An excerpt from White Star’s recently published book, The Experience of the Ultimate.
It’s 1985. Osho is in Kathmandu, Nepal, on his so-called “World Tour” after the fall of the Ranch. Though his location was not disclosed to the general public, Arjava and Lino, while in Germany, were encouraged by some of the few Westerners who were with Osho in Kathmandu, to come by for a visit.
We go immediately to the Oberoi Hotel just in time to line up for discourse with Bhagwan. Raj and Sanmati are there, and they’ve saved us a place at the front of the line. We recognize a few other faces, but most of the people lined up are Nepalese or Indian sannyasins; there are only a couple hundred people in all.
There’s no security or anything; and certainly, no guns. The atmosphere is remarkably relaxed. We stash our luggage near the entrance as we file in. The Nepalese sannyasins seat us near the front, since we’ve come from so far. We’re 10 feet away from Bhagwan’s chair.
When Bhagwan enters the hall, we all stand and line the path to his chair. He walks slowly by, smiling at everyone. Many people touch his feet, a sign of respect in India, which would not have been allowed at the Ranch. It’s a totally different vibe here. He puts his hand on the heads of the sannyasins who touch his feet. He greets me, and tears of joy fall down my cheeks; I’m overcome at our reunion. I had missed him.
We take our seats, and sing gently as Vivek, Bhagwan’s nurse and caretaker, guides him to his chair. When he sits down, he gestures at Arjava and me and welcomes us. “Despite what I say, even though I have told them not to come, my beloveds are coming.” He grins at us. We feel acknowledged and welcomed and I laugh.
The discourse is a question and answer session. Whoever wants to ask a question can come up to a microphone that’s set up in front of Bhagwan. The person sits down in front of Bhagwan as he answers the question and gets an enormous amount of love and attention from him. I feel like all my questions are answered just being here with Bhagwan. I feel centered in the present moment. The Ranch already feels like distant history. This is the way to be with a spiritual master, in this more intimate setting. Arjava and I soak it up.
We can’t afford to stay at the Oberoi; it’s a 5-star hotel and doesn’t fit our budget. After the discourse we shoulder our backpacks and search through the streets of Kathmandu for a cheap hotel.
I’m overpowered by the stench and filth. There’s dog and human excrement everywhere. People toss slops out the windows like it’s the Middle Ages. I’m afraid to walk in the mud underfoot, not knowing whether it’s really mud or sewage. We’re shown a room in a cheap hotel, but I freak out. “I can’t stay here!”
I complain to Arjava. It’s dirty and small. The sheets are a dingy gray, with holes in them. The blankets look like they have bugs. There’s a light bulb hanging down on a string and no windows.
Arjava laughs at me, but we go to another part of town, more touristy and cleaner, to a medium-priced hotel. We have a nice clean room with bamboo furniture and there’s a pretty garden out front.
I get used to the stink of the city after a couple of days and begin to enjoy Kathmandu’s beauty. There are many exotic temples with people sitting on the steps singing devotional songs and having puja purification ceremonies. There are colorful markets, people in strange costumes, elephants and camels running side by side the rickshaws, bicycles and cars. It’s a fascinating chaos.
In the daytime Arjava and I explore the city, and, in the evening, we go to discourse with Bhagwan. After discourse we dine with friends or bicycle back to the hotel garden, gazing at the night moon reflected on the glaciered peaks of the Himalayas. We visit two Buddhist stupas: Swayambhunath and Boudhanath. Stupas are large white dome-shaped buildings that mark sacred spots for Tibetan Buddhists and have prayer wheels around them. One circumnavigates the stupas, spinning the prayer wheels, chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” and praying.
Both stupas on the outskirts of Kathmandu are flanked by Tibetan Buddhist temples. Many Tibetans live in Nepal, exiled and refugees from their native land, which has been invaded by the Chinese. We enjoy meeting the Tibetans. We buy trinkets from them and climb up the stupa to meditate on the top. It’s blissful and beautiful up there, with the white peaks of the Himalayas outlined against a startling blue sky.
We rent a motorbike and start exploring further afield. There are only five roads radiating out from Kathmandu. One goes west towards Pokhara, one to points in the south, one to the Boudhanath temple, one to Tibet, and one to a sister city of Kathmandu called Bhaktapur. We explore all these roads, climbing up the mountains 12,000 feet high, ending up in exquisite spots. We blissfully meditate on the views.
The mountain people of Nepal are gentle, naturally meditative people. We pass a guy weaving a basket in a picturesque spot on the way up the mountain, and he’s still there on the way back, staring at the view and spacing out. People dressed in colorful sarongs come out of the forests with loads of firewood on their backs, giggling and laughing when we want to take their picture. They’re all very friendly, calling out the only English word they know – “bye, bye!” Sometimes we wear our malas still, and once in a remote village we draw a crowd. One of the guys points to the picture of Bhagwan and says, “Kathmandu Oberoi?” We nod, surprised that even out in the middle of nowhere people have heard of Bhagwan.
Because of the lack of security all kinds of things happen at the discourse. A sadhu, an Indian spiritual mendicant, with long matted dreadlocks and filthy robes, simply walks up to the front of the room to touch Bhagwan’s feet. No one stops him. Bhagwan lays his hand on the sadhu’s head in blessing for a while and then the sadhu leaves and Bhagwan resumes his discourse. At the Ranch, the guards would have escorted him rudely out. No one was allowed to touch Bhagwan.
Some of the Indian and Nepalese sannyasins have spontaneous energy happenings. They shout and laugh loudly. Some moan or writhe in ecstasy. They are much more emotionally open than we Westerners.
I enjoy this loose atmosphere very much. It heals some of the resentment I’ve been carrying about the rigidity and rules of the Ranch. It’s plain to see that Bhagwan doesn’t care at all whether things are loose or tight around him, that it’s only the organizers’ particular whims that determine the atmosphere. Here the organizers are beautiful, kind Nepalese sannyasins, too innocent to imagine someone might hurt Bhagwan, so things remain informal. No head honchos from the Ranch are even here, although Bhagwan always travels with a small entourage of his closest disciples and caretakers. They sit in the front row and keep a graceful, but watchful eye on things. I’ve always felt these people are his true bodyguards anyway, even when I was doing guarding on the Ranch.
Some interesting interactions take place between the questioners and Bhagwan. The head of the Nepalese Buddhist society comes every night to the discourse and asks a wide variety of intelligent, deep questions on spirituality. This monk is highly respected in Nepal and has followers of his own. Bhagwan answers him so lovingly and beautifully that they seem to fall into a deep harmony, the monk beaming and namasteing, obviously in deep love. Many Buddhist monks affiliated with that society come to discourse and fill the hall with their innocent silence.
A Japanese sannyasin has somehow made his way to Nepal and he asks deeply emotional questions. One night he gets up, almost shouting with the intensity of his question. “Bhagwan,” he says in halting English. “Why? Are you here?” and then, “Why? Am I here?” He prostrates himself in front of Bhagwan as if his very life hangs upon the answer to that question.
Bhagwan gives one of his rare chuckles. With tremendous love he looks into the man’s eyes and says, “I’m here because of you… and you are here because of me.” It’s a simple answer, but there are deeper, more profound meanings to it, and tears pour down my cheeks.
Raj, Arjava’s brother, starts brewing up a scheme. He loves schemes and adventures. Bhagwan has talked about how he was a Tibetan lama in his last life, 700 years ago. Raj has always been fascinated by the idea of going to Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, and going to the Potala, the Tibetan Buddhist palace that houses the mummified remains of Dalai Lamas and other important Lamas, to look for Bhagwan’s previously incarnated body. Now that we are so close to Tibet, he tries to talk Arjava and me into going with him. It’s an intriguing idea. I’ve always been fascinated by Tibet myself, and have read every book about Tibet that I could find. I’m convinced I’ve had a life there too, perhaps even with Bhagwan in his previous incarnation. That would explain why he has felt so familiar to me.
At this point in the mid-80’s, Western visitors are not allowed into Tibet. It’s extremely difficult to get a visa. Arjava and I drive from Kathmandu into Tibet on the motorbike and make it as far as the first city before we are turned back. But at least we have set foot in that magical land.
Raj gets a postcard of the Potala and gives it to Vivek, Bhagwan’s nurse. He asks her to ask Bhagwan to circle where in the Potala (a giant building with hundreds of rooms) his previously incarnated body is. The postcard is returned to Raj with an area circled and the message, “Tell Raj, he will not find me there. I am here.”
Raj mulls it over for a day; on the one hand it seems like an encouragement to go since the area has been circled, on the other, Bhagwan is questioning Raj’s motive to go. Although it would be a fun adventure, he would miss the whole point – to be with Bhagwan in this lifetime and this body. In the end he decides to stay in Kathmandu.
Excerpt from White Star’s recently published book.