Written by Prem Shunyo
Crucifixion American Style
It was getting dark as we drove through the rain-soaked streets of Portland on that afternoon in mid- November. A police escort the size of a president’s motor cavalcade flanked the Rolls Royce. There were at least fifty policemen, looking like giants in shiny black clothes, their faces covered with helmets and goggles, riding powerful Harley Davidson bikes. All the roads were cordoned off at each junction, and the bikers did an impressively choreographed maneuver as two on each side of the car would be smoothly replaced by another pair – they drove in and around the traffic like stunt men.
It was in this fanfare of sirens and giant bodyguards that Osho stepped out of the car, untouched as always by anything happening on the “outside,” and glided smoothly into the courtroom, accompanied by six or eight plainclothes policemen. I stepped out on the other side of the car into chaos – hordes of pushing people, press, and television crews. I wasn’t allowed to follow Osho through the same door and so for a moment I stood watching him disappear into a sea of grey and black suits that filled the courthouse corridor. I pushed my way through the crowds and found another entrance, and after much fuss I was sitting beside Osho in the courtroom.
Osho sat relaxed and peaceful, watching the drama from the wings.
Later, Osho was to say: “The government blackmailed my attorneys. Ordinarily it never happens that the government takes the initiative in negotiating, but just before my trial they called my attorneys for negotiations and hinted in many ways… They made it clear that, ‘We don’t have any evidence, any proof: we know it and you know it – that if you go ahead with the case, you will win. But we have to make it clear that the government will not like to be defeated by a single individual; we will not allow an individual to win the case. The case can be prolonged for twenty years, and Bhagwan remain in jail. And there is always a risk to Bhagwan’s life – that you should understand clearly.’
“Niren was crying when the attorneys came out of the meeting. He said, ‘We can’t do anything, we are helpless; we feel ashamed to ask you to say that you are guilty. You are not guilty and we are asking you to say that you are, because from what the government has said, they are making it clear that your life will be at risk.’
“They told me,” Bhagwan continued, “that if I accepted two minor crimes I would be released and just deported. I was ready to remain, to die in jail – there was no problem – but when they started saying, ‘Think about your people,’ then I thought that this (saying he was guilty when he was not) was not a point to take seriously.”
Osho was accused of thirty-four immigration violations – two were accepted. What happened to the other thirty-two? The judge must have been a criminal, because negotiations took place, but can crimes be negotiated? Is crime a business?
Even the two crimes that were accepted were bogus. One that he had arrived in America with intent to stay and two that he had arranged for a foreigner to marry an American citizen.
1. Osho had been writing to INS to apply for immigration status for years and they had not replied to any of his letters. Why?
2. He was accused of arranging thousands of marriages and “at least one was certain” – is this a joke? – one was certain! What happened to the other thousands, and anyway that one was not proved.
My mouth fell open as I heard the judge read out that Osho had come to America in order to create a place of meditation for many people, because his ashram in India was too small. This was a crime!
Osho did not stir, he was humble and yet he was a king. his childlike innocence and vulnerability somehow made him untouchable. He was totally accepting, but not turning the other cheek. Opposites meet where emptiness is vast enough, and I have heard him say that:
The Master is like the sky – He appears to be, but he is not.
He was the same as when he was sitting in his room, or in Buddha Hall, meditating with us. I think that if personality is gone and a person is not ruled by old thought patterns, then there is no ego to be disturbed and no “I” to be offended.
Judge Leavy asked Osho, “Do you plead guilty or not?”
Osho answered, “I am.”
Our lawyer, Jack Ransome stood up beside Osho and said, “Guilty.” This happened twice, and when I asked Osho later about his response to the plea he said to me, laughing:
“Because I am not guilty! My answer simply states that I am.
“Our lawyer answered, ‘Guilty’ immediately. It is his problem whether he is guilty or not.”
The court imposed a sentence of ten years imprisonment, with suspension of execution. Also, Osho would be on probation for five years, under the condition that he leave the United States and agree not to return during the five-year probation period without permission of the attorney general of the United States.
When the judge asked Osho if he understood that he could not re-enter America for a further five years, Osho said, “Of course, but you don’t have to limit my entry to five years – I am not going to step on this land again.” The judge said, “You may change your mind,” but Osho just remained silent and smiled. Later I asked him why he had remained silent and smiling, and Osho replied:
“For the same reason that Jesus remained silent when Pontius Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’ I also remained silent and smiled because this poor fellow does not realize that I don’t have a mind to change.”
Osho was fined half-a-million dollars for two minor charges of the sort usually punished by a twenty-five dollar fine and deportation.
Hasya, with help of friends, produced the fine within ten minutes and Osho was out of the courtroom, and driving through the wet streets of Portland. Crowds of people lined the streets, some waving their hands, and some waving a finger. The lights of the shops were reflected in the puddles and I looked out of the car window and saw that the shop windows were filled with Christmas decorations. Life had been beyond bizarre these last few weeks – but this! This hypocrisy called Christmas was too much.
We drove straight to the airport where a group of sannyasins and reporters were waiting at the steps of Osho’s plane, with Vivek standing in the doorway to meet him. As he reached the top of the steps he turned around to wave. I watched him, as rain fell and the wind blew his beard in the night air. I was mesmerized by his gentle beauty and paralyzed by the awful significance of the moment. Goodbye America. Goodbye World. The door was closing as I realized that I was also leaving and I propelled myself forward, through the crowd, up the steps and into the warm, crowded cabin. Vivek was settling Osho down on three seats as a makeshift bed. His pillows and blanket were nestled around him and he lay down and closed his eyes. This unfamiliar sight was to become much too familiar over the next year, when at times, the cabin of a plane, flying over the planet, was to be our only “home.”
Flying out of America was the best feeling I had had in a long time. We opened a bottle of champagne and celebrated as Osho slept peacefully. Osho slept from take-off to touch down, always and everywhere. He would wake up with the expression of a newborn child, seeing everything for the first time, and surprised that he was still with us on the Earth.
On the plane were Vivek, Devaraj, Nirupa, Mukti, Hasya, Asheesh, and Rafia. It was a small jet – the large plane we were expecting had cancelled on hearing who their passengers were and so most of the party, including Osho’s family, had been left behind in Portland to follow on commercial flights.
We landed in Cyprus because we did not have permission to fly over the Arab countries, and there was a Muslim holiday so nobody to give us permission, either.
We were a hilarious sight in Cyprus airport. We had flown out of the Oregon winter into the sweltering heat of the Mediterranean dressed in boots, fur-lined coats, scarves and hats. Eight of us, dressed entirely in red, with Osho wearing his long robe, knitted hat (studded with diamonds, as the press were to say) and his long flowing silver beard. The airport officials were agog as they tried to figure out what was going on and what they should do. The situation was not helped by a stray reporter who happened to be in the airport and shouted out for the officials to hear “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh! He has just been deported from America.” However, after an hour of filling in forms while Osho sat in the dirty, smoke-filled waiting room, we were allowed into Cyprus and took off in taxis for the “best” hotel.
It was about two in the morning and we were too hyped up to sleep, so I sat on the balcony of my hotel room. I looked out into the night and wept. I had been witness to a modern day crucifixion and I was flooded with memories of seeing Osho in chains, prison, unreal court scenes, and the end of Rajneeshpuram and all the beautiful people there. I knew the truth of what we had been trying to create in America, knew the innocence and joy of all the people, and I felt as though existence itself had turned against us and there was no chance in the world for people like us. “Why have you forsaken us?” I asked.
The next afternoon, with permission to fly over the Arab countries, we were on our way to India. India! My last hope. America had proved to be barbaric and had no understanding of Osho, but India will be different. Indian people understand what enlightenment is, they know the search for Truth, and they respect “holy” men. Even if only out of superstition, Indian people have a respect for a man who is a great teacher and certainly they know Osho. He had spent thirty years travelling in India, sometimes giving lectures to crowds as large as fifty thousand. I was certain that India would welcome their “Godman” home with open arms. The treatment Osho had received in America would confirm their suspicions that the West had no understanding of inner riches. “They will give him land, and a place to live,” I thought.
We arrived in Delhi at 2.30 a.m, twenty-four hours later than expected because of our stay in Cyprus. That gave thousands of people time to reach the airport, and it must have created a tremendously tense atmosphere as people waited and waited, and waited. When we arrived at the immigration counters and I looked out at the mob beyond, I was frightened. There were hundreds of reporters and TV crews with cameras and they were standing on chairs and tables as the sea of excited and frantic looking people pushed and shoved each other, all wanting to touch The Guru.
Laxmi was there, all four feet ten inches of her, and Anando, who had travelled with Laxmi from America a few days before (Anando whom I met in the white tunnel at the beginning of my sannyas journey). The rest of our party were held up in customs, and that left Vivek and Osho to reach the exit and get in the waiting car, through the crazed mob. I followed, despite Vivek shouting at me to “go back, go back.” I still can’t understand why she said that, it was an impossible situation. People were pulling at Osho’s clothes, one woman jumped on him from behind with her arms wrapped around his neck, others were throwing themselves at his feet, banging his legs, hurting his feet, and almost knocking him to the ground. The people at the back were pushing hard to join in the action and reporters were springing in front of Osho trying to ask questions. There was only one way through this, and I wasn’t going to go back to the immigration counter and watch. I grabbed people by their arms, or hair – anything I could get hold of – and tried to clear the path. Anando was doing the same, and Laxmi, despite her size put up a good fight. Osho smiled at everyone and with his hands folded in namaste, glided serenely along the treacherous path. When we finally reached the car it took a good five minutes just to open the door against the crush of people, and an immense amount of strength to keep the door open while Osho got in.
I stood trembling as the car moved away, and I started to relax. We were in India and Osho was safe!