Niranjano’s stenographic notes and wonderful photos depicting 15 years of commune life in Germany.
“Come back in and warm up – we’re having coffee – you still have 20 minutes, then I take you to the station,” with these words a kind swami invited us into what must have been the living room of the farmhouse. The old Bavarian farm had housed the Purvodaya ashram since 1974. We were the three participants of the massage workshop, that had just ended, who had come by train.
Since there was no space at the table, I just sat on my suitcase. A cup of steaming chai in my hand, I watched the scene: “These sannyasins are pretty boisterous with each other. They’re joking and teasing each other and there is a lot of laughter. But this cackling coffee time is surrounded by an energy field full of playful cheerfulness and deep respect.” It hit me deep inside. It clicked. “That’s what I’ve been looking for all my life” – the buddhafield, of which I had already read in Osho’s books.
After my intermediate diploma I left university and pursued an agricultural apprenticeship on a Demeter farm [biodynamic agriculture]. For a few months I had driven around looking for farms that needed a journeyman. There were always young people on the farms but the ownership structure was family-authoritarian. In the end I spent a year in a rather anti-authoritarian rural community – with its own marijuana cultivation. That’s when the book of star reporter Satyananda, ‘Ganz entspannt im Hier und Jetzt,’ came out. I devoured it and knew: “This is it”” I wanted to get to know the sannyasins and Osho’s meditations, so I booked said massage workshop in Purvodaya. I can hardly remember the workshop but do remember the ‘click’ experience I had sitting on my suitcase.
Upon arrival at Munich Central Station I phoned the Purvodaya travel agency. Fourteen days later I arrived in Bombay – December 1979. Two impressions when the doors of the plane opened: 1) It smells like cow shit (which I knew well from my childhood on the farm). 2) The air is buzzing – not only because of the heat, there is something more… Like a spiritual shimmer, a buddhafield. So I felt doubly at home. Osho often spoke about the spiritual energy or buddhafield that surrounds enlightened ones and seekers. In India it’s been happening for thousands of years.
Three months in Poona with workshops. Every morning Dynamic – the full programme including taking sannyas; deep, beautiful experiences but also being alone to the max…. Back in Germany, for an entire summer, I drove a combine harvester. I was toying with the idea of moving to Purvodaya. At the end of 1980 the time was ripe. The admission meeting was an ordeal – I am not an extroverted person as most ashramites there. My joy for dancing, some practical skills and 3,500 DM in cash opened the door.
The day-to-day life in the commune crashed my high-flying quite quickly. I started at the bottom of the hierarchy: in-charge of the laundry in the basement. Since I managed to keep the red laundry of 40 ashramites religiously apart, I climbed up one floor six months later. Also my hobby, photography, made me a worthy part of the publishing house. We translated Osho’s texts into German and also produced small compilations on specific topics such as ‘Children’, ‘Meditation’, ‘Love / Jealousy’ (the bestseller).
Another large sector in the ashram was the group programme. It created a lot of work for us residents but also the occasional participation in sessions with Somendra, Rajen, Veeresh, etc, as well as opportunities for future love affairs. One could get a closer look at lunchtime and choose which bed to share in the evening. However, these ‘chug and chuck’ relationships were often over as fast as they had begun.
Of course there were also longer relationships. Neera came to us through a workshop and soon moved in. We immediately liked each other, had a similar social background. In-between there was a 3-week stormy affair with Vinamro. With Neera the energy was more down-to-earth and we soon shared our bed in the Tantra hall, a large attic with eight double-bed mattresses. Spatially separated by colourful cloths or blankets that hardly stopped any sound.
Including the children, there were about 50 people who now lived on the extended farm plus the additional 15-30 workshop participants. The place was bursting at the seams. Larger premises needed to be found. In 1981, Siddhartha, founder of the Purvodaya commune, came across the Wolfsbrunnen Castle east of Kassel. Osho gave us the name Rajneeshstadt.
First a construction crew moved in to prepare for some necessary comfort. I followed on 1.1.1982 together with Raje, a highly motivated typesetter. The publishing house was first set up in a room with a stove, a light table and two beds. A few weeks later it was moved into its own wing with professional printing presses, phototypesetting, repro and bookbinding equipment.
The castle was bustling like an anthill. Everywhere noise: hammering, drilling, clattering, chattering, laughing, children screaming… At night there were mainly love-making noises, but also loud relationship dramas were acted out. The intense energy field accelerated every emotion, every heartbeat like a supercharger. In all directions. Upwards, to the Heaven of Love when falling in love; sideways on a casual affair, down on being abandoned by infidelity… Pure life in a confined space.
Speaking of space: When more and more floors became habitable, many residents moved to the upper floors of the castle. It was much more comfortable there despite the smaller rooms. The rooms downstairs were larger and more showy with high stucco ceilings. They were located around the gallery of a two-storey entrance hall that reverberated each step and each sound into every corner. These large rooms were mainly used by the group department as session or group rooms.
Neera and I got married in April 1982. The unexpected side effect: It was hell! She wanted to go for walks with me on Sunday afternoons (as married couples do…). I no longer knew which day of the week it was because we practically worked every day – a lot in the darkroom or at the light table where I couldn’t see the sun’s altitude. Also a vacation (an attempt!) in the Alps made things only worse. The hate-love for her father and my inability to give supportive closeness was a poor medium for a life together. After about a year, we both found new sex and life partners in a short time. Today Neera lives in Northern California. We remain in friendly contact through mutual visits and skype calls.
Almost simultaneously in Oregon, Rajneeshpuram, the ‘Ranch’ came into being. Osho’s new community, organized by Sheela. One day a delegation of high-ranking sannyasins arrived in Siddhartha’s office. We were to rename our already well-established boutique and restaurant to ‘Noah’s Ark Boutique’ and ‘Zorba the Buddha Restaurant’. The commune would have to pay 5% in royalties for these nice, long and complicated names. Siddhartha refused as we would have to change all logos, stationery and menus.
That day created a first rift through the commune. Some of us accused Siddhartha for not being surrendered to Sheela, to Osho. Further cracks opened up. Some people wrote directly to the Ranch, e.g. about Siddhartha’s authoritarian leadership style, although practically each detail had been discussed in meetings. Others complained about the food – although it was very varied with lots of vegetables from our own garden. That Siddhartha had stuck out his head was going to be pure fuel for Sheela.
Finally, he became number one on Sheela’s hit list. At the 1984 summer festival, during a general meeting, Sheela announced the closure of Rajneeshstadt. Legally we were the owners of the castle. Most of us had contributed smaller or larger sums for the purchase of it. Nevertheless, at one last meeting where Siddhartha tried to keep us together as a community, he stood isolated. After all, it was a device from Osho – through Sheela’s mouth. She did not let Siddhartha leave the Ranch for several months, until the sale of the castle was completed. Some of our sannyasins transferred their money to the Ranch afterwards. A year later, Rajneeshpuram dissolved into history.
Other communes had also been previously leveled by Sheela. As far as I know, Miasto in Italy resisted; the commune simply stayed together. Veeresh had probably smelled the rat in time and founded Humaniversity in the Netherlands as his own therapy center.
After a two-year odyssey I ended up in Munich. My experience at Sannyas Verlag, our publishing house, got me a job with a typesetting company, from where I founded my own business ‘textscanservice’ for scanning and converting magazines and books. Out of the communal stock pot I was on my own. I enjoyed shaping my existence and mastering life’s challenges.
In the mid-90s, the large Tao Osho Meditation Center in Munich closed. I had not participated actively but liked to go to the meditations or just eat there and gossip. On the day of the closing I met a sannyasin in the subway, whom I knew by sight from the center. She was looking for a room in a seminar house to continue with Dynamic Meditation. I joined her. This is how a small self-organized group emerged. One of us had the key for the duration of a week to set up the stereo, collect the entrance fees, explain the meditation to newcomers and lock the door afterwards. We provided a room for Osho’s work. Without any hierarchy or ego trips.
Oshostadt / Author at the Baltic Sea
As a country boy, I never really felt comfortable in a town. So a call from Mandir and Siddhartha came just right. The latter was searching for land with large buildings in the former GDR [East Germany]. To this end, in 1994 we founded a charitable association and Schwan GmbH as legal owners of the future property. We found the Zschachenmühle in Thuringia. Just over the border from Bavaria. Before the war it had housed a firefighters school. A beautiful collection of different buildings and large wooden garages on four hectares of land. Since Siddhartha had kept the commune’s name Rajneeshstadt, it became Oshostadt. There was a lot of interest. The association had a hundred members. At first there were only four pioneers : Siddhartha, his wife Sigari, Mandir and Aklank. Over time, the population grew to 27 (summer 2018).
In 2002 I extricated myself from city life and moved in with my company ‘textscanservice’. Because the site is located in the former border exclusion zone, some of the surrounding forests had not been managed for many years. My trained agricultural and forestry eyes immediately saw the energy potential in the dead trees. I bought a tractor, winch and wood splitter. At the same time, we installed in the largest building, the so-called castle, an eco-wood heating system. Forestry was the ideal balance to my computer work.
The forests were managed by the trust, yet unfortunately sold after ten years. Besides other private and family events, a reason to again pack my bags.
Looking back after fifteen years of commune life: It was the greatest and most moving time of my life. Hundreds of connections in the supercharger buddhafield. Trying out new things and learning. Quite often people joined who had not really gained a foothold in their lives. After a while they found their niche and flourished. For example, a swami who no one thought was capable of doing anything ended up in the bakery; he baked the best breads. They always sold out.
Every person is unique. Due to its versatility, a commune can offer opportunities for self-realization, in addition to the meditations and self-awareness groups.
Now I live alone at the Baltic Sea, in the proximity of relatives and some friends. I enjoy the peace and the sea. I keep working in the forest and every day watch Osho’s videos, my favourite meditation. Listening to the silence between his words…
Note: Siddhartha died in May 2012. Oshostadt continues on strongly.
Photos and text by Niranjano – translation from German by Osho News