Enjoying the Festival

Remembering Here&Now

Part 2 of Roshani’s visit to the Ranch during the Second World Celebration

While Others Do the Work…

The work that it takes to make all run smoothly is amazing. The permanent residents we know have alternate jobs or several jobs—Vatula, the tax lawyer, makes ‘taxi’ runs to Madras, etc. and helps with parking. Niren, even though he is the attorney working on the INS rebuttal case, is seen putting shoes in bags at the shoe check stand before morning satsang and accompanying TV crews in the afternoon. Veena coordinates Mirdad all day, assigning Twinkies to reporters, answering a million odd questions, and serves in the biergarten at night.

Rajan, who helps with cooking and serving at Sheela’s, changes assignments to take up his former profession as a talented hairdresser at Chiyono. Our waiter in the restaurant confesses that he normally is pounding nails in buildings. Wadud, the planner, and many, many others act as reserve Peace Officers, patrolling the tent areas and streets around the clock, although I wonder why—everything here is so peaceful, so non-violent. Amazingly, I don’t even hear a loud argument, much less hear of physical violence among the 15,000 people here.

It’s not just the permanent residents who make the festival work though—calls for volunteers yield hundreds who do a bit or a lot of work each day—cooking, serving, clerking, cleaning toilets and showers, picking and washing vegetables, making change. It seems that by far the largest group of volunteers is German. With all the dust and dirt, everything is amazingly clean. Floors are scrubbed often, as are showers, sinks, etc. Trash cans are everywhere and emptied frequently, as are red-painted coffee cans with sand for cigarettes. Each tent even has a cigarette can and waste basket, which workers empty daily. What is even more amazing—the 15,000 leave not a single piece of litter anywhere, ‘bus’ their own dishes (carefully separating trash, compost and silverware), smokers put butts in the designated cans or their pockets.

One of the most amazing operations is the cafeteria, where one stands in line never longer than ten minutes at the food serving tables or coffee-tea-water stations. And the meals are delicious—homemade breads of all kinds, including heart shaped bagels by the thousands on Master’s Day—fabulous salads with lettuce, tomato, spinach, sunflower sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, carrots and occasionally raisins and pineapple, and always complete with choice of dressing, soy bacon bits, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise. Lunch always includes a delicious homemade soup, different every day. The main course at dinner is spaghetti or some variation of tofu and sauce, always with a vegetable or two, again different every day, and fruit–bananas, peaches, oranges apples, cantaloupe, cherries, green grapes, and strawberries with ice cream on Master’s Day. There are varieties of breakfast cereal, orange juice, yogurt, homemade cheese—the list of tasty food goes on and on.

A Typical Day goes something like this

Up at 5:00 or 6:00am—due to the sun, fresh air, movement of busses or airplanes, or the rather noisy Indians in the tent nearby. A trip to the toilet and shower—sometimes a wait, but never very long. A walk or bus ride to the cafeteria area or a nearby snack bar for coffee and a bit to eat. Back to Buddha Hall where thousands are quietly checking in their shoes and filing in for Satsang. More of Satsang later. Afterwards, sannyas initiation followed by Dynamic Meditation for some. Coffee and a stroll through the city and shops for others.

Recreation—hiking, bicycling (on rentals), jeep tours across country or airplane tours (for a price), bus tours (for free), swimming, boating, sunning, horseback riding for others. Work or chats with friends for yet others. Lunch from 12:00-1:30pm or perhaps jazzercize, then find a place in line on the road for Bhagwan’s drive by. 2:30-6:00pm an audiotape of Bhagwan’s discourses, followed by Nadabrahma and Kundalini meditations in Buddha Hall or a variation on the morning’s ‘free time’ activities. 6:00-7:30pm dinner, and 8:00-9:30pm entertainment—music groups and bands in Buddha Hall or a trip to the disco or biergarten. 9:30-10:00pm a video of Bhagwan in Buddha Hall, and, for us, snuggling in a sleeping bag by 10:30pm. Lots to do or nothing to do depending upon one’s proclivities! Some have even signed up to do encounter groups, laughing meditation, body work, or therapy sessions of one sort or another.

My First Satsang

I’m a ‘night person’, not given to rising at dawn to stand in the cold for the privilege of sitting on even colder, hard linoleum in an open air hall for an hour’s meditation. But “What a perfect way to begin each day,” is my reaction after my first satsang. Seated by 7:45am, we listen to soothing music and announcements delivered in a soft, caressing, male, British accent—later I find out that this is Devaraj, Bhagwan’s physician. The voice tells us of special meetings during the day, asks those taking sannyas to gather near the music area, reminds us that noise during the silent periods is disturbing to the meditation of others. This latter seems unnecessary as all are quiet and reverent, except for the coughs of those who’ve caught cold from sleeping in the tents and the changeable weather.

At 8:20am or so, as the music becomes livelier, a white Rolls Royce starts up the drive, Sheela at the wheel, Bhagwan and Vivek in the back seat. Sannyasins are seated close around the platform onto which Bhagwan’s armchair is now carried and over which Harry Hawkins, the primary peacekeeper on the Ranch and a non-sannyasin, stands guard. Those closest to the front stay seated, coveting the front row places which they rose before 5:00am to claim. Others at the sides and back of the hall gather three or four deep at the edges for a glimpse of the Master as his car drives very slowly completely around the building.

All hold their hands, palms together, tips of fingers just at their chins in Namaste—an Indian greeting, a sannyasin sign of reverence and respect. The car draws up to a covered door, Bhagwan alights, passes through the entrance corridor and emerges on the platform in a resplendent robe with flowing sleeves to the delighted sounds of the sannyasins. He extends Namaste all around the hall and seats himself—all follow suit. A moment of silence. Gachchhamis (a sort of chant) follow—a woman sings in Hindi, “I go to the feet of the Awakened One.” The soft, male, British voice translates—the woman repeats—the entire assemblage repeats with a surprising fullness and resonance.

All follow the same pattern with the next two phrases—“I go to the feet of the Commune of the Awakened One.” “I go to the feel of the Ultimate Truth of the Awakened One.” A period of silence. I find myself, cross-legged, closing my eyes, going deep into myself, instead of straining to see Bhagwan as I’d imagined I’d do. It really doesn’t matter how far away I sit, how poor my eyesight is—for this is a time to contemplate my inner being, not Bhagwan. Next, a lovely piece of music is played, original and different on each of the seven days. Then the soft voice reads from Nirvana the Last Nightmare. Each day, the message seems so appropriate to concerns Ted and I had discussed the day before—each message seems to speak to others in special ways too, I later discover. Then silence—and a humming arises—a great humming by all pours out for ten minutes as musical notes form a backdrop. All fades into silence. Another reading. More music—some sannyasins rise to dance.

Others, myself included, sway to and fro while seated. Some weave delicately graceful patterns in the air with lithe arms and wrists and fingers. Silence. Gachchhamis. Lively music. Almost all stand to dance and sway and clap. Bhagwan stands, sannyasins cheer. He raises his arms to the beat of the music, conducting his sannyasin choir! All is joy. Namastes all around as he recedes, enfolded back into the Rolls for another tour around the building to gaze into the happy faces of sannyasins still swaying to the music. How fast time goes! How quickly the physical discomfort melts into joy. Afterwards, people are laughing, crying, dancing, hugging. But they are not full of noise or hysteria. Everything is incredibly peaceful. Any talking is in soft whispers, the look in most eyes is a deep serenity. 15,000 stream from the hall in a gentle flow. Everyone has been touched by a reverent happiness. What beautiful way to start the day!

Notes taken during the Festival by Roshani
Credit for the photos goes to the Rajneeshpuram Residents FB page

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