Vinod’s spiritual safari

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What transformed a Bollywood superstar, Vinod Khanna, into Osho’s sannyasin, Swami Vinod Bharti? Kul Bhushan traces his bumpy journey.

Hundreds of tributes to Bollywood superstar-turned-politician, Vinod Khanna, have been published after his recent passing away in the Indian media and also in the New York Times. All these mention his career as an actor and a political leader with merely a passing reference to his master, Osho.

None of them even hint at the inner alchemy that transformed him into becoming Swami Vinod Bharti. Neither do they answer the pivotal questions: Why did he quit when he was rated as number one hero? What prompted him to give up his life of luxury, fame, respect and glamour for spartan living in Osho’s ashram? What were the questions he was confronted with to take this daring step?

Perhaps the most portent question that confronted him was: ‘Who am I?’ When his question became so real, so deep from his being, so over-powering his life, then the guru happened. And Vinod embarked on his personal journey of discovering himself at Osho’s ashram, shuttling between meditation in Pune and starring in movies in Bombay.


He bared his heart and detailed his spiritual safari in a long interview in Hindi for Osho Times in 1994 during which he recalled:

“My spiritual life started when I reached the point when no material thing was important to me. I had it all: good money, family, fame, respect… all desires had been fulfilled.

“At the age of eight, I went to sadhus to sit with them with eyes closed, meditating. This spiritual dimension took a backseat in school and college. I wanted to be an actor. When I was successful as an actor, my childhood desire awakened again; I started to think: what is that consciousness which all gurus talk about? So, I went to a bookshop and bought Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda and read it.

“In 1974, four deaths in my family within six months shook me. I thought, ‘I will also die and don’t know anything about myself.’ I started to meditate but hit a wall. There was some peace but nothing much. Vijay Anand and Mahesh Bhatt took me to Osho. His discourses answered all my questions. Surprise!

“I wanted to know more about my peace so, in 1975, I decided to go see Osho who said, ‘Are you ready for sannyas? You are…’ I took sannyas on 31st December. I felt I knew him from many previous births. Osho said, ‘Do the Nadabrahma (Humming) meditation.’ I was very active at that time; I had too much physical power but my mind was not so active, I needed to experience no-mind, silence.

“I knew the proverb: ‘An empty mind is the devil’s workshop.’ Too much stuff was in my head; I was so afraid of a no-mind experience. The body started to experience chemical changes, yet I carried on meditating. From 6 am to midnight, meditating. Meditating at work, in-between shootings in the makeup room, listening to Osho’s discourses, and meditating after work at home. My wearing orange and mala shocked everyone – family, friends – some called me mad; but the film industry never disowned me. They sympathised with me, just wondered why I had taken sannyas. Gradually, I got fed up with films and wanted to live with the master in Pune. Osho said NO, I was not ready – and to work totally.

“I was not total – I resisted useless song and dance sequences, disliked my roles, direction, screenplay… everything. At some point I realised that I should respect all of them. When I became total in my work, I started to enjoy what I was doing and my enjoyment affected others around me. When I told Osho about this, he said, ‘Do groups.’ These helped me very much: they released my suppressions and blocks as positive energy flowed. I was fully in the world and yet not in it. And I wanted to stay in the ashram.”

The superstar was gradually transforming into a sannyasin. As his search became more intense, he started to spend more time in Pune. Due to deep meditation and imbibing the vision of Osho from the discourses, Vinod’s transformation began.

What happened to him in meditation? In meditation, you have to empty yourself of yourself. Vinod was full of stress, traumas, fears, worries, dreams, and above all, ego. Osho’s active meditations helped him to face himself as these meditations mostly start with hectic physical activity and continue until the body is completely exhausted. This exertion also triggers catharsis or cleansing and the release of all embedded tensions. Then the meditator sits still or lies down with fatigue. When he collapses, totally tired, he become empty of all thoughts. He does not remember who he is, where he is, as there are no thoughts. He now enters the no-mind state; something mysterious starts happening, which is unexplainable. Something of the beyond starts descending, some unknown energy starts singing inside, dancing inside. That’s how this alchemy of meditation worked with Vinod and all Osho meditators.

Vinod darshan

Vinod remembered:

“One day in 1977, Osho suddenly said, ‘You can come to the ashram.’ I went to Bombay and held a press conference announcing my leaving films at the peak of my career and that I would be staying with Osho. This was a shocker! It created a storm. Many film producers were angry as they had lots of money invested in films that were in production with me. I promised to complete all these films and fulfil all my commitments. Osho got a lot of criticism for my action. I tried to bring my family to Osho but they were not interested in him. My inner explosion could not be expressed or reported by the media.

“My ashram life in Pune was meditating and working in Osho’s garden, where no trees or plants could be cut; I bruised my body and got thorns when working in the underbrush, and was full of mud. I slept in a very small room in which I could hardly stretch my six-foot frame and was just about cramped. Facing my fear of death because I had been told two people had died in that room. But I was at peace because I was given the chance of living with Osho. From time to time I went to Bombay for shoots.

“When I had completed all my films I went to the USA in 1981 to be with Osho. At Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, I worked as a gardener in Osho’s garden and looked after the peacocks, looked after the plants and trees, cleaned the place. I enjoyed the hard work. Sometimes Osho called me to his room. As I was mostly meditating, going deep into my inner space, all masks dropped; I didn’t know what else was going on in the world. Osho remained silent for three years but was communicating with all of us. Then he started to speak in 1984 and created a storm.”

Osho created a tsunami with his radical ideas challenging the American belief of freedom of speech and also blasted the Pope and the Jews. The American and global media lapped it up and he was the centre of a tornado.

Vinod recalls, “In 1984, I returned to Bombay. Before I left, Osho asked me to manage the ashram in Pune and I politely replied that I would think about it. At the time, I had no money, no career. But my comeback in films was very successful. I was always with Osho.”

Vinod made a stunning comeback in films in 1987. Once again, he was hailed for his work and resumed his prime position in movies and in the hearts of millions of his fans, with box office hits for two more decades.

A political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) invited him in 1997 to join and contest a parliamentary seat from Punjab in 1997. He won easily and was soon appointed a minister of tourism and later a deputy minister of external affairs in the union cabinet. In the hurly burly of politics, he was always centered with Osho in his heart. Journalists would ask him, ‘Have you left Osho?’ He always firmly answered with NO.

Vinod 3

He embodied what Osho says, “Be blissful within and loving without. You can be blissful and miserly; then bliss starts dying. It has to be shared to keep it alive and flowing to keep it fresh and young… The sharing of bliss is love, and it is through love that bliss grows. The more you love, the more blissful you become.”

The inner transformation happened over a decade from 1975 to 1985 when he was living full-time with Osho. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he was meditating, working in the garden, listening to Osho, imbibing Osho in his Buddhafield and travelling on this spiritual inner safari that transformed him.

What was the transformation? Vinod said, “I became a witness. My acting is not just confined to movies but spreads to my life as my life has become a movie.”

Quote by Osho from
The Golden Wind, Ch 20 (unpublished)

Kul BhushanKul Bhushan is a regular contributor

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