Written by Prem Shunyo
You can’t hide me
Rafia and I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica after Osho’s plane, because we had stopped in Miami. I was feeling faint from the heat and the root canal I had had done at the dentist’s the day before was throbbing to such an extent I could have screamed.
We were met at the airport and taken to a house that Arup had found for Osho. Arup, steadfast and loyal, had survived working with both of Osho’s female tyrants – Laxmi and Sheela – and had come through smiling. And now, having remained in contact with Hasya and Jayesh, who were in Portugal, she heard how dangerous it had become in Uruguay for Osho and so flew immediately to Jamaica and found a place of refuge. The house belonged to a tennis celebrity and was a sprawling bungalow in its own grounds, with a swimming pool, and a beautiful view of the island.
Most of our group had stayed behind in Uruguay to settle up the house and wait to see what happened next. The people of Uruguay that we had met were starting a court case against the government, because not only was their refusal of Osho’s resident’s visa illegal, but it destroyed the Uruguayans’ illusion that they were a free country. It hurt to see that they were owned by “the people in the North” as they referred to the Americans.
As soon as we arrived we received the good news that Osho had been given a tourist visa at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica, without any difficulty, but then the bad news that ten minutes after Osho’s plane had landed, an American Navy Jet had flown in. It was suspicious. Anando had seen it land, and as two civilians alighted and crossed the tarmac to the terminus she had quickly moved Osho and the others out of the lounge and into taxis. We knew that our telephones were tapped in Uruguay and in fact Anando had asked Osho a question about it: “Why do people always tap our telephones? Are they trying to get spiritual guidance on the cheap?”
After five minutes of gossip I retreated to the room that I was to share with Anando. It was small, but air-conditioned and cool, and I looked in thecupboards wondering whether it was worth unpacking or not. Then I took some pain killers for my tooth and slept for fourteen hours.
The next morning, while I was taking my breakfast, there was loud knocking at the front door. I looked through the window and saw six very tall black men, dressed in khaki shorts and holding large sticks. They said they were the police. Anando went out to speak to them and they sounded angry and asked that everyone who had arrived in Jamaica the day before should come outside with their passports! She assured them that we all had legal entry visas, and asked what their problem was. They said that we had to leave the island – now!
When they left Anando rang Arup, who was staying at a nearby hotel, and Arup got in touch with our tennis star, who knew people in the government, hoping to be able to sort things out.
It seemed, even to us, that a mistake must have been made. During the next couple of hours we made many phone calls to people who were friends of the tennis star and could help, we hoped. “Very strange,” said our friend, “whenever I mention who is calling I am told that so-and-so is not in his office today. Nobody seems to be in their office today, or at home. I can’t get hold of anyone who will help.”
Two hours later the police came back. This time my heart sank, as they took our passports and cancelled our visas. Mercifully, we managed to keep Osho out of sight, so he was not subjected to standing on the porch in the scorching heat. The men were very aggressive, and the all too familiar stink of fear was there. Did they also think they were confronting dangerous terrorists, as had all the police we had met in America, India and Crete?When Anando asked them why we were being ordered out of the country they simply said, “Orders.” When she persisted in asking for more information they told her that the orders were under the National Security Act. Osho had to be out of the country by sunset.We did not have a plane, or even a country to which we could go! Certainly we could not stay in Jamaica, because we were frightened for Osho’s safety Cliff, who was Osho’s pilot and had met him in Dubai with the open umbrella, was there and started phoning all over America to find a charter plane company that would take Osho somewhere. Most charter companies refused when they knew who their passenger was, and it was not easy to disguise the fact. Not knowing where you are flying to is also a disadvantage when trying to hire a jet. Flight plans have to be made in advance of any journey, and agreed on between the pilots and the country to be approached.
Hasya and Jayesh were in Portugal trying to arrange a resident’s visa for Osho to visit there, but they said that the permission had not been given yet. The rest of Europe was out of the question, and Devaraj even had the idea of Cuba. But Osho had said to Hasya a few weeks before: “No, Castro is a Marxist.”
What with the narrow escape in Uruguay, and now this – Vivek was finished. She said that she wanted nothing more to do with anything! She was angry and said she wanted to leave the group. This made me nervous. I was always nervous when she fell into one of these dark moods.
I heard that Osho had been up earlier that morning in the brilliant Jamaican sunshine and looked all over the house. He walked in the garden and around the swimming pool and was seen by Leroy the gardener, who was so overwhelmed by the sight of Osho that he went home for the day and said, “That man is really something. I ain’t never seen a man like that before.” Osho made plans for air-conditioners to be installed in the sitting room, where he could resume discourses, but now he sat silently in his room and I took him messages about the plans that we were making.
I was scared. I thought that at any moment the police (“Were they really police?” I asked. “I don’t even know what a Jamaican policeman looks like”; they looked like very strong thugs to me) would be back, and we would all end up dead, looking like a typical photograph in Newsweek or Time magazine. And who in the world would care?
By early afternoon Cliff had managed to arrange for a plane to fly from Colorado to collect us, and now all we had to do was wait! The plane was due to arrive at 7.00 p.m. and so at about 6.00 p.m. Cliff, Devaraj and Rafia left with the luggage for the airport. They would ring us as soon as they had
loaded the plane and we could drive straight to the airport.
That left just Anando, Vivek, Maneesha and me with Osho, and the house was isolated, in the countryside. After 7.00 p.m. passed, each minute seemed like an eternity and thenÉall the lights went out. The electricity had been cut off and it was pitch dark. I thought, “This is it!”
I found a candle and put it in a glass and stumbled through the dark to Osho’s room. He was sitting in a chair next to the air conditioner, which of course had ceased working, and the room was getting very hot. He was perfectly relaxed but concerned about the air conditioner, because usually we had a generator so that the air conditioner never stopped, but he didn’t know that. I left the candle with him and went back to the sitting room where we were all searching for candles and waiting for the phone to ring.
Eight o’clock came and still no phone call from the airport. I went to Osho’s room to see how he was, and he wasn’t in his chair. The room was in darkness and although I called out his name he did not answer. I stood there for several minutes and was just about to scream in panic when the door of the bathroom opened and he walked towards me carefully carrying the makeshift candle holder so it didn’t burn his fingers. I was so happy and relieved to see him, and I can only describe the look on his face as delight. Absolute delight. He was smiling like a child playing a game. I showed him I had brought a better candle holder and he said, “No, this one is good.” I said that it would burn his fingers, but he liked it, and carried it over to his chair and sat down. So I put the candlestick down and left him sitting there with two candles glowing while I went to join the others.
A knock at the door almost finished me off completely, but it was our tennis star. He had come to see if we were alright because of the blackout and he also brought his wife and child. I reasoned to myself that nothing awful was going to happen if the man even brings his family here to meet Osho.
The telephone rang! The plane was here and we quickly got the last few things together, and as Osho walked out to the car he smiled and namasted everyone.
I drove with Osho and Arup to the airport. It had been decided to fly to Portugal. Arup’s mother, Geeta, also a sannyasin, had a house in Portugal, and although it was too small for Osho, at least we knew a “house owner” there.
Portugal loomed up as the end of the road, and the end of all our hopes of finding a country for Osho to live in. Our fears all along had been that Osho would have to go back to India and because of our last experiences in India it seemed to be the worst thing that could happen. We thought that Western disciples would not be allowed to visit him.
We took off for Portugal – and landed in Spain!
There had been a misunderstanding with the flight plans. But no harm done, just a little confusion, and a wait of one hour in Madrid while we refuelled. Actually it was probably for the best, because when Osho landed at Lisbon airport, met by Hasya and Jayesh, he just sailed through immigration and got a visa without any problem. If our flight plans were being watched, then we were not the only ones who got confused. Osho disappeared “out of sight” for six weeks.
In Lisbon we went straight to the Ritz Hotel. We smuggled Osho up in the back elevator and did not sign him in the register because we wanted to be low profile. He had a suite which adjoined a bedroom and bathroom that Vivek and I moved into.
The flight had been a difficult one for me because of the tension and Vivek changing her mind about whether she wanted to stay with the group or not. Osho as usual bedded down in the plane and only awoke for food and the toilet. He asked me for a Diet Coke, and when Vivek overheard, she said to me, “Don’t give him a Diet Coke, they are not good for him. Tell him they are finished!” Now I have never tried to stop Osho doing anything, but with Vivek watching me I bravely said to Osho, “You have had your last Diet Coke.”
“What!” he said, sitting up, his eyes large.
I felt like I had just walked into a lion’s den – Jamaican policemen had nothing on this!
“No more Diet Coke?!”
“Eh!” I muttered, wishing he wouldn’t look at me with those eyes while I was trying to tell a lie. “They are finished.” Fortunately, this turned out to be the truth, but he insisted that we get more for him as
soon as we landed. Now the funny thing is he drank nothing but Diet Coke for three years after this. Whether or not it was just coincidence, I don’t know.
Our first morning in Lisbon, I was woken up by the sound of Osho’s voice: “Chetana, Chetana.” ….I will never forget that. Drifting out of sleep and hearing his voice calling my name. He had walked through the connecting room into our room, and was hungry. He eagerly walked towards the empty dishes that I had been too tired to put outside the door. “No, Osho, that’s last night’s food,” I said and I went to find Mukti to see if she could come up with something from one of her Igloo carrying bags that accompanied her everywhere. While traveling on private jets Osho enjoyed experimenting with different foods that were packed in the kitchenette and fridge. He discovered biscuits that he liked very much and then it was up to us to enjoy the task of finding the same ones again. While in Mecklenberg County Jail Osho was given a yogurt – Yoplait – and he liked it so much that for years after we had an arrangement whereby it was sent from America to wherever Osho was.
On each flight he spent a lot of time in the bathroom, experimenting with different soaps and creams. He found an aerosol spray, “Evian” – spring water that felt cool when sprayed on the face, and for years he continued to use it. He had an uncanny knack for taking a liking to things that had just gone out of stock, or the company had gone bankrupt.
When he liked something he really liked it. A hair conditioner called “Cool Mint” had been found in a small town in Oregon one day on a shopping trip and he liked it very much because it made his head feel cool, and continued to use it for years. He would use a bottle every few days, but when we tried to get more we found that the company that made it was in Canada and had no customers outside Bend, Oregon. We made special arrangements with them whereby they sent crates of Cool Mint to Germany and sannyasins in Germany forwarded them to whatever part of the world Osho was in.
He also liked a green minty cream called Mila Mourssi, and again he was using a jar every few days. This cream came from a small shop in Los
Angeles which was going out of business. Osho was the owner’s best customer so we were negotiating with her to sell us the complete stock, plus the recipe so we could continue making the cream ourselves.
This was always a great challenge for the sannyasins who did his global shopping for him. We wouldn’t tell him how difficult it was, of course, until after we had received it. We knew he would say that he didn’t want to trouble anyone. He was shaking the whole planet, but that was different.
It was such a joy to be able to give him a shampoo or soap that he liked, and to hear him say, “I like that very much,” with such a quiet enthusiasm, and his eyes shining. He is a very simple man, and he does not ask for much.
After a few days in the Ritz, it was decided that if anyone was looking for Osho in Lisbon, The Ritz would be the obvious place. Anando found a beautiful and deserted hotel (once again we were off-season), in a nearby town called Estoril. Plans were made to leave The Ritz at night and to smuggle Osho down to the garage without having to walk through the main reception area. Anando, Hasya, Mukti and I were to wait outside Osho’s room and then smuggle him into a waiting lift so no guests or hotel staff would see him. When he emerged in the corridor before we expected him, wearing his white nightie, and with his long flowing beard, Anando jokingly tried to persuade him to wear a trench coat with the collar turned up, and a hat on his head with the brim turned down.
“You can’t disguise me!” he said.
Then Vivek tried to persuade him, but he said,
“No, no, they won’t recognize me without my hat!”
I left in the first car and Osho was to follow in a Mercedes that was waiting in the hotel garage. We had the idea that American agents or journalists may be looking for Osho and so we sped through the narrow winding streets, piruoetting our way up and down blind alleys and inventively shaking off any would-be pursuers.
I was to hear later from Anando that in contrast to our fears and worries Osho was totally relaxed. He didn’t have the burden of a mind that projected into the future all the possible calamities that could happen. As he entered the garage he smiled at the garage attendants and namasted them as they stared back at him with their mouths hanging open.
Hasya and Anando were trying to usher Osho into the car with haste when he stopped. Looking at Hasya he started telling her how nice the mat in his bathroom in the hotel had been. It was so comfortable when he stood on it in bare feet.
“Please, Bhagwan, get in the car!” Hasya urged.
He walked a few more paces. Yes, that particular bath mat had been great. He would like one like that in the next place.
After a two-hour drive we arrived at the hotel and quietly moved up the large staircase to where our rooms were. Immediately I started unpacking, which was a mistake because the room that Osho was in had a smell of musty perfume, which we had not noticed, and he began to get an asthma attack.
Devaraj gave Osho some medicine, but the only cure was to leave the hotel and go back to The Ritz. It was now about 2.00 a.m. and Vivek telephoned Hasya and Jayesh to come and pick Osho up. We tiptoed down the staircase, past the proprietors, who were asleep in front of a dead television set. Their door opened out into the hall, and we crept past the backs of their heads and out into the awaiting car. I stayed the night just to settle things up in the morning and make up a suitable story to explain our strange behavior.
After a few more days at The Ritz, a house was found for Osho. It was situated on a mountain-side, the only landmark on the horizon being a castle with a golden dome-shaped top, and below that, a forest. A pine forest! The house was in the middle of a pine forest, and so at last we were able to give Osho the pine forest that we had been promising him for four years at Rajneeshpuram.
Not only was the pine forest at the end of the road in Rajneeshpuram, but this pine forest was to be at the end of the road for the world tour.
We bought new furniture for Osho’s rooms, and stored the existing antique furniture in another part of the house. We cleaned his rooms and made them as zen-like as possible, with a Ritz bath mat in the bathroom. His bedroom opened out onto a balcony that was literally part of the forest. He used to have lunch and dinner on the balcony, and do work with Anando. He walked around the house and made plans for improving it, waving his arm towards the pool and suggesting we get some swans. Then the rest of the group arrived from Jamaica, so on the surface we were all ready to start again; but it never happened.
I no longer had any hopes, even though we visited mansions and palaces that were for sale, and the visa situation was always almost finalized, butÉI felt weary.
We prepared a room where Osho could resume discourses, but he only sat on his balcony facing the pine forest. After about ten days the weather changed and mists crept up the mountainside and swallowed up the forest. Osho called Anando to his room and said:
“Look, a cloud has come into my room.”
The mist was very bad for his health, and he was becoming asthmatic, so he could no longer sit on the balcony, but was confined to his room. He never left his room after this for the rest of the time we were in Portugal.
I heard that he said much later to Neelam that he had been very disappointed to see that Portugal had very strange vibes, that it had no possibility of meditation at all.
We lived in the forest with Osho for more than a month, but we were in hiding, to enable the necessary immigration papers to be filed before the newspapers announced the arrival of the “Sex Guru,” and freaked everyone out.
It didn’t feel right to be hiding Osho from the world. A diamond should reflect its rainbow colors for everyone to wonder at. This was the reason why he had left India. We had taken Osho around the world to find a place where he could talk to his people. He wasn’t asking much – just to be able to share his wisdom.
I spent all these weeks in bed with a mysteriously swollen foot. The cause was never discovered, but everything was suspected from the bite of a poisonous spider to osteomyelytis. I lay in bed all day watching the flowering chestnut tree shining like gold outside my window, and listening to the constant, sharp, crack, crack, crack, of the pine cones as the heat of the sun made them burst and send their seeds showering to the ground.
If the undercurrent for me was one of sadness, it doesn’t mean I lived in it all the time. As a group we were very happy and delved deeply into the delights of the first body – food! We had great feasts together, sitting at the long wooden table on the balcony that looked down the mountain to the plains on one side and on the other, up to the castle. Or, we sat inside in the great dining room around a huge oak circular table. I explored the forest, and swam in the pool when there was no one around to order me back to bed, and it was like this that we lived for four weeks.
Then one day the police came.
Two cars with about eight policemen drove down the winding path to the house and at first said they were lost. This was obviously a lie, and five minutes later they said they wanted to look around the house and that they were suspicious of us because we never left the house, and we didn’t go sightseeing like other tourists. They said that Portugal was having a lot of problems with drug smugglers and terrorists.
I went to my room to dress in suitable clothes for jail and although my mind felt clear, my legs turned to jelly. This was a shock to me, because it had never happened before. I had never felt any nervousness in my body and would have thought that I was used to this kind of drama by now. It was at this moment that I realized that I was close to breaking down in some way, and the strain of the last ten months had stretched me to my limits.
I went to the front door where Anando was talking to the police. They left, but they came back the next day, and posted two men in a car in the driveway to watch us twenty-four hours a day.
Osho said he wanted to go back to India. We called Neelam, who was in Italy, to come so that she could travel with Osho and make arrangements for him in India. He was to say to her, “I cannot use my body very long now; it is very painful to be in the body. But I can’t leave you all like that – my work is not finished.”
The date for Osho’s departure arrived – 28th July. That day we stood in the small hallway of the house as he came down the stairs, and, with Milarepa playing the guitar, we sang our hearts out. If this was the last time we were to be seeing him then let it be beautiful. I didn’t want him to see me with a miserable face, I wanted him to see that one of the many gifts I had received from him, was that of celebration. My sadness turned into a deep acceptance, and a true alchemical change happened and I danced like never before. Moments like this are like dying, and how many times had I faced this moment over the last year? How many deaths had I gone through, each time we were all separated and left standing alone in the unknown?
Osho was to say to Neelam:
“Look at the trees. When a strong wind comes, it seems to be destructive. But it is not. It is like a challenge for the trees, for the plants, to see if they are longing to grow or not. After the strong winds, their roots go much deeper into the earth.
“You might think, ‘This plant is too small; the strong wind will uproot it.’ But no, if the plant accepts that when the strong wind comes, it will go with it, it will be saved…and not only saved but will be more certain than ever that, ‘Yes. I want to live!’ Then it will grow very rapidly because the challenge of the winds has given it so much strength.
“If the tree or the plant doesn’t go with the wind and is destroyed, don’t feel sad for it: it would have been destroyed, if not by this wind then by another, because it does not have a deeper urge to live. And it does not know the law of existence – that if you go with existence, it protects you. It is your fight which destroys you.”
Osho spent a long time dancing with each one of us, through the house, onto the porch and then by the car, where even Rafia, who was taking photographs, was tickled by the master to dance with his cameras flying. Only Vivek couldn’t dance, she fell into Osho’s arms crying – her own unique dance.
We followed Osho’s car to the airport, where we stood on the roof of the terminus staring at the plane that was to take him away.
John said something very beautiful to Maneesha, when she interviewed him for her book.*
He said that, for him “the world tour had provided a significant reference point from which to see Osho in the context of the world. Throughout the entire time Osho remained exactly as he described the man of Zen to be: simple, ordinary.” John thought of the Californian so-called leaders of the new age, who went around saying, “I’m so high,” “Isn’t life grand!”; “I’m one with the universe.” It was all completely intellectual. He had been with Osho when there were many opportunities for him to say such things. When he was being arrested in Crete, he hadn’t said, like Jesus, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” When he was in jail in England he had not said, “I feel so at one with the universe, in spite of these poor idiots.” When he had been forced to leave Jamaica because of his “undesirable reputation,” he had not said anything like, “I am so high – these people are so low.” All he had wanted was a glass of milk, to have explained to him the meaning of breakfast cereal, to know what time it was.
The plane turned down the runway and revved up for its final charge across the earth, and we watched together, as one solid block of silence. I could see Osho’s hand waving in the window as it sped past, and then he was in the sky. Two words fell out of my mouth…empty boat….
I was in a vast ocean, in an empty boat.