An interview with Devakrishna published in ‘Wild Wild Sheela’ by Roberta Lippi, researcher and presenter of SOLI, the recently released interviews of sannyasin children on storielibere.fm podcasts.
You spent a lot of time in Osho’s communes. How long and since when?
Since January 1976. I became a Sannyasin on June 26, 1976 and lived constantly in Osho’s communities until he died in 1990.
Were you there during the attack in 1980? What can you remember?
I wasn’t there during the lecture that day. An Indian threw a knife at Osho but he was neutralized immediately, then taken outside. Since that day, we introduced the so-called Samurais, guards selected to protect the commune (including me as night guard) specialized in protecting Osho and his house.
Did you know that there was already a delegation in America at the Castle?
Yes, I knew that they stopped at that castle long before I arrived in Rajneeshpuram. I learned about it when I attended the meditation centre and the commune named Akshaya we opened in Lugano in 1981.
How much did it cost to live in the commune? It looks like it was free, but according to some biographies I read, you were given vouchers. How did they work?
If you worked, it didn’t cost anything. Vouchers were introduced in Rajneeshpuram and they were meant for alcohol and cigarettes, but you received them for free. In Pune, before Rajneeshpuram was established, if you worked and lived there, food was free. If you worked but you lived in a flat outside the commune you had to pay the rent. If you visited, you had to pay vouchers for food. In the commune (in Pune still today) you do not use money, but vouchers to get food, clothes, books, etc.
Can you explain how it worked with your wardrobe? Would you get it for free?
No, everybody had to purchase their own clothes. In the Pune commune and later at the ranch, there were some boutiques inside. In Pune, on the other hand, locals opened shops and built stands all around town to sell Sannyasin-colored tunics and clothes. It still happens today.
What was your favorite place in Rajneeshpuram?
I didn’t have a favorite place. The whole ranch was. Because living together with openminded people without too much influence is the best thing in the world. We were all alive, full of energy, wild and free… It was beyond words!
What was your job?
I had loads… Building jobs, roofs, stone walls, bus driver, garage management, storage, pizza chef and many more. Our commitment was to try and go with the flow, to not get attached to anything, just get along with what was happening. That’s why you could see doctors driving bulldozers, craftsmen working in the office… It was crazy, utter chaos yet everything would work. I remember I called it ‘Organic Chaos’.
Have you ever had direct contact with the Master?
In Pune, at the very beginning until 1981 you could meet him a couple of times a week and ask for advice, so I also had a lot of direct contact with him. At the beginning I was asking for advice about relationship problems, problems with my girlfriend, or odd sensations in my body when I was meditating, energy blocks, etc. Some other times for the so called “Energy Darshan” where you would have such strong orgasms – sex orgasms were nothing compared to that… A love orgasm that has nothing to do with the sentimental love we know.
Sitting before him in direct contact was an indescribable experience, it was like having ecstatic waves from head to toe, your body starts shaking and vibrating ecstatically… I was addicted to him and sometimes I even pretended I had a problem just to sit in front of him.
At the Ranch all of this stopped, he went into silence and he used to go out only for the so-called ‘Drive by’, where he would slowly drive to see us once a day. I used to make music with some of my Italian friends, I used to play the flute and he would stop in front of me and he would give me energy like in a darshan. This was the only direct contact I had at the ranch.
Have you ever seen or imagined his house? What did people say about it?
In 1980 in Pune they changed my job from night guard of the commune to Samurai, and I used to be a night guard outside the window of the room he slept in. At the Ranch the house was in a valley nearby and everyone could see it. Nobody would say anything about it, very few people could access it.
In the documentary, Vivek is never mentioned. Did you see her? What did you think about her?
Yes, she was always close to Osho when he would to go out, or she was always with him at home. I didn’t think anything about her, I just thought she was lucky. I was too busy living my life intensely with my friends.
Osho’s speech about the Rolls Royces sounded flawless, but did you know that they were also used for fake rentals and lotteries that would bring money to the commune through the Rajneesh Modern Car Collection Trust?
As for the lotteries, it’s not true. During a festival, Akila, one of my Italian friends who was a member of our Akshaya centre in Lugano won a Rolls Royce and we were all excited because we could picture it parked outside our centre. We talked about how to send it to Lugano but it was too expensive and none of us had or was willing to spend a ridiculous amount of money, so we decided to give it back to the Ranch. I don’t know anything about fake rentals, it’s the first time I hear this.
As for the Rajneesh Modern Car Collection Trust, Sheela said she didn’t know anything about it. Is it possible that someone else was plotting behind her back in the commune?
I don’t know. I only know that the RRs were part of a trust.
What did you think when Osho said that you could get rid of your red clothes?
I didn’t like it at all and I kept wearing them.
We know that no children were born in Rajneeshpuram because of the abortions and the sterilizations. Were they widespread?
Most of my Sannyasin friends didn’t want to have any children already before they had taken Sannyas, me included. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I have always had the feeling that nobody in the commune was interested in having a family or kids, except a few people, of course.
In the book My Life in Orange by Tim Guest there’s a very heavy allegation about a lot of children aged 8-10 who are said to have lost their virginity inside the ashram. Shanti B. also found out that her children had been abused. If it’s true that the children were all children of the commune, the commune should have protected them. What’s your opinion about it?
I know Shanti B’s children very well; we were close friends and I can assure you, they were not abused. Children aged 8-10 who lost their virginity? I don’t think so. I only know that the children in the commune were definitely freer, early developers and more mature in everything compared to the children outside the commune. I’m still friends with a lot of them; we are still in touch and they are almost all very creative and full of individuality.
Were you in the commune aware of what was happening outside? (elections, salmonella, etc.)
We didn’t know anything about salmonella but when I learned about it I was not surprised at all. At that time, and even before I had taken Sannyas, I hated politicians, the concept of nations, being governed by others, the required military service (I refused the service in Switzerland and ended up in prison in Lugano), the way the system works, the concept of marriage, etc. In India and from the very first day at the Ranch the so called “society” was giving us a hard time trying to find any excuse to stop us. Legally, through the media, through the law, through anything they could think of. Instead of causing diarrhoea, I would have probably put cyanide in the salads – therefore I’m definitely not the right person to answer this question!
I’m exaggerating just to make you understand under how much stress we were because of all those attacks. Of course I do not agree with the salmonella thing. As for the elections, it was crystal clear to us that the homeless people were not invited for sympathy. We needed people and I was okay with it, even if sometimes I didn’t like them to be around. A lot of them were creative though, and they would play and dance very well during the ‘Drive by’.
Did Osho’s statements after Sheela’s departure come as a wet blanket?
No, Osho’s statements after Sheela’s departure were not unexpected. I never liked Sheela and I stayed away from her, as I stayed away from everyone who had power.
Knowing the kind of person she was, did you ever think that Sheela could have killed someone or convince someone from the commune to do it?
Absolutely not. But it doesn’t surprise me, knowing human nature in general.
Did you ever think, then and in the following years, that Osho pretended not to see what was going on around him?
Absolutely not, being enlightened doesn’t mean to be almighty. Unfortunately Sheela went nuts, she lost it. I have no doubts about Osho.
You were amongst the last people who left Rajneehpuram. How were things in those last moments? What were you doing?
Yes, I stayed almost until the end of 1986. I was in charge of the pizza restaurant and all my energy was focused on myself, on developing my awareness, on awakening at all costs by working. Am I living here right now, or am I just thinking? Am I aware I’m chopping tomatoes, am I thinking about my grandma or about the Swiss Alps? Am I aware of my body? How is it moving? Am I aware of everything, including sound, the temperature in the kitchen, of the position of my body as I am chopping tomatoes, of my thoughts? What kind of emotional feeling do I experience whilst I’m doing this? How is my breath? Which part of my body is tense? Which one is relaxed?
As you see, my main effort was trying to learn to be utterly in the present, far from useless thoughts, living every moment as if it was my last, full of energy. I didn’t have a care in the world about what was happening outside, Osho, Sheela, and all the rest of it. Then one day I walked out of the pizza restaurant to go home and there was almost nobody around… Just couples of FBI agents wearing dark grey uniforms and ties, walking back and forth in the Shopping Mall like in a James Bond film.
At that point, my friends and I took a pick-up truck and drove to Cancun, Mexico. We had nothing, just 100 dollars each. As the English say, “I dropped the spoon” – I left everything, never looked back, happy to have experienced it and with the desire to leave in a hurry towards the next adventure.
You live in Switzerland, like Sheela. Have you ever seen her, or felt the need to speak to her?
Yes, I live in Switzerland and four years ago I lived in Basel and I met her at the premiere of the film Guru: Bhagwan, his secretary and his bodyguard, a film about Osho which, as per usual, became a documentary film about Sheela and Shiva (Osho’s ex-bodyguard), directed by Beat, a friend of mine who worked and still works for SwissTV. After the screening she came with us to a restaurant. It was the first time she met some Sannyasins since she left the Ranch. After dinner, my partner and I drove her home. I expressed no judgments for what she did or didn’t do. I felt a lot of compassion for her, for all the pain she experienced. I was also happy not to be in her shoes.
Sheela accused Osho of manipulating people, of being aware he was special and exploited people for his own benefit. She said everything you can imagine about him, but she still cherishes pictures of Osho at her place. What do you think of this contradiction?
I think Sheela had feelings for Osho, the kind of feelings that trigger between a man and a woman. It cannot end well with a Master, because he will never reciprocate.
On the contrary, a Master constantly breaks all expectations of this kind until you feel only love or become love, undifferentiated, universal… you are and you release love, that’s it.
This is the love between Disciple and Master.
The emotional love between man and woman, in this case Sheela in love with Osho, is full of negative feelings and if it’s not reciprocated and your expectations aren’t fulfilled, these negative feelings like anger, jealousy, pain and vindictiveness come out like a rotten avalanche.
At that point, accusations start: you call him a puppeteer, an exploiter, etc. And you say it only now, you realize it only now… After spending 20 years with him. Why? You become a proper bitch, the bitch buried inside of you finally comes out.
Then. when she was in prison I think she had the time to process everything. When the negative fades, what’s left is always love. I think this is what happened to Sheela, love is all she had left… Hats off to her.
I don’t know if it’s true but this is the way I see it.
I guess you watched Wild Wild Country. Watching so many images about your past must have been touching. Which one did you enjoy the most?
Strangely I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotions. I already knew all the legal battles, the war against the system, the society… I was a bit pissed off at the end when it shows the bigots of the town, the government, the politicians, the Catholics, I mean, the status quo winning. The people who won are the ones who are ruining humanity and the planet, who will soon throw nuclear weapons for a stupid oil channel to pass through Syria.
The images I enjoyed the most are the ones with my friends singing, dancing, having fun and the incredible magnitude of what we were creating in such a short time. We experienced the kind of utopia that every slightly intelligent human being would like. No nationalities, no hierarchy (it was there only for practical reasons), no races, no age, no religion, we were all free like the wind.
You created a very peculiar comic book dedicated to Osho and his teachings called The Mystic Rose and the Magic of the Empty Chair. Can you tell me how you conceived it?
Osho’s chair is empty even when he’s sits on it. A friend of mine called Mohi wrote the story. A girl I don’t even know the name of, sketched the first 5 pages. Some other 20 were created by a Frenchman called Satyaloka. I took everything and blended those two styles with mine and it became 80 pages long.
In the original one there was a caricature of Osho with his long beard and hat but I didn’t like it, so I created the magical empty chair.
After Osho left his body, we used to go and listen to his video lectures, and on the podium there was only his empty chair. That’s where the idea came from.
They left it there for a while – then it was taken away.
I wanted to create a comic book to show that Osho and the Sannyasins are not a cult or a sect. Being identified and believing in being Italian, American, Swiss, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, doctor, lawyer, craftsman, dishwasher or policeman… that is “being a cult”. The way I see it, the status quo is a cult.
With a very few exceptions, unfortunately. I also wanted to spread Dynamic Meditation, Kundalini Meditation and Mystic Rose (a 3-week seminar) because they are the keys to start our inner journey. Created in a non-serious, colourful and beautiful way.
Today, what is the biggest teaching the Master has left you?
No teaching. Except that of living consciously, responsibly, free and totally in the here and now.
Excerpt from Roberta Lippi’s book, ‘Wild Wild Sheela‘ – translation slightly edited
Devakrishna (aka Marco Giollo or just plain Krishna) was one of the workers in Deeksha’s kitchen where most Italian speakers ended up in Pune 1. He was one of those who instigated the music at the drive-bys on the Ranch and later played in the percussion section of Nivedano’s Oshoba band. After returning to his native Switzerland he started painting again, remembering the techniques he had learned at art school in Lugano. He now works and lives with his wife Meera in Ticino. giollo.com – otoons.com – more about Devakrishna on Osho News.
Roberta Lippi is a content curator, writer, screenwriter at Dude (an ‘unagency’) in Milan. She supervised the first online video production of media brands such as GQ and Glamour, and led the editorial coordination of Vogue Italia’s site, followed by Condé Nast Italia video factory. She teaches multi-media journalism and media education and is a writer for radio and TV shows. She is the interviewer of SOLI, among others, where she interviewed people who grew up as sannyasins or in a sannyas milieu, and is also the author of ‘Wild Wild Sheela‘. instagram.com
Soli: Sunny alonenesses – Italian radio and TV screenwriter Roberta Lippi interviewed people who grew up with sannyasin parents or were sannyasins themselves