Written by Prem Shunyo
I could feel the magic of Nepal before the plane landed, and I whispered, “I’m coming home!” The airport officials were gentle, smiling people, the people in the street had the most beautiful faces I had seen anywhere in the world, and although Nepal is poorer than India, they have a dignity and bearing that denies this.
The road to Pokhara wound through lush green jungle and when I got out to take a pee I walked entranced into a grove where a small waterfall cascaded down to a pool surrounded by rocks, orchids wrapped themselves around trees like huge spiders, and a small stream curved out of sight into a mysterious looking dell. “Chetana! Chetana!” My name was being called and I was torn away from the magic spell. The van we were in, driven by two Nepali sannyasins who had met us at the airport, climbed up and down mountains that overlooked neatly layered rice fields, bamboo groves and gorges with fierce rushing rivers.
It was dark when we arrived at the commune in Pokhara fourteen hours later. Very dark – there was no electricity! We entered the dining room carrying a bottle of vodka and asked that it be put in the fridge, please. Maybe alcohol had never been on the premises before. I looked around and saw that the twenty or so sannyasins who lived there were either Indian or Nepali, and mostly men. The dining room was sixty feet long, with bare concrete walls and floor. It was empty except for the serving pots at one end and at the far, far other end was a table and chair where Swami Yoga Chinmaya sat. He was the commune leader and “guru” to the residents, who made certain that nobody entered the dining hall by “Swamiji’s” entrance. We were told that in respect no one said his name, but called him Swamiji. But to us he was Chinmaya, just as he always had been and he had no objection to that. He had no objection to anything that we did actually. he was treated as a guru and he just said yes, and when we came along and treated him like anyone else, he said yes to that too. Chinmaya certainly has a presence; he always moves very slowly and very rarely shows much expression on his face. He represents the holy man of maybe one thousand years ago. He has been a disciple of Osho’s since the early Bombay days when he worked as Osho’s secretary. I noticed him ten years earlier in Poona, when he and his girlfriend shaved their heads and declared they were celibate.
Osho’s sannyasins are from every country in the world; here there are no nations. And every religion in the world has been dropped at His feet; here there are no Hindus, Christians, Mohammedans, Jews. Every type of individual possible is here, all mixed up in the cosmic cooking pot, from punky teenagers to old sadhus; from young revolutionaries to ancient aristocracy; the simple person to the jetsetter, business man to artistÉevery color of the rainbow meets here and disappears in a prism of white light.
When I saw the diners sitting on the floor facing each other with a distance of twenty feet between each other, and the communal showers and bathroom, open air and with no hot water, followed by the rooms we were to sleep in, so small, bare bricks and mattresses on the floor – I saw that this was a completely different gig to what I was used to, and would demand all the meditation I could muster.
Next morning, as I found my way to the toilets across a small patch of grass, I turned and saw the himalayas. From where I stood three quarters of the horizon was mountain peaks. They were not on the horizon actually, they were neither of earth or heaven, but in between. The snow-covered peaks were suspended in the sky and they looked so close that I felt I could touch them. As the sun rose it touched the highest mountain first and turned it pink, then gold before it moved on to the next. I watched the sun rising on the himalayas one by one and shook my head in wonder – why had no one ever told me ? I had always thought the himalayas were just a range of mountains, but they are not! I watched, spell-bound, as the mountains in the sky changed colors and threw my senses into new dimensions. Without any doubt, I knew I was going to be very happy here.
Days passed without any news of Osho. I would look at the mountain range and think of him on just the other side. A plan went through my mind to take a bus into India through the mountains to Kulu and arrive just in time for Osho’s walk around the Span garden, namaste him, and return to Pokhara. Asheesh and I talked of our concern for Osho’s safety, even though we were happy that He was in the gentle and capable hands of Neelam. Our fear was that we might never see him again.
Weeks passed without any news, but we were well into the swing of our monastic life. The land aroundmthe commune was fascinating, and we went on walks passing places where the land had been washed away by rivers, leaving cliffs three hundred feet high. Carefully approaching the edge I could see cows grazing below, and rocks that had once supported great waterfalls standing still, marked forever and worn away by the once rushing water.
A gash in the ground would reveal, hundreds of feet below, a small trickle of a stream. It would be so easy to fall into one of these holes and never be
found, as indeed, had happened to one German visitor.
I soon began to enjoy the morning ritual of washing clothes and body in the open air, and even became accustomed to a diet that included chillies for breakfast.
The sannyasins at the commune were innocent, gentle people and we made a few very good friends. Chinmaya was a genial host, and though he was very spiritual, his sidekick Krishnananda was a wild Nepali man with a flowing mane of black hair, flaring nostrils, and a great love of speed on his motorbike.
The challenge that I was facing of being in the unknown, uncertain whether I would ever see Osho again, made me realize that I had to live Osho. I had to live as he had been teaching me to – totally and in the moment. This brought a great feeling of acceptance and peace and I might well have been living there today, in a village maybe, quietly, alone, if it hadn’t happened that:
One evening while we were having dinner Krishnananda rushed in and throwing himself in the air shouted out the news that Osho was coming to Nepal! – tomorrow! We didn’t even take one more bite of dinner, but rushed to pack and the whole commune crowded into two vans and we were on our way to Kathmandu.
The next morning, having moved into the Soaltei Oberoi Hotel with Vivek, Rafia and Devaraj, where they had been based while trying to find a house or palace for Osho, we all made for the airport.
Arun was the Nepali sannyasin who ran the meditation center in Kathmandu, and he had gone to great lengths to arrange a spectacular greeting for Osho. It was Nepali tradition to line the streets with brass pots filled with local flowers, for royalty. The local police were in fact miffed, saying that we should not use the pots and flowers because only the King should receive such a welcome. Sannyasins in red and hundreds of onlookers lined the streets and the airport entrance.
The plane touched down, a white mercedes pulled up in front of the exit for Osho: the crowd pushed forward, everyone got very excited and started throwing flowers in the air, and then Osho walked through the glass doors of the airport, waved and disappeared into the car.
We all raced off to the Oberoi where Osho was to stay in a suite on the fourth floor, with Vivek and Rafia in the room opposite him. Rafia had performed an intricate operation of wiring up an alarm system in Osho’s room, so that if he should want anything, he could call Vivek. It was about midnight when the hotel security guard came across Rafia on his knees, in the corridor with the carpet pulled up, wiring the two rooms together.
Mukti and I shared a room on the floor below that was to become half kitchen and half laundry room. There were three big kitchen trunks and bags of rice and dhal, baskets of fruit and vegetables, and that was only half the room. The other half was full of the whole laundry paraphernalia.
We arranged with the very accommodating hotel staff that Mukti would cook for Osho in the hotel kitchen. She had her own portion of the kitchen where no meat would be left around and it would be kept especially clean for her. I would be washing Osho’s clothes in the hotel laundry with about fifty Nepali men. They were great people and used to clean out the machine for me before I arrived and wait, even after their work hours, to see that everything was okay. Then I would take the robes, carrying them up in the lift, high in the air on large teak hangers, to the amusement of guests and the staff. In our bedroom I used to iron on the bed, amidst the increasing baskets of fruit and vegetables that sannyasins were bringing as gifts for Osho. The food in Nepal was inferior in quality because of the poverty of the land, and Mukti, now assisted by Ashu, was making plans for importing vegetables and fruits from India. Meanwhile, the Nepali sannyasins shopped at the crack of dawn in the vegetable markets and with great joy, arrived each day with the best of everything they could buy for Osho.
The day Osho arrived he called us to his room to see him. He asked us how we were, and said that he had heard there had been a bit of unrest between us.
Mukta and Haridas had left the day before for a holiday in Greece, having given up the hope that Osho would be coming, and it was true that Ashu and Nirupa had also been unhappy in the Pokhara situation. When Osho heard the words, “Well, it was not up to the standard that I am used to living,” he said that he also had not been living quite the way he would have liked, and reminded us that he had been in jail and living in Span without electricity or water for a lot of the time. I felt so ashamed, even though I had not said it myself. We learnt that Jayesh had been making intricate plans to get Osho safely out of India and to Nepal.
Two days before take-off, Osho walked out of Span, got into an old Ambassador car with Neelam, drove to the airport and took a commercial flight to Delhi.
Even the fact that there was a flight that day was unusual, and that there were two spare seats was a miracle.
The police had arrived a few hours after Osho left to detain him and confiscate his passport. He would have been in prison awaiting a trial that had suddenly manifested itself, both unexpectedly and ridiculously. The income tax department (F.E.R.A.) wanted Osho to pay tax on the half a million dollar fine paid to the United States government. They did not believe that the fine was paid by friends of Osho, and thought that somehow India deserved a share in the booty.
Laxmi had confused the situation even more by spreading rumors with the sannyasins who lived in Delhi, that Hasya and Jayesh were trying to kidnap Osho. In a valiant attempt to save their master the Delhi sannyasins tried to snatch Osho back, but were thwarted by Anando. Osho took the plane to Nepal, just in time to avoid arrest by the Indian police. The Span property that I had heard Laxmi telling Osho about, had not been purchased by her, it was not even for sale!
The Delhi sannyasins arrived a couple of days later in Kathmandu with an offer of a palace in India in which Osho could live. They didn’t understand that at this point he could not go back to India, but Osho talked to them. A video of the palace had been made for Osho to see, so he agreed and to my surprise invited all of us to watch the video with him.
We sat at Osho’s feet in his living room and the film began. After ten minutes of footage of trees in the driveway of the palace, we saw a row of five or six stone huts with the roofs completely fallen in. These were the servants’ quarters, and obviously a lot of work had to be done on them – but that was nothing, we have worked before on buildings. The camera then scanned up and down a few more trees and I thought to myself that someone must have told the cameraman that Osho loved trees. Osho asked if there was any water in the palace.
“Yes, yes,” was the reply from Om Prakash, the bearer of the video. After five more minutes travelling up and down the trunks of trees, we saw the “palace.” It had only four rooms, and they were in an advanced state of dilapidation. “Is there any water on the property?” asked Osho. “Yes, yes,” came the reply. The four-roomed palace must not have been lived in for at least fifty years. “What about the water?” began Osho… Aah! there it was! A thin trickle of water ran down some moss covered stones in the garden. “And do we have rights to this water?” asked Osho. “The water belongs to the girls’ school, next door,” said Om Prakash, “but, no problem.”
Now I understood. This is why Osho wanted us all to watch the video with him, so that we could have some idea of how difficult the situation was when trying to get anything done with some of his sannyasins. That their hearts are with Osho is without question, but they must be crazy to want to take him back to India, and even crazier to think he could live in the remains of what was a four roomed house, and without water!
Osho said to them that their asking him to remain in India was out of love, but it was absurd. He said that it would create trouble for him and trouble for themselves, and he told them to go back, think over it, and return after seven days. They never came back and Osho said that they must have understood the implications, and their insistence had been out of love, not out of reason.
Wherever Osho is, in strong contrast to his silence, there is a mad cyclone of energy surrounding him. I asked him if this was his leela, or was it existence creating a balance? He said that it was neither; that the world is mad, chaotic, and it is his silence that was exposing it, not creating it. He said that the perfect balance in nature will be absolute silence. The next morning Osho began talking to a group of about ten in his sitting room. The first question was from Asheesh and he was asking that “In these times of uncertainty, the best – and the worst – seems to be coming out in those of us who are around you. Would you comment on this?”
Osho: “There are no ‘times of uncertainty’ because time is always uncertain. It is the difficulty with the mind: mind wants certainty – and time is always uncertain.
“So when just by coincidence mind finds a small space of certainty, it feels settled: a kind of illusory permanence surrounds it. It tends to forget the real nature of existence and life, it starts living in a kind of dream world; it starts mistaking appearance for reality. It feels good to the mind because mind is always afraid of change for the simple reason: who knows what change will bring – good or bad? One thing is certain, that change will unsettle your world of illusions, expectations, dreams…”
He went on to say that “whenever time strikes one of your cherished illusions,” then what happens is that our mask is taken away.
He mentioned how people had worked hard at Rajneeshpuram and just as we were putting the finishing touches the whole thing disappeared.
“I am not frustrated – I have not even looked back for a single moment. Those were beautiful years, we lived beautifully, and it is the nature of existence: things change. What can we do? So we are trying to make something else – that will also change. Nothing is permanent here. Except change, everything changes.
“So I don’t have any complaint. I have not felt even for a single moment that something has gone wrong…because here everything has gone wrong, but to me nothing has gone wrong. It is just that we tried to make beautiful palaces out of playing cards. “Perhaps except for me everybody is frustrated. And they feel angry at me too because I am not frustrated, I am not with them. That makes them even more angry. If I was also angry, and I was also complaining, and I was also tremendously disturbed, they would have felt a consolation. But I am not…
“Now it is going to be difficult to make another dream come true because many of those who worked to make one dream come true will be in a state of defeatism. They are defeated. They will feel that reality or existence does not care about innocent people who were not doing any harm, who were simply trying to make something beautiful. Even with them existence goes on “I can see that it is painful, but we are responsible for the pain. It feels that life is not just, nor fair, because it has taken a toy from our hands. One should not be in such a hurry to come to such great conclusions. Wait a little more. Perhaps it is always for the good – all the changes. You should just be patient enough. You should give life a little morerope.
“My whole life I have been going from one place to another place because something has failed. But I have not failed. Thousands of dreams can fail – that does not make me a failure. On the contrary, each dream disappearing makes me more victorious because it does not disturb me, does not even touch me. Its disappearance is an advantage, is an opportunity to learn to be mature. Then the best will be coming out of you. And whatever happens will not make any difference – your best will go on growing to higher peaks….
“What matters is how you come out of those broken dreams, those great expectations that have disappeared into thin air, you can’t even find their footprints.
“How do you come out of it? If you come out of it unscratched, then you have known a great secret, you have found a master key. Then nothing can defeat you, then nothing can disturb you, then nothing can make you angry and nothing can pull you back. You are always marching into the unknown for new challenges. And all these challenges will go on sharpening the best in you.”
The next question was from Vivek, and it shows her down-to-earth, totally female approach to life. “Beloved Master, What is home?”
“There is no home, there are only houses.
“Man is born homeless, and man remains his whole life homeless. Yes, he will make many houses into homes and he will get frustrated. And man dies homeless.
“To accept the truth brings a tremendous transformation. Then you don’t search for a home – because home is something there, far away, something other than you. And everybody is searching for a home. When you see its illusoriness, then, rather than searching for a home, you will start searching for the being that is born homeless, whose destiny is homeless.” (Light on The Path)
Anando arrived, with Bikki Oberoi, the man who owns all the Oberoi hotels. Hasya and Anando had made friends with him in Delhi and he showed interest in helping Osho at the time. They arrived first class and the hotel staff put out the red carpet and there was much hullabaloo. My eyes bulged when I saw Anando, amongst all this fanfare, proudly walking along with my small ironing board tucked under her arm. It wasn’t even disguised, everyone could see it was an ironing board, and yet she wasn’t fazed at all. I had needed that ironing board so badly, and I was touched that she would carry it as hand luggage under such circumstances.
The fourth floor of the hotel was now fully occupied by sannyasins. A bedroom became an office, and there was always a whirlwind of activity going on in there. A few doors away Devaraj and Maneesha worked day and night transcribing Osho’s discourses. Their room was always full, as people turned up to help them – Premda, who was Osho’s eye doctor, handsome, conservative, German, and a bad loser at tennis. It was in this small bedroom that seemed always to be filled with breakfast trolleys, that the German Rajneesh Times came to sort out their questions with Maneesha, letters and questions from sannyasins and as many people who could fit in the room were welcome to help check the typed manuscripts against the tapes of the discourses.
Although Osho had rested for a few days, he did not seem as strong as he used to be. We did not know at the time, but the first diagnostic indicators of thallium poisoning were evident. Osho’s eye doctor, Premda, had been called from Germany because Osho showed symptoms that included eye twitching, divergence or wandering quality of eye movements, weakness of ocular muscles and visual impairment. Premda treated the symptoms, but did not know what could possibly be the cause. I was helping to clean Osho’s rooms with the Nepali maid, Radikha. At 7.00 a.m. we would rush into his sitting room, while he was in the bath, and clean the dark, intricately carved wood furniture that obviously, no one had ever attempted to clean before. Although there was a vacuum cleaner it was more efficient to rub the red carpet with a damp rag. Rafia and Niskriya were on our heels, or rather – our backs – as they then had to set up the sitting room as a studio for discourse by 7.30 a.m. In the evenings Osho talked in the hotel ballroom to press and visitors, at first mainly Nepali, but as the days passed the color of the audience was changing from black and grey to shades of orange.
A Buddhist monk, small, with shaved head and in saffron robes began attending these discourses. He sat in the front row and asked Osho questions. Osho began by saying that, “To be a Buddha is beautiful, but to be a Buddhist is ugly.” The Buddhist monk got the full treatment and I was surprised and in great admiration for the man, when he turned up the next night, and the next. In fact he came regularly for a few weeks, until one day Osho received a letter from him saying that his monastery had forbidden him to attend any more. Each morning the very intimate talks in his sitting room continued, and after being away from Osho for the first time since I had come to Poona, seven years before, I now felt each moment was a bonus. I was living in an abundance of love, joy and the excitement of exploring The Path with the Master. I was beginning to learn that the search for truth, the search for the “spot” inside myself that is unpolluted by personality, is a great adventure. I have no doubt that there is a “state” in which a person can be totally relaxed without any desire or need for more, a feeling so fulfilling that nothing happening outside can disturb it. I know it is so because I have glimpsed it for moments and I have seen that in Osho it is a permanent state.
Osho began to walk in the grounds of the hotel, past the tennis courts, and the swimming pool, lawns and gardens. He couldn’t see much of the grounds though because his path was flanked by visitors and disciples who came to greet him. Some of them would simply smile and wave, but others threw themselves at his feet, and that was troublesome. Watching Osho coming through the hotel lobby and out into the garden was a beautiful scene. There was always space around Osho even in a crowded place. I saw many tourists spin on their heels with amazement at the sight of Osho. Some, even Europeans, I saw namaste him – though I am sure they did not know what they were doing, because after Osho passed by they had a dazed look on their face. Being totally without experience of Osho, and not expecting anything, they had been touched and were afire. Some American and Italian tourists that I watched, really saw Osho, but I don’t know how their minds dealt with it afterwards.
A few disciples arrived from the West, one of them being Niskriya with his video camera. He just turned up one day, literally on the doorstep with his camera, unknown to anyone. But he had good references – he had been thrown out of Rajneeshpuram twice and had had his mala taken away by Sheela. Without him none of these beautiful discourses would have been recorded. Niskriya is an eccentric German film man, and when he first arrived he was experimenting with 3D film. One day he called us into his room to view these efforts at 3D, through a mirror contraption balanced between two television sets. He was so thrilled by his experiment that none of us had the heart to admit to him that actually we couldn’t see anything. But Osho blew the gaff and made a good joke of it one day in discourse.
It was always risky when Osho was speaking because there was no way of knowing what he would say next. On entering Nepal, Hasya had told Osho that Nepal was, by law, a Hindu country, so please… “Don’t say anything against Hinduism.” In an evening discourse, in front of all the dignitaries and press men, he said that his friends had asked him not to speak against Hinduism, but what could he do? This was the very place to speak against Hinduism, do they expect him to speak against Christianity? No, he would save that for when he visited Italy.
At that time the film crew from Italy had got visas for Nepal and Sarjano had arrived. Applications for Osho to visit Italy were under way, and looked promising. However, it would not be good if the press announced he was visiting Italy before arrangements could be made, so we were to keep it secret. Sarjano was taking photos of Osho that night during the discourse, so was next to Osho facing the audience. I watched Sarjano, when Osho declared that he would visit Italy, and I let out a scream of laughter as Sarjano’s eyes rolled up into his head and mouthing the words “Italian visa” he went through the actions of tearing up documents and throwing them over his shoulder. We were in Nepal for three months and it was time to extend our own visas. We had not been able to find a palace, nor even a small house for Osho, and so we were still in the hotel. The situation did not look promising, even though the local people, and especially the hotel staff were loving and respectful towards Osho. The men in the laundry room were constantly requesting tickets for the nightly discourses and the maids and waiters also came. On one occasion when a waiter delivered tea to our room, and Mukti was sitting in the chair with her Walkman earphones on, the waiter exclaimed: “Is that Bhagwan you are listening to?” He then sat down and claimed the Walkman and stayed for the rest of the taped discourse.
I loved the people so much, and one day while shopping, the shopkeepers said to me, “Your guru – no good” (Osho had said in a discourse that Buddha had renounced wealth, and that is nothing
– “I have renounced poverty” said Osho). And even though they had a criticism, there was no malice in it. At least they were interested in what Osho was saying.
Anyway, we went for our visa extensions and were refused.
There seemed to be no hope in Nepal anymore. The King had never had the guts to acknowledge Osho, even though a couple of cabinet ministers had come to hear him talk. Despite endless searching, there was no land or property for sale. And on top of that, trouble with the immigration authorities only showed that the Indian government had interfered. To get a three-month extension on a visa in Nepal is routine. The country is desperate for tourists, but in our case it was different. Once again, Osho would be cut off from his foreign disciples, and nine-tenths of Osho’s disciples are from Western countries.
It was in this situation and many, many others that Osho was to show us his total trust in existence, and his disciples. The idea of a World Tour was born and
Osho said okay.
Ma Amrito, a Greek woman, charismatic and beautiful, who had many contacts in the Greek government and high society since her days as Miss Greece, waltzed into Kathmandu with her husband and her lover. I first saw the trio in the hotel lift and thought, “Mmm, they look interesting.” They talked with Hasya, Jayesh, Vivek and Devaraj and it was decided that Greece would be the first stop on the World Tour.
Arrangements were made to visit Greece, and Rafia, Asheesh, Maneesha, Neelam and I would follow with the luggage. Osho, Vivek, Devaraj, Mukti and Anando would go first. Nirupa and Ashu were to go to Canada, their home country, as the caravan had to be made a little smaller.
The morning Osho left there were many tears. The hotel staff were crying and Radhika, our maid, was weeping uncontrollably. The private plane that had been arranged for Osho had been held up in Delhi for two days, and it was decided that Osho would fly on a commercial flight. Cliff, Osho’s pilot, who had last seen Osho boarding a jet in Portland, flew into Kathmandu on Royal Nepal Airlines, and he was in the airport as Osho’s car arrived. He ran across the tarmac, and was just in time to valiantly open the car door for Osho.
Cliff then came to visit us at the hotel. We ordered tea for him and Geeta, his Japanese girlfriend who was travelling with him. We were talking about Osho’s flight which was to go via Bangkok and Dubai, and Cliff had already worked out a plan where he could fly back to Delhi, and take his private plane to Dubai to meet Osho. By the time room service brought tea, Cliff was gone and he arrived in Dubai in the private plane just before Osho landed. It was pouring with rain, and as Cliff saw Osho’s flight coming in, he grabbed an umbrella from an Arab gentleman in the airport, and ran to the steps of Osho’s plane. As Osho alighted from the craft, Cliff was there, umbrella poised, and Osho chuckled.