Excerpt from ‘The Cosmic Madhouse’; Satyananda has moved into the ashram to write his book and embarks with other sannyasins to Bombay for a media conference to neutralize the negative impressions the photos in the media stirred up, showing naked participants in the Leela and Tantra groups.
Bombay, 13th November
We left early this morning for Bombay in the orange-coloured ashram mini-bus. Our team: Krishna Prem, a slim Canadian in his early forties with his lovely, long curly locks and beard, and a constant worried look on his face; Madhura, his witty English assistant who used to be a successful comic actress on the London stage; Divya, from Costa Rica, Lao Tzu resident and Doctor of Psychology, primal therapy expert – an iron fist in a velvet glove; Somendra, Leela group leader, energy specialist and author of the best-selling book, ‘People, not Psychiatry’, well-groomed, eloquent and despite his extroversion, a shy man who hides it well beneath a volubility which is tiring as he often talks fast and quietly.
Our mission: to neutralise the negative attention which Jay’s photos of naked participants in the Leela and Tantra groups stirred up and to explain the objective background to the psychotherapy groups in the ashram.
It was Osho who put this team together and I still have no idea why I am part of it. The obvious explanation – that I can contribute some professional insight as a journalist – is certainly not the whole story. Osho is a master of the art of killing several birds with one stone. I can imagine that my being part of this trip is a device to confront me with something that I have avoided until now: presenting myself in the public eye as a sannyasin and identifying with the Osho ashram.
In the luxury of the Taj Mahal hotel, we have rented the ‘Princess Room’, a conference space, complete with tea and biscuits, white-jacketed waiters and an audio system.
Madhura busies herself with the slide-show. Somendra is nervous; he does not think that it will be possible to explain the concept of group work to Indian journalists.
“Even Indian sannyasin men are still so sexually repressed that therapy groups are impossible for them,” he tells me. “And as for the Indian sannyasin women, it takes them about a year before they will even hold hands with a man; and another before they are ready to take their bras off!”
Around forty reporters arrive, and for me it’s a remarkable feeling to be sitting on the other side of the fence, not as an observer, a reporter, but as a ‘player’. Actually I quite like it. Two of them come up and shake hands with some warmth – two years ago I had met them as colleagues, and now they are looking me up and down, frankly astounded: “What has happened, that you…”
“What indeed? Look, you ought to know. Right down the road from you, there is a once-in-a-century phenomenon taking place… that’s why I am there!” They keep looking at me, both curious and worried. I know this look already and am gradually getting used to it.
Krishna Prem (KP) insists on playing a thirty minute extract from one of Osho’s discourses, in which he attacks the current Government administration, blesses Indira Gandhi, and mocks journalists in general. About half of the reporters are pro-government and the other half are Indira supporters, so they get into immediate conflict with each other, but are unified in their opposition to us. Complete misunderstanding, hate, loud shouting…
“Why don’t you all go off to some Communist country? We want nothing to do with you dirty hippies! Are you trying to pretend that there is no group sex happening in the ashram?”
There is no question anymore of showing Madhura’s slide-show, instead there is chaos, tumult, and no interest whatsoever in information. KP is trying stubbornly to make it clear that we are simply harmless spiritual seekers, on the search for God and a few thousand acres of land where we can live undisturbed and continue to develop this wonderful, important experiment.
But the reporters are not listening, they are yelling and KP starts to lose control of the room, appeals silently for help to Divya, who grabs the microphone, and thunders: “Whenever there is any mention of nudity, what I see in your eyes is nothing but lust!”
She’s got their attention now.
Quivering and charged with energy, she continues to harangue them over the mike: “You are sexually repressed, that’s why the naked body is ugly and dirty to you; ‘nudity is wrong’ – this is what I am hearing here…”
“But what about the group sex in the ashram?”
“Excuse me, but I am not finished yet!”
And she goes on, telling them that the function of the groups in the ashram is to discover who you really are. Hopeless!
I have already accepted that this press conference is a waste of time, and I sit back in my chair and enjoy the show: KP’s offended confusion, Divya’s witch-like fury and Somendra’s stage-fright.
Finally it’s his turn and he tells them that the ashram is like a laboratory in which people are doing self-research. It involves a certain energy which is mostly repressed in many countries and particularly in India. This energy is not sinful but very natural, and as for Osho, he is there to help people return to their true nature, beyond the completely false norms of society…
The audience is losing interest fast, and it’s only when Somendra says: “I had a successful career in the West, and earned lots of money before I came to Poona,” that they start to take notice again. And why had he not stayed in the West, where he was so successful? Because he wanted to be part of this experiment that is so important for mankind, he says.
More interruption: Why were we in conflict with the government? Did we want to bring people back down to the level of animals? If Osho is God, why does he have all these difficulties…?
I try to throw oil on troubled waters by appealing to them as colleagues and inviting them to visit Poona. “Let’s stop discussing politics,” I tell them, “come and have a look at the ashram and then you will see why this is such an important happening, something flowering in your own country, in India! You actually have the chance to support this experiment; you could be helping us to buy land so that we can build a bigger ashram…”
Once the journalists have finally left, we sink, dazed, into the imitation Louis XV chairs, and wonder what has just happened.
“This is what happens when you belong to a small, persecuted minority,” I say and everybody laughs. It looks like Osho has been the director of this show: for him, it was never about winning over the press but rather creating a huge stir. In fact the Indian journalists really are such a bunch of sleepwalkers that this strategy of confrontation is the only way to go.
We are not staying at the Taj Mahal. The days when that would have been an absolute given for me are now over. The ashram driver drops us off at a little house near the airport, owned by an elderly Indian sannyasin couple. Lovely people, they make us dinner and give up their bedrooms for us. They definitely impress me; it takes a lot of courage to wear an Osho mala in India. Sleeping on the mattresses on the floor of their bedroom, I feel like a local, much more at home than I would have been in a luxury hotel. I have a new sense of belonging and I am also quite proud of our team.
Poona, 3rd January
Yesterday, I was almost ready to leave. I feel stressed and the general atmosphere is very volatile. All the ashramites are dealing with strong mood-changes these days.
Getting hold of the discourse transcripts is a battle and the girls in the office treat me with the disdain one might have for a street dog.
When I was about to start working, the nice Japanese translator came by: “Very sorry, Satyananda, but you are sitting on my chair.” She pulled it from under me and it was only then that I noticed that mine was missing. Stolen… now I know why people write their names on their chairs! I went to the office and talked to Vidya, a strong redhead from South Africa who met my enquiry with a curtness which has become very familiar (the honeymoon is over!), “If your chair has been stolen, then go and look for it!”
There is a Swiss woman who I am paying to help me with the writing – she arrived punctually this morning but I had to send her away as I had neither stool nor work for her. I still have not been given the taped discourse transcripts. I waited for Madhunado this afternoon, but it was good that she didn’t show up as my chair was still missing. The weather is humid and heavy, and I feel down.
(Just now Chaitanya came by and I told him of my woes, and he just laughed encouragingly, and said: “What else do you expect in a refugee camp like this?”)
Purna was fast asleep when I came back about 11.00; I think I got it very wrong with her. Osho called her once in discourse, ‘the German rock’. That’s one side, but she is also warm-hearted, spontaneous and lively. She has a quick wit but can be touchingly naive too.
Sometimes at night, Laxmi drives the yellow Mercedes in rapid circuits around Buddha Hall. The car needs to be driven at regular intervals. Osho forbade Laxmi to drive outside the ashram, following an incident when she had wanted to drive the car to Bombay and Osho had said no, so Laxmi took a swami along as her chauffeur. On the way back, she asked him to let her drive the car: “Osho only said no to my driving it from Poona to Bombay, but not for the return journey…” An hour later, she had a serious accident, crashed the car and was hospitalised for weeks. The wrecked car was left in front of the main gate, like a gruesome exhibit.
It’s dawning on me that writing this book is actually a ‘device’, good for my own growth. It forces me to confront myself and to deal with what’s going on around me.
I need to let go of this idea that I am doing some really important work for the ashram, and therefore deserve respect and support. That is the story my ego has to tell, but the reality looks very different.
Today I asked to borrow some typewriter paper, but the ma in charge of the translation office gave me a no. Since I am not on the approved list for stationary, I had to go into town to look for supplies. The girl in the office had nothing against me personally; she is only a cog in this machine which is designed to be so irritating to anyone who feels they are entitled to an extra piece of pie.
Excerpted from ‘The Cosmic Madhouse’, Dhiren’s translation of the German bestseller ‘Ganz Entspannt im Hier und Jetzt’ by Satyananda
Bhagawati’s review of Satyananda’s book
The Cosmic Madhouse
Read another excerpt from the book
It is his eyes that fascinate me from the first moment – It is 1977; Jörg Andrees Elten and Jay Ullal from ‘Stern’ magazine arrived in Poona the day before and met with Arup in the ashram. She invited them to go/come for the morning discourse
German-born Satyananda (aka Joerg Andrees Elten) (20 March 1927 – 29 January 2017) was an international political reporter for the German Stern magazine. In 1977 he was assigned to report about Bhagwan and the ashram, became a sannyasin, dropped his career and moved into the ashram. For many years he lived in West-Mecklenburg, and together with his beloved, Deva Gitama, gave workshops and continued to write articles about current news and spiritual themes and was frequently invited as a public speaker. hierjetzt.de