Amar tells the story how she and Bhagat came to live in the Czech Republic, open a meditation centre, a holistic venue, a guest house and how the place became a sannyas community.
Our first visit
It was a grey, rainy November day when we drove through the Czech Republic. This was almost twenty years ago. The country had just recently left communism behind and there were hardly any road signs, the tarmac was bumpy and the villages looked grey. Those houses hadn’t seen a shimmer of paint for a very very long time…. Maybe it was not November but already spring, but this is how desolate and uninviting it felt.
It was my first time in what was then called Eastern Europe. I had just facilitated Born Again in Zlin, in the East of Chech Republic, and met Bhagat in Chemnitz where he had also given a workshop. Instead of going straight back to Munich he wanted to make a detour, drive me back into Czech and show me a house where he had been recently for a Vipassana group. It was a little Osho centre which was already abandoned because the owner wanted to sell it. Bhagat wanted me to see it.
All I could do was to trust Bhagat’s sense of orientation on those roads! After quite a long drive through a very thinly populated landscape, in a small village we turned off from the main road onto a short track which took us up a hill. We stopped in front of an old farmhouse and Bhagat said to me: “This is the place.” I was pretty sure that a little further up we would find the end of the world!
Back in Munich, had Bhagat told me that he was thinking of buying it. Wow! I always loved his courage and his readiness to jump into adventures like these! Many times he told me that his dream was to open an Osho centre somewhere in the countryside. He was not a city man. “Bhagat, this is your chance!” we said to him – and he grabbed the chance with both hands and gave his “Yes, I am in!” in three or four days. Within six weeks he was all packed up and left Munich.
He hardly knew anything about the Czech Republic, except for a short visit he had made with Agar, his partner at the time, who was from there. They had met in Pune and had been living together at the Tao Centre in Munich. So when they moved to the new place, in 1995, she was his only way of communicating, at least in the beginning.
But here they were in an old dilapidated farmhouse, no telephone, no possibility of ever having one (that was the time before mobile phones), and far from their friends in Munich. But a few of them, those who were excited about the project, stayed connected and came to visit them regularly. And if I was not in Pune I would be there on weekends to help out. In the beginning things moved slowly but eventually the place became alive.
Early on Bhagat understood that it was not enough to be an Osho centre and wait for sannyasins to come. He had to move towards new people, even those who had never heard of Osho, and offer workshops they would be interested in. He started giving workshops – Vipassana, Past Lives, Chakra work. Later on he also facilitated Family Constellation workshops, a method which was very new and unknown here. People trusted him; he found a way into their hearts which made it easy to also introduce Osho’s active meditations.
They came back and he began to offer more workshops and trainings. Many took part in Ericksonian Hypnosis and NLP because these methods gave them additional tools for their professions – and they loved them because they brought a spiritual dimension to their work. For others, Essence and Art of Dying became an important step in their journey. So Shangri La slowly turned into a flowering meditation and retreat centre.
Was it also my dream to move to the countryside? Not as yet! I loved to spend the summertime here, but only in 2010 I took the jump and moved here fully. As soon as I arrived I started to build a house for myself, next to Shangri La. I wanted it to also be a guesthouse, reason why I called it Karavanserai. I received a lot of support from many of my friends, more than I could ever have expected. It was mindblowing. Of course it was the first time for me to build a house – it was certainly a challenge! – and I cannot imagine how I could have done it without the help of Almasta. He had joined Bhagat at Shangri La early on and helped him renovate the houses, plant new trees on the land, as well as cook and translate for the workshops, clean, repair, you name it! Almasta translated between me and the builders as in those days I did not speak a word of Czech. Through working together we became even closer friends.
Valley of Paradise
The name Shangri La, which Bhagat had chosen, means ‘valley of paradise’ and it truly became a little paradise. The old farmhouse was renovated. It now houses the meditation room, dining room, kitchen and accommodation for the group participants. The old barn, next to the farmhouse, the Shangri La house, became Bhagat’s living space. Almasta built his own house, next to the second barn which he turned into a carpentry shop. Many friends who joined also built their own houses, so that in the end we almost have a little village for ourselves: 7 houses, plus garages for our cars and the tractor and a greenhouse, in an area of 12 acres.
We installed ecological heating systems in all the houses and we are growing our own vegetables, bio of course! We have an outdoor sauna and a warm saltwater pool. All these changes happened organically. The income of each year was invested again into the place, creating in its turn the finances for further developments. Obviously, a lot of work and a lot of love went into it.
Also the gardens received a make-over. Each house has its own garden, but the largest part, the Shangri La garden which is open to participants and guests, is full with fruit trees, flowering bushes and flower beds. We also have vegetable gardens, a greenhouse, a playing area for children and a Japanese garden with a stream running through it, with little waterfalls. Over the years we created nine ponds. And newly planted fruit trees give shade to little areas with benches that invite us and our guests to take a rest. From there we can enjoy the meadows full of flowers and a great view on the vast and wild landscape. A beautiful contrast to the densely populated Germany where we had been living before.
The reason why this area is so scarcely populated is that we are in the Sudetenland. Let me explain: many ethnic Germans used to live here for centuries but after WWII they were forced out of the country and had to leave everything behind. For me it is very touching that exactly in this area we are meeting again: Czechs and Germans. With meditation, Family Constellation, and all the love that we are sharing, I feel that we are contributing to the healing of these traumatic events.
When I walk into the dining room around lunch time, even in winter, it is buzzing with energy. New people, some known faces, all mixing with each other, making friends and enjoying each other’s company. Much of the excitement is also due to the fabulous cooking of our chefs: Magda and Almasta. But as soon as I step outside I am surrounded by silence. This remote countryside is just magic… I must say that my first winter here was not easy. When living in Pune I was so used to being among friends all the time – in the warm Indian climate! All this snow and the remoteness were a real challenge for me at first.
The first time I came to Shangri La I knew that it would be perfect for the three-week Mystic Rose. The place naturally invites and supports to dive deep into this beautiful process. So, since the very beginning, every summer we have a Mystic Rose! The days are framed by Osho’s meditations, we live together and everybody gets a taste of communal living. We work together, and work helps us stay grounded – “choping wood, carrying water from the well…”
But there is also time for chilling out. People sometimes come just for a holiday. They can go for hikes, make bicycle tours or play with clay in our pottery; when it’s warm go swimming in ‘our’ lake in the forest, take walks or just hang out. In the evening we might go back to our rooms or sit around a campfire, sing along while someone plays the guitar, dance, or follow what other participants are offering that night.
A meeting-place is also ‘my’ Karavanserai. I love when people come for a cappuccino, a piece of cake or for a little gossip. When workshops are on and a lot of people are around, my café is crowded to the brim after lunch. At that time they often book a session. They are a beautiful change for me – and very fulfilling.
In the last few years more friends have settled around Shangri La. We are now 13 adults and 4 children, loosely connected with each other. Some are employed by Bhagat for the running of the centre, some have their own businesses, and some combine the two.
There is Almasta, who made a carpentry shop out of the old barn. He discovered his talent with woodwork – he has become a real artist – besides being a genius as an allround repairman.
Then there is Sananda, my new neighbour, who built a beautiful round house, all outside walls painted in a vivid terracotta red. She makes her living with therapy, with translating for groups and trainings, and as a hobby she loves to paint on silk.
Prapati, the mother of Bhagat’s three kids, has built a self-sufficient earthship. It is a zero-energy house with a huge all-year-round greenhouse with its own independent energy supply provided by sun and wind energy. Hers is also the pottery. I was impressed to see her spend hours, days and weeks making all kinds of tiles for her new home. Now when you enter it there is a lot to discover: mosaics on the floor, playful shapes on the oven, in so many colours and different forms, a bathroom with a sun and a moon – a surprise on every step, almost like in an adventure playground.
Nishkam, originally from Belarus, while studying in Czech came to visit and decided to live with us because he wanted to be around sannyasins. He does programming work and has his own business.
Creativity and individuality flower, and together create a precious climate, a climate where visitors and group participants find transformation as well as inspiration for their lives. This is something very important for them, as we hear them say again and again.
Open for new possibilities
We are open and welcome like-minded people who wish to join us and enrich our community with new activities or income possibilites. They can build a new home or renovate an old house in the area and if they need to earn money they could bring their own business with them, something which in our internet-age is easily possible.
The centre and Amar’s guesthouse are the main attractions that bring people here, but Almasta’s carpentry, Sananda’s house, the earthship, are all independent extensions and enrichments built around the centre. As the centre is flowering, the other parts also have the opportunity to flower and become stronger – in mutual support.
The community grew step by step. As nobody came with money it all happened in a quite chaotic yet organic way. Bhagat always had a vision of creating something like a small sannyas village. We both had extensive experiences with living in the Tao centre, a structured centre with discussions, meetings, etc. We wanted to come away from that and create a place where adults meet adults, each one responsible for his or her life, but still with the possibility of staying connected.
In this way it is easy to accept our different views, likings and ideas because we do not have to compromise. But we talk. This is a rather invisible but relevant aspect of our place. It is more of a place consisting of different parts but connected through a common string: Osho and meditation.
I am also happy to have a good connection with the neighbouring village, Žlutice. I love to be in contact with Petra, whom I found when searching for a Czech teacher. Now that I have become friends with her it is much easier for me to learn and study – this language is so damn difficult!
And in the café I often have another guest from the village; each time she comes she brings another of her relatives with her. She says she likes the atmosphere here, but she also comes for the good cakes!
Bhagat recently said, “When I participated in my first groups, back in the eighties, I was so lucky that there were people who could share their experience of meditation and therapy with me. Now I am happy that I can share what I have received from Osho with others. It is a joy to see that Shangri La OMC is giving them the inspiration that I have received in the past. This is what our centre was meant to be – a place for inspiration.”
And all I can add to this is: Thank you, Osho!
Text by Amar, edited by Osho News with information from Bhagat
Amar was born and grew up in Hamburg. She met Osho in the beginning of 1978, then 22 and has been always around his communes since. She lead a centre in Gießen and spent over 10 years in Pune where she worked in almost all departments and participated in many trainings. Presently she lives in the Czech Republic, looks after her guesthouse Karavanserai and its café, gives massage, cranio and tarot sessions and facilitates meditation weekends and the Mystic Rose. www.karavanserai.cz
Bhagat was born in Bavaria where, in 1978, he came across Osho’s work through friends. He lived in Osho Tao in Munich, first working in the kitchen. He then became part of the team running the place and started work as a therapist. In Pune he gave hypnosis trainings and sessions. He founded Shangri La OMC in 1995 and lives there since then, working with Family Constellation, Ericksonian Hypnosis/NLP, Essence work, Art of Dying and breathwork. www.shangrila.cz
Mystic Rose with Amar at Shangri La: 26.7. – 16.8.2014