Upavas tells his story of taking sannyas as a kid and his career in music.
May 30, in 1969, is the day when I was born into this world. My first four years were spent in Berlin Schöneberg, Germany. My mum got rid of my first dad when I was a baby; I have no memory of that.
One of the early delights of mine was to mimic all kinds of quirky sounds in my surroundings with my throat and mouth – like the screeching of a rusty old door. And animals were always a delight to mimic, especially once I got the knack and managed to fool them. Life was good. Living with my mum and older sister there was little to worry about; mum seemed to make enough money for all of us with her job as a teacher in an elementary school. Things, however, were soon to change.
One day my mum came home with a long-haired guy who was wearing a kind of blouse with flowers all over it. His car was a blue VW bus. I remember him telling my mother all kinds of ideas, like how cool it would be to move to a farm in rural Bavaria and grow vegetables and drop out of society.
About a year and a half later a farm was found, mother left her job and we all moved there.
The place was a wreck as far as I can remember: no bathroom, no flushing toilet, no running water – ‘luxuries’ I missed a lot. What the place did have was beautiful nature all around. There were many other hippies coming and going to and from our commune. One of them left a guitar in our attic which I found and started playing. Soon thereafter I was happily jamming along with all kinds of weird characters who came to our home on a regular basis.
A strange fellow visited us when I was seven years old. He wore bright orange clothes and because his name (Anand Svadesha) was too weird to remember at the time, we kids called him Orangenmann (Orange-fruit-guy). “Orangenmann” always wore a necklace with a locket showing a picture of a man with a beard. The man seemed to have an aura of sanity about him, something I missed in pretty much everybody who frequented our commune or lived in it, except maybe my mum. I was strongly drawn to the man in the locket and asked about him. Svadesha told me that this man was a guru. He also told me that he was about to go back to India to see this man again and, if I wanted, he could take a letter to Osho from me with a request for sannyas.
I hadn’t got a clue about sannyas or gurus and what it meant; all I knew was that it felt absolutely right. Mum refused to sign a letter of consent and told me I was not to send a letter to Osho, but I finished writing it anyway and snuck it to Svadesha who took it to India in 1977. Three months later came a reply from someone called Ma Arup. I was told that I was too young to take sannyas and that I had to wait until I was fourteen. If, however, my mum would sign a letter of consent, then I could take sannyas earlier. Bummer…
In 1980, during a summer vacation, I stayed in Ticino, Switzerland, with hippy friends of my parents. There was much music to be made, a lot of people to jam with, and guitars and bongos became constant companions of mine. One day I saw a Stern magazine there, with Osho on the cover. The article described how ‘a careless and unloving Osho left his poor disciples stranded in Poona while he lived a life of luxury in the United States’. I went on an anti-Osho trip, obsessing about it so much that someone told me to be careful or I might end up there. I did not heed her advice…
Fast forward to Munich, 1983. My mum and my stepfather had broken up, the hippie commune was being sold and my mum had disappeared. I had no idea where she was and my stepfather unnerved me and I didn’t want to stay with him.
I knew that Munich, with the orange people, would be a fun place to be so I hitchhiked there and went to the same Anand Svadesha who had taken my sannyas request letter to India with him six years earlier. He had two kids about the same age as me, both sannyasins. Life as a sannyas kid had its ups and downs. But the mischief part was great and with sannyasins one could get away with a lot.
Sometimes we used to hang out at the Munich Sannyas Centre (Satdharma) and do everything one was not supposed to do – like dunking sannyasins’ burning cigarettes into a glass of water (just to enjoy watching their annoyed facial expressions) or digging deep into the desserts of the therapy groupies. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. The centre leader, Ma Kama, had a hard time with us, but somehow she must have had a soft spot for us too because she always let us get away in the end. It was also the first time I saw an Osho lecture on video.
Soon thereafter my mum returned and got together with Svadesha and together they set up an organic tofu factory.
Next stop was Rajneeshstadt in Hessen, Germany. I was fourteen. There were lots of new sannyas-kid friends, more mischief and happily more of the nature and privacy I had missed very much in Munich. It was there that once again I sent a request for sannyas. It was written something like, “Dear Bhagwan, I love you. Now please no more delays. I am fourteen now!”
Three weeks later two letters arrived – one simple, another gold-embossed with big letters saying Ma Anand Sheela on it. I opened the simple letter first. It had my new name written on it: Swami Paritosh Upavas. The meaning is ‘Contentment’ and ‘Coming Close To One’s True Self.’ There was also a note that I remember to this day. ”This is my teaching: to help you sing, to help you love, to help you dance”.
I received my mala from Prasad (a therapist) in Purvodaya and one year later my mum and older sister also took sannyas.
Music pretty much faded into the background for a while, until Swami Anand Madhu took on the task (with monetary compensation from me of course) of teaching me music theory. The lessons were tedious and boring, but I stayed with it and did learn the basics. In 1985 I dropped out of high school and worked full time at the Svadesha Tofu Factory in Munich. Osho was doing his world tour at the time. It had always been a dream of mine to meet him in Poona so I started saving money for Poona even though he was travelling – first in Uruguay and later in Greece. In December 1986 I bought a ticket to Bombay Airport after explaining to my worried mother that I was now leaving to go to India. Osho had just arrived in Bombay and there were rumors that he would go to Poona soon. The time had finally come to meet the Master.
When I arrived in Poona in January 1987 there were very few sannyasins there and the lectures were held in Chuang Tzu Auditorium. Osho came into the hall for his evening discourse and greeted everyone individually. As soon as I saw him something in me went “Wow, that’s it, that’s really and finally it!” At that very moment Osho looked at me for the first time, his hands folded in the namaste greeting. He looked ancient, very deep. He was not smiling. He just looked at me in a very direct, open and peaceful manner and suddenly I felt like it was me, looking at myself. At the same time, something very powerful went right into my solar plexus and there was a kind of whoosh sound with a long reverberating tail, almost like thunder. I don’t remember anything after that until a Ma came and kindly told me to get up, because the spot I was sitting on was the only one she hadn’t cleaned yet and it was past 11pm already.
I have been hopelessly in love with Osho ever since.
Poona 2 proved to be a true blessing for me. I lived in a place called Surrender Garden on a bamboo platform where we had drum sessions going deep into the night. Some people also brought guitars and there was always music around. In one of Osho’s silent periods I decided to go and check out Goa for a little while. When I arrived in Anjuna, there was a non-stop party going on and here I came into contact with electronic music for the first time. It had a deep impact on me. It was fiesta galore.
Back in Poona there were three people I would like to mention. One who inspired me with his music was Karunesh, playing his synthesizer before discourse. Another was Chaitanya – I liked listening to him playing his guitar in the ashram’s smoking temple and it was only much later that I found out that his other name is Deuter… The third person was Shantam Dheeraj. In an eye reading during the Tibetan Pulsing Intensive in which I participated in 1993, he told me to finish what I had started, “… like your music… finish it”. His statement went straight to my core. However, buying equipment to make my own electronic music was too expensive for me at the time.
But finally, in 2002 in Hawaii, I got my first computer and a music-sequencer with it. This is when I started fully going into making electronic music. I was also promoting parties in Hawaii, in a café called Bliss, and on some beautiful beaches. My DJ skills improved big time but my own creativity felt incomplete.
After a tour of DJ-ing in Japan, Europe and North Africa, I moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2006. In 2007 I graduated from a film school after completing a course in sound design for visual media. Further studies in recording and mixing audio, combined with commissions to create sound design for a couple of short films and the release of three dance music EPs, finally led to the creation of my first full ambient album ’Solar Energy’, which was released on January 1st, 2012. A second ambient album of my music and a dance-live-act are currently in the works.