Srajan reviews the late Siddartha’s recently published book.
Last year, Swami Prem Siddartha passed away at the age of 80. Shortly before leaving the body he managed to complete his autobiography. It is a special story about a colorful figure, honest and sincere: a Jewish boy growing up in Baltimore, USA, who practices psychiatry for a while until he drops out after seeing the musical ‘Hair’ on Broadway. During the sixties he immerses himself in the Age of Aquarius, checking out all kinds of gurus and visiting hippy communes, with all the sex and drugs involved, yet returning periodically throughout his whole life to the practice of psychiatry.
His search for wisdom takes him from a guru sitting on a bench in New York’s Central Park to strange characters – Dr. Kinley and Swami Hate, to well-known Indian gurus Satya Sai Baba and Muktananda, to the Tibetan Karmapa Lama and teachers such as Werner Erhart; eventually the quest leads him to Osho.
He arrives there early: in 1974 he travels to Mount Abu in Rajasthan, India, where a certain Acharya Rajneesh leads a meditation camp and introduces Dynamic Meditation. He follows Osho to Bombay, Pune 1, the Ranch in Oregon and Pune 2 and 3. He even flies to Uruguay when Osho is on his World Tour, on the off-chance of finding him there.
As Yahweh remains the God of Gods for Siddartha, so Osho is the Guru of Gurus for him. He makes an extreme effort to reconcile both in his Osho-Yahweh Mystery School; religious conditioning runs deeper than we often imagine. In his search for mystic union he describes both the Jewish experience of shekinah, the presence of Yahweh, as well as the spontaneous deep meditation through shaktipat in the presence of a guru or lama. Experimenting with LSD, hashish and ecstasy – he also gets to do that early in life – is all part of his pursuit for bliss.
There are peaks along the path but also deep valleys: conflicts with friends and lovers, periods of depression, the agony that follows the ecstasy. Siddartha doesn’t avoid them; honesty is what he demands from everyone he meets, as well as from himself. The sincerity can be liberating at times.
The description of the community around Swami Hate is just hilarious. When a newcomer wants to join, everyone in the community starts telling him why they hate his guts and he in turn tells everyone why he hates them and then he is accepted into the group. It’s life, with a lot of laughter.
In the concluding chapters a few friends and lovers share anecdotes about Siddartha. They can be moving, humorous, abrasive, defiling at times, but they are all in the spirit of the man himself: honest and sincere.
Siddartha expresses hope that the book will help others with their own search. For myself I can only say he has succeeded in that. I found meeting so many colorful characters on his spiritual path most interesting, but it also shows me that I don’t necessarily need to go guru-hopping to maintain the focus that Osho mentions. As Miten puts it in one of his songs:
… just to live your love
that’s enough for me
Review by Srajan (translated from Dutch, published on Vrienden van Osho)
Available through Vitesha Offeciers: vitesha (at) gmail.com
Siddartha was born in Baltimore, USA in 1937. After attending university he became a psychiatrist, was a doctor in the army during the Vietnam War, and also raised a family. In the 60s he settled in a commune in Itaka, New York and later travelled to India, met Osho and took sannyas. He lived many years in Osho’s communes in Pune and Rajneeshpuram. Later, he lived in Amsterdam and Goa, where he was renowned for his parties. He finished writing his biography in Manali. He died in August 2017 in Amsterdam.