(12 May 1955 – 21 July 2021)
Gerti was born into an affluent Hamburg family, many of whom were disappointed when she decided not to follow up on her recently completed psychology degree, instead to make the overland trip to India in 1978. She had heard about Osho, and followed her heart to Pune and to him as her master.
She was devoted to Osho’s work and to all three of the communes which gathered around him, and many will remember her as one of Deeksha’s team in Pune 1, or for her role in helping to raise money in Europe for Rajneeshpuram, or back in Pune where she was one of that wonderful all-woman team headed by Neelam which ran the commune in early Pune 2, following Osho’s return there in early 1987.
Some will remember with affection how Osho mercilessly teased her about her relationship with her then-boyfriend, Om.
She was the first to admit that she was never much of a ‘sitter’ – her meditation was manifested in her tremendous energy and creativity, and empathy.
That found its full practical expression in an ongoing project that she began with her partner of 35 years, Dharmamurti (Bill). Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, together with her mother, they were able to buy back a large family property in a beautiful and remote part of Mecklenburg. Her grandfather had left the mansion and lands in a hurry to escape the rapidly-approaching Soviet army in 1945. Gerti’s mother grew up there and although of course it was out of reach during the East German regime, it was never forgotten. Over the last 25 years, it has grown into a flourishing multi-dimensional business, with the beautiful renovated mansion now a sought-after eco-hotel, including what must be the largest alternative health centre in this part of Germany. Gerti had completed her Naturopath diploma and several trainings in TCM, and loved working at the centre simply for a day or two, practising acupuncture and Tui Na massage, as a change from her busy days as manager. She had also explored the teachings of several healers and spiritual teachers over the years, and had trained in Chinese herbal medicine.
For various reasons, she chose to be called Gerti right from the start of the hotel project. Gertie was clear right from the start that this project was never going to work as a sannyas business or sannyas center in Germany, a country which had reacted pretty strongly to Osho and to sannyasins in the very recent past. Nevertheless, she asked that her Osho robe be placed over her in the open coffin, which was soon covered by a small mountain of beautiful flowers at the celebration yesterday.
There is a loose community of sanyasins living in the area, where her warmth, generosity and dynamism will be sorely missed.
A few years ago, she discovered she had a form of breast cancer, which she treated almost entirely alternatively. Nevertheless, she was losing stamina as a result of heart deficiency and complications that caused little pain but much discomfort and immobility.
On her own terms, as always, she was able to spend her last few weeks at home looking out over her garden. At about 1am on Wednesday morning, she asked Jaldhara, who has been Gerti’s friend and primary medical support for many years, to come over. Near Gerti’s house, where Jaldhara was parking, a large Barn owl sat quietly on the road, watching her. When she told Gerti, her face lit up with a smile: “Thats what they used to call me when I was little: Owl!”
They spent several hours going over some administration issues, and Gertie left clear instructions for the beautiful celebration, which just happened the day before yesterday on Guru Purnima. She also asked that her apologies should be conveyed to all the close friends she had not informed about her health, or not been able to keep in touch with. There was only a small team who knew the full extent of her medical condition. One had the impression that keeping quiet was a hard decision for her, but one she simply had to make for her own sake.
At about 10am that morning, she called Dharma to her side, took his hand and said (in English),”I think I’m going…”
And that’s how our beloved friend and fellow traveller left.
I will miss her very, very much
Another beloved friend has just left her body. Latifa (Gerti to some) departed for far-away shores two nights ago after an illness of some months. Many friends will know Latifa from commune kitchens, from German centres, and more recently from her stunning creation: Gutshaus Stellshagen in northern Germany. In 1996 she opened this vegetarian hotel and naturopathic health centre in her ancestral home, which had been lost to her family during the time of the ‘Wall’, built to separate east from west Germany from 1949 to 1990.
By creating an innovative and successful business, Latifa – with her beloved husband, Dharma (or Bill) – was also able to provide work for many sannyasin group leaders and bodyworkers, so a lively sannyasin community grew up in the surrounding area. Friends like Dhiren and Nritya, Arpita and Jamie, Amiyo, Jaldhara and many others now live there permanently.
I of course knew Latifa in Pune 1 when she worked in the kitchen with Deeksha but it was in Rajneeshpuram that I came to be close friends with her. Sheela dumped people she couldn’t get rid of but wanted out of circulation, in the ‘mud’ crew. Mudding or plastering walls in buildings was a hard, dirty job which was mostly done at night so the workers were on a perpetual nightshift. This was perfect for Sheela’s purpose – she could isolate people she didn’t like very effectively. I was one such person; Latifa was another. Sheela couldn’t bear her working in the German communes because Latifa was an excellent manager, efficient and creative, and super-intelligent, with a huge heart to go with it all. Everything that Sheela wasn’t. So the mud crew was a nicely humiliating position for Latifa who was quite traumatised by being so side-lined after all her hard work.
We spent many months working together and, as most of us did on the Ranch, we became very close. Perhaps it soothed her and she didn’t feel so bewildered and hurt when she found other people, like me, in a similar position as herself. She was also in the welding shop for quite some time and loved it there. Despite her managerial skills, Latifa was a humble person and incredibly generous and kind and we had many good times together. Our friendship continued through Pune 2 where she was in charge of Zorba, but took a little holiday when, after Osho died in 1990, I went to Japan and she went back to northern Germany.
I kept track of her, however, and was aware of her creation of Gutshaus Stellshagen and all the peripheral activities going on there. Four years ago I was finally able to visit and see everything for myself. Although I stayed with Dhiren and Nritya in their amazingly beautiful house, I met Latifa nearly every day. Like so many of our sannyasin friendships, we reconnected immediately, as if there had been no separating interlude of time and space. I visited twice again in 2019 and for sure would have spent time with her during her recent illness if the virus had not hampered travel.
I loved her very, very much and will miss her very, very much. She was one of the great sannyasin characters – a unique and truly wonderful, beautiful human being.
Related discourse and darshan
- Live wholeheartedly… don’t miss anything – Osho answers a question by Latifa about many questions which come to her mind
- The two ways to approach reality – “Suddenly from nowhere God arises…” says Osho to Latifa in her sannyas darshan
Latifa, Fly to the sky as you sailed the earth! Thank you for all your gifts for Osho and the community.
It was a privilege to know, work and be friends with you. For a while I enjoyed working with you getting investments for the ranch.
Thank you for helping me and countless others through the jungle of the politics around Osho. I always enjoyed our breakfast meetings in your flat in Pune Ashram.
But I’m a bit shocked to read you left. Did not know you were ill! Miss you and your always positive and smiling vibes.
I wish your project you created and left will continue to flower!
Gerti, we met so briefly, but we could recognise so much beauty in you.
We spent some time together in Tao Garden, Thailand in 2020. You had such a good time, you made so many connections. It was such a pleasure to be around you. You kept saying Tao Garden reminded you of Poona 1, which was the best time for you around Osho.
How sudden is your departure. How much you will be missed by all your friends around the world.
Osho, no doubt, is taking care of you now.
All our love and tender care to Bill.
Chetna and Swaram
A (very) pre-MeToo movement tribute to Latifa:
One of my early Ranch jobs was part of the four-man trailer-setup crew. We crawled underneath the double-wide trailers that would become our homes – bringing them together, aligning them, and leveling them. It was difficult and very technical work, but we were handpicked to do this as a result of our known skills. There was (American doctor) Pragitam, (English veterinarian) Niket, and Madhav. He was best skilled, since he was VERY short. Me? I was odd-man-out.
We were often accompanied on-site by the “septic crew”, a rowdy and dirty(minded) group of misfits – the most skillful member of which was Milarepa.
Yes, that Milarepa.
One morning, as we were standing around having our tea, Latifa strolled up to us. She had been working nearby, and asked Milarepa for the septic-crew pickup truck in order to get supplies.
His reply: ”Yes – but only if you show us your tits.” Latifa (to her credit??) hesitated only a heartbeat before raising her shirt. By the time it came down, the keys were in her hand.
My takeaway? Milarepa was good for his word, and Latifa… was one of the boys.
In loving memory,
Thank you both for years of devotion
Thanks for all the gate passes💛to meditate with friends, thank you for food vouchers to enable me to work in press and publications, thanks for Dharmamurti whom I met first, the breath and energy work AND most importantly your FAN MAN readings at Common Ground.💛
Thanks for all the laughs and goofiness.
LOVE you 💖Latifa🌹Gerti🌹
Many jobs and coordination accomplished!!
See ya around campus, 🌹Latifa ji and 💜Dharmamurti ji!
Another German “workoholik”
we are in synchronicity, even so many years we haven’t seen each other. I remember you vividly from the ashram.
I recently dreamt of you and “saw” clearly your face. In Pune 1 and 2 you always had a bright smile for me, not “knowing” each other personally so much.
I saw you working in the office or the kitchen, always busy, like me, another German “workoholik.”
I chose to work as coordinator in the Mariam gardens, and later Osho “gave” me the responsibility for our kids and supported “my school” at the back gate. You often passed by, watched curiously the growing kids place and asked questions about further plans. You where one of the rare “VIPs” who showed interest in a then unknown Sannyasin, like me. Thank you. It did support confidence in myself and the work to be done.
We didn’t come near in words, but energywise and many mutual smiles, as if we shared a secret with each other. I had this kind of contact with several other Ma’s. We had no time for long talks.
Coming back from India, I heard you created a beautiful health hotel in the North of Germany. I dreamt about to visit you, reconnect and maybe offer my many years of healing experiences. Somehow, it kept to be a dream… and now so sudden, you are gone.
I am surprised, because you seem to be so much younger than me. Many people in Pune thought me to be their age and now I come to know we are so many years apart. I should be leaving this planet before you, was my idea… Well, the universe has different timings.
Now it’s me to look back to visualise old times in Pune and I feel only grateful to have met you there.
You stay in my heart and memories, till it’s my time to leave.
Fly high beloved soul sister, and maybe we meet again.
In love with love.
Ma Satprem and daughter Sahajo
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