The earth is shaking under Bodhena’s feet…
In January 1989 I left India for Germany, where I visited my parents whom I had not seen in many years, and then continued on to California. Since I had some savings left there was no need to go to work right away, so I decided to take some serious time off in the redwoods. On Prembuddha’s land, I moved into a tiny guest cabin that I had helped to build a couple of years before. It was precariously perched high up on a steep slope, and when I looked out of the large front window it felt like being up in a tree house. There was a propane gas heater for warmth and a kerosene lamp for light, and I didn’t need much more than that. I was totally content just to sit there and look out the window at those beautiful trees, or to watch the rain when it was pouring down during a storm. I wasn’t worried about a thing. When it got warmer in the spring, I moved into my tent, and for entertainment there was always some carpentry work to do or some wood to split, or, most importantly, a good cuppa coffee to share with my fellow mountain folks. Yes, that certainly was the good life in the redwoods.
Eventually, I was starting to feel a bit itchy. I wanted to be closer to town, so in June I moved into a sannyasin house that was located in a picturesque semi-rural area south of Santa Cruz.
There were six of us, all Ranch veterans. Due to our connection with Osho and to our experiences on the Ranch and in Poona there is a strong heart connection among sannyasins, even though we may not have known each other then. I still feel this connection today, at chance meetings that happen from time to time, or towards old friends that are somewhere out there in the world and that I haven’t seen in years. This bond made living in that house a very extraordinary experience. Sure, there were some tensions. One of the ladies had a big trip going with me (maybe because she was Jewish and I was German, who knows), but one thing we had learned around Osho was to deal with situations like that. Normally, the group energy in the house was very light, and we had a lot of fun with each other.
At some point I couldn’t help noticing that every Sunday morning everybody would get together in our “family room”, a converted garage – no, not to have a satsang, but to watch professional football on TV, first one game, and then another one. Before I knew it, I was watching, too, and it didn’t take long to make me a big fan of the San Francisco 49ers. (During those years, the Niners had one of the best teams in pro football, and in that season ended up winning the Super Bowl, 55:10 against the Denver Broncos, with plenty of vintage Montana-to-Rice. Time for some serious celebration at our house!)
As far as work was concerned, I did a few carpentry jobs, but I also was left with a lot of time for myself, to meditate, or to just take it easy.
Since many years I have had the feeling that there is something very special about the time that we are living in. Far from being a doomsday freak, I still feel that there is certainly something in the bush (no pun intended regarding George W.). Osho has frequently made remarks about a possible quantum leap in the development of human consciousness, and that unless that happens, humanity is doomed. I have read about certain prophecies of the Mayas, of the Hopis and of others, all pointing to our present time, and what they agree on is that we’re heading into pretty rough times, all kinds of disasters, upheavals and such. It’s certainly not going to be very comfortable, and at some point we might not be getting our bowl of cornflakes any more in the morning.
When I look at the state the world is in I can’t help but seeing myself right in the middle of the Kali Yuga, a very dark time consciousnesswise. I have often wondered what it was that I’ve done to have been born into such an ignorant culture. I mean, let’s face it, the level of ignorance out there is just stunning, and I have the feeling that it’s going to get worse before it’ll get any better.
Admittedly, it is not possible to say what is actually going to happen, how the Age of Aquarius is going to unfold. Nor can you outwit existence, so you’d better stay alert and be ready to meet anything that might come your way. It’s not good to get caught with your pants down.
Some time before I had left for India the last time I had come across one of Nostradamus’ predictions that spoke of a major earthquake that was going to happen in California in May 1988. At least, that was the interpretation. Now, I didn’t plan my life around that, but was somewhere glad that in 1988 I happened to be where I was, far from there and at the feet of my master. Come May, I was monitoring the news as closely as was possible for me there, and, lo and behold, nothing happened. Oh, well.
Then, back in Santa Cruz, I was visiting friends on a very nice and sunny day in the fall. We were just outside their house, on their driveway, about to get into their car. It was October 17, 1989, 5.04 pm. All of a sudden, the earth under my feet seemed to be coming alive. I felt like I was standing on a wavy sea, being moved up and down by the rolling movement of the earth. Everything else seemed to be suspended, I had no feelings or thoughts, except deep down inside some kind of a wordless recognition like, “WOW! This is really something BIG that’s coming down!” All I did was just stand there, with my left hand on my belly, riding it out and watching in awe. The quake lasted 15 seconds, and it was measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was on a mountain called Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just 10 miles as the crow flies from the house I was living in.
I made it home, somehow, walking and hitching rides, since most of the public busses were not running. Many of the people I saw on my way seemed to be somewhat disoriented or in shock. I was relieved to see my house still standing – they do have very strict building codes in California that prevented more extensive damage. I will never forget how I came around the corner of our driveway and saw my old friend Veet who was just picking up my bicycle that had fallen over. It felt so good to see him, and the others, who by and by made it home, too.
The damage to our house was comparatively minor. A few windows were broken, there were a lot of cracks in the walls, some doors did not close properly. There was a crack that was at places almost an inch wide that had opened up across our driveway, and another one across the concrete slab that the floor our family room consisted of. Our hot water heater that also fed our heating system had been thrown off its base. In the whole house, all the cupboards, shelves and closets were bare. Everything was on the floor, in big, untidy heaps. In the kitchen there was a huge pile of food and broken dishes, even our fridge had been emptied. There was no running water or electricity, and the phone was out. It was quite a mess.
If anything, this showed us how fragile that net can be that modern man has woven to support himself and that generally is taken for granted. We had not set aside any emergency supplies, or extra water. Somehow, we salvaged a few batteries that we put into an old transister radio to be able to listen to the emergency radio station that was providing us with news from around the Bay Area. We also managed to round up a few candles and a bottle of tequila that had survived the quake.
So, after dark, we sat there by candlelight, got drunk and tried to assess our situation. It was certainly a bonus that we’d all learned to deal with our feelings and were able to share, so we didn’t get into any headtrips or freak-outs. One factor that kept us a bit on edge was that there were quite a few aftershocks, throughout the night, and continuing for a couple of days. Some of them were rather strong, and there was no way of telling whether another major one was just around the corner.
The next day, we sent out an expedition to a nearby shopping center, which we found open, but charging exuberant prices for certain goods like bottled water. The physical damage to our house was eventually repaired, not so much of a problem (in fact, our landlord hired me to do most of the repair work, and I made some good money).
But for a long time afterwards I was still a touch jumpy – I might be in some building and a big truck might be rolling by, and upon feeling the ever so slight shaking of the house, some faint voice in me would be whispering, “Hey, is that a quake, or just a truck?” And up to this day, wherever I live, I have a supply of water, candles, batteries and some durable food stashed away. Maybe I’ll never need it, but who is to know. Ultimately, though, I know that any preparation is only good up to a certain point, and beyond that I can only let go and trust.
There were still quite a few sannyasins in the area. Some had rented houses together, some were living by themselves, and we also had an Osho Meditation Center, Gandarva. There were satsangs now and then with great pot-luck lunches, Osho videos, parties and get-togethers.
Most notably, on one fine Saturday night there was this party way up in Carmel Valley on a remote farm where some sannyasins were living. I got there a bit late, so the place was already in full swing. In the farmhouse, a whole bunch of people were hanging out, and one of them was giving a rap on the Tao of multi-level marketing and its benefits for human kind, which didn’t interest me very much. Outside, a ways up the hill there was a meadow with a big campfire that attracted my attention, and here I found what was very obviously the center of activities. There were dozens of people around the fire, lying there in piles and heaps, moaning and groaning (and all still fully clothed!), and in some mysterious way they seemed to be having a jolly good time. I stood there for a bit, somewhat amused, scratching my beard, until I was approached by some compassionate soul who informed me that, “Hey, we’re all doing ‘E’ here,” and whether I’d like a ticket, too. No contest, really, and before long I got immersed in the ecstatic goings-on myself. The only person I pitied a bit was this guy I noticed at some point later on through the haze out of the corner of my eye. He was standing there, off to the side, in his baseball cap and with a can of Bud Light in his fist, by all appearances some local hick who had spotted the fire on his Saturday nite cruise in his pick-up and had stopped to investigate. This dude clearly looked like he’d landed on some different planet.
However, by and by, the sannyasin scene lost its cohesion and started to disintegrate. Some people left town for greener pastures, some people left Osho, and everybody more or less went off into his own direction, doing his own thing. This certainly had an effect upon how I was evaluating the quality of life in Santa Cruz.
What had also happened was that the earthquake had hit our downtown area very hard, many of the brick buildings there had been damaged so badly that they had to be torn down. Before, there had been the “Pacific Garden Mall”, a beautiful pedestrian area with many trees, a very nice place just to go and hang out and listen to the street musicians. Now most of those trees were cut down, the whole area was cordoned off, a huge demolition- and construction site, and the local businesses were struggling to survive in tents that had been erected nearby.
And, finally, jobwise nothing had come together that had only the faint resemblance to something more long-term. Sure, my carpentry jobs earned me more than enough to pay my bills, but the whole thing was feeling rather impermanent. So, however nice my personal living situation was, I was starting to wonder if there was a life beyond Santa Cruz, although I didn’t have a very concrete idea. I was up for grabs, so to speak.
It was at the 1989 new year’s eve party at our local Osho center that I met Amba, a beautiful German lady. She had moved to Santa Cruz a few months earlier, after having spent a year as a work-scholar at Esalen. Before long, we had a pretty intense relationship going, and the only clouds on the horizon were that she was planning to leave town in spring to go living on Formentera, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. To cut a long story short, she left in April, and I followed in June. Once again, it was good-bye, California.
From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara (soon to be published in book form) – read more excerpts…
Photo of building near Pacific Garden Mall credit luirig.altervista.org
Photo of redwoods credit Snow Leopard Wallpapers
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