Mahakavi writes about his rebellious sannyas life.
I was born in 1959 in Anjou, in the western part of France, close to where Shravakar and Abhinav were born. But when I was ten, my parents and I moved to a town called Fougères, located in Brittany’s marshes.
In 1970 I met a lot of hippies who had just came back hitch-hiking from the Isle of Wight Pop Festival; that was the moment I firmly decided to become a hippie. As there were quite a few of them in town I started to hang around them. In the beginning they kept me at a distance because I was still very young – just 12 years old – but slowly they accepted and also protected me: but I was not allowed to touch hard drugs, a rule to which I would then abide, although I used to smoke cannabis, skipped school and hitchhiked from one music festival to the other. In those days I was fond of groups like Gong, Caravan & Quintessence.
At 16 my parents were kind enough to sign the papers for me to obtain a passport so that I could go travelling. First I went to London where I hung out in Notting Hill and Portobello Road, then on to Germany, Istanbul, Iran and Afghanistan. I was thrilled to live the life of a wanderer, but soon became lost emotionally, always in a forward flight, without knowing what I was looking for yet aware that I wasn’t finding it. I used to take a lot of drugs – secretly hating myself for it – and I regularly came back to Fougères where I took on any vacant job to earn a living.
One day a guy who belonged to my hippie group came back from India dressed in red with a mala. He introduced himself with a new name: Premdeva. Two other friends, turned on by Sri Aurobindo, had been on their way to Pondicherry when they stopped in Poona to say hello to Premdeva but never went any further and eventually also came back with new names: Prem Svarupam and Anand Ramapada. That’s how it all started; in the end we were 13 sannyasins in this small city!
Not feeling comfortable with myself, I hit the road again, this time Poona being my destination. I again crossed Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan and reached Pakistan. My plan was to get as far as Karachi and from there take a passage on a boat to Bombay. During Ramadan I got sick in Quetta; there was not a single westerner in the city, and I got lost again. I forgot all about where I was heading and succumbed to the opium pipes. I believe that a part of me was afraid of the energy waiting for me in Poona (or that was my excuse…). I came back to France, down and depressed and feeling like a failure.
Back home Svarupam handed me a Sannyas Magazine with the main title ‘Suicide or Sannyas’. The message had such an impression on me that I rushed to Paris and took sannyas. That was on 27th October 1977. My friend Vishva gave me the mala but I had to wait a few weeks for my name to come by post. When it eventually arrived I was so surprised by the name I received: Prem Mahakavi (meaning ‘great poet of love’). This beautiful name came as a big relief because I didn’t have much self-esteem. If I had received the name ‘poet of love’ that would have already been a wonderful gift, but to be called ‘great poet of love’? It blew my mind (and still does).
Back in Fougères my father asked me what he could do for me. I told him that I wanted to go to Poona, and he paid me the trip. I travelled by plane to make sure I would arrive in Bombay at last. That was in 1978. In Poona I dropped my suitcase at the Grand Hotel, a very quiet place with a nice garden, and went to the Golden Cheese, a place on Moledina Road where many sannyasins lived at the time. Meeting them was sensational!
I had already started losing my hair – the worst nightmare for the young hippie that I was! So I had shaved my head before leaving France in the hope it would grow stronger. As soon as it grew back I oiled it heavily with smelly coconut oil, the reason why I had to wait for an entire month to get my arriving darshan! When I finally passed Lao Tzu Gate and sat in Chuang Tzu I felt magic energy all around. I heard my name being called and there it was, my darshan with Osho.
He laughed and asked, “How are you, Mahakavi? Do you want to do a few groups?”
And everything fell in its place, so naturally, so easy, nothing could have been more perfect.
I had just turned 19 and loved being there. I loved the magic of India and Koregaon Park. I loved the thalis of Centre Street you could get for three rupees, drinking chai before sunrise at the Diamond Café close to the French Corner, meeting friends and biking to the ashram with the many sounds of the early morning around. I more or less liked the groups, except for one: Tao, which was a nightmare. A psychopath in the group terrified me and many others for as long as the group lasted. Fear and violence didn’t stop. And there was no way to deal with it or escape….
Too soon I had to return to France for my mandatory army conscription selection. It was April, I remember. I was tanned dark brown, dressed in red with my mala and was taken to a General because they didn’t know what to do with me. I passed the intelligence tests brilliantly but my appearance didn’t fit with their expectations. The General seemed to be a nice man; he asked me about Indian sacred cows and about Lobsang T. Rampa – he had read a book by him – and we came to the conclusion that there was no place for me in the army. I was lucky; I had already planned to desert if they had made me a soldier. I was relieved and the only one out of 120 guys to be exempted from these duties.
The second time I went to Poona was in 1980, by the grace of an unexpected patron. I worked in a sannyasin place in Munich, in Richard Wagner Strasse in the basement below Gerda Boyesen’s centre. I had come into trouble because I had seduced the wife of my boss (with my French charm!) and was asked to leave. Seeing me left out in the cold many spontaneously offered their help. Amongst them was a doctor who asked me, “What do you really, really want to do?” When he heard that my deepest desire was to return to Poona, he asked me to come over to his office; he opened his safe and gave me 2700 Deutsche Mark. That was quite a sum in 1980! We were both crying. He kept saying, “This is not me, this is Bhagwan!” He was crying and I was crying because it was very difficult for me to receive (my ego!). My finances increased dramatically from 5 DM to 2700 DM within an instant and I returned to Poona with a happy heart.
At the end of my three-month stay and after meditations and therapy groups I participated in a 10-day residential Vipassana group. I suffered such cramps in my heart during those ten days, giving me no respite! Pradeepa, with her sense of humor, just said, “It’s Bhagwan’s knife.” Apart from that and that we had to swallow whole flasks of brown pills against constipation, this group was pure magic. It was located on the roof of No. 70, if I remember well, overlooking the trees of Koregaon Park. The combination of this intense silent meditation practice with the song of the birds and no other sounds was pure magic.
After the group was over and I went back to my normal worldly life I had a satori experience, a magical moment that ended as fast as I wanted to hold on to it. Boom… A few days later I had my leaving darshan.
“Good… Good …” Osho told me, “Go and help my people.” He transmitted charan sparsh by putting a finger on my third eye (indeed I have this term written down in my diary) and gave me a wooden box. He told me to open it only once. This was the last time I saw Osho.
That Osho had said to me, “Go and help my people” has puzzled me ever since. Also people keep asking me if I write poetry because my name means ‘poet’. I have never written poetry but when I tried it, wanting to fulfil these expectations, it took me five days to write two pathetic verses! I didn’t understand what “Go and help my people” meant; I was already having a hard time to help myself!
Being of the rebellious type it was difficult for me to stay in a job for long or even to adapt to sannyas commune life. Sometimes it was also very expensive. I went to Trapani with my girlfriend Prartho and we stayed at Krishna Radha’s commune for ten days. We had to pay a daily fee to the commune, work hard to build our future room, pay for our transportation from Trapani and for the hotel room, an insane situation… I couldn’t afford it. Then I went to Jagran in Avignon to Svarupanand’s place (thanks Svarup, you accepted me even though I was poor!) and then to Cologne where I worked at the big disco.
I never went to the Ranch. I must say I had the bad habit of throwing away my mala, out of rage. One of the reasons was that I had expected Osho to arrange for my financial support! I received three malas in total and fortunately still have the third, but in those days to throw your mala was not something you could easily get away with. Many were ready to excommunicate me! This clearly showed how difficult it was for me to surrender, but luckily there were Veeresh, Samadhi, and everybody else at Humaniversity. There I received support and unconditional love, with all my gratitude. I felt totally accepted. I entered a few programmes including the tourist programme. I would have wanted to be part of the student programme but I was too proud to say I had run out of money. I left and started a Misfit City together with a few Humaniversity friends, close to Paris. We called it ‘Peter Pan Osho Free State’.
Then Osho left his body.
I didn’t feel the loss immediately; it took more than a year. Without awareness of what was going on, I decided to offer my commitment and devotion for Osho to a love relationship. It turned out to be a very bad idea. I was drowned in a passionate, very toxic relationship I was totally hooked into. I almost died and lost my dignity. Unable to meditate, I hated myself. This lasted for years…. Fortunately I was always surrounded by long-time faithful friends, who love me and never let me down, who give me the freedom to live through what I have to live through, without interference. I am thinking of Vishva and Satyam, Prartho, Sabna, Abhaya and many other dear friends.
At the end of the nineties I met my wife-to-be at the centre of Kalou Rinpoche during a time I was into Tibetan Buddhism. She is a beautiful person, loving, loyal and patient. We declared our love to each other on 1st January 2000 – this was the bug I have been waiting for! I rebuilt myself step by step, opening up again in spite of the fear of being hurt, reconnecting gently with Osho’s guidance and with the deepest parts of myself. I got in touch with my friends again. Osho’s grace and blessing came back into my life, even more precious since I had lost it once.
After 20 stressful years in Paris, I was made redundant and lost my job as a personal assistant to the boss when the limousine company closed. During the same period my wife, who had already overcome Hodgkin’s disease when young, was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she also survived. It was a difficult period, painful and destabilising. Friends we thought would be close to us weren’t, but new friends appeared unexpectedly.
Then an opportunity was offered to us under blessed circumstances – to buy a little house close to the Atlantic Ocean that came with two cats. We have been living here since last September. We have to rebuild our professional lives, I am looking for a job and we also have to look after our physical health. But we are alive! It’s a miracle considering what we have gone through. We are far away from our friends but I have many new ones like Mega and Madhav on the web, who give a lot of themselves through their posts.
Veeresh left his body last month and I believe he entered mahaparanirvana. His departure made me incredibly sad. By leaving, he moved so much energy and love.
My heart is full of love and I am proud to be part of such a sangha, so alive, so bold and courageous. I feel fortunate for having spent those 6 or 8 weeks at Humaniversity in 1986. I try to integrate and gather all that I have received from so many people and so many places, and it continues pouring: Punya just invited me to think about writing for Osho News for their Profile section. It amazes me and delights me: What? Me? My life story in a magazine?
I still don’t understand the meaning of my name but am starting to get the sense of it. Also, I stopped feeling ashamed that I do not write poetry. My love, quiet, safe, posed and peaceful, is poetry.
Today I try to see what Osho has given to me from the very first moment. It is recognition, and a direction through the beautiful name he had given me, through this amazing communion during darshans, and then via Humaniversity where I was generously and unconditionally shown how valuable I am.
I dedicate this testimony to Veeresh and the Humaniversity. His departure made me cry a lot; I realise lately what a beautiful master and beautiful relay to Osho he was. To my wife and to my dear friends who have given a sense and joy to my life for so long. And last but not least, many thanks for this opportunity to tell my little story, it was fun. Thank you and love!
Prem Mahakavi, February 2015