Baksheesh and a Peg Leg

Remembering Here&Now Samsara

Bodhena’s story continues: politicians, knives, journalists and a broken leg

Wherever ignorance was at work, Osho shed his light on it. One of his favorite subjects were the politicians. He mercilessly exposed what they were truly motivated by, or they became the butt end of his jokes. The Indian prime minister at the time, Morarji Desai, was a conservative Hindu who had publicly spoken about his practise of drinking his own urine, which actually is a bona fide ayurvedic method to cleanse one’s body, and Osho never missed a chance of poking some fun at this. On another occasion, he remarked that in the new commune there was going to be a sign at the entrance, “Dogs and politicians not allowed”. The next day, he took it back, saying that it was unfair towards the dogs. (Indira Gandhi supposedly liked and respected Osho, but never went very much public about this, and Osho left her pretty much alone.)


Of course, these exploits had their consequences. The political caste made it as difficult as possible for the ashram to carry out Osho’s work. The widespread rumour was that the ashram had to grease many palms and paid large sums of baksheesh to be able to continue, otherwise the authorities would have just shut the place down, and they’d have found reasons enough. One person who had summed it up quite nicely was Poona’s Chief of Police, who reportedly had said, “This man (Osho) is so dangerous that he should be banned not only from Poona and India, but from the whole planet.” Quite a compliment, actually, to be coming from a cop, and in its substance not one bit off the mark.

What was of particular embarrassment for many Indians, not only the politicians, was the extensive press coverage of the ashram by the foreign media and their focus on sex and violence. No, the Indian government did “not look favorably at the activities of the ashram”, which resulted in foreign journalists, TV- and film crews being denied permission to cover the ashram. Of course they were inventive and found ways around and once they arrived, we had a well-staffed press office to give them just what they wanted. A German film company even went as far as shooting a full-length feature film there, “Ashram in Poona”, that also showed explicit scenes from encounter-type groups, and that turned out to be a big hit in German cinemas.

In another matter it once again was the corruptiveness of the Indian political system that came to our assistance. Unless you were so lucky as to come from a country within the British Commonwealth (then), all foreigners needed a visa for India, which was initially easy enough to obtain, but it got a bit sticky once you had been there for half a year and wanted to stay on any longer. Help did come along, in the form of a fat little Indian guy named Moses who was frequently seen hanging out around the ashram, and who was known by virtually everybody. “Visa? No problem!” He appeared to be so well connected that he could fix just about any visa situation, provided you could cough up the necessary dough. It was also rumored that on occasion he liked to take a cute ma to bed as compensation for his services. And towards the end of Poona I, he even took sannyas!

There was another guy who took the law into his own hands to express his hatred towards Osho, a Hindu fundamentalist named Vilas Tupe. On May 22, 1980, during a Hindi discourse in Buddha Hall, there was all of a sudden a commotion in the rear of the hall. I turned around, just in time to see a man who had stood up and was shouting something at Osho, and, judging by the tone of his voice, those were no pleasantries at all. Before anybody could react, he pulled out a large knife and threw that towards Osho. Lucky enough, the throw was short and the knife landed a few feet from the podium.

He was quickly apprehended by some sannyasins, taken out of the hall and handed over to the police (who, believe it or not, had been tipped off, and several of them were present in the hall, in plain clothes !!), before Osho continued with his discourse, seemingly unruffled. But, in a fine display of the corrupted Indian legal system, the case against Tupe was dropped soon afterwards and he was released. (Personally, I wouldn’t want to live with that kind of a karma, in jail or not … )

A consequence of this incident was a beefed up security at the ashram, and, within a few days, everybody going to discourse had to pass through a walk-thru metal detector, and after that get frisked. Before that, the only “check” we had to go through had been the “sniffers”. On the way into Buddha Hall, there was a line of (usually very pretty) mas, that were facing each other in pairs. You had to pass through a pair, and, while doing so, briefly stop while they were doing a deep breath inhalation. Anybody with a strong odor of tobacco smoke, perfume, soap etc. was asked to sit in the back of the hall, far away from Osho, who was very allergic against strong odors. Extreme cases were asked to remain outside. I presume that this system was also used to weed out people with bad vibes, but on that day it had failed.

ashram map 1978 approx

My career as a handyman came to an abrupt end during the next monsoon, in the summer of 1980, when I got the job to go up onto a roof to make some repairs there. An hour or so earlier it had rained, the tiles were more slippery than I thought them to be, and before I was really up on that roof I was sliding down again. I fell about ten feet to the ground and landed with my right heel first on a very hard and unyielding cement surface, which put a good crack into my heel bone. Ouch, that hurt! I got a nice cast on my foot and was seen hobbling around on crutches for the next seven weeks. Some people even called me “peg leg”!

This may all sound quite dramatic, but I was beautifully taken care of by the commune. After a week in the ashram ward I went back to work, as a receptionist for the group facilities at the Music House, another property the ashram had rented nearby. There wasn’t really much to do, I was just sitting there in that chair all day, watching who was coming in, and smoking a lot of beedies. Friends would drop by for a chat, and, now that I couldn’t run away any more, beautiful mas would come and sit on my lap.

Being involved in a situation like this helped the healing process more than anything else. And it also was a great teaching, in many ways. Since I was on crutches, I had to ask for help a lot of times (like getting my lunch tray), and some kind soul (actually, it was one of the group leaders) gave me the extremely valuable piece of advice, “Watch how you ask – don’t whine, and don’t demand.”

After the cast came off, I slowly and very painfully had to learn how to walk again, and it took a lot of effort to eventually let go of my crutches. During that whole time I had to sit in the “cripple section” during discourse, which consisted of a few chairs way in the back of Buddha Hall. On the day when I was finally able to sit on the floor again (and much closer to the podium), it was no other than Osho who, in the course of the discourse, said, “I am going to take all your crutches away!” – as a warning of what was yet to come.

From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara – more excerpts…


BodhenaBodhena took sannyas in the late seventies in Pune where he worked first as a handyman for the group department, then as a Krishna Guard. After living in Geetam for a few months, he was invited to the Ranch where he worked in construction, security, Magdalena Cafeteria, Chaitanya (accounts) and as a paralegal at Rajneesh Legal Services. In early Pune II he worked for the Rajneesh Times, and then again as a guard at Lao Tzu House. In recent years, he has been living in Clausthal, Germany, practising nowhere to go and nothing to do. bodhena (at) hotmail (dot) com

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