During a rare interview in the seventies, Osho’s father tells Sarjano about ‘little Mohan’s’ childhood and how he took sannyas
Devateerth Bharti has the innocent and stern face of a Mediterranean peasant. When it is innocent, he looks like a precociously aged Neapolitan kid, and when stern he likens a Byzantine icon.
He gets up every morning at four o’clock, and meditates in solitude and in silence until seven. To move around he leans on a walking stick, even though his body appears still very lightweight, like the body of a youngster.
Sometimes I have the fantasy that the weight he carries and forces him to use a walking stick, is the burden to have such a son!
The mystery of his relationship with his son has always astonished me very much, because he never talks about it, he does not invocate; neither has he claimed any special rights. He appears every morning at the Master’s discourse with his wife and his sons, where he always sits in the vicinity of the 15th row, never close, never far, and sits there totally still, without ever changing expression, at most bowing his head for a moment, until the Master stops talking.
There is something detached and tragic in his namaste towards the son when he is leaving at the end of the discourse; he gets up slowly and returns to Francis House, where he lives together with the whole family.
The family, which includes cousins, nephews, and a variety of other relatives, creates a small and colorful tribe inside the ashram. They have their own kitchen, from where at all times the aroma of chai drifts from, mixed with the smell of chapattis, making the place appear like an ancient and pastoral island amid the cosmopolitan and technological trend of the commune.
His life runs therefore in a patriarchal and rural way: the top spot of the dinner table belongs to him, and the first word is his right, even though he never exercises this privilege; if he really has to answer to somebody, he often limits himself to a smile or a silent glance.
Every afternoon, just before sunset he goes for a long walk among the trees of Koregaon Park, usually in company of a few members of his family. Like everything else, this walk too proceeds in utter silence, and when they meet some Indian sannyasins, he addresses them with a silent namaste, while most of those people bow humbly to touch his feet, homage that he receives impassively, as if all these manifestations were not addressed to him particularly.
After the walk, the whole family gathers until dinnertime to listen to Indian music, or to dance some kirtans in the vast living room of the house, which is transformed into a crowded bedroom during the night.
If some western sannyasin comes to the door out of curiosity or because he is attracted by the music, it is always Devateerth who invites him or her with a smile to enter and take part in the dances. The capacity of Indian sannyasins to abandon themselves to dance until reaching a state of ecstasy is almost unique and extraordinary, and they look with a mixture of curiosity and pity at those westerners who adventure into dance with some ‘disco steps’ and great mental control.
After dinner, invariably composed of rice and dhal along with some chapattis and a little bhaji, the tribe lays down a dozen of mattresses in the living room and everybody goes to sleep.
It was with great embarrassment that I asked Osho if I could interview his parents, but his answer was, as usual, adamant: “You can do whatever you wish, there is no need to ask me… and take Maitreya with you as a translator!”
And that’s how, full of curiosity mixed with wonder and a lot of emotions that one day I find myself facing the door to Francis House with Maitreya, an old Indian writer and former member of parliament that the Master had suggested to me as an interpreter, since his parents speak only Hindi and Marathi. Once in front of them, I’m captured by an uncontainable emotion, because these two people, beyond popular iconography and dim images created by movies or religious posters, look to me just like Joseph and Mary must have looked like, with the difference that the latter never recognized the enlightenment of their son, neither did they ever become his disciples.
They are sitting in front of me in silence; they emanate a tremendous peace with no questions and no answers, which embarrasses me even more, to the point that now all my questions and all my curiosity appear to me very risible. Facing this grace I don’t know from where to start anymore, for the silence is so intense and sweet, so pregnant of meanings and secret answers that I will never be capable of revealing…and it is so difficult to break this silence.
Says he: ”Our little Mohan (Osho’s original name) was a totally normal child, like everybody else, and there was nothing extraordinary about him, nothing out of a normal behavior for a child of that age. Until he was seven years old he was living with his grandfather who was a very rich man, but after his death he came to stay with us, and we started to provide him personally with some education, and to teach him how to read and write. Even in this he was a normal kid, not particularly of a genius type, perhaps just a little more dynamic than other children, more restless, which seems was creating some problems with our neighbors…or at least this is what they were saying.
“At home he was never creating any problem, and often we didn’t even realize his presence as he was so quiet and silent, but outdoors he must have been a real pest! To tell you the truth, there were always some people coming to complain about him, saying that he was a bad boy and very mean too, because he was always arguing with everybody; he was fighting with the other kids, and he would tease everybody in front of him, often with some cruel joke that he used to define as ‘my special treatment’, and on top of it he was even making fun of the village authorities, so ultimately he was making everybody crazy! However, to us all this never occurred, and we were always surprised about all these complaints.
“Just think that I have beaten him up just once in my entire life, and this happened because he was only ten years old and had come back in the middle of the night, without even informing anybody. I didn’t ask him where he had been, but I hit him because our pacts were very clear: during the day he was free to do whatsoever he liked, but before night he was supposed to come back home within a certain hour, like every other good Jain who retires before dark.”
Q.: “I understand that the family religion was Jainism…was little Mohan respectful of the tradition?”
A.: “When he was a kid he wasn’t really a practitioner, but he was not critical about the family religion either; sometimes he would even come spontaneously on his own to the temple with us, but he always looked bored to me. However, during his secondary school year he became more and more critical towards all the religions, and he was very much influenced by communism, starting to use very harsh words about any religion, Jainism included.”
Q.: “Were his criticisms expressing an authentic religious feeling, a real search for truth, or were they coming from a Marxist point of view, like ‘religion is the opium of the people’?”
A.: “That’s exactly what he was saying, and all the time, for that matter! He had become a Marxist, but he was limiting himself to be a theorist, an avid student of Marx, Lenin, Hegel; yet I believe that he had never become a militant, also because our village was not offering much space for active politics.”
Q.: “Were you disappointed about your son’s choice, about his being critical towards religion? Did you use to judge him negatively, like a rebel of some sort?”
A.: “In those times India was still under British dominion and all of our family was of a nationalistic spirit, for a revolutionary independency, and my brother went even to prison for this idea. Hence, politics was a common fact in our family, and we were very open-minded people, not one of those orthodox families, closed and reactionary. Therefore his political choice didn’t disturb us at all, because he was already a very rigorous individual, of absolute sincerity, and it was clear to everybody that he knew very well what he was doing…”
Q.: “Many youngsters when they leave their home to go to university tend to break away from their family, and go live on their own. Was this the case with the young Osho too?”
A.: “No, when he attended university he would always come to see us. He was deeply attached to his family, and never expressed any desire to separate from us; even when he got his doctorate and began teaching in faraway places, he would regularly embark on a long journey just to spend some days with all of his family. He showed us the same respectful and loving attitude that he had in his childhood. Every summer he would come to spend his holidays in his native village, and they were always beautiful meetings.”
Q.: “When did you start realizing that you had a son who was a little special, so to say?”
A.: “Throughout his days at the university he appeared perfectly ordinary to us, even though he had shown to be very intelligent and brilliant…it would have been impossible not to notice it, because in those times in India orators where much in demand, and so were good public discourses; it was common to have some debates with two orators opposed to one another, with the winner chosen by open acclamation. In addition, our son was winning one debate after another, and he had achieved an immense reputation, but we could have never had imagined what was going to follow later!
“We had very normal ambitions for him, that he would become a good lawyer, or a teacher… but then, once he got his doctorate in philosophy he came back home and spent four months unemployed, until one day through some acquaintances he was invited to hold a series of conferences at some big university. It was there where it became obvious that his discourses turned out to be so fascinating, so transporting, that soon the Aula Magna was no longer sufficient to contain all the students and professors who were attending those meetings. At some point it became necessary to move everybody into open air, to the university’s courtyard, which was always full of people even when it was raining. By now both students and professors were bowing in front of him, as if he was a guru of some sort, and he was just twenty-five years old!
“All our worries regarding his future disappeared completely when the Minister for Education met with him, and told him how sorry he was that for that particular year all the professorships had been announced already, and if he wanted to teach at some university he would have to wait for the next year. But my son told him that if a Minister was sincere with his praise and really wanted to, he could find him a job even the next day; and that’s how he got his first assignment. But since there was nothing else available, he was assigned as a Sanskrit teacher to Raipur College, even though he was a laureate in philosophy! I have heard from many people that never before has Sanskrit been taught with such profundity and such enthrallment…”
Q.: “Did he ever talk with you about his experience of enlightenment that happened when he was 21 years old?”
A.: “No, he has never given any hint about it! Only many years later I got to know that my son had declared during a discourse in Mumbai to be enlightened, and we heard about it while we were having dinner through an uncle, who was talking about it as being one of the rumors that were circulating about Osho, and none of us was much interested! Many years passed before I heard about this story again, but in reality I felt that my son was not my son anymore, that he had transcended his being, and I realized that only in the moment when I took sannyas from him.”
Q.: “When Osho began to have disciples in Mumbai, initiating people into sannyas, was he still in contact with his family? Did you come to know about it from him directly?”
A.: “He actually started giving sannyas in Manali, in the foothills of the Himalaya, and we got to know it through others since we never had a chance to visit him there. However, we were happy to know that his spiritual movement was growing, that disciples were coming to him from all over the world. All this was for us a source of great happiness…even though it was not yet clear to us what it was all about! And what to say about me, that I have been the last member of the family to ask for sannyas from my son. He never invited me to take sannyas, as he also never invited anybody of our family, and I think nobody in the world; he was just waiting in silence for each one of us to become ready, with our own timing and inclination.
“My wife had invited me many times to take sannyas from him, but I always used to answer that I wasn’t mentally ready for it, even if sometimes I would go to listen his discourses, but nothing else! I even participated in some of his Meditation Camps, but it took me over two years to decide for this adventure, until one day in 1975… I was here in this room, there was a full moon in the sky, and at dawn I was sitting in meditation as usual, when suddenly my body started trembling and shaking on it’s own, and it went on for a couple of hours. Finally when I came back to my senses my sons asked me what was going on, and I told them that what I’d been waiting for years had just started happening to me; somebody decided to inform Osho, and even though it was only four in the morning, they woke him up to tell him about the latest events. After a few minutes he appeared in my room, and I bowed to him and I touched his feet… and Osho bowed himself and touched my feet, so I bowed again and I touched his feet once more, starting to cry with no control, and at this point he asked Laxmi, his secretary in those years, to give him her mala, and once he had the mala in his hands he placed it around my neck like a garland of love…and this is how I became a sannyasin.
“The next day Osho sent me some orange robes through my daughter Niklam, and my new name, ‘Devateerth Bharti’.”
Q.: “Do you still have some kind of personal relationship with Osho?”
A.: “Now that feeling doesn’t exist anymore. Now there is no more father and no more son. Now I am a disciple and he is my Master…”
Copyright © 2010 Swami Svatantra Sarjano for Osho News