Master’s Day in Rajneeshpuram

Remembering Here&Now

Punya recalls the events around one of the Master’s Day celebrations in Rajneeshpuram. Excerpted from her book, ‘On the Edge’.

On Master’s Day the celebration started at lunchtime on the main street along the mall. There were jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers, hot air balloons – to the delight of the visitors and workers alike. The distorted music from the speakers reminded me of a country fair. ‘Welcome Home’ said the banners and the words in the song. Rajneeshpuram was meant to be the home for all the sannyasins in the whole world.

Before the Festival I moved to the Alan Watts area of A-frames which was in a valley parallel to Walt Whitman. The architects, in their creativity, had come up with a further sophistication of the A-frame model: four A-frames, on a single deck, were held together by a shower-kitchen unit. (Another new word for my Twinkie vocabulary: quadruplexes.) These now had luxuries like running hot and cold water, as well as air conditioning and heating. Unlike any commercial developer, the Chuang Tzu building crew had not shunned the extra work and trouble to place them in the most beautiful locations with the most stunning views down into the valley, onto the Mandir meditation hall and into the distant hills. In case we did not get enough exercise during the day, living up there certainly kept us fit.

Isabel introduced me to Lani who had just arrived and was going to move into the same A-frame as me. Out of hearing, Isabel asked me to show her the way to the Mandir for the evening celebration. As she felt like ‘family’ immediately, it felt awkward to have to explain to her the words of the gachchhamis and the routine of the celebration. After a shower and in our best clothes, we descended into the valley and crossed the creek over the footbridge. I loved this bridge. It was built with rough juniper trunks. Did it gently sway? But certainly it sounded great under our footsteps. The paths leading to it and then winding up to the Mandir were covered in wood chips, kept in check by rough beams on both sides of the path. This material was soft under our feet and, most important of all, had the scent of juniper bark! (If it had rained we would also have reached the Mandir without muddy shoes.)

We left our trainers on the racks in one of the shoe tents, memorized their location and descended barefoot towards the Mandir on the tan carpets which stretched from shoe racks to hall. To avoid the disgraceful habit of running through the hall to get a seat up front, we held each other’s hands in a long chain and walked into the hall in a more civilised manner.

Guru Purnima has for millennia been the day Indian disciples pay their respects to the master and traditionally it is celebrated on the first full moon night in July. The full moon had fallen the previous year – for the First Annual World Celebration of 1982 – on the 6th of July, and this date was kept for all celebrations to come, regardless whether the moon was full or not. Why this was so, I have no idea. At the time I thought that maybe this date was important to Osho. At any rate, when asked about why, the spiel was: ‘It is now an international Festival.’ That was the cliché answer we Twinkies were meant to give.

Master's Day

This year’s celebration offered us a particular treat: before sitting down in his seat, Osho called up Gayan and asked her to dance on the podium. Despite her formal training as a dancer, her movements were very natural and fluid. There was never a hint of a performance. Her dance was rather like the innocent flutter of a leaf in the wind or that of a butterfly searching for a flower. Osho danced through her for us and with us, while we sang the songs and swayed our arms in the air. For the silent part she sat down on the podium at some distance from him. Such a graceful sight: male and female at rest. But I was meant to have my eyes closed and be meditating!

Again I had the sensation that I was totally alone and that I was sitting all by myself in the big hall with no one else around. I was shocked when I opened my eyes again. Such a mass of red, so many thousands of people around me. I remembered Lani. She was still sitting close to me and was getting ready for the final gachchhamis. Taru’s velvety voice led the mantra – one could not imagine the gachchhamis without her.

Osho got up, greeted everyone and walked from the podium to his car while we sang to our hearts’ content. Many got up and moved to the edges of the hall to get a closer glimpse of Osho’s smile while he drove around the Mandir (anticlockwise as in Pune – in case this should have an esoteric meaning).

To avoid an over-flooding of the canteen, the kitchen moms had invented the famous ‘celebration box’. Beautifully arranged white cardboard boxes, containing a savoury snack, cake, fruit and a drink had been previously stacked on tables at one end of the hall.

In the style of a ‘déjeuner sur l’herbe’, small groups scattered around the huge hall, sitting gracefully on the linoleum floor, hardly talking, just enjoying the food and each other’s company. It was a more festive atmosphere than at a Queen’s Christmas banquet, although we were eating cold food and sitting on the floor.

PunyaExcerpt from On the Edge by
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