Part 10 of Bodhena’s ‘Samsara’
By early 1981, the Ashram was booming like never before. There were at least two or three times as many people here than when I had first come, and the place was literally starting to burst at its seams. I’ve met people who back then had the feeling of having arrived too late. Most everybody knew that something was going to happen. Osho continued to make frequent remarks about that “new commune”, and when Teertha leaked out one day that we were “never going to believe the changes that were going to happen this year,” that only added more fuel to the fire. There were times when the Ashram seemed to be overflowing with gossip and rumors, and as a countermeasure word came down from the Ashram management that it was strictly forbidden to spread any rumors. Fat chance!
Then Osho went into silence. At first it did not even appear to be that. On March 10, he had given the last discourse of the series, “The Goose Is Out”. The next morning he did not come out – supposedly his body was not well – nor were there discourses during the weeks that followed. Nobody really knew what was going on. Then, on April 10, he sent a message through Laxmi that he would from now on speak only through the language of silence, and that this would be the ultimate phase of his work.
It was also announced that, starting on May 1, Osho would be giving silent satsangs. (By definition, satsang means to be in the presence of an awakened being. From Sanskrit “sat”, meaning truth, being, and “sangha”, meaning community.) This got the Ashram really humming. Buddha Hall was completely remodeled, a new podium was built that was a bit higher than the old one, and we even raised the elevation of the driveway behind Buddha Hall by about two feet, so that Osho would be able to leave his car and get onto his stage without having to climb any steps. From what I heard it was his back pains that were the most serious of his health problems, so we were making it as easy and comfortable for him as possible to come out and sit with us.
Still, although the results of our building activities had a certain solidity to them, were quite tangible and appeared rather permanent, there was a quality of uncertainty in the air, of impending change, did many of us feel deep inside that we were heading for the Grand Finale. What gave some credibility to this were the traveling activities of Sheela, Laxmi’s assistant, who had been to the States several times in the past weeks. Also, in a rather hushed-up move, a group of about a dozen crack carpenters and handymen were sent to renovate the “Castle”, as the building housing the Chidvilas Rajneesh Meditation Center in Montclair, New Jersey, was called. Chidvilas had been developed into the largest sannyasin media center in the western world and was run by Jayananda, Sheela’s second husband, who also happened to be an investment banker by trade.
The May satsangs to me were the true climax of my Poona days, perhaps of my whole time as a sannyasin. They just rolled over me, and left me feeling incredibly high. What made them even more intense and added a very unique flavor to them, almost like a few grains of salt, was that Osho was going to leave us. This was never officially announced, but many of us just knew.
Every morning, he came out and sat with us, and it was very obvious that his body was not well. Once, he needed three attempts until he was able to get up from his chair that had been designed especially for the occasion. Between periods of silence, there were readings of Kahlil Gibran’s “Prophet”, and the Ashram musicians, led by Chaitanya Hari and Govindas, played some of their best music ever. When I listen to some of those tunes today, they still invoke the magic of those days for me.
On June 1, during the morning hours, Lao Tzu gate opened, and the white Rolls-Royce with Osho inside was slowly driven towards the main gate. Whoever happened to be there had the opportunity for a last namaste. My old friend Kirti who was on guard duty at the gate rolled it open, the Rolls went past, and then it was gone. In Bombay, Osho and a few close disciples boarded a Pan Am jet and left, bound for New York, and from there on to the Castle.
So, there we were. The master had flown the coop. Within a few days, it was becoming very clear what was going on, the dice were cast. The Ashram was closing down, and we were going to have our “new commune”, in far-away America. Although there had been plenty of rumors to that effect, this came as a bit of a surprise to many of us. And a lot of us were quite thrilled, since we had become somewhat weary of living in India. While there were some that were feeling lost, disoriented or even devastated, others were in good spirits and immediately started to scheme and plan how they were going to catch up with Osho.
The big question for anybody committed to being in the commune became, “How am I going to get there?” The official line from the Ashram was, “Go back to where you came from and wait, we’ll call you.” However, we knew it wasn’t going to be the same for everybody, and the new commune certainly wasn’t a place where you could just go – it was by invitation only.
Meanwhile, word came over from New Jersey that Osho was fine there, that he was going out on occasional cruises in his Rolls and that he was playing frisbee on the lawn in front of the Castle, wearing an “I love NY” T-shirt and shorts (the latter, I must add, did not prove to be factually correct).
For the time being, though, we had to concentrate on the business at hand, we couldn’t just pack up and leave in a day or two. Demolition crews were working 24 hours a day to take down all the structures we had built without proper permit. Buddha Hall was torn down, leaving only a bare, oval concrete slab. Other crews were working around the clock to pack tens of thousands of Osho’s books and his whole library into wooden crates to be shipped to the US. On my late-night rounds through the Ashram, I’d see them taking breaks, standing in circles and giving neck- and back-massages to each other. There was a big sale going on of Ashram property like sound- or electronic equipment, as well as all kinds of stuff from individual sannyasins that were leaving. Particularly at night the Ashram emanated an almost eerie feeling, which was accentuated by the monsoon rains and by the ensuing dampness.
Being sannyasins, we did it with our customary gusto. One of the big movies during the seventies had been “The Last Tango in Paris”, starring Marlon Brando. In a take-off on the title, our silk screen-printing department created T-shirts with “The Last Mango in Poona” printed on them, which were a big hit with the sannyasins celebrating their departure. When Mariam Canteen closed to merge with Vrindavan, we had a “last supper” there, by candlelight, with wine and on real tablecloths.
The Indian business community was less excited, though, which was expressed in a headline of the Poona Herald reading, “A Recession Named Rajneesh”. After all, we had spent lakhs and lakhs of rupees in Poona, and at least moneywise we were certainly going to be missed.
And just about as little excited was an unfortunate swami that I met, who, a couple of months before, had been out of the loop of what was coming down and had invested all his money in bamboo huts that he was going to rent out to sannyasins. He was not going to be sitting at the feet of the master now, while the rupees were rolling in by themselves. The only thing he got back was the scrap value.
Many of us who had been here for a long time were going to have a problem just getting out of India, since our visas had expired long ago. I hadn’t had a valid visa for way over a year, but I was lucky. The Ashram made a deal with the Indian immigration authorities for long-term workers and ashramites, and I got my exit stamp, no questions asked.
Still, I didn’t really have any place I wanted to go back to. I had no connections to any Osho center or sannyasin community in the West, nor did my native Germany appear like a very attractive place to live, even for a limited time, until I’d get “called”, whenever that might be. So Devika, my American girlfriend and I decided to stay together and, via Germany, go on to the US to see what we could do there.
From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara – read more excerpts…
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