Rashid tells us his story, about growing up in Britain, his studies at Oxford and Chelsea Art School – and how he came to Osho
The dark storm clouds of World War Two were gathering when i slipped from my mother’s womb. She must have felt particularly oppressed. For it was her uncle, Neville Chamberlain, who was shortly to return from Munich waving a piece of paper and declaring – in spite of much evidence to the contrary – that he had secured with Mr Hitler, “peace with honour, peace in our time.”
As i write these words for the German Osho Times i suddenly notice that it was on this very day in September 70 years ago that the Second World War broke out.
Being born into the privileged classes is not all that it’s cracked up to be. By the age of fifteen i realised that i was a Ventriloquist’s Dummy, speaking only the words of my parents and the ruling class.
I started reading, without much comprehension, James Joyce, Karl Marx, William Blake, Frederic Nietzsche and Aldous Huxley. I spent my holidays from boarding school wandering the Tate Gallery or following my great aunt’s gardener around her spacious garden. She was the last remaining spinster sister of the late Neville; she always loved and cherished me, gave me books to read and shared with me her love of art and nature.
Around this time, from high up in a Cedar of Lebanon tree, i had a fall. In the split seconds before i landed safely on the branch below, my whole life flashed before me. I spoke to no one of this event but i understood for ever that our lives are not how the elders and betters proscribe in this our rational culture.
After two years of military service in the Royal Navy, that included a brief war with Egypt for control of the Suez Canal and after a year hitch-hiking round North America trying to be a Beatnik before Beatniks were invented, i returned to Oxford University and a welcome back into my old world of empty Dummies.
The paradox and poetry of writing this short piece is that, through meditation, through self-enquiry, through devotion to my master Osho, once again i feel empty. And this is not a psychological emptiness – rather a vast, vibrating, existential emptiness.
I left Oxford after one year and went to Chelsea Art School. For the first time in my life i met people who spoke my language. However i had entered into marriage with a woman from my past. We could not love each other, nor could we help each other learn to love. We had two beautiful daughters who now illuminate my life. It took us ten years to arrive at a messy divorce. I was a raging, wounded bull. Yet those ten years cleared away the barren, fetid emptiness within; now i feel great gratitude.
My second marriage was a loving one. My wife was also a painter. We bought a little hill farm paradise on the hallowed Welsh border with England. We had two boys. They too illuminate my life these days.
How did i come to Osho?
The story starts inside a phone-booth on a snowbound landscape outside Hereford. I am dialling the Probation Service Day Centre where i worked part-time as an Art Therapist. I am calling to say the roads are far too dangerous for me to come to work. I look up across the speckled wastes of white and see a bright yellow petrol tanker sliding sideways down the road towards me. I see horror written on the driver’s face as his vehicle jumps the curb. I watch, immobilised, as the huge truck hits the booth. Inside my head there is a screaming; “I don’t want to die. I haven’t properly lived!”
The tanker comes to rest and everything in my life is changed. The driver jumps down from his cab, “Are you okay?”
I’ve missed the purpose of my life; i’m nearly 40 – half-way through it – and i don’t know who i am or why i’m here on earth. I’m still alive but inside there is something yet unborn.
“I’m fine,” i say. We shake hands and i drive carefully home.
Something died that day in the booth. Was it complacency? Was it procrastination?
What was born, however, was a conscious search. Earlier many of us in my generation had tried politics, radical or liberal, and had been eventually disillusioned.
My wife and i turned to Christianity. Here in the border lands, i loved the heart-warming song of the farmers each Sunday in the little tin-roofed chapels, the sheep-dogs tethered in the porch outside, the prickly smartness of our Sunday suits; yet the rules and expectations of behaviour were suffocating.
One day a chapel elder came to tell me that swimming with my children in the river on the previous Sunday was a sin. We stood in the top meadow overlooking a great vista of the Welsh mountains and valleys. We argued biblical interpretations and i told him to fuck off.
Within the next few days we received from a client a thousand pounds for paintings sold a year before, our plan for a first holiday in four years was cancelled, one friend volunteered to care-take of our farm if we still wanted a break and a book arrived from a dear friend in India.
I was milking in the early morning, my head resting in the warm flank of the cow when my wife came in, unwrapping a parcel. She sat down on a spare milking stool under the dusty window and read one page of My Way; the Way of the White Cloud by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
When she finished we were both in tears. I loosed the cow, poured the milk into the creamer, washed the buckets and we re-read the passage to our friend Roddy in the kitchen. “We have to see this man. He knows!” As soon as that was said my knees started shaking and i had to sit down, because, for the first time in my adult life, i knew i was facing the hugeness of the Mystery.
Within six weeks my wife and two sons and i were sitting at Osho’s feet. Some years ago i wrote this piece about our taking sannyas.
Early in the morning on the third day, we were standing in a long line of orange-robed disciples, conspicuous in our blue jeans and our white t-shirts; we were waiting for the Master’s discourse, watching the silent inwardness of people’s faces, the little groups of people hugging, I remember turning to my wife and saying, “We’re still Christians aren’t we?” I don’t know what I meant. I guess I didn’t know my head was in the Tiger’s mouth.
Sitting in the back of Buddha Hall behind that silent multitude, Bhagwan appeared to us to be a tiny lighthouse rising from a placid sunrise sea. His voice was softer than the whisper of the wind; we leaned towards him as plants lean towards the light. He took us on a wondrous journey of the spirit. At the end he rose and greeted us with folded hands, rotating gradually through all points of the hall. Namaste. He glided to his car and was driven slowly, oh so slowly, round the hall. Those of us at the back and sides swung round to face him. Bhagwan was seated in his car three metres from me, window down, smiling behind his folded hands. That killed me. The kindness in those eyes, the compassion in the smile, the beauty of those hands; on top of all the wisdom of his words, it was the look of him that killed me. The tiger’s mouth closed. I lay down there and then and cried. I cried a tidal wave through every epoch of my life. I cried the tears I’d never cried through childhood, adolescence and my early manhood. I cried for my children and their world, my failures and my disappointments, I cried for everything created and everything destroyed. I cried beyond all possibility of words. People came and knelt beside me, stroked me and passed on.
From that time on i always knew i had to be with Osho. We sold the farm, gave the money to the Ashram and surrendered to the ways of the Master’s Sangha.
And those ways were hard for all of us with egos. Ego means identity and attachment. Osho’s job was to tease us and trick us away from believing in our egos. Meditation is the gift he gave us. Meditation is the tool to help ourselves be free. Over the years, the problems, conflicts and perverse habits of my personality and attachments have resolved themselves through meditation.
One daughter told me recently, ‘I never had a childhood.’ A son asked ‘Where were you when I was growing up and needed you?’ All my kids grew up without me as a constant presence. My purpose now is to alleviate the wounds, to share the love and clarity that comes with sitting at the master’s feet. These days i’m deeply involved with all my children and the 16 grandchildren.
I was deeply attached to Osho the man, my master. Just before he died, he asked a few of us long-time residents to find ways to support ourselves financially. For three weeks i was in a profound crisis being without money, 53 years old and with no contacts remaining in the West. However, after three weeks, on the day my fear and mistrust fell away, two jobs were offered me in Pune that would see me through the coming year. Within weeks Osho left his body.
I could only feel gratitude.
Since that blessed day, the needs of work and play have led me here and there across the world. For the most part i have earned my two chapattis daily by designing and constructing landscapes and buildings for sacred use. Combining my love of nature and my love of art i have enjoyed this work in Spain and Hawaii, India, Brazil and England.
Now settled here in Devon i surf in and out of maya. I have published two books of poetry and painted many paintings around the theme of the sacred and the profane, the physical and the metaphysical, this and that. Now less and less am i attached to outcome, more and more am i set free by meditation and the love of Nisheetha my beloved and our various kids and grandchildren.
Since Osho left the body I have sat with many teachers and enlightened ones on many continents. In my heart Osho is my Once and Every Master.
What of my identity as a person on a path, a sannyasin?
Certainly i am a person on a path. But the path is like an escalator moving underneath me, continually. People come and go, landscapes come and go, summer turns to autumnal abundance. This rashid-person sits and runs, keeps bees, grows vegetables stands still and mutters to himself and yet he goes nowhere – or, as Osho used to say, “now here.”
text by Rashid – written in September 2009 and first published in Osho Times Germany
Copyright © Rashid Maxwell – reproduced with permission