Bodhena keeps the Ranch safe – with some humour! (part 14 of Samsara)
One of the most memorable jobs that I ever had on the Ranch was that as a mousecatcher at B-Site. It was always a treat to be near Osho’s trailer. The energy was noticably thicker there, and just by spending a bit of time there you’d get a good shot of vitamin B. In the early days, we could go up and sit on the lawn in front of his house and greet him there when he’d come out for his drive. Later, there were more and more of us and the area was generally off-limits, unless, in rare cases, you had some work to do there.
However, it was not only us that found that energy field extremely attractive. Hordes of field mice from the surrounding hills were invading the site, and they were causing a lot of damage to the buildings there. So, practical as we were, we set up a line of traps underneath Osho’s trailer, and those needed to be serviced.
For about half a year, twice a week, I’d go up to B-Site with another swami while Osho was out for his daily spin. Equipped with knee-pads and flashlights, we’d get into the crawl space underneath the trailer to collect the traps. We crawled out again, disposed of the dead mice (they very unceremoniously went into a garbage bin for compost), cleaned the traps, baited them with peanut butter (yummy!) and went back underneath to set them up again. And, high as a kite, we went back to our regular jobs.
While we were at B-Site to take care of the mice we also had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Rolls-Royces that were sitting there, dozens of them, so many we didn’t even have enough garage space for them. They were owned by the “Rajneesh Modern Car Collection Trust”, all of them the same basic model, a Silver Spur. We had somebody there who would do a very professional paint job on them, and the sky was the limit. Not two of them were of the same color. Some were more plain and stately looking, others were glittering in gold and silver. A few came psychedelically multi-colored, a number of them had beautiful pictures painted on them, with landscapes, animals, sunsets or rainbows. My favorite was one that seemed to be engulfed in flames. And every day Osho would come out for his ride in a different one. At times we’d wage bets while we were waiting for him by the side of the road, and sometimes there were cheers and applause from us when he’d show up in a particularly outrageous looking one. We all loved it, and so did he.
There was also still the “original” Rolls that had been shipped over from India, somewhat larger in size, in plain white and bullet-proof. That model was used when Osho came to sit with us during the celebrations, and on those occasions he was chauffeured.
In the end, we had ninety-three Rolls-Royces there, and the way I see it, it was all a big, practical, in-your-face joke. If you consider how car-crazy particularly America is, Osho took that obsession ad absurdum. It was one of his ways where he’d blow some people’s minds on how a spiritual master should behave. (He also used devices like that to weed out people that were with him for the wrong reasons.) What he really did, like in so many other ways, was to hold a mirror in front of our face. And not all of us liked the reflection that we saw and, instead of looking at the source of the reflection, started to blame the mirror. He was amazingly creative when it came to utilizing just about anything for this game. Not everybody was able to take that, and it caused a lot of trouble for him and his commune.
Although we were receiving an increasing amount of hate-mail and threats, it had not come to outright violence, except that commune members going off the Ranch were often met with jeers or hostile vibes, and that road signs leading to our property were used for target practise.
Then, in August 1983, an actual bomb exploded. In Portland we were operating a hotel that was mainly used as a stop-over by visitors going to or coming from the Ranch, or by commune members who were in town on some business. Some guy had checked into the hotel, supposedly on his way to the Ranch. He had a self-fabricated explosive device with him that went off in his room, mutilating both of his hands. “Stubby”, as we’d call him, was arrested and eventually went to court, but never to jail. However, the incident sent shockwaves through the commune. Something had to be done to forestall further activities like that.
Up to that point, security on the Ranch had been minimal. We had sent a couple of people to a police academy that were forming the nucleus of a small municipal “Peace Force” for the City of Rajneeshpuram. But they never knew who might be out there when they’d go on a patrol late at night. It went far beyond the scope of their work to sufficiently monitor who’d be coming down the county road and who might be trespassing onto our property.
Hence, “Rajneesh Security” was formed, a private security service run by “Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas International Commune” (“RNSIC” – which was legally a different entity than the City). I was among the first wave of commune members that were “drafted”. At first we were more or less sitting out in the wind and the rain, but soon small guard huts were built for us, equipped with two-way radios, telephones and, of course, coffee percolators.
On the “Hill” leading down to the Ranch we had four posts: the “Top of the Ranch” at the entrance of the property, then Buddha Grove, Desiderata Canyon and Gurdjieff Dam. There were five more posts at the actual Ranch, wherever a private road would lead off the county road. Lastly, there was a post way out at the truck farm, overlooking Radha River (that post was always a great place to catch up on your reading). All the posts had code names, and those were changed from time to time. At times it was Western heroes we were using, at times planets and stars, or cartoon characters (“Snoopy to Batman, come in please!”).
What we were doing was to monitor the coming and going of non-Ranch vehicles and to be on the alert for anything odd or potentially dangerous. And we were doing that with as much professionalism as possible.
I wonder how it must have sounded to an outsider when we were communicating with each other on the air, passing on the license plates of cars and their encoded descriptions and other information. Actually, in a small town many miles away there was a bar where they were receiving our transmissions (we did have a quite powerful relay station), and the clientele there would sip their Budweisers while listening to the Rajneeshies doing their crazy number. I mean, it was pretty obvious what it was all about, and it probably did anything but increase our good standing with the local yokels.
We were operating the posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in rotating shifts. After a week, we’d change shifts and move on to another post. Each post was a different story, depending on its location and on the particular duties assigned to it within the whole game. There was only one guard at most of the Ranch posts, while on the Hill it was always a swami and a ma. Once during each shift, a car would come around to all the posts to bring food and snacks. No, we certainly were not starving, on the contrary.
A lot of the time it was pretty much relaxed, at other times incredibly intense, for instance when there was a lot of traffic. On the Hill posts it was always very crucial who your partner was. With some, I just had a wonderful time and we both were sad to move on after our week was over, with others I went through a week of hell.
And we had all kinds of little games going to make our life more fun, particularly on the Hill. We told our lifetime stories countless times, played battleships and gave Tarot readings to each other. One of us was a mathematician, and he spent the night shifts working on complex algebraic equations. In early summer, we soon found out that the sunflower seeds in our trail mix were still live, so all the Hill posts started elaborate gardens, and by late summer the guard huts were dwarfed by gigantic sunflowers. Squirrels, chipmunks, mice and other small critters living in the vicinity of the huts were growing quite fat. Our mascot was Fred, a lone coyote who had the habit of wandering along the county road and would sometimes make it all the way down to the Ranch. He’d pass the Top, the guys there would get on the radio, and, sure enough, guess who’d show up at Buddha Grove half an hour later.
On occasion, we’d add a good dose of humor to our radio transmissions. One of us pulled off whole talkshows on the radio during night shifts that were so incredibly funny that we were almost rolling on the floor with laughter … and all that while staying totally alert, of course. (Before long, the “office” got wind of that, and the word came down that any communication on the radio was to be limited to crisp professional talk.) And one of the great pleasures during the summer was to stop at Krishnamurti Lake for a swim in the early morning after a night shift on the Hill, before going home to sleep.
There were quite a few of us that just hated to be in security. I didn’t mind, really, and for the most part made the best of it and quite enjoyed myself hanging out in those little huts. Still, after almost a year and a half there, it started to wear me down a bit, particularly the week of night shifts that would come along once a month. However, to go and ask for a job change might have disastrous consequences, so I stayed put.
Then, one evening in January 1985, myself and the other people on my shift were riding up to the security office in our old, beat-up station wagon (it was nicknamed “Heavy Metal” and was badly smelling of fish). This was going to be our seventh and last graveyard shift of a cycle. To some extent, we were all tired of it and were indulging in a little bitching and complaining, and in that mood came up with the idea to entertain everybody with a little prank during our shift. It were the “radio checks” that were to be the object of our frustration. During times when there was not a lot of radio traffic, every hour the security office (“Hollywood”) would do a radio check with the posts, and with all of them, one after the other.
“Hollywood to Jupiter, come in please.”
“Jupiter here, go ahead.”
“This is a radio check. How do you read me?”
“You’re coming in loud and clear.”
“10-4. Over and out.”
And on to the next one. Since all of the Ranch posts were using the same channel (and the Hill posts a different one), that meant that you had to listen to a lot of talking that wasn’t necessarily very interesting, mildly put. Especially during the night, when nothing was going on, these radio checks became a constant source of irritation. You might not want to listen to the crap, but you had no other choice. So we said, OK, let’s just ignore the radio check after 2 am and remain silent, and with that went off to start our shift.
Soon it was 2 am, Hollywood came on the air, and nobody answered. We were all sitting in our huts, giggling away, and were admittedly feeling a little sorry for that poor ma at the office who was starting to show a bit of concern in her vain attempts to raise us. She soon enough changed her strategy though and got on the phone to make sure we were all alive and well, and made it clear that she had not enjoyed her part in our little game one single bit.
The next morning we had our weekly security meeting. Naturally, one of the main topics was a certain incident that had happened during the previous night. We were sternly reminded that something like that was an absolute no-no and to better behave ourselves in the future, or else. Us sinners ruefully agreed, and then went home to sleep.
Early in the afternoon, I was awoken by a swami who came into my room to give me an urgent message to come to an important meeting at some office at the Ranch. Well, what could that be? I didn’t make the connection until I showed up there and found myself in the company of my co-conspirators of the night before. It started to look very much like the lesson Vidya had given me about two years before was getting a refresher. This time it was Nirmal who read us from The Book, and she did a pro job. She skillfully took everyone of us completely apart and then left us there to dry. We were summarily expelled from security and were sent to work at Magdalena Cafeteria. This was meant as a punishment – off to “Maggie’s Farm” (remember that old Dylan-song?), and, by all means, it was anything but an “honorable discharge”.
For a day or two, I was walking around like in a haze, in total shock. And we were the talk of the commune. Friends came up to me and said, “Bo, I never thought you’d pull off a number like that!” The feedback I got was overwhelmingly sympathetic, almost with a touch of admiration, and one swami even remarked, “God, if I’d only known that something like that would get me out of security!”
At Maggie’s, I wasn’t sent to chop veggies or to scrub pots and pans, as I had feared. Since I was able-bodied and still had a good back I joined an old buddy of mine on the loading dock and had a marvellous time. After all those months of inertia, my body was just dying to move. Moreover, in the storage trailers there were all kinds of goodies like boxes of chocolate and raisins. We were munching so much stuff that we had hardly any appetite left for the regular meals. Unfortunately, this lasted only about three weeks, when I got another job change, this time to Chaitanya, the accounts department.
From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara – read more excerpts…
Photos thanks to Yogena, Teqaq (Flickr), Oregonian
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