Veetmoha reads one of his poems.
The Last Straw
from Sannyas magazine, Volume 4, Poona, August 1977
Swami Anand Veetmoha
The curtain rises on a vast congregation
of wise men and saints from every nation.
Never before for a thousand ages
was there such a gathering of sages.
This wasn’t just another jamboree of living teachers —
also summoned to be there were past and future creatures,
who’d come from far and wide in headlong flight
to arrive in time on that dizzy mountain height
and be seated for the start of the celestial proceeding.
To say they were excited would be awfully misleading —
you must understand these beings are far beyond the senses
and long ago have dropped all their attachments and pretenses.
While waiting they chatted on some esoteric theme
or worked on the details of an amusing cosmic scheme,
but they soon settled down when they heard the starting hooter
and one of them stood up as a sort of prosecutor
and folding his hands and without any fuss
he looked at the assembly and addressed them thus:
a certain Bhagwan’s ashram is the focus of the meeting —
he’s with us here today in the front row of the seating.
He’s pretty ignominious and needs no introduction
owing to his liberal chatter and foolproof methods of seduction.
You are all well aware of the goings on in Poona
and my opinion is we should have talked about them sooner,
but my duty here is merely to reveal the latest news
and I’ll try to be discrete about it and not to air my views.
Now I expect with all the gossiping
you may have heard the rumour,
so I want to make it clear that it’s no grounds for humour.
The outcome of this meeting is a life or death decision
and I think we should apply ourselves with unsullied vision.
Enough of this preamble — no need for more delay.
The purpose of our gathering here today —
and I want to make it clear that I bear no grudge –
I say the purpose of this congress is simply to judge
an event that I find personally particularly uncouth,
an abomination and a travesty of truth,
a descent from meditation’s highest peak —
the opening in the ashram of . . . . . a clothes boutique!”
At the mention of this frightful word,
(or, if it doesn’t sound absurd,
at the vibration of this frightful vibe —
remember that these astral beings normally imbibe
the meaning of a sentence through their being,
they don’t have ears like us for hearing, eyes for seeing)
at the mention of this word ’boutique’
a horrified silence quite unique
so possessed the immortal band
that you could have heard the clapping of a single hand.
The exception was the snoring of an old zen master,
but someone soon stopped this with a piece of sticking plaster
always kept handy for these particular Asians
who tend to nod off on these occasions.
The speaker pointed at the one the case was all about
and to everyone’s amazement began to hiss and shout.
“It’s that Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
who’s the cause of all the trouble.
If it was my decision I’d recall him on the double.
We don’t mind ashrams with air-conditioned interiors,
we can even be lenient with juice bars and cafeterias;
we can overlook the matter of the drinking and the dating,
not to mention the wholesale promiscuous mating;
we can understand sannyasins who like a casual smoke,
but with this latest affair it’s gone beyond a joke.
No, we can’t take any more,
this really is the final straw.
And though I know that it was my suggestion to install him
I really think this is the end and that we should recall him.”
The speaker passed his tongue around his drying lips
and several buddhas moved their legs to ease their aching hips.
The chairman saw the time had come to take a little break
so took a knife and started cutting up the cake
which, with a thermos flask of hot sweet tea,
was passed around the company.
At this point some of the oldest sages,
who’d heard it all before in bygone ages,
and had chosen for the while to slip into eternity,
appeared in the substantial to take tea with the fraternity.
It wasn’t every day on the icy peaks of Kailash
that they partook of the infusion of Bodhidharma’s eyelash.
The refreshment completed, hot towels were provided
and the chairman banged the table and the gossip subsided.
He cleared his throat and summarized the meeting up to date
and reminded them he hadn’t corporealized of late,
that the matters in question
were such rare and strange complaints
that the opinion should be sought of the very recent saints.
Then he opened the session for general discussion
and the first to speak was a wily old Russian
who stood up, pulled at his walrus moustache
and said, “To bring him back’s a bit too harsh.
Myself, I’ve just come back from earth
and I’m considering another birth.
I think the outlook’s pretty black
and it wouldn’t help to call him back.
Earth’s in a delicate position;
it’s senseless to disturb his mission.”
A rishi in an off-white dhoti
looked up from his snack of dal and roti
and with a pained expression on his face,
which showed how well he recalled the place,
said, “Here’s something we can all agree on:
earth is a difficult planet to be on.”
Giggling broke out at this time-honoured cliché
and a redness appeared on the cheeks of the rishi.
“Seriously though,” said a sufi from Ankara
seated right next to an ancient teerthankara,
“it’s particularly difficult during this age
when disaster’s written on every page,
when practice is made of atomic theorems
and people will kill for a couple of dirhams
and man may soon receive the distinction
of causing his own and the earth’s extinction.”
The rishi, recovering from his shame,
said, “Well I don’t want to take the blame,”
and easing himself from a painful lotus
asked, “Why not straightaway promote us?
Send us down as maharishis
if there’s danger for the species.”
“But you don’t know what’s happening now,”
replied an aged man of tao.
“When did you last take a birth
to look at the facts on the face of the earth?
These days they want it in the raw —
people don’t go for names any more;
just calling yourself mahatma, maharishi, avatar,
really won’t get you very far.
All these things are simply trifles
if you want to get disciples.
You have to listen to the masses —
their present pitfalls and crevasses
into which the seeker slides
while the bank above subsides
leaving him with no way out
but to kick and scream and shout.
That’s what’s happening down in Poona;
I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
No, there’s nothing here to fear;
the boutique’s a really great idea.
In fact it goes, with your permission,
into that old revered tradition
of little tricks the guru plays
to make sure his disciple stays.”
A silence fell upon the place, a solemn moment passed,
for all of them admitted that their logic was outclassed
and clearly this old taoist had married old and new
and brought the issues here at stake more plainly into view.
Of course there were some grumbles
from the hard-core conservatives,
especially from the ancients
who were pickled in preservatives.
One well-kippered yogi cast a glance at the accused
and told him that these modern methods left him all confused.
He said, “It’s clear to me that the majority now backs him
but forgive me if I mention this wise and ancient maxim:
‘If you wish to be their saviour
Keep an eye on their behaviour’.”
The younger sages groaned at this reactionary whiner
but were constrained from further outbursts
by the man of tao from China,
“It seems to me that on the whole
the case should be dismissed,
despite the pockets of intolerance that naturally persist.
Let’s hurry up and get a statement we can all agree on,
the pubs close in a minute and we’ve been here half an aeon.”
There was widespread applause at this mention of the boozers
and it certainly looked as if the die-hards were the losers.
So the chairman called to order by banging on the table
and considered all the points of view as far as he was able
and he cleared his throat and he stroked his beard
but when he rose to make his statement
the crowd had disappeared.
“It only goes to show,” he thought,
“that the followers of the tantric
at the mention of their weaknesses go absolutely frantic.”
But who is this lone being appearing like a vision?
Why! The young Bhagwan from Poona still awaiting the decision.
“Heavens!” he cried as he looked down to see earth’s day was dawning,
“You’d better hurry back to make your lecture in the morning.”
For transport Bhagwan climbed aboard a passing peal of laughter
and scarcely caught the words that the chairman shouted after.
“Perhaps you would consider some sort of — um — recompense;
you know, just something small to cover the expense.”
As soon as Bhagwan reached the ground he turned into a mouse
and crept to where the boutique stands
in the grounds of Krishna House.
He took from off a bamboo peg the finest velvet gown
and sent it off to Kailash with an angel of the town.
The mysterious disappearance wasn’t noticed for a while
and soon again forgotten or shrugged off with a smile.
Now the boutique flourishes in a favourable position;
the sannyasins who run it have no trace of a suspicion,
nor in their wildest fancy could they conceivably guess
of the extraordinary events that led to its success,
nor that the little business never would have thrived,
let alone that it simply couldn’t have survived
but for that celestial congress, that esoteric row
and the unholy intemperance of that immortal man of tao.
Poem by Veetmoha
Scanned from Sannyas magazine, Volume 4, Poona, August 1977
Photo thanks to Samya
Anand Veetmoha (aka Tony Kendrew) lives nowadays a very private life in Northern California. During Pune 1 days he used to travel much with Laxmi on the long-lasting search for ‘the new commune’ and also contributed humorous poems to the Rajneesh Newsletter and Sannyas magazine. He enjoys writing, and a collection of his poetry called Feathers Scattered in the Wind was published last year. Many poems are also on his website and on two very enjoyable CDs, read by him. firstname.lastname@example.org – www.tonykendrew.com