Sudas looks at the history of this successful therapy centre and community in the Danish countryside – and ponders over its future.
The Osho Risk adventure began in spring 1986 with the vision of providing a place where sannyasins could live and meditate together. In September that year, when Osho had returned to India after his World Tour, he gave us the name ‘The Rajneesh Institute for Spiritual Creativity’. In Danish this abbreviates to R.I.S.K. (K for Kreativitet). Later, when Osho changed his name, we decided to keep Risk as our name, because self-inquiry is a risky business!
More and more people became attracted to live at Risk, or in nearby villages, and within a couple of years the community had grown to around 80, meditating together and sharing their daily lives. Throughout the years there has always been a group of 12 to 15 people living in the Risk compound, some with the task of expanding the group programme and others for the further development and improvement of the buildings.
Initially there was a lot of renovation work to be done on the original farmhouse buildings to make them suitable for the needs of the expanding community, guests and courses. By 1989 we already had a busy group programme; many Pune therapists came, offered courses and sessions and so very quickly Osho Risk became known as an international therapy centre.
But we did not stop there. We extended the building work in various stages and as much as planning laws allowed. In 2010 Ageha described the various buildings very vividly in her article Osho Risk in Denmark and since then, we have completed the conservatory-style dining room with glass windows with view out to the adjoining fields. In 2013, we built a new 300-sq.-meter house in the back garden, which now provides space for more residents and has an extra group room.
Everything had to be created from scratch. A solid business structure had to be set up with a well thought-through and professional organisational system to support all sections, be it new building work and maintenance, workshops, housing for residents and group participants, as well as every day’s practical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping and marketing. At the same time, we felt it was very important that work should not become another four letter word, but something meaningful and nourishing. In the early years, money was frequently scarce, but perhaps what supported us to continue with the project was the strong underlying feeling of the importance, value and joy of what we were doing.
Initially, we were an oddity in the local landscape and didn’t exactly fit in with the lifestyle of the traditional farming community around us. In 1993 we came into the national spotlight, styled as a ‘sex cult’ on the front page of a national newspaper. This came as a shock to us but especially to our neighbours. A public meeting was then arranged by the local priest at the village hall, and a cult expert from Aarhus University was invited to address the gathering. The intention, it seemed, was to put us in a bad light. The village hall had its biggest turnout in history!
All kinds of fantasies floated about, but perhaps the most objectionable was that we were something like a Hitler Youth Movement (Osho, of course, being ‘der Führer’)! Denmark had been occupied by neighbouring Germany during WWII, and connecting us with Hitler created fear and revived unpleasant memories in some people. Fortunately, the majority could not recognise this association and were indignant about the insinuations. They were also not interested to go on a witch hunt; it was not their style. We then discovered that many of our neighbours rather liked us, in spite of – if not because – our colourful lifestyle. They appreciated our enterprise; our beautiful buildings and neat gardens could be seen from afar and we always paid our bills on time.
I remember it as an intense evening. We managed to create a rational dialogue about the purpose of our meditation community and in the end the whole thing backfired on the priest. And that was the end of all further attempts to undermine our right to exist.
Living communally had its challenges, initially, because none of us had much experience; hence we had to find ways to communicate our differences and opposing viewpoints. Living together and respecting each other’s differences has been an ongoing learning process… Anyone who has had commune experience will understand what I mean. But we had the great fortune to be visited by many brilliant Osho therapists who gave us the opportunity to participate in their therapy and meditation workshops, and also helped us to sort out conflicts within the community.
The flow of Osho lovers and seekers coming to our place has prodded, challenged and nourished our own individual efforts at becoming better at understanding ourselves. Our task is to remain open and available whilst providing a space where others can come and be supported in their own exploration.
The Evening Meeting (White Robe) has been taking place at Risk since 1990, and I am sure that this daily event has an immeasurable impact on our collective health and well-being. Shared silence, apart from all other benefits, is certainly one of the deepest forms of equality and communal experience.
Much could be said on many aspects of Osho Risk’s history. There are countless stories and hilarious moments. People occasionally call in and ask to speak to Osho and the local tradesmen have gradually learned to accept that there may be loud noises coming from the group rooms. I remember a warm summer afternoon, in the very early days, when an electrician arrived in the middle of a naked tea party! The electrician kept a straight face, and we continued as we were. It was probably an amusing story for his family and colleagues in the following days. Nudity was definitely more part of the 70’s and 80’s than nowadays. Today, it would seem out of place.
Risk has hosted guests from a huge variety of backgrounds and nationalities. Just a few weeks ago, we had a five-day ‘Who is in?’ process led by Ganga, where I counted 12 nationalities amongst the 28 participants. We have had a European Cup Winner footballer, Olympic medallists, a pop icon, writers, famous musicians, TV stars, as well as nobility amongst our visitors.
A renowned therapist, who shall remain unnamed, would come here only if we served beef for dinner. Risk had always been vegetarian, so this request required a longer discussion. After a hectic argument, we had the beef cooked off the property, and served discreetly at the end of the garden.
Our own beliefs, as well as our social preferences are frequently challenged, but in the final analysis it can be difficult if we get too hung up with the status quo. There are some areas where compromise is not acceptable, e.g. we firmly respect the form of Osho’s meditations and we are dedicated to supporting the people who come here, doing our best to offer a loving and caring environment.
At this point I would like to acknowledge some of the friends who have been part of this place and have offered their love and creativity. Osho Risk was originally founded by Sundram and Nishkam. In the meantime, their life journey has led them on to other adventures. For others, it has been a stopping point before moving on to something else and for some, it has been a longer stay. Those of us who have been here for a very long time, Nana, Anjee, Satmarga, Vinay and I, know full well that we are caretakers of something which is not our private property. It is a challenge not to get identified too much with the shape and form of how this place is unfolding and, at the same time, remain totally engaged with all that goes on here.
We of the older generation are exploring how to pass on this place to the next generation. We are currently giving the management of some of the Risk brands, e.g. The Summer Festival, to a group of young people. More are going to move into key administration areas and I already know that they will do their job much more efficiently than many of us old-timers did.
The world has changed a lot in the last 30 years and so has our perception; peoples’ lives are much more demanding nowadays. Gap years are being questioned and looked down upon by mainstream thinking. In Denmark, the government has significantly reduced the normative time for higher education. This kind of social pressure is challenging. In a world full of expectations and goals, giving oneself the luxury of meditation is a very intelligent, but now more difficult choice. The biggest challenge is to have a balanced life, to find ways of being in the marketplace without getting burned out!
Questions of freedom and responsibility come to the fore. We all want to be free yet we thrive best when we are responsible for our own lives. So freedom is not about escaping, and neither is it about suffering a life which we do not fully value. And this is where Osho Risk comes in: it is a place that offers a small oasis for long or short visits, where people can learn and enjoy being themselves, revel in the beautiful rural setting, good food, meditations and the daily discourse by Osho.
For us, there is no guarantee that Risk will be here forever, but for now, we want to celebrate that this place has lived and thrived for 30 years and continues to be young at heart and intention.
We will celebrate Osho Risk’s birthday on Saturday, 18th of June this year. Come join us!
Osho Risk in Denmark
Sudas grew up in Ireland and studied philosophy at University College Dublin. He came to Pune in 1978 where he received sannyas from Osho. As well as working at the Osho Risk Commune (finance, baking, cleaning, Osho Books) he has worked as a Danish language teacher for 25 years.