.” And she hung up on me!
There I was, without even a jacket, no money for a hotel, no credit card or checks. What to do? Use the rest of my air ticket to fly on to San Francisco? I called back, and this time asked Astha, my ex-girlfriend, to come to the phone. (She had left surreptitiously the week before, along with a few handymen to get ready for Osho’s arrival.) I rapidly explained the whole story to Astha, praying the 50 cents I had put in the phone would not run out. Deeksha came back on the line: “Oh-a I am a so-sorry, I didn’t know! Please-a come!” And a man came on the phone to give me directions. I had just enough cash to take a bus to Montclair, New Jersey, where someone was waiting to pick me up.
I was able to be at “the Castle” (it was known by the locals as Kip’s Castle) for a few weeks, and greet Osho when he arrived. I was probably the only one there who didn’t have a specific job. I’m not much of a carpenter or a cleaner, but I helped prepare food for the 30 or so people there, and did some landscaping. It was an exciting time, as we knew Osho was coming any day.
His flight had been postponed over a hang-up with either his Indian passport or his American visa. Finally, the day of his arrival dawned, and we cleaned the whole place spotless. His temporary room was on the second floor, but a larger room was being remodeled for him on the floor above. I had a premonition to take the elevator to the third floor where his future room was still a construction zone. I cleaned up the sheet rock litter and swept the floor, just in case he would want to see it.
I was asked to stand guard by the road with my friend Arpana, and we were the first ones to greet Osho as he drove slowly up in a black Cadillac. It was Osho’s first American drive-by! A chair had been set up for him at the entrance, and everyone else was seated around it. Musicians Nivedano (percussion) and Milarepa (guitar) played impromptu music. He sat silently in the chair, looking pretty fresh after such a long flight. After about 15 minutes, he stood up smiling radiantly, and turned to go inside. Sheela had installed one of those movable chairs on the stair rail outside the house, as Osho’s back had been really frail. He listened to Sheela talk about the lift chair, then waved at it dismissively and nimbly climbed up the flight of stairs. In the elevator to his second-floor room, he asked first to go see his future room, and stepped out to look around. I’m glad I cleaned the room.
I spent two more magical weeks at the Castle. We saw Osho almost every day, often just walking around the premises accompanied by either Vivek, Sheela or her husband Jayananda. He was so ordinary, it was extraordinary! He showed up in the laundry room; he walked through the carpentry garage while sawdust flew around, and it didn’t seem to bother him. We were asked to simply greet him and get back to work: Let the man have his freedom.
Once Osho arrived, we were warned not to use the stairs and a side door that connected to the laundry room, as this was now his private walkway. But the following day after his arrival, I forgot and ran up the stairs, opened the side door and found myself not two feet away from a smiling Osho, with Vivek behind him shooting daggers at me with her eyes. I paled, exclaiming: “Oh! Oh!” and slammed the door in his face! I ran down the stairs, and around to the front of the building where he was coming out. He looked over at me and said: “So things are going well, eh?” He spoke so quietly I couldn’t hear, as I sagely replied: “What?” He said again: “So things are going well, mmm?” I nodded. You have to understand: Most of us had never seen Osho except on the discourse podium or in darshan. To just have a normal chat with him – this was new! Osho: “Is it always this cold here?” He had never been out of tropical India before. I said: “Only since you arrived,” which was true – the weather had turned chilly just the day before. He laughed and went for a walk around the grounds.
As I was sweeping the walkway a few days later, Osho came around the corner. A group of us were standing to one side, when I spotted a big dog running across the lawn toward Osho on his other side. There was a small apartment on the Castle grounds that was rented by a couple with a German shepherd. We had tried to get them to leave, but they had a lease until the end of the month. We had told them that whenever they take the dog out, it was extremely important to keep him on a leash, as Osho was extremely allergic. But now, here was their pooch, with no sign of the owners to call him back, and he was heading straight for the master.
As the dog was running, Osho turned his head toward him, then calmly continued walking. A second or two later, with the dog only a few yards away, Osho put his left arm out without even turning to look. It was a kind of blind gesture without so much as a glance, an open-handed stop, which he held for a few seconds without slowing his pace.
With that gesture, the German shepherd came to a sudden halt as if he had hit an invisible wall! He lay down on his belly, panting heavily, eyes open, tongue lolling to one side, neither moving nor barking. As soon as Osho turned the corner, I went to check the dog out; to my amazement, he appeared to be hypnotized Crocodile-Dundee style. His eyes were glazed over, and he didn’t look at any of us who gathered around him. In fact, he completely ignored us, as if we weren’t there. After about five minutes, the poor dog got up and walked shakily back to his house.
Osho started trying out different luxury cars, and learning to drive on the right side of the road; a different car was brought to the Castle most days from the New York dealerships. The drivers were warned not to wear any cologne nor smoke for at least a few hours before they came, especially not in the car, and to wear clean clothes. I’m sure they were wondering who this VIP was. A Bentley drove up one afternoon, while I was gardening around the side entrance Osho used. As he waited, the chauffeur asked me: “Who is this guy anyway, a Sheikh from Saudi Arabia?” “Not exactly, you’ll see.” He started to light a cigarette, and I harshly told him to put it out.
Osho came down the steps and stepped around the car to inspect it, and kicked one of the tires! It was such an incongruous action on the master’s part, that I started laughing. Osho came around to the driver’s side, bent over the window and said quietly but with authority: “Get out!” The chauffeur paled and jumped out of the driver’s seat, and Osho got in. Vivek and Jayananda got in the car. Osho was about to drive off, when the driver screamed: “Wait, I have to at least be in the car!” They let him in the back seat, and off they sped.
Osho often invited one of us to accompany him on his daily drives; alas, I was never asked. There are many stories about his driving, as the man drove fast! A woman reported at dinner one night that she was scared shitless sitting in the back of the car while Osho zoomed for 90 minutes. There was complete silence in the Rolls, until Osho looked at her in the rear-view mirror and stated flatly: “There is a lot of fear in the car today.”
Once a state trooper pulled him over for speeding on the highway. As I heard the story the same day at dinner, the policeman proclaimed: “You were going 75 (or some such high number – I don’t remember) miles per hour!” Osho: “No, I was driving 77 miles per hour, and this is a Rolls Royce speedometer. It is far more accurate than your police radar!” Osho’s appearance, words and utter lack of fear, so spooked the officer, that he was let off with only a warning. But he managed to acquire a speeding ticket or two while he was in New Jersey.
While still in Poona, Heeren, who took care of his cars, told me that Osho asked him which was the most prestigious car: Mercedes or Rolls Royce. Heeren answered without hesitation that the Rolls was the one. At the Castle, he settled on the Rolls Royce Silver Spur as the vehicle of choice to push America’s envy buttons.
Walking around the grounds with Vivek, Osho passed me and stopped in front of a man planting flowers. Osho: “And who is this one?” Vivek asked him: “What’s your name, Swami?” Prageet said his name. Osho: “Prageet, you are the most unmeditative man I have ever met!” He was a new sannyasin, never met the master, waitering in a New Jersey restaurant when Sheela recruited him. A very down-to-earth guy, he took the master’s words as a compliment.
An article soon appeared in the New York Times about our arrival; one neighbor said there was concern for “our property values, our children and about this becoming an international headquarters for a free-sex cult.” The article went on to describe persistent rumors about the group’s buying more property nearby, bizarre sex rituals at the Castle… and leaving red and orange dye in the washing machines at a local coin laundry. Oops!
Book review by Bhagawati
The Long Reach of the Dharma
American-born Abhiyana came to Pune in 1976 and lived for years in Osho’s communes in India and the USA. A Doctor of Oriental Medicine, he is author of ‘Osho Divine Healing: A SpiritMindBody Workbook’. Together with his partner Madhu and daughter Sharadevi, he now lives and practices acupuncture in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona-Acupuncture.com