Building the Dam

Remembering Here&Now

Anando recalls the time when the dam for Krishnamurti Lake was built.

I was working in Mahavira Department. Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, had preached extreme non-violence. He walked naked and barefoot through all the seasons and wore a mask to breathe through in order to avoid killing microbes in the air. In comparison with him vegans are mass murderers.

His modern representatives at Rancho Rajneesh also wore masks, sitting high up on bulldozers and scrapers, to cut down on the diet of dust. Building new roads and improving old ones, they knocked down juniper trees and raped land that had never even been properly kissed.

We were up in Buddha Grove, one third the way towards Antelope, where the land fell away and the ears popped. I was head “grunt” in the culvert business. A culvert is what water flows through under a road. The ones we installed were between 18 inches and 10 feet in diameter, and 30 to 300 feet long.

Culverts at Dam
Building bridges
Krishnamurti Lake
Osho visits
Krishnamurti Lake 2
Krishnamurti Lake Festival

While we were laying down the bases of the highways and bypasses through and around the future overground city, outside contractors were setting up power lines. A few people were checking out the geology and others were drilling for and finding water. The infrastructure was shaping up before our eyes.

At the beginning of September
I was standing at the bottom of
the dam pit with TJ.
It was about 300 feet across
and 100 feet up on both sides.
“We’re going to make
these rocks so clean
you can eat off them,”
he said.
“By hand.”
I felt like he was saying
“We’re going to build the pyramids
from scratch.”

I remember one morning when Devaprem, our chief designer came out with an architect and stood on the hillside high above where we were working. Holding plans, he pointed around in a full circle to the places where the schools, libraries, meditation halls, hospitals and movie theaters would be.

This was Saswad and Rajneeshdham all over again, but this time you really thought it would happen. In fact, it was already happening and no one and nothing could get in our way.

A stout and dour man who hardly ever smiled, he was beaming like a proud father.

One of the major “rational” complaints against establishing a city in this desert was the lack of water. Some environmentalists and neighboring ranchers insisted that there was barely enough to take care of existing needs. Any further strain would lower the underlying water table.

Our planners insisted that there was enough water if only we could catch it before it ran down the steep hills towards the river taking the precious topsoil with it. The Beaver crew worked in the main and side creeks cutting down junipers that stole water and building small check dams. The ponds they made slowed the rush of water and reduced erosion.

Meanwhile a battalion of heavy equipment was at work in Kabir Creek excavating down to bedrock in preparation for the construction of an earthen dam. Another crew was at work high on the hill building a new road because when the lake behind the dam filled up with 360 million gallons of water, that old road would be at the bottom of it.

At the beginning of September I was standing at the bottom of the dam pit with TJ. It was about 300 feet across and 100 feet up on both sides.

“We’re going to make these rocks so clean you can eat off them,” he said. “By hand.” I felt like he was saying “We’re going to build the pyramids from scratch.”

After the rocks had seen the light of day for the first time in more than 12 million years, he continued, we were going to lay a fine spray of concrete called “grout”. That was going to be the seal between the earth and rock to prevent the water from seeping through and would prevent the dam and city itself from future disasters. Failure was not an option.

It seemed totally impossible and I didn’t want to think about it. “Just shut up and give me a shovel,” I said. Looking at that thread of creek, sometimes stagnant and sometimes not there at all, the idea that a massive lake would be there one day was no more convincing than a three day old wet dream.


Sometime during the summer festival I was riding on a bus and repeating a saying popular in California in the 1960’s:

“Jesus Saves, Moses Invests.”

“What does Bhagwan do,” someone shouted out.

“He spends.” I said without a second thought.

The next thing I knew it was a slogan on a bumper sticker and not only a new ranch motto, but also policy.

Nevertheless, there were people all around the world who had sacrificed more than me, had donated thousands and even millions of dollars to our cause and still weren’t lucky enough to live in the Buddhafield. I hadn’t contributed anything except my muscles and enthusiasm. So no matter how hard I worked under any circumstances, it would never amount to anything and be enough.

So I felt lucky, shined upon and blessed.

The culvert crew was riding almost every day in the back of pickup trucks on the road towards the pine forest at the southern edge of the ranch. Most people were confined to a couple of square miles or feet, but we had been almost everywhere on the ranch. We even met a friendly neighbor!

“Do you people really have music out there,” he asked me very intently.

“Sure,” I said. “You can come and dance with us any time!”

There was lots of rain that year. It made the stringy creeks sing, the birds laugh, and public officials and opponents of our city scream. At one meeting on the ranch an environmentalist was trying to deliver the standard rap about there not being enough water. But even with a microphone she couldn’t be heard over the racket of a thunderstorm.

She was forced to stop and yell. “It hasn’t rained this much since the early ’50’s!”

But the rainfall was not good for completing the dam. The mud, which was like a field of bubble gum, didn’t have the right compaction density. We spent days laying down the earth and then had to dig it out. Everyone close to the action thought it would be real impossible to finish the dam on schedule.

By the end of the day we were caked in dirt or splattered with mud and if anyone had money went to the new restaurant in the ranch house. We’d grab a huge table to ourselves and sometimes could get a waitress to lie down on it and free associate. One night we were about to get thrown out for drunk and disorderly.

“We don’t have enough money to get drunk,” TJ protested, “so we have to pretend.”

Like about 60 other guys, TJ was in love with a cowgirl named Anamo. Certain girls inexplicably came into fashion and then just as inexplicably went out again. It was Anamo’s turn in the spotlights. She was small with dark hair, sweet brown eyes and a husky voice. When she sat with us TJ would suddenly get shy and keep apologizing for the behavior of the barbarians he came in with.

The next time I saw her she was wearing a wet suit and scuba tank in a six hour old swimming hole on the upstream side of the dam. She was fishing for a broken pump that was supposed to be shunting the rising creek water through the sluice pipe. Had the creek been allowed to run over the dam the whole project would probably have been scrapped until spring.

Slipping and sliding, sometimes going into mudholes up to their thighs about 50 guys managed to set up 300 feet of culvert in an hour and save the dam.


The weather turned sunny and balmy and we worked shirtless on some days in December. Anugiten took over the coordination of the dam. Slim and laconic, he was the perfect worker, driving all the different machines, being patient with less talented people, and going on forever with endless energy and skill.

The dam was completed before December 11. A local rancher bet it would take years for the lake to fill up. It took six weeks.

Excerpts from the book by Satyam Anando, Double Vision, Ch 1: We’ve got a city to build (1982)

Satyam AnandoAmerican-born Satyam Anando took sannyas in Pune in August 1979. He lived and worked there until it essentially closed down in the summer of 1981. He arrived in Rajneeshpuram in May 1982 and immediately asked for the most physically taxing job so he could work out a lot of his pent up aggression. He remained until December 1985. He now lives in Portugal.

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