Paritosho visits the main Osho centre in Nepal.
Driving up to Tapoban
For four years now, Arun from Osho Tapoban in Kathmandu, Nepal has been invited by Shahido and sannyasin friends to visit Australia and run Osho Meditation camps in various cities on the East Coast. Every year, my partner Agatta and I have participated and help run the camps in Byron Bay.
These camps whetted our appetite to visit Arun in Tapoban in October 2013 and re-visit Nepal after 35 years. We chose to go to Tapoban in October on the recommendation of our Nepalese friends, as it is summer time and because Arun is in residence, back from his travels around the world.
Agatta had left 3 weeks earlier to visit family in England and we organised our flights to coincide to meet at the airport in Kathmandu. Unfortunately, we didn’t realise that there was no arrivals lounge, whatsoever. After passing through immigration, you are shunted outside the terminal and airport gate before you know it and so Agatta spent a harrowing 5 hours waiting in the construction zone outside the gate, contending with noise and touting taxi drivers. Both of us, and especially Agatta, were delighted and relieved to see Vishnu, the ashram taxi driver, smiling serenely, ready to drive us to Tapoban.
The ashram is situated 12 kms from the airport and the busy roads are rough, full of potholes and gravel piles; still very much under construction! It takes an hour to travel the short distance to the ashram. (It is a very good idea to arrange a lift with the commune bus, when booking your room at the ashram!) Although I had been forewarned of the state of the city, I guess I still had in my mind the idyllic beautiful sky city from the 80s, full of charm and ancient buildings! I felt sad to see the city struggling with lack of infrastructure, overpopulation and pollution.
The last part of the drive, though, is much more pleasant, as it winds up the mountain, out of the chaotic city and into the forest. We were transported by the stunning views over the magnificent valley and, of course, onto the panorama of those most beloved of mountains, the Himalayas, followed next by that magical moment when you spot the word Osho and you know you are nearly’home’.
Because of its location on the side of a mountain, Tapoban is built on a very steep site. The Welcome Centre is at road level and so Vishnu could drive us directly to the door. The ashram reception is a beautiful space with marble floors and majestic views across and down the valley and from the windows one can look down on the meditation hall and the ashram buildings. Adjoining the Welcome Centre is a boutique, book shop and a corner store. On this same level, there’s also a coffee shop and a large concreted patio area that also looks out over the breathtaking view. All the welcome centre staff were so friendly throughout our stay: Bodhi, Anupamo, Darshan and Sura. We seemed to have to go visit them nearly every day for one thing or other and are very grateful for their patient help and attention at a peak visitor time.
Our clean and comfortable room was directly beneath the Welcome Centre. We had two single beds which we could push together and an en suite bathroom with a gas hot water heater! A nice feature was the little balcony that ran along the front of the rooms. It had chairs that enabled us to sit and enjoy the view out over the valley and to watch the monkeys in the early morning and evenings.
Exploring the Campus
After settling into our room and with evening about to descend, we wanted to explore a little. There are stone steps and footpaths throughout the ashram, and they are an excellent meditation in themselves – one spaced-out moment and you could lose your balance. We couldn’t go into the meditation hall as Kundalini was in progress but the familiar sounds filled my heart with joy and excitement. In the morning, we were to discover this beautiful hall with parquet floor and bay windows opening out into the forest. The shape of the hall and roof is based on the Shivalingam, a powerful symbol of healing, protection and meditation. The Mandir, the meditation hall was designed by Arun who is an architect by profession. It has room for about 200 people by my estimation. The ashram had just been donated some Bose speakers by American sannyasins and I heard that this has improved sound quality of all meditations immensely!
Passing the meditation hall, we descended the steps past more accommodation blocks, many of which are owned by Nepalese and foreign sannyasins. Nearly at the bottom of the site is Surati, the canteen. Asang, who is in charge of monitoring food passes, rustled up a very late lunch for us, which is typical of the kindness he and others in the ashram show. The food in the canteen was always delicious and interesting and hygienically prepared.
Just below Surati is the Samadhi and the shrine to Shivapuri Baba, and again further down is the waterfall and footpath off to the neighbouring village. The Samadhi, one of the many treasures of the commune, eventually became one of my favourite spots. It is built of marble and contains some of Osho’s ashes. It is also built around the tree where Nagarjuna was enlightened. Coming from the West it seems almost incomprehensible to me that the commune was able to purchase a piece of land where another master had attained enlightenment many centuries before.
We later came to know that sitting in the Samadhi, an afternoon session, is a very powerful experience. Some people choose to sit further back on the concrete footpath encircling it, so as not to accidentally fall forward into the moat surrounding the Samadhi – because the meditation is so strong and goes so deep!
Side by side to the Samadhi sits a shrine to a Nepalese mystic of the last century, Shivapuri Baba. With the sound of the waterfall, this is a powerful, powerful place indeed. I would go and sit in the little temple from time to time and the experience was profound and ecstatic! I liked the introduction and acknowledgement of other ascended masters in this ashram; after all I feel they all work together with Osho, in other realms for the betterment of humanity. All the many enlightened mystics who have lived and worked in the Himalayas infuse this land with such power for spiritual transformation.
After some chai and food, we climbed wearily back up the mountain side to our room to rest. A certain amount of fitness is required, because there are many steps to climb – up and down. The commune is in the process of making another access for those with bad knees or mobility issues and for those who are unable to do any steps at all. I was amazed seeing Shiva, who works cleaning and preparing the rooms, flying up and down these steps all day, and always with a friendly “Hello Ma!” whenever he spotted me. And the love and energy that is shown here, definitely helped me during those climbs; plus the occasional tow after a long day of meditating from my super fit, wiry Agatta!
Throughout our stay, I was struck by the friendliness and openness of the staff and other camp participants. There was always much laughter and joy. I felt so welcomed and looked after. An aspect of the Nepalese culture, which is very much present at Tapoban, is looking out for others and sharing what you have, sadly missing in the West and in this crazy world generally.
It is incredible what has been achieved in this commune, in such a poor country: hot showers, flushing toilets, comfortable rooms, delicious vegetarian food, and beautiful gardens. The guest rooms (you can choose between single room, double room or dormitory) are in big modern accommodation blocks; new ones are soon to be built and when finished they will also come up for sale.
Your Energy – not Your Mind
We had timed our arrival at Tapoban, so that we could attend two 7-day meditation intensives both conducted by Arun. In between camps we went to Pokhara to stay at Osho Upaban, which is another wonderful story to be told! The camp day starts with an hour of easy yoga, Gachchhami prayer, followed by Dynamic. After breakfast, my favourite session is Arun’s talk, where he answers questions or tells stories about Osho. I found his talks profound and moving and many of my questions and wonderings about Osho and the sannyas movement have been answered. This has been a great relief to me.
Back in Australia, during Arun’s visit in January 2014, I asked Arun how he started the commune in Tapoban and how the seemingly impossible has happened. Arun remembered Osho’s words as “I’m asking you to put your energy in – not your mind.” Arun explained, “The mind is very limited, very conditional, yet life is an unconditional mystery. Whenever one has to work for the master – don’t use your mind. For running an Osho commune, mind is not enough; use heart, intuition, trust and love. Positive thinking, trusting existence, trusting the master, unconditional love for the master and you can do miracles.”
When Osho had asked him to start a commune, he had no money, no support and was living in a very poor country. Within three months he had the money and the land and the support. The commune has been established for 27 years now and is flourishing. It is a wonderful example of Osho’s vision of a powerful Buddhafield and commune. There are now many other Osho centres in Nepal and two communes: Upaban at Pokhara and Jetban at Lumbini, all of which have been inspired by Arun’s work.
After the morning talk, if there is enough time, there is an active meditation. The favourite is Osho’s lesser known Om Meditation, which usually occurs at the end of the camp with all participants receiving shaktipat when the meditation is over. Shaktipat happens when a sufficiently experienced and qualified meditation leader becomes like an empty vessel, and allows divine energy of the master to flow through him into those who wish to receive the transmission.
The afternoon meditations begin with a passive meditation like Nadabrahma or sitting in the Samadhi, weather permitting. I am in awe at the transformative nature and simplicity of Osho’s meditations and so doing them in the alchemical sequence throughout the day with many more meditators is a sublime and rewarding experience. Krishna Mohan was meditation master and I called him Cool Krishna, as he quietly and gently held the energy for the camp.
After Kundalini and before dinner there is Aarti, which is a short devotional meditation which is performed in the garden around the Mandir. It is a beautiful heart-felt way to welcome the evening and pay homage to Osho and past masters. After Aarti, Arun welcomes the visitors, as he likes to meet and talk with everyone when they arrive at Tapoban. After dinner is White Robe – in Tapoban style: Osho video, dancing/celebration and silence, often followed by a sannyas celebration.
Taking sannyas is really celebrated here. Arun gives shaktipat and uses mediums to channel Osho’s energy. Each new sannyasin receives a mala and a Sanskrit name. I have always loved the energy around sannyas celebrations and here it showers ecstatically. I like the fact that this important moment in our lives is honoured by a beautiful celebration where the sweet, soft energy of the master is present.
Coming from All Over the World
There is so much intimacy and love in this place. It is not impersonal at all and the 40 ashramites welcome and care for the many visitors, who at times number up to 60. There are many visitors from abroad: Russians, Japanese, Americans, Australians, Malaysian, Chinese; so often during Arun’s talks there would be a small huddle to the side with the soft murmur of Neerav or Arhat acting as interpreters. The Russian group would light up when Arhat comes to translate for them. Arhat also tours Nepal and the world conducting meditation camps.
I feel inspired to see such a warm and loving commune as Tapoban and to deepen my understanding of why Osho taught that a sangha is very important for our growth. To be able to visit this Buddhafield and retreat from the world and soak up the bliss and energy that is here, is such a precious gift. And to be there in the Himalayas that Osho loved so much and where he wanted to live! I felt blessed to be here in this land of sacred mountains soaking up the vibrations of centuries of enlightened mystics.
Paritosho took sannyas in 1981, after she had her first taste of meditation during an Annapurna trek and shortly afterwards found herself in Pune. She lived for some time in the New Zealand and Sydney communes. Paritosho is now working as a kinesiologist and supporting Osho’s work at Osho Mevlana in Byron Bay, Australia. www.oshohealthkinesiology.com.au