Written by Prem Shunyo
Poona Two – Diagnosis: Thallium Poisoning
Heraclitus says, “You can’t step in the same river twice,” and Osho says, “You can’t step in the same river even once.”
So there is no such thing as Poona II.
When I arrived in Poona in the beginning of January, 1987, I felt I had aged a hundred years, if not more. I had lived many lifetimes, many deaths; I had been in gardens overflowing with flowers and I had seen them destroyed.
And yet Osho was still going for it…He was still trying to lead us along the path towards what he calls every human being’s birthright – enlightenment.
It was during this three-year period between 1987 and 1990 that Osho spoke forty-eight books, and considering he was sick for about a third of the time, this is stupendous!
Osho had spent four months in Bombay, and the first night he arrived in Poona, at about 4.00 a.m. 4th January, the driveway of the ashram was lined with sannyasins to greet him as he lay on the back seat of the car, asleep. He woke up and waved to people without getting up from his blanket, and looked very much to me like a small child that had been woken in the middle of the night.
Three hours later the police arrived, with a writ to stop Osho from entering Poona. The writ had been issued to be served on Osho as he entered Poona. Had the writ been served on the road, then Osho would have been breaking the law by entering Poona. However, Osho had left Bombay in the night to avoid the heat and heavy traffic on the road, and the police had missed him by just a few hours. They pushed their way into the ashram, into Lao Tzu House and into Osho’s bedroom, where he was still asleep. No one had ever gone into Osho’s room while he slept, and it felt like the greatest intrusion and insult. I was standing at the top of the stairs with Vivek, Rafia and Milarepa. Being foreigners we had stayed out of the way and Laxmi and Neelam were talking to the police. From the top of the stairs we could hear shouts coming from Osho’s room – Osho’s voice. Shouts continued for about ten minutes and then Vivek went down the stairs and entering Osho’s room she asked the policemen if they would like a cup of tea! She said they looked relieved, as though they had taken on more than they realized and were glad to get out of it.
On January 10th, in discourse Osho told us what had happened:
“I was in Bombay. One leader, a president of some powerful political group, wrote a letter to the chief minister and sent a copy to me. The letter was to tell the chief minister that my presence in Bombay would pollute the atmosphere.
“I said ‘My god, can anyone pollute Bombay? The worst city in the whole world…’ For four months I was there; I never went out even one time, I never even looked out of my window. I remained in a completely closed room – still, you can smell…as if you are sitting in a toilet! This is Bombay.
“…And then pressure was brought on one of my sannyasins in whose home I was a guest for four months: if I’m not removed from his house, he, his family and his house, with me, will be burned.
“One sometimes wonders whether to cry or to laugh.
“…I left Bombay on Saturday night and the next morning my host’s house was surrounded by fifteen policemen with guns.
“…I reached here at four o’clock in the night, and within three hours the police were here. I was asleep. As I opened my eyes, I saw two policemen in my bedroom.
“I said ‘I never see dreams, particularly nightmares. How have these dodos managed to come inside?’ I asked, ‘Do you have any search warrant? – they didn’t have – ‘Then how have you entered my private bedroom?’
“They said, ‘We have to serve a notice on you.’ Sometimes one wonders whether we use words in our sleep. Is this the way to serve a notice? Is this the way to be a servant of the people? All these are servants of the people; we pay them. They should behave like servants…but they behave like masters.
“I said ‘I have not committed any crime. I have just slept for three hours, is it a crime?’
“One of them said, ‘You are a controversial person and the police commissioner feels your presence may provoke violence in the city.’
“…And on the notice…I said, ‘Read it. What is my crime?’ My crime is that I am controversial. But can you tell me – has there ever been a man of any intelligence who was not controversial? To be controversial is not a crime. In fact, the whole evolution of human consciousness depends on controversial people: Socrates, Jesus, Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Bodhidharma, Zarathustra. They were fortunate that none of them entered Poona.
“The police officer misbehaved. I was lying down on my bed and he throws the notice over my face! I cannot tolerate such subhuman behavior. I immediately tore up the notice and threw it away, and I told those police officers, ‘Go and tell your commissioner.’
“I know that a notice from the government should not be thrown away, but there are limits! First, the law has to show humanity and respect for human beings. Only then can it expect respect from others.” (The Messiah, Volume I)
The police commissioner refused to cancel the order, but wanted to leave it suspended, with certain conditions he stipulated for the ashram, as “norms” of behavior. There were fourteen conditions and some were dictating the content and length of Osho’s discourses. He was not allowed to speak against religions, or speak in a provocative way. Only one hundred foreigners should be allowed to stay in the ashram; and only one thousand visitors could be allowed in the gate, and each foreign name should be taken by the police. The conditions stipulated how many meditations a day we should do, and how long each one should be; that the police had the right to visit the ashram any time and that they should attend discourses.
Osho responded to these conditions with a lion’s roar. He was afire in discourse as he responded with:
“Is this the freedom for which thousands of people died?
“This is a temple of God. Nobody can say to us that we cannot meditate for more than one hour….
“I will speak against all religions because they are pseudo – they are not true religions. And if he (the police commissioner) has any intelligence to prove otherwise, he’s welcome….”
“We don’t believe in countries and we don’t believe in nations. For us, nobody is a foreigner.”
And in response to the police entering, “No. This is a temple of God, and you will have to act according to our directions.” (The Messiah)
Osho said that if the police commissioner and the two policemen who broke into his bedroom were not removed from office, then he was going to take them to court.
In the third week of January Vivek went to Thailand for three months, so I stayed in her room, and did her work. We were once again in a paranoid and dangerous situation. Vilas Tupe, who had tried in 1980 to kill Osho by throwing a knife at him, announced to the press, “We will not let Osho live here in peace.” he demanded the arrest of Osho under the National Security Act and threatened that two hundred karate and judo trained members of his organization (the Hindu Ekta Andolan) would storm the ashram and take Osho away forcibly. We were also threatened by the government, who went as far as having bulldozers waiting outside the ashram gates, to come and flatten the ashram.
I had the additional worry that any day the police would come, cancel my visa and deport me. There were many nights when I could not sleep because there were threats that the police were going to invade the ashram. We had an alarm bell to alert everyone and in the house we each had a door or window to guard. I was locked behind the glass doors that led to Osho’s room because if the police came again it would be over our dead bodies that they took him away. The police came twice in the night and many times in the day, but they did not enter Osho’s house again.
After months of fighting in the courts by our sannyasin lawyers and one courageous Indian lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, the harassment from the police gradually ceased, and Vilas Tupe was ordered not to enter Koregaon Park. The mayor of Poona apologized to Osho and helped prevent action from the government’s demolition team.
Throughout the next two years Indian consulates around the world were harassing sannyasins and would not give a visa if it was suspected that they were coming to India to see Osho. Many sannyasins were stopped at Bombay airport and put on a plane straight back to where they had come from, with no explanation at all. But despite this the wave of visiting sannyasins was to become tidal.
It seemed like the war was over. We could begin living once again, silently with our Master.
And then Osho started dancing with us. He danced with us as he entered Chuang Tzu Auditorium for the discourses, and when he left. The music was wild and I used to feel energy raining down on me and then shooting up like the flames of a fire as I screamed at Osho in gibberish, not knowing what I was saying. I just had to shout something, because it was too much to contain. Then the stop exercise began, when Osho, while working us all up into a frenzy with the dance, would suddenly stop, his arms in mid-air, and we all froze. He used to look into someone’s eyes during this freeze and it was a powerful thing to be on the receiving end, looking into the mirror-like quality of emptiness.
This period reminded me very much of our energy darshans from Poona I and I felt Osho was having to do a lot of “work” to rebuild the force of energy that was present then. Arriving back in Poona, it had been dismal to see how the ashram had become run down. The buildings and gardens had not been kept well by the skeleton crew of people who had been living here. The people in the ashram in these first few months were a motley crew and there was not the usual alive and vibrant feeling that is around sannyasins. We consisted of a few Goa freaks – Westerners travelling around India who had visited the ashram out of curiosity – a few brand new sannyasins, and a few worn out old sannyasins. I watched Osho dancing with us in the auditorium those few weeks with a totality and strength that was beyond anything we could respond with. He was charging the very atmosphere with electricity and talking fire in his discourses and I saw that he was starting again. He was beginning from scratch with us all.
Whatever magic it is he creates, it was working. Sannyasins started arriving – gingerly at first. The last few years had been hard lessons for everyone, and many sannyasins had created lives for themselves in the world – houses, cars, jobs – that they were reluctant to abandon. However, hundreds of people did simply “drop the lot” and arrived vulnerable and wide-eyed. By the end of February the ashram was simmering – the pot was on the boil! Side by side with celebration, Osho began to tell us how he felt about the situation of the world:
While speaking on Kahlil Gibran in The Messiah, Osho said:
“…But Kahlil Gibran was never in any way trying to actualize his dreams. I have tried – and burned my fingers.”
“…And as I went around the world, my discovery has become absolutely clear: this humanity has come to a dead end. To hope for anything from this humanity is sheer nonsense. Perhaps a few people may be saved – and for them I go on creating the Noah’s Ark, (of consciousness), knowing perfectly well that perhaps when the Noah’s Ark is ready, there may not be anybody left to be saved. They may have all gone their own ways.” (The Hidden Splendor)
Osho, in The Razor’s Edge, gave five reasons that showed the destruction of the world was imminent:
l. Nuclear weapons.
4. Collapse of ecology.
5. Man’s racial, national and religious discriminations.
He said that two hundred enlightened persons are needed in the world. “But from where to bring those two hundred people? They have to be born amongst you – you have to become those two hundred people. And your growth is so slow, there is every fear that before you become enlightened the world will be gone.
“You are not putting your total energy into meditation, into awareness. It is one of the things that you are doing, amongst many; and it is not even the first priority of your life.
“I want it to become your first priority. The only way is that I should emphasize, deeply into your consciousness, that the world is going to end soon.
“…Immense responsibility rests on you because nowhere else in the whole world are people trying, even in small groups, to achieve enlightenment, to be meditative, to be loving, to be rejoicing. We are a very small island in the ocean of the world, but it does not matter. If a few people can be saved, the whole heritage of humanity, the heritage of all the mystics, of all awakened people, can be saved through you.”
It was difficult to swallow.
Sarjano asked Osho: “What is this undercurrent of giggling in my heart every time I feel that you are using the whole world as a device for our growth, and that you are using us as a device for the whole world?”
Osho: “Sarjano, you will have to stop your giggling in the heart. This is not a device. There is no time left for any device at all. Your giggling is simply a rationalization: you don’t want to believe that the world is going to end because you don’t want to change. You want me to say to you that this is only a device, so that you can relax – relax in your fixed pattern of life. But I cannot lie to you.
“When I use something as a device, I tell you it is a device. But this is not a device, either to transform the world through you or to change you through the world. I am simply stating a very sad fact. Your giggling is nothing but an effort to erase the impact which I am trying to create.
“Giggle about everything else, but not about your transformation. That giggling is your unconscious trying to deceive you, telling you something or other will happen, so you need not worry.
“…I want it to sink deep in your being that we have come to the very end of the road – and there is nothing left except dancing and rejoicing. To make it NOW, I am destroying your tomorrow completely. I am taking it away from your mind which is deeply involved with tomorrows….
“Enlightenment is nothing but your consciousness being concentrated on a single point – now and here.
“…My emphasis that there is no future has nothing to do with gloom; it has something to do with you. If you can drop the idea of future completely, your enlightenment becomes immediately possible. And it is a good opportunity to drop the idea of future because the future itself IS disappearing. But don’t even in any corner of your mind, go on carrying the idea that perhaps this too is a device. These are the strategies of the mind to keep you the same old zombie.” (The Hidden Splendor)
In addition to these shattering discourses on the state of the world, Osho told jokes and played jokes. We were never allowed to take life seriously with Osho – sincerely, but not seriously. He played games with Anando during the discourses, teasing her about ghosts and as he walked through her room to reach the auditorium, this was always a good time for the two of them to play jokes on each other. Osho would walk out of the auditorium, having stunned people with his discourse, then he would take a turn left, with a mischievious grin on his face, into Anando’s bathroom, where he knew she was sleeping in the bathtub. (Discourse in Chuang Tzu became so full there was a rota system, and so Anando used to listen from her bathtub, complete with pillows and blankets.) Osho liked to knock on her door and hear her scream, and once she hid in the bathroom cupboard, which had a false back. She waved an arm at him around the bathroom door as he walked through her room, and when he followed, the bathroom was empty. He opened the cupboard door and he immediately started pushing hard on the back of the cupboard and there were screams of laughter as the wall started to fall down, exposing Anando and a small crowd of very surprised people standing in the corridor outside. I used to enjoy these games so much because they reminded me of the many stories Osho told of tricks he used to play on people when he was young. He obviously enjoyed having tricks played back on him, and Anando was the right person to do it.
Anando had been “haunted” by a knocking sound in her room that used to wake her each night and Osho teased her about this. Once, in the middle of the night, Osho called me and told me to go and play a joke on Anando. He said I was to go and knock on her door and then slowly open the door and push into the room a dummy in a wheelchair, dressed as a man. We had the dummy because Anando had made it and sat it in the corridor, legs crossed and reading a newspaper for Osho to encounter on his way to morning discourse. I have never seen anything faze Osho, and this occasion was no exception. Twice a day for years he had walked down the corridor towards Chuang Tzu and great care had always been taken that no one or no thing should be in his way. And yet on the morning when he came across a complete stranger sitting and reading a newspaper as though in his own sitting room, Osho did not even do a double-take. He simply chuckled and walked over to the figure to have a closer look. But…I had great success when I wheeled the apparition into Anando’s room because my knocking on the door had disturbed her and as she looked up, still half asleep, she saw “it” lit only by the reflected light from outside. She did not recognise her own creation in the shadows and screamed.
“So playful, so childlike, so non-serious, so alive is the approach of Zen.”
When I was looking after Osho I was always very quiet with him, in awe. “Silent,” said Osho. I very rarely had any news or gossip to tell him, and when he asked me: “What is happening in the world?” I would not have much to say because my world consisted of which trees had new leaves and whether or not the paradise flycatcher was visiting the garden.
Anando was down to earth and playful with him. She told him of all the news happening inside and outside the ashram. I listened to her one day talking to Osho about politics; her understanding of Indian politics was impressive; and she knew all the names, all the parties. She and Osho chatted away like two old friends with a mutual knowledge of friends and foes. I think Anando and I made a good balance between us.
Vivek was both; she seemed to encompass both our personalities, and her relationship with Osho was always a mystery to me, because it felt so ancient. She went away many times during these three years, but each time she returned Osho welcomed her back and immediately gave her the choice of whether she wanted to be his caretaker, or whether she wanted to just relax and do nothing. There was never a question about her freedom to do anything whatsoever she liked in the ashram. It was an exception he made for her that applied to no one else. There are no rules without exceptions, and no two people are ever treated the same by Osho. The same question asked by two people will likely get two totally opposite answers.
During this time we took care of Osho as a team. It was no longer a job for one person, because of his weakness and ill health. Amrito, Osho’s doctor, although British and male, fitted perfectly with Anando and I, as he was becoming increasingly feminine, but with a clear and unemotional approach. I have never seen any hesitation or “no” in him regarding Osho, and Osho said of him many times that he is a very humble man.
Osho started having trouble with his teeth, so over a period of about three weeks he was having a lot of dental sessions. Geet, assisted by Nityamo, who is a dental nurse, Amrito, Anando and I attended the sessions.
I was sitting on the floor next to Osho’s chair at one session and he said to me, “Stop chattering, be silent.” I didn’t know what he meant, I was sitting as silently as I could possibly sit. I thought I was meditating. But meditation was new to me and I could never be sure if what I felt was really meditation, or my imagination. At the slightest indication that what I thought was meditation, was not, I would say, “Oh, to hell with this,” and stop even trying. I would instead think on purpose: that is, I would consciously plan a painting I wanted to do or something. My experience in meditation shows it to be a very vulnerable and fragile state, and so easily a thought would come that, “It is all rubbish.” At the beginning, that is, and I was at the beginning for many many years.
So although I thought I was meditating, when Osho would say to me, “Be quiet, Chetana, stop chattering,” I became very confused, and angry. He would tell me that my mind was chattering non-stop and was disturbing him, and I didn’t know what he meant.
For more than seven days this continued, and each day I was closing my eyes and trying to go deeper inside myself in an effort to reach a point where what Osho said did not disturb me. During the rest of the day I would feel relaxed, but then the session would start again and I became tense. I was angry and upset and one day he said to the other people there:
“You see how angry Chetana is with me?”
I would think to myself, “Why is he picking on me? Has everyone else transcended their mind? Is everyone else in silence?”
That is what made me angry in fact, that I was the only one there who was not able to meditate. Me, who had experienced such magic.
Two weeks passed and I was always in trouble for chattering, for making too much noise. Finally, one day Osho said for me to sit on the other side of his chair. During this session he turned towards the empty space where I had been sitting and said, “Be quiet, stop chattering.” After the session was over he said to me that it wasn’t me that had been disturbing him, but there was a ghost in that spot. He said that sometimes a spirit, or ghost, can use someone’s body and that I was a receptive vehicle. It had been using me to chatter. And he said, “But don’t tell the cooks,” (the kitchen is right next door). “Don’t tell the cooks, or they will be frightened and won’t want to work.” He said that one day he would talk about ghosts. Then I remembered that this was the same room and the exact same spot where, years ago in Poona One, I used to be possessed.
I think ghosts, like dreams, are not to be taken seriously. They are just another color in the rainbow, another dimension that we sometimes become aware of.
When I realise that my inner world is, as yet, unexplored territory, and meditation is a full time “job” so to speak, then I understand why Osho does not put any emphasis on the world of esoterica and ghosts. I could become lost in that world, and still, mysterious as it might be, it is outside of me. It will not help me to grow in awareness.
That there exist other dimensions that are rarely seen and cannot be explained, is a certainty. Thoughts, for instance. What are they made of? How is it possible that people’s thoughts can be read, if a thought is not a thing of substance?
Osho was awoken from his sleep one day when I became locked in Anando’s bathroom, and was calling for help. He could not possibly have heard my actual voice, but he asked me later what had happened at a certain time, and why I had been calling.
He has even said that there are thoughts in our minds without our knowing.
For the first time since I had been with Osho he began missing discourses. Some days he would be too weak to come and speak to us. He developed pains in his joints that made it impossible for him to do anything but lie in bed all day. I had seen Osho in situations that proved he could be completely detached from pain, for instance, having a tooth extracted, and that same day coming to give a two-hour discourse. On another occasion he was having an injection into the shoulder joint, after a massage with Anubuddha, one of the body workers in the ashram. Anubuddha and I were sitting on the floor talking to Osho while the doctor prepared and then began the difficult injection. The doctor could not find the right spot between the bones where the joint was and so tried many times. Each time the needle went in Anubuddha and I winced but Osho continued talking to us relaxed and without so much as his breathing changing or any change on his face. Osho was to say to Anubuddha that the enlightened man is in fact more sensitive to pain, and yet he can experience that he is separate from it. I have never seen him worried or showing fear and I know with myself it is always the psychological fear of pain – not knowing what it is – that weakens me.
In November 1987 Osho contracted what normally would be a simple ear infection, but which took nearly two and a half months to resolve, with repeated troublesome injections of antibiotics and local surgery by a Poona ear surgeon. It was at this time that his doctors were alerted to the possibility that he had been poisoned.
Samples of Osho’s blood, hair and urine, together with x-rays and his medical history, were sent to London for examination by pathologists and experts. After detailed and exhaustive tests, it was their opinion that the symptoms from which Osho had been suffering since being incarcerated by the US Government were consistent only with poisoning by a heavy metal such as thallium.