Death Knocks in India


Deva remembers the time he almost lost his daughter Gyana.

Gyana outside hut

In much of Asia, hospitals are known as ‘the places you go to die’. This is for good reason. When I lived in Nepal, for instance, it was common practice for a family member to sleep on a pallet on the floor at the foot of the bed of the patient and do the feeding and caring themselves. I once had to do this for a girlfriend who had come down with an unrelenting and alarming fever and since there were no nurses or doctors in the hospital most of the time, I had to change her intravenous drip myself. One out of every five bottles of saline solution I could find in the sweltering hospital storage room was contaminated and the only way we could tell was when she started to go into convulsions, at which point I’d quickly pull it and try another bottle.

The area of Pune, India where we now lived had only one public hospital with very few doctors and nurses. I trusted the western doctors at our small ashram clinic far more than the crap shoot at the local hospital.

In 1978 Gyana was seven and we were living in a bamboo hut behind the Rajneesh Ashram. She attended the ashram school which was housed in an old bungalow a few blocks from the main ashram. In spite of the fact that it was a tiny school, it was an oasis of art and education. It was staffed by passionate and loving Western teachers who had given up their traditional lives to come to India and be with Osho. The curriculum was heavy on dance and theatre, perfect for Gyana. The costumes and sets were designed by a professional New York designer, Ma Deva Padma, who had come to live with Osho, and were far beyond anything you would ever see in an Indian school. The kids loved the school and their production of Peter Pan received such rave reviews that they were asked to perform it for the public in Bombay, and were a smash hit.

We were living in a bamboo hut with a tin roof behind the ashram and one day Gyana came home from school with a headache.

“Daddy, I feel bad. My head really hurts.”

“Hmm. Come here, let me feel your head, see if you have a fever.”

“I’m sick, daddy,” she said miserably. I pressed my lips to her forehead as my mother had done to mine and was surprised at how hot she felt.

“You do feel hot. When did this start?”

“At school. At lunch time I started feeling really bad.”

“Did you eat anything weird, anything off the street?” wondering if she had eaten from a street vendor, notoriously unsanitary.

“No. We came back to the ashram for lunch, like every day. I feel really bad.”

Gyana lay down to rest but it wasn’t long before she was running even a higher fever and showing some swelling around her eyes. I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or not since there was always a lot of odd stuff going around that was often irritating but not usually serious. In fact, almost all of us had dysentery and other endemic problems and had gotten used to living with them. The kids, surprisingly, were the healthiest among us. I still thought it was probably something she had eaten and decided to just watch her until it ran its course. I snuggled with her and consoled her and gave her purified water. I felt confident it would pass.

But it didn’t. Instead, it continued to get worse. Within a couple of days her fever was raging and she had broken out in hot, red welts all over her body. Soon, her eyes swelled closed and her throat was so swollen she could barely speak. She just lay in bed, whimpering. By this time I had stopped my daily work in the ashram and was staying home to look after her. My girlfriend, Ranjan Bharti and I took turns sitting by her bedside with cooling towels and encouraging words. In the worse moments, I remember explaining to Gyana the yogic technique of relaxing into the pain, teaching her that pain was resistance and that if she could let go and not resist, it would lessen. I was amazed how quickly she mastered the technique.

But in spite of our care, it soon became evident that we could do no more for her at home and we carried her to the ashram medical clinic, a couple of blocks away. The clinic was staffed by western sannyasin doctors and while small, had probably some of the best private medical capacity in our area. After some observation though, the doctors were stymied. It didn’t fit any known disease model with which they were familiar. Her doctor was Swami Amrit, a brilliant leprechaun of a Brit with the bedside manner of an angel and the intensity of a Christian missionary. But Gyana’s acute condition rang no bells.

Amrit, the other doctors and I hovered over Gyana for days hoping for a change but by the 10th day it was bad news. The only thing they could do was give her cortisone shots, normally designed to be effective for about 24 hours. Instead, they lasted 2 hours and then had to be re-administered, a dangerous road. Her body had swelled out of proportion and she drifted in and out of consciousness. We had her packed in ice but she was burning up anyhow and it soon became evident she was going to die. The mood around the clinic was dark, indeed. Gyana’s little friends from school had come by to bring flowers but she was comatose and hadn’t known they were there.

The clinic was in a bungalow that dated back to the Raj, high ceilings, white stucco walls, large, cool, open rooms with beds. Birds and monkeys chattered outside in stark contrast to the solemn atmosphere as we watched over Gyana.

Around midnight, I was sitting alone by Gyana’s bed, almost in a trance state. She was quiet, seemingly asleep, as she had been for some time. I was reviewing my life with her and reluctantly preparing to say goodbye to the one I loved the most. We had been inseparable since the day she was born into my arms in Hawaii and I fervently hoped I had guided her down a path that had supported her spirit and given her a life of love and caring. I believed that bringing her to Bhagwan was the most powerful thing I could have done to nurture her young soul and to give her the best opportunity for a destiny of love. Watching her flower and flourish over these few years in India had been a great acknowledgment but it seemed that our karmic paths were about to part and I was deep in grief.

Only nightlights burned in the clinic as the moon shone through the high window lattices. I crawled into Gyana’s bed wrapping my arms around her burning body, holding my dear one close to feel our connection one last time. This was the lowest and most desperate moment of my life. I didn’t know if I would be able to live without her.

I let go and my mind fell into stillness. My breath hung suspended in time. Space seemed to compress to an infinitesimal point.

Then, as I lay there, I was startled by an overwhelming rush of energy. I had never felt anything like it before nor have I since. It surged through me, the absolute conviction that I was not ready to let her go. Against all reason, I refused.

It was as though I was possessed and thrust into an altered state. My awareness focused like a laser. I found myself
willing my spirit to leave and move into Gyana’s. There was so much power in what was happening, I actually remember wondering if I might die if I vacated my own body so completely, but it didn’t matter. If I could become one with Gyana, I could understand what was happening to her.

In the briefest splinter of time, I was transported across the boundaries between us. In a split second I dwelled within Gyana in full awareness of my surroundings. Instantly, I was infused with a complete understanding of exactly what was happening to her. And simultaneously, I was back in my body and frantically screaming for Dr. Amrit to bring an enema bag. I knew, as surely as I knew anything, that Gyana was being poisoned by something in her colon and I knew exactly what to do about it. We gently irrigated her with warm water and in the first flush, out poured thousands of dead, white worms. The second flush was a little better. As we continued, we started to see signs of change almost immediately. Within an hour her swelling had begun to abate and her eyes were opening. She was coming back to us and it was, well…miraculous.

Gyana recovered completely from this experience, although I don’t know if I ever will. It seems, the school had given all the kids a regulation dose of worm medicine (we all took it in India) some time earlier. There is an ingredient in worm medicine that normally flushes the colon after the medicine has done its work but in Gyana’s case, it hadn’t and the toxins from the dead and decaying worms had almost killed her.

I don’t actually believe in miracles or god either, for that matter but I do think all things are possible, if we are only available. I do know that the Buddhafield around Osho placed many of us, certainly me, in touch with a depth of sensitivity and sense of my own intuition that I just couldn’t have achieved anywhere else. I don’t think this could have happened if I hadn’t been learning to trust my innermost being for those years. It was the culmination of all this time learning to honor my own instincts that made this possible and I will always be grateful.

A story from The Pieces of My Heart, an autobiography by David Goldberg (Deva)

Deva David GoldbergDeva (aka David Goldberg) left the US to come to Pune in 1975. He worked in the mala shop and as a handyman. After Osho left for the States he settled with Gyana at Geetam and then in Rajneeshpuram, where he built the telephone and the two-way radio system. He was also part of the Rajneesh Country Band. Deva now works as a website developer, graphic designer and photographer, based in Santa Fe, NM.

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