Radhika’s life as a sannyasin in delightful vignettes. Part 1: Taking sannyas.
Do I feel blessed to be born in the age of a living Buddha? Very much so. Was the path of the seeker and fellow traveller always wonderful and without struggles or difficulties? It was not. But without challenges to cope with, personal growth would be simply impossible. Still, I would like to reflect for the most part on the luminous moments, as I feel this is exactly what Osho would enjoy.
I was told that after my birth I didn’t open my eyes. It seems strange, but I do remember this. Having arrived in this world I decided to remain in my private state of being, the one that I had enjoyed until that moment. I felt sure that nobody could force me to open my eyes. I wanted to proudly state my own dignity and sovereignty. It was a beautiful try, but people wanted to look into my eyes and found ways to make me open them. Maybe I wanted to demonstrate that I was destined to become a meditator?
The Search Begins
When I was about five years old, for some weeks I had a clear and strong sense that later in life I would meet a unique and world-famous person of great importance. I felt quite proud of this, in joyful anticipation. At ten years I began to search for spiritual writings in my parents’ library and in magazines and newspapers. I found none, but the thirst was distinctly there. It took some time until I came across a first glimpse of what I was looking for: a print of the Desiderata. “This is it, but surely only the beginning,” I thought, suspecting that there was much more waiting for me to be discovered.
Around this time I used to lock myself in the bathroom, inventing mantras in my language without any knowledge that mantras existed, repeating them until I found myself in an altered state of being, which scared me. I needed guidance. I stopped this practice and continued searching for spiritual literature.
Being Osho‘s Child
Looking back on my childhood I can’t help but see myself as already connected with Osho. When I was eight years old, one day my father ordered me to do something. “I won’t,” I replied. He said, “Well, you have to.” My instantaneous response was that the only two things I “had to” do were to die and to go to the bathroom. I turned and walked away.
One of my favourite pastimes was collecting jokes – adult jokes – and to entertain my father‘s employees during their afternoon break to their, and my own, great amusement, delight and entertainment.
Roaming in wild nature all alone for endless hours I had many dangerous adventures. And a few years later, each day when I got home from school, the first thing I did was dance as wildly as I could for at least an hour.
Falling in Love with a Future Sannyasin
Around that time, Ma Prem Gayan, not a sannyasin yet, became famous as a model and her photographs were published in international magazines. She was not only an exceptional beauty, but beyond that there was something that fascinated me about her. I used to collect her pictures in a scrapbook that I used only for her. It was decades later that I learned that we grew up in the same area, only a mountain range between us, and once had the same lover… Well, not at the same time!
Ashram in Pune
In the mid 1970’s things around Osho exploded. Reports about the ashram were published, and the film Ashram in Poona was shown in art-house theatres. Being interested in psychology, which I planned to study at University – and subsequently did – I was intrigued about New Age methods and had to see it. I was overwhelmed. This was it! The encounter groups, the liberation from patriarchic psychoanalysis (which keeps people dependent for years or even decades without significant results). But there was this guru… And what was this prayer-like folding of hands? I had been opposed to any organised religion for a long time. Why had a guru been involved in this film? There certainly was a unique radiance around him. But didn’t that apply to many of these spiritual teachers?
Guru Turns Master
I kept reading articles about that ashram. India seemed to be a dangerous place. But there also seemed to be something very special happening there which I couldn’t turn my back on. It had to be: I ordered a book by that guru. And reading only the first few words, I immediately understood: this was not a guru, but a master of the highest quality. There was no distance between the words and myself. It was as if these were actually my words, spoken by another person and in a way I never could. The prayer-like folded hands were at once of no importance to me anymore.
Meditation Is the Way
And in the book it said, “Meditation is the way.” I was then nineteen and decided to completely give myself to it. Living where no sannyasins lived, with no Osho centre near, I had to begin the journey on my own. I ordered the Dynamic and Kundalini tapes, more books to read and lectures to listen to. At first I had to adjust to an Indian accent, very unfamiliar to me, but immediately felt very comfortable with Osho’s voice. I began practising Kundalini Meditation, sometimes inviting friends to join me. I decided in addition to attend a local Vipassana group which offered intense sittings of three hours in the evenings. I continued this practice at home daily. A new world, the world I had been searching for, was unfolding fast.
Two Little Birds
At the Vipassana class I had purchased a little wooden meditation stool for my practice at home. When I turned it upside down, I found a little stamp with a logo showing two birds on the wing: a little red bird and a bigger white one sheltering the other. Fascinated by that picture I gazed at it many times, pondering what secret might be behind it. It was a mystery that I had to uncover. It took months to identify it as Osho’s logo of the time.
There I was, meditating devotedly and reading Osho’s book, loving it all, loving him. But to become a sannyasin was out of the question. Wearing clothes of one colour only? No! Wearing a mala with his picture around my neck? Never would I make a fool of myself like that! Wearing a uniform and becoming a sheep in a flock of other sheep? No way! I was a misfit and an independently thinking and acting person. Too bad, there was this magnetic attraction! I decided I could easily have both. I began to dress in red from top to bottom and found that it felt wonderful. By and by all other colours disappeared from my wardrobe. I had turned into a sannyasin, only without wearing a mala. But things were not that simple.
You Came to Take Sannyas?
One night I had a dream. I found myself in Pune, where in real life I had never been. I was inside the ashram, strolling around and walking towards Chuang Tzu auditorium. At first it seemed empty, but then I saw Osho sitting in a corner near the lush plants of his garden. It was a sunlit afternoon, the air was soft and fragrant. He was reading a large newspaper, holding it with both hands, his arms stretched open wide. Noticing me, he lowered the newspaper and smiled. He asked very lovingly, “You came to take sannyas?” I opened my mouth with the intention to say “no”, only to hear myself saying “yes.” Osho stood up from his chair and retrieved a mala like a magic trick. He gracefully walked up to me where I was standing waiting. Gently and with a beaming smile he let the mala slip over my head. The very instant it touched my body I fell to the ground, disappearing into a state of bliss. The sensation was so intense that I found myself waking up as if I’d been struck by lightning, sitting straight up in bed. And there it was, wrapped all around me: I had taken sannyas. The blissful feeling stayed with me for many weeks, with the identical intensity as in the dream.
Where Is My Mala?
All I had to do now was to get a mala and a sannyas name. The next morning I did research to find the nearest sannyas centre, which was in another country. I made a phone call and organised a train ticket. Until then I had never met a sannyasin or entered an Osho meditation centre.
I travelled the very next day.
The Carrot Choppers
Trembling with excitement after my arrival, I confused Zorba the Buddha restaurant with the actual meditation centre. A door was open at the back due to the warm summer weather, and when I looked inside, I saw young men in orange clothes chopping carrots and herbs. And the way they did it! Effortlessly but focussed, in silence and lovingly. Never in my life had I seen people chopping vegetables this way. Those were the first sannyasins I had ever met. I knew that I had arrived, that I had come home. Tears came to my eyes.
I asked for directions to the actual centre, and soon entered the building and found myself inside a spacious reception area. People in orange and shades of red, even pink, were all over the place. Again the gentle, loving, but clear and focussed energy. Wasting no more time, I stepped up to the desk and to the person there I uttered my wish to take sannyas. I found myself not much later having an interview with another person, finally filling out a form. My heart was leaping with joy.
Back home the very next day I began looking inside my letter box for the sannyas letter – which was a perfect nonsense, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. And I did so the next day, and the next. It took many weeks until the sannyas certificate arrived from Rajneeshpuram. I solemnly opened the envelope… and there was my new name! What fine velvety paper, the certificate beautifully designed and complete with my two little old friends, only this time much larger: the white and the red bird, together in flight.
- Desiderata – Max Ehrmann’s most acclaimed work which Osho declared “…seems to be one of the most ancient documents available today.”
- The Gift of Freedom – A candid interview with Prem Gayan (2014)
- Ashram, The Movie – The movie ‘Ashram’, recently uploaded on YouTube, still creates headlines after 30 years (2011)
Illustration by the author