Moscow Rules

Remembering Here&Now

An excerpt from Subhuti’s book, Wild Wild Guru, about his career move from journalist to truck driver.

Subhuti talking to the press on the Ranch, circa 1983
Subhuti talking to the press on the Ranch, circa 1983

“Hey, Subhuti!”

On the face of it, this was an ordinary morning at Rancho Rajneesh. As usual, I was heading for breakfast at 7:00am, prior to starting work half an hour later. But everything about that morning was different. It was spring 1984 and I’d just been dismissed from the Rajneesh Times as part of a Ranch-wide purge that pushed dozens of old-time sannyasins out of key jobs and into relative obscurity. Sheela had grown tired of our independent views and our inability to understand the need for unquestioning obedience.

It was a shock, of course, but somehow in tune with my feelings at the time, because my sense of priorities was changing. All through my career as editor, Sheela’s most effective way of keeping me in line had been to threaten to close the newspaper if I didn’t cooperate. She knew how invested I was in running the Rajneesh Times, so it was an effective threat, but – like any form of manipulation – subject to the law of diminishing returns.

One day, when the by-now-familiar message was brought to me by one of her lieutenants, I surprised myself by replying, “You know, I really don’t care if Sheela shuts us down. I’d just as soon go pick potatoes in the truck farm.”

What made the statement so potent was that, in that moment, I meant it. I really did, and somehow the timing was in synchronicity with Sheela’s general purge. Within a few days, I was informed by my coordinator that my services at the Rajneesh Times were no longer needed and told to report to the “Rajneesh Buddhafield Garage” for truck driving.

I didn’t protest. Somehow, I could feel it was a blessing in disguise, but nevertheless, on that first morning, as I walked into the canteen next to RBG – as the garage was nicknamed – it felt like a savage blow. My view of myself as one of the key people, not only on the Ranch but in the development of Bhagwan’s vision around the world, had been abruptly shattered. So when a group of guys sitting at the back of the cafeteria hailed me, I found myself wondering, “Why do they want me to sit with them? I’m nobody now.”

It would take a while for me to understand that I could be appreciated not for what I was able to produce as a skilled journalist, but rather for who I happened to be as an ordinary human being.

trucks on display
Fleet of RBG trucks on display.

“Take a pew, old chap,” welcomed Mutribo, the video cameraman. He’d also just been purged from the Ranch’s media unit. Others included Vimal, another Englishman with a fine sense of humour, and Milarepa, a musician and songwriter.

We trusted each other instantly. More than that, we decided, since we now had no say at all in the running of the Ranch, that we would devote ourselves exclusively to having a good time. To further this aim, we developed a special code language, known only to our brotherhood, including the key phrases: “ELP”, “comfy chair” and “Moscow rules”.

ELP stood for “Extremely Low Profile”, describing the easiest way to live and work on the Ranch under Sheela’s increasingly militant and paranoid regime: never stick your neck out, never attract unnecessary attention.

“Comfy chair” was a reference to the British TV comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran a number of skits interrupted by the sudden arrival of a trio of hooded figures who cried, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” As an ultimate form of torture, designed to terrorize victims and make them confess their heresy, the spokesman for the trio would command, “Bring the comfy chair!” At which even the other members of the trio would look terrified and aghast.

It so happened that, whenever erring sannyasins were called into Sheela’s office to be verbally shredded by her team of willing lieutenants, they were invited to sit on a comfy sofa. This gave us a wonderful parody to play with: when somebody’s behaviour was deemed not to be ELP – such as, for example, loudly objecting to some new rule or regulation – he was, inevitably, “heading for the comfy chair”.

“Moscow rules” referred to the spy novels of John Le Carré, which we devoured hungrily at every opportunity. In Le Carré’s sinister world of spy and counter-spy, British agents operating in Moscow had to observe a much stricter set of rules – Moscow rules – than in any other theatre of operation. Thus whenever we arranged to do something that was clearly against Ranch rules – skipping work for a swim in the lake, for example – we looked at each other over a cup of tea, smiled and whispered, “Okay, it’s agreed, we’ll do it, but remember, Moscow rules.”

I loved being in that trusted circle as much as I loved the new, white Mac dump truck I was given to drive. It took me away from the seriousness and stress of the newspaper. It brought humour and playfulness back into my life, and reminded me I could feel good about myself without showing off my skills in a so-called important job.

As for my ongoing spiritual development, well, in some ways, it felt like it had been put on hold ever since leaving India. In Oregon, no time was scheduled for meditation in our community and I did precious little silent sitting on my own. But spiritual growth is a strange beast, not necessarily confined to people who follow a religious routine, or who appear to be behaving spiritually. One might sit in meditation every day in a monastery and get nowhere, because of personal attachment to one’s self-image as a great meditator. On the other hand, one might suddenly feel peaceful, blissful and content, while engaged in a perfectly ordinary daily activity – like driving a truck.

Likewise, enlightenment, according to Bhagwan, was not something that could be methodically approached. It wasn’t subject to the laws of cause and effect, so the idea of progressing towards it through a succession of stages – as Oscar Ichazo had taught in Arica – would never produce the desired result.

In fact, even to have a longing for enlightenment, I learned, created an impediment, because such longings were nothing but desires produced by the mind. It’s hard to fathom but, since enlightenment was our essential nature, any effort to reach it only took us further away from it. We would be seeking it “there” when it was really “here”.

So, any kind of approach needed to be very indirect. In this way, enlightenment was a wild card, a joker in the pack, a sudden crash of thunder.

Yes, you could meditate, but if you did so with great expectations of spiritual experiences, nothing was likely to happen. Rather, life needed to be lived in an ordinary way, although as consciously and as meditatively as possible, without hoping for enlightenment to occur. If your attitude was wrong, you could go on meditating for years without achieving it.

Bhagwan once told a very strange story, which I think is Indian in origin:

A yogi sat beneath a tree, meditating for 30 years, and eventually got upset, irritated and angry because in his view nothing was happening. He blamed his misfortune on the gods and left the tree. That evening, an ordinary peasant was walking by, when he saw the tree glowing with light. It was the energy that the yogi had created through his practice, but had then abandoned. The peasant felt magnetically attracted by the light and, without knowing anything about meditation, felt compelled to sit down beneath the tree and close his eyes. He became enlightened immediately.

This story conveys a truth about the enlightenment game: it’s a very mysterious business. We might think, for example, that people living close to Bhagwan, or doing important jobs on the Ranch, were somehow more advanced, but in reality there was no spiritual hierarchy.

Moreover, one’s own state of consciousness could change in an instant. Around Bhagwan, you could feel enlightened one moment, and the next moment feel like the most unconscious, unaware person on the planet.

To feel at home in oneself, relaxed and ordinary, taking each moment as it came, was perhaps the best attitude. This, indeed, fitted well with my job as a truck driver.

Wild Wild Guru by SubhutiWild Wild Guru: An insider’s account of his life with Bhagwan, the world’s most controversial guru
by Subhuti Anand Waight
subhutianand.com
published by Coronet, Hodder & Staughton, London
available as Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
amazon.comamazon.co.ukamazon.deamazon.inoshoviha.org and from your bookshop
Review on Osho News by Viramo
More about Wild Wild Guru on Osho News

Subhuti

Subhuti is a writer, author and gives workshops and sessions in the Enneagram, Tarot Card Reading and Inner Man Inner Woman. subhutianand.com

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