In part 5 of 5 Surendra looks at the adults’ roles at Osho Ko Hsuan and the conflict if the school ought to remain an organisation under the name of Osho or, if adults didn’t want to meditate together, it should be merely called Ko Hsuan.
A steering group of all available adults met every Sunday after lunch for about three to five hours. We started with a short meditation and then got down to business. Although from their experience, adults who had been at the school longer might have more to say, consensus was always the aim. There was space to express our vulnerabilities regarding teaching or other jobs and any positive or negative aspects in our relationships with the kids or each other. We sometimes went round giving a chance for each member to say what kind of a week they had.
During some terms, the adults gelled well together, sometimes not. One difficulty was that we all brought our own inner child along to Ko Hsuan with us. For our child, the other adults were parent figures, encouraging defiance, resentment and dependence. Yet we were all Osho’s sannyasins which gave us a common ground. For me, Osho’s guidance was the reference point not only for the personal work we did on ourselves but for managing the school. The fact that Osho’s vision was vast and to the human mind could seem contradictory was all part of the fun. We were there to tune in to ourselves and our link with Osho, and share what came up with each other. Having been through various therapies and practised meditation, we recognised that our conditioned minds could be skewed and limited. We needed to be on the lookout for our own trips and be prepared to listen when others told us that we seemed to be on one.
There was a slot for kids in the Sunday meeting. This was used for individual difficulties we might be having with them or them with us. Complaints were sometimes brought by the kids and deputations were made for changes in the rules or special outings. They came in shy or defiant, clear or muddled. Whatever the kids brought to the meeting, we listened with respect, grateful that they were taking the trouble to participate in the running of the school. One of the good things that came out of our first, very positive, government inspection was the taking of minutes. Up until then, someone would volunteer to clean out the loft; a month later came the question: “Who was supposed to clean out the loft, wasn’t it you?” Answer: “I don’t remember that.” Now we had the minutes to prove it.
But we did not hold others to task, most of us were fully stretched and never knew what the week would bring. Sometimes in a reckless moment of enthusiasm, we volunteered for things that were difficult to carry out. It could be very hard to keep up with the basics, let alone the sudden exceptions. A kid cutting their finger on dinner prep and having to be driven to hospital for a three hour wait in casualty was a time of anxiety and concern. Sitting in the waiting room, we might start thinking about the lesson the next morning that we still had to prepare for. Osho pointed out that the old style teachers used notes that were useless and thirty-five years out of date. We were often learning material for the first time the day before we were due to teach it.
Spare time was at a premium and seemed to dwindle with the number of years spent at the school. It was a puzzling phenomena. Perhaps we started to burn out and slow down. Or, maybe we ended up taking on more practical responsibilities because we knew how to do things. My feeling is that it was a bit of both. Some terms could be difficult if there were not enough experienced adults around. How to do the accounts and arrange audits? Where to order the beer for the Summer Festival? There was so much essential information carried in the heads of those who had done it before. Not only done it but legitimately rejected a whole string of alternatives before arriving at the best solution. We did not have the resources to keep reinventing the bicycle.
My first two years at Osho Ko Hsuan were about joining the dance. For the next two years I played a more decisive part in orchestrating the steps. When I decided to pick up the baton and become head teacher, it was through expediency. Without knowing it, I was also in my last two years. Many of the core adults had left and although several came back again, they tended to pop in and out rather than stay beyond a term or two. At that time I was the only one with enough experience of running the school willing to take on the role. Paperwork had grown over the years and I was relatively comfortable in this realm. In fact, I was seeking a partial withdrawal from the bustle and noise into the sanctuary of the office and administration.
Memory is a tricky creature and after twenty years may not be serving me with total accuracy or a correct sequence of events. That said, what I remember is a fairly confident first year as head teacher. I maintained a good connection with the kids and could be persuasive when needed. With the adults, I tended to be a coordinator of opinions rather than a director. I am sure I must have had my stubborn streaks but generally I aimed for concord. This meant I was as open to the new adults as the more established ones. Gradually challenges emerged, mostly, as I remember, from those who had already been in the school a while, perhaps longer than me. They might have been convinced they could do a better job. Maybe they felt that their views should carry more weight than those of the newcomers. At one point, two tackled me in the kitchen during the holidays criticising the way I was running the school. I listened without saying much and it ended with them shouting how much they hated artists. Clearly, by stepping into the shoes of authority I was setting myself up for what some therapies refer to as transference. I was being Daddy and most daddies fell very short of the mark and generated plenty of anger.
In shock and hurt, I don’t think I knew what to do with this outburst or other expressions of resentment that came later. When I moved to secondary education, as a kid, aged 12, in spite of my parents’ protests, I refused to wear the school uniform. By eighteen I upset the whole family by refusing to go to my grandmother’s funeral because she was not in her body anymore. With Osho, it was totally different. The work on this ‘mad me’ was about following the master’s guidance and accepting what came from the commune as well. Ko Hsuan was rooted in Osho’s vision and he was the ultimate rebel. If we rebelled against him, what did that make us, reactionaries?
My response to the seeds of mutiny was to seek support from my spiritual home. On my next term off in Pune, I participated in the Osho Meditation Centre Training Programme. This was an individually tailored programme for centre leaders. It was great to reconnect with what felt to me like the source of Osho’s work and vision. Welcomed and supported by friends, we looked at various aspects of sannyas and Osho’s guidance. One important theme was the Evening Meditation when adults could sit and celebrate together. We were not a meditation centre but we were running an organisation under the name of Osho. To meditate regularly together to share our energies and find a deeper connection was essential. This was the key message I brought back from Pune and already, the adult sitting room had traditionally been available in Ko Hsuan from 7.00 to 7.30pm for this purpose.
When I first got back, refreshed, the school seemed more chaotic than usual. Arrows and stones were flying around the playground and there was a very clear conflict in the adult group which we all managed to quickly heal together. Most kids and adults welcomed me back and, for a while, all was fine but it did not last for long. During my second year as head we had been gathering a few outspoken new adults. A few wanted to bring us more in line with other Osho communes and others wanted to challenge all the rules. This included whether being a sannyasin was essential for being an adult at the school. For me there was no question about that one, this was an Osho place. As life at Ko Hsuan was such a tour de force I asked that we all try to get to the meditation at least a few times per week. There were some objections from the start from those who had not experienced any pressure around meditation but most gave it a try for a week or two.
There was never any question of insisting that kids meditate. Osho had addressed this issue.
There is a hierarchy of needs: body, mind, soul, God.
[…] The movement from the body to the mind has to be very, very delicate, because you are moving from the gross to the subtle.
[…] And then when the child is ready, when he has fulfilled his mind needs, help him to meditate. And nothing has to be done in haste.
Osho, The Guest, Ch 12
The only kids being asked to participate were the ones each adult carried inside. Meditation was one way of taking a little distance to get a clearer picture of what was going on internally. It also seemed a good way to cultivate harmony in the adult group.
Mind is just the opposite of meditation
it is the closing of the heart;
meditation is the opening of the heart.
Osho, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Ch 1
Was it too much to ask adults that for half an hour, two or three evenings per week, we sit together in silence and have a bit of a dance? As I got more insistent, quoting Osho’s guidance was met, from one adult, with “Fuck Osho!” I could see that every adult was there because they cared about the kids and wanted to support the unfettered growth and development that they had not experienced. Maybe any hint of coercion got their backs up.
During my last two years, we reached out for support. Experienced therapists ran groups to promote self understanding for adults in the holidays. A team of parents came from Germany in term time to provide and cook wonderful food for a week. One Tibetan Pulser whose son was at the school arranged a whole series of individual sessions for me to revive this flagging head teacher. Others came to sing songs or speak about their intimate meetings with Osho to the whole school. Optional extras, these few events were very poorly attended. Something felt amiss.
Instead of the evening meditation, a regular group of adults went to the pub. In desperation I remember speaking to one of the other key adults about how to address the rift. But I was already cast with an authoritarian mantle which perhaps did not suit me. As a close friend outside the school pointed out, “You were always a more Wu Wei type. It might be a shock if you suddenly start throwing your weight around.” On two different occasions, former core adults had said to me, “Why don’t you just leave?” I did not have any plan B for my life and a few of the kids seemed to be relying on me to complete their exam courses.
A member of the Inner Circle in Pune was on a chance visit to the area. After I described the situation at the school, he was clear that if the adults did not want to meditate together, it might be better to remove Osho’s name from the school. Maybe the school was morphing into something else. Maybe it was becoming Ko Hsuan again as it had started and not Osho Ko Hsuan as it had come to be.
Plan B came with an invitation from my girlfriend to live in Rome. At the end of term, the adults always sent out a newsletter to parents. This was about the exciting and challenging events we had encountered during our three month adventure with their kids. This term a letter from me and two other adults accompanied the traditional report. It expressed the view that without regular meditation meetings the adult group would not be able to continue implementing Osho’s vision. Maybe the controversy in which I was involved mirrored what was going on within the sannyas movement as a whole around Osho’s guidance. It does look like there were and still are parallels.
As for the school, its size required a minimum number of kids and fees. Below fifty children, we were likely to go into the red and we had gradually been moving closer to that number for a couple of years. In spite of this, the school did go on for four more years. During this period, there was a valiant attempt from a solid, creative team of adults, steeped in Osho’s work, to rejuvenate the school. This must have helped. Amrapali and I joined this team for the summer term of 2001 but by the end of the year, the school closed. The mechanisms for its decline were probably very complex. Sannyasins and their children were becoming more integrated into society, perhaps decreasing the demand for a boarding school. Maybe like many great experiments, it was destined to have a limited life. Without doubt, it provided a wonderful adventure in education for all of us: kids, adults, parents and visitors, every one of us that participated in it.
Text and photos by Surendra
Articles of the same series: Osho Ko Hsuan School
A former Reichian therapist, British Surendra took sannyas in 1976. He lived in Osho’s communes in India, USA, UK and Japan from the early 1980s on. In Pune 2 he looked after the painting work in Lao Tzu House, and then worked in Osho Publications. From 1991–1997 he taught at Ko Hsuan in Devon, UK, and after a sojourn again in 2001 he also became a passionate photographer. In 2013 he relocated to the Japanese Alps with his partner, Amrapali. All articles by this author on Osho News. surendraphoto.com