(11 March 1956 – 23 April 2021)
Ma Anand Nartan (Helga Ratjen) was born in Spannan, Schleswig-Holstein, and took sannyas from Osho in September 1979.
Nartan and Harida held the annual Osho Music and Meditation Festival at their home in Alentejo every summer for 12 years. Harida co-ordinated the musicians, which could be a demanding task, and Nartan had her hand and eye on every other aspect of the celebration. Meals, meditations, accommodation, cleaning, child management, supplies, scheduling – she oversaw it all, and motivated her crew of volunteers to carry it out. She created a countrywide community of Portuguese sannyasins, most of whom received their initiation from her. She led the meditations, which started with Dynamic in the early morning, up at the huge geodesic meditation space, and was still active after midnight as the celebration calmed down. In 2020 the festival was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic, but she continued to organize online meditation activities.
After an episode of cancer a few years ago that seemed to have gone away, Nartan started to again experience pain and difficulty which showed that it had come back. This time it grew in her pancreas and liver, and, small and slender as she was, she started to lose weight. To her friends she appeared as strong as ever, and did not slacken her powerful rate of activity, organizing online meditation events and music satsangs, but during a visit to hospital for treatment it became clear that she did not have much more time. She died in hospital in Portimão on 23 April at 5.30 am, in peace and calm.
There is nothing to be worried about. You will disappear like a snowflake in pure air. You are not going to die, you are only going to disappear. Yes, you will not be found in the individual form. The form will disappear into the formless – the snowflake into the pure air. But you will be there and more so. When the river disappears into the ocean, it is not dying – it is becoming the ocean, it is spreading, it is becoming bigger, huge, enormous, infinite.”
Osho, Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3, Ch 7,
Looking at Nartan I see a torch carrier. In her own modest way she always kept shining through, wholeheartedly.
Forty years of flashbacks bring back the various scenes of significant moments in a friendship that began in Hamburg and continued through a whole range of backgrounds in Germany, India, Holland and Portugal.
From our very first meeting, I noticed that Nartan radiated warmth. We both landed in Dharmadeep center in Hamburg after the Poona ashram experience, and found a connection with each other.
Anand Helga, as she was known then, grew up in a small village in the countryside of north Germany. She spoke “Plattdeutsch” with her family. She always had a “down-to-earth” approach to life, which she expressed in everything she did, whether cooking, growing vegetables or building. The German expression “Lebenskünstler “ would fit her perfectly. She was one of the most caring people that I have known.
Breaking the mould of the village she was born into, it was a shock to her family that she became a sannyasin. It rocked the boat and made waves, back then, as was not uncommon in the story of many a seeker.
During the early 80’s, at the Dharmadeep centre, she excelled as a bodyworker. She had a way with touch.
She became a key figure in the sannyas scene in Hamburg at the time, and also took on the organization of the annual journey to Oregon of the commune members who attended the festivals in Osho’s presence. She was wholehearted in her diligence, as she was with everything she did. She even took on a managerial position in the commune, but this conflicted with her rebel spirit, and fortunately did not last long.
Some years after her initiation into sannyas, she received the name ‘Nartan’, which means ‘dance’. I saw a recent video clip dedicated to Nartan on Facebook, whose soundtrack contains the lyrics “the heart starts dancing with the master” and to me that fits her perfectly. She was a familiar face in the sangha in Pune where she fell in love with Harida, who was to be her partner for the rest of her life. Together they launched Nazca Music, which became a recording studio and distributor for the recordings of many talented musicians, such as Yashu, Rupesh, Somesh, and Harida. They created a lifestyle that was a bright mixture of cultures, surrounded by a patchwork family.
Her stamina was remarkable and she applied it according to the situation. That is something that I have watched her do over and over again.
That dance of the heart took Nartan and Harida, her beloved, from the Netherlands, to break new ground in Portugal. It was not without hardship. They endured fires that destroyed everything around their house, but they restored the damage and carried on with their creativity. That is something that I found inspirational. They found the courage to keep going in the face of adversity. Together, Nartan and Harida built a place of retreat and creativity.
I have twice holidayed there and have been embraced by the welcome, that must have been felt by the many fellow travelers passing through – to make music in Harida’s studio, or take part in the various activities that they organized there. It is for me a place where old acquaintances could be refreshed and new connections made. A place where meals were shared amongst much laughter.
It is a place where seekers from all over the world meditate, in a geodesic dome. Upon that ground they created a place of music and dance, of celebration and silence, bringing to a peak the fulfillment of their combined creativity. A place that has made a mark in the hearts of many seekers from far and wide.
Even after the cancer was diagnosed, Nartan continued to organize events online, that I participated in, despite the physical limitations. That way, we were able to meet virtually through the dance.
Holding these private memories, I bid farewell to a valued fellow traveler, an extremely kind and much-loved friend. May her heart continue to dance with the master.
My beloved friend Nartan left this mortal realm, Friday 23rd April 2021. I am grieving, I am in shock, I am grateful. About three weeks ago we visited her and Harida at Pomar da Serra which was their home for many years. It was just the four of us and the dog Veet who sat outside on his bed. Nartan sat like a little bird, enjoying a small lunch, laughing together and still wanting to tussle with me over who would do the dishes. I insisted and she let me, but she had always been the one who took care of us all. There was a photo on her shelf of my earliest memory of her when we were both cleaners in Lao Tzu house, Osho’s residence in the Pune ashram. It is a picture of nearly all the cleaning crew and friends having tea in 1988. We met again in the 90s at Priya’s Padma meditation center in Manhattan and again eleven years ago when the first Osho Music and Meditation festival started at Pomar da Serra. Every year it was one big family of laughter and celebration. There were daily Osho meditations, music groups, satsang and other sharing events.
Last weekend she was brought back to her home and many of us came to say our farewells. There was a quality of the festival days, where we all loved being together. We had a last satsang for her before she was taken to the holy fire. In love and gratitude.
…how many people discovering Osho’s meditations and how many lovers meeting, transformed by the overwhelming heartfelt welcome of Nartan and Harida. From babies to old folks, teenagers and all in between – a colourful mix of people from Portugal and many different countries, always held in that special heart-filled connection, warmth and laughter so ingrained in Nartan and Harida.
Love and meditation. That’s what Nartan is for me. And that strong-willed northern German style – not shying away from the hard work of building clay houses for the guests (because, as she said, many of our friends are now getting too old for sleeping in tents) or cutting the grass on the land. Actually, did she ever do anything that didn’t have to do with getting people together, helping someone – teaching the meditations or listening to someone’s problems?
Being the eldest of six siblings it was in her blood to always take care of everyone around her. We laughed about me being her big sister (at the time she went through the first round of cancer some years ago) while sitting on the cliffs above Zambujeira do Mar, overlooking the wild Atlantic ocean.
As well as the annual festivals she worked for years, organizing very large concerts in Lisbon and numerous fairs and other events around the country. Always something up her sleeve and eager to provide her beloved Harida opportunities to play his music – and always able to gather groups of willing and grateful helpers for her many projects.
She will live on in so many hearts and we will miss her terribly – her welcoming hugs made you feel as if you were loved by the whole universe.
Totality – that is the word that equals Nartan along with beauty, care and dedication, just to name a few. In fact how can any words say anything of what we feel today. Great loss and yet also gratefulness that all the recent pain she had in her body is now over. So we cry and embrace each other and understand the lack of expression – for a great great soul has left this planet! But will always be here. That’s just the way it is.
I love you so so so, Nartan, and I am so deeply grateful for all the many moments we have shared. Much more than any words can say.
I met Nartan in 1981 when I started working in the Hamburg commune where she was already a coordinator. Mostly she worked in the office with Zahira and Satyamitra, and you would also find her in the kitchen, or babysitting Zahira’s son Pushkara. She always had great managing qualities, was very caring and took full responsibility in all her projects. Somehow she had her nose in everything and therefore was always well informed, using her information to create connection. Most of all, I remember her being the good soul of the house. She was always available to talk to and was present with her love and her sense of humor. For me she seemed like a big sister, to whom I could always refer. She was always ready to give support, to have fun and hang out with.
She seemed to be in service to every member of the commune as she never made a difference as to which person she was dealing with. She was simply there with her open heart and her love.
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