An invitation to surrender

Remembering Here&Now

Second excerpt from Deva Abhiyana’s just released book, ‘The Long Reach of the Dharma’, Chapter 25.

Without struggle, no progress and no result
Every breaking of habit produces a change in the machine
– Gurdjieff

Man is nothing if man is not a desire to transcend himself
– Osho, 1971

Osho walking in garden

At the end of my initiation darshan, I said to Osho: “By the way, I am an acupuncturist.” He replied: “Don’t worry, your skills will be used.” Before my skills were to be used, it was time to receive, and receive I did – multiple workshops, bodywork sessions (including a full series of Rolfing at about $15 per 90-minute session), Dynamic and Kundalini meditations, meditation camps, Sufi dancing and evening music group, and generally immersing myself in the ever-growing Buddhafield around the master. These active meditations were utterly transforming. In the evening music group, I learned to sing and dance to abandon, to enter that space where the dancer disappears, and only the dance remains. My body learned to fly and move in ways my rational mind could never understand. My whole life I have been told that I can’t sing, that I’m tone-deaf. It was such a freedom to sing loudly without shame or judgment. And when I sing loud enough, I am in tune!

After a few months, I asked for work and was given a job in the book department. Disappointment: I expected to be invited to become the first and only acupuncturist to practice in the Ashram. Egos are like that. I told myself the book job was hurting my precious hands, which were born to heal, not move books around.

My main competition in the healing department was Hamid, a tall handsome doctor from Tehran. He was an MD as well as an acupuncturist, and I wanted to prove I was just as good a doctor. My decision not to go to medical school continued to haunt me – did I make the right decision? Am I less of a healer because I didn’t become a “real” doctor?

Premabodhi, a colleague from my first acupuncture school in England had recently arrived, and without doing many groups, she was asked to start acupuncture sessions; she thus became the first and only needler! After two months, she decided to stop. It was then that both Hamid and I were asked to start an acupuncture clinic together.

In 1978, Hamid and I and Devopama – also a Worsley graduate – moved our clinic from 122 Koregaon Park to the recently purchased servant quarters across the street from the main Ashram. Each morning we would cautiously step around the piles of fresh human manure to enter our medical offices. At the time Vidya, one of the Ashram coordinators, came regularly to me for acupuncture. She would show up consistently late for her sessions, no matter how often I admonished her. One day, she showed up more than 45 minutes late; my next appointment had come a little early, so I started with him. Vidya came in like she owned the place, and I told her she was too late. She was furious; she banged down the wooden stairs, muttering loud enough for me to hear: “I will get him for this.”

It didn’t take her long to get me. I was called into the main office. Vidya: “You are getting too high and mighty in your doctor role over there. It’s time you did something else.” I was sent to clean the therapy chamber bathrooms. This was clearly a punishment for standing up to her power trips, and at first it worked: I was shattered to be seen as a toilet cleaner. Even in the Ashram, being a healer was a higher status job than a janitor, at least in some people’s eyes, including my own. But the work itself turned out to be a joy. I had no other responsibilities than to clean; I could prance around naked in the summer heat, hosing down the tiles and walls. And my boss “Dutch” Arpito was a sweetheart and apparently had no power trips of his own to work out, as we got along great. I was enjoying the new job so much that after a few weeks, Vidya told me I had apparently learned my lesson, and could go back to the clinic. And it was a good lesson! As Kaveesha (my future teacher) so eloquently put it: “It is not what you do, but who is doing it.”

I’m grateful I didn’t get sent to work in the huge kitchen under Deeksha. She was a crazy Italian woman who yelled and pushed everyone’s buttons. If you crossed her, you could be washing huge aluminum pans for 12 hours a day, for weeks at a time, even during discourse or darshan. Now that would be punishment! When my parents visited in 1979, we sat for lunch in the Ashram canteen with Veetrag and his mother, who was visiting from South Africa. We could hear Deeksha screaming at someone. Veetrag’s mother exclaimed: “My, we don’t even treat our darkies back home like that!”


Deeksha and I had a curious relationship. About once a month, she would call me to give a session in her room; while she lay on her bed full of acupuncture needles, she continued to scream orders at subordinates, flaying her arms, Italian-style. Sometimes I had to hold her down, so the needles wouldn’t go flying! She was always gracious with me, and after the sessions would invite me to one of her special lunches. While everyone else in the Ashram ate simple Indian fare, she had lunch with tablecloths, waiters, imported pasta, chocolates and other delicacies. Often these lunches included many of the power elites of the Ashram, among them Sheela, who later became infamous for destroying the commune in Oregon. Any one of these people had the power to make my life miserable – they knew it, I knew it – so I kept my head down, even as my good friend Arpitam served me imported spaghetti.

A key word in Poona I days (1974-1981) was surrender. In the West, surrender means a defeat, a capitulation, a deflation, a loss. The Sanskrit word for surrender, samarpan, implies giving up the ego’s endless desires and preferences for how things should be different.

The essential surrender happens within you; it has nothing to do with anybody outside you. The basic surrender is a relaxation, a trust, so don’t be misguided by the word. Linguistically, surrender means to surrender to somebody, but religiously, surrender simply means trust, relaxing. It is an attitude rather than an act: You live through trust.
Ancient Music in the Pines, Ch. 4

Priya Huffman put it so beautifully in her article: “I have come to learn that surrender is not a passive compliant thing; it has more to do with the full engagement of our yes. It has little overlap with acceptance or resignation, but is rather a full-hearted yes to the situation as it is whether you like it or not, whether you would prefer it be different or not. From that vantage, it does not have a passive bone to it. Surrender is an empowerment, not a passive state of no choice.”

Work meditation was the ultimate invitation to surrender. However, it was also a time for some to play out their power trips – tyrant and victim – under the guise of devices. This is a Sufi and Zen concept that reflects the extremes a master will go to, out of compassion, to wake up his disciples. Osho gave us numerous examples of other masters’ devices, e.g., throwing their disciples out of windows or giving them mindless, impossible tasks.

I now know that we all have a shadow side; one is either aware of it or not. In unawareness, the shadow runs – and ruins – your life. Osho illustrated this in a letter he wrote in the early 1970’s, later published in A Cup of Tea (#55):

I am one with all things –
in beauty, in ugliness, for whatsoever is, there I am.

Not only in virtue but in sin too I am a partner,
and not only heaven but hell too is mine.

Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu –
it is easy to be their heir,
but Genghis, Taimur and Hitler?
They are also within me!
No, not half – I am the whole of mankind!

Whatsoever is man’s is mine –
flowers and thorns, darkness as well as light.
And if nectar is mine, whose is poison?
Nectar and poison – both are mine.
Whoever experiences this I call religious,
for only the anguish of such experience
can revolutionize life on earth.

It has taken me many years to understand and let go of my judgments of other peoples’ behavior by seeing my own shadows, and finally to forgive the judgments arising out of my own unconsciousness.

One of my favorite responsibilities was a monthly 3 a.m. walk through Osho’s private garden. This was a special treat, as the garden was more like a jungle, filled with hundreds of different trees and shrubs. It felt like every plant was infused with a special energy. Osho gave specific instructions to his gardener Mukta: Don’t remove any plants, only prune when absolutely necessary, as these trees were his disciples too.

When my appointment fell on a full moon night, the experience was truly magical. I would creep up silently to make sure the samurai – men guarding Osho’s house – were awake. Once I came across Arvind sleeping in his chair outside Osho’s bedroom, a trident spear laying across his lap. I tried to gently wake him up, but he startled awake, dropping the weapon with a loud clang upon the marble patio. The sound woke Osho up, and Arvind was fired from his special post. Of course, he blamed me.

I had two favorite trees in Osho’s magic garden: A huge red cotton tree, whose bark was full of thorns. Leaning against this upright bed of nails kept me awake, while I closed my eyes and drank in the night. The other was an ancient almond tree located just in front of his bedroom. It was imperative to be extra silent while enjoying the close presence of the sleeping master.

Excerpt from Deva Abhiyana’s ‘The Long Reach of the Dharma’, available at Osho

More excerpts on Osho News: From ‘The Long Reach of the Dharma’

Bhagawati’s review: The Long Reach of the Dharma

AbhiyanaTNAmerican-born Abhiyana came to Pune in 1976 and lived for years in Osho’s communes in India and the USA. A Doctor of Oriental Medicine, he is author of ‘Osho Divine Healing: A SpiritMindBody Workbook’. Together with his partner Madhu and daughter Sharadevi, he now lives and practices acupuncture in Sedona, Arizona.

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