Michael Gonsalves interviews Swami Chaitanya Keerti with questions about the Osho Commune in Pune. Published in mydigitalfc.com, India, on July 1, 2018.
Swami Chaitanya Keerti, 68, the popular official spokesperson with the media in charge of press publicity in India from 1987 to 2000 left Osho International Commune in Pune in January 2000. With just Rs 50 in his pocket, Narain Das from Panipat, near New Delhi, who had read Osho’s books, and assisted his teacher in writing educational books, travelled to Mumbai by train at the age of 21, met Osho in 1971 and was christened Swami Chaitanya Keerti by Osho. In an interview with Michael Gonsalves he reveals how the once thriving Osho Commune began to shrink.
Soon after Osho’s death on January 19, 1990, why were some prominent disciples of Osho like you, Swami Anand Tathagat, Ma Yoga Neelam, Swami Satya Vedanta forced out over a period of time from the Osho Commune in Pune?
Swami Anand Tathagat and Ma Yoga Neelam left the commune in 1999. They were part of the Inner Circle (group of 21 members). They had their differences and they were not happy the way Inner Circle chairman Jayesh was running the commune’s affairs nationally and internationally. I did not leave the commune at the same time. I had informed the administration in June-July 1999 that I would leave after the Millennium Celebration at the Commune (December 11, 1999 to January 19, 2000) and in the meanwhile (six-month period) I would pass on my press office job and editorial job of Osho Times International to the person who was fit for this job. So this job was being passed on to Amrit Sadhana who had been working with me for many years.
After moving out, I started editing Osho World Patrika published from New Delhi. The first issue was launched by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during a fundraising event (for Gujarat Earthquake victims) at Siri Fort auditorium. Mallika Sarabhai had her wonderful dance performance at the event. I travel in India and around the world to facilitate Osho meditation camps every month and contribute articles to various newspapers and magazines in English and Hindi. All these articles are based on Osho’s vision.
Swami Satya Vedant (Dr Vasant Joshi) continued being at the commune for many more years, though he lived outside the commune campus. He was the Chancellor of Osho Multiversity and Inner Circle member. And finally, after some years he left Pune and started contributing to Osho’s work independently by travelling in India and around the world facilitating Osho meditation camps, participating in seminars, approaching educational institutes and establishing the Osho Chair at a University in South Gujarat.
Was it because Swami Anand Jayesh and Swami Prem Amrito wanted full control of running the affairs of the Osho Commune?
Osho does not teach control. Being chairman of the Inner Circle or coordinator of a certain department in the commune is merely a function. One who is good at some function will do the function, but it is not to make an ego trip. We became disciples not to seek powers but to meditate in the presence of the master or for being in the commune of the master for self-realisation. Our creativity and contribution to Osho’s work is out of joy and not for power games or ego trips.
It is possible for many of us to forget the real purpose and indulge in power games and become distracted. Jayesh, his brother Darcy O’ Byrne (Swami Yogendra, now known as Raj) and Swami Prem Amrito turned the commune into a mere resort and the commune started shrinking. Till 2000, the number of participants was 1,000-to-3,000 at any given time. And now only during the Monsoon Festival (August 11-15) and Winter Festival (December 25-31) does it come close to 700-1,000. The rest of the year it is mostly empty. One friend who had visited the resort recently told me that now only 20-30 people were in each meditation and the number of participants in evening Satsang was not more than 50. Around this time, Amrit Sadhana was telling in her interview to the Canadian media in Vancouver that there are participants from 120 countries. These are illusory or self-congratulatory figures. The commune gives a deserted look most of the time. And when people return from Pune they are sorry to inform me that the heart is missing. A lot of control but no heart.
The angry, veteran Oshoites, who left the Pune Commune started their own Osho centres and communes and have been attracting a number of devotees. How many such centres and communes are operating today?
New Osho centers have been opening and they are so many. Ma Yoga Neelam and Swami Satya Vedant, Ma Dharam Jyoti, Swami Anand Tathagat and many other facilitators, including myself, get invited to facilitate meditation camps all around the country. There are also major centres like the Oshodham in New Delhi, Osho Nisarga in Dharmashala, Osho Om Bodhisatva Commune and small centres that are flourishing and initiating people into Osho’s neo-sannyas. New centres have started in New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Boulder, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver. I do visit such centres for meditation camps.
Some believe Osho did not die a natural death but was possibly killed. What is your version?
I cannot say anything about it for sure. I heard Osho said: Existence decides its timing. To me Osho is not in the body but I feel him in my heart and so do many lakhs¹ of people (who) feel him the same way.
Why is there no Osho Samadhi in Pune where Osho lived in his last years?
There is the Osho Samadhi in Chuang Tzu Auditorium, the ground plus first floor residence of Osho. But the management team under the pressure from the trinity of Inner Circle chairman Jayesh, his younger brother Yogendra and Amrito cannot call it ‘samadhi’ because that does not fit with the concept of the resort. The samadhi will attract thousands of Osho lovers from India on a regular basis. So they discourage the use of word samadhi, so that the lavish property can be sold in future. This mentality is really disgusting – mind at play, without any heart. It is very irreverential.
Do you think Osho International Meditation Resort is carrying forward the legacy of Osho?
The Osho International Meditation Resort is projecting the legacy in only one dimension — one that is suitable to the Western mind. Osho’s vision is multi-dimensional.
Just go through Osho’s talks. He talks about Ashtavakra to Zarathushtra, Buddha, Zen Masters, Jesus, Mahavira, Krishna, Upanishads, Sufi and Zen Masters, Hassid and Greek Masters, Raman Maharshi, Gurdjieff, Meher Baba, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Meera, Farid, Paltu, Dadu, Maluk, Bulle Shah and many other mystics who are not known to large number of people.
Would you like to share any other aspect on Osho and his legacy?
In the end, I can conclude in two words: meditate and celebrate. Remember meditation could make you serious, holier than thou. But remain alert and aware. Do not be too serious but remain playful. Be creative and loving. Nourish love. Share your creativity. Do not treat people as objects. Just respect their subjectivity.
Columnist: Michael Gonsalves
¹ 1 lakh equiv. 100,000