Shantidharm leaves Pune, works in Paris, Rajneeshpuram and a few communes in Germany and Switzerland. And in Berlin he meets Deepa, his life companion! (Part 2)
Read part 1: I found paradise! – about growing up in France, Shantidharm’s travels and finally his arrival in Pune.
Pune, April 1981. I had no money left. I was sleeping on the streets and eating leftovers at the ashram cafeteria. Once, I found a watch near a bench in Krishnamurti Garden. I sold it on the black market and with the money I was able to pay the ashram’s daily entry fee for few days. I was so happy to be a sannyasin, and I felt it was time to ask if I could live in the ashram. I wrote to Osho saying: “I’m ready to stay. Is there a place for me in your ashram?”
A few days later I got a message from Osho saying: “See Masta.” I went to Masta’s office in Krishna House. She asked me about my money situation. I told her that I had no money left and that I really wanted to stay and live in the ashram. In return I would do any sort of work. She said that if I had no money then I should go back to my country and work to make enough money to come back.
I left the office feeling totally upside down, shaken and disappointed. I always had this hope/illusion that once a sannyasin I would be able to stay and work for the ashram. I walked all over the place not knowing what to do next. I was totally broke. After walking up and down the ashram paths for a while, I stopped and right next to me was a billboard with messages on it. One of these messages said: “Looking for volunteers to work at No. 70’s Restaurant.”
Yes! I rushed there and got a job. I was still sleeping rough. However, every day, since the Restaurant was in No. 70, a property rented by the ashram, I could eat there and have a nice daily shower. Working at No. 70 was fantastic fun, whether at the bar, as a waiter, at the counter; it was simply a joy to work with people from all over the world. There was not really a sense of seriousness or working too hard. Work in the ashram was always about meditation and being total in whatever you were doing.
During that time, if I was not invited to stay with a girlfriend for the night, I was mostly sleeping on the street in Pune. I always tried to find quiet places in nature not too far away from the ashram. One night I was sleeping on a low wall along the street behind the ashram and a police car stopped and woke me up. They wanted to see my passport. But at this time, I had no money and no passport. When I had lost my passport, I did not bother to look for it because I thought I would never need it, as I had decided to stay in India forever. So, I told the police that I was staying at the ashram, I could not sleep and just went out to get some fresh air. As they did not speak much English, we went to see the guard at the back gate. He was Indian. I told him my situation. He was kind enough to tell the police that it was true that I was a resident of the ashram and had just gone out to get some fresh air in the cool night. The police believed him and left. I thanked the guard and from that night on I never slept so close to the ashram.
Another night, I was sleeping in nature near the river, and three guys woke me up and took my bag. They emptied it but could not find anything valuable. So, they shouted at me. And I just sat there saying, “No money, no money.” Finally they left and I gathered up the few things I had in my bag. Those were the only two unpleasant incidents that occurred during all those months when I slept outside.
There had been a lot of rumors that Osho was leaving to go to a new commune. So, it was no surprise when one day the people in charge told everybody that the ashram was closing, and we all had to leave to go somewhere else or back to our own countries.
Osho, they said, was gone to America. I remained in the ashram as long as it was possible. When it was time to leave, I only had enough money to buy a train ticket to Mumbai, a gift from a girlfriend. I thought once I was in Mumbai, I could decide what to do next. On the train I met an Indian man who took me to a temple after we arrived. He thought I was a sadhu or a sannyasin, because I was wearing orange clothes and a mala. He told me to wait there until he would come back. He never came back. After a few days of temple life, which included sleeping on the floor and poor food, I left.
I managed to get back to the Mumbai train station. Then I decided to go to the French embassy in New Delhi. As I had no money, I could not purchase a train ticket. Instead, I travelled on top of a train car, along with many other people. During the night we would all huddle close to each other to keep warm. Midway through the trip, at a station where I had to change trains to proceed to New Delhi, I was arrested by security guards. They could not believe that I had no ticket and no money. I told them that I had lost everything, and I was going to my country’s embassy in New Delhi. After a while they let me go and I travelled on top of train cars for the rest of the way to Delhi.
When I arrived, I went to the police station to declare that I had lost my bag with money and passport, so I needed to go to the French embassy. Once there, I told the clerk in a special help section within the embassy that I had no passport, no money and I needed help.
In the 70’s and 80’s there were many French junkies in India. Often the French embassy would help them return to France when things got very difficult for them. The embassy officials asked me for a phone number in France of family or a friend who could send money to pay for a return plane ticket. I gave them the phone number of a good friend in France, as I knew my family was not rich enough to send money. The embassy gave me some pocket money and an address where I could sleep and eat, all pre-paid by the embassy itself, until some money would arrive for me. They told me to check with them from time to time. The place they sent me to was truly terrible and located on the outskirts of the city. It was full of drug addicts walking around half-dead, totally loaded. At least there I could get some food, although it was limited to toast, omelettes and tea or coffee. I slept outside again, on the terrace of a nearby abandoned temple, which was much cleaner than the room they gave me.
While waiting I became good friends with two drug dealers from Afghanistan. I was no longer into drugs (I never took hard drugs but had had experiences with soft drugs). I could see how drugs were really damaging a lot of people. One night one of the dealers almost got killed. There were frequent fights between dealers. They were extremely aggressive and would kill for money. This friend got injured in a knife attack and the other friend asked me to help take him to the hospital. It was quite a ride in a rickshaw to go downtown to the hospital in the middle of the night. I went to visit him a few times with the other friend. I don’t know how he recovered but he returned two weeks later.
I waited one month for money to arrive. It was during monsoon time and some days it would rain cats and dogs. I would have to walk through water up to my knees to get to the embassy and back. The day finally came when some money arrived, and I could fly to France.
Back in France I stayed with the friends who had sent the money. For a year and a half, I was their babysitter. I took care of their one-year old daughter and lived with them in the countryside.
One day I felt it was time to go back to the Osho world. After doing a quick training to become a waiter, I went to Paris and immediately found a job in a restaurant. I also went straight to the Osho Center in Maison Alfort and was invited to live there. We tried to expand but nothing really happened, so one year later we closed the Center, and I went to Rajneeshpuram Oregon, USA where a commune was being built around Osho.
I stayed in Rajneeshpuram for six months from April to September 1983. I worked on different jobs during that time. The Dam Crew built dams in the creek that flowed down into Krishnamurti Lake. All day we were far away from the main town. We were out in nature. It was hard work but so much fun and in a beautiful environment. The Tent Crew built tents for the big summer Annual World Festival attended by around 20,000 sannyasins. The Pathway Crew built stone walls along the new pathways between the town houses. There were so many experiences that are unforgettable: the delicious food at Magdalena canteen, the bus trips from one place to another, the friends, the work, Osho’s drive-bys, the accommodations, the restaurant, the casino, the ice cream parlor, the meditations, the nature and the lakes.
Because of my visa, I could not stay more than six months in the States. I got advised to go to the Osho UTA commune in Cologne, Germany. Once there, I was told that the commune was full, but sannyasins were needed at the Dörfchen Osho commune in Berlin. So, I went there using the commune shuttle that drove from commune to commune in Germany. On the way we stopped at the Munich and Hamburg communes. I stayed in Berlin from October 1983 to October 1985. I worked as a carpenter, as a barman in the Far-Out Disco, then as a house caretaker, doing all sorts of small repairs wherever needed.
Berlin is the place where I met Ma Amrita Deepa, a Japanese woman who was working as a cook in the commune restaurant. We met at the Far-Out Disco. We both danced, as most sannyasins did, before the disco opened for the evening. Later, when it was getting crowded (this disco was a big hit in Berlin), we would go out walking or back to our accommodations. The first night we met, we walked back to the commune together. We had tea, and I asked her if she would like to spend the night with me. She said no; I said okay. Much later, on another occasion, she asked me to spend the night with her. I said yes. Since that day we have grown and shared a life together.
Life in the Berlin commune was absolutely wonderful. What a nice way to live! We had a great living space, a disco, an institute, a restaurant, a carpentry shop, and much more. Several hundred people from many different countries lived there in harmony. Everyone worked to contribute to the commune and all the essential things of life were provided: food, clothes, accommodation, whatever was needed. Nobody was considered superior or inferior. Everyone had a place, was valued, had a function, and was considered as important as anyone else. All the finances created by the commune were equally shared and spent for the well-being of the entire commune. Every aspect of our daily life was provided. Also, you could always change jobs if you wanted to try something else. It was very easy to walk from one part of the commune to another; all buildings belonging to or rented by the commune were in the same area of the city. During my free time, I would leave the commune to walk, visit the park, stroll down the Main Street, or go to the city center.
When the Osho commune in Rajneeshpuram fell apart, we had to leave Berlin. Deepa had a Swiss passport; she could not work legally in Germany. I decided to go with her to the Osho Kota commune in Zurich. We stayed in Zurich from November 1985 to April 1986 – until this commune went bankrupt and closed down.
So off we went again. We had only the joy of being together and a longing to see what adventure awaited us in the unknown. The Zurich commune could only afford to buy us a train ticket to a destination of our choice. I said: “Let’s go to Paris.” We received a bit of extra money from one of Deepa’s friends in Japan. She was kind enough to wire us a few hundred dollars. We also got a little money from the last job we did for the Zurich commune. The team coordinator had the great idea of sharing the money from this project with everyone who had been part of the crew.
So, off we went to Paris to see Sudheer, a sannyasin friend with whom I had once lived. However, he did not have space for us to stay for too long. After a few days we headed to the south of France to visit one of my sisters who lived in Perpignan. Her boyfriend’s mother was at the hospital, so she said that we could stay at her flat until we had figured out what to do. We soon found a small apartment in Perpignan. I got a job as a waiter in a bar/restaurant close to the train station, but the atmosphere was so ugly that I quit after a few months. When Deepa had the opportunity to cook in an organic restaurant in Zurich, we did not hesitate to leave France and move back to Switzerland, ready for the next adventure.
To be continued with Part 3 – Life in Switzerland, Pune 2, Osho’s death celebration, world travels, Italy, France, Japan – under Shantidharm, the Life of an Ordinary Man