The Device

Remembering Here&Now

Maneesha tells the story when Osho called her ‘serious’

From what I understand, a master does not deliberately set up situations in which to show us something about ourselves but simply allows us, or life itself, to provide an opportunity. But wait: the ‘enlightenment list’ at Rajneeshpuram was certainly a set-up, and what a terrific device that was! Whatever: it was certainly I who, during the Zen series, unwittingly set in motion one of the most painful devices I was to experience.

It happened thus: Well aware that I risked catching his cold, I went to visit Amrito who, staying outside Lao Tzu House (Osho’s residence, and where Amrito and I, among others, also lived) because of his infection, was confined to bed with a heavy cold. To understand the significance of that, bear in mind that Osho’s health was especially precarious in the ‘Pune 2’ period, and anyone with even a suspicion of having any infection was asked not to come into Buddha Hall. I knew that if I caught a cold I would be unable to go discourse. If that happened of course I’d not be able to do my much-loved work of reading the sutra to Osho and having my questions answered. Painful as it is to admit, I see that at some point I must have started taking Osho, and the enormous privilege given me, for granted. I was well due for a good wallop.


Some hours after visiting Amrito I did indeed detect what I thought was the start of a cold. Shunyo, looking after Osho at that time, conveyed my message to Osho that I was not well. A replacement would be needed. I inwardly cursed myself: this cold would mean at least one week’s absence from discourse. However, what was done was done and, that evening, while everyone else was in Buddha Hall with Osho, I watched the evening discourse from a monitor in the commune’s video department. Vimal, the sannyasin who usually took my place when needed, happened to be away and Anando, one of Osho’s secretaries, was sitting in my seat.

I watched as she read out the evening sutra: “Basui said, ‘Imagine a child sleeping next to its parents and dreaming it is being beaten or is painfully sick. The parents cannot help the child, no matter how much it suffers, for no one can enter the dreaming mind of another. If the child could awaken itself, it could be freed from this suffering automatically….”

“Basui is right,” Osho began, “but there are possibilities that the enlightened man can create devices for the unenlightened…. ” He paused, then continued, “By chance, Anando is here to read the sutras instead of serious Maneesha….”

With this, Osho leant forward in his chair, beaming, and began to make gestures of tickling Anando. She burst into squeals of laughter and the entire hall of sannyasins roared with mirth. I was speechless, numb with shock. Osho had called me ‘Serious Maneesha’! I am not serious, I silently protested. How could Osho say that? Any of my friends would tell him I have a great sense of humour. ‘My friends’? – they were among those now laughing. Laughing at my expense. How humiliating. How betrayed I felt. Simultaneously, I realized that Osho was deliberately hitting me, and that he had reminded us not so long ago that he only hits out of love. But wow: this was really hurting.

To me, being labeled ‘serious’ was seriously unfunny. Osho has often pointed out the distinction between being sincere and being serious. Where seriousness might be commendable in mainstream society and according to the Christian value system, he associates it with the ego. A sense of humour is a wonderful antidote to ego, possibly the greatest impediment to inner growth. I guess that’s part of the reason why so many of Osho’s discourses are laced with jokes. In addition, Osho himself clearly had, from childhood, a wicked sense of humour.

My feelings of hurt wrestled with the knowing that I ‘ought’ to be grateful. If I started feeling angry and resentment, I closed off to Osho. On the other hand, staying with the situation almost certainly meant accepting emotions I didn’t want to acknowledge. I had perhaps received more hits than any other disciple; I was a seasoned receiver-of-hits! But this particular one was challenging my ideas about love.

I’d had the notion, possibly cultivated because of an adoring father, that love only ever saw perfection, only ever approved and supported. With Osho I was experiencing a different dimension of love. His love had no investment in being appreciated, returned, or even recognized for what it was. He would not collapse in the face of my resentment. He had no need of my love. Unlike with my father – and, possibly, later on with lovers – I had no leverage with Osho; I could not manipulate him in any way. This was both a relief – to be checkmated, as it were, for once, being unable to charm my way out of a sticky situation – and terrifying: the only option was surrender.

Meanwhile, in discourse, things were going from funny to funnier (or from worse to worser, in my view) as Osho now turned to everyone else and began ‘tickling’ them too. The more laughter he provoked, the lonelier I felt. My humiliation grew in proportion to everyone else’s increasing hilarity. “Why isn’t someone standing up, protesting on my behalf: ‘Hey, what about Maneesha? She should be here. What if she is listening to this and thinking we don’t love her?” sobbed my shattered ego. But Osho was not done yet.

He continued “…The parents can do at least this much: they can tickle the child. No need to enter into his dreams, just wake him up. Existence manages so beautifully…that Maneesha is absent and, by chance, the right child is sleeping in front of me.”

Ouch! Pain on pain. Not only was I ‘serious Maneesha’ but existence itself had managed and ‘so beautifully’ in my not being present. And – to top it off – my substitute, Anando, was ‘the right child’. That, I reasoned, made me ‘wrong.’

The rest of that discourse was lost to me. I was a puddle of wounds, as shattered as I could ever recall being. Afterwards, my friends were surprised at how affected I was. But Nirvano – Osho’s longtime, past caretaker – asked me, “How did it feel, being called ‘serious’?” The receiver of her fair share of hits, she looked at me with affectionate curiosity. She recognized that in what he had said Osho had delivered me a hefty slap.

“Oh, I’m not going to prove Osho right by taking it seriously!” I laughed, and she chuckled approvingly. But that, in fact, was easier said that done….

Here is the next exciting installment: The Bursting of the Boil

Text by Maneesha

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

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