(2 November 1940 – 9 July 2021)
Asheesh (Marco Salghetti Drioli) studied engineering in Milan. After receiving his PhD he became a carpenter as he loved working with wood. In the early ’70s he was part of the Terrasini commune in Sicily that had been established by Sarjano. His departure for Pune caused a massive exodus from there, as many more followed, like Sarjano himself, Waduda, Majid and others. He took sannyas end of February 1975 and became Prem Asheesh, was soon invited to live in Lao Tzu House, put in charge of the mala shop, and never left.
Also responsible for general maintenance in Lao Tzu House, he made Osho’s chairs, pieces of furniture for his room, as well as his knitted hats and the many hat stands. He was at The Castle in New Jersey ahead of Osho’s arrival. In Oregon he was again part of the Lao Tzu crew and when Osho left the USA he flew with him to Kulu Manali. However, he had to leave after several weeks because of visa restrictions.
After Osho left his body in 1990, Asheesh became again Marco – to follow his own path. He settled in Milan with Pradipa, where she worked as an MD and he gave hypnosis sessions. After they split up he moved to Tuscany, met up with Azima, who was working there as a doctor, and fell in love with his secretary, Giulia.
In 2010 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a tumour. At the hospital in Siena he had chemo and 6x radio therapy which caused an emphysema in the lungs three years later.
The morning he died, Giulia told Azima, “È morto calmo, sereno e tranquillo, senza disturbare nessuno” – He died calm, serene and peaceful, without disturbing anyone.
“Without disturbing anyone,” very much the way he had lived…
Alert thanks to Azima and Waduda
Wood also has a feel for him…
Speaking with Prem Asheesh over Skype was a great treat. We had last seen each other in 1991, yet – as often happens among old friends – the gap of almost 30 years was not apparent. We both lived through all the commune years and experienced extraordinary life situations and the often-momentous turbulences and changes within the community.
Italian-born Asheesh was a seeker early in life and in spite of becoming acquainted with Gurdjieff’s teachings, he “couldn’t find anything” to satisfy his quest. He was friends with Cristina and her family. He was particularly close to her son Alvaro, whom he knew since he was a baby and who felt like a younger brother to him. As a young man this son traveled to Mumbai in 1974 and became Chidananda. On his next visit to Pune a year later, Chidananda showed Osho a picture of Asheesh, and Osho said, “Tell him to come, because I am the Fourth Way.” When Asheesh got the news, he packed up and sold his house. He then called Cristina about his decision, and as she too was planning to go to Pune, they left Italy together a month later.
When they arrived in the ashram, Mukta immediately gave them a darshan date for the next day. Asheesh recalls, “When Osho pronounced my name, it sounded to me so much like hashish, and when he saw my face he said, ‘You don’t like it? It is a beautiful name. If you want, I can change it.’”
Both Asheesh and Cristina were initiated into sannyas; Cristine became Pratiti and later founded Miasto in Italy. Asheesh never left.
He immersed himself in the first meditation camp, and a few days into it, Laxmi told him to forget all about the camp and go to work in the mala shop, saying, “Work is your meditation.”
Asheesh had no experience working with wood or any carpentry as such, nor with jewelry and musical instruments, which were also part of the mala shop. But he energetically and creatively took to this medium, and a year later Osho said about him in discourse, “He has a feel for wood, and wood also has a feel for him.”
His very first project was a chair that Osho had used in the early days and was now Laxmi’s. It looked tired, and Asheesh reupholstered it for her. The next thing was that Osho gave him his own chair to upholster, which Asheesh did together with Veena. They were given a deadline for the chair to be ready in three days’ time for the morning discourse – and in spite of all the difficulties they encountered, they managed by staying up all night working on it.
Together with Arpita, he copied and redesigned the Japanese sandals Osho liked. When Osho saw a stereo cabinet Asheesh had made for Vivek (Nirvano), he also wanted one made for his room. “I just made whatever he wanted…and also redesigned his chair.”
He made a copy of a chair with added armrests, and when Osho requested a new chair for his room, Asheesh made one from scratch. Osho said it felt uncomfortable and made Asheesh sit on the old and the new chair. That’s when he realized that the old chair was worn out from use, hence comfortable. When Osho was not in the room, Asheesh jumped up and down on the seat of the chair to get it into the right shape, and when Osho tried it again afterward, he liked it very much.
In another discourse Osho quipped about Asheesh, “He has no solution for any difficulty, but you give him any solution and he will find the difficulty!”
He knew from Deeksha that Osho would fly to the USA and left ahead of him and stayed at the Castle. It was there that he started knitting fabric on a knitting machine for Osho’s new robes, and Gayan would stitch the parts together. This was also the time when the hats and socks were designed and knitted. In the early photos showing Osho on the Ranch, he is wearing those new knitted outfits.
As in Pune, when he lived in Lao Tzu House, Asheesh also stayed close to Osho on the Ranch. “At the beginning, Lao Tzu House consisted of two trailers: one for Osho and Vivek, and the other for Shiva, Astha, Nirgun, Chetna, Devaraj, Nirupa, Gayan, and me. After Shiva left, Haridas became my roommate.” Gayan, Arpita, and he worked on Osho’s clothing, and Asheesh was involved with carpentry whenever needed.
Asheesh remembered, “Once I had a technical meeting with Osho about knitting or furniture, and when all had been discussed we walked together from his sitting room into the corridor. Osho looked at me and said, ‘You know, Asheesh, I am a totally ordinary man.’ Baffled, I looked at him and said, ‘Okay, I will meditate over it.’ Osho just smiled and walked off!”
Osho always traveled with his chair. When he left Rajneeshpuram to fly to Charlotte, the chair was in one of the two planes. When Osho left the USA to fly to Delhi, the chair was taken along. Asheesh said when he arrived in India as part of Osho’s entourage and then moved on to Kulu Manali – the chair had already arrived before him.
Communications with the outside world from Kulu Manali were difficult, the phones at times weren’t working, and Osho wanted to be in constant touch with Jayesh and Hasya. Asheesh was appointed to be the messenger: An Ambassador taxi would take him from Kulu to Delhi and back with messages, a 24-hour trip on rugged roads. That meant four to five taxi rides a week for him… only once was he able to fly.
Returning from yet another trip to Delhi and a short rest in Kulu, “I was summoned to a meeting with Osho. Nepal had turned out to be a possible next step on the journey, and Osho had a message for Jayesh and Hasya saying that surely the King of Nepal could come to the airport to greet him with a red carpet rolled out and offer a palace to stay in. I looked at Osho and saw him smiling and felt he was dreaming of a reality yet was aware that this was a dream…”
Asheesh promptly took off to bring the message to Delhi – and return. After a night’s sleep he left for Nepal, as he, along with all of Osho’s other close disciples had been expelled from India.
When Osho arrived in Nepal, Hasya asked Him not to speak against religion, Hinduism being their state religion. She also emphasized that He should not say anything critical, otherwise the government would withdraw the visa. “Of course, during a press conference Osho spoke about cows and in particular holy cows… We had to suppress the tape.”
When they arrived on Crete, “Hasya again brought up the subject and asked him not to speak about the Greek Orthodox religion… We all know what happened!”
While Osho continued to circle the globe after Crete and finally stayed in Mumbai after the World Tour, Asheesh spent some time with Gayan and Nivedano at the Munich Meditation Center, where they continued to work on clothing for Osho, “which we sent around the world, following him.” He even taught Nivedano to knit socks, and he managed to turn out two good pairs.
Returning to Pune Two, Asheesh worked on all kinds of projects for Osho, and after he had left his body, returned to Italy to live in Milan.
In conclusion Asheesh said the time with Osho is the main chapter in his life but it is of the past, a closed chapter now. “Osho did an incredible job with me, and yet I had to continue on my own. I reduced the number of people I would see, did some counseling, hypnosis and NLP – and enjoyed carpentry again. I am in a long-term relationship with a beautiful woman (a former Hare Krishna), who assists me lovingly, especially since I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma 10 years ago. The body suffered from radio- and chemotherapy, and I have difficulties getting around. Yet I am happy here – and in our house in the mountains of Liguria from where I can see the ocean.”
Recently he has taken up writing, along the line of short vignettes describing “the insights that came to me along my earthly journey.”
A devoted disciple
Asheesh – beloved friend and fellow traveller. Having worked with him in the sewing room in Pune 1, Ranch and Pune 2, I can confirm he was an awesome genius. Taking care of Osho was never straightforward! Often considerable creative ingenuity was required to take into account the sensitivities of our Master and Asheesh never failed to come up with a solution to even the most challenging of requests!
In another life, Asheesh was a qualified engineer which gave him a huge set of skills to solve problems created by being in close contact with Osho. In LaoTzu House he was the designated handyman, and also a craftsman – particularly in wood.
I first came into contact with Asheesh in early Pune 1 when suddenly Osho’s darshan and discourse chair needed to be re-upholstered. Neither of us had ever done anything like that before but we of course had to do something! Osho then hit us on our heads by asking for the chair to be ready by the first Sufi discourse in 4 days. That really put us on the spot (a trip to Mumbai was involved and the problem of the odours of the foam and material and glue had to be overcome) and we worked day and night to get the chair ready, finishing it only a few hours before the morning discourse started! To our surprise Osho talked about us in the discourse and said that the making of the chair was nothing; his plan was to set an almost impossible task for us and called it a Naqshbandi – a task set by the Master to help his disciples on their paths.
From then onwards Asheesh and I were involved in the chairs, first re-upholstering current ones and then Asheesh’s genius kicked in and he started making them from scratch. But his first task was to alter a current chair because Osho’s back was very painful and getting out of the chair was difficult. Asheesh quickly added a sort of handle to the chair to make it easier for Osho to pull himself up.
But as the chair was not particularly beautiful Asheesh immediately started work on designing a better chair that would not only look beautiful but would be comfortable and functional as well. This was the final result…
To reveal Asheesh’s utter devotion to his Master, there was the awful incident on the Ranch, during one of the annual International Festivals, when, after Osho had left the podium in the Rajneesh Mandir, some idiot jumped up onto the podium, took off all his clothes and sat in Osho’s chair. Asheesh now considered the chair to be desecrated, defiled, and immediately decided to make a new chair. Just cleaning this one would not do as far as he was concerned. He had 24 hours to make a chair from scratch and he fortunately had found a Dutch sannyasin who was a professional upholsterer to help. Between the two of them, and with help from the very efficient woodwork department, they managed to make a new chair which was used for the next evening celebration. An amazing feat but due entirely to Asheesh’s love for Osho.
Asheesh was also involved in many of the photo sessions which Osho requested. At first the sessions were simple, requiring me to just make a hat – but with Asheesh’s skills it was soon obvious that something more elaborate could happen and many times Asheesh made theatrical sets as the background to the robes and costumes Osho wore to make fun photos! We could never have produced the beautiful photographs without his advice, support and incredible practical skills. Here are a few photos with the backgrounds designed and created by him…
But, as well as being a handy man, Asheesh, out of necessity, developed a new unlikely skill: knitting! It was he who got hold of a knitting machine and knitted the first robes worn in Rajneeshpuram. Osho also needed socks for the first time in his life because it was cold in Oregon and Asheesh mastered the complicated art of making socks to fit Osho’s feet and the sandals he still insisted on wearing! Once having achieved that, Asheesh set about the scientific task of dying the socks, and later the hats, to an exact colour to match a robe. This for me was an incredible feat because he had to calculate how long to leave the socks in the dye to match the colour of the robe. When the sock was wet it was not the same colour as when it was dry! And then the colour had to be very stable to not wash out with all the washing!
And then there was the headache with the blinds. Osho wanted his room in darkness for his afternoon nap but it was impossible in India to have appropriate blinds inside his room. So Asheesh devised a system of black-out blinds to function on the outside. But the aim was never to disturb Osho, so, once the blinds were finished and in place Asheesh and I had a new task which was calculated with split-second timing! We had to be in place outside his room in the garden and, when Osho went to the toilet prior to going to sleep, Nirvano would tap on the window inside the room and we would quickly unfurl the blinds so the room was in darkness when Osho came out of the bathroom to take his nap. The process was reversed once his nap was finished. Asheesh and I had to be super alert to be aware of Osho’s sleeping times!
I last saw Asheesh about 18 years ago when I was working in Verona in Italy. Friends Govind and Gayatri were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary (I think that is right) in Tuscany and invited some old sannyasins to the event. Asheesh gave me a lift to Miasto where he had bought into a small flat in a local sannyasin commune and we spent a very happy few days with Govind, Gayatri, Nandan and her husband and a few other lovely old friends.
Asheesh is a being who will always have a place in my heart – a very treasured friend.
“Machines are moody!“
After many years without any contact, I managed to get in touch with Asheesh again about one and a half years ago. On the phone, it was such a joy to hear his wonderful deep voice again, so familiar and loved.
He was the first person I talked to when I arrived at the Ashram in 1976 and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that really deepened in New Jersey at the Castle. I had started to care for Osho’s clothes and was in a squeeze because Osho needed socks and was suggesting a knitting machine. I managed to buy one, but because of the sewing, sourcing and trying out of materials, I had no time to figure out the machine, and neither had the head to do it.
I thought Asheesh, as an engineer, could at least find out how that thing works, and he did! And because he also found out how to knit the socks with the separate big toe, he had a new job in his beautiful big hands! When we went to talk to Osho about his robes, Asheesh admitted his despair with the machine at times to which Osho chuckled and said: “Machines are moody!“
Later, Asheesh knitted robes, long vests, matching hats and lots of socks and did all the other ten thousand other things for Osho’s personal needs, such as mattresses, chairs, all sorts of furniture, being the handyman for everything in the house, even catching and taking away snakes from Osho’s deck and sculpting a much appreciated Osho mannequin out of wood for the sewing girls – our friendship developed into working and living together in Osho’s house for the next nine years.
One time, Asheesh, Arpita (Osho’s shoemaker and seamstress) and I were entering Osho’s sitting room on the ranch and Osho, on seeing us, said: “My three Musketeers!“ That still makes me laugh!
Last year – when there was an opportunity to travel to Italy – I went to visit him and his beloved partner, Giulia, in Milan. He could still move around but was already day and night on oxygen. We were so happy to see each other and talked endlessly and I always forgot how sick he really was because his voice was strong and his head so clear.
Last month I visited again and that time he was staying in bed due to back pains – but we had fun all the same. I even watched a Formula 1 race with him on TV and he explained the whole show to me – it was great fun!
He was curious about dying, in a way, looking forward to experience it.
Asheesh has been a friend to me where I could be totally myself, which makes relating so easy, light and nourishing and where the love for each other is always present.
On the 9th of July, I received this message from Giulia:
“Asheesh left this morning quietly, as his personality has always been.”
Related discourse and darshan
- A very paradoxical state – loving understanding – Osho answers a question by Asheesh about what transforms one into a disciple
- Just surrender to Asheesh – “Surrender is only when even if you are right, you can give in,” explains Osho about work in the ashram
We asked Beloved Asheesh, just a few days before he left, “Are you ready for the big journey?”
“I think so…” he answered.
A gentle and silent being he was, my adorable boss in the Mala Shop in Pune One…
It is with love and respect that I remember Asheesh.
He taught me how to be Angry.
I worked with him from some time in 1977 until the mala shop was no more, first making malas and boxes by hand, and then on the lathe with the solid wood blocks before finishing my tenure in the mala shop office for a shorter time. He taught me how to be Angry. Yep. He was watching me getting tangled up trying to keep one of the women that worked there from walking in and out as she pleased. I was loosing. He finally took me aside one day and we talked, laughed, and perhaps I cried… but what I am certain about, is that at some point, as I was sitting on a step that had a good view of the lathe and much of the shop, he said, “Watch,” and proceeded to stop the man on the lathe and get completely angry. The man looked contrite, but what I was witnessing was the force of nature that was Asheesh. Full-on screaming, wild-eyed, wild hair, and Italian gesticulating – he held nothing back. I had just had my first demonstration of ‘totality’, and I loved it. He was unapologetically real, and he had just given me a gift I have never forgotten. He walked back to me that day with a sweet smile of exhilaration and wakefulness.
Velusia – Vedana
Beloved friend of my heart, I will never forget your sweetness and love. Oceans of love to you, wherever you may be.
I heard about Asheesh passing on, a few days ago, from Gayan… she has told me and Anasha many beautiful stories about him over the years. Of course I knew him since Poona One times – who could forget this crazy ‘one-eyed’ Bodhidharma… such a whirl-wind of love and creative energy. And the Mala Shop was legendary during Poona One times. Asheesh was one of the “older male disciples” that I really looked up to when I first arrived in Poona… so any interaction with him, was for me, a blessing. At the Ranch, and in Pune Two, Asheesh was easy to miss, if you did not already know him, as he kept to himself and his devotional work. For me, he was the peak of “under-stated elegance and presence”… I would not call it humility, because he was full of confidence and power… but he could just blend into the background, if you were not aware of him. Because of my time as Osho’s Touch-based Doctor in Pune 2, I was very often in Lao Tzu house, so I became more aware of “the sewing room”, above Osho’s bedroom. Anasha, my Beloved partner for over 36 years now, was always working in Osho’s Library, and so I heard her, Gayan, Arpita, Veena, Kavisho, Nivedano, and Asheesh’s stories a lot – the whole team was incredible. “The sewing room” with “The Library” was one of the most amazing energy spots in the whole Commune! And Asheesh was always a dynamic, silent presence of love, devotion, and surrender to the Master. I feel like I learned a lot about subtle energies from him and the Girls that is almost impossible to describe. My heart dances and expands when I hear how he passed on, and when I read the other tributes here from his Friends on the Path. A true “essence Friend” and inspiration… Thank you, Beloved Asheesh.
PS Another thing I love about Asheesh, and his contribution to our “Caravansarai” – As you see in the other tributes, and in his interview with Bhagawati, he was a key part of the early “Italian explosion” in the Ashram, along with Radha, Deeksha, Chidananda, Pratiti, Sarjano, Marco, Majid, Prasuna, Italian Anasha, and other beautiful Swami’s and Ma’s who brought such spice and juice to Osho’s Garden… No Italians, no Osho Commune – lol!
Smiles and love,
Another devotee disappears into the formless. Ah Asheesh, you were always the prime mentor for me how a disciple becomes a devotee. And your gift to me in 1977 – a circle of pink marble freshly cut from Osho’s bedroom to make an electrical socket, so our Master could hear Ghazals – still sits with me on my altar.
I always loved your deep baritone voice with heavy Italian-accented English. And always quick with a smile between bidis.
I had many occasions to bump into Asheesh for a chat, since we were both working in Lao Tzu House for a number of years. He was always and in every way an example of devotion, love and vibrant humbleness. His practical creativity was boundless. I never heard him say, “no, it can’t be done.” Rather, I would hear him say, “there must be a way for this to happen.” — and he would laugh about the challenges presented to him by Osho. His personality was inclusive. He made anyone talking to him feel included in whatever he was working on at that time. I am so happy to know he found enduring love. He lived a charmed life. I am sure magic will follow him into the beyond…
Ma Ananda Sarita
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