Osho’s slow withdrawal

Remembering Here&Now

Urmila realizes that she has moved from the head to the heart and is now ready to take sannyas – from Savita’s book ‘Dinner with Osho’.


Osho mentioned later in one of his Hindi discourses: ‘I used to be accessible all the time. But I had to change the rules.’ He explained how it was ‘unpleasant for my old friends because new people were coming all the time and the old ones had to move aside to make room for them. My body suffered when people would approach me at any time of the day, and the people I used to stay with would often remain talking till all hours of the night because they wanted to take advantage of having satsang with me.

‘That was hard on my body.’38

Much later, I even understood that this fire test was most likely similar for all his old friends. He was in effect asking whether I was ready to go deeper with him, and if so, whether I would be prepared to make the commitment. I came to know that many of his longest-standing disciples had indeed left when they found they had to wear orange, or could no longer see him individually in the way they had previously been able to do.

So I ended up participating in what turned out to be the first meditation camp that Osho did not conduct himself. Instead, before the first 6am Dynamic meditation began on the very first day at the new Poona location, Osho had had his empty chair placed where he would have been sitting, and relayed to us all in his own voice in what was presumably a tape recording, the following brief announcement: ‘I’m not with you, but I am with you. And if you go deep into meditation, you will find me there.’

Unknown to us at the time, he had started on the slow withdrawal of his physical presence – something that was to move in small steps, progressing from the day he opened his Poona ashram until he left his body sixteen years later. In hindsight, I see that he was beginning the process of acclimatising us to life without him.

In that first Poona camp, many of us were deeply saddened to have lost Osho’s physical presence in those special moments. But as the meditations began – I only remember that I was sitting down – I closed my eyes and began watching the rise and fall of my breath. And after a while, I saw Osho’s face; and that face gazed on me with so much compassion, so much love, that with my closed eyes, I started crying. Tears flowed down my cheeks, over my mouth and dropped into the palms of my open hands lying in my lap.

Yet it wasn’t until I opened my eyes that I realised how moved I had been. Something fresh had again been released in me. And the dissolving into love continued from one day to the next.

Long before Osho began to initiate people into sannyas, I had been addressing him in my letters as mere prabhu – my beloved lord. He had not been giving sannyas when I had first known him, so, strictly speaking, I was not his disciple. But his being was lodged deep in my heart and, somehow against my mind’s better judgement, he was the holiest of holies to me – the most beloved. That sense of him as my greatest inner treasure was something I carried around with me all the time, something that had come quite spontaneously, although I had never shared it directly with him in person.

After the camp, we all met him behind the car porch, on the lawn of Lao Tzu House – the name he’d given to the villa where he now lived39 – and everyone moved past his chair one by one to sit briefly in front of him and touch his feet. As they filed past, people would sit cross-legged and bend forward right down to the ground to meet his toes with their foreheads. No one had said that this was what they should do, but in this instance, bowing down felt the natural thing.

Yet when my turn came, it was physically too difficult for me to get down onto the ground in front of him – I was having trouble with my knees – and without doing that, I couldn’t reach his feet. He was sitting cross-legged in his armchair with one foot on the ground and one leg bent almost horizontally over the other, so instead of reaching the foot at ground level, I bent down and took hold of the foot nearest me in both hands and gently pulled it upwards so that the sole of his foot covered the whole of my forehead. As we touched, I heard my own voice addressing him, as ‘mere prabhu’ – my beloved lord. This voice inside me…what a surprise! The last time this had happened I’d found myself devoting my life to him. Now he was my ‘Beloved lord’! What was happening?

Nothing had been said out loud. And yet the words penetrated my being with a deep, warm reverberation that touched my heart and for a moment brought tears to my eyes again. Yes. My beloved lord! That’s who you are to me!

It is true, I had addressed him with that kind of reverence in my letters, but I had only once felt drawn to touch his feet before, as related. And nothing was a match to this overwhelming sense of love and gratitude.

I had been accustomed to – and comfortable with – the somewhat intellectual relationship I had had with him in the past, but hearing that voice and recalling the tears, it seemed I had entered a state without thoughts, and was again able to allow my true feelings. Quite unexpectedly, something unfamiliar had taken hold of me again – a new person was emerging.

When I had touched his feet at Mount Abu a year or so earlier, it was the first time I’d become aware of the conflict between what my heart was drawn to do and how my mind preferred to see myself. But on this occasion, the conflict was no longer there; I was able to express my feelings without hindrance. The mind had taken a back seat and the heart now predominated.

Osho had moved to his Poona One40 ashram in March 1974, and I used to go to see him in Poona once a year after that. Whenever I went, I heard him constantly telling people to ‘take sannyas, take sannyas!’ But at some time around 1977, still in Jabalpur and still saying no to sannyas, as I’d done for so long, it suddenly struck me: Osho is here, alive and well, and giving sannyas himself. What about tomorrow when he’s no longer with us, who will give me sannyas then?

It was the thought of having to take sannyas from someone else that clinched it. Now that he had opened my heart and was making it clear that he wanted his people to be in orange… what was there to delay for? So this time, without having mentioned it to anyone, I came to Poona with my orange silk sari and orange blouse packed ready in my bag, and I asked Laxmi for an appointment.

‘Is this for sannyas?’ she asked. ‘Or do you just want to talk to him?’ ‘I want sannyas!’ I heard myself say – the first time I had uttered those words out loud. Laxmi smiled but gave it no more attention than that, and soon after, I went to darshan in my new orange clothes…

Osho did not normally go to much length to explain the meaning of the new name he gave his Indian disciples, nor did he ask me if I had anything to say, as I heard he often asked his new Western people at that time. With me, there was no need. Everything I had had to say, I had said again and again. Everything he had to say to me as an individual, he too had said. For the first time I understood what it was to be with him in silence – something that had evaded me for so long.

So that brief encounter at his feet in the Poona darshan, with many people around us, was one of my last times in close proximity to him. I was on my own now – with my new sannyas as my ‘psychological support’. He had treated me almost as a stranger, and it didn’t seem to bother me. I got up from my place clutching my piece of paper, the official letterhead on which he had written down my new name, and came out of the auditorium feeling fulfilled, as if I had come full circle and something was complete. Urmila is an ancient name which in Sanskrit means expanding ripples in water. He had kept that old name by which he knew me, but added the prefix Anand, meaning bliss.

I was now Ma Anand Urmila – ‘ripples of bliss.’

38 From Urmila’s memory; from a collection of Osho’s Hindi discourses, title unknown.
39 Named after the 5th-century Chinese spiritual philosopher of Taoism.
40 Poona One was the term given to the 1974-1981 Shree Rajneesh Ashram in what is now Pune, Maharashtra. It distinguishes itself from Poona Two, which covered the period 1987 to 2000, and which was a very different kind of commune.

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

Read the review by Roshani: ‘Dinner with Osho’

More excerpts on Osho News:
Flight of Fancy – Shobhana remembers an event while travelling with Osho
Freedom and Responsibility – a story told by Shobhana about learning to appreciate what is beautiful in life

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

by Savita Brandt
Available from dancingbuddhas.in – oshoviha.org
Published in Pune, India by Dancing Buddhas Books, 2019

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