Left in the dark

Featured Remembering Here&Now

Anasuya helps build the Hotel at Rajneeshpuram and experiences members of the Share-a-Home Program arrive and leave again – excerpted from her book, ‘All the Colors of the Rising Sun’.

Anasuya in Rajneeshpuram, 1984
Anasuya in Rajneeshpuram, 1984

During the construction of our new project, a magnificent hotel with a hundred rooms, we were invited to a general meeting whose content could be summarized in these few words: The construction of the hotel is threatened with being scrapped because the building work started before Rajneeshpuram obtained the relevant permit. On the other hand, if the work reaches a certain stage within twenty-four hours, there is a good chance that the permit will be granted to us.

To achieve this goal, we therefore had very little time, which meant that the work should continue unabated and at an even more demanding pace. Full speed ahead! Despite the training we had had since arriving at the Ranch and the already substantial working hours that were in place on this site, this final effort would require even more from us. We would need to go even faster, furnish even more effort, and conquer our limits and our endurance, like a sprinter at the end of the race. According to Sheela, everything depended on us. Because of the importance of this deadline, the commune called for additional help. Residents were invited to leave their “temple” to join the collective effort, even including some people living and working in Osho’s residence, a sign that these twenty-four hours would indeed be decisive. Urgency was on everyone’s lips and even before the slightest remark came up, the keyword was: No trips!

A crazy energy seizes the building site. Wearing quilted khaki overalls to protect us from the cold and draughts – temperatures below zero – we have moved up a gear. Pick-up trucks bring us food from Magdalena’s and at any time there are as many hot drinks and sandwiches as we want. The machine is well oiled and works at the peak of its capabilities. Despite this race against the clock that tests our stamina, the good spirit does not desert the site, on the contrary. We overcome each challenge. And with each challenge, there is an opportunity to cross the threshold of exhaustion to draw on that famous source of unlimited energy that Osho helped us discover in the Dynamic Meditation.

In the frozen corridors and future bedrooms of the hotel under construction, while I was lifting heavy Sheetrock to hang it on the wall with a few well-targeted nails, while I juggled with my hammer and my crowbar, I was counting the hours. Were we going to land it, this important building permit? I was waiting. I waited twenty-four hours, then forty-eight hours, but nobody came to inform us of the outcome of this so-called decisive marathon. The deadline was long past without any announcement reaching us. So, the work continued at the same infernal rate. “They” had left us in the dark.

What bugged me most in the commune was not so much the multiple lawsuits in progress, nor Sheela’s aggressive ways towards the media and the politicians, nor even the State of Oregon’s increasing animosity towards Rajneeshpuram, no, it was the way I felt treated, myself and the others. It was in the course of this event that I realized it. This lack of transparency amounted to a lack of respect for our work and our efforts. Initiated by Sheela, this attitude was taken up by her coordinators who transmitted the big boss’s instructions with the self-importance of those who participate in power. I could no longer close my eyes to it.

On the other hand, regardless of the decisions taken behind closed doors in Jesus Grove, Sheela’s fief, no matter what instructions were given or whoever gave them to us, for me, as for the vast majority of us I suppose, my understanding was that everything came from the master. Even if it was sometimes inexplicable, absurd or even unfair, I could not imagine that Osho was unaware of what was going on in his own commune. The master – and it was my intimate conviction – had to know “everything”. Since the moment that I put my life in his hands, I considered each difficulty as an opportunity to overcome this infamous ego, source of all misery and all enslavement. When I took sannyas, an initiation outside of time and of any logic of the world, Osho himself had told me that the path of self-knowledge was going to be long, arduous and painful, and that was what I heard and that was what I accepted.

Although confronted with this dichotomy between the master and those in power, I went ahead without paying too much attention to these conflicting feelings, too taken by the frenzy of work, too attached to the truculent presence of my crew mates with whom I shared an adventure that I continued to find exhilarating in spite of everything. However, in a creeping manner and almost without my knowledge, a slight feeling of paranoia sneaked into my psyche. It was only an underlying discomfort, an imperceptible malaise. Besides, if they had questioned me, I would have denied everything. Nevertheless, from the introduction of weapons to firing ranges, from the creation of a police force to the erection of an electrified fence around Lao Tzu Grove, Osho’s residence, a series of safety measures had been put in place that caused the initial happy-go-lucky attitude to fade. On the one hand, the demanding pace of the work left little room for reflection – if a site was declared urgent, as was often the case, the hours no longer mattered. On the other hand, the general momentum, like the waters of a great river swollen by the rains, carried me along and I paddled with the flow. If a decision seemed arbitrary to me I thought twice before asking for an explanation, and if I didn’t, it was often to be told:

— We don’t talk about that!

Rajneesh Hotel under construction
Rajneesh Hotel under construction – photo: Satprem

Luckily there is the disco where we can have a ball at night after work! Contrary to what one might think, the tiredness doesn’t prevent us from having fun or dancing like crazy, far from it. Celebrating gives us energy! Just hearing the first notes of Wild Thing is enough to make us go wild on the dance floor. The music ignites us, laughter gives us wings and euphoria explodes every time a hit is played, and we ask for more. With our master, we learned to celebrate even death; how could we not celebrate work and the satisfaction of having met the challenges of the day. Everything is celebration, life itself is a big celebration! In these moments of musical delirium, I see only my ginger devil leaping on the tables like a chimpanzee in the mating season. Whenever the DJ plays Every Breath You Take, Shravan comes spinning in front of me like a wild animal. And I whisper to him, undulating like a snake:

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

The energy is uncontrollable. And every time Hotel California comes back on, I scream at the top of my lungs:

This could be Heaven or this could be Hell!

Share-a-Home Program in Paul Reps
Members of the Share-a-Home Program in Paul Reps, photo: Arjava

From the oh-so-fertile brain of Osho’s first and only secretary emerged a project as crazy as it was ambitious: The Share-a-Home Program. As the name indicated, it consisted of “sharing one’s home”. Consequently, some of the US residents were dispatched to major cities in the United States, such as New York, Dallas, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, to persuade homeless people to board buses sent by the commune and to go to Rajneeshpuram where they would be fed, housed and clothed without being asked for anything in return. This crazy invitation addressed to the most impoverished people of American society was initially presented to us as a great impulse of universal brotherhood.

And very quickly, they disembarked.

The massive influx of these homeless people from all over the place offered an incongruous spectacle in our town where work and discipline were well established. The idea was no doubt noble and altruistic, but the reality was somewhat disconcerting. Although they had to shower on arrival and were even forced on occasion to use a horsehair glove – some of them expressed reluctance at this unaccustomed practice, which they considered insulting – and although they were decked out in red and orange clothes in exchange for their customary cast-offs, the presence of these newcomers jarred. When I happened to stop at the Hassid cafeteria where these homeless people took their meals, I made it a point of honor to sit among them, but despite my desire for openness, their odors and their way of eating made me feel uncomfortable. Their company aroused in me a mixture of pity and indignation. Pity in face of their lost, extinguished, resigned or bloodshot looks, and revolt at the way they were treated. The rumor was that the most recalcitrant were drugged to be kept under control, while others joined in the work on a voluntary basis.

Recruited in the streets of big cities by way of promising invitations, these exiles from society found themselves in a desert. Not only were they far from their customary environment and had lost their bearings, but they were also severed from their addictions. Deprived of drugs and alcohol, to add insult to injury they had to submit themselves to the rules of the commune and to the authority of their so-called benefactors, they who came from the street where their life was miserable, certainly, but free from constraints. Fights broke out, conflicts and altercations. How could they have integrated overnight, just like that? However, we were all keen to honor their presence, and everyone did their part to contribute to this “great impulse of universal brotherhood”, the virtues of which Sheela had extolled to us.

Until this memorable general meeting to which all the residents and all participants of the Share-a-Home Program were invited. In the Rajneesh Mandir the tirade of our Queen Mother was no longer about fraternity, but about politics. The focus was on the right and the duty to vote in the upcoming Wasco County elections. These hundreds of homeless people were thus intended to inflate the number of Rajneeshpuram voters. Their presence on the Ranch suddenly made sense. In the end, although the protection of our commune was clearly the reason for this crazy maneuver, it was simply a cynical calculation that affected the lives and well-being of hundreds of defenseless individuals. Impulsive and incoherent Sheela, who behaved like an infallible authority, now posed as the Pope of a new religion.

The meeting ended with a show of hands:

— If you agree, raise your hand!

Why not the fist! I was at the back of the Rajneesh Mandir, invisible and stunned. I was incapable of joining in this parody while in the front rows there were ovations from the gullible, the boot-lickers and all those who never thought ill and never made waves, all together! Among the homeless, the reactions were mixed.

The Share-a-Home Program was all the more insane as it turned out to be very ill-conceived. The county refused the right to vote to all the homeless. A raging homeless guy tried to strangle Sheela. He was given a sedative and was escorted off the ranch. As a result of this incident – we learned later – “tranquilizers” were mixed with the beer reserved for homeless people. It was rumored that it was Haldol, a neuroleptic used for the treatment of psychotic disorders.

Then the question arose: what were we going to do with all those junkies, Vietnam vets, alcoholics, drug dealers, beggars, half-wits, destitute and other social outcasts? What were we going to do with all those poor wretches to whom we had promised the moon and the stars? Well, like the rest of society, abandon them. When their presence proved pointless and cumbersome, they were crowded onto buses that ferried them back to the pernicious world of the street, without further ado. And often to cities where they had never before set foot. The program was buried and we moved on.

Excerpted from Anasuya’s recently published book, ‘All the Colors of the Rising Sun’

Read Sandhano’s review or another exerpt: Ah, dance!

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Abasuya

Anasuya (aka Deva Prashna) was born in the South of France, studied Literature in Paris and went travelling all over the world for 9 years. In 1976 she arrived at the Poona ashram and stayed in Osho’s communes for 15 years, from India to Oregon and back to India. After Osho’s death she moved to Lucknow and stayed with H.L. Poonja until his death. Since 2000 she has been back in Europe translating spiritual books and writing.

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