More changes on the Ranch – Bodhena’s Samsara, part 15
The commune around Osho has always been an extremely dynamic place. Changes were implemented all the time, you can almost say religiously, or seemed to happen on their own accord in that high-energy environment. They were seen as the perfect antidote to get us out of any habit, old or new, and to help focus us on the present moment. Despite of all the chaos and confusion that came along with that, the commune was always functioning like a well-oiled, efficient and smoothly running machine. There was a considerable amount of discipline, where it was needed, but we were also given much more freedom to be ourselves and to follow our heart than I have experienced anywhere out in the “world”. The system was always so flexible that ultimately you ended up where you needed to be, and everything that needed to get done did get done, and done well.
By and large, I had always felt that the way things were being done was the same way I would have done them myself, if it had been up to me to decide. In the last year or so, however, a number of changes had happened where I was starting to wonder a bit about where we were heading. It was not that it created a problem for me. Osho was here, and so was I, and I knew how I felt about him. That was what counted. Everything else was of secondary importance, more on the periphery of things. And I had learned to be a lot more accepting of matters that were beyond my scope of understanding or influence. Still, there were certain instances where, somewhere inside, I was raising an eyebrow, so to speak. I might not say anything, but notice I did.
A political, or rather, spiritual correctness was creeping up, where it was “on” to use certain expressions and absolutely “off” to utter others. The “moms”, as our coordinators were now called, were closely watching that everybody complied. It went as far as that it was “off” to refer to our grub place as “Maggie’s”. No, the name was “Magdalena Cafeteria”. Still, if you were wise enough, you could use all that as a vehicle for your personal growth, like just about anything else, however much “off” it appeared.
In many ways, we started to behave more like an organized, established religion, very much in contrast to the spontaneous and earthy spirituality that had become something like a trademark for being a sannyasin. We were now officially registered as a church, and thousands of copies of a small booklet were printed, an introduction to the “religion” of “Rajneeshism”, edited by the “Academy of Rajneeshism”. New publications of Osho’s discourses were published by “Bodhisattva Ma Anand Sheela, M.M., D.Phil.M., D.Litt.M.(RIMU), Acharya”. Other sannyasins, like the editors, were sporting similar titles. Sheela herself was running around in a costume looking like the pope, and that guy certainly had never been a role model for us. Everywhere on the Ranch, before and after work, we were kneeling down and doing the “Gachchamis” (originally a very beautiful Buddhist chant we first started using in 1981 when Osho had given his May satsangs). And that after someone had given the “reminders”. Work departments became “temples”, the work itself became “worship”.
Sure, on some level we were trying to make it harder for certain elements in the outside world to get to us, and that was by declaring everything that we were doing as being part of our religion. Hey, that was the case, anyway, but the outer form it took did feel a bit off.
And then, there were the guns, handguns as well as Uzis, and quite few of them. Our “Peace Force” had always been equipped with revolvers, as it is customary in America, and nobody ever saw anything wrong in that. In security, we were not armed. But at some point another outfit came into being, consisting mainly of guys (and even some ladies) that appeared to be somewhat close to Sheela. When I was on security duty at Buddha Grove, they would regularly drive past on their way to some remote spot to do target practise. It was the same people that were in the lead vehicle during drive-by, as well as in the follow-up vehicle, with Uzis in plain sight.
At the drive-bys during the festivals, when there were big crowds lining up to greet Osho, Sheela was around helping with the organizing, with a gun on her hip. Around B-Site there was now a high chain-link fence and an armed guard at the entrance. And what broke many people’s hearts was that during satsangs there would be a heavily armed guard positioned on each side of Osho’s podium. Was all that really needed as a deterrent, or was someone becoming a bit paranoid?
On October 30, 1984, Osho started speaking again. On a daily basis, he’d give discourses to a small group of disciples called “The Chosen Few”, who were “going to be the messengers of Rajneeshism for the world at large”. Never mind that line, this was really exciting. Each discourse was videotaped and then shown the next evening on a giant screen to all of us at Rajneesh Mandir, our huge gathering place for satsangs and meditations.
Once, a discourse was not shown. The official word was that the video camera had screwed up, but as later leaked out, Osho had made some very strong and disapproving remarks concerning the management of the commune.
As a resident, I was invited to attend a live discourse every few weeks. They were held in a relatively small room up at B-Site, and it was very important to come dressed warmly, since it was freezing cold in there. Osho may have been a hot master, but he certainly enjoyed quite low temperatures in the locations he was living in.
About the same time, another nice gig started to happen. During his drives up the county road and onwards to the small town of Madras, Osho had been hassled several times by locals that were taking the opportunity to show their dislike with what was happening at the Ranch. He had also gotten a couple of speeding tickets, and once he ditched his Rolls and had to be taken back in the lead car.
In months of hard work, we built our own road for him, on our own property. “Mevlana Bhagwan Road” was going up many miles past Lake Patanjali into a remote corner of our land, and he had it all to himself. Residents and long-term commune workers – oops! I mean “worshippers” – were invited periodically to go out and greet him where he would turn around at the end of the road before driving back.
So, two or three times a month I’d pile into a van with another half-dozen people some time before drive-by. A short distance before our destination, we’d leave the road, continue a ways up a dirt track, leave our car, and hike up a slope for about half a mile before we’d get to the turnaround to line up and wait. Soon enough, he came cruising up the road. Yes, obviously he loved to drive. He handled the car with his usual grace, and looked pretty cool wearing his designer sunglasses. We got our namaste, and then he was gone again, and the hills around us were as silent as ever.
It wasn’t that the new commune was everybody’s cup of tea. The way I see it is that when it is right for you to be with the master, then it happens. Then existence is totally supportive, in many mysterious ways, against all odds. When it is not your time, then any small incident can become the excuse to leave. It was never easy to be around Osho. We all had our own reasons to be there, or to go, and the door was always open. I hope that doesn’t come across as too self-righteous. I can really only speak for myself, and not for others, who’s whole story I don’t know. Over the years, I’ve seen many people come and go, including myself, and each story is different.
Many of my old friends from Poona joined the communes in Europe, coming to the Ranch for the festivals or for longer, but limited stays. Many others never made it, for whatever reason, and I’d never see them again. There were people that were residents at the Ranch that at some point decided to go. I remember a swami, an ashramite for many years, who came to the Ranch and was put to work on a front-end loader. After a week, he called it quits and left for Goa (of all places!). Another old-timer, a very soft guy who still wore his hair long and was walking around in Tai-Chi shoes was sent to clean trailers and disappeared after a few days. A good friend of mine, who I’d done a wonderful week with in security, decided that it was time for her to “go and play out in the world”. One of the writers for the Rajneesh Times didn’t want to put up any more with what he was told to write and left, shaken up and in tears. A few people were spooked by what was happening around Sheela and drove out in the middle of the night. And then there was the swami who’s job it was to be the Fire Chief. Driving around in that flashy fire engine of our’s was a very high profile job with many privileges, and the mas were flocking to his feet. One day he went to Jesus Grove and asked for a job change, and promptly was sent to join the cement crew. He lasted less than two weeks before tossing the towel.
Some people were very clear about where they needed to be and left in good standing, others turned weird or negative. A deciding factor for who was at the Ranch and who not was certainly also the way an individual was viewed by the management, whether they liked him or her or not. Quite a few members of the old Ashram establishment were obviously seen as a threat by Sheela and her crew and treated very rudely, and some of them were never allowed to come. A friend of mine, a sweet and gentle ma who had been living in Lao Tzu House back in Poona, was bullied around for some time (“gang-banged”, as she called it) until she gave up and left.
People that had “dropped” sannyas or that had gotten excommunicated by the organization were now called “late sannyasins”. Quite a few of those as well as others that had gotten disgruntled with the way things were going at the Ranch had settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and were jokingly referred to by us as “Camels”, while some of them were calling themselves “The Wild Geese”, who went as far as writing up some flyers directed against Sheela & Co. (Many years later, on a visit to Santa Fe, I found out that in fact there is a “Camel Rock” there, an imposing rock formation by the side of the road to Espanola.)
There were sannyasins, some of whom at one time had been very close to Osho, who did not shy away from turning against him publicly. One of them even wrote a rather dirty account about “the God that failed”, which got published and was available at railroad station bookstalls all over India, and elsewhere. To me, that doesn’t show an awful lot of spiritual integrity, to say the least. (In this case, it was the disciple that failed.)
As I said, I don’t know the whole story of those people. But it made me sad to see them go. For me, they were part of that incredible thing that was happening around Osho, and for that I’d miss them … and wish them well.
From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara (soon to be published in book form) – read more excerpts…
Some photos thanks to The 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