Written by Prem Shunyo
It seems to be a sad fact of human nature, that if a person, or group of people, are different from you – then you fear them. I was brought up in a small town in Cornwall, England, where even the people living in the next village were called “them strangers.” It wasn’t even enough to be born in the town, at least one parent had to be born there before you were accepted. So I wasn’t surprised at the local Oregonians’ reaction to us, although it was certainly excessive and violent. The shouts from their local church minister of “satan worshippers go home,” the T-shirts that read “Better dead than red,” with the sights of a gun on Osho’s face; and the bomb that exploded in our hotel in Portland, were definitely excessive.
I did not realize, though, that a whole government would react in such a prejudiced and irresponsible way.
Our commune was a successful ecological experiment. Rajneeshpuram was a barren desert when we arrived and every effort was being made to transform it. Water was being collected in dams and distributed in the fields, and we were growing enough food to make the commune self-sufficient. The commune recycled seventy percent of its waste – a normal American city at the most recycles five to ten percent, and most cities don’t bother at all. We cared for the land and the earth was not polluted in any way. The sewage system worked in such a way that after being pumped into a lagoon, it went through a biological breakdown and was sent down a pipe right through the bottom of the valley, through a multiple filtering system, until finally it irrigated the fields. The deeply eroded land was being saved, and ten thousand trees were planted in the valley. Many of the trees are standing there now, ten years later on, in the once again deserted land, and I have heard that the fruit trees are so laden that their branches are breaking.
In l984, Osho commented:
“They want this city to be demolished because of their land use laws – and none of those idiots have come to see how we are using the land. Can they use it more creatively than we are using it? – and for fifty years nobody was using the land. They were happy – that was ‘good use’. Now we are creating out of it. We are a self-sufficient commune. We are producing our food, our vegetables…we are making every effort to make it self-sufficient.
“This desert…somehow it seems to be the destiny of people like me. Moses ended up in the desert, I have ended up in a desert, and we are trying to make it green. We have made it green. If you go around my house, you cannot think it is Oregon, you will think it is Kashmir.
“And they don’t come to see what has happened here. Just sitting in the capital they decide that it is land use and it is against land use laws. If this is against land use laws then your land use laws are bogus and should be burned. But first come and see and prove that this is against land use laws. But they are afraid to come here….” (The Rajneesh Bible)
The issue of land use laws went back and forth between the high court and the lower courts, until we did finally win the case, but it was too late. The commune had been destroyed one year before. All the sannyasins had left and it was now safe to say that our city had been legal.
While we were waiting for decisions to be made in the court, it was not possible to establish any business or have enough telephone connections without being in a “commercial zone.” The nearest town was Antelope, and it had just forty residents, and was situated in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a grove of tall poplar trees. It was eighteen miles away, and we moved a trailer there to enable us to conduct business. One trailer and a few sannyasins and we were accused of trying to take over the town. In fear, the local residents “disincorporated” their town and we took them to court and won. This escalated into a very ugly drama, that appealed to the American masses more than their latest soap operas.
Newspapers and television stations were becoming very interested – Sheela appeared as the big bad witch and the townsfolk of Antelope represented everyone’s fears, and stirred up the pioneer-defending-his-home drama.
The drama grew and grew and finally more sannyasins moved into the town, elected their own mayor, rebuilt houses, renamed the town “City of Rajneesh,” and then turned around and went back down the valley to Rajneeshpuram and dropped the whole thing. Meanwhile the residents of Antelope were still there but their lives had meaning now. They were interviewed on television and the fight was on.
Sheela was getting a taste of stardom. She was asked to go on many TV programs, I think because her gross behavior, such as giving the finger as an answer to a question, helped the ratings.
There were, by now, many new sannyasins from Europe who had never seen Osho. To them Sheela was The Pope. At her meetings held in Rajneeshpuram for the whole commune, she was always surrounded by young people with adoring faces, fresh from the communes in Europe, eager to clap their hands at anything she said. These meetings used to frighten me. I used to think how they must have been like Hitler’s youth movement.
I retreated more into the mountains.
As Sheela increased her fight with the “outside world,” so a battle began within. Vivek and Sheela gave a meeting together in Magdalena cafeteria one night to assure commune members that there was no rift between them. Although the meeting seemed genuine and was touching, it did in fact confirm everyone’s suspicions that there was indeed conflict between the two of them. Otherwise, why the meeting?
Vivek didn’t trust Sheela one inch, and she was not allowed a key to Osho’s house. When she came to see Osho, Sheela first had to telephone Vivek, then the door would be unlocked for her at the exact right time and locked behind her. Sheela was also forbidden to walk through our house to get to Osho’s trailer, she had to use a side door. This was because she always caused trouble when she walked through our trailer, but of course, it pissed her off because she felt insulted. It was a matter of who had the power.
Sheela would never have told Osho about these seemingly small squabbles, because she had enough sense to know that his solution would diminish her power. I never told him, because in comparison with how Rajneeshpuram was growing it seemed petty. I was under the illusion that at least if Sheela was angry and nasty to us (meaning the people who lived in his house), then we would be her outlet for anger and she would behave well with the rest of the commune. I was being naive.
I can’t remember suffering at Rajneeshpuram, even though I was working twelve hours a day and the rules about what we could and could not do were increasing. I know once when Osho asked me if I was tired, I replied that I couldn’t even remember what it was like to feel tired.
I thought everybody was blissed out. Excuse me, but I never had the feeling that it was a difficult time. In our sleepiness we were allowing ourselves to be ruled by a group of people who were undermining our intelligence and in some instances creating fear in order to control, but that took time to surface and in the meantime, we were enjoying ourselves. If you put a group of sannyasins together, the common denominator will be laughter.
Vivek suffered a lot though. It was the beginning of a hormonal and chemical imbalance that manifested in bouts of depression. I also think that she was so sensitive that her intuition about Sheela and her gang was driving her crazy. She was prone to depression and would sometimes be in a black hole for two or three weeks. We tried every way we could to help her and nothing helped, except to leave her alone, which is what she was asking for in the first place.
She decided to leave the commune. John, a friend, and one of the “Hollywood Set” – a small group of sannyasins who had been with Osho in Poona, and had now given up their luxurious lives in Beverly Hills to join this great experiment – was asked if he would drive her to Salem about two hundred and fifty miles away so that she might take a direct flight to London. They drove for eighteen hours through a snow blizzard, visibility nil, and roads slippery with ice. She caught the plane though.
John made his treacherous trip back to the commune, and before he arrived Vivek had called from England where she had visited her mother for a few hours and decided she wanted to come back to the commune. Osho said, yes of course, and John was to meet her at the airport, as he had been the one to see her off. John arrived back at Rajneeshpuram, just in time to turn around and do the trip again. The snow was so thick by now that many roads were closed down and the snow was still falling. They made it, and Vivek was welcomed back with open arms. As usual she carried no guilt or embarrassment and walked back into her life, head held high as though nothing had happened.
It reminds me of a Gurdjieffian device. It wasn’t a device though.
Driving down the winding road to Rajneeshpuram one day with Osho, as we approached a corner, instead of going around with the road he drove straight towards the edge. The car stopped with its front, which was one third of the car, sticking out in space. Below us was a drop of about thirty feet, and after that it was all down hill to the bottom of the valley.
Osho said, “There, you see what happens…?”
I sat rigid, not daring to breath in case the slightest movement would tip the balance and send us hurtling down. He sat for a few seconds before restarting the engine. I was praying to a non-existent god, “Please, let it be reverse gear!” Then slowly the car backed on to the road and we were driving towards home. I didn’t understand, so I continued the conversation: “What happens…?”
He said: “I was trying to avoid that muddy puddle back there, because it would have been a trouble for Chin who cleans my car.”
Sheela surrounded Osho’s house and garden with a ten-foot-high electrical charged fence.
“To keep the deer out of the garden?”
Anyway, we were fenced in. My washing line was outside the fence and although there was a gate and I was assured that the gate was not charged, every time I tried to get through the gate I got a shock that felt like a horse had kicked me in the stomach. The first time it happened I fell to my knees and vomited. That was the end of my mountain days. Instead of running through the mountains to the canteen twice a day I now walked down the path to the bus stop like everybody else, observed by the guards in the watchtower. Oh, yes, there was a watch-tower that was manned twenty-four hours a day by at least two guards armed with sub-machine guns. Paranoia was growing on both sides of the fence.
In April 1983 the commune received a message from Osho. He had been informed by Devaraj of an incurable illness called AIDS that was spreading throughout the world. Osho said that this disease would kill two-thirds of humanity and the commune had to be protected. He suggested that condoms and rubber gloves be used while making love, unless a couple had been together in a monogamous relationship for over two years. The press delighted in this news and ridiculed the protective measures for a practically unknown disease. Five years and thousands of deaths later American health authorities woke up to the dangers of this disease and were recommending the very same protection. It is now 1991 and in our commune each person is tested for AIDS every three months.
When Osho remarked on the absence of trees, he was told by Sheela of a pine forest that existed on the far side of the property. He loved trees so much, and he was often asking me, “Have you seen the pine forest? How many trees? How big? How far away is it, andcould I drive there?”
I went one day on a motorbike and there was no road at all. It was about fifteen miles across country and was situated in a small valley on the border of the property.
It was becoming increasingly dangerous for Osho to drive outside Rajneeshpuram, so a road began to be cut to the pine forest. It was a slow process. No sooner had the first cut been made than the men would be called off to work somewhere else, and then it would rain and the road would be washed away. Ten miles were completed by l984 and each day Osho drove along the road getting closer and closer to the elusive pine forest. It was a magnificent drive, but the forest was not even in sight.
Osho left before the road ever reached the forest that he wanted to see so much. Milarepa and Vimal had been working on the road since the project began. They were close friends and Vimal’s sense of humor and innocence was yet to come to its full glory – years later he would create great laughter for Osho and us by coming to our evening meeting place (Buddha Hall) dressed as a woman in a sari one night (imitating Maneesha) and another night he came to discourse dressed in a gorilla skin. But before this was to happen, they were working together building a small highway, miles from anywhere, for their Master to see the forest. They had worked so long and determinedly on it that when the time came to give up they continued – just the two of them. While everyone else was bringing back the machines to sell them, they were trying to reach the pine forest “just in case Osho came back.”
As the weeks and months passed the energy of the sannyasins could be contained no longer. It was not enough to stand by the side of the road and simply namaste Osho as he drove past. One afternoon, as Osho was taking his car ride, a small group of Italian sannyasins stood by the side of the road and played music to him. He stopped for a few minutes to enjoy them, and within a week the road through the valley was lined with red-clad musicians, dancing and singing – from Lao Tzu gate, across the small dam and Basho Pond, along the dusty road past Rajneesh Mandir, through “downtown” Rajneeshpuram, and up into the hills. This was the beginning of a wild celebration that was to happen every day for the next two years, through blistering heat and falling snow. It was a spontaneous explosion of joy, of people who wanted to express their love for Osho in the only way they could.
Musical instruments started arriving from all over the world, the most favored being huge Brazilian drums; but there were also flutes, violins, guitars, tambourines, shakers of all dimensions, saxophones, clarinets, trumpets – we had them all; and those without an instrument sang or simply jumped up and down on the spot.
Osho loved to see his people happy and he drove so slowly that the Rolls Royce engine had to be specially tuned. He moved his arms to the music and stopped at certain groups and musicians. Maneesha, who had been one of Osho’s mediums and was to become his “recorder” (as Plato was to Socrates), would be there with her small group of celebrators. Osho would stop opposite her, and I could see her disappearing into a wild, ecstatic cyclone of colored tambourine ribbons and joy. Her long dark hair would fly around her face, her body leapt in the air, and yet her dark eyes were fixed silently and still on Osho’s. Osho especially spent a lot of time with Rupesh, his bongo player, and to see Osho playing drums through Rupesh was something other-worldly. Despite the mixture of music, from the Indian kirtan group to the Brazilians, there was immense harmony. It would sometimes take two hours to drive past the line of celebrators, because Osho would not be able to resist anyone who was really going for it. The car would bounce up and down as he moved his arms and I was always amazed how he had the strength in his arms to last that long.
Drive-by was as intimate and high as any energy darshan and I was sometimes in the car with Osho and so could see the peoples’ faces. If ever there was reason to save this planet this was it. Even those people in the line up could not imagine how beautiful they looked. I was often overwhelmed with tears and once Osho, hearing my sniffling said:
“You have a cold?”
“No Osho, I’m crying”
“Mmmm. Crying? What happened?”
“Nothing, Osho, just that its so beautiful.
They can’t destroy this, can they?”
Back at the house, Osho was having a lot of trouble with his teeth. He had nine root canals and while this treatment was happening He, of course, made the best of it, and while under the influence of the dentist’s gas, he talked. It was not an easy task for Osho’s dentist, Devageet, to work on a mouth that is most of the time moving. Osho talked three books worth. We realised that something was worth recording here, and so recorded all he said. The three books, Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Books I Have Loved, and Notes of a Madmanare extraordinary.
While we were out on a car ride one day some cowboys threw stones at Osho’s car. They missed, but I got a good look at them. At that time Osho’s car was followed by our “security force,” but none of the five security people saw what happened, even though I called to them on the motorola.
After the ride I was asked to go to Jesus Grove (Sheela’s house), and give a talk to the security force. I was the hero of the day! My ego was puffed up and I felt a rush of intense energy, like adrenaline. Everyone in the room was listening to me, and I was giving advice and telling people how to do their job better. The meeting ended at lunch time and I went to catch the bus to the canteen. While standing at the bus stop I felt so high; I couldn’t stop talking and I was quite carried away with myself, when suddenly with a sickening thud, I saw – this ispower. This is what power feels like. This is the drug with which people are bought, and for which people sell their souls.
Sheela controlled her group by giving or taking away power from them. I think power is an intoxicant and like all drugs it destroys a person’s consciousness. Lust for power does not happen to someone who is meditating and yet it is strange that we allowed Sheela complete power over the commune. The people in Rajneeshpuram wanted to be there because of Osho and to live in his presence and this was the threat – of expulsion – that gave Sheela her power. I think that we were not yet ready to take responsibility for ourselves also. It is much easier to leave decisions and organizing to someone else, and not claim responsibility for anything that happens. Responsibility means freedom, and responsibility needs a certain maturity. We were to learn, in retrospect.
“When I am gone, remember me as a man who has given you freedom and individuality.” Osho and he has, he really has.
The freedom to be myself has begun with the search for myself, through the layers of false personality. Individuality comes with the courage to express myself even if it means I am different from anyone else. My individuality can only blossom when I can accept myself and say, “Yes, this is me. This is how I am,” without any judgement.
Although our house was guarded around the clock by Sheela’s security force in the watch tower, at night everyone in our trailer, on a rota system, had to get up, get dressed – that meant full gear because it was below zero outside, and usually raining or snowing – and walk around the house with a motorola. It was pitch dark, slippery and scary. Climbing up the slope at the end of the swimming pool, creeping through the bamboos, I would jump over the small stream that babbled like strange voices – and often at this point the motorola let out a loud static screech. Standing as stiff as a corpse, heart thumping, I would stare into the darkness with a silent scream frozen on my face. This was the beginning of Sheela’s revenge on us, for existing. Her jealousy was to grow beyond all sane proportions, because we were close to Osho.
We, in turn, were to ensure that there was no way Sheela could get into the house without our knowing. She would send her workmen up to the house to change a lock on a door, and Vivek would send Asheesh off to the tool shop to steal (no other way) a bolt and fix it to the other side of the door with the changed lock. This was to save Vivek’s life when Sheela sent four of her gang to Vivek’s room with chloroform and a syringe of poison. Rafia, Vivek’s boyfriend, was sent away from the Ranch “on business,” for the night and the murder attempt was foiled only because they couldn’t get into the house. We did not find out about this plot until after Sheela had left, and some of her gang were questioned by the FBI.
It was in June l984 I received a telephone call from Sheela. She sounded very excited, like someone who had just won a lottery and she was screaming so loud I had to hold the receiver two feet from my ear.
“We’ve hit the jackpot. We’ve hit the jackpot!” she screeched.
Thinking something great had happened, I asked what, and she replied that Devaraj, Devageet and Ashu, who was Osho’s dental nurse, had been found to have the infectious eye disease, conjunctivitis.
“And that proves,” she said, “that they are dirty, filthy pigs and shouldn’t be allowed to take care of Osho.”
I put down the telephone, thinking, “Oh, my God, the woman has lost it.”
Next step was that she wanted Puja to come and test Osho’s eyes. Puja, lovingly known as Nurse Mengele, was not liked or trusted by anyone. Something about her swarthy, puffy face and the way her eyes – mere slits – were always hidden behind tinted glasses. I told Osho that Sheela wanted to send Puja to examine him and he said that as the disease had no cure and patients were simply isolated, what was the point?
Sheela insisted that everyone in the house go to get their eyes tested, so, except Nirupa who stayed to take care of Osho, we all went to the medical center. And, would you believe it, we all had the disease. Vivek, Devaraj, Devageet and I were put into a room together and were then joined by about twelve of Sheela’s people, including Savita, the woman I had met in England and who was in charge of the accounts. The inquisition that followed was so ugly that I resolved on that day that should Osho die before me then I would surely commit suicide. Everyone in the room had something nasty to say, as though they had been brewing vile thoughts for a long time and now was their opportunity to unload on us. Savita kept repeating that love is hard and not always nice, and we were attacked for our inability to take care of Osho properly. They spoke of Osho as though he didn’t really know what he was doing and he needed someone to think for him.
Although we had no symptoms of a disease, we didn’t feel we could argue with the doctors’ findings.
The next day Osho developed a toothache and asked for Raj, Geet and Ashu to attend him. Sheela tried to send her own doctor and dentist but Osho refused, he said he wanted his own people, irrespective of the risk. So the trio went back to Osho’s house, where they were duly disinfected, and allowed to treat Osho.
The whole commune was then tested for the “bogus disease,” as Osho called it, and everyone was found to have it. The medical center was overflowing with people, and there was no one left to take care of the commune. Finally, a doctor spoke with an eye specialist and learnt that what had actually been seen under examination were small dots on the cornea that were common to anyone living in a dry, dusty climate such as ours.
We were allowed back to our house after three days. On walking up the driveway, I was appalled to see our belongings strewn all over the lawn and pathway. A team of cleaners under Sheela’s orders had gone through the house and thrown everything out as contaminated.
We were sprayed with alcohol and were then greeted by another inquisition, and this time there was a tape recorder set up so Sheela could get an accurate report of what was said. This was too much, and Vivek went to Osho’s room to tell him what was happening. When she returned with the message from him that they should stop all this nonsense and go home, nobody believed her. It was like trying to call off the hunting dogs once they had the smell of the lair. They said Vivek was lying, so we all got up and walked away, leaving everyone sitting there, and Patipada, who was one of Sheela’s team, was on her hands and knees screaming abuse into the tape recorder, because she had no one else to shout at.
The next day Osho had a meeting in his room for a few of us, including Savita, Sheela, and some of her followers. He said that if we could not learn to live in harmony then he would leave his body on July 6th. There was enough fighting going on outside the commune without internal fighting. He talked about the abuse of power.
A few days after this Osho gave a list of twenty-one people, living in the commune, who were enlightened. This really caused a stir!
And, if that stir was not enough, next came three committees (sansads), composed of Sambuddhas, Mahasattvas and Bodhisattvas. These people were to take care of the commune, should anything happen to him. Sheela was not on any of the lists, nor were any of her cronies.
By doing this, Osho took away all possibility of Sheela becoming his successor. She no longer had any power.
A story that can explain how a mystic lives and works happened one day when I was in the car with Osho.
There was a fly in the car buzzing around our heads, and I was swinging my arms around trying to catch it. We stopped at crossroads and were waiting for the traffic to move and I continued to slap at the windows and seats. Osho sat motionless, looking ahead, while I worked myself into a sweat trying to squash the fly. Without turning his head, or even moving his eyes, he quietly pressed the button on the automatic window. The window on his side slid down and he sat silently and waited. When the fly flew close to him, he ever so slightly moved his hand and the fly flew out the window. Then he touched the button and the window closed. He never took his eyes off the road, and he didn’t say anything.
So Zen, and so graceful.
This was his way with Sheela too. With grace he waited until she made her own exit. He was still her Master too, he loved her and trusted the Buddha in her. I know Osho trusted Sheela because I have been watching him closely for fifteen years, and the man is Trust. The way he lived his life was pure trust and the way he died shows his total trust.
I asked him what the difference was between a person who trusts, and one who is naive, and he said that being naive is being ignorant, but to trust is intelligent.
“Both will be cheated, both will be deceived, but the person who is naive will feel cheated, will feel deceived, will be angry, will start distrusting people. His naiveness will sooner or later become distrust.
“And the person who trusts is also going to be cheated and deceived, but he is not going to feel hurt. He will simply feel compassionate towards those who have cheated him, who have deceived him, and his trust will not be lost. His trust will go on increasing in spite of all deceptions. His trust will never turn into distrust of humanity.
“In the beginning they both look the same. But in the end, the quality of being naive turns into distrust, and the quality of trusting goes on becoming more trusting, more compassionate, more understanding of human weaknesses, human frailties. The trust is so valuable that one is ready to lose everything, but not the trust.” (Beyond Enlightenment)
I have sometimes wondered if Osho can see the future, because if I sometimes have glimpses of events before they happen, then surely he gets the whole movie. As I understand it though, his whole teaching is to be in the moment. This moment is all.
“Who cares about the future? I am living NOW.” …Osho
Vivek went to Jesus Grove for a meeting with Sheela. After drinking a cup of tea she became sick and Sheela brought her home. I saw them from my laundry room window; Sheela was supporting Vivek as though she could hardly walk. Devaraj examined her and her pulse beat was between one hundred and sixty and one hundred and seventy, and her heart was abnormal.
A few days later Osho broke his silence, and started giving discourses in his sitting room. There was room for about fifty people, so we attended on a rota system, and the video of the discourse was shown to the whole commune the next evening in Rajneesh Mandir. He spoke on rebellion, as against obedience, freedom and responsibility, and he even said that he would not leave us in the hands of a fascist regime.
He said that at last he was speaking to people who could accept what he had to say, that for thirty years he had to disguise his message amongst sutras of Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, etc. Now he was going to tell the naked truth about religions. he emphasized again and again that to be enlightened you need not be of virgin birth; in fact, all the stories surrounding enlightened people were lies invented by the priests.
“ÉI am just as ordinary as you are, with all the weaknesses, with all the frailties. This is to be emphasized continuously because you will tend to forget it. And why am I emphasizing it? So that you can see a very significant point: if an ordinary man – who is just like you – can be enlightened, then there is no problem for you either. You can also be enlightened….”
“I have not given you any promises…any incentives…any guarantee. I don’t take any responsibility on your behalf, because I respect you. If I take the responsibility on myself then you are slaves. Then I am the leader and you are the led. We are fellow travelers. You are not behind me but by my side – just together with me. I am not higher than you, I am just one amongst you. I don’t claim any superiority, extraordinary power. Do you see the point? To make you responsible for your life is to give you freedom.”
“Freedom is a great risk…nobody really wants to be free – it is pure talk. Everybody wants to be dependent, everybody wants someone else to take responsibility. In freedom you are responsible for every action, every thought, every movement. You cannot dump anything on anybody else.”
I remember that once when things were chaotic and Vivek was being difficult, Osho said to me, looking slightly surprised:
“You are so calm.”
I replied that it was because he was helping me. He didn’t say anything, but I felt my words freeze in the air and then fall splat at my feet. I couldn’t even take responsibility for my own serenity. Osho had to be the cause.
He was to ask me how the commune felt. The same question he asked years before when he was in silence. I answered that now he was speaking again it felt like his commune. It didn’t feel like Sheela’s commune anymore.
Sheela was losing her stardom. She was no longer the only person to see Osho, everybody saw him, and not only that, we could ask him questions for discourse. What Osho was talking about was opening people’s eyes.
His talks on Christianity were outrageous, even to someone who had been listening to Osho for many years. He was calling a spade, a fucking spade.
It was these talks that must have stirred fear in the hearts and stomachs of the fundamentalist Christians, not the possibility that he didn’t have the right tourist visa.
Sheela called a general meeting for the whole commune, and it was to be held in Rajneesh Mandir. Vivek suspected that Sheela was going to try and stop Osho talking, so we made a plan that a few of us would spread out in the Mandir and call out “Keep him Talking.” This way people would understand what was going on and everyone would start chanting to keep him talking!
I sat at the back of the Mandir and switched on my tape recorder, hidden in my down jacket, just to record the meeting correctly. Sheela started to say that with the coming festival there was so much work that there was a “backlog” and it was going to be impossible to prepare for the festival, and go to discourse. My cue…….
“Keep ‘im talking. Keep ‘im talking!” I bellowed out.
Where were my fellow anarchists?
“Keep ‘im talking! I continued to shout, as people turned around to see who the idiot was disrupting the meeting. I saw their faces incredulous – Chetana, Chetana? – but she is such a quiet type. Must have gone mad.
Everybody knew that there was no backlog of work, but nobody could understand what Sheela was getting at, so the meeting turned into total confusion and ended up with a compromise being made. Our Master – who says never, never compromise – and we, unknowingly, made our compromise which meant that Osho would talk to a few people each night and the video would be shown after everyone had done twelve hours’ work and had their dinner. Of course, even the most devoted disciple fell asleep during the video. Not only were his words not heard, people felt guilty into the bargain for not being able to stay awake!
While Vivek was out driving with Osho on the Ranch they passed a group of people in the creek who were picking up stones and dead branches.
“What are they doing?” asked Osho.
“They must be picking up the backlog,” said Vivek.
Searching for the backlog became a great joke among sanyasins.
Osho became very sick and a specialist was called in to attend him. He had an infection of the middle ear and was in tremendous pain for about six weeks. Discourse and car rides were cancelled.
I had been working in the garden for almost a year and Vivek had been doing Osho’s laundry. I had not been without my own traumas and difficulties and working with plants and trees had been a great solace to me. Osho’s house now had hundreds of trees surrounding it, pines, blue spruces, and redwoods had been planted and some were already sixty feet high. There was a waterfall that ran past his window, around the corner of the swimming pool, and cascaded a second time into a pool surrounded by weeping willows. Blossoming cherry trees, high pampas grasses, bamboos, yellow forsythia, and magnolia trees were either side of the small stream. There was a rose garden directly in front of Osho’s dining room window and in his car porch was a fountain in which sat a life size Buddha statue. Poplar trees lined the driveway until it reached a grove of silver birch trees. The lawns were by now lush green and spreading, with wild flowers all over the surrounding hills.
There were three hundred peacocks in the garden, dancing with their psychedelic colors. Six of them were pure white, and these six were the naughtiest. They use to stand in front of Osho’s car with their tails fanned out like giant snowflakes, and wouldn’t let him drive past them.
Osho has always liked to live with gardens and beautiful birds and animals. He wanted a deer park to be created at Rajneeshpuram, and we were to grow “alfa-alfa” for the deer, to attract them away from the hunters. He told a story of a place in India he used to visit near a waterfall where there were hundreds of deer. At night they would come to the lake to drink, “and their eyes would shine like a thousand flames, dancing in the dark.”
At the bottom of the garden, before Basho Pond, where black swans resided on one side of the bridge, and white on the other, there was the garage in which were the famous ninety-six Rolls Royces. In India Osho’s one Mercedes created an uproar, but in America it took almost a hundred Rolls Royces to achieve the same effect.
For many people these cars were a barrier between them and Osho. They could not see past the cars.
It is said that Sufi masters create disguises so that they may go about their business unrecognized and do not have to waste time with people who are not seekers.
“There was no need for ninety-six Rolls Royces. I could not use ninety-six Rolls Royces simultaneously – the same model, the same car. But I wanted to make it clear to you that you would be ready to drop all your desires for truth, for love, for spiritual growth to have a Rolls Royce. I was knowingly creating a situation in which you would feel jealous.
“The function of a master is very strange. He has to help you come to an understanding of your inner structure of consciousness: it is full of jealousy.
“…Those cars fulfilled their purpose. They created jealousy in the whole of America, in all the super-rich people. If they were intelligent enough, then rather than being my enemies they would have come to me to find a way to get rid of their jealousy, because it is their problem. Jealousy is a fire that burns you, and burns you badly.” (Beyond Psychology)
“Everything that I have done in my life has a purpose. It is a device to bring out something in you of which you are not aware.” …Osho
The Fourth Annual World Celebration began and Osho came to meditate with us in Rajneesh Mandir. Devaraj was reading passages selected from Osho’s books, interspersed with music. Masters’ Day, July 6th, was upon us and I was sitting in the celebration feeling very bad. I said to myself that I was sitting in front of Osho, and this was a celebration day, so what was the matter? When the morning celebration was over I waited in
the car with Maneesha for Devaraj. I felt sick and so undid my buttons and put my head between my knees. We waited until there was no one left in the Mandir, and yet he hadn’t passed us. Only an ambulance had shot past us.
Maneesha drove home and as we were walking up the driveway someone came running and told us that Devaraj had been injected with poison during the celebration, and was dying.
My mind raced, why would anyone want to come to Rajneeshpuram to kill Devaraj, and how come such a maniac was allowed in to the Mandir? I was imagining a group of Charles Manson type characters dressed in black leather and chains.
The world had turned upside down.
The medical facilities built for Osho were being used to test Raj’s blood, and with my own ears I overhead the doctors saying that, “By all rights, this man should be dead.”
Devaraj was taken to an intensive care unit in the nearest hospital, a plane ride away. He was coughing blood, which indicated his heart had gone into failure and he now had pulmonary oedema.
It was twenty-four hours before we were to know that he was going to pull through.
That afternoon I was standing with Maneesha by Basho’s Pond, to greet Osho in drive-by. Before Osho’s car came, Sheela, with Shanti Bhadra, Vidya and Savita cruised by. The four of them leaned forward to stare defiantly at Maneesha and I. It was a weird moment and went into my forever-indelible-impressions file.
They stopped the car and stared, then they called Indian Taru (huge fat Taru who had been Osho’s singer during Hindi sutras for many years) over and asked something. I found out later that they asked her if she had seen anything during the celebration in the morning.
She had indeed seen something, as was to come out later. She saw the puncture wound on Devaraj’s backside made by the injection, and she was told by Devaraj just before he passed out that Shanti Bhadra had injected him.
Taru did not tell this to the car full of would-be murderesses, as she was obviously in fear for her own life.
I heard it whispered that Shanti Bhadra, Sheela’s closest aide, had tried to kill Devaraj, and in the same moment it had been denied and I was told that Devaraj was confused and very sick – maybe even a brain tumor.
Nobody was prepared to believe such an outrageous story, that he had been injected with poison by a fellow sannyasin, and Devaraj, instead of shouting it to everyone in sight – including the doctors who tended him in the hospital – had enough awareness to see the implications: police descending on the commune. There were already rumors, confirmed by an official memo, that state troopers were being kept on hold, awaiting orders to attack the commune. Rumors had spread out of all proportion that we had many guns in the commune, and no one had stopped to investigate that it was our own state-trained security force that had the guns, just like any other police force in America.
Devaraj was in fear that he might be knocked off while lying in the hospital bed, and also he was aware that if he did survive he was going to have go back to Rajneeshpuram.
So Devaraj told only Maneesha, Vivek and Geet and they decided to keep quiet until they obtained proof. Some of us thought Raj had lost his faculties. He was left utterly vulnerable to another attack and yet he continued living day to day as though everything was normal. Imagine what trust Devaraj had, on one side surrounded by his friends who thought he was nuts, and on the other side, surrounded by people who had tried to kill him, and might try again.
On the same day that Devaraj returned home from the hospital, Osho began giving press conferences in Jesus Grove. This was the long bungalow where Sheela and her gang lived, and a large room was kept at an exceptionally cold temperature for Osho to speak at night. Journalists from all over the world had interviews with him. Music accompanied Osho as he arrived and left Jesus Grove and he danced with the people filling the corridors and driveway to the house. Any of Sheela’s people who had been in doubt as to who their Master was, now had the opportunity to see.
Osho danced with us in the Mandir; he would call to people to come up on the podium and dance, and he visited our discotheque, offices and the medical center. He graced everywhere in Rajneeshpuram with his presence. He was showing people, “Look, I am not a God, I am an ordinary human being, just like you.”
It was difficult for me to see Osho as an ordinary man. It was not until after he left his body that I was flooded with memories of how human and ordinary he was. His humbleness and frailties became clear only after I no longer could be dependent on him.
While I saw him as a godly figure, then I didn’t have to take responsibility for my own enlightenment. My own realization was as far away as he appeared to be, and I could continue to snore and dream.
Devaraj began to recover his health and for a few weeks Sheela was away from the commune. She was visiting centers in Europe, Australia, and other places. Anywhere where she was still a star, in fact. She wrote a letter to Osho saying that she no longer felt excited whenever she returned to Rajneeshpuram. Friday, l3th September, 1985, he answered her letter publicly in a discourse and said:
“Perhaps she is not conscious, and this is the situation for all – she does not know why she does not feel excited here any more. It is because I am speaking and she is no longer the central focus. She is no longer a celebrity. When I am speaking to you, she is no longer needed as a mediator to inform you of what I am thinking. Now that I am speaking to the press and to the radio and TV journalists, she has fallen into shadow. And for three-and-a-half years she was in the limelight because I was silent.
“It may not be clear to her why she does not feel excited coming here and feels happy in Europe. She is still a celebrity in Europe – interviews, television shows, radio interviews, newspapers – but here all that has disappeared from her life. If you can behave in such foolish, unconscious ways even while I am here, the moment I am gone you will be creating all kinds of politics, fight. Then what is the difference between you and the outside
world? Then my whole effort has been a failure. I want you to behave really as a new man.
“I have given Sheela the message that this is the reason: ‘So think it over and tell me. If you want me to stop speaking just for your excitement, I can stop speaking.’
“To me there is no problem in it. In fact, it is a trouble. For five hours a day I am speaking to you, and it is creating unhappiness in her mind. So let her do her show business. I can move into silence. But that indicates that deep down those who have power will not like me to be here alive, because while I am here nobody can have any power trip. They may not be conscious about it; only situations reveal your power trip.”
The next day Sheela, with about fifteen of her followers, boarded a plane and flew out of Rajneeshpuram, out of America, and out of our lives.
Sheela’s departure from the commune did not make me happy. I felt worried and sad. It meant she was leaving Osho. But why?
I was soon to find out, as stories poured in from commune members of their mistreatment by her, and even worse. She had committed many crimes, from attempted murder, to wiretapping, to poisoning a nearby city’s water supply.
Osho immediately called in the FBI and CIA to investigate. They moved into the main ranch house and from there interviewed everyone. They did not interview Osho although appointments were made; but then the officers would cancel them.
I heard a few (much less significant) stories about myself, also. How Sheela told people that I was a spy, so not to speak to me – I never noticed! The guards that had been watching over Lao Tzu house where we lived had been warned that one day they may have to shoot us, so not to become friendly with us. Instinctively I had always been careful on the telephone, so I was not too surprised to hear that our ‘phones were bugged. But I was astounded to know that Osho’s room was bugged.
At least a hundred journalists came to Rajneeshpuram and stayed for weeks. It was the first and only time I have felt relieved to have them
around, because I felt they were in a way our protection.
If I hadn’t been so shocked by the catastrophic turn of events I would have realised what danger Osho was in.
The press and neighboring farmers had seen that when Osho drove in his car he was flanked by guards carrying guns. It is not an unusual sight in America to see a person guarded, and yet it started rumors that the commune was stockpiling weapons.
Charles Turner, US Attorney, made a statement to the press a few months after the dissolution of Rajneeshpuram when he was asked why Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was not charged with any crimes:
He said that there was no proof that Bhagwan had committed any crimes, but that the government’s main objective had always been to destroy the commune.
Our commune, where people were working twelve or fourteen hours a day, celebrating together at lunch time and dancing in the discotheques at night – and what dancing! It was really wild, high energy there, not like other discotheques I have been to where people are simply there to see and be seen. The atmosphere in Rajneeshpuram was very alive and happy.
For instance – the buses. Whenever I took a bus ride I could not help but compare how a bus ride is in, say London – long faces, everybody arguing with the conductor about the lateness of the bus or the price of the ticket; people shouting at the driver, and pushing each other; elbows in the ribcage, and the odd pervert grabbing a tit as he lurches off the bus. In Rajneeshpuram I always left the bus feeling elated, because to start with the driver/conductor seemed to be having a great time. He would be playing music and greeting everyone as they got on the bus. The passengers were most often laughing and enjoying themselves and it was an opportunity to meet people that you may not have seen for a long time.
Taking a plane trip was like sitting at home in your own sitting room with all the comforts, plus a friend bringing you snacks and drinks. In fact, I always got the impression when I looked around our city
that we were children playing at being firemen, truck drivers, farmers and shopkeepers. It never felt serious and “grown-up”, though it certainly was sincere and heartful.
The huge cafeteria where we ate together was tremendously alive and buzzing, and the food was so good that everyone became big. When sannyasins were working or eating together, or dancing, the energy was very high in spite of Sheela’s fascist regime.
That she was listening in to every phone call we made and even our conversations in our rooms, shows to what degree her paranoia had developed.
Sheela’s tremendous energy had helped build a city in the desert and that cannot go without admiration; but she had gone mad. Her lust for power had corrupted her and she was not in touch with any of Osho’s teachings. Under Sheela’s house were found secret tunnels and rooms. A laboratory was discovered in the hills for making poisons. This was Nurse Mengele’s department.
When Sheela left I think some people felt foolish and that they had been taken for a ride. Foolish because so much had been going on under their noses and no one had the guts or even the awareness to say, “Hey, wait a minute….” And taken for a ride because everyone had worked so hard towards a dream, a vision and it was being destroyed. Some sannyasins were to only remember the negative aspects, and their joyful moments, which I had seen on their faces, were to become faded dreams. We had all enjoyed making our contribution to creating an oasis in the desert, nobody can deny that. Otherwise, for what other reason were we there? And, of course, there were the people whose money Sheela had run off with. At least forty million dollars were stolen from donations and shifted into a Swiss bank account.
Certainly we had behaved blindly. But what an opportunity to live all this and see it, and have a chance to begin all over again with sharpened awareness. It’s as though we lived many lives in that short time.
During the month that followed Sheela’s exit flight, Osho talked three times a day (about seven to eight hours) to disciples and journalists. For such a self-acclaimed lazy man he was doing a
tremendous amount of “work,” and was obviously getting tired.
Osho: “Just the other night it happened – one interviewer went on and on, on and on. There seemed to be no end to his questions; he had almost a whole book of questions. Just to stop him somewhere… It was getting to be ten at night, and he asked, ‘Do you agree with Socrates?’
“I said, ‘I absolutely agree.’ And I had to stand up and tell him that I had to agree, otherwise this interview would never end! Otherwise, who is going to agree with that old Socrates, who was a homosexual?”
When asked by a journalist how was it possible that he did not know everything that was going on if he was enlightened, Osho answered:
“To be enlightened means I know myself, it does not mean that I know my room is bugged.”
(The Last Testament)
September 26th, 1985. It takes a diamond to cut a diamond, and I recognized that what was coming was going to hurt when in discourse Osho said:
“And today I would like to declare something immensely important – because I feel perhaps this helped Sheela and her people to exploit you. I don’t know whether tomorrow I will be here or not, so it is better to do it while I am here, and make you free from any other possibility of such a fascist regime.
“That is, from today, you are free to use any color of clothes. If you feel like using red clothes, that is up to you. And this message has to be sent all over the world to all the communes. It will be more beautiful to have all the colors. I had always dreamed of seeing you in all the colors of the rainbow.
“Today we claim the rainbow to be our colors.
“The second thing: you return your malas – unless you wish otherwise. That is your choice, but it is not a necessity anymore. You return your malas to President Hasya. But if you want to keep it, it is up to you.
“The third thing: from now onwards, anybody who wants initiation into sannyas will not be given a mala and will not be told to change to red clothes.
“So, we can take over the world more easily!” (From Bondage to Freedom)
These words from Osho had an ominous feel to them, but it was the clapping and cheering that frightened me. It was like a stupid mob; like the clapping that had accompanied Sheela’s meetings. Many people left Rajneesh Mandir very happy and went to buy new color clothes in the boutique. I saw Vivek, we were both wary of the change, and she said to me, “He may disband the commune next.”
October 8th, 1985, Osho said in discourse:
“…..You have been clapping because I have dropped red clothes, malas. And when you clap, you don’t know how it hurts me. That means you have been a hypocrite!
“Why have you been wearing red clothes if dropping them brings you so much joy? Why have you been wearing the mala? The moment I say, ‘Drop,’ you rejoice. And people rushed to the boutique to change their clothes, they have dropped their malas.
“But you don’t know how much you have wounded me by your clapping and by your changing.
“Now, I have to say one thing more, and I would like to see whether you have guts to clap or not: that is, now there is no Buddhafield. So if you want enlightenment, you have to work for it individually, the Buddhafield exists no more. You cannot depend on the energy of the Buddhafield to become enlightened.
“Now clap as loudly as you can. CLAP!…
“Now you are completely free: even for enlightenment only you are responsible. And I am completely free from you.
“You have been behaving like idiots!…
“And this has given a good chance to see how many people are really intimate with me. If you can drop your malas so easily….Even in my own house there is one sannyasin who immediately changed to blue clothes, with great joy. What does it show? It shows that those red clothes were a burden. She was somehow managing to be in red clothes against her will.
“But I don’t want you to do anything against your will.
“Now I don’t want even to help you towards your enlightenment against your will. You are absolutely
free and responsible for yourself.”(From Bondage to Freedom)
When he shouted “Clap!” it was as though a bomb had exploded and we were all sitting in its fallout, frozen. After the discourse I walked away from the Mandir, red, raw and sobbing. The first two friends I saw, I went to them saying “Help, help,” and we went together to drink coffee in the sunlight. I felt that we had all let Osho down. It seemed that our behavior throughout the last four years had culminated in this moment. We all shared the responsibility for Sheela’s actions – myself for simply not saying anything. It is not enough to be a nice loving person, I also had to grow in intelligence, understanding and the courage to say how I felt.
It was the end of October, and one night I dreamt that Osho was leaving the house in a hurry. The house was in pandemonium and I was running through the rooms carrying a robe of Osho’s on a hanger. This particular robe – grey and white – funnily enough, turned out to be the robe he was wearing when he was arrested. Savita, Sheela’s partner, was in the dream and was trying to block my way.
That night I must have picked up, in my unconscious, the vibrations of the events that were to follow. This must mean that the future is already in the present in some form.
The next afternoon I was told that Osho was going to take a holiday in the mountains and I was to accompany him with Mukti, his cook, Nirupa, Devaraj, Vivek, and Jayesh. Jayesh had come to Rajneeshpuram just a few months before; one look into Osho’s eyes as he passed by in his car and Jayesh walked back to his hotel, made a telephone call to Canada, where he was a successful businessman, and cancelled his life there. Someone with no understanding of a seeker recognizing his Master would say he was hypnotized. Jayesh is a handsome, sophisticated, “worldly” sannyasin, and has a sense of humor matched well by his determination and strong will. He has set the foundation stone for Osho’s fast growing, and last, commune, and many times I have heard Osho say that without Jayesh the work
would have been very difficult. Jayesh was introduced to the work by Hasya, who Osho selected as his new secretary. Hasya was the total opposite to Sheela. She hailed from Hollywood and was elegant, charming and intelligent.
As we drove towards the airport the sky was bright orange with the setting sun. There were two jets awaiting us, and I boarded one with Nirupa and Mukti. We pressed against the window and waved to our friends on the tarmac. Within minutes we were in the sky, tilted upwards, and climbing higher. We did not know where we were going and this made us laugh.