This is part 9 of Bodhena’s Samsara: how he becomes a guard in the ashram
The Music House, ‘Somji Estate’ by its proper name, consisted of a large building on a sizable piece of property. In addition to the group rooms, the Ashram operated a restaurant in the house called ‘Somji Kitchen’ that served Indian-style meals. In recent months, most of the new food passes the Ashram had issued were only good for here, because conditions at Mariam Canteen had been getting too crowded. Also on the premises were maybe twenty bamboo huts in which sannyasins were living.
Mainly to prevent Indians from snooping around that had nothing to do here, there was a guard on duty that was furnished by the group department. This seemed to be quite an easy job. Most of the time, the guard was just lounging around in his hut, smoking beedies and chatting with the ladies.
To the extent that I was able to walk again, I was reintegrated into the active work process. I helped to set up group rooms, did a bit of cleaning and also started to give breaks to our guard. Now, this was an activity just to my liking. Not so long afterwards one of the two guards who covered that position was going back to the West, and the job was becoming vacant. I inquired discreetly through my coordinator whether it would be possible for me to continue in that line of work, and I got a positive answer.
In a further development, the guards department of the Ashram then took over the responsibility for security at the Music House. I was taken over along with the inventory, so to speak, and so it happened that I became a guard, a job that came with a considerable social prestige and an impressively looking, maroon uniform that was modeled after the outfits worn by judokas. ‘Krishna Guards’, we were called (and by coincidence Krishna was also the name of our coordinator), not to be confused with the ‘Samurai’, the elite warriors guarding Lao Tzu House.
After a few weeks, I was transferred to a position in the Ashram itself, but first I had to go through an experience that went a bit further than just chasing a couple of babas off the grounds, and that was a valid reminder that there were also some responsibilities that came with my job. One day while I was on duty, a few sannyasins brought an Indian thief to me that they had caught on the premises. Hm, what to do with him? I sent somebody down to the Ashram for help while I was trying to hold on to the poor guy, with one of his arms in a restraining hold behind his back. Around us a whole group of onlookers had gathered, sannyasins as well as Indians, and for them this was some real live action.
So there we were, the robber and the cop, along with our audience. He was whining and bitching and squirming and was anything but a pleasant company. The sun was beating down, it seemed to be getting hotter by the minute, and both of us were sweating so much that a couple of times he almost slipped out of my grip. Finally, after what had felt like an eternity, but in reality was only about 20 minutes, another guard came from the Ashram with a rickshaw and took him away. (What we actually did with cases like that was that we gave them a good spanking before turning them loose – if we’d hand them over to the police, nothing would happen.) The incident left me quite drained and shaken up inside, and it took me a few hours to get rid of the bad vibes I’d taken on from the guy.
My new position at the Ashram was that of the ’rounder’, which was actually not a fixed position, as the name implies. Besides giving breaks to the other positions at certain times, my main duty while on evening or night shift was to go on rounds throughout the Ashram (except for Lao Tzu House and the grounds around it). I had to check that everything was as it was supposed to be. Doors had to be locked, lights and fans had to be switched off, and that this was done was the responsibility of the people working there during the day. Furthermore, I had to keep my eyes peeled for anything that might constitute a safety- or security hazard.
The Ashram as it was then was a labyrinth of work- and living spaces. Since the Indian authorities had been stalling to give us any new building permits, we had done a lot of building without permit, some of it in a more permanent form, some of it more improvised. If any small bit of space could be utilized in some way, then it was done. Especially on the roofs of the buildings my rounds took me along some pretty adventurous routes, and the nighttime energy at the Ashram added a very extraordinary flavor to that.
When I was on morning or afternoon shift, I spent a good part of my time running errands for Krishna, during the course of which I also had the opportunity to find out what the rounders of the previous night had detected. In those cases I had to go to the respective department coordinators to kindly remind them that they had left the door of their work space unlocked, or a fan had been left switched on, and to please be more aware in the future (and it was very advisable not to come across as too German on those occasions, jawohl?).
There was also a cute small job I had to do during the morning shift at twenty past six, which was when the ‘hoo’-phase of Dynamic was starting. I had to position myself at the rear edge of Buddha Hall and watch that none of the meditators (who were then jumping up and down, shouting the Sufi mantra ‘hoo, hoo’, and many of them were blindfolded) were falling over the edge of the hall. (This turned out to be very beneficial for my karma – there is hardly anything that brings more karmic merits than when you save a soul that is trying to meditate. I can still feel the effects today!)
When I was on morning shift, this also meant that I could not go to discourse. Still, I got a very decent deal. During that time, I was positioned at the gate of the book bindery, halfway between the eastern end of Buddha Hall and the entrance to Lao Tzu. This was right along the route Osho’s car took to and from discourse, and that way I got an extra and personal namaste from my master.
Those were the best times I’d ever had in Poona. I was just flying with my work, and totally loved it. The rounders of the different shifts were in an undeclared competition for who would score the most points, who’s list of findings that we placed on Krishna’s desk at the end of our shift was the longest. Before long, I was feared for my thoroughness and mercilessness, and I also brought in several trophies for Krishna. Once it was an electronic calculator (an expensive item in India at the time) that I’d taken from an office where I found the sliding customer service window unlocked, another time it was a bottle of Kingfisher Lager from a beer cooler at the Ashram bar that had been left open. (Those were, of course, returned the next morning.) Admittedly, I went a bit overboard a couple of times when I found a way into Vrindavan, and the cookies I scored on those occasions did not go on Krishna’s desk, but were shared among my fellow guards.
There was no doubt in my mind, or heart, that I was absolutely where I wanted to be, and that I was doing what I wanted to do. I had my place in the commune, I wasn’t going anywhere. I was at home. Still, we all knew that it was not going to last forever.
Bodhena 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