Review by Bhagawati of Aubrey Menen’s book portraying Indian mystics, published in 1974.
Speaking about the purpose of writing this book, Menen says, “I have written this book for those who have wished to know something of Hindu mysticism but who have been repelled by the fudge which surrounds it.” He was of the opinion that Hindu mysticism is one of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of civilization.
In a most appealing lucid way and with a marvelous sense of humour, Menen writes about the Hindu tradition, reflects on how the Upanishads began, shares his ideas about Brahma and the atom, moves on to how the Upanishads became corrupted, and whizzes past Buddha, Sankara, the Bhagavad Gita, Tantra and Yoga before revisiting the sages of not-so-old, such as Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. There is much to learn and understand about the masters and spiritual teachers offered up by Menen; he writes in a light and witty way, yet with considerable depth.
Moving on to modern mystics, he deals with Krishnamurti, Maharishi, Chinmayananda, Swami Prabhupada, and Nirmala Devi. When the journey comes to the chapter ‘Rajneesh’, Menen makes it clear at the very beginning that “Before I write about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh I must, as they say in the British House of Commons, ‘declare my interest’. That is to say, I must confess any personal matter which might prejudice my judgment.”
Menen describes in detail an open air meditation event at Cross Maidan, ca. 1972. He is particularly impressed that “people were shouting, singing, and performing the most extraordinary actions all over the place, but there was absolutely no sense of a crowd.” He also reflects on the twenty minutes of silence which is the second part of the meditation, and calls it “that sort of silence which only a great solo musician can command.”
The photographs by Graham Hall who accompanied Menen on his travels are insightful and appear timeless. The photos of Osho and the meditators are marvelous and but for one, I haven’t seen published elsewhere before. I very much recommend this book.
Osho says about the book:
The world-famous journalist and writer, Aubrey Menon, has written a book, ‘The Mystics’. He has written about me in that book that when he encountered me in Bombay in a Cross Maidan meeting of almost fifty thousand people, he could not believe his eyes. He writes that he had been sitting in the front row when President Kennedy was speaking, but he could not feel anything. The speech was written by his secretary, it was not spontaneous. “It was ordinary, it did not touch anybody’s heart. I came away utterly frustrated.”
He had been in the rallies of Adolf Hitler, who was thought to be one of the greatest orators. But, he says, when he heard me, he heard a totally different kind of being.
Adolf Hitler was simply shouting slogans without any meaning, even nonsensical. He was telling the Germans, “All our miseries are because of the Jews.” The fact was that the Jews were the richest people in Germany, and his eye was on their riches. “Kill the Jews and take all their money and all their factories and all their businesses!” And he convinced the so-called intellectuals of Germany – even Martin Heidegger, one of the most famous philosophers of this century – that Jews were the problem. “Because of the Jews, Germany is not able to conquer the whole world, so first finish the Jews.”
Aubrey Menon writes, “I could not feel any conviction in what he was saying.”
And when he heard me… I am absolutely spontaneous, simple. I don’t know what word is going to come next, I don’t know what I am going to say to you. I just face you and allow my being to be poured into your hearts. He felt it, and he could not believe that fifty thousand people were sitting so silently as if there was no one – pin drop silence. He says, “I understood the meaning of the phrase for the first time.”
You can experience it here.
These ten thousand people can testify for my sanity. Raise both your hands if you think I am sane.
(With great laughter, everyone raises both hands.)
(More laughter and applause.)
Osho, One Seed Makes the Whole Earth Green, Ch 4
Bhagawati, Osho News
Aubrey Menen (1912 –1989) was an English novelist of Irish and Indian parentage. An alumnus of University College London he worked a drama critic, theater director, and advertising agency executive. His essays and novels explore the nature of nationalism and the cultural contrast between his own Irish-Indian ancestry and his traditional British upbringing. His autobiography is called, The Space within the Heart.