Déjà Vu

Remembering Here&Now

A few years ago, Ma Prem Anado, who left her body this month, wrote this account of her journey to take sannyas.

Anado SeventiesCan you believe it?

Can you believe the silhouette of a man, all dressed in flowing orange robes, with long curly hair floating in the breeze around a smiling face, walking down a little country road in Tuscany? Surrounded by fields and vineyards, by cypress trees and olive groves, he walks with a steady gait, carrying an orange bag on his shoulder. The sun is at midday, so this orange man’s shadow walks with him, under him, the only shade on the road.

That is the image of Ananga, late Swami Anand, when he came to Noce, Tuscany, in 1977 and carried me away into a New World, the world of a Master and His disciples…. As he came closer, I noticed the necklace of black beads with a photo hanging from it. Had I ever seen something like that?

I had known the guy was going to come and also that he was going to be orange-clad, with a necklace called “mala” around his neck. I knew this from my friend, his ex-wife, who lived a few kilometers away from the tiny village of Noce; she had sarcastically said, “Nicoletta, you’re going to fall for him. And he’s all yours.”

I didn’t believe her, but a butterfly in my heart knew it was going to be true. And so this love exploded, like the music out of his mini cassette player that early each morning sounded with Dynamic Meditation.

“There is this man,” Ananga said – I think after the first time we kissed – “who has invented a whole new way of meditating….”

And there I was, in the hot renaissance courtyard of his ex-wife’s villa, jumping up and down to the sound of this music and never never never wanting to stop. My own explosion surprised me. Can you believe how resilient I was? I felt like a bungee cord, moved by some other force. And the mind slipped away deliciously…

A few weeks later, Ananga and I departed for a trip to the deep south of Italy, to be alone near the Mediterranean Sea and live out our love. Love and meditation, isn’t there a song? It was that way, except that our traveling took us too far, and somewhat it proved meaningless. We went to Sicily, we bathed in the Mediterranean waves that lap the small island of Lampedusa; to the world we were an eccentric and orange couple; by then, I had died all my clothes in colors of red and orange.

Something was fiercely telling me that this was not it. Until one morning sitting on a black lava rock, I saw my beautiful white shell fall from my neck and break and I knew: that was it, I had to go get a mala, in India, right now, and meet the man of the meditations.

And the trip to far away India that I took, just a month later, with my little son Wega in tow, was much more comfortable than the return trip from Sicily, to Milan, where Ananga had his apartment:

It was the middle of August, that time of the year during which all Italians are vacationing, and there was a train strike and no planes to the mainland until the next Monday. It was Saturday. But we managed, by foot, hitchhiking (“Trust!” he would exclaim, as the fifteenth truck would zoom by without stopping) and finally by train, and on Monday we were dancing in his sparsely furnished Milanese apartment.

A beautiful photo of an incredibly beautiful man with a beard was placed on a low table. A black and white photo and I remember my limbs going numb when I looked into those deep golden eyes.

Déjà vu. Ananga sat me comfortably on a pile of soft pillows and put on another of his tapes: a voice tape, this time, of a discourse. It was about love and death. Exactly! Some part of me must have thought, but, believe me, there was nothing to say, really. Déjà vu again.

Home, familiarity, inexplicable sense of ease and at the same time vitality, a burning in the heart and a white emptiness in the mind: some part of me had known it all and now it was resurfacing again like a giant wave of recognition. The rush became hurry, more clothes were dyed in the pot on the kitchen stove of my little country home in Noce to which I had returned so I could leave again; this time my preparations were totally a secret. My roommate and her kids laughed at all the orange hanging from the clothesline; I bet the inhabitants of Noce did too…

I made plane reservations over the phone. I was leaving from Rome early the next morning and the night before I grabbed one of my south American net bags, filled it; got another one for my son’s clothes (all orange as well); placed my passport and the little money left in my red Moroccan bag and left the house. I didn’t say goodbye or anything; everyone was preparing a great festa for the next day, my birthday. Ananga was waiting for me in his little red and black Fiat and brought me to the highway so I could hitchhike my way to the capital. A nice lady picked me up and by the time we were in Siena my son was asleep in her car.

During the long flight, I asked my son, age five, if he wanted to become a sannyasin and change his name. He said yes to everything, he just worried about being near me, not losing me along the way.

When our plane opened the doors at the Bombay airport, the hot humid air brought with it a smell that was so familiar to me: rotten food, sweat, damp fabric, mushrooms… another déjà vu. I smiled to myself stepping in the torrid sun: I know this place! I know it so well.

People with long and very bright clothes were running all over the place, everything seemed to be orange, yellow, fuchsia; everything I saw in that airport seemed to belong to no time at all.

Walking with my light bag and my tired son, queuing up in a long line at customs, I caught the glimpse (or shall we say she caught my eyes) of a sannyasin, a small blonde woman with a mala.

“Obviously we’re going the same way,” she said when she approached me. “Shall we share a taxi? “

Of course I was thrilled. I had no clue one had to take a taxi to the ashram in Poona. I practically didn’t know where Poona was, from Bombay. Ananga had said, “Trust! You’ll find it.”

“Is this all your luggage?” she enquired, looking at my orange net bag.

“Yes!” I laughed. “Travelling light.”

“Do you mind walking through customs with some of mine? I have too many things here.” In fact, she was carrying a cartload of black boxes and a few suitcases. She added almost whispering: “I’m bringing state of the art recording equipment to our musician at the ashram, the one who invented the music of our meditations…you know?”

My eyes must have betrayed my astonishment and awe: I loved that guy, never met him, but was totally in love with him, for that music.

She smiled.

A taxi trip in India is a real Luna park ride, our driver didn’t seem to heed curves, stops, other trucks and cars; he just sped on throughout the 80 km that separate Poona from Bombay.

It was Holi festival season: in every village, children and adults would greet our approaching, throwing red powder all over us. I had to place sleeping Wega at the bottom of the cab, on my soft bag. Powders were showered, apparently, as a blessing, as purification: my face was deep orange by the time we got to the ashram gate.

There we stood, a tall orange-clad and orange-faced woman and her little blonde five-year-old boy, facing an incredible carved wooden gate. The gate was open, and all sorts of orange-and-red-and-pink-clad people were moving in and out of it. It was sunset and the sky had an amazing blue and purple tinge, while a swarm of bright green parakeets was crossing high above me.

An old Indian man with a white beard came out of the gate accompanied by his wife, walking slowly…it that the Bhagwan? The thought crossed my head, he did look saintly and gentle, but no: the photos of the Beloved that I had seen were of a younger man with incredible golden eyes… The old man was Bhagwan’s father, the gentle woman wearing a red sari was his mother; the father looked at my son, not at me, and smiled.

A day and a few adventures of the accommodation type later, I was freshly showered and ready to go into Chuang Tzu Auditorium, to the morning lecture. I followed procedures, passed between two girls who sniffed my hair to detect any scents, sat on the marble floor. I was facing a small marble podium that had a chair placed on it.

Déjà vu. Wasn’t that chair the same one I had sat on as a child in that beautiful house in the Italian countryside? Wrong. Chuang Tzu was shaded and almost hidden by many trees, shrubs and other tropical vegetation where birds were singing beautiful songs; the silence of all those people sitting and waiting for the chair on the podium to be filled was palpable.

I had to shake off my mundane curiosity and desire to look at each and every one of those people: sitting upright, with their faces tilted up and their eyes closed, with beautiful serene expressions that you wanted to capture, there was an ancient stirring in me, and time stopped once more. I closed my eyes, too, and decided to look inside, for once. A light rustle soon made me look up: there he was! Glowing, namasteing, advancing like a feather and then sitting in his chair. Everyone namasted in return and I copied.

Once seated, one foot slid out of its sandal as he crossed his legs. One foot! I couldn’t stop staring, like it was the most incredible sculpture I’d ever seen. Compose yourself and close your eyes.

A low feminine voice started to sing; is that his voice? My eyes were closed. A beautiful long note and then another, one of those wailing-like Hindi songs, full of sadness and strength. I had heard about the voice of the Master, but I didn’t expect a song, or such a female voice. I was mesmerized….

It wasn’t his voice. Nobody had told me about the Sutra that Taru the opera singer would sing before Bhagwan’s lecture. I had to giggle to myself and my naiveté. But I was also really shook up, too much was happening to my mind and my senses. It was hard at this point to stay still and I doubted that I could endure in this position for more than another minute. Then Bhagwan started to talk and all fell into place.

Literally something fell deeply inside, like a soft ball of grass on to more grass, like a cloud relaxing on the ocean, like a small child nestling on to its mothers lap, like pieces of machinery that had been dismantled fall into their own perfect spot and all works again as it should. I didn’t “understand” any of the words that he spoke, it was in Hindi, but at the same time I seemed to understand everything.

This falling sensation was followed in years to come by many others; the “experiences” at the feet of my Master made me twirl and sob, laugh and exhale, starting that morning at Hindi lecture and a few nights later when He actually touched my forehead, and my boy’s, and gave us both new names…. The work towards transformation and the discipline of meditation were very hard for a person like me; but something inside had registered a stillness and a silence that I look for each day, sometimes aimlessly.

For three years, every morning, this body had no problem sitting for two or three hours on a freezing cold floor, transported by a voice that spoke in Hindi or English.

I remember very well that on the day of the first English lectures, after a month of listening to the Master speak Hindi, I excitedly passed the sniffers and searched for a place to sit in Buddha Hall with the expectation that by understanding every word he was going to say I would “get” more, “advance” more, “grow” more…. I was wrong.

Those hours were made of the same fabric, the same quality.

Can you believe it? There was a place where we danced in the streets. Where we hugged each other without a cause or a reason, where we sang our throats out like mad men and women in love. Millions of stars in the vast Indian sky witnessed it. I do believe it, as I dance with my feet grounded on the floor and my arms flying like a madwoman who has known a very special kind of love…

Can you believe it?

Even today, just the thought or the memory can evoke that quality.

I am He, He is I. In the middle of the marketplace where I live, that state is really the only thing that succeeds in waking me up, from time to time.

“That’s how the disciple is bound to feel: something inside you starts dancing, singing. Something inside you rejoices. Something inside you immediately falls in tune with the Master; a deep synchronicity happens. It cannot be taught, it cannot be learned, but it can be transferred. That transfer is beyond words and beyond scriptures. It needs a totally new art: the art of surrender, the art of total let-go.

The first condition is: forget all that you have learned. The second condition is: be calm, quiet, contented. Desire keeps you away from the present moment, far away. And Zen is the taste of reality here and now. It is the feel of the here and now. Zen is not concerned with any God after death, Zen is concerned with the godliness that surrounds you right now.

These sounds, these birds, these trees, these people, this silence… three thousand people disappearing into a silence, losing their identities, egos… and suddenly Zen is there! It becomes almost tangible. You can touch it, you can eat it, you can drink it. But there is no way to convey it through words. You have to be calm and quiet and contented so that you can be in the present. You have to be free of all care.”

Osho, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen. Ch 2, Q 1

Excerpt from the book
Past the Point of No Return

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