A Cathedral of Koans

On the Go

Gossip from Gupi in Pune about the new architectural developments at the Osho International Meditation Resort

No-one gossips like a sannyasin. As December progressed, there were rumours and there were tantalising glimpses. The anticipation was palpable.

When I arrived in Pune in November, I was shocked (not too strong a word) to find this noisy, dusty black hole in the middle of the Resort where I remember the Plaza used to be. All compounded by another black hole where the Meera Gate used to be. And the WAM offices were….. well, who knows where? Expecting a nice, quiet, smooth transition from the hubbub and grime of Bombay and North Main Road to the tranquil, green meditation of OIMR, I was deeply disturbed by the Scar, the invasion of that noisy, dusty India into my personal green, quiet space.

The Scar

One of the 'Scars'

new Meera Gate

The new Meera Gate - view across the road to the main gate

The new Multiverity Plaza at the Pune Osho Resort

The new Multiverity Plaza at the Pune Osho Resort

Being a Brit, my first instinct was to whinge. That meant finding someone to whinge with (empathy is a pre-requisite of a good whinge). But I must have been alone in not knowing that the Resort was undergoing heart surgery. None of my friends and co-whingers had come to Pune so I was left with that dreaded alternative, aloneness. And, oh no, meditation. After all, I told myself, I hadn’t really come as a sight-seer. Meditation had always been part of the tour.

Which set me off thinking about koans. And I learnt that the entrance to the Resort which countless sannyasins have passed through on their inward path for almost 40 years, the ‘Gateless Gate‘, is also the name of a 13th century collection of Zen koans. Maybe there’s a clue there, I thought.

Travelling 5000 miles to India to enjoy a cappuccino with friends in a non-existent cappuccino bar with friends who weren’t there is a pretty good koan. Osho, ever the thinly disguised Zen Master, will surely have left more of these awareness booby traps around for us to fall prey to. They may not have such catchy themes as “No Goose, No Bottle” but “No Cappuccino, No Friends” will suffice as a working title.

For a month, I would walk past the Scar, enquire about progress, note every visible change and occasionally take a guilty peep under the covers, like catching a glimpse of a shapely leg under the petticoats. What the tarpaulins could not hide was a stunning glass pyramid covering the Plaza itself. I learnt that there have now been almost thirty major building projects in the Resort in the last three years. I learnt that these lovely old art-deco buildings in Koregaon Park actually hide construction nightmares. I learnt that the glass for the new pyramid was specially imported from Japan and found out more than I ever wanted to know about the new sound and lighting systems.

Then, about a week ago, there was a change. We were being teased. Each day, the petticoats were lifted a little. We could see inside the new Multiversity offices, then the new, matt black facia rising above the magnificent black marble cladding ground floor walls. The Buddha statue in the new landscaped vista by Lao Tzu Gate. And plastic lining paper was peeled back to reveal matt aluminium and steel beams and columns. Computer screens appeared on streamlined black desks. Sleek black chairs were delivered. And snagging crews were working late into the night. Were the covers finally about to come off?

At last, it was Christmas Eve in Pune. And the Plaza was reborn. No bright stars, no shepherds. Not even a press release, no speeches, no grand opening. Just a disco and a showcase for the new sound and light systems which, it must be said, are truly and spectacularly world class.

But wait, did I glimpse the Three Wise Men hovering around the dance floor?

Ah, no. Just Sam, KP and Subhuti checking out the talent.

In the bright light of Christmas morning, the beauty and magnificence of the re-styled Plaza and Osho House complex become clear. Like the new Meera Gate, a mirror of the new Gateless Gate, and like the Osho Guest House and Basho before them, with its minimalist lines, stark contrasts and full spectrum of greys, the resurrected Plaza is an architectural masterpiece, a true monument to Zen.

Which brings me back to koans. Because, once you enter the Gateless Gate, koans are inescapable. So here’s my list of 10 modern koans to engage the minds of old sannyasins, my ‘Neo-Gateless Gate’ gleaned from the global sannyas scuttlebutt:

  1. Osho always emphasises the importance of the feminine, so why does the work of the Management Team seem to be predominantly masculine in flavour?
  2. If there are no annual celebrations because sannyas is not a religion, how is it that the Resort has more pyramids, one of the most potent religious symbols in the history of mankind, than almost any equivalent space in the world?
  3. Osho has attracted millions of rebels to him over the years, so why invest so much in trying to regulate the rebels?
  4. How can the integrity of Osho’s message be protected without resorting to fatwās against the very people who see themselves as Osho’s devotees?
  5. How can Osho’s vision be expressed by employing Sodexo Inc, a multinational corporation whose clients include Ministry of Defence garrisons (“Serving the wider Defence community”) and Prisons?
  6. With attendance at the Osho International Meditation Resort reputedly down to 10% of its hey day maximums, does a web presence, however diverse, lead only to ‘virtual enlightenment’ rather than meditators in the Osho Auditorium?
  7. If Osho has given guidance that his picture should appear on the front of all of his books, how did they disappear from not only the books, but any public place in the Resort?
  8. If there’s a wish to see more young people come to the Resort, why are they priced out of the market?
  9. In Uruguay in 1986, Osho first described the concept of a Meditation Resort. When he returned to India, the Osho Commune International grew up around him. How did it take some 14 years after he left the body before the experiment of the Commune was suddenly declared to be over?
  10. In short, why is Osho’s work in the world not being expressed the way I think it should be?

Of course, new visitors arriving at the Resort in Pune come with fresh eyes, see the beauty of its Zen architecture, its people and Osho’s silence, by-passing this maze of koans waiting to ensnare the minds of the unwary.

And the other night, sitting in the Osho auditorium, sinking into peaceful meditation, I heard Osho clearly give me my answer:

The moment you start thinking, “What is happening?” mind will come back. If you start analyzing, mind will come back. Whatever you do, except watching, mind will come back. That is the only enemy to be avoided, and watching is the only shelter in which the mind cannot enter. Your question is significant. One tends to think, “What is happening?” and analyze it. But one is unaware of the fact that in this effort of analyzing, finding explanations, mind has come back from the back door. By watching, we are trying to get free from mind. All other activities belong to the mind.

So you need only to watch, you need only to get as deep in watching as you can. Go deeper and deeper to such an extent that mind is left miles back, and only a pure witness is there. That is your pure gold, that is your buddha.

Osho, Rinzai: Master of the Irrational

And this is my task in this life. He entrusted his work out in the world to others; I was entrusted with his work within me: “You need only to watch, you need only to get as deep in watching as you can”. And all the neo-koans are simply there to help me with this impossible task.

So, as I hear Osho’s invitation to sit silently with him for a time before entering the debate, did I, like Maulingaputta 25 centuries before, just hear the distant sound of Mahakashyapa’s laughter?

In case you have forgotten the story of Maulingaputta and Mahakashyapa you can read it here…

GuptadanaGuptadana took sannyas in 1985, was a teacher and finance director of the Osho Ko Hsuan School and in the 90’s worked in various departments in the Commune in Pune. Back in the UK he co-created an Osho centre and premier holistic venue: Croydon Hall. Since its sale in 2009 he works with Bells Associates business consultancy and, with partner Shruti, is creating Fairfield House a venue and guest house for groups and wellness retreats, opening in 2012. FairfieldHouse.orggupi@thirdeyelimited.co.uk

© 2011 Sw Dhyan Guptadana/David Whittington (text and photo of the Scar)
© 2011 osho.com (remaining photos)

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