Maneesha asks of Osho the questions of visiting journalists and sannyasins in Greece and later in Uruguay
Elsewhere* I’ve chronicled in detail Osho’s world tour, including his leaving Nepal for the island of Crete, and his time in Crete, along with his dramatic departure. Here I will focus only on discourse.
Journalists from many different countries continued to find Osho, and, naturally enough, had questions for him. Again, Osho chose to have them sit beside me while I read their questions to him, for what would become the series and book titled: Socrates Poisoned Again after Twenty-Five Centuries. The discourse setting was Socratic, with Osho in an armchair placed under a vast tree, his audience forming a semi circle around him.
Within days five hundred sannyasins had arrived at Agios Nikolaos, so their presence added a more familiar and meditative energy to the audience that was otherwise made up of journalists and some locals.
Many of the discourses were based on responses to journalists’ questions, but then, with the addition of more sannyasins, our questions featured too. Some weeks into our stay, the entire discourse was devoted to sannyasins’ questions. As had become his custom since Kulu-Manali, at the end of the discourse Osho looked at me before rising from his chair and said, ‘Okay, Maneesha?’ Then, to the accompaniment of music, namasted us all and walked the few paces to the front door of the house in which he was staying.
One particular morning, watching Osho’s retreating back, none of us could have known that we would not see Osho again for some time. We had no idea that later that same day the police would arrive to arrest Osho, and that he would be obliged to leave Greece. In fact it would be only after weeks that a place was found for him to stay – in Punte Del Este, in Uruguay – and that those of us in his immediate circle would be reunited with him.
Once Osho had recuperated from his travels of the past weeks, we were told that he was ready to resume discourses. Of course the group of twelve or so that we were was thrilled, and we set about preparing an area in the living room. Osho would speak twice a day: it was the job of Amrito and me to not only come up with our own questions but to collect them from the others each day.
Being with Osho again, on that evening of the first discourse in Uruguay, was like reaching the shore after being adrift. He seemed to have aged to an astonishing degree, and his hand gestures were fewer and less animated. Yet once he began talking he seemed to become temporarily suffused with new energy. Some time later he would say that being with his people did actually nourish him….
Long afterwards, Osho would also say that the discourses of this period – which were compiled into three books, Beyond Psychology, The Path of the Mystic, and The Transmission of the Lamp – had been ‘very special.’ At some point Shunyo asked a question about trying to remember her last death, and that, in turn, triggered many deeply personal and unusual questions. Because there were so few of us and so many questions needed, we were obliged to be more observant of ourselves and our inner process.
In discourse after discourse after discourse we were treated to the most amazing moments I had yet spent with Osho. It amused me so much to think that there we were, in the middle of suburbia, by eight each morning we would have exchanged our ‘civilian’ clothes for red clothes and mala, in preparation for discourse. Thus dressed, we took care not to be outside the house, in view of anyone passing by.
We were like a secret society of Sufis, or, more aptly, perhaps, Tantrikas. They had had to hide in forests to meditate because society was so against them, Osho was to tell us in one discourse. That was why their teaching was called ‘the whispered transmission’. For two hours we sat with our master as he led us into a whole other world, so different from the outer one by which we were surrounded. Questions in hand, I would quietly join the others as we made our way to our places in the living room, closed our eyes and waited for Osho’s soft footfall….
For me, making up questions came surprisingly – even alarmingly – easily. Some of them were directly related to me and my experiences, but many just popped up out of the blue, sometimes as many as five in a row. A fellow sannyasin charitably commented that I had psychic antennae and was picking up everybody’s questions. Less esoterically inclined, I thought the rapidity at which I could produce questions only indicated a very inquisitive and noisy interiority.
For others, this was the first time they were obliged to formulate questions and on a regular basis, at that. Their questions were born out of much internal writhing, or tussling with an experience that resisted being condensed to words.
I’ve been asked how it was for me to read others’ questions. I only ever saw my role as question-asker as that of providing a clear enough and loud enough voice that made listening easy for Osho and fellow sannyasins. When I read others’ questions, I tried not to come in the way of the sannyasin, whose question I was asking, and Osho.
A good conduit is an empty one: I was not needed as a personality, but just as a calm, clear voice conveying – as faithfully as I could – the question at hand. So I deliberately resisted added intonations, colours, or flavours of my own.
One day soon after discourses began, I was told Osho would like to see me. I recall him saying that soon we would start discourses of a slightly different kind. I (Maneesha) would compose a question, he explained, and as he was responding, we all could jot down questions as they occurred to us, and hand them to me. From these I was to select one and ask that of Osho.
The rest of the group was excited when they heard the news. It felt the discourses would become more like dialogues on the Socratic mode. I was tremendously thrilled too, though a little unclear as to how it would actually work. The structure of the discourses would naturally be more spontaneous and we would really need to be listening and digesting what Osho was saying. I wondered how I would juggle listening to Osho in this way yet still feel I could be in a meditative space, a space in which my mind played no part. Added to that I would need to unobtrusively accept, read, and prioritise the questions handed to me and be sensible enough to select one that was suitable for Osho’s purposes. I realized that if Osho wanted this to happen then it would, and beautifully, so I decided to stop trying to work it out. As it happened, his suggestion was for some reason – or perhaps for no reason at all – never used.
The discourse in which he answered the question ‘How does a man of Zen take his tea?’ was breathtaking. His response took up the entire hour and a half of discourse.
It wasn’t a discourse, it was a journey. I cannot recall a word Osho said but I still remember the exquisite silence we were all cast into that day… how we (now twenty in number) sat as one disciple with her master; how that one disciple seemed to disappear entirely into the master, so that there was actually no one present in the room. If an outsider were to have passed by, he would have seen, I was certain, an empty chair in front of a video camera. Everyone had simply, silently, evaporated.
Copyright (c) 2010 Maneesha James
*Bhagwan: One Man against the Whole Ugly Past of Humanity (amazon.com)
When Maneesha joined Osho News she asked Punya what she should write about. The immediate suggestion which popped up was: “How was it to sit in front of Osho and read the questions? I would have been scared stiff.” The answer to this became a series of articles which we have published during our first year. Here are the links to all of them:
13 – Osho Making Fun of our Seriousness
12 – Women’s Jealousy
11 – The Barbarous Mind
10 – The Bursting of the Boil
9 – The Device
8 – An Old Sinner
7 – Living with a Contemporary Koan
6 – The Irreplaceable Melody
5 – The Incomparable Privilege
4 – Our Final Questions
3 – The Whispered Transmission
2 – An Experiment: Mind Over Matter
1 – Reading the Questions to Osho: How It All Started