(13/7/1928 – 7/6/2017)
Bodhihanna (aka Bodhi Hanna Kistner) was five years old when Hitler came into power. Her grandfather, who was half-Jewish, was one of the richest bankers in Germany. She grew up in a highly educated family, with artists and philosophers, but no one could express their true thoughts, not even in their homes, unless they risked being deported and put into labour camps. Her father, a medical doctor, only went to work for the military in order not to be part of the Nazi party.
In an interview she gave to Terry Hodgkinson in Meeting Sensei Bodhihanna and on video to Pankaja in Zen Archery with Bodhihanna she tells the harrowing experiences when her family lived under American and English bomb attacks, aware that every moment could be their last. When the war was over, there was not only deprivation, but she suffered, like many others, under the stigma of being German, which only passed when Osho talked about Hitler and the war.
She was married and had two children (a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Christiane) and worked for a book distribution company for 40 years. After she got divorced at 45 (when her daughter was 12) she visited Pune for the first time. She then moved to India to stay more permanently, when she was 60, and her life “truly began,” as she says.
In the Osho Commune in Pune she learned archery from Asanga, a Japanese sannyasin who had studied archery for 5 year previously. She says in the interviews that she was a lousy student and that she was even sacked from a workshop Asanga had held in Japan. Back in Pune, despite this setback, she joined the archery practice group again – and when Asanga returned they eventually got together again, after both working out the projections they had on each other. She had learned from him a lot about the spirit of Japan and the spirit of Zen archery, and she understood why Osho wanted archery to be taught in his ashram.
During a talk last summer with Tatyana Hrylova, published under the title of Only After Sixty My True Life Began, the emphasis is on age and fitness. Bodhihanna had come to Pune at age 60 and had started practising archery, and at 70 she became a Kyudo teacher. She says,
Archery doesn’t exhaust me; on the contrary, it brings me energy. When I’m tired, I take my bow, straighten my back, open up, pull the bowstring, and feel how the energy returns to me. Right now I don’t even think of quitting it. The eldest practicing Kyudo master is a woman who lives in Japan, she’s 98.
For many years Bodhihanna spent the winter months (November-March) at the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune, the month of April in Pasadena, CA and summer (May-September) in Maui, Hawaii, her adopted home – of course, always teaching archery.
She was diagnosed with cancer just the week before she died.
Photo credits: Cursty Kistner, Stephen Fickes, Aviram, Denise Reynolds, Terry Hodgkinson
Correction in text: age of children when she got divorced.
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My mother was the most wonderful and loving person, one could imagine. I was only 12 years old when my parents separated but I always had a very special connection to her. When I was right down in life, in England, she had a nightmare and phoned my father to get the money for the flight to England to get me out of there. She introduced me to sannyas and I spent 14 months at the Humaniversity in Holland with Veeresh. We fought and quarrelled and shouted at each other all our lives. I must be the only person in the world who knew her on such energetic terms, but maybe we where too much alike and therefore clashed a lot, but we always had that special connection where we didn’t need a phone or mail to know what was going on with the other. In a way, she wasn’t like a mother but more like a teacher, a lot of times it was me who had the mother role, especially at organizing practical things, but the feeling that she was always there for me, even when living on Maui or Pune, helped me through the days. I don’t know how to manage life now that this special protection is gone but I will have to be there for her grandchildren and be strong. I’m so proud that she has so many friends and people that loved her and I’m looking forward to seeing them all on Maui on Sunday. Shine on, Bodhi Hanna,
Now your arrow will reach the deepest center in life. I remember your lovely teaching in Pune. I spent a lot of time with you and I’m so grateful to you for your patience, for your delicacy, for your trust…
Meeting you was so special. Your kindness and wisdom always touched me profoundly. I have taken on your message of love of life and to continue exploring regardless of age. I love you, Bodhihanna, and am grateful we met.
Vinn Arjuna Martí
I knew Bodhi Hanna for half of my life; she was for me and for many others a great source of inspiration. So many people loved to be in her company because of her deep trust in life and her connectedness to Osho. She always encouraged people to go their way as she did and be true to themselves. I will miss her. She was a remarkable being with incredible strength and a love for life. Farewell, Bodhi Hanna,
I’m so glad I managed to spend some time with Bodhihanna. She was amazingly honest and open when talking about herself and her life and what she had learned through her experiences…
When she came to see the film we had made together in Berlin she was in great pain from sciatica, but that didn’t dim her energy at all as she spoke with her usual passion and insight about Zen Archery, and what it can bring to practitioners. She brought the flavour of Osho wherever she went – and it is truly humbling to learn from her that age is absolutely no barrier to learning, growing and understanding oneself more deeply.
May you fly high like one of your arrows in the light of the beyond.
I loved seeing you in the Osho Meditation Resort whenever I went there. You were so full of energy like a very young person and your love for the archery that you taught, and for Osho was so total and so sincere and innocent. When I saw you a few months ago, you told me you were still travelling all over the world and I felt very inspired by you.
You also were always cleaning the floor in Buddha Grove – nothing was too much for you. You are an example to everybody.
Thank you for being as you were and are.
I assisted Asanga teaching the Zen Archery group. Bodhihanna and I became good friends. During that trip to Japan that she spoke about, we went into Tokyo for the day and missed the last train. We stayed in a public bath in Yokohama overnight. That she returned to archery after Asanga’s ban showed how sincere her love for the art was. During my last trip to Poona, I stayed in her living room. When I saw the articles about her recently, I was so happy with what I read. She had a big heart and a strong spirit.
Sw Anand Kundan