Viramo’s portrait of singer and performer Vismaya.
We are not the renouncers — we are the revolutionaries.
We want to change the whole world.
And in changing the world, you will change yourself. You cannot change anything else unless you go through the change simultaneously.
Osho, Beyond Psychology
Many of Osho’s people are out in the world in these challenging times, changing the world in whatever ways we can, bringing his fragrance to a world in turmoil.
Ma Prem Vismaya does it through song. She is a long-time singer, songwriter and actress, and she has taken her show on the road for many years. Her long career reached a high point in February when she performed a one-woman show in Sedona, a personal journey told through story and music called “Songs from My Red Suitcase.”
This intimate sharing of her life as both a seeker and a professional jazz singer wowed the enthusiastic Sedona audience — many of whom had no idea who she was. Vismaya described a life of world travel, of singing in clubs and other venues from Paris to Tokyo to Cologne, a life of surprises and adventures and endless coincidences. A life which led her inevitably to the feet of her Master, Osho.
Vismaya took sannyas in 1983. Her very first exposure to Osho came around 1980. She had just moved to Miami, Florida, from her native Sweden, determined to pursue her dream of being a professional singer. It was also a period of intense soul-searching for the young woman, known then as Ingrid Hagelberg.
One day she wandered into a health food store and a life-changing event occurred. Call it an epiphany. As Vismaya describes it,
“….There on the wall was a big photo. I saw his eyes and I was caught! I just stood there and looked into the most amazing eyes. The man looked Indian. He had a long beard. But those eyes really captured me. As if they went deep into my heart and body.”
Vismaya remembers driving home and feeling very happy, almost elated. She stepped out of her car and a young woman approached on a bicycle, someone she barely knew who lived in the neighborhood. “We started to talk and she pulled out a book from her basket,” said Vismaya in her play. “She had several books. ‘You can have this one,’ she said. ‘I think you’ll like it. I have already read it.’” The young woman drove off.
The book was Only One Sky.
She opened the book and there was a photo of the man whose eyes had so captivated her moments ago. “The Master had caught me!” she says in her play. “I started reading the book and so many questions were answered. I had found my spiritual teacher. I wasn’t looking for one. But they say when you are ready the master appears.
“That was a blessed day, because he changed my life. He took me by the hand and showed me another way to live, where silence is at the depth of everything. I feel he came to me to support me in my life as a singer/artist. He helped me always to go further. He helped me to fulfill my life as an artist. I am forever grateful.”
Vismaya moved to Los Angeles, where she worked in small clubs, stressing out over her career, searching for answers and reading Osho. She met a Brazilian drummer in the music scene who convinced her to move to Laguna Beach, fifty or so miles down the Pacific Coast. She said she was “guided” to the beautiful beach community: Right there on Laguna Canyon Road was the elegant Utsava Rajneesh Meditation Center!
The budding singer soon began singing in Laguna clubs and cafes with her percussionist lover. She also spent a lot of time at Utsava, often singing a capella at Sunday satsangs. Ingrid wanted to take sannyas, but the ladies who ran Utsava said she wasn’t ready — that singing in local clubs without wearing red clothes and the mala wasn’t acceptable for a sannyasin.
At Utsava she met Proper Sagar and many more juicy people. One day Sagar said, “Let’s take your car, Ingrid, and go to the Ranch for Osho’s Birthday Celebration!” It was one of those in-the-moment sannyasin things.
She went. Her recently-purchased car was bursting with excited friends. Sagar did the driving, and he got a speeding ticket on the way to Central Oregon. The year was 1982. It was very muddy and cold and the Ranch was just starting to take shape. But Ingrid loved it. She saw Osho for the first time and was, of course, simply blown away.
Be like a child
in a state of wonder and awe.
I want you to reach
to the ultimate as a child,
giggling with joy –
that’s the only way
to greet existence
when you meet the ultimate.
You should enter with laughter,
because only your laughter
and your singing
and your dancing
can show your gratitude.
No other words are possible!
Osho, Sat-Chit-Anand: Truth-Consciousness-Bliss
Back in Laguna, she was determined to become a sannyasin. She wrote to Osho and explained her situation re singing and the red clothes-mala dilemma. Osho wrote back with a short note and new name. The note said, “I want all of my sannyasins to be singers!” Her new name was Prem Vismaya. It means ‘wonder’.
The message was: “Be like a child in a state of wonder and awe.” A good fit. The following year she officially took sannyas with Teertha at the Ranch. While there for the summer festival, she sang her jazz and pop songs in the Ranch pizza restaurant.
Vismaya continued her career as a singer, carrying her positive energy and Osho’s fragrance to far-flung places on the planet. She got a gig at the Playboy Club in Tokyo, and, desperate to find fellow English-speakers, she discovered the Osho meditation center in Tokyo. She lived a year in Capetown, South Africa, performing in nightclubs and five-star hotels, as well as starring in concerts, entertaining huge audiences with her blend of jazz and pop.
Vismaya lived and performed in Poland, where she recorded her second album, the jazz-tinged ‘Non-Electric Woman’. She lived in Cologne for ten years, performing in clubs and hotels and often visiting the UTA Institute, the Osho center there.
It was also in Cologne that Vismaya met her future long-time writing partner, Nenad Mandic — a fateful meeting indeed, as they worked together for ten years, often performing together at the UTA Institute. The gifted Serbian musician-composer wrote the music for many of the original songs on the ‘Red Suitcase’ album. He plans to travel to Arizona during the summer of 2013 for a concert with Vismaya.
Vismaya arrived in Pune after Osho had left his body. She danced, meditated, and basked in the juicy energy, and sang, of course — a one-night performance at the former Basho’s Bistro. Vismaya moved to Sedona a few years ago, brought to the mystical little city in the red rocks by Kaveesha and the Mystery School.
Vismaya was born and raised in a small town in Southern Sweden. She likes to say her musical career began at age five when she performed a little song for party guests at her parents’ home. She knew then and there, she says, that it was her destiny to sing. She speaks five languages and sings in at least six. Vismaya also does spot-on vocal imitations of such great singers as Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich — in their original languages. She still lives in Sedona today with Dr. John Dye, a holistic physician, her loving and supportive husband/partner.
‘Songs from My Red Suitcase’ is also the title of her most recent album as well as the name of her one-woman show. Vismaya performs 12 of her original songs during the musical play. “Why take on this kind of challenge at this stage of your life?” I ask her.
“Because I wanted to go deeper, to explore my life as a singer, as a woman, and as a sannyasin. It’s important to follow your passion.”
As her song says, she is “Living in the Light.”
Viramo has lived the writing life as a newspaper reporter and columnist, book and magazine editor, photojournalist, ghostwriter, PR/advertising maven, and science-fiction author. He took sannyas in 1979, and has lived in Osho’s communes in Pune and at Rajneeshpuram. Viramo currently lives in Sedona, where he attends meditations at Osho Academy and enjoys hiking in the magical red rocks. He is now working on the third novel in his sci-fi trilogy, and blogs as ‘Easywriter’ at Open Salon and at the ‘family’ blogsite – thelincolns.wordpress.com – all articles by Viramo on Osho News