Part 5 of Roshani’s visit to the Ranch during the Second World Celebration
Friends Old and New
We spend lots of time ‘visiting’. On Monday afternoon we take a ‘tea break’ drive with South African Veena down to the river. She can’t stop being a Twinkie tour guide, even when taking a break. We chat with Wadud, the city planner, about 1000 Friends’ latest behind the scenes Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) maneuver to undermine the City of Rajneeshpuram. Neehar, the Australian in charge of things agricultural, feeds us sunflower sprouts straight from the garden and shows us an outhouse we can use when the toilet lines are too long. Later we talk with him and two other farm coordinators about an idea we have for an article on the real meaning of “Exclusive Farm Use land.” On the second floor of City Hall we discuss the festival, LCDC and the Legislature with American lawyer Sangeet. Mary Catherine, once quite prominent in Portland governmental affairs, fills us in on the latest word from Salem, as she is the ‘legislative watcher’. She looks particularly beautiful here—less harassed, well-cared for and ‘spruced up’. Part of the time she acts as a ‘public safety helper’.
We view videotapes of the news coverage of the Festival with Twinkie Rosalie, laughing and uttering sounds of disgust. It really is quite a lot better than last year’s coverage, though. Sunshine, another Twinkie, tells us of her latest adventures with a TV camera crew—disrobing to video the nude sunbathers at Patanjali Lake. A word with American Karuna, British Savita and Mayor Krishna Deva’s sister, Kavido, from Antelope as they run errands or act as public safety helpers as well. We marvel at Rama of the bookstore and tax attorney Vatula, both having quit smoking and lost weight. Vatula looks like a kid in a baseball cap as he makes his taxi runs and Rama, with an ascot, appears to be quite the professional bookstore manager. Mayor KD greets us on the street. He’s beaming with pride—not an ego pride—but a shared pride in the City and the celebration. British Subhuti of the Rajneesh Times I’ve mentioned already. Ah, then there’s American Samadhi. She’s been Thursday to help at the snack bar near Buddha Hall. That’s the place where a young kid yells, “Hot coffee, delicious rolls, cheap prices.” And an adult says, “Well, that last bit is false advertising!” And he’s right!
Lots of hugs and kisses and laughing. And talks with the graceful Sarita, young dancer turned Twinkie. She tells of her travels to India at age 17 and of coming with the first band of eight to the Ranch in August of 1981. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they arrived on the barren land that was to be an oasis, but they came to believe it could be transformed. They worked hard those first few months and still do!
We see a lot, learn a lot, including the meaning of red-orange beads on the malas of many. And we run into a former student of ours from ten years back. He’s not a sannyasin, but a graduate student in Monterey. He has sannyasin friends and wants to write a magazine piece. We buy him a beer, fill him in on background material. He seems shocked to find us, “of all people,” at the Ranch. Ah, how little students know about their professors. He’s a nice kid, bright but lazy, always a bit of a hippie. He’s dressed very sharply now, but some old habits die hard—he’s panhandling money so he can stay the whole week.
We also meet new friends. Among them is another author, for whom we’re asked to play Twinkie. We ask him about Rajneeshees in England. He says things are quiet around Medina, a beautiful country estate and center, except for the local vicar of a nearby village. Some things never change! But all seems a lot less controversial than here in Oregon. There are plans to open a new London center. Steve Knight is the author’s name—until Wednesday morning when he becomes Swami Puja Debal. “There goes the credibility of his book,” says Ted. Hard to tell. He’s published before, quite a lot in fact. We talk with him three or four times. Mostly he wants background material from us and from Kirk Braun, another author friend of ours. Funny, he didn’t take a single note. He’s a bit gawky; says his wife used to refer to him dancing as a “spastic spider,” or some such. Perhaps he’s attracted by the possibility of getting in touch with his body. But then, he’s also read a lot about eastern religion. Just a side note—his wife has gone off to become a Buddhist nun.
The Last Day
Visiting is over; the last day of the Festival arrives. No excuses to stay longer, I’m afraid. Errands run and car packed by late morning. Tearful hugs at Mirdad. A brief chat with Jayananda and Niren as we pay our respects before departing.
But lo and behold, a TV crew arrives from Bend, saying a caravan of anti-Rajneesh cars was to gather in Antelope for a drive through the City of Rajneeshpuram. They thought there might be some ‘fireworks’ to film. We decide to wait to see what happens. The convoy takes a long time. The phone rings. “Is it true that 2,100 Christian ladies are going to demonstrate at the nudist park in Antelope?” There is no nudist park in Antelope!
We decide to go to Antelope, but as soon as we do up comes a car bearing Sheela and Jay; they say the caravan is coming. We meet the parade we were warned of at the entrance to the Ranch, but it heads off to Mitchell—a convoy of pickups with rifles in the window and full of ‘rednecks’, men, women and children. A few unintelligible things are shouted from vehicle windows. Jay and Sheela follow the convoy. Two trucks are lost from the caravan and turn towards the Ranch. We decide to follow them back in and take pictures of the ‘fun’. By the time we arrive, the trucks have passed through the city without incident, the county road is being kept completely open and pedestrians are asked to cross only at street corners. The entire convoy doesn’t come into the heart of the Ranch, after all.
It’s almost time for Bhagwan’s drive by. I go for one last glimpse. Standing by the side of the road I overhear two middle-aged women talking. One, a nurse, has been asked to stay at the Ranch. Yes, she would—no family, her last patient, terminally ill, recently died, only a mobile home to dispose of. It’s interesting to note what she says about money—she’s expected to give it to the commune as a loan. If she decides to leave, she gets it back. I wonder if they’ll deduct room and board for the time of her stay. The other lady is not a sannyasin, has been ill and in the hospital part of the week. The two women had done an Encounter group together and talked about other members. The non-sannyasin spoke of how much she had learned about herself, how well the Ranch infirmary was run, how opposed her husband is to Rajneeshism (without having read any of Bhagwan’s books) and how much less modest she was now—taking showers in a large trailer with others was no longer a ‘big deal’ for her. Elsewhere, Ted talked to a young boy of fifteen, whose father had recently moved to the Ranch from Alaska, having sold all his worldly belongings. The poor kid was torn—and had obviously latched on to another guy, Ted, who was wearing blue and not red. The teen’s mother and brother are anti-Rajneesh. He wanted to be with his dad and expected to take sannyas in three or four days. But he knew little of Bhagwan’s teachings and even less about life at the Ranch than we do. He was clearly confused, Ted said, and a bit scared. What a shame.
The convoy didn’t come. But Bhagwan did! Was it all a plot to ensure that I could be there for one last drive by? Isn’t that the height of egotism? I am just grateful that the universe arranged for us to stay long enough to see Bhagwan. Afterwards, we walked slowly to the car for the drive to Salem.
And so ended the week. Even though I’m not sure I ever would or could live at Rajneeshpuram, it is always hard to leave. I love my home in Salem so much. I love my life, my work, my children and especially being with Ted. Why then do I get tears in my eyes and a tug at my heart when I leave the Ranch? Life is so interesting. I wonder what the next chapter will read like?
Notes taken during the Festival by Roshani
Credit for the photos goes to the Rajneeshpuram Residents FB page