Life aflame

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Article by Priya Dhall from Osho Nisarga.

Priya with Neelam

Death is inevitable. Yes. And every moment is a reminder: The body is changing, thoughts are changing, needs are changing, situations are changing. The past few years have made this more evident to me than ever before, recalibrating my priorities and significantly altering my outlook on life.

The year 2016 abruptly presented me with my mom Neelam’s advanced-stage cancer diagnosis. I’d barely gotten used to her treatment regime, when April 2017 brought the heart-wrenching news that Vinod’s battle with cancer had ended. Osho Nisarga, our retreat center here in the foothills of the Himalayas, lost one of its strong pillars, Neelam lost her closest friend, and I a parent figure.

Although the diagnosis of my dad Amarjeet’s advanced prostate cancer came in July 2017, it was kept secret from me while I was caring for Neelam. I found out by accident several months later, and then I saw death staring both my parents in the face.

Under absolutely unpredictable circumstances, I watched Mom’s tryst with extreme body suffering; day after day, week after week, month after month… Rounds of chemo were followed by a massive surgery and then more chemo. We finally left Bangalore to return home in July 2018.

With both my parents in remission, I wanted to believe that the nightmare had ended… but within a few months cancer went hunting again, and this time it caught Tathagat, who was another pillar of Nisarga. The painful days, immunotherapy sessions, and vision loss in one eye finally ended in January 2020.

In September, Dad’s cancer relapse took me to Ludhiana, to spend as much time with him as possible. Totally occupied with caring for him, urging him to lighten up and prepare for a joyous departure, I did not sense the return of Mom’s cancer. One phone call, and I was off to Delhi to organize affairs for another painful round of chemo for her.

The crazy shuttling between Dharamshala, Ludhiana, and Delhi paused on the night of November 18 when my darling Papa left. In May Mom left too – my most intimate friend and spiritual sister gone!

And life went on… too chaotic for me to take time and grieve. Cancer has kept me on my toes for years; going in and out of hospitals and doctor clinics, having both my parents in hospitals of different cities at the same time… losing one parent figure after another… My encounter with disease, old age, and ‘death’ has been close, intense, and overwhelming. And today I stand all by myself, face-to-face with ‘life’, wondering if they are sides of the same coin.

I was quite close to my parents and shared a very special bond with them. Losing them both together has shaken my roots and shattered my support system. Everything changed. Nisarga changed, and my dad’s home changed as well. Suddenly all the responsibilities of Nisarga fell on my shoulders. From accounts to the kitchen, from maintenance work to expansion, from office work to guest relations, from banking to groceries – I feel stretched from every angle.

Responding to these extremely demanding challenges made me experience the ’emergency layers’ that Gurdjieff talks about. How when one comes back home after an exhausting day, all one can imagine doing is sleep. Yet on finding one’s house on fire one immediately starts running and responding to the situation. These are the emergency levels available only in dangerous times – like in my life today. Be it managing Nisarga and hospital visits simultaneously, or today taking on the responsibilities of so many. Be it coping with the uncertainty of my parents’ presence or today the grief of their absence.

It has been my experience that even when all is in chaos outside, a strong presence keeps me together from within. In fact, from all the multi-tasking and seemingly impossible timelines an amazing sharpness has emerged, a new higher intelligence. Life has become aflame – more intense, more total.

Fortunately, being around Osho and his various communes has taught me living life on the razor’s edge. I was barely a teenager when I chose to live with Osho in Rajneeshpuram, which meant saying goodbye to living with my father whom I was extremely close to. It also meant leaving my comfortable house and my adorable family. Sure it was difficult, but jumping into the unknown and my love for Osho made the Ranch the most beautiful experience of my life.

I later learned how my mom and even Osho were surprised at how ‘easy’ I was with all the changes and difficulties in Oregon. I never complained or missed the luxuries I was used to. I was so happy to be around Osho that nothing else mattered. It felt like my life’s longing was fulfilled.

A lot of my friends expected me to break down when those in charge of the Pune Two commune banned me and Neelam. Of course I was sad and disappointed at the way the dirty politics worked around us. What had been my home for years was now becoming a cold, heartless resort.

It was again time to let go, and to my surprise I was ready for the change. I have realized my amazing capacity to fearlessly face challenges and stand on my own. And in these difficult times I feel a great aura of protection around me – some unknown force that gives me clarity and strength.

A few years ago, while caring for my mom one day I said, “I often feel like I am in a movie playing a part. Roles keep on changing. Right now it is running around in hospitals. Sometimes I feel I am watching the whole show from above!” Neelam playfully added, “If you can do that, that is what meditation is all about.” We then went on to remember how Osho had told Vinod that when playing a role in a movie – do not act, become it; but when outside the movie – off screen – live as if you are just acting.

This is exactly what I feel. Right now my role is running Osho Nisarga, and I am total in it. I spare no effort, knowing well that it is just a role. When my role is over I will be gone too as everyone else is gone around me. This reminder keeps me in check.

I often do the meditation called Tathata in which Osho guides us into watching our own body in the funeral pyre and seeing it burn and become ashes. And we stay above watching the whole scene, disconnected from the body.

In my favorite Osho quote, on preparing for death, he gives two significant points that I try to consciously bring into my day-to-day life: non-accumulation and non-possessiveness. So I stay alert not to cling in relationships and to keep my life as clean and clear as I can.

Leading the silent retreat for 21 days in Nisarga every year in February is very nourishing for me. It gives me the chance to sit with myself no matter what. And of course, running an Osho center in itself keeps me on the path.

How one lives this life is how one dies. Life is a preparation for the main day. And that reminder is in me – stronger now than ever before.

Article first published in Viha Connection ( in May/June 2022, under the title ‘Non-Accumulation and Non-Possessiveness’, and in Osho Nisarga’s blog (


Priya is part of the management team of Osho Nisarga in Dharamshala, India.

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