Devopama’s contribution to the book, Past the Point of No Return, a collection of stories about how sannyasins came to meet Osho.
Swami Anand Devopama
Born in 1937 in Lincoln, England
Took Sannyas in 1976
Sannyas found me. I just went along with what was clearly happening, and enjoyed the thrill of whole new vistas opening up. The conscious sense of a connection with Osho, with Bhagwan as he was known then, came later, after I’d been to Poona. Even there – so far as I was aware – it came in little realisations, nuggets perhaps: during one of my first lectures in the old Chuang Tzu Hall, in German Purna’s Janov-style primal group and the group Darshan afterwards, a Hindi discourse, as he drove by outside Lao Tzu Gate. These are some of the most memorable moments.
Probably some of the first times I experienced Osho were well before Bhagwan was ever heard of in the West, moments of the sublime, of the infinite, of being surrounded by a new dimension.
The first and most powerful experience happened when I first visited Florence around 1965. Like any tourist I walked up the steep slope to the white church overlooking the city, San Miniato al Monte. As I entered the church I experienced the whole place as vibrating and I was caught up in a vortex of energy. It was overwhelming and I had to rush out. I was euphoric as I stood outside looking at the Arno below and the hills surrounding the city. Years later I revisited that place but then it was just a lovely Renaissance church on a hill.
Another time in the early ‘70’s I was doing my Yoga exercises in my room in London. I went into the Plough position on my back with my legs over my head, and once again I was transported to another dimension. This time I did not panic and lay still whilst I was being hurtled through space. Planets, suns rushed by. It was a wonderful glimpse into an existence beyond the body.
Many people have such little epiphanies, which are then put away in the memory and never get a chance to develop. That is why finding, or being found by a Master, is such a great fortune in a lifetime.
For me sannyas came through my interest in acupuncture. My London friends told me of an eccentric Indian acupuncturist, who practised like no-one else did. Shyam Singha had come to London from Kashmir and was one of Osho’s first sannyasins in the West, certainly in England. He practised his own form of cathartic acupuncture, where he had you do dynamic breathing lying on the table with the needles in. It was all new to me, a provincial lad whose knowledge of a wider world was through Cambridge University and a sojourn in the States where I had smoked my first joint. Religion and my teenage belief in God had long gone during my student days in the intellectual ferment, sense of the new, the frontiers to be explored that the much wider intellectual life of a great university had.
It was Shyam who first told me of Osho and suggested I visit the little Nirvana meditation centre in the basement of his practice in Bell Street in central London. I did my first Dynamic Meditation there led by South African “sewing” Veena, and was soon a regular visitor, enjoying Shyam’s Kashmiri curries on a Friday lunchtime. But when Veena announced she was going back to India to do a meditation camp at Mount Abu led by Osho I pulled back. I was a keen London School of Economics Marxist in those days. Life, I remember thinking, was much too serious to lie around happily blissed out with some guru in India. That might be okay after the Revolution, but the class struggle came first. So, I dropped all notions of sannyas and went on with my academic life and London radical activities.
Sannyas reappeared however. Three years later in 1975 at a New Year’s party, stoned of course, I met a non-sannyasin woman, Dinah, and we became lovers. I soon moved into her house in Camden town. It was a lively area of post-sixties London, where you could see the orange people as you shopped in the market. An Osho Meditation Center called Kalptaru was close by, thus increasing the orange influx.
Dinah was into the ‘growth movement’ and was doing a long ‘intensive’ with Poonam, who ran Kalptaru. I did a weekend Encounter Group there led by a non-sannyas couple. It was intense, unlike anything I’d ever come across or heard about. By the last day I was elated. A new world of feeling and openness had been experienced. Why couldn’t all of life be lived at this emotional level? It was the beginning of the shift from head to heart, as Osho calls it. Sannyas was now much closer, the ground was prepared.
Dinah took off soon after at the end of her Poonam intensive, destination Poona. I was left in the house with her children and a lodger, who was also to take sannyas. Veetasmi, already a full-blown sannyasin, moved in to be a ‘mother’ to Dinah’s kids. Veetasmi had been to India, and we had plenty of time to talk about Osho and sannyas. She also lent me an early Osho book, ‘Dimensions Beyond the Known’.
The introduction to this book contained the story of an Indian sannyasin’s visit to a high Tibetan Lama. The Lama on seeing Osho’s photo on the mala pronounced Osho as having been in His past life a great Tibetan Master. This sort of ‘authenticated’ Osho for me, as well as feeding into my long-time fascination with eastern religion – the mysterious India that had attracted the likes of the Theosophists and other early twentieth-century travellers.
Looking back now I find it interesting that that is what I remember most about the book – not some poetic phrase that resounded in my heart. But by now I was captivated by this real-life Indian mystic and his lively, exciting followers. I wrote to Dinah in India asking her to bring me back a mala. The reason I gave was that I wanted to see if I could wear it and orange clothing. Dinah came back a few weeks later as Ma Prem Pankaja, resplendent in orange.
Later that day Pankaja gave me the mala I’d requested – plus something I’d not intentionally asked for – a piece of paper with my new name on signed by Osho. Pankaja explained that she’d shown my letter to Osho at her leaving darshan together with a photo of me she happened to have. Of course I was given sannyas. A few months later she was back in India, this time with the twins, who hated it, and I joined her a little later, moving in with them at number 35 Koregaon Park. Then I had my arrival darshan.
I sat in front of him, rather awkwardly on the cold marble floor. I had never been able to manage the lotus posture in my Yoga classes. Hence, I was not very relaxed, apart from feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the whole occasion. I already had my new name and mala. Instead Osho asked me what I did. I boringly replied I was a history professor. Later I wished I’d told him that I was studying acupuncture. Then I would most probably have had a mini-discourse on that ancient form of healing. That would have been a treasure trove for what I was actually to do in the Ashram. But the words were not important. They were just a way of focusing one’s attention. I felt, as I was for that short space of time, the centre of the whole Ashram and beyond. Thinking stopped and I was engulfed in the vastness of the enormous presence in front of me. Then it was over and he was suggesting what groups I was to do.
For the rest of my first stay I threw myself enthusiastically into the groups. By the end of that first short visit I was eager to sell my house in London and come back for ‘ever’ which I eventually did.
“…the work of a Master is actually of seduction. He allures you, he fascinates you; he promises you bliss, truth, freedom – he gives it many names. He makes you afire with longing. A moment comes when the longing is intense and passionate, that you take the jump. It is really mad! No logical person can do it. Hence I have to destroy slowly your clinging with logic. I have to shift your energy from the head to the heart, because the heart is illogical and from the heart there is a possibility, a bridge, a rainbow bridge towards the unknown and ultimately towards the unknowable.
“The word “seduction” actually describes the whole work of all the Buddhas. But the people who are too much clinging to logic cannot be seduced. If they ask first to be convinced, then there is no way. If they ask for proofs, then there is no way. If the Master himself is a proof, then there is a way. If the presence of the Master is enough to give you the joy that can take you into the adventure, if the very presence of the Master gives you courage to go into the uncharted, only then the journey ever begins.
“One thing is certain: once the journey begins you cannot come back. A journey begun is already half the work done; once it begins it has to reach to its climax. Only the beginning part is the most difficult part.”
I Am That, Chapter 12, Question 2
From the book, Past the Point of No Return, Ch 8
Devopama left his body on 24th February 2018