Prabhat, who was asked to set up the new force, remembers… (Part 1)
The armed security force that was sprung on us Rajneeshpuram Residents, sometime between the second and third Annual World Celebration, was harder to assimilate than any other device made available to us by Osho or by Life.
It manifested to one and all what could have been ignored so far by most. The shocking, frightful contrast between a friend in uniform with a gun in his/her hands, standing at attention on either side of Osho’s chair, and the man sitting in the chair, was perplexing to many. Often it was used hence to mark the line of demarcation between heaven and hell.
Since not much has been written about the armed security force, and since I was one of the founders, I have a notion to put on paper what I remember.
One day as I was working in the field known as Surdas, a message came that I was to report forthwith to Sheela at Jesus Grove. Going over what could have prompted such a summons, I came up with a number of things I had done or said that might qualify, but when I arrived at Jesus Grove I found that I was not the only one invited. Thirty-eight friends were gathered in the big room including all the ladies who ran the commune, and more.
When Sheela came in, wearing her serious face, she commenced to tell us about the many signs that convinced her and Osho that a serious threat to his life was real and imminent.
We all knew about the bombing of the Hotel in Portland, but to me, most of the rest of what she told us was new. She played tapes of wire-tapped conversations, counted various events that happened or were prevented. Then she told us that Osho had instructed her to establish an armed third security force, independent from the Peace Force and the regular Ranch Security, that would accompany him at all times. Sheela then called four of us and asked us if we would instruct the new group in the ways of combat. Or maybe she just told us that this was happening.
We had all served in armies, because in the countries where we were born this was mandatory. Bhakta in the Swiss army, Sandi in the Australian army, Bodhi in the South African army and I? I’d served in the Israeli army. It was fairly obvious that mine was the only serious army of the lot.
When I was conscripted, I was a type-cast hippy: long hair, acid, dope, revolution, demonstrations, jeans, flowers, Dylan and the Dead. Together with a dozen of my friends, men and women, we had started a commune, so we joined the army as a commune to serve in some frontier post, but not in the occupied territories. We demanded – and the army obliged (it was a very different army then that it is now). After bootcamp, one of us had to be sent to the real army, while the rest returned to their beautiful corner in the desert. I was picked. So off I went to heavy-duty training which I hated with a passion, but still, I was not able to not excel.
A few years ago, after my mother died, I found among her things a folder of letters I wrote to my parents from the age of 14 onwards. In all my letters, even the ones from what seem to be tough situations (such as jail), I sound happy-to-ecstatic. Only the letters from the army are sad, and sometimes hopeless.
At one point I’d had enough and demanded to see a shrink. Without difficulty I convinced him to release me from duty, and went straight to NYC where life was once more beautiful. I never imagined I would have anything to do with guns again in my life. Go figure…
Our new security squad started with a dozen or so Smith & Wesson revolvers, same as the Peace Force were packing. None of us had ever shot one, so the four of us went to the Peace Force firing range with Harry and he taught us to shoot accurately. He was a good teacher. I still remember the moment I understood the undercurrent required to send the bullet where you wanted it to go. As we learned to shoot a revolver we learned the etiquette of the firing range, where we were going to spend a lot of time.
We created our own firing range down at Mevlana, beyond the last security outpost, where nobody was allowed unless they were on the list, and we started training an ever-growing cadre of trusted friends. Everyone was training twice a week, five at a time, with one instructor.
When it was my turn I would go to Jesus Grove, take the keys to one of the Jimmies at our disposal, open the safe and take out the guns I needed. By then the friends would have arrived and I drove us all to the range. A session would last an hour or two and everyone learned to shoot a revolver. The ones who could stay aloof through the squeezing of the trigger became good shots.
Once or twice a week the four of us (Bhakta, Sandi, Bodhi and I) would go to train ourselves. These meetings were full of laughter. We were privileged white folks. We could go anywhere anytime. We were given boys’ toys and were instructing beautiful damsels to use them (and a bunch of rowdy menfolk). It was hilarious. So far nobody outside the group knew anything about it. Some people knew that something was brewing, but they also knew not to ask.
Eventually I was instructed to buy more representative weapons. I filled in a requisition form for 10 Uzi semiautomatic rifles which I picked out from a catalogue, and in a short while they came by US Mail. We got a bigger safe and I showed my colleagues how to handle an Uzi, how to break it down and put it back together quickly. And how to shoot it. All important information you learn in the army when being taught how to kill people efficiently.
We weren’t gonna kill anyone, we were playing.
We started a rota of people to be close to Osho at all times. When he went for a ride in his Rolls, a man would drive or walk next to him holding an Uzi, and beside him a woman wearing a revolver.
Around the clock there were two of us watching over his bedroom and garden. We did two-hour shifts, changing alternatively so that every hour a new friend would join someone already an hour in. If my shift today was from noon to 14:00, the next day it would be 14:00-16:00, and so on.
Up in the tower built for us in the back of B-site (by the Chuang Tzu friends who were on the security list) we stood back to back… watching. We were not supposed to talk, but in the long hours of the night we did. And at least one time one thing led to another, while we never stopped looking out of our respective windows.
As well as Bedroom duty, we instructors continued to train all these friends. When it started to get boring I invented new games. I would take the group into the hills. Sometimes I would go ahead, hide and they would come, walking in formation, looking for me. I counted on the narrow vision of a concentrating person and lay without movement on top of a scraggy Juniper tree, completely in sight, and they would walk right under me without noticing. Then we would practice unfocused gazing. These were games inspired not by the army but by Carlos Castaneda and J.M Cooper, by Osho.
It was fun while the shadow grew bigger.
Sometimes Veetrag would come flying our new little helicopter; and we would take turns going up with him trying to hit a target from a flying helicopter. This nearly ended in disaster once when an ejected cartridge hit the rotor. We got shit for that even if Veetrag took most of it.
When we did not do any of that we would work in our temples, me mostly in Surdas. But when I said I had to go, nobody asked questions and I got in whatever vehicle I had at the time and drove off to The Bedroom, or at times, truth be told, to my own bedroom to hide and read a book.
When for the first time the thousands who came for the festival entered the Mandir to find two sannyasins standing on the podium with guns in their hands, me being one of them, all emotional hell broke loose.
Already, when we joined The Ride, walking behind the Rolls with our guns, me wearing the black Vuarnet ski sunglasses I had (and still have), it was a button-pusher for many friends who were less privileged and more bitter, and to many friends who were appalled and outraged at the show of force in the midst of this community of peace. But still it was easily possible to ignore us and concentrate on Him acting, as he always did, unconcerned. We were far enough back so that people watching and dancing at the roadside could throw a disapproving glance once or twice in our direction and ignore us the rest of the time.
Of course there were as many, maybe more, who did not flinch. Just one more addition to an already outlandish, anomalous parade.
But now I am standing on the podium and for many thousands of friends sitting in the Mandir it is impossible to eliminate me and my partner from the frame. Whenever they see Osho they also see us with our guns, standing still, never moving, never smiling, never closing our eyes and melting – no – while everyone else cries with joy.
What was fun in training became a very strong meditation while protecting the core of our existence at the time. What did it mean? What was I to do?
On that first day, looking with heightened alertness at thousands of Osho lovers, I could feel the separate energy of each and every one of the multitude. Avoiding being overwhelmed by the great energy that is “Osho” to my left, I could feel the animosity towards me from many. But that was background noise. I could also feel the love, or lack of it, they had for Osho. With my mind temporarily still (although silently planning a comeback!) I realised that this is how it is done. It is an energy combat, the guns are just props. I felt a certainty that I could prevent not only an evil act but even an evil thought.
What added to the state of elation I, we, experienced during this festival, was the deep faith I had in the necessity of this role we were assigned. It was part of the show we were staging, supervised by Osho, whom we all loved and trusted as much as we were capable of.
There was no doubt that Osho wrote the part. I was right next to him, it was tangible.
But the darkness loomed ever greater.
Part 2: Feel the danger before it comes – Prabhat remembers being an armed security guard towards the end of the Rajneeshpuram experiment
Update 15 July 2020: corrected number of friends gathered in Jesus Grove to be trained.