Marching Orders


Vandana shares what Osho taught her about relationships

Hold on, hold on, my brother
My sister hold on tight
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of My Secret Life.

(Leonard Cohen)

I came to Pune from London in late 1974, still smarting after a lonely and unpleasant liaison with a man I’d met in Spain early that year.

After two years in therapy and groups in the USA and Spain I was feeling centered and strong – ‘in my power’ as we used to say. Towards the end of a 6-month residential group in a growth centre on the Costa del Sol a therapist called Poonam visited from London, introducing a meditation technique of her Indian teacher called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I was deeply affected by this, particularly struck by his voice guiding the meditation, yet strongly resistant to the idea of an Indian guru, particularly one who gave his devotees new names and asked them to wear orange clothes with his picture on a string round their necks. This was not for me – or at least not yet!

After the group wound up I moved into the local village to look after a restaurateur’s apartment while he was away in England and briefly connected with an Englishman who’d been in the 6-month group – a sudden connection which took me by surprise in its heart intensity. Within the same few days a New York Jewish therapist flew in from London for a few days R&R at the Finca.

Norman was one of those men who pursues whatever he wants with aggressive intensity and for some reason he zeroed in on me – I later realised his attraction was because I was drawn to someone else and in subsequent years in Pune observed him enact the same pursuit and seduction strategies to possess and conquer a series of strong ashram women who were ‘otherwise engaged’.

Norman asked me to give him just 4 days of my time, the length of his stay in Spain, and I could find no way to refuse this request. So during 4 days spent talking and drinking wine in cafes, lying on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean, he asked me to move to London where he was setting up practice as a Rolfer (a system of intense body realignment via deep manipulation – perfect for Norman who once admitted that he enjoyed hurting people). Over the years I have frequently wondered how I got into that situation because I was scarcely attracted to this man and felt no heart connection, yet he was determined that I become his ‘lady’. I left Spain ill at ease and full of sadness.

When I told the ‘other man’ I’d so recently met, he said not a word and just smiled – a smile forever etched in my memory.

The Raging Rolfer was staying with wealthy young Jewish millionaires at their Mill Hill estate. The wife was a therapy group devotee conducting an affair with a younger group leader. The husband was a stressed out banker who’d made his first million by the age of 30 and they had produced 3 sad and sickly children. Norman did not want me to get a job because I was to ‘support him’ in his work. At this stage I had no income so was dependant on him and he was not a generous person. I remember the millionaires loaning me bus fares to visit their dentist. We stayed in their guest cottage for what seemed an eternity but was probably 6 weeks during which time I lost all the confidence and centredness acquired in the previous two years of therapy. I began drinking heavily and would creep down into the cottage basement to sleep apart from Norman who became increasingly cruel and critical as my insecurity intensified.

Finally he returned to the USA and I was invited to move into the millionaires’ mansion as a nanny to their kids and confidante to each of them in their various affairs. I found some additional work cooking for London therapy groups and inevitably heard more of the Indian guru who’d already taken my heart despite my objections.

The relationship with Norman broke down my resistance; my confidence and sense of self was decimated and by the time I wrote for sannyas I felt emptied out of whoever I thought I’d become. This is the state in which I came to Poona, insecure and vulnerable.

When Norman heard I’d taken sannyas he was appalled, calling it ‘sunshit’ and after I’d been in Pune a few months announced he was coming to rescue and deprogram me. By the time he arrived I was already strongly committed as a sannyasin and in love with Osho whom I asked for advice about this relationship. He said to be sure to maintain my own life, work and space and not try to be with this or any man full time because it would be a disaster. My Osho devotion so infuriated Norman that one day he hit me in the face, returning to the room a few minutes later complaining he’d hurt his hand. Thus ended the liaison.

Osho gave him sannyas with the name Prageet, saying the name meant ‘Small Song’ – emphasising ‘a very small song’. Once Prageet asked to work in the ashram gardens and Osho implied during a discourse that he would not put such a violent person anywhere near his plants.

Relationship was one of the ways Osho worked closely with his devotees and while having my share of affairs I was always most at ease and connected when alone and immersed in work and meditation. Osho’s bodyguard Shiva the Womaniser was a buddy with whom I enjoyed laughing and joking and who lived up the corridor in Krishna House. To my horror one night two of Osho’s mediums – Astha and Sarita – came giggling out of Lao Tzu House darshan to tell me that I had been ‘chosen’. Apparently Shiva, tiring of his endless one-nighters, had given Osho a list of potential consorts and the master had picked me. In shocked surrender I moved into a 3-day marriage. Sheela crowed with delight and tried to take my room away, saying married couples should live together. Shiva and I quickly parted with relief, though our previous friendship never regained its teenage innocence.

Sometime later a young English sannyasin, Dheerendra arrived in Pune with his Dutch girlfriend Leela. Happily immersed in ashram work and routine I was enjoying a cup of tea in Vrindavan one day when Dheerendra approached me, saying he was strongly attracted and wanted to spend time with me. Surprised, even stunned, I entered an affair of a few months’ duration with this man described by Laxmi as ‘the wild horse’ while Leela had a good cry in Amitabh’s group. During that time I had the sense that I would never again experience such explosive chemistry and intensity of attraction and repulsion – all of which was mutual, though he reacted more than I did.

Friends and fellow ashramites were concerned by my association with D, who was almost ‘rough trade’ and not greatly surrendered to the master. Confused by what I perceived as Osho’s encouragement, I twice booked a darshan with Dheerendra. The first time Osho was in smiling genial mode and seemed to bless our crazy relationship which I was deep down hoping he would say to drop. The second darshan followed one of several occasions in which D had lost his temper and hit me, infuriated by my talkative personality. This time was totally different. Osho asked D what happened and when he said my talking drove him crazy, Osho said sternly, “You may not hit her body.”

The next day D was told to go back to England and I lay on my bed in Krishna House and howled over my attachment to this beautiful crazy boy. I never saw him again though he later wrote to me saying that for two years he had been unable to be with any other woman.

This experience gave me much insight into ‘battered women’ and how they endure violence in relationships. I was a devoted ashramite yet became involved with a man who disliked me, resented being overwhelmed by his attraction, and exploded in physical violence, at times hitting me on the head so that other ashram residents could hear the noise through the walls. I had no resistance to this violence, no opinion as to its being good or bad. All I could say was “This is what’s happening.”

Osho jolted me awake from that state of trance with his stern darshan admonition to Dheerendra and never again did I tolerate violence.

After recovering from the Dheerendra Dalliance I ventured a darshan question to Osho about relationships and my spiritual path:

“Osho, I see you working with men and women, and have at times felt guided by you into relationships yet when they end I always feel quite glad. I am confused about this.”

My master’s reply differed from his earlier words of smiling encouragement. Looking into me with those orbs of endless darkness he said, “You are not the kind to be in a couple. You are more wild. Once in a while when you get too much crazy, be with someone. And then say goodbye – with gratitude.” (Gratitude is the meaning of my name, Vandana...)

I was at this time just 30 years old and here was my master telling me that I would never have a mate or life partner. While partly devastated, I was also exhilarated, recognising the truth in what he said to me and comprehending why I always felt restricted, even claustrophobic, in relationship and relieved when, after intense time together, a beloved would leave me to my own space.

At the time I described Osho’s words as my ‘Marching Orders’. I never asked another darshan question; there was no need after being given the gift of such a complete and final answer.

Looking back, I do not consider these to be ‘bad’ relationships at all. They were pivotal in my inner growth and Osho encouraged me to go all the way to the point where these deep old patterns could be broken. To me, no experience is bad or negative and I certainly do not see myself as a ‘victim’ in any way. While I can see how my father’s violent and dominating behaviour contributed to low self esteem and compliance with controlling men, all this seems now rather boring and old-time ‘psychological’ as I long ago moved on.

Vandana for Osho News

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