60 wpm

Remembering Here&Now

Allan Deekshant’s stay at the Ranch.

Blasting of Devateerth Rock

I was having an amazing, blow-out experience attending the First Celebration in July of 1982, when I heard they were looking for people to stay and help out. I had come with the plan of returning home after being away on a three weeks’ vacation. But when I caught wind that I might be able to stay, I eagerly rushed to Zarathustra to fill out an application form and be interviewed. There was never a doubt that I wanted to do anything else.

“So what can you do?” I was asked.

“I’m a photographer,” I eagerly replied, praying I would have the opportunity to photograph Osho. At this point I had worked professionally for the past ten years as a commercial studio photographer, shooting catalogue and advertising. This felt like the opportunity I had always been waiting for.

“We have too many photographers,” the Ma responded. “What else can you do?”

“I can type 60 wpm,” I blurted, uncomfortably, feeling my heart sink. I knew I should have kept that to myself but did not. I had no particular skills other than photography. Learning how to type was a gift that kept on giving. The strange thing was a healer had recently told me of visualizing me doing administration. This was during a past-life regression when I found myself being a scribe back in ancient Egypt. At the time I shook my head and laughed.

The next day I found myself in an office with twenty Mas and one other Swami. I had never worked in an office before and certainly not in administration. I was told my department was called Hakim Sanai. So, what to do? I was here at the Ranch with Osho and determined to make it work. I had always been a good organizer and somehow fit in. I never worked in Poona so this was my chance to participate on a deeper level within the commune. While in Poona I did every group imaginable, now I was ready to fully jump in.

Hakim Sanai was the department of records keeping tabs on everyone at the Ranch as well as sannyasins all over the world. I was introduced to their file card system for tracking people and keeping notes on everybody. This was 1982 and the personal PC was still but a dream although computers had been introduced to the department to do simple spreadsheets on who was here and where they worked. It became my job to keep those lists updated which was a non-stop proposition considering how often people came, went, and changed jobs. I didn’t actually operate the computer, just hand-updated the spreadsheets printed on a dot matrix printer. It was methodical work but not unlike the careful organization and attention to detail of photographing a page of Barbie and Ken dolls for a catalogue.

I did become very familiar with the ID cards and filing. Vidya would ask me to pull out cards for engineers, airline pilots, doctors, nurses, lawyers and so on and so on. Skilled sannyasins were needed to build and maintain the Ranch. I spent hours upon hours immersed in filing and pulling cards. It reminded me of when I was a ten-year old sorting through my baseball card collection and organizing them according to batting averages. It all felt so familiar.

Tea time was always fun as a group of Mas and myself sat outside, looking out at the stables where a small team of horses were kept. John Wayne had made a movie here on the Big Muddy. Appearances had to be maintained. There was a particularly horny stallion who used to chase the mares around a fenced-off area. Every so often he managed to catch and mount one while sporting a particularly long erection. I enjoyed listening to the Mas’ ooh, aah, and cheer over this highly graphic scene. Our morning tea entertainment was sorely missed when the horses were sold and the office moved. That was not before I took a lunch-time trail ride around the Big Muddy hills.

As the Ranch expanded, a new office, Socrates, was built opposite the airport. I was there the day they decided to dynamite Devateerth Rock that was too close to the runway and landing DC3’s for comfort. This massive outcrop was supposed to implode but did not and instead sent rocks and boulders flying all over the runway. Some landed miraculously short of Socrates by only a few feet. It took a couple of months to clear the runway where even Learjets could land.

Hakim Sanai had a bicycle to run errands. I had to bike all over the Ranch getting information from all the departments as to who was currently working there. I also had to drop off spreadsheets to Sheela at Jesus Grove. My secondary duty there was to grab as many chocolate chip cookies as possible in a knapsack while she wasn’t looking. Chocolate chip cookies were always available in a bowl to keep visitors happy. It was my job to keep Hakim Sanai happy. It was not like we were deprived considering all the great food available, but there was something about the pleasure of snacking on contraband chocolate chip cookies from Jesus Grove.

I’ll never forget one day biking out to Magdalena after lunch to get some information. Osho had not returned from his drive, yet. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was enjoying being out of the office. Then I heard the sound of a car quickly approaching behind me. I turned to see who it was and recognized Osho’s Rolls Royce. I quickly got off the bike and stood by the side of the road, my hands together in namaste, beaming from ear to ear. Osho slowed down and continued coming closer and closer. I looked behind and noticed there was nowhere to go as a six foot deep ditch dropped off inches behind me. Still Osho came closer. I could see him giggling as was Vivek in the passenger seat. He came within a foot before straightening out and continuing down the road. I had all the trust in the world he wouldn’t hit me but still, my shocked mind briefly vanished. I still had to bike to Magdalena but my shaky legs barely operated the pedals.

One day while in the office I looked across the room and saw a Ma busy on a typewriter surrounded by several open binders. Curious me was instantly attracted to find out what she was doing. Openly she explained about reading mail-in sannyas applications and then deciding what their name would be from one binder and chose a descriptive quote from another. I had no doubt from her innocent sincerity that she was very open to Osho and what he would have said to that person. At the same time, I was shocked. Naive me actually believed Osho made those decisions himself.

Three years before Osho had given me sannyas in Poona. Unexpectedly, I was asked whether I wanted to keep my name or have a new one given. I chose to keep my name: Swami Anand Allan. Two years later while helping in the center back home, a decision was made that I had cheated myself out of a new name and so wrote and requested a new one. Here I was face to face with the person who probably gave me the name Deekshant. Some of the lustre dissolved from my new name even though I had come to embrace it. Recently I came across the words Osho shared with me when he explained the meaning of Allan. I can still hear his clear voice speaking to me forty-one years later.

I did get one opportunity to be a photographer. Noah’s Ark, the boutique, wanted to put together a small catalogue of gift items. A friend from back home, who worked in the boutique and knew me as a commercial studio photographer, announced that I could do this. They asked Vidya’s permission and I was allowed a week to photograph a series of gift items.

Initially, KB was asked to do this, but setting up a studio table top arrangement that was my specialty was not his comfort zone. In my eyes, KB was a photographer’s icon. I had framed the intimate sannyas photo he had taken of Osho and myself in Poona and as a result felt awkward at first taking over the project. A 4×5 press camera was available although I had to use video lighting equipment. This was not an ideal situation for me as I was used to using professional colour-balanced hot lights and studio quality large format cameras. I also preferred testing the film to be sure of the lab quality and any colour filtration that might be required plus knowing how accurately it would expose. That, however, was not possible. I would be shooting by the seat of my pants and nervously wait for the shots to return from an unknown Portland lab. I breathed a sigh of relief that the 4×5 transparencies looked good when returned and everyone was happy with the results.

Pratima of Naropa then asked if I could do more assignments. That did not go over well with Vidya. She called me into her office and loudly announced, “Deekshant is not a photographer!” That was the end of my quest to be a photographer at the Ranch. Instantly I was back in the office where she wanted me collecting and filing sannyasin data. Somewhat deflated I returned to my desk and refocused on updating a spreadsheet of workers.

After six months, because of people leaving the department and the Ranch and new devotees arriving, I was now the senior member of the department. For a short period we had no coordinator. Vidya was my direct boss and even though for some reason she liked me and so was easier on me than many others, it was no picnic having her for a boss. She was intense to say the least. However being a Swami, I had zero chance of becoming coordinator.

Then one day I was given a Ma to train how the department worked so she could run it. Gopa was fun and it was easy enough to do until we both got sick at the same time and ended up in Pythagoras together. No-one in the office knew what was going on except us. It was then that Vidya stripped me of my so-called seniority, insisting everyone in the department should have equal authority and skills. That lasted for about a month when she approached me with a new job.

The author, SB, wanted out of some of her responsibilities. What I was offered blew my mind more than meeting the Ma who handed out sannyas names. I was being asked to screen Osho and Sheela’s mail. The job required I quickly scan letters to determine the content and make notes as to what it concerned and whether it was a positive or negative letter. What many feared regarding their mail being read was confirmed. At least if your letter was addressed to Osho or Sheela. I was also sworn to secrecy. 38 years later, I no longer want to be held to this oath. I rarely knew the authors of these letters, but occasionally I did. That left me feeling like I had done a dirty deed, knowingly reading something confidential written by an acquaintance. More than once I had to pull an ID card and give it to Vidya who in turn made a note concerning the letter I had read especially if it was a complaint about the Ranch.

SB also sorted personal mail coming to the Ranch so they could be delivered to the various departments. SB decided she wanted to be a cleaner without any responsibility. From that time on I worked for Nanak. I only did it for two months before deciding to leave the Ranch for personal reasons. Those two months succeeded in burning me out. The mail had to all be sorted and sent out the same day or it would not be possible to make it through the next day’s mail. Talk about burning the midnight oil. I rarely saw Magdalena anymore except for lunch. Dinner was brought while I sorted mail. Eighteen-hour days became routine. This was not a job for one person considering the number of new people coming to stay, but I was told to do it alone.

It was then that I began to dream of the life left behind to be at the Ranch. My young daughter who was living with my separated wife, a photography career, all my stuff at the centre. As it turned out I made a good decision to leave. I experienced the Ranch during the early years when the place was vibrant and growing. I also had some great adventures including spending a week in a fire watch tower on top of a 6,000-foot mountain in September. Three days after arriving the propane ran out leaving me without heat and the ability to even make a hot cup of tea. Snow fell and I wrapped myself in blankets to stay warm.

I volunteered to spend the night in a ditch with dinner, beer and binoculars, hoping to see the culprit who was shooting at a stop sign. I was part of a chain of people hooting and hollering trying to chase the deer off the property in the hope of saving the recently planted fruit trees. I helped scrape out the bottom of the dam before it became a favourite swimming hole and picked corn for lunch. We were encouraged to get out of the office to clear our heads. And how can I forget showering and putting on clean clothes in the morning only to arrive at the office covered in mud. It was one of the best times of my life.

Certainly there was a dark side to the Ranch. I caught glimpses of it first-hand, but choose not to dwell on those aspects. I’ve always looked upon that place as a grand mystery school without parallel with a Master who taught us how to live and appreciate the richness of life. I came out of it enhanced by the experience and that is all that matters.

Allan Deekshant

Allan Deekshant lives on the Sunshine Coast, Canada, and currently freelances and takes landscape photographs. allanforestphotography.com – Instagram and Facebook: @allanforestphotography – twitter.com

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