Of coincidence and Guardian Angels

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Ole from German OTI talked to Niskriya (aka Stonehead Niskriya) – famous ‘First German Zen Master’, about his relationship with Osho and his gratitudes in life.

Niskriya, 2019
Niskriya, 2019

How did you come to Osho?

It must have been 1978 – I was reading an article about Osho which made me very curious. Especially this free sex sounded very tempting! Since then I wanted to go to Poona. But it still took until 1982 for it to become concrete for me. The trigger was Satyananda’s book, Ganz entspannt im Hier und Jetzt (The Cosmic Madhouse). I was especially touched by the passages from Osho. When I finished it, I immediately called the ‘Bhagwans’ at Vihan, the Berlin Center – I remember it was a Sunday, and yet someone answered the phone – and I asked if I could buy a book. They only had Come Follow Me [new title: Come Follow to You] – a book about Jesus. They had 13 copies. I bought them all.

All 13 copies?

Yes! I was absolutely sure that I had found just the right thing for my mother and a few friends who were also interested in Jesus. But I was very much mistaken. I really could not understand that the book left them cold. Never before had I read anything so fantastic about Jesus. And it was poetic too – even in German. This lack of understanding in society has always been a mystery to me. Even the journalists didn’t want to understand.

Later I was determined to make a film about Osho because the sannyasins looked pretty stupid in the public eye. From their parents came mainly insults or lack of understanding: “How can you chase after such a charlatan!” or “Why did you join this sect?” Some young people were even disinherited. So I wanted to make a film that they could give to their parents as a gift, as a kind of explanation.

And did you make this film?

Yes, but it all turned out very differently than I had imagined. In this process I was allowed to come to the conviction that everything is right as it IS – even if I think it is wrong or unfair. I believe in an all-encompassing, existential intelligence. I feel constantly challenged to trust this intelligence. The many coincidences in my life help me in this respect.

Give me an example…

A very remarkable coincidence happened on December 25, 1991, the day of the Soviet President’s farewell speech on TV. On this very day the third part of my film, Freedom Is Your Nature, was being broadcast. In it Osho says: “Comrade Gorbachev, it is a mistake to introduce capitalism in your country. Rather, you should introduce meditation!” This personal address to Gorbachev happened to be running across the screen on the very day of his resignation!

As a writer and producer I had offered the four-and-a-half-hour three-part film to Soviet TV. It was broadcast at prime time from 23 to 25 December 1991. Those were the last three days of the Soviet Union.

This happened thanks to this big coincidence: The programme director, in order to decide if he wanted to purchase the broadcasting rights, took a VHS copy home. Because his wife was also watching it, he did not stop the cassette during a toilet break. Much later, after a repeat broadcast in 1992, he told me that while he was away, Osho had raised his voice and become quite loud!, and because of that he would not have bought the film. An enlightened one never raises his voice – as if Osho was not enlightened! Admittedly, he didn’t stick to this view, but without the lucky coincidence of a pee break at the right moment, the film would have escaped the Russian audience, and there would be significantly fewer Russian sannyasins today.

Unfortunately, I have not kept a ‘coincidence diary’. That would have been so interesting! The thing is: many coincidences are so mysterious that you can hardly believe it. But the most beautiful and momentous series of coincidences led me to Osho and made me ‘his’ cameraman overnight.

Probably there are also coincidences that you don’t even register as such at the very moment. But you should! Because I think coincidence is playful – it wants to be noticed and appreciated! A divine existential force that keeps telling me: “Look how little you really understand.” For me the whole spirituality – or the search for God, or whatever you want to call it – is not knowable.

When I use the word God I mean ‘the unknowable’. Not the unknown, but the unknowable! This is not exciting, but tremendously relaxing. Because, if something is unknowable I don’t have to try to understand it.

Do you get recognition in sannyas circles for having recorded so many of Osho’s discourses?

Yes, I do. These dialogues often go like this:

“Niskriya, we owe you so much for what you have done. Thank you!”

“If I hadn’t done it, someone else would have.”

“Yes, but not as nicely.”

And there may be something to that. The awareness for quality among the sannyasins was not always very pronounced.

And this is how I became Osho’s cameraman:

I had just cobbled together a 3D camera and was thrilled when I saw the first shoots I had taken with it in Berlin’s Grunewald. Then I pondered about what I would like to film with this technology – and quickly came up with: Osho!

So, my girlfriend, Lokita, and I went to Kathmandu. We knocked at a door on the third floor of the Oberoi Hotel where we suspected the team was to be found. The door opened and we looked into the grim faces of Osho’s closest circle. We were disturbing, and were turned away; we were supposed to come back tomorrow.

I then hurriedly pulled out my camera: “Just wanted to ask…” Suddenly the faces lit up and everybody said: “Come in!” The reason for their bad mood was a problem they had with the cameraman. The pictures were out of focus and the sound was bad. Osho was “not amused” about it and had said that if it wouldn’t work he would stop talking.

The next morning I sat one metre in front of him and filmed in 3D. I was totally happy; I stayed on and filmed about 1000 discourses from then until Osho stopped speaking.

Niskriya with his son, Sekito
Niskriya with Sekito

What kind of relationship developed between you and Osho?

My feeling was that Osho was amused by me and my perfectionism. He mentioned me very often in his lectures and made fun of me. He called me Stonehead Niskriya, the First German Zenmaster. This is also the reason why I’ve been shaving my head ever since. At the time I had a buzz cut, which apparently was not short enough. Osho said, “Off with it.” Then the next morning: “Very good, Niskriya. But the beard has to go too.” Osho ‘styled’ me, so to speak. Later I stood in front of the mirror and asked myself, “Why didn’t I think of it myself? This is much better – this bald head really suits me.”

Osho was unbelievably sensitive and noticed how tense I often was. For example in Uruguay: I could not buy a good microphone and suffered extremely because of the poor quality of the audio. I was annoyed about the long wait for a good microphone from Germany, promised but not coming, and this disturbed my joy in listening. Osho knew that I had a passion for archiving his words in the best possible quality, for in his legacy I saw the hope for the world – and I really considered him the most dangerous man on the globe.

Ronald Reagan and his German advisor Ratzinger, the later Pope, saw in him a danger that had to be stopped at all costs! Osho’s potential to help all people worldwide to a loving, intelligent life was a massive threat to established religions, criminals and environmental sinners. But hardly anyone took Osho’s potential seriously. So his words never got the attention they deserved.

It doesn’t just concern me – it is THE great human problem. We all know what threatens us! And yet we are sawing off the branch on which we are sitting. Insight and action are in stark contrast with each other. The supposedly most intelligent being on earth is acting dumber than any donkey. If that isn’t absurd? I once heard him say, if man perishes, nothing much is lost. Would that really be a ‘tragedy’ that would kill his gratitude to existence? Not for Osho, I guess. He was too surrendered to what IS.

Why did he keep joking with me in discourse? Hypothesis: The absurdity I saw in myself, Osho saw also.

Especially during the hypnosis stage, as I call it, in which everyone fell back flat but me and I stood out from the stretched-out mass of 1000 Buddhas. I was a crouching image of normal madness behind a tripod… I think it amused him.

In 1986-1987, Osho travelled across the world, because no country would accept him. Did you always accompany him?

Mostly – I took only a few short trips to Germany. When Osho arrived in Uruguay, I was just then doing a group with Rajen in Hamburg. There was a lot of sex and I really enjoyed it. At the best moment of the group I got a call: “Niskriya, you have to come to Uruguay, to film Osho!”

At first I was far from grateful, but then I was happy to leave and bought new equipment because new video technology had just come out. (And he only started talking after I arrived… ) Whether Jamaica, Portugal, Crete or Bombay – the equipment always travelled with me. For Poona I bought, together with Raiyaj, truly professional equipment. That was a real adventure. Because the Betacams carried a 300% import tax in India, we camouflaged everything as flight recorders and – thanks to Pradipo! – transported it all in a single-engined Cessna. It was totally overloaded, but with a lot of luck it made the flight to India.

What does your sannyas name mean?

Shunyam Niskriya was translated as ‘If you are not, God is’. But in Sanskrit it means ’emptiness’ and ‘doing nothing’. It was a shock when I heard that – because ultimately I’m lazy. Nobody feels that about me – but I do. It’s my nature. Just as I have the feeling of being completely empty in my head. Not in the positive sense of ‘God can flow in’, but in the sense of missing, forgetting and getting lost. It has always been so.

When I was 16, I made a documentary about my banking apprenticeship. Title: Leerling (Apprenticeship) – so even then I felt like a hollow head. (In German there is a play on words. Apprentice would need to be spelt with an ‘h’ {Lehrling} as it refers to ‘lehren‘, learning, but he writes it with two ‘ee’s as a hint to emptiness, ‘Leere‘.)

Is there anything that happened this year for which you are grateful?

Oh yes – again and again! I recently had an accident with my bicycle. The front wheel blocked while I was accelerating to make it through the next green traffic light. Someone told me later they had seen a branch caught in my spokes. I only remember the view of the tire as I flew over the handlebars. Then everything went black.

That nothing happened to me is a real miracle. I hit the asphalt with my head full force without a helmet. My glasses were broken. Except scratches on my knees and one eye nothing happened. I literally got off with a black eye. Then I realized again how quickly everything can end.

A sense of guardian angels runs through my whole life. When I regained consciousness after the accident, my first feeling was one of great gratitude for the mild course of events. I should apologize to the guardian angels for needing them too often.

Would you describe yourself as religious?

Not with a God up there. But to live gratefully as awake as possible, trusting in the guidance from within.

Gratitude makes you happy.

The doctor recently told me I have polyneuropathy – the communication between nerves and muscles is impaired. I can no longer feel my feet properly and my walk is slightly unsteady. This can cause a lot of pain. So far I have been spared from that, so every day is a good reason for happiness.

I could complain now: “Shit! I was neither a drunk nor a diabetic and still have PNP.” No! Acceptance is better. Only by being relaxed can you be open to pleasure, creativity and growth.

Anyone who wishes to contact Niskriya can write to him at nis@stonehead.de

cover of German Osho Times issue qw, 2019This article was originally published in the German Osho Times, December 2019 issue, with the Theme: Thank you – It has been a wonderful year. www.oshotimes.de

Translation from German thanks to Srajano, Punya and Madhuri

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