Part 2: Muni becomes an ashram photographer and meets Osho again ‘on the job’
I had the good fortune to take photos of Osho on other occasions, but one of the most memorable sessions was a few years later, again on that podium where the Rolls is standing now. That magical place from where you enter into his house towards the samadhi, the wonderful room where his ashes are kept – now that he is no more in his body.
During those days in Pune Two I was the in-house reporter for the ashram: I took photos which were then given to local newspapers but also to the Osho Times Magazine which was published in many languages.
It was a very fascinating job, I had great fun. There were musical events attended by great artistswho were honored to play at Osho’s ashram, the likes of Hariprasad –said to be the best flute player in the world – or Zakir Hussain – a genius on the tablas who has performed all over the world.
My job was to take photographs of these events and the performers and then rush to the darkroom so that the prints could be given to the media as quickly as possible. When an important person arrived I knew that I would get a phone call from Keerti, the director of the Indian Osho Times. He always wanted the photos in a rush to distribute them to the Indian newspapers immediately.
I was also part of the photo department where several very good photographers of various nationalities were working, but, in reality, I was quite free to do what I wanted, I was a bit of a maverick.
I must say that just to work in the ashram was such a buzz: it was like being in a playground with thousands of friends to play with. But it was also an intense experience with relationships, so much so that it was like being in an ongoing therapy group. Everything came to light, from your conditionings to your weak points – you could not hide – because the magic of the place always gave you what you needed to hear; it acted like a mirror.
For example, we had a department coordinator (all departments were led by women by express will of Osho) and I was terrorised by my coordinator, a beautiful Swiss German woman. Not that she did anything to scare me, but she had a very dry and cold way of saying things – on the other hand I was always afraid of powerful women anyway. In fact, my mother was quite something…!
One morning she came up to me totally nonchalant and told me that in the evening I would have a photo session with Osho. In those days that was quite a rare occasion; Osho had begun to retreat more and more and it was really an honour for me to be chosen. For the first time I loved my coordinator and I gave her a very long hug.
I started to work frenetically; I met up with Mukta who was the Zen gardener of Osho’s jungle, and she gave me some beautiful rose bushes. The photos were going to be taken by me and by avery tall American girl. It took us the whole day to experiment with the lights, because they were not meant to shine into Osho’s eyes yet we still needed enough illumination for the scene. Then I remembered that in that very same place, many many years before, the lights had gone out – but now I knew we had generators for such occasions.
The evening approached and I got there full of nerves. Everything was ready, to manic perfection. From nearby Buddha Hall came the sounds of the first song and we entered the enchanted castle, wow… it was rocking!
Osho’s driver was there standing next to the car. . The guests of honor were Videha, an Italian disciple who has published dozens of Osho’s books in Italy, and Veeresh, a therapist who runs a therapy centre in the Netherlands and has helped a lot of people come out of their drug addiction.
When I arrived Veeresh was rolling over the bonnet of the car. He was beside himself and in the grip of a mixture of panic and excitement, so much so that Videha told him that he should go first because he was morecourageous. My mind commented: “Look at the great therapist Veeresh, rolling all over the car full of fear” – my mind is a bastard sometimes! On the other hand I was really grateful to Veeresh for having shown that he is humane.
A few more minutes and I was ready with a nice automatic Nikon, keeping one eye on the American girl who, in turn, graced me with one glance… and then suddenly Anando, Osho’s secretary piped up “He’s coming, he’s coming.”
And there was light – everything stopped, even our nervousness… how beautiful… Osho greeted everybody present in namaste, with folded hands in front of his face, as it is done in India. There was enough for everybody, a big smile, and there was peace in all hearts.
Veeresh was called up first and they greeted each other, shaking hands. It appeared as if Osho was x-raying him, or did something only gurus know how to, so much so that Veeresh burst into tears in a beautiful way – not out of pain but coming from the heart, like a deep emotional meeting with the divine.
Osho asked Veeresh about his health, but he waved the issue saying that his health was not an issue, rather it was Osho’s which was important and here we saw again the disciple at heart. After that he came down the three steps, moved towards us still shaken up and disappeared – and I did not see him for the rest of the evening.
Then it was Videha’s turn. As I said, there were three steps between us and Osho and Videha did something which he had always wanted to do: to prostrate himself and touch Osho’s feet, something which is an old mystical tradition. And this he did… he lay down on the steps. Osho smiled and held his hand over his head. Also this was a wonderful moment. But Videha had no intention of standing up again too soon, so much so that Osho, almost chuckling, said to him: “Come back. Now you have done it!” Maybe he knew that Videha had this great wish to make this devotional gesture. He came back from this ecstatic moment and they exchanged a few words with each other.
Osho walked towards the car and us and in that moment I dared to call out to him – I was at about a metre away – and he looked at me while I asked: “Could you smile?” He consented and gave me a beautiful smile, the camera shooting like a charm.
All this took maybe ten minutes but it seemed to me that hours had passed from the beginning
I will relate what comes next in the present tense because it sounds more truthful:
The car leaves, we drop all our gear right there and follow the car on foot. We reach the gate of Osho’s residence and from there we can see the enormous hall where thousands of disciples are celebrating, dancing and singing. The open hall is brightly lit in deep contrast to where we are walking, almost in the dark. We stop on the path and see this delicate man get out of the car, enter the hall, greet everybody with a namaste and sit down. At this point we all run, someone shows me my seat, and I sit down in a space of silence and love.
For a few weeks I keep this space within me, until it slowly, slowly fades away.
It was nothing more than a meeting of old friends, but when there is the presence of a master, baser metal turns – into gold.
Note: I remember a beautiful anecdote which Osho told us about Ramakrishna’s life where Ramakrishna kisses a photo of his own image. When asked why he did that he replied that he was not kissing his image but that he was paying his respects to the state of enlightenment (read excerpt here). For me, and I think for many of Osho’s disciples, to see his image in a photo or in a video brings us into a space of ‘remembering who we are’. I think that this is the reason why Osho had all these photos and videos taken of himself before he left his body – and I am grateful he did that.
Muni received his mala from Punya in Milan and his sannyas name from Osho on his first visit to Pune in 1975. He has been a photographer all his life, working as a commercial and artistic photographer. In the commune he worked for Osho Times and was lucky to be able to take photographs of Osho several times. Nowadays he lives in an old Tuscan village surrounded by beautiful forests. He is planning to show the photos he took around his home in an exhibition.