Shivananda takes sannyas in February 1978, and Osho gives him his new name.
Climbing out of the rickshaw when I arrived at the ashram gates (read the story how I got there in A winding approach), I noticed all these beautiful women and men in orange robes. I had never seen before a place with such vibrant people moving so intimately together. It was definitely different from all the ashrams I had been visiting before.
I asked if anyone knew where I could find my friend Niyama with whom I had shared the room in Goa. They told me that he was living in the Music House where, on the attached grounds, people had built huts between the trees. I found him in one of them. He was wearing an ‘In Silence’ badge, so he wrote on a piece of paper that he could not talk, that I could not stay there, but that I might find space in No. 8.
No. 8 (which stands for Koregaon Park No. 8) turned out the be a dormitory. About 120 people were staying in that villa. Even though I had been sleeping in many different and unusual situations, I had never seen anything like it; I was fascinated and at the same time shocked. Every small piece of space had a mattress, on the floor. Almost everyone had a mosquito net and a small shelf. I could immediately feel the alive energy in the house.
As I entered the place some couples were making love and just next to them a swami was playing a guitar, and a few mattresses away another couple had a fight in full swing. People from all over the world were living together in this colonial-style villa with only one bathroom. It was a challenge for me to go to that bathroom and have a shit while just next to me a woman had a shower, everything without curtains.
The only space left, when I arrived, was on the open balcony, of course next to many other mattresses. At first, I felt a bit unprotected, but since it never rained during this time of year (January) I got to love the place, looking at the stars at night and sleeping under the moon.
I asked someone what I should do, what they would recommend? “Do Dynamic tomorrow morning.” So I went to the ashram early in morning at 5.30 am. I never got up so early – and moreover, it was cold. I did not quite understand the explanation so did not know what was going on. I heard people breathing, so went with it somehow, and then they started screaming. I was shocked, “What the hell? They call this meditation?” And then came the Hoo Hoo. “What is going on?” I was so shocked. The only meditation I knew was transcendental meditation and I thought this would be something like that. When in the Stop stage I lied down, the meditation leader came up to me and said that if I didn’t want to participate I should leave. OK, so I left. I was in shock. What is going on here?
Around ten o’clock I went back to the ashram; there was Sufi Dance. We were standing in a big circle inside Buddha Hall, a big oval hall surrounded by huge swaying bamboos. In the middle stood Aneeta, a tall, beautiful woman with a microphone in hand. Together with a couple of musicians she was leading the dances. She was teaching us small songs and gave clear instructions how to move. Mostly you would be facing another person in the circle, looking into each other’s eyes and make specific simple movements. After every phrase of the song you would move to another person in the circle.
I was so touched by this. I remember we were singing the song: “I love you whether you know it or not. I love you whether I show it or not. There are so many things I have not said inside my heart. Perhaps now is a good time to start.” In the circle I was meeting so many different beings from all over the world, men and women, black, brown or white – singing this song – feeling the truth in it – making a connection beyond words. I was in tears. My heart was dancing and I knew that I had always been waiting for something like this. Now, 38 years later, I am leading these dances and call the events ‘Heart Dance’. And we are still singing: I love you whether you know it or not… So many people are still touched; just looking into each other’s eyes brings so much magic and joy. It is so simple and so touching.
Everyone I met during the day urged me to go to the event called Music Group. I don’t know how many people came to Buddha Hall. It must have been around 1000. There was a band of musicians and Anubhava was the leader with a guitar. In a very gentle voice he said, “All the men move to the left side and all the women to the right side.” Everyone started to sing, Allah Illah Allah. There was such totality and devotion in the singing that I had goosebumps all over my body. Again I had the feeling that, for my whole life, I had been waiting for this. It was like an initiation. The energy was such that I had the feeling that the roof was going to lift off. “I do not care who this guru is but from here I cannot leave. I have to stay.” I knew I could not leave this place.
Now I was ready and eager to see Osho (then called Bhagwan). I had the opportunity to see him every day in the morning during discourse and sometimes in the evening in darshan, where people were initiated into sannyas.
After three weeks I went to the office and said that I wanted to talk to Osho. Arup was there. She asked, “How long have you been here?” “Three weeks.” “It is about time, isn’t it?” she said and gave me an appointment for the following day. I had been wearing only blue clothes – the opposite to orange – but I felt that I could not go and see Osho in blue clothes, so I had a robe made; it was not quite orange, just a kind of orange, because I suspected that ‘something’ might happen but still could not bring myself to ask to take sannyas.
In darshan, it was the 17th February 1978, when they called up my name – I can still hear Mukta call “Heiiiinz” – I came forward and looked into Osho’s eyes. The first thing which came to my mind was, “Wow, why is he afraid of me?” I had never heard about mirroring before; it was me who was scared but I saw the fear in his eyes. Amazing. And then Osho asked, “How long are you going to be here?” I replied, “I don’t know.” He then said, “Good,” and, “Would you like to do any groups?” I had seen my friends going into groups and come out with a broken nose or a broken arm, so was eager to know what was going on in there. Hence I said “Yes” to Osho.
“OK, the first group you do is ‘Flow’.” This group did not exist yet; so, during that very darshan Osho created the group. He chose a person to be the group leader and then he appointed some more people for this new therapy group.
In that first darshan, after Osho had given me the group to do, he looked at me. I suddenly knew that I wanted to take sannyas, but I was too proud to ask for it. After a moment, which seemed endless, Osho smiled at me and asked, “What about sannyas?” People later told me that I shouted, “Yes!” I was so relieved that he had asked.
Osho then spoke: “This will be your new name, ‘Swami Shivananda’.” When he said ‘Shivananda’ it was as if for the first time in my life I had a name. I had never felt that Heinz was my name. In fact, people always called me with different names; Böck, Billy, Aden, Vicky. I had many names. Wherever I went, people immediately made up a name for me. It somehow happened to me and the feeling I always carried was that I did not have a real name.
But when I heard the name Shivananda, the sound went through my whole body like a flash. There was this immediate recognition: This is my name! When Osho then asked, “Is it easy for you to pronounce?” I thought he was cracking a joke because that was my name! and I started to laugh. He didn’t say anything about the meaning of the name but, while holding the paper for me to see, he said, “God is just around the corner and the only reason we don’t see him is because we are all misers.”
When he said that I felt offended. It was as if he was saying that I’m a miser. My whole system shut down, my whole ego – poof – and I could not hear anything else he said. He continued to speak – I cannot check what he said because, although that darshan night has been published, my darshan was left out. That one sentence that Osho said, I suppose, was enough for me to hear. Also, that he did not explain the meaning of my name, but I never felt there was a need for me to know. When people later asked me about the meaning of my name, I said, “I do not know because Osho never explained it to me.” But after a while I started to tell them my own meaning, which was, “Shivananda means the blissful union of the male and female energy.” Nowadays I say again, “I do not know.”
I came out of darshan and was so happy to be a sannyasin. But the wound that Osho had opened with his words remained with me for a long time. In the beginning I was referring to it as me being a miser with material things, but later I realised that the key was not to hold back my creativity and my love, to start sharing my feelings, and – even deeper – my being. Coming out of darshan so much happiness and excitement entered my body. I felt so good to be part of this family, this ashram.
I went to bed with this new mala. I didn’t know what to do with it. Do I sleep with the mala? Hold it in my hand? In the end I put it under my pillow. In the night I had a dream; it was more like a vision. I knew I was on an island and I saw Osho standing in front of me. He was smiling at me the same way he had in darshan and asked me, “How long have you been in India?” “Three months,” I replied and he asked, “Three months?” in his way when he questions something. When during a therapy group I was crying and sad about the fact that I had not recognised Osho earlier and come to be with him when I first came to India in 1974, I counted those six months and the recent three months together; it came to nine months, like a pregnancy. I then understood the meaning of that dream and that I was meant to go through all those other events first.
In the dream Osho had also asked another question, “Do you know the 112 secrets?” And I replied, “What?” He just smiled and said, “Good,” you know the way he says that. While he made this special swiping movement with his hand, he smiled and tilted his head a bit to the side. At this moment I disappeared in his beard. The beard turned into a rainbow-coloured river and I swam in it into eternity.
In the dream I was suddenly back on the island. There I saw a man on my left, wearing just shorts, a tall skinny guy dancing like a madman. I thought, “It’s scary just to watch him. Why is he so crazy? Maybe it’s because Osho was here?” Of course, I didn’t associate him with me. Only a few days later, during Kundalini Meditation, suddenly something happened to my energy and I started to dance like this guy. Then I understood, “Aha, I am that guy in the dream.”
A few days later in the dormitory I asked a sannyasin – I was just walking by his bed – “Oh, you are reading an Osho book?” He answered, “Oh yeah, I just finished it, you can have it.” He gave me the book. I looked at it more carefully, it was called The Book of Secrets, I opened it and I read that it is about the 112 secrets that Shiva told Devi. I was blown away. “This is the book Osho was talking about in my dream. Amazing!”
The first edition was in 5 volumes. I did not have them all, but I always had one volume with me whenever I was travelling. And when I had a question I would close my eyes, open the book, put my finger somewhere on the page and there was the answer. It was like an oracle card.
Later on The Book of Secrets came back to me… but that’s another story… (stay tuned)
As told to Punya
More adventures with Shivananda in ‘And another story…’
Shivananda was born in Switzerland. He worked as a trained typesetter and graphic designer, silkscreen printer, bookbinder and photographer. Twenty years ago he fully engaged himself as a painter, working in Brazil and Switzerland. Music, another expression of his creativity, has been his companion for all his life. He plays the guitar and sings. In summer he lives in Arillas on the Greek island Corfu, where he facilitates painting and singing workshops. shivananda.ch – more of Shivananda’s artwork on Osho News