(12 June 1950 – 17 April 2020)
Updated 25 and 29 April 2020 with details of Sharmi’s Cremation
I first met Sharmi in 1994, when I answered an ad for a room in a shared house in Highgate, North London. She thought I was a boring little accountant in a suit (I was) and I thought she was very interesting if a little unusual, and in any case the other two guys living in the house seemed rather nice and there was a gorgeous cat. It wasn’t until after I had moved in, that I noticed there were pictures of an Indian guy everywhere – on the piano, in the loo and in the kitchen. ‘Who’s that?’, I asked on my second day. Cue a look of absolute rapture, hands in Namaste:
‘That’, she said, ‘is my master.’
‘Where is he?’ I asked.
‘He’s left his body,’ she replied.
‘You mean he’s dead?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she replied, ‘he’s left his body.’
Oh! I was none the wiser and wondered what strange kind of household I had arrived in.
As the weeks went by, I got to know Sharmi better. She was the most unusual person I’d ever encountered. She was married briefly in her early twenties and lived in South Africa and Kenya – her love for Africa remained – in particular, her love for African men! In her early days, she had been a nurse working in A&E in the Whittington Hospital in London and also a nurse in the army, a psychiatric nurse and then a midwife. She did a degree in sociology and at some point, discovered the people in red and fell in love with them, Osho and meditation.
She initially took sannyas by post (Prem Sharmi?) and then later asked for another new name in Pune and received the name Satyam Agnidipta (Blazing fire torch of truth!) before finally settling on Sharmi Agnidipta. She visited the Ranch on a couple of occasions and spent many seasons in Poona 2 where she trained in a variety of bodywork techniques including Rebalancing, Massage, Aura Soma, Reiki, Tibetan Pulsing and Colourpuncture. She gave the most amazing massages, and I was lucky enough to receive many of them 2-3 hrs long. Sharmi didn’t believe in massage music – she liked Techno and Trance and would literally dance around the massage table – pick up a limb, look at it for a moment, head cocked to one side, and then work her magic.
She was a great cook (as long as you didn’t mind eating at 10pm) and would regularly create elaborate meals for her boyfriend Philip whilst wearing high heels, her sexiest clothes and coiffing large quantities of cava. Life with Sharmi was never boring. Once I remember she suddenly got the desire for a tub of Haagen Dazs ice cream. She rang up the delivery company and declared it was an emergency and that the ice cream had to be delivered in an ambulance!
Sharmi had driven a jeep for a while in the army and then later when applying for a driving licence had been hanging out with a friend and thought it would be fun to tick the box saying her title was ‘Lady’ – and so was born Lady Charmian Spencer-Griffin! (Charmian was her legal middle name – after a character in a Shakespeare play.) When Sharmi went shopping in Highgate village (posh part of London), she put much of it on the tab as befitted a Lady. We had a joint bank account for utilities and I was most impressed to see her name as Lady Charmian Spencer-Griffin on the bank statements – I assumed she must be related to Lady Diana Spencer – although her behaviour was sometimes less than ladylike!
Sharmi had a great love for animals – especially cats. She doted on her cat Biggles and had a strange psychic connection with him – and yes, she did have past lives as a witch – something she realized when she once inadvertently set fire to her long nightie. Her last cat Rolanda who survives her was her beloved companion for the last 10 years and she also took great delight in feeding the birds and squirrels in her garden. She had very green fingers, sometimes working as a gardener and had the most massive cheese plants I’ve ever seen.
Every winter, Sharmi would fly south for a few months in Pune and then Goa which she adored. She loved India and Indians and would stay in the local houses in Calangute, drawing water from the well, dancing until the small hours at parties, commandeering a motorbike taxi and then coming back to cuddle up with one of several boyfriends. She read the local newspapers and made very astute observations, knew all the locals and would always find a way of engaging with everyone she met and drawing the best out of them.
In the UK, she loved to host satsangs and throw parties, inviting sannyasin musicians, fortune tellers and more. She rented out the conservatory at the house in Highgate to sannyasins returning from Pune – giving people a few days to decompress before engaging back with the West. She loved to visit Osho Leela in Dorset and also Croydon Hall and was a frequent visitor at festivals – front row in meditations, dancing the night away or enjoying a glass or 2 or 3 of cava at the bar. She gave the best hugs – long, enveloping and melting into her huge heart.
She used to love walking – especially on Hampstead Heath, stopping off at Café Rouge on the way back for a slap-up meal and a bottle of wine. In more recent years, Sharmi’s outside activities became more and more reduced following a knee injury about 10 years ago. She needed a stick when going shopping and later a mobility scooter. She turned her attention to the internet, Facebook in particular, setting up various groups where she spread Osho’s message and also co-founded a weekly online healing group, BB Distant Healing Group.
In early March this year, Sharmi became ill with a cough and what sounded like pneumonia. She seemed to improve but then developed a host of other symptoms which made life extremely difficult and uncomfortable for her. She was adamant she didn’t want to go to hospital and that hospital admissions in times of lockdown were only for the critically ill (she was) but got to the point where she was unable to prepare food for herself. Luckily, I managed to contact a local volunteer and then a group of volunteers (Friends of Muswell Hill) who were amazingly dedicated in bringing Sharmi portions of soft food that she could eat in the morning and evening – leaving the food in the flowerpot by the door – and calling her so she could pick it up whilst maintaining social distancing.
Yatro and I called her daily and despite her serious condition, Sharmi was able to fold forth in her usual inimitable style for an hour or more, demanding to know what was happening on the news. Other friends phoned or texted messages of love and support from near and far – she certainly touched many lives in various and often profound ways. So many messages of love and healing on Facebook too – which she loved us to read to her and was so grateful for. Eventually, it came to the point where Sharmi just couldn’t manage by herself anymore. Very reluctantly she allowed her beloved cat Rolanda to be picked up by a local cattery (the biggest-hearted cattery lady ever) and arranged to go into hospital for tests.
By the time she got to the Whittington Hospital, her condition was deteriorating rapidly and she could manage only very short calls on the phone. The nurses and doctors were amazing, pulling out all the stops to find out what was going on with her. The Covid test came back negative but her chest X-ray showed pneumonia. They were also running tests to see if she had vasculitis or perhaps had had a heart attack – nothing conclusive as yet – perhaps we’ll never know. Sharmi was keeping the nursing staff entertained with tales of her early nursing days, including her time at the Whittington. When I spoke to a nurse yesterday, she said they had become very fond of her, and treated her as one of their own – she liked to have their company and also made sure that they knew her requirements! They were saddened and surprised (as Sharmi had been chatting to them the day before) to find as they did their ward rounds that she had passed peacefully in her sleep at between 3.30 and 4.00am on Friday 17 April.
Thank you Sharmi for being everything that you were and are. You will always be with me, your child-like expressions coupled with your sharp intelligence and huge loving, devotional heart. Without you, my life would have been radically different and poorer (at least spiritually!). I owe my last 25 years as a sannyasin to you and am eternally grateful for that and for your wonderful, if sometimes exasperating, unique personality and your beautiful being. I love you and miss you, Sharmi.
I found this reply from Sharmi on the internet:
“What took me to Rajneeshpuram was the love for Osho – plus for his people – and I was not disappointed – Rajneeshpuram was such an amazing place to be – such an experience – year after year – meditation just happened – with no effort – the wish to stay in the moment and experience everything was strong – and that was just the beginning of my journey. Poona years were yet to come. I feel so tremendously grateful to Osho and Existence for this whole adventure – which just goes on and on. We are indeed the Blessed Ones.” (Sharmi Agnidipta, 30 November 2017)
Sharmi felt incredibly loved and supported by a small team of volunteers who brought her cooked food twice a day for a period of 2 weeks. Kip, who co-ordinates the team, set up a fundraiser to help them provide for those in need during the lockdown. If you feel to support them with a donation, you can do so here: Muswell Hill Covid-19 Community Support
Online Celebration of Sharmi’s Life and Death
We will be celebrating our beloved friend Sharmi tomorrow, Sunday, 19 April, 12 noon – approx. 2pm, UK time, online on Zoom (Facebook event). If you haven’t used Zoom before, it’s very easy. You don’t need an account but will need to download the app if you’re on a mobile device – watch this short video.
There will be live music and songs from Vikas and Satyam (perhaps more), some Osho quotes and a sharing of memories of our times with Sharmi. It’s very experimental with the tech so fingers crossed.
Thank you to the 50+ people who participated in Sharmi’s beautiful celebration. If you missed it or would like to watch it again, please email Sidika at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send you a link to access it.
Satyam Agnidipta – one of Sharmi’s sannyas names – means Blazing Fire Torch of Truth.
Sharmi’s body will be cremated on Thursday, 30 April 9am UK time, at the Golders Green crematorium in North London. Let’s tune in then, and sing Walk into the Holy Fire, Step into the Holy Flame. The unattended (except by us virtually) service will last 5 minutes followed immediately by the cremation which will take 3+ hours.
The funeral directors will read a short blessing for her at about 6.30am in the morning on Friday, 1 May (May Day! – Sharmi would love that).
Sidika and friends will scatter Sharmi’s ashes at one of Sharmi’s favourite nature spots in North London when lockdown is over and then go for a meal and drink lots of cava! If you would like to join, please email Sidika at email@example.com
My name is Donna. Two weeks ago I got a phone call from someone called Sidika who was looking for help for her friend’s cat. Of course if a cat needs help, I will be there, and Sidika really touched my heart because of the way she talked about her friend Sharmi. Nothing on earth was going to stop me helping all 3 of them.
I turned up at Sharmi’s home last Thursday week… the back door was open (as Sidika had planned for me). As I called out for Sharmi, announcing who I was… I heard a reply from the bathroom commanding me to take the phone from her hand and put it back on the charger! Under my covid mask I laughed and also, in an instant, realised I was dealing with a hurricane!
I spent only a half an hour with her at the most but left feeling sad at her illness, but smiling at her ‘Sharmi-ness’ (after reading your stories about her, I know that’s the only word I can use). I had one phone call with her that night to let her know that Rolanda was fine. Amongst the things I learnt were that she really wanted to wash her hair (I know it’s silky and flowing now) and that she liked prosecco (I will have a glass at midday tomorrow).
I’m honoured to be a part of her life – now matter how fleeting – and if all of her friends are as beautiful as Sidika, I consider myself lucky to be a part of you. Between us all, we will find Rolanda a great home until it is time for him to be with Sharmi. X
Donna (this story was also told at Sharmi’s zoom celebration on Sunday – ‘zoom’ a really fitting word for Sharmi, too!)
Sharmi was the first sannyasin I ever made friends with, way back in 1984.
It was at a Mind Body Spirit festival, a headache-inducing affair full of space cadets peddling crystal healing, flower fairies and the like. During a tea-break I saw her dressed in red and we got talking. She was into Tantsu and Watsu and other things I’d never heard of, which all sounded much more interesting than the flowery stuff surrounding us.
She told me she had this system for telling whether a given guru was enlightened or not – something to do with looking at their photo and observing the symmetry of the eyes. So we went down the list of popular gurus of the day – He’s enlightened, he’s not, she is, he isn’t, etc. Finally I asked her, what about Rajneesh? And she replied, “You know what, I’ve never done it on him. He’s so beautiful, I don’t care whether he is enlightened or not.”
I never forgot those words. For me this was a remarkable testimony to the power of devotion. As a good Catholic choirboy, even one open to the New Age, I was suspicious of Osho. But even if the guy was a total charlatan, somehow the purity of her devotion redeemed him. And although we didn’t keep in touch, her words planted a seed…
…which finally bore fruit 21 years later, when I discovered Osho Leela – and to my delight found Sharmi there.
She was always a good friend, supporting me through the challenges of life at Leela. Many a Festival evening we spent together propping up the bar, as she told me stories about Misfit Cities she had lived in, or black men she had loved, and we put the world to rights over a glass of cava.
The photo is one I took in my last year at Leela, in May 2012, during the India My Love festival. She had encouraged my partner Sufiya to take sannyas, and she was herself celebrating her 30 years as a sannyasin. It’s how I want to remember her: larger than life, friendly and supportive, always celebrating, always devoted to her beloved Master OSHO.
Fly high Sharmi!
Naropa xx (Naropa also read this at the online celebration)
Aloha, hope I find everyone healthy and safe – sending my love, condolences and aloha to all of Sharmi’s friends and family. Having lived at Rajneeshpuram for four years, and six months in Poona 2, I may have met Sharmi in one of those spaces. However, our connection and friendship was through FB. Mahalo Sidka for your wonderful, heartfelt and loving tribute to Prem Sharmi Satyam Agnidipta Lady Charmian Spencer-Griffin. Love and aloha from the north shore of Maui.
Ahhh… this “passing on” touches me in a delicate spot. Sharmi was such a character! Sidika captures her essence very well in her tribute. I met Sharmi in the Rebalancing trainings first on the Ranch and in Pune 2. She was such a unique presence and, compared to others in the Rebalancing and Cranial Sacral courses, ‘off the wall’. We had a great connection and we laughed a lot together. I’m sure what Sidika said was true – and that her touching healing sessions were amazing for people. She really did love others and herself in a balanced way.
So, I am touched and feeling love for Sharmi now… So, Beloved Sharmi, “Walk into the Holy Fire, step into the Holy Flame… walk into the Holy Fire, step into the Holy Flame. O O O O O O O ~ Hallelujah!”
It was either 1983 or 1984 when Sharmi and I were participating in a group led by Sw. Prem Prasad. We didn’t know each other, Sharmi and I, but it was clear from the very first moment that we disliked each other. We were standing in a circle, made to share whatsoever and I found myself whining and complaining about… something probably very irrelevant but of utter importance to me, then.
The circle went dead quiet after I had finished, and it was Sharmi who walked up to me, hands on her hips, and shouted at me something like, “You think you can get away with this BS because you are pretty?” Of course she did put it more British.
I couldn’t believe she spoke to me like that, but what sounded like an insult to everyone was for me something unheard of. I was 33 or 34 – like Sharmi – and no one in my life had ever described me as pretty or at least I hadn’t taken it in. Looking at pictures later in life, yes, I was quite cute then. Well… I stood there, crying, hating myself, and being very scared of this larger-than-life woman who dared to walk into a circle and confront me and tell me the truth (at least about me annoying everyone with my petty complaints and whining).
Later on Sharmi found me sitting on a bench, and she hugged me and I just melted. We became friends and were hanging out together for a while, munching our Granola for breakfast, laughing a lot, dancing and talking about men…
Well, throughout my and her sannyas life we bumped into each other again and again, sadly never getting that close again, a shame, but always enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of tea until we parted – not to see each other again for years. Waving to each other in Pune 2, hugging briefly in Candolim, at festivals.
Sharmi was such a strong presence in my, in our sannyas world, she has a h u g e place in my heart!
(Even on one occasion she looked at me years later and muttered: You’re not that pretty, Anasha!)
Dance into the light, Sharmi! May love and light surround you! Love,
Anasha (Some lines… wanted to share this yesterday at Sharmi’s life celebration but had to leave…)