Madhuri’s adventures while working, worshipping and playing in the Buddhafield
Like most of us, I did many types of work in my decades in the Commune – everything from toilet cleaner to group leader, with a wide assortment in between. With very few exceptions, though, I did not really ‘get’ work. I was crazy for love and I loved meditating, and work was a sore toe to me. Probably I was wildly missing some essential point; but there it was. I was boy-mad, and all else was filler.
A quick list of the exceptions: I loved coordinating the Newsletter Office in Poona 1 – all that organizing of files and being happily nice to employees suited my tidy, mostly-benign nature. I loved making donuts at the Ranch – all that romance of rising at 3 a.m. and running down the valley to the little house in the center of town, where nobody bothered me as I mixed and fried and experimented and cleaned, waxing the lino floor again and again until it was glossy and smooth. I loved being the amnesty person for lapsed visas at the end of Poona 1 – great opps for flirting! I liked the Foundation Crew at the Ranch, standing in a four-foot-deep hole gossiping like mad with the girl one hole over! And I loved working in the post office in Poona 2 for the flirting, and for the romance of letters and packages from all over the world passing through my hands. And then… when finally I began to give sessions and lead groups, I was in pig heaven, wallowing about in my own intuition and creativity night and day. That was the cream, the frosting, the flowers and berries and feasts.
But along the way there were a few instances when I was doing some job or other, and really goofed it up (or not), and some mom or other would whisk me out of there. As I look back I see there were quite a lot of these! Hmmm!
Just for fun, here they are:
#1: My first job in Poona, in late ’74, was cleaning most of the bathrooms in Lao Tzu (not His) and mopping and polishing the downstairs red tile corridor. I had no cleaning experience to speak of, since my mother didn’t clean (“It was like sweeping back the tides,” she’d said, “So I quit.”) As a teenager I had sometimes deep-cleaned some young man’s desperately grungy apartment while he was not at home, as a surprise; strangely, this had seldom been appreciated, since, he would tell me, I had thus reminded him of his mother. So cleaning as an art was new to me, and I had much to learn.
So now I somehow managed to get a great deal of water all over Laxmi’s floor, soaking her bathmat, and her bathroom was promptly cut from my list of duties! So that was Firing #1. (I continued to clean the others for another year and a half.)
#2: I worked as coordinator of the newsletter subscription department for three joyful years. I was sent in to clean up a woeful disarray, and did so well as a mini-boss and mess-clearer that I was installed as in-charge. I just loved all that fiddly filing, and the deciphering of funky-looking letters from all over India asking for subscriptions. Vidya was my boss and she told me I had a reputation for never making a mistake. But that was all to change….One fine day she called me to her room in Krishna House, and her usual complicated smile was missing. She picked up a huge canvas bag, opened a drawstring at the top, and tipped it upside down. Out spilled a large pile of newsletters. She picked one up and showed it to me. Interesting…label totally blank! Postage cancelled! She showed me another – and another. All the same! I had somehow managed to send an entire mailing off without addresses!
I found this so hilarious that I reared up and began to howl with laughter! Not so Vidya! She did not find it funny at all! So I was demoted to a mere employee, and Irish Mukta took over as boss – and a calm and considerate one she was too. The newsletter office stayed a fun place to work, though I felt a bit crestfallen.
#3: When Osho began giving energy darshans with mediums and flashing lights, I was honored to be called as a medium on the first night. Vivek gave us a few careful instructions, then turned us loose to do the best we could. For some reason, what happened to me during the festivities was that a lot of high-pitched ululating yelps came out of me, like a witch-dog dashing up and down hills chasing the moon. The rippling cries went on and on, never tiring, throughout the darshan. I had my own doubts about them, but it was what was happening! I was not invited back. (Though I did get asked to hold people’s shoulders/heads etc. when I was at later darshans anyway.).
#4: At the Ranch I was drafted early on to clean up the all-male Edison small equipment repair department, as I had the newsletter office before it. I did a stellar job. (Having been raised in a dump to which an eggbeater had been applied, all looming with clueless males, had perhaps prepared me somewhat for the task; though the Edison assignment also began my long and continuing rebellion against cleaning up stuff where I had not made the mess in the first place! These jobs are very easy to find, very difficult to avoid.) Anyway, Deva and I had fun – he was co-coordinator – gossiping and playing country-western music as well as overseeing the doctoring of toasters and so on; until he was sent elsewhere and the dreaded Julian was installed instead, and we moved from a trailer to a huge office in a warehousey building near RBG. Then things got sinister. The moms were amping up the power by then, paranoia was rising, Julian was slobbering in his smiley avuncular way over spy-ware catalogues in his secret chamber at the end of the hall, and I had to go to these awful coordinators’ meetings at Sheela’s where I’d hide behind the couch and we’d be told things like, “You can’t make personal calls on your office phones anymore.”
This hit me where I lived! I was accustomed to phoning Subuddha, my Untrue Love, my swain, my Elusive One, sometime during each morning (since I was waaay paranoid about him and all the things he got up to out of, or even in, my sight) and asking him, in code, something like, “We have a box that needs fixing, can you do it today?” and if the answer was “Yes,” we’d meet at lunchtime at a certain defunct school bus, down the road and behind a bunch of scrubby trees… So this new rule was really bad. I was supposed to go back and tell the department about the meeting. On that day I stood in front of everybody and said, “I really can’t tell you about this particular thing because I really don’t like it, so Julian will have to tell you.” That didn’t get me fired, somewhat to my surprise, but the next thing did: Vidya took me on a tour of windowless back rooms in Edison and showed me banks of the new computers that had just been put there. She said I was now in charge of them, and this would mean working until 2 a.m. every night. I gulped once or twice and then broke down in racking sobs. I thought of what Subuddha would be doing while I was imprisoned in those dry meaningless chambers. I wept uncontrollably for many, many hours – about forty-eight, I think. When I emerged I had been demoted, with disgusted looks, to laundry trailer laborer. I was ecstatic.
#5: Being a guard had its compensations – brownies, cinnamon rolls, listening to your hut-partner’s life story, and how he had once been camping in Canada and had a bear with bad breath roll on his tent with him in it. Being able to run the five or even ten miles to or from the hut – that was bliss. Once or twice something even sort of happened while one was on duty; for example, the snowy night when a very huge and feisty cat came scratching and scratching at the door, and when a bus came along in the morning he hopped it like a citizen and went to town.
But the uniform was hell – nasty puffy half-polyester culottes, and a shirt with cuffs, and when one quite naturally tried to improve on it with scarves, cute shoes, and unbuttoning stuffy shirt closings, one was apt to get snarked at by a passing boss-woman. But there was a certain adventure about the job, out in those frail little coops with the great wilderness outside. Who knew what sort of strange alien might drop out of the sky at the Top of the Ranch?
One day there was some ghastly meeting down at Jesus Grove all the guards had to go to. The night before I had had a really unaccustomed experience: Marcus the musician had taken me out to the bar and I’d drunk a deceptively fruit-juicy thing called a Tequila Sunrise. It was the most alcohol I’d ever had at one time (or still to this day.) We then had a night I don’t remember much of except that it was kind of dehydrated and in fact we didn’t really click. And yet, bizarrely, I fell in love with him (to my future sorrow.) Anyway, next day I felt kind of strange. The meeting was every bit as stupid and threatening as I had feared, and during it Su announced that if we were guarding at Top of the Ranch and a car was burning up near us we had to radio Su et al before going to attempt rescue. I stood up and said I would not do that, I would rescue the people first. I was told to see Su after the meeting.
Gah. So I did, and she informed me that I could not be trusted to look after my master, and so I had to leave the Ranch.
“That is not an option!” is what came, sternly, out of my mouth. “You might not have a choice!” she countered. We wrangled about it and eventually, days later (those days were bad) I was called back in and given a reprieve… after being told, not without affection, that I was a ‘perpetual teenager.’ But I was guard no more.
#6: Donutwallah. I loved making donuts! I could wear whatever I liked, nobody saw me, I was alone in that little house, the original ranch dwelling. I was deliciously autonomous! I could tempt Subuddha to come visit me there, with chocolate donuts. This went on for happy months. But then one sad morning a helper, who had been up on some night shift and was sent to help me clean, dropped the donut machine motor on its head on the floor and cracked it. The moms decided not to replace it. That was tragedy! And so donuts lost me (and their very existence) and I lost them, their obedient crawling up out of their oil sea and onto the metal-grille beach, where they lay until I fetched them up and put them in the queue for glazing… I was heartbroken. Out into the world again!
#7: Next I was ice-cream scooper, which was delightful – so much flirting, so many humongous top-heavy cones dispensed, until I got in trouble for that; and then I was, for one day, a waitress.
#8: The cigarette smoke in the restaurant made my face turn red and swell up. I complained humbly and was bitched at and sent to the bakery.
#9: It was late fall, the air was very dry, and in such climate my skin can split. My fingers were bleeding into the bread dough. The AIDS scare was going strong and when I showed the mom the pink-marbled effect she scowled and sent me to clean some kitchen machine instead. She didn’t like it – for I had managed to affect my own fate!
#10: And this job I lost before I had it: Vidya liked to confide in me, a thing I never could feel quite comfortable with. One day she told me she’d had a dream the night before… she’d been looking under her mattress for bus drivers! There weren’t enough bus drivers! An ominous feeling stole over me. And yes, soon I was being given driving lessons in preparation for driving buses!
Horror filled me: Visions of a long yellow bus full of freaked-out people sliding down an icy embankment. No!
No! Many, many lessons later (during which I really did try, sort of, though was it my fault if Subuddha might have been windsurfing on the lake and drawing my eye helplessly sideways?) the weary teacher said, “Some people are just not meant to do this.”
And then – they fired themselves! – All of them! Those short-haired, smirking, grumpy-dangerous shouldery she-bosses! They just pushed the Eject button and flew away!
Wunderbar! Fantastico! I literally jumped for joy when I heard, clapping my hands! All those nosy pesky women who (I was convinced) just had insufficient sex lives, had just vanished all by themselves! Nobody had to throw them out! How wise life is, thought I, if you don’t bother it, and instead just give it a chance!
Text by Madhuri