Freedom and responsibility

Remembering Here&Now

From Savita’s book ‘Dinner with Osho’: a story told by Shobhana about learning to appreciate what is beautiful in life.


In chapter ‘Two Kinds of Silence’, Shobhana recalls Osho asking her to accompany him to Ahmedabad. She follows him without telling him that she was awaited at home to help with a family gathering and puja celebration, nor informing the family of her absence. She returns home without explanation, and is given the cold shoulder. Note: this excerpt was previously attributed by mistake to Urmila.

A few days into this misery, I took my five-year-old son Chinmay with me to see Osho off at the railway station. In tears, I told him about the reception I was receiving at home.

Rather than say anything to me directly, Osho turned to Chinmay and gently put his hand on his head: ‘Are you talking to your mother?’ he asked. Chinmay immediately exclaimed, ‘Of course I talk to her!’

Osho looked back at me, smiling, and raised his arched eyebrows in provocation: ‘Oh, so you’re telling lies?’ he said lightly. And then he asked: ‘Why are you ignoring this child’s love?’

I froze. Here I was, having been treated with cold rejection by my entire family and all he could think about was a child’s affirmation of his innocent love for his mother! This was too much!

Further hurt at feeling so misunderstood, I returned home, with Chinmay in tow, telling myself I was being blamed for making a big issue out of what, according to Osho, was virtually nothing. What does he know about families? I asked myself. How can he understand what it’s like to live day after day with people who won’t even look at you?

Taking up my kitchen chores for another evening of silence, moving around on automatic, I wondered where I was going wrong.

As if from nowhere, Osho’s words, spoken to me about a week earlier in response to my constant questioning, started echoing in my mind: ‘Shobhana. Can’t we stay without words? Because when we are identified with their meaning, the mind keeps going on moving in circles and never stops. Remember the word of Buddha. ‘Tathata’* – suchness. Let things be as they are!’


From my earliest meeting with him, I had tried to find significance through language. I had written long, long letters and posed all kinds of existential questions to him directly about the purpose of my life. I could not shake the feeling that somewhere he had the answers that were crucial to help me, if only I could ask the right question.

‘Let things be as they are!’ he had said.

Remembering this made me relax, and the barrage of words in my head slowly came to a stop. I suddenly became aware of my body, standing right there, arm outstretched, leaning over the table to shift a small bowl from its position on the edge. Feeling my limbs, my skin, my feet where they touched the ground, my eyes still on the bowl, I drew back and became still. And for a moment I entered a place of complete silence.

Now I was able to take stock. I saw how, along with this freedom to be with Osho that I had stolen for myself, I must also take responsibility.

What had actually gone on? My mother-in-law had planned some special events, which I was scheduled to have overseen. The decorations, the puja set-up, the food preparation…they were all part of it. Alongside my mother and sisters-in-law, she would now have had to cope on her own. I had not phoned ahead to warn them. I had not apologised when I got back. Nor had I considered how much they may have worried about what had become of me.

I had simply come home without warning three days late – knowing there would be trouble, yet at the same time feeling almost righteous.

Should I really have expected anything less than this ice-cold reception? In this instance I needed to take responsibility for any pain I might have created in others by claiming my freedom. Inevitably, in such tight-knit communities, if one person moves against the grain, those around him or her will be disturbed…and I had an image of how a single stick removed from a carefully stacked pile of firewood would almost certainly make the entire heap collapse.

I had to ask myself: if I insisted others agree with how I believed things should be, was I not asking them to be like myself, just as they were asking me to be like them? I had to learn to be aware, not only of my thoughts and actions, but also to see the whys and wherefores of those with whom I interacted, and by looking at myself, try to understand their behaviour through their own eyes.

As it dawned on me that the more freedom one takes, the more responsible one must become, I slowly began to understand how freedom taken with responsibility inevitably creates sensitivity alongside awareness. And from this follows empathy and compassion…a number of new qualities I was just beginning to feel rise in me in minuscule doses.


I thought back to that incident on the station platform, and listened again in my head to Osho showing me that I was ignoring Chinmay’s love. I realised he had been trying to get me to focus on what was beautiful in my life – my little boy’s affection – rather than constantly dwelling on the ugly angry silence and all the other miseries which the rest of my family inflicted on me.

It was not that we should bury our head in the sand and deny pain. Rather, feel the problems, do whatever needs to be done, but don’t hang onto them. I understood this at last: not to focus on the negative.

And soon I had to ask myself: was I – who had been so neglected as a child – now guilty of neglecting my own children? Was I giving them as little attention as my own family had me? Certainly my trips to Osho’s camps and visits to his house had become my top priority. When he called, I dropped everything. ‘Why are you going away again, Mama?’ Chinmay once asked me, as I packed a bag for a camp in Uttar Pradesh. There was nothing provocative or demanding in his question. It was the natural enquiry of a small child. And I explained to him, being as honest as I could, that I was on a spiritual quest.

‘What is a spiritual quest?’

How to make this clear to a five-year-old?

‘There is a man, a religious teacher…’ I tried to explain. ‘He helps me find myself.’ And when he stared at me uncomprehendingly, I continued. ‘Because I am lost. I am broken from the inside and I need his help to be mended.’ I knelt down so we were eye-to-eye. ‘I am broken because I don’t know how to fit with the society around me… This man helps me find my balance so I can be whole again…’

I had lost him. Yet I had not. What could he know about ‘broken from the inside,’ ‘finding my balance’, ‘being whole again’…? Yet he looked at me with his searching eyes as if he understood clearly the need of his mother, whom he also needed. And he reached out to touch me gently.

Listening to Osho’s discourses over the years, I heard him always encouraging us to give our attention to what was fine and good, to what was precious in our lives… Not to suppress what created distress or dissatisfaction; just to have us put our energy on the beautiful rather than the ugly.

* Tathata means suchness; the ultimate nature of all things, as expressed in phenomena but inexpressible in language. From Buddhism.

Excerpt from ‘Dinner with Osho: Intimate Tales of Two Women on the Path of Meditation’ by Savita

More excerpts on Osho News
Flight of Fancy – Shobhana remembers an event while travelling with Osho
Osho’s slow withdrawal – Urmila realizes that she has moved from the head to the heart and is now ready to take sannyas

Read the review by Roshani: ‘Dinner with Osho’

SavitaDinner with Osho:
Intimate Tales of Two Women on the Path of Meditation

by Savita Brandt
Available from
Published in Pune, India by Dancing Buddhas Books, 2019

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