Excerpt of the newly released book, Bodhena’s Adventures In Samsara.
I started to work as a handyman for the group department. We were about seven or eight swamis in our crew, and our job was to maintain the group facilities, doing minor carpentry, painting, repairs. Our base was at “Number 70”, a rented property which was about a five minute walk from the Ashram. Underneath some trees, we had our work benches, tool lockers, our supply of wood and paints and whatever else we needed.
In addition to the group rooms at the Ashram, groups were held at about six different locations, in various rented buildings in or near Koregaon Park, so we were moving around quite a bit. A paint job here, installing new electrical wiring there, building some shoe shelves for this location or some file boxes for the main group office, we were kept pretty busy.
The work was somewhat of a challenge for me since I had practically no prior experience in that field. The learning process I went through went on (at least) on two levels. I was acquiring skills in dealing with all sorts of physical situations that needed to be attended to, with all kinds of different materials and tools, and on a more subtle level I was getting confronted with a lot of the trips I had going on.
A major one for me has always been that it really pisses me off when things aren’t working the way they’re supposed to by their design. This “design” can be more general, for instance that a saw is there to cut wood, but my own attitudes can add a whole new dimension to it. Moreover, what made things definitely more interesting was that the tools and materials we were working with were “Made in India”, which in a lot of cases meant that they were of a rather shoddy quality. And lastly, the buddhafield energy we were working in had the effect to intensify and magnify everything that might be “coming up”.
Generally, it wasn’t as bad as you might expect. I enjoyed the camaraderie we had going within the crew, and working with my hands certainly helped to get me out of my head. Challenges that were happening along the way were dealt with, sooner or later. Still, there were some instances where through a particular combination of factors I was pushed to my limits, stripped of all my defenses and got totally rattled by the situation. Before I knew what had really happened, I found myself sitting there, sort of looking into a mirror at myself, or rather at whatever was left of it.
One of my most memorable incidents in this regard was an encounter with a folding table. Somebody in our crew had built a small side table that was designed to be affixed to a wall, and was equipped with hinges, so that it would fold down. In the up-position, the table top was held in place by a vertical wooden board underneath that was also hinged to the wall. In order to fold the table down, first you swung the support 90 degrees to the side until it was parallel to the wall, then the top would fold down over it. All this came in one piece, nicely cut, sanded, varnished and screwed together, and I was given the job to go and put it up.
So, on this one fine morning, our young and aspiring handyman took the folding table, an electric drill, some plugs and screws, screwdriver, tape measure, hammer etc. and went to the place where the table was supposed to go up, a small room somewhere in a nearby building. It seemed to be a straightforward job, and I didn’t really anticipate any difficulties. However, the deck was stacked against me, and, miraculously, nothing worked.
To start out with, I had a rough time to get the holes drilled into the wall just how and where they needed to be. What certainly helped was the crumbly substance of the wall – a couple of attempts I had to abandon because they were starting to look like craters. By the time I started fiddling around with the plugs my patience had worn a bit thin. And Indian plugs are not those nice plastic jobs that you get in the West. No, they were funny looking short wooden dowels, and there was no way of telling how they would behave once you started to put a screw into them.
I did not give up so easily, though, and kept on laboring and sweating away, without much success, and by and by worked myself into a state where I was, in the end, totally enraged and in tears, feeling utterly helpless and exposed, and at the very end of whatever I knew that I could do to get the job done. The fucking table was still not up, and the scene was looking like a minor disaster area. This was certainly not another example of German engineering and craftsmanship. Crushed, humiliated and defeated, the only thing left for me was to go and get some help. And, as you might or might not have guessed, together with one of the expert carpenters from our crew, it took about ten minutes to complete the job. What a revelation!
Excerpt from chapter 16 of Bodhena’s book which has just come out in print – read Roshani’s review: Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara: A Sannyasin Memoir
Bodhena took sannyas in the late seventies in Pune where he worked first as a handyman for the group department, then as a Krishna Guard. After living in Geetam for a few months, he was invited to the Ranch where he worked in construction, security, Magdalena Cafeteria, Chaitanya (accounts) and as a paralegal at Rajneesh Legal Services. In early Pune II he worked for the Rajneesh Times, and then again as a guard at Lao Tzu House. In recent years, he has been living in Clausthal, Germany, practising nowhere to go and nothing to do. bodhena (at) hotmail (dot) com