Rashid exploring Madhya Pradesh on an inner journey.
They wake us in the night – jackals howling, crying, singing with unearthly, syncopated calls. They are ten yards from us just outside the garden fence of this small ashram by the great Narmada River. When they stop, the silence is extreme, pervasive.
The Osho Moulshree ashram here in Madhya Pradesh is one large painted tin-roofed kitchen, three small bed rooms with a tap and toilet, a vegetable garden and a field of rice. The meditation hall is up above the bedrooms. It has a balcony and views of the half kilometre wide river. The nearest village is ten minutes’ walk across the fields and there, a small road connects it to a large village twenty minutes’ drive away. There is but random electricity here so no wifi or telephone line, therefore I must write – with apologies – this un-illustrated, collective letter.
I’m here because the river is here – the second sacred river of mother India. Its surface is a mirror at this point, reflecting empty sky and a line of miniature trees along the further bank. Sometimes its pristine plane is rippled when a fisherman drifts by, squatting in a heavy wooden boat, pulling in a long net that bears a sorry haul. He slowly drifts into the blue haze of the distance, casting hauling casting hauling: again I am alone with the herons and the river terns, the wild boar and the monkeys, the peacocks and the lonely cry of the lapwing
Last Saturday, the day before full moon, my hosts, Pulak and Ichana and I drove the endless plain of sugar cane and rice and dirty crowded village on bumpy dusty roads to where beloved Osho spent his childhood years.
Gadarwara is the town in which his father had a draper’s shop and where he went to school. We stayed in Osho Leela just beside the river. Here the temple stood, now washed into the river, where Osho, aged 14, had his second and deliberate encounter with Mr Death, lying for a week there to await his foretold end.
That Saturday evening we went to the local semi-private library where Osho used to study. On leaving Jabalpur, his university town, Osho had gifted some six or seven hundred books to them. All were inscribed by his immaculate hand with his name, Rajneesh or Rajneesh Chandra Mohan along with the date of purchase. Some had chunks of text underlined or scored. All had been covered by Osho with old magazine or newspaper pages.
Now the head librarian managed to find a few of them for us to handle. Thoreau’s Walden. Shakespeare’s King Lear. Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. A weird fundamentalist Christian publication from America. A Virginia Woolf novel.
And the other few hundred books? The librarian shrugged his shoulders.
The next day, Sunday, was the night of full moon. We hired a boat with the greatest difficulty. For some reason the police had closed the river to all traffic. But Pulak managed a miracle with the help of a political connection.
Up stream of the marble rocks we asked the oarsmen to stop their rowing.
Suddenly the silence. Now the red-gold moon stood well above the dark hills and the dark gloss surface of the river. The marble rocks glowed luminous on either side.
The boat turned sideways to the current. Enveloped in the warm night air we slowly, slowly drifted in a timeless space. We are with the young undergraduate Osho in his boat, he is with us in this boat – deepening the silence, widening the space.
Fifteen minutes with a few friends in a boat gave as deep a meditation as I’ve known. And that’s true too of time spent in the ashram temple where time spent with death converts it to a dancing partner. With death on your side, what is there to fear?
This journey is about inner journeys, mine and Laxmi’s, for her biography I am helping to produce, and now surprisingly about the young Osho’s. We travelled to Kuchwara where he was born. It’s an utterly remote and antique village still largely untouched by plastic and electricity, concrete and the motor car. But there is a contradiction here too: the massive portals and monolithic structure of a Japanese/Indian Osho Ashram. Forbidding it is. Set on the edge of the village, it has yet to find its true place in the community. However the sannyasins there have the keys to the house where Osho was born, the house of his maternal grandparents. For rupees 200 or a couple of quid you can sit undisturbed in that clean dark room. Outside is the sound of the world passing by, inside is the soundless sound. This is another uplifting stretch on the sacred journey from here to here.
Now back in the Osho Moulshree Ashram, my sinuses protest the hundreds of dusty miles. But people here are so loving and caring that they have me back on my feet with Ginger and Tulsi, Eucalyptus and Propolis. This country may still be behind in the race for material wealth but it is still way ahead in spiritual wealth.
I felt this last night as we came out of the evening “white robe” meditation. The waning moon was not yet up and the sky clouded and dark. Osho’s profound words about religion and spirituality were still with me. I sat on the marble shoe rack. The night air was warm and enfolding. The sound of crickets and cicadas filled the valley. No wonder, I thought, that the great inner pilgrimages have started in this land. No wonder that love and freedom and consciousness and bliss have been the ambitions of this people. And now the understandings and the insights have themselves become embedded in the very geography of the place.
All this Osho has articulated with delicacy and precision – now I am actually beginning to experience such a reality. And before my words diminish its significance – I sign off with gratitude, the help of a mobile phone and this tired old laptop,