…left his body on 3rd February 2016.
Prem Joe took sannyas in the late 70’s in Pune. He was known, at least to the sannyasins living in the UK, as the man behind Osho Purnima Distribution, an outlet many of us used to order Osho’s books and meditation CDs. He was, after all, Osho’s Ambassador for the UK. After Rajneeshpuram closed he purchased many books from the US stock, some of which became rare out-of-stock items. He lived in the South of England with his family on a big estate, which was also home of the many books.
From his daughter, Shelley, we hear:
Joe, my Dad, always said that taking sannyas was the most incredible inner experience he had had up until that point. There he was gazing into the eyes of Osho and suddenly he dropped deep within. He said he felt like a small boy at the bottom of a deep dark well. He felt safe and warm looking up into the eyes of god. From that moment on he was devoted. He visited Pune many times and invested in the Ranch, and was chosen to be the Ambassador to UK helping to start the London meditation center.
He was close to many of the group leaders, in particular Veeresh, Teertha and Poonam while at the same time he supported their individual projects in the UK. He was also a big supporter of the Medina Commune. He continued to sell Osho’s books till his last months of life.
For those of you that knew Joe, you might like to hear a few anecdotes about him.
He held many therapy groups at his home, run by several of the Big Group Leaders, as they were called at the time. I attended many. One time there was a 24-hour Marathon with Veeresh and his entourage, and I was there to help. People used to worship some of the group leaders and do pretty much whatever was asked of them. I was constantly being asked for things to make them more comfortable. When Joe saw this and my reluctance to comply, he said to me, “Don’t follow these other sheep who serve them if you don’t want to — just tell them to fuck off!” And so I did. When I was questioned about my lack of work/worship Joe said to them, “She’s my girl and, like me, she’ll do what the fuck she wants.” That stopped them complaining.
At the end of the Rajneeshpuram days, when Osho was taken into prison in the United States, Joe called the prison many times and each time he took down the name of the person answering his call. He then sent all the prison guards flowers and chocolates with a note saying, “Thank you for taking care of our dear friend.” When we asked him why he did that, he said so tenderly that he would do anything to help nudge the guards towards being more caring and gentle with Osho.
Joe was also such a joker. He was in Poona at the time of Osho’s death and, on his return, he told us that he had heard Osho’s last words… Eager to hear the story of this event, which I believed to be true, I listened intently hoping to pick up on the inside wisdom. He said he was in the room with others when Osho pointed to him and beckoned him over. He apparently went straight to his side, leaning over to hear his last whispering words. “What did he say? Can you tell me what he said?” I insisted and Joe said, “OK.” He would share it under condition that I would think about it very deeply. “OK, I will,” I replied. So, Joe went on saying, that he lent in towards Osho and that Osho said to him in a low but clear voice, “Don’t believe a fucking word Shirley Maclaine says.” This was his kind of humour.
Joe was a conscious, warmhearted fighter to the very end. During his extraordinary death process every bit of his spirituality shone through. His humour continued even when he had stopped talking, his breath deep into his belly and controlled till the last one. He was a meditator to the end and that allowed him to walk consciously into his death, seemingly choosing each step with full consciousness.
Joe was an extraordinary person and very many who crossed his path would say that about him. However, he himself would have applied the words “extraordinary person” to one person only and that was Osho, his beloved master.
And from Prabuddho:
I would like to spend more time writing this article, making it perfect, grammatically correct and nicely structured… but that wouldn’t be Joe’s way. I can sort of imagine him saying, “Go on, just fucking write something, mate!” So here goes. I hope that by the time I have finished this, Joe, you will say, “That will do nicely, tell your Muvver!”
I was involved with Joe at the Osho Purnima Meditation Centre in Kentish Town in the late 80’s/early 90’s. He was the main financial backer and was often supporting the centre with substantial funds of his own – buying equipment, furniture, fittings and making sure bills were covered. At the time it was one of the few ‘official’ places where you could find out about Osho, participate in a meditation or a workshop or buy a book. Joe was mainly in Essex at the time with his businesses there, but he used to visit sometimes to bring in new things for the centre he had acquired from anywhere – chairs, furniture, display-cabinets and so on. Maybe some of them ‘fell off the back of a lorry’!
I remember one time he parked on the street nearby. He either arrived in some sort of van or truck with things or occasionally an old Rolls Royce. I think he thought that Osho had Rolls Royces so he’d better get one. Anyway, we went out onto the street to unload stuff and there was the Roller. Joe opened the boot and we took the stuff out, and we were surprised to notice the boot was half full of straw! “I have to feed the horses back home!” he explained.
Joe loved to be involved with anything to do with Osho and he felt a connection with Osho through supporting the centre. Many people were touched by meditation, came to know something about Osho, or went to Pune – just because the centre was there.
Stuff was always going on – events, planning, problems, bills and unpredictable mini-crises – and at one time I spoke to Joe very often about anything. “Such and such has happened…..” “Oh yeah, right, we’ll have to write a letter….” Or whatever.
All kinds of people visited or phoned the centre too. I really learned a lot there and I’m really grateful to Joe for that time when I developed in new ways, and met many amazing people from the world of Osho.
One time Joe walked in with Vivek (Osho’s personal friend, later known as Nirvano). She sat for a while with us in the office. I don’t think I told anyone before – don’t know if that’s a secret but as Joe would say – fuck it.
Later on we started the Osho Purnima Book Distribution. Joe had to have loads of everything and bought up stocks of books from all over the place – there would not just be a dozen of a certain title – but a dozen boxes! Joe’s sense of humour was irrepressible. He had his own way of describing Osho’s books – picking up a copy of Philosophia Perennis (talks on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras) he usually referred to it as “Philosophia Penis”! Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen was known as “Walking in Zen, Shitting in Zen”.
When things went well, Joe always said, “That will do nicely, tell your Muvver!” Joe knew the importance of making Osho’s books available. They are truly diamonds in the mud. Now and again he would sit down and read one. Right now – he would recommend you to read one – what does Osho really say? Find out for yourself.
Sometimes he told me stories. He was never afraid of standing his ground or challenging people – although not a tall guy, he had been a night club bouncer in his youth and he was not the sort of person you would mess with. He told me once he was informed by friends that some local ‘heavies’ were trying to take over a piece of land he claimed was his. Two of them were going there that evening. Joe told me he walked over the nearby fields towards them carrying a piece of scaffolding pole. “They fucked off pretty quickly, mate!”
So I have told a few anecdotes and I am sure there are a few more. Thank you, Joe, for those times together. He was one of those ‘larger than life’ characters – a big-hearted rough diamond who had been touched by Osho and responded with his heart and soul. Meanwhile, let us remember Joe as he would wish – as a man of Osho. That was the most important aspect of his life.
Oh yes – I forgot, there was a variation: “Tell your Muvver – that will do nicely!”
And don’t forget to read one of those books.
Dear Joe, a belated thank you for all the many parcels you sent us to Scotland, to our little meditation centre, first in the Borders and then in Edinburgh, and for the generous discount if we bought in bulk. The proceeds from books and meditation CDs usually paid for the rent of the meditation hall or the fees for the fairs. I only spoke to you on the phone or wrote via FAX, but I always knew that the order would arrive on time. Have a wonderful journey wherever you are heading to. Love,
Love and blessing to all Prem Joe’s family and friends at this emotive time and a big thank you Shelley for sharing your beautiful anecdotes that really captured his spirit.
Joe, the maverick millionaire. A real ‘larger than life character’ quite unusual in the sannyas community. Especially for remaining independent and unaffected during the community era of the 80s. I admired his relaxed and confident attitude of a self-made man.
I remember Prem Joe from the eighties, he was a very unlikely sannyasin! I liked him. I only ever traveled in a Rolls Royce once. That was when he picked me up from North London and took me and one or two others to see Jayesh and John in a posh hotel room near Hyde Park. Joe said that he was the gangster of sannyas, and that I was the senior shop steward. He thought it was always good to have a trade unionist “on side”, and I suppose that is why I was sitting in that Rolls Royce! The meeting was about the proceeds of the sale from Medina (about £450,000, a substantial amount at the time…). I cant remember exactly, but I think we both felt the money should stay in the UK. As it was, it did not. I did not see Joe very often, but whenever I did he had a cheery word. One thing may be missed – he was really a rebel, and somehow a very rare breed.