A déjà vu

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Yama’s story (part 1) – as told to Punya – taking sannyas and getting involved in the communes.


I was born in Santiago, Chile, in July 1963. My parents divorced when I was three months old, and both married again. I spent my whole childhood with my mum and a stepfather. I was, I would say, an introverted child, but was also funny and mostly in a good mood. I loved to play soccer all day long.

My stepfather was a doctor. He was very successful and liked the life of a Zorba; drinking, eating and being merry – a very intense man who could get violent sometimes. I was beaten up by him a few times, and he was protective of me also. He really loved me.

When I turned sixteen I began to feel a strong spiritual urge, a call from the unknown. Many questions arose in me. I needed some inspiration, so I started searching. I was on fire. I had a strong connection with my mother. I loved her very much and felt I needed to protect her. She was very unhappy in her marriage. At the same time the tension at home was too much; the situation was sucking my energy.

My biological father, whose sannyas name would become Alok Abol, was a very sensitive man, warm – very creative. His family were shoemakers. They had a big shoe factory founded in the early 1900s. He worked as a designer for many years, up until 1978 when the factory closed. (Many may remember that at the Ranch he worked fixing shoes and muddy boots.) He married Eliana, who later became Anand Sangit. They had a girl, Nirava Pavan. My older brother, Guillermo, a talented artist by the way, also lived with them.

They were living just a few blocks away from where my mother, my stepfather and I were staying, and I used to see them often. I could see they were not very happy. They both were into drinking and their relationship started going down the drain. That crisis opened the need to do something about it. When they were invited to participate in the Fischer-Hoffman Process, they did the group, which lasted a couple of years. It was hard work! For them it was the beginning of a search for something else in their lives. It was very useful; they became aware of their wounds, fears. It brought light into their lives and they started taking responsibility for their misery. It was a preparation for what was coming, a clean-up, creating inner space for the spirit to descend.

In 1980, at seventeen, I went to live with my father’s family for the first time in my life – a new beginning. Life was taking me into a new direction and my heart was full of trust. The same year a group of people started visiting our home; they were coming from Pune after having lived for years in the ashram with Osho. They were Anshumali and Sargam from Argentina, and Nadamo from Chile. I would suddenly see these people, dressed all in red clothes, with mala, always joyous; travelling all over and not working very much. They would open the fridge and eat everything, and would scream when they had sex. I wondered: What kind of people are these? I became fascinated.

Chile at that time was under Pinochet’s dictatorship. So, to be dressed in red with a mala was very provocative – you could get into trouble for sure. Everything was underground. At the time there were only very few books by Osho in Spanish. The first one I read was I Am the Gate; then many more were translated into Portuguese.

Anshumali started giving sannyas. He gave sannyas to my stepmother. My father, who at the time happened to be in Buenos Aires working on a project, received his name, Alok Abol, by post – and Sangit flew to Argentina to hand him the mala.

Then, a Brazilian woman, Nitya, came to Chile from a centre in Porto Alegre, Brazil. There were many centres in Brazil then, and many sannyasins. Nitya invited me to go there and stay at the centre for a while. I went with a friend, a Chilean of my age. Lots of meditations, long hugs, intense living; it was the right atmosphere for exploring.

All this felt to me like a déjà vu. Like an Ahhh… Many things started to wake up inside of me.

My father and Sangit, now already sannyasins, went to the Ranch for the First World Annual Celebration. It was really Wow for them: so many people celebrating, meditating. All of a sudden their life got a new spark, a readiness for adventure. That trip of theirs was a radical turning point in all our lives.

Then in August, Arup (now Garimo) came to Chile. I felt that this was the call for me to become a sannyasin. It was good not to have been influenced by Alok and Sangit only – I could see the big transformation in them immediately – but to have been to Brazil and experience meditation on my own also gave me the certainty that I was ready for the jump. It felt like an invitation; a very pregnant, mysterious moment. To have found Osho was the biggest revolution. It shook everything up, a jump into the fire.

I gave a picture of myself to Arup who then took it to the Ranch. My name arrived by post on 18th September 1982, which just happened to be National Day in Chile. Very patriotic! The name, Swami Veet Yama, meant, according to Osho, ‘beyond darkness’. Then on 1st October I received the mala.

At that time Arup invited us to come and live at the Ranch. “Sell everything and join the commune,” she said, and, on 15th January 1983, Alok and I hopped on a plane holding hands. Sangit and Pavan followed a couple of months later. In a very short period of time, there had been so many changes; within 3 months we sold the house and started preparing to move to Oregon. We jumped into an unusual situation, so unknown; a commune life with thousands of people from all over the world and in the presence of a living Master. Woooo…

The Ranch and the whole commune thing was not always so easy. The Ranch was a hard school in many ways. I was not used to working so many hours a day and every day – at one point it was twelve hours a day – and I didn’t speak a word of English! I had to live in a trailer with a room-mate who used to make love and fight with his girlfriend every night… I was confronted by many things. Every day: get up, walk down to the bus, work twelve to fourteen hours. I really had to find the strength to do that.

After a few months my English became better and I felt stronger. First I became a bus driver and then a Gorak man. I loved it! Driving around the Ranch collecting garbage, hugging, being playful, innocent.

When the Ranch was closing down, by chance I met a Greek swami, Thanasis, while washing my hands next to him in the toilet. Although I had never met him before, he spontaneously invited me and my family to come to Greece and offered us work in a juice bar in Athens. Alok, Sangit and Pavan followed the invitation. When Amrito, Thanasis’ wife, went to Nepal where Osho was staying at the time, she invited him to come to Greece. Alok, Sangit and Pavan went to the island of Crete looking for a house to welcome Osho to.

When Osho arrived in Crete, I was living in Santa Monica, California. I had felt I needed some time alone after the very strong and shocking last months at Rajneeshpuram, but after a few weeks I flew to Crete. It was such a joy to be in this intimate space – very few people – Osho coming out for morning and evening discourse, the intense blue colour of the Mediterranean Sea. Life, once again, so unpredictable!

One day, the Greek police arrived at Osho’s house to arrest him. They took him to Heraklion, a port half an hour from Agios Nikolaos where he was staying. We followed the police car on motorbikes. When they arrived at the police station, they gave Osho a small room in which to rest. It was all a big mess, nobody knew what to do. We felt Osho was so unprotected in this Greek drama. I stood by the window to keep people from smoking or trying to get close to him – after all, Osho was a worldwide known figure. He was just sitting, in silence, with a glass of water.

I looked at him and asked, “Bhagwan, how do you feel?” He looked back at me and with a big smile said, “Great!” In the middle of the hurricane he was so calm, unattached, free. And it was a really intense situation… Seeing Osho’s continued harassment in the world from so close up, seeing the amount of violence and how they tried to isolate him…

After that, my family and I left Greece for Italy first, then the Costa Brava in Spain.

As soon as Osho arrived in Pune in 1987, I joined the commune and remained there for five years, until 1992. I worked in maintenance. I had a crew of people who would go to people’s rooms to fix doors, or bathrooms. I was walking about all day long, becoming very popular because everyone wanted me to fix their stuff as quickly as possible. So everybody was very loving to me…

While living at Rajneeshpuram I had met a juicy Italian, a Neapolitan, Krishna Radha. We both used to drive schoolbuses and had a lot of fun joking, but were never lovers, just good friends. When I arrived in Pune (she was living in the ashram), we re-connected and after a few months a space opened up between us – so deep, so pure and loving. She had been a medium for Osho in Pune 1. One of the jewels of my time at the Ashram was to melt in deep embrace with Radha and grow in the mysteries of sexuality and Tantra. A great revelation for a Chilean-conditioned youngster!

Every evening in Buddha Hall was a joy, a luxury. To be present in the last phase of Osho-in-the-body, the Zen lectures, the no-mind meditation guided by him… then celebrating his leaving the body on 19th of January 1990… so high, so high… I feel so fortunate and blessed to have received the seeds from where a new humanity can arise.

In 1992, after having lived in Osho’s communes since I’d been a teenager, doing the meditations and being in the presence of the Master, I felt that it was now time to leave. Not that I was unhappy in Pune, but I felt that unless I could go out and feel the contrast I would not appreciate and see all the gifts that had been given to me. I wanted to feel OK while being on my own.

So, I went back to Chile. It was the place I was the most afraid to go, because I had to face my own life. At 28 I’d been living in the USA and India, working a little bit here and there, so I felt more like a citizen of the world and not so much a citizen of Chile. I was afraid to go back and never be able to leave again.

A great challenge ahead!

To be continued…


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Punya is the founder of Osho News, author of many interviews and of her memoir On the Edge.

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