Avinasho and Dhanyam at Viha Connection connecting our worldwide community since 1986
In the beginning there was the Rajneesh Newsletter – a few huge yellow-colored sheets with discourses by Osho and at times Yatri’s so endearing cartoons. The Sannyas Magazine was implemented toward the end of the Pune One era, to be followed up with the Rajneesh Times in Rajneeshpuram. This was to be a newspaper spreading only positive news, yet had to fold in the wake of the autumn 1985 demise. However, a few friends, Bhasha, Hina, Maitreyi and Bodhi, picked it up again calling it the Rajneesh Newspaper and managed to spread the word for a while longer. Remember, no internet in those days!
A future event began to unfold when Dhanyam and Avinasho met on the Ranch, in the summer of 1985. He was a bus driver and she a cleaner in Raidas. Avinasho says, “One day I got on his bus, we hugged, and that was how it all began! We left the Ranch separately as he wanted to visit his family in New York, but in December 1985 we met up in Laguna Beach where we lived for two months. In the spring of 1986 we moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area and took over the Rajneesh Viha Meditation Center, which so far had existed pretty much on paper only.”
One of the first things they embarked on was to publish the Viha – New Monthly Newsletter exactly for March 21st 1986, Osho’s Enlightenment Day, with the help of several sannyasin friends: It consisted of two pages on pink paper. One of the sentences on this historical newsletter reads: “We, folks at Viha, want to keep the newsletter as alive and dynamic as our community.” And this they have done for sure during the last two-and-a-half decades! They’ve come a long way from the 2 photocopied pages to a digitally printed 36 pages, 4 of them in color. Not only that, recently there’s an electronic version available too.
The Viha Connection, as it is now known, has for all this time connected sannyasins throughout our worldwide caravanserai with information, discourse selections and gossip; for their Special Section, sannyasins from all over the globe contribute their experiences and insights. Lately, the obituary page has become more crowded, but then we do celebrate everything!
Avinasho says that “Over the 25 years of its existence, many people have helped to put the Viha Connection together. We have had different editors: Duripor, Sono, Asana, and Sagar in the very early years, but Nartana, Prartho, Suvarna, and Sangeet have been the main ones. We have had only one designer, our multi-talented Shanti Poona, who always goes the extra mile to make the magazine look great. The editorial board, which advises the editors, has seen its share of changes too. Currently the members are Aneesha, Anila, Harideva, Nirman, Prembandhu, and Yogena.
“Every issue starts out with a meeting of the editorial board. These meetings are always great fun. We meditate together, chat, gossip, snack, and toss around ideas for a topic for the Special Section. We finally come up with a subject, discuss what we want to ask our writers, and whom to invite. The literary editor then sends me a draft for the invitation, with Osho quotes, and we ask the board members for their input. After we are all in agreement, I send out the invitations to our writers.
“Apart from the Special Section there are our regular features, like Bhagawati’s and Dhanyam’s gossipy articles and Deepak’s Astrology column. When, for whatever reason, one of those does not appear in an issue we get calls and emails from upset readers who want to make sure that the column will be back in the next issue.
“Other articles tend to just kind of happen. I sometimes start worrying that we wouldn’t have enough material to fill the magazine, but then a review of a new book by a sannyasin arrives, or someone sends an email about an experience he or she has just had and I see a great article in the making, or another person tells us about a friend with an amazing therapeutic approach.
“Even after more than two decades I still love every stage of putting the magazine together, and every time a new issue arrives from the printer I am really excited. These days we mail to about 35 countries worldwide, and I want to say a special thank you to our ‘mailing angels’ who help us keep the overseas mailing cost down: Abhilasha in the Netherlands, Khabira in Germany, Shelley in the UK, Bhagawati in Bali, Shahido in Australia, Sandesh in New Zealand, and Naina and Chinmaya in India.”
The publication of the Viha Connection depends on annual subscriptions and advertising (the rates are very low). “Sannyasins like to share everything, and unfortunately that also goes for subscriptions,” says Dhanyam. So he has for years subsidized the magazine with his own money. “The magazine is our pride and joy,” adds Avinasho. “You could say that we feel about it like parents of an adolescent: We would love for it to be financially self-sufficient, but if that doesn’t happen, then we will of course continue to support it. It is really a wonderful way for us to express our love for Osho and give others the chance to express theirs.
“From the many little notes we receive when people renew their subscription, we know how important the VC is to many lovers of Osho, especially those who live far away from other sannyasins and for whom the magazine often is their only connection to Osho. Sometimes it’s just a sentence like ‘Devoured every page of the last issue,’ or ‘Read it cover to cover every time,’ but we also get many longer letters, for example from the prisoners we give free subscriptions to (one of them on death row in Alabama), in which readers express their gratitude and appreciation.”
So yes, Viha Connection is going strong and as a paper magazine unique with its diverse approach, bringing much enjoyment every two months.
Bhagawati for Osho News