Written by Prem Shunyo
The Last Touch
In “The Sound of Running Water” there is a statement made by Osho in 1978, in response to a question, “Why do you call yourself Bhagwan?”
Osho said: “When I see that my people have reached a certain level in their consciousness, then I will drop the name Bhagwan.”
On January 7th 1989, the name Bhagwan dropped and he became simply Shree Rajneesh.
It was later that year in September that he dropped the name Rajneesh. He was now without a name. We asked that we might call him Osho. Osho is not a name, it is a common form of address used in Japan for a Zen master.
Osho had given instructions to Anando a couple of months before that he wanted Chuang Tzu Auditorium to be made into a new bedroom for him. She found people to do the work, the materials were ordered from all over the world and the work was progressing. Osho specified in detail everything he wanted and it seemed as though for the first time he was to get a bedroom exactly how he wanted. he visited the site on a few occasions and took care with Anando over each small detail. He had never had a say in how his room would be and it was a great joy to know that at last it was going to happen. Also his present room was damp and because he was in bed most of the time, it was in darkness. It was like a cave.
As the white Italian marble went in place and the dark blue glass panels reflected the twenty-foot diameter crystal chandelier, it became clear to many people that this was not a bedroom – it was a temple, a samadhi. But although we knew it, we brushed it aside. We could not allow ourselves to see the obvious – Osho was building his own samadhi.
When he came back to talk to us in January his talks were sometimes as long as four hours. This had never happened before and I think now of what Osho said about the flame of a candle: “Just as a candle comes to the very end, has only a few seconds more, and before it will be gone, at the last moment the candle suddenly becomes bigger with all its power.” He was then sick for a few weeks and came back to talk to us in March. I was to ask him my last question and for the first time we sent our questions in unsigned. Although I didn’t ask about reincarnation Osho answered:
“…The very idea of reincarnation, which has arisen in all the Eastern religions, is that the self goes on moving from one body to another body, from one life to another life. This idea does not exist in all the religions that have arisen out of Judaism – Christianity and Mohammedanism. Now even psychiatrists are finding that it seems to be true that people can remember their past lives. The idea of reincarnation is gaining ground.
“But I want to say to you one thing: the whole idea of reincarnation is a misconception. It is true that when a person dies his being becomes part of the whole. Whether he was a sinner or a saint does not matter, but he had also something called the mind, the memory. In the past the information was not available to explain memory as a bundle of thoughts and thought waves, but now it is easier.
“And that’s where, on many points, I find Gautam Buddha far ahead of his time. He is the only man who would have agreed with my explanation. He has given hints but he could not provide any evidence for it; there was nothing available to say. He has said that when a person dies his memory travels into a new womb – not the self. And we now can understand it, that when you are dying you will leave memories all around in the air. And if you have been miserable, all your miseries will find some location; they will enter into some other memory system. Either they will enter totally into a single womb – that’s how somebody remembers their past. It is not your past; it was somebody else’s mind that you have inherited.
“Most people don’t remember because they have not got the whole lump, the whole heritage of a single individual’s memory system. They may have got fragments from here and there, and those fragments create your misery system. All those people who have died on the Earth have died in misery. Very few people have died in joy. Very few people have died with the realization of no-mind. They don’t leave a trace behind: they don’t burden anybody else with their memory, they simply disperse into the universe. They don’t have any mind and they don’t have any memory system, they have already dissolved it in their meditations. That’s why the enlightened person is never born.
“But unenlightened people go on throwing, with every death, all kinds of misery patterns. Just as riches attract more riches, misery attracts more misery. If you are miserable, then from miles away misery will travel to you – you are the right vehicle. And this is a very invisible phenomenon, like radio waves. They are travelling around you; you don’t hear them. Once you have the right instrument to receive them, immediately they become available. Even before the radio was there, they were travelling by your side.
“There is no incarnation, but misery incarnates. Wounds of millions of people are moving around you, just in search of somebody who is willing to be miserable. Of course, the blissful does not leave any trace. The man of awakening dies the way a bird moves into the sky, without making a track or a path. The sky remains empty. Blissfulness moves without making any trace. That’s why you don’t get any inheritance from the buddhas; they simply disappear. And all kinds of idiots and retarded people go on reincarnating in their memories and it becomes every day thicker and thicker. “Be very conscious about your desires and your longings because they are creating the seed for your new form already – without your knowing.” (The Zen Manifesto)
The Zen Manifesto is Osho’s last book. April 10thÉas the discourse finished Osho said his last public words:
“The last word of Buddha was sammasati.
Remember that you are a buddha – sammasati.”
As he said these words a strange look came over him, as though a part of him had flown away. It looked as though he had become disconnected from his body. Standing up looked like such an effort for him and he was having difficulty walking. As he came outside to the car I looked at his face and it had a strange expression as though he didn’t know where he was. This is only my interpretation, and it is because of my lack of understanding that I have to use these words. I never did understand what happened to Osho that night. In the car on the way back to the house Osho said to me that something strange had happened to him. I said, yes, that I had noticed something. He later repeated it, and he seemed as mystified as me, but he never explained to me what had happened. Several days later he said that he didn’t think he would be able to speak again.
For a few months Osho was too weak to come to Buddha Hall, and he rested in his room. People were becoming less dependent on his presence to help them with meditation and whereas a few years before we would have been disturbed and worried, we now began accepting life without seeing Osho each day.
Artistic creativity exploded in the ashram for the first time. Dance, mime, theater, music in the streets and so many people painting who had never painted before. We had never had the space to explore our creativity in the last two communes. When we had arrived the gardens were run down, but now…when I walk into the ashram I pause: my senses go “hush….” I have walked into another world to the sound of the waterfall, the coolness of the canopy of hundreds of tall, flowering trees, a feeling of peace and relaxation. This feeling of silence is not the silence of the graveyard – there are hundreds of people, laughing, playing, and I walk through the ashram thinking, “Why is everyone smiling at me?” Then I realize that they are not smiling at me – they are just smiling!
When Osho became too weak to do work with Neelam on ashram business, he spoke only with Anando, whom he called his “daily newspaper,” and Jayesh, while he was having his lunch and supper. Every day he asked if the ashram was running well without him, and it was. It seemed that for the first time we were beginning to “get it.” There were no more power trips, no hierarchy, people were now working because they enjoyed working, and not because of reward. He also wanted to know if the new people arriving were taken care of and did the new and old people mix together.
He asked that all the ashram buildings be painted black, with blue glass windows, and that we build black pyramids on new properties. He chose luminous green pillar shaped lights to line the white marble roads, and light up the gardens at night. He always noticed if even one light was not working, and he insisted that the swans should have a light in their pond “so that they don’t feel left out.” He never missed the smallest detail in making the ashram beautiful for us. And he noticed the people who were standing outside Buddha Hall guarding – he was concerned that everyone should be able to go inside Buddha Hall, so when he noticed the same person outside too often he said they should have a turn going inside.
Osho gave me all the paints and airbrushes that he had received, and although I did not know how to use the brush, he gave me a lot of encouragement to paint and told me to learn with Meera (a wild and beautiful Japanese artist). When he passed through my room to his dining room, he would walk over to my table looking for a painting, saying “Anything…?” And if there was something left on the table for him to see he would pick it up and look very carefully, sometimes taking it over to the light for a better view. It was hard for me to accept this appreciation though, because I thought I couldn’t paint.
Towards the end of monsoon in August it was a time of great celebration in the ashram when Osho came to sit with us in silence. It seemed as though we were entering a new phase with Osho and the joy of seeing him again was not dampened by the message he sent with Anando for everyone. His message was, “Few have understood my words.”
As he entered he encouraged everyone to dance by waving his arms and the hall exploded with music and screams of delight. Then for ten minutes we sat with him, and in those ten minutes I reached the same heights in meditation that before would take me one hour to settle into. On the way back to the house in the car Osho would turn to me and ask, “Was it alright?” Alright? It was sensational! Fantastic! Every night he would ask this question with such innocence, as though he hadn’t been the one who created the explosion. He was concerned that no one was missing him speaking. I told him that we were all so happy to see him at all, that nobody ever mentioned missing the discourses
Later in that month, what started as a suspected earache turned into a wisdom tooth extraction for Osho and there were complications in the healing. There were many dental sessions, and in each session Osho was stressing that he was fragile and his “roots in the earth are almost broken.”
In a session on August 20th he said, “It is really strange. The symbol Om appears before me. The symbol of Om appears only at the time of death.”
When the session was finished, he sat up and drew the symbol on Anando’s notepad for us to see.
29th August – “The figure of Om has been standing constantly before my eyes in blue colors.”
I remember this session well, and I remember at the time thinking that it was too fantastic, too outrageous. How could I accept that Osho was talking of his death being close. “No,” I thought, “it is just a ploy to get us enlightened.”
Osho came to Buddha Hall to sit with us and music played, interspersed with silence. Osho was very pleased with the “meeting” as he called it. he said many times that he felt that at last he had found his people, and that the people here now are very good people.
“The meeting was so good, people are responding so well. No one has tried to work with so many people at this level and the music has come to my liking – just where I want it. I only want a few more days – not even weeks, and you all have to help me to be in the body.” He said this in a dental session.
After a year of tremendous effort – and Osho instilling a sense of urgency in Anando, saying that, “If my room is not ready soon, it will be my grave!” – Chuang Tzu was ready for Osho to move into, and on August 31st, we were very happy to see him going to sleep for the first time in the cool crystal and marble chamber.
Osho was in so much pain with his teeth that his dentist, Geet, asked if Dr. Mody, a local dental surgeon, could help. Although Osho had always said that he only wanted his own people to take care of his medical needs because their love was so much it was a healing force in itself, still he agreed that Dr. Mody could give a second opinion. When Dr. Mody came to see Osho it was very beautiful because Osho told him, with a chuckle, “You think you have come here to work on me. But I am working on you.”
Osho used every opportunity to try and wake us up. For many days there were dental sessions, but although he was in tremendous pain, his main concern was us. He was telling me that my unconsciousness was harassing him and I was a danger to him because of my neediness.
He said many beautiful loving things, but at the time I only absorbed what he said about my neediness. He said:
“You all mean so much to me. You will not understand unless I am gone.” This is true because for me it was too much at the time, beyond my capacity to understand. He said: “Chetana you are such a loving being. Wherever you are you will be with me.” But then he would order me out of the dental room.
One day he told me to leave as it was a matter of life and death. I sat in my room and tried to understand what he meant; whether he meant life and death for me – or for him! Maybe he was saying that if I didn’t get it, if I couldn’t have enough awareness to see my unconscious conditioning, then it was really a huge barrier for me, and in that respect, maybe he meant life or death; because I just couldn’t imagine that he meant life or death for him.
When the session was finished I was told that still he had been saying that he could continually hear me asking. I was puzzled because I thought I had been sitting silently.
Avirbhava, who we first met in Crete on the world tour, attended a few of the dental sessions, and she used to sit holding Osho’s feet. he said of her that her love for him was pure and innocent. Sometimes Nirvano attended; Anando sat at Osho’s side and kept notes while he tapped on her heart chakra and said he was writing notes on her heart. Amrito was always present and Osho often asked him to stand up and then sit down again. Then there was Geet; Ashu and Nityamo, the dental nurses – Nityamo, a Manchester lass, whose quiet manner veiled her inner strength.
For most of the time Osho was in his new room he was very sick. It was always a difficulty when anything went wrong with Osho’s health because just the medicine to cure one ailment would start off a chain reaction of problems, each one worse than the other. His body was so delicately balanced and his diet and medicines were perfectly tuned to go with it. The smallest change – and how small was always beyond our imagination – would create trouble. Osho always knew what was best for his body though and it was always a case of the doctor listening to him. He didn’t eat a proper meal for many weeks, and for several days only drank water.
Then the great day came when he felt to eat something. A new set of lacquer bowls had arrived from his Japanese sannyasins who had had them made specially in a small village in Japan. They were black and embossed with silver swans in flight, on a matching tray. I served his food and sat at his feet with Avirbhava while he ate. This was one of my diamond moments. I thought that it meant everything would be well, that he was going to be better, that he would be with us forever. It symbolized so much for me and I wept with a joy that was not to last.
Non-sannyasin doctors were consulted and shown X-rays of Osho’s jaw, and they agreed that the rate of deterioration in Osho’s bone and teeth could only be caused by exposure to radiation. This happened while Osho was in jail in America.
I received a message from Osho that I was no longer to be taking care of him. “He would like you to do his laundry,” said Amrito. I was immensely touched by this because Osho had never actually said he would like me to do something before. I would always be asked if I would like, but never that he would like me to do something. I no longer attended the dental sessions, but Osho said to Anando, “Now Chetana has left, you have started.” She was also harassing him unconsciously.
As I write now it is inconceivable to me that I didn’t understand what Osho was doing with me during this time. I remember how I reacted, as though in a dream, and I am amazed that I couldn’t get the point. He was urging me to look IN and in and in; to see my unconscious conditioning and rise above it. I have heard him say that many times we reach to the brink of self-realisation, but then turn back. During this period I see myself as a blind person walking back and forth past the open door, sometimes even brushing my sleeve against the door frame.
It was not enough that I no longer attend the dental sessions, Osho wanted me to leave the ashram while the sessions were happening. Anando was to join me. The first morning we were asked to leave the ashram until the dental session was finished, Anando and I went to a friend’s house near the river. I thought I would make the best of it, so I took my sun tan lotion and lay on the roof in the sunshine. On the walk back to the ashram I was saying, “What a wonderful way to spend the morning, Anando, I think I will do this every day. This is great!”
I was asked to leave more frequently, and sometimes I had nowhere to go. One day I sat for five hours on a stone wall in the street lined with banyan trees at the back of the ashram. The whole joy of having a morning in the sun was gone. The idea to escape to the himalayas kept entering my mind. I felt helpless in my exploration to find the unconscious voice that was continually asking, asking like a beggar. I couldn’t probe any deeper, I couldn’t understand and yet I knew that Osho never did anything without good reason. He never uttered one word that was not coming from his understanding and his effort to awaken us.
Being in Osho’s house and knowing that at any time I could be disturbing him without knowing it became a strong incentive to be in the moment. If I could be conscious and in the moment, then surely my unconsciousness could not make noise.
While in the laundry room I was very careful not to daydream, because I knew that those are the moments when unconsciousness is at work. I was continually trying to watch for those moments when the unconscious could be doing its thing without my knowing it.
One day, on returning from lunch, Amrito was waiting for me at Lao Tzu gate and he said that Osho had sent a message that Anando and I were to move out of the house immediately.
I thought I took this well. I was feeling gratitude for the last few days for being pushed, in a way, into going inside. When I spend most of the day aware of treading the path to discovering my inner self, the result is that I feel very good. I expressed my gratitude, and went to pack. Strange though, I felt nauseous.
Friends came to help me pack. As the nausea got worse, I reeled about between the mess of packed boxes, saying how good I felt, if only I hadn’t eaten such a greasy Indian lunch.
“Of course,” I said, “it’s not emotional, it’s the greasy food.”
My belongings were removed and already a swami was getting ready to move into my room.
As I walked from Lao Tzu Gate to my room along the marble road I looked at the tree called “Flame of the Forest” that stretches across the road. Each night as Osho drives to Buddha Hall, this tree showers the road with orange flowers. The road is hosed down and scrubbed before seven o’clock, and there is not a stray leaf in sight. But, then, just before Osho comes, the tree covers the road with flowers and it looks like an offering to the gods when Osho’s car drives through those orange flowers.
I was walking past the “Flame of the Forest” and I felt very sad to be leaving the Master’s house like this – because how does one know that this is not the beginning of a total change in the ashram? Maybe men will do everything. Maybe other women will even have to leave. Osho had been the first mystic to give women a chance, but perhaps the women’s conditioning is too deep. Who knows, this may be the end for women. I went to my room and vomited.
Anando and I moved to our new rooms in Mirdad House, just across the road from the ashram. I had just got everything moved in when Amrito telephoned me. He said that he had just told Osho that Anando and I had moved out of his house, and Osho said:
“Tell them they can move back in again.”
I sat on the doorstep and cried.
On the same day, Osho moved out of his new room. He had been there for just two weeks and had called it “magical,” “unique,” and, “It is really California.” He asked Amrito if his old room was still there. (Osho had asked that the room be remodelled as a guest room.) While Amrito was still nodding his head, Osho got out of bed and walked out of “California” and straight back into the old room. He never said why, and nobody asked.
Osho had had ten teeth taken out, but after resting for a week he said that he would come to Buddha Hall to sit with us in silence. He said that I could accompany him to the meeting. When I saw him I was stunned by how much he had changed. He moved differently – slower, and yet like a child. He seemed lighter and totally vulnerable and defenseless. The strangest thing was – he looked more enlightened! More enlightened does not make any sense, and I told him what I saw and he just smiled.
Although all these weeks I had been intensely searching to get in touch with my unconscious conditioning, I hadn’t actually seen it. I had spent a lot of time just being very quiet, a lot of time feeling that the mountain path I was on was very narrow and precarious. But I hadn’t seen any sign of the conditioning, until one day in Osho’s presence it was suddenly there. I was aware of my woman’s neediness in the way I spoke to him, every move I made, I felt it coming out of my eyes. Each gesture I made was saying, “Do you love me, do you need me?” My whole body was putting out this question. I was very shocked, I felt ashamed that after all this time, and after all he has given, it is still there. Then I realized it has always been there and this is the first time I have been aware of it.
I then asked myself “Why, why is this need there?”
It seems it’s there because I haven’t yet been in touch with my being. I am not aware that my being is enough. I still relate to the world through “the woman”; I don’t relate with my being, I don’t know that I am enough, because I am still “the woman.” The woman is not needed. Being is enough.
Amrito was looking after Osho full time now and I used to wake him up at 6.00 p.m. It always felt strange to me, asking Osho to “wake up” when it was him trying to wake me up. He took a shower, came to Buddha Hall, and then by 7.45 p.m. He was back in bed. The only energy he had was saved to meet his people each night. He moved on the podium so slowly, and could no longer dance with us. He used to ask: “Do people miss my dancing?” and once I answered him: “We can’t always be dependent on you to help us celebrate. We have to find our own source of celebration.” When I said it, I felt weird because it sounded cold, but it was true. He enjoys to see us celebrating and happy so much, and he noticed everyone. He said that Neelam was looking so peaceful and happy.
He was very pleased with the silence that was growing in our meditation and said many times people were really beginning to understand. “The silence is becoming so solid, you can almost touch it.”
He rarely did work or talked to anyone, except Anando when she had work that was very important; then he would talk for ten minutes. When he asked me if Jayesh had asked to see him, and I said no, Osho said, “How beautiful that people are so loving and sensitive, that they ask nothing from me.”
I was happy during this time and I thought that Osho would be with us for many years to come. The last time I saw him privately he asked me how he was looking:
“I don’t look weak do I?”
“Oh, no, Osho,” I replied. “You always look great. In fact you look so good it is difficult for people to believe you are sick.”
The next day I was sick. It always happened to me that I would get a cold about every three or four months. I suspected there was something psychological in it but I never understood why. Answering me in a discourse many years before Osho had said:
“Sometimes you will come very close to me and you will be full of light – that’s what is happening to Chetana. I see her coming very close to me sometimes; then she will be full of light. But soon she will start hankering for the darkness; then she will have to go away from me.
“And that is what is happening to everybody here. You go on swinging towards me and away from me. You are like a pendulum: sometimes you come close, sometimes you go away. But this is a need. You cannot absorb me totally right now. You have to learn, you have to learn to absorb something so tremendous, which looks almost like death. So many times you will need to go away from me.” (The Wisdom of the Sands)
I saw Osho only in Buddha Hall for the last three months before he left his body, and Anando would go to wake him for our Buddha Hall celebration, while Amrito stayed close to Osho day and night.
Nirvano had been working with Jayesh and Chitten for about eighteen months and traveling to Bombay each week for a couple of days. She told me that she enjoyed the work a lot, that it was intense and exciting. Sometimes she would come to the evening meditation and her celebration made anyone else look pale, and sometimes she wouldn’t come at all. She was depressed for a few weeks, but then one night she went out dancing with Milarepa and Rafia and made a date for the following week.
On December 9th, I was in the laundry room when Anando came and told me that Nirvano had died from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.