An excerpt from Subhuti’s My Dance with a Madman: Tales by a British journalist about his life with a controversial Indian mystic
I’d never seen a dead body until I walked into Bhagwan’s ashram. Within three days of my arrival, a beautiful 27 year-old young woman had ‘left her body’ –as the saying goes – in a nearby hospital, dying from some kind of breathing complication.
The next thing I knew, her body was lying in the ashram’s meditation hall and scores of orange-robed sannyasins were dancing around her as if this was some kind of party. I was also dancing, but in a state of shock. It was hard enough to absorb the fact that I was in the presence of death, let alone celebrate the occasion, as Bhagwan had invited us to do.
“This is all phony,” I thought, closing my eyes to avoid comparing myself with the ecstatic-looking people around me.
Bang! Next moment, my head had collided with another head. I abruptly opened my eyes to see another bald-headed intellectual, this one from Germany, looking at me with the same astonishment as I was looking at him.
I knew, immediately, that he was in the same space as me. We were both caught up in our mental judgments about what was happening around us, going through the motions of dancing but completely disconnected from the celebration. At the same moment, on some esoteric plane of existence, I could distinctly hear Bhagwan laughing at the pair of us.
Had he knocked our heads together? I tried to dismiss it as nonsense, but, looking back on those early Pune years, I can’t begin to recall the number of times this happened to me. The timing was uncanny. I would be in some cynical, negative mental space – so very familiar to me as a political journalist – and then… thump! I’d suddenly hit my head on something.
This was particularly frequent in rickshaws, those small, noisy, two-stroke taxicabs that zip around the crowded streets of Indian cities. Think of a motorbike with a double-wide passenger seat, covered with a plastic hood, and you’ve got it.
The rickshaw’s plastic hood was held up by a frame of two steel bars and, time after time, I’d be in some negative space, mentally bitching away at Bhagwan, or some aspect of his ashram, and… bump! My head would knock against one of these bars, which were inches above my head in the passenger seat.
One day, I thought I’d foiled him. I was travelling in a rickshaw, realized I was in a cynical mood and deliberately slid down in the seat. “Ha,ha!” I chuckled, looking up at the steel bars. “You don’t get me this time!”
At that moment, a local Indian mother and child, who’d been walking hand-in-hand on our side of the road, decided, for no apparent reason, to cross the road without looking behind them.
My rickshaw driver swerved to the right in order go around them – the road was no more than a narrow track – but they also kept moving to the right, so he had to go off the road. The grass verge was soft and the wheels sank in. In slow motion, the rickshaw keeled over on its side and lay there.
I climbed out. The rickshaw driver was distraught. “Ayeee, I am unlucky!” he wailed.
I smiled, dug into my pocket and gave him whatever cash I had for repairs. “No, don’t worry, you have good luck,” I assured him. “It’s my bad luck to have a spiritual master with a weird sense of humour.”
Next morning, in discourse, Bhagwan was talking about Moses and the burning bush, which was covered in flames and yet not consumed. He chuckled, dismissing it as an old-fashioned magical trick. “God doesn’t do that anymore,” he added.
Right. But Indian gurus probably do.
By the way, maybe I should explain: the name of the game around Bhagwan wasn’t to replace negative thinking with positive thinking. He had no time for such ‘cheap American philosophy.’ So it wouldn’t have made any difference if I’d gone around thinking ‘Bhagwan is wonderful.’ Most probably, I’d have gotten my head knocked just the same.
The read deal is to become free of the mind; to free oneself from the habit of thinking itself, ‘good’ thoughts and ‘bad’ thoughts included. And how do you do that? By obeying the three laws of spiritual growth:
Anand Subhuti worked as political correspondent for ‘The Birmingham Post’, being a constant presence in the chambers of the House of Commons in London. He took sannyas in 1976 and lived at the ashram, in Rajneeshpuram and then again in Pune until Osho left his body. He mainly lives in Europe yet visits India every year, the country he loves.
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