Written by Prem Shunyo
Rajneeshpuram was not in America.
It was a country on its own, without American dreams. Maybe that is why the American politicians went to war with it. We flew across America, me, Asheesh, Arpita and Gayan. Asheesh is a wood wizard. he is not only a master carpenter, he makes Osho’s chairs and fixes anything technical or electrical. It’s always, “Asheesh, Asheesh! where’s Asheesh?” when anything needs fixing or inventing. And he has a great way of speaking with his hands, because he is Italian.
Arpita has always made Osho’s shoes. She is eccentric, paints Zen pictures and has a zany personality which was later to be expressed in helping design Osho’s clothes.
Gayan arrived in New Jersey after Vivek telephoned her in Germany and said, “Come.” On her arrival, Vivek picked her up at the airport and said, “I hope you can sew.” She could, and has sewn Osho’s clothes for all the years of his “fantastic” wardrobe. She is also a dancer, and you can see her in the videos made on celebration days at the ranch, with her long dark hair flying, as she dances playfully around Osho on the podium in our meditation hall, Rajneesh Mandir.
So we flew across America together and landed in Oregon, just twelve hours before Osho was due to arrive. I remember nothing of the flight, but will never forget the long, long, winding drive down the mountain to the Big Muddy. Mile after mile of dusty, tall, spiky dried flowers and cacti by the side of the road, lit up by the car’s headlamps. Spooky, yellow, white and grey.
Osho’s trailer and the adjoining one which was to be our home, was a hive of activity, because as usual we were working in a race against time. We stayed up most of the night, putting the finishing touches to curtains and cleaning. Outside grass lawns were being laid like carpets.
The trailer was completely made of plastic – I had never seen such a thing. If it caught fire it took only ten seconds to burn down to the ground! Osho’s trailer was the same as ours, but instead of carpet (because of his allergies), there was white linoleum all over the place. The walls were covered in plastic that was made to resemble wood.
There were to be eleven of us living in the one trailer, plus the sewing room. Devaraj, le docteur, and Devageet, Osho’s dentist, were together in one room. They are the best thing in humor to come out of Britain since Monty Python. There was Nirupa, the pre-Raphaelite in the group with her waist length golden hair, and Haridas, tall, German and looking fifteen years younger than his forty-five years, who was one of Osho’s first Western disciples. And sixty-year-old Nirgun who surpassed us all with her endless dancing in the sitting room to the new Western music we found. Vivek would have her own room in the adjoining trailer, and then Osho had a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.
It was too dark to see any of the surrounding scenery, so, tired and grumpy, I went to sleep. While taking a shower the next morning, I looked out of the window. The trailer was in a small valley and behind us was a rock so huge, so majestic, that I ran outside naked and wet and bowed down on the earth.
Osho arrived that morning to find a handful of sannyasins sitting on his instant lawn singing songs. He sat with us in meditation, and his silence was so overwhelming that the music softly petered out, and we were all silent at the foot of the rugged mountains. Osho stood up and looked around, and then walked up the steps to his trailer and we could see him on the front porch, with his hand on his hip. He was to say that he was shocked that there were no trees at all on so much land, and he had never seen a house “standing naked” before – meaning the absence of any garden or plants of any kind. It was indeed the complete opposite of the exotic and lush jungle that surrounded his home in India.
There were only two buildings on the land of Rajneeshpuram when we arrived. The first few months there was a great pioneering spirit. We had arrived in August and there was a race to have everyone living in a trailer with central heating by
the winter. Most of the people were in tents, and temperatures in the winter could go as low as twelve degrees below zero.
We ate together on tables arranged outside one of the ranch buildings, and as the winter progressed we had to first scrape the ice off the table, or our plates would slide into our laps. We kept a barrel of beer submerged in a pond, because we lacked a fridge, but our meal times were great. Men and women were dressed alike, in fat quilted jackets, jeans, cowboy hats and boots. If I had thought sannyasin men were too feminine years before, now it was the reverse.
The roof of Osho’s sitting room leaked when it was raining and it was a miserable thing to see him sitting there with a bucket either side of his chair, to catch the water. The room was empty except for a low oak table and chair. His rooms have always been simple and without the usual clutter of furniture. There were no pictures on the walls, no ornaments, no possessions at all except a cassette player, but the emptiness of a plastic room did not have the grandeur and Zen-like quality of a marble room. It hurt me to see him in this setting, although I noticed that it made no difference to him. He was at home anywhere and I have never heard him complain about how or where he lived. He accepted that this was what existence had come up with and I always felt he was grateful, knowing and trusting that in our love this was the best we could do.
But it wasn’t the best we could do and work was started on an extension to the trailer, which was to be an emergency living space and medical facility – although I could never imagine what was meant by emergency. When the extension was finished about nine months later it was so beautiful that Osho moved into it rather than his plastic trailer. This caused a lot of friction between Sheela and Vivek, because for some reason Sheela did not want him to move. The extension had been built by Richard, Vivek’s boyfriend, and the bedroom and sitting room were panelled in wood; the bathroom was the nicest bathroom Osho has ever had – large, with a jacuzzi. A long corridor led to an Olympic size swimming pool and in the medical facility there was a fully-equipped operating room with all the latest hospital equipment.
Vivek didn’t like the Ranch from the beginning and she was often unhappy, and would get sick. She wasn’t shy about expressing herself either, and one day announced on the motorola for the whole commune to hear, exactly how she felt about this “barren desert.” She announced that she would like to burn the whole fucking place down. When she was happy she was the most totally ecstatic, childlike person I had ever seen, but when she was unhappy – phew! look out. She had a knack of discovering problems, and seeing a person’s failings. I found it impossible to argue with her because I always had the impression she was right. I think that when a criticism is made then it holds more weight than a compliment.
Nirupa or I accompanied Osho on his car rides if Vivek did not want to go. He would sometimes ask how Sheela’s commune was. It was always Sheela’s commune to him.
He was later to say:
“…I am not even part of your commune; I am just a tourist, not even a resident. This house is not my residence, just a guest house. I don’t have any status in your commune. I am not the head of your commune, the chief. I am nobody….I would have loved to be in red robes, but I have simply avoided it just to make it clear that I am not in any way part of you.
“Still you have listened to me who has no power. I cannot enforce anything on you, I cannot order you, I cannot give you commandments. My talks are just exactly that, only talks. I am grateful to you, that you listen to me; to accept what I say or not to accept it is your business. To listen to it or not to listen to it is your decision. Your individuality is in no way interfered with.” (The Rajneesh Bible)
In those early days everything was going very well, people were arriving in the hundreds, and a city was appearing in the desert with fantastic speed. Within the year there were living accommodations for a thousand residents and ten thousand visitors, the beginning of an airport, a hotel, disco, a farm producing vegetables, medical facilities, a dam, and a canteen big enough to feed everyone.
When he asked me how “Sheela’s commune” was, I said that I felt as though I was “in the world.” That was not a complaint, it just showed how different it was from the days when meditation was the main
event in our lives. Sheela was not a meditator and her influence on the commune was that work, and only work, mattered. Through work she could dominate people, because she had her grades of “good” workers and rewarded them accordingly. Meditation was considered a waste of time and even on the rare occasions that I did meditate, I sat with a book in front on me, in case someone came in the room and “caught” me. I had lost perspective of the importance of meditation, and all the years Osho had been talking of it were lost for a while. Having taken great flights into the sky in Poona, I now felt grounded and earthbound. I was in a different kind of “school.” I was thinking that another dimension of my being had to develop, that maybe if we had all stayed in Poona in our robes and almost “airy fairy” existence, then we might have all become enlightened, but of not much use to the world in a practical sense. I didn’t know yet how hard the lessons would be. My journey as a disciple had started though, and there was no going back. Being with a Master means that a difficulty is taken as a challenge, an opportunity to look inside at my own resistance to change. To grow in awareness becomes the first priority.
Osho saw only Vivek, and did work with Sheela each day. On occasions, Nirupa, Devaraj and myself. Sometimes someone would have a dream of Osho and be convinced that he had visited them in their sleep. I asked him later in a discourse about this and he said:
“My work is of a totally different kind. I don’t want to interfere in anybody’s life; otherwise it has been done, it can be done: one can leave the body and while somebody else is asleep, can work upon the person. But it is an infringement of somebody’s freedom, and I am absolutely against any infringement, even if it is for your good, because to me freedom is the ultimate value.
“I respect you as you are, and because of my respect I go on telling you that much more is possible. But that does not mean that if you don’t change, I will not respect you. That does not mean that if you change, I will respect you more. My respect will remain constant whether you change or not, whether you are with me or against me. I respect your humanity and I respect your intelligence….
“ÉIn your unconsciousness, in your sleep, I don’t want to disturb you. My approach is purely of individual respect and respect for your consciousness, and I have immense trust in my love and in my respect towards your consciousness, that it will change you. And that change will be authentic, total, irreversible.” (The New Dawn)
I always felt to respect his privacy when we went out in the car and never spoke unless he asked me something. My aim was to be silent, and I would give myself a goal like, “okay, no thoughts between here and the old barn,” and so on.
The years of silence that were to follow, somehow made Osho seem more translucent, more fragile and less in his body. He had always said that talking to us kept him in his body and as time passed his connection with the earth seemed less. His day changed from quite a busy one in Poona – up at 6.00 a.m., morning discourse, reading one hundred books a week, reading all the newspapers, work with Laxmi, evening darshan, giving sannyas and energy darshans. Now he sat silently in his room, alone. He still got up at 6.00 a.m. and took long baths and swam in his pool, listened to music; but he had no contact with his people, except for the car ride once a day.
How must it be to just sit silently in your room for years? This is how Osho described it in one of his earlier discourses:
“When he (the mystic) is not engaged in any activity, when he is neither speaking nor eating, nor walking, breathing is a blissful experience. Then just to be, just the movement of the breath, gives so much bliss that nothing can compare with it. It becomes very musical; it is filled with nada (the uncreated inner sound). (The Mystic Experience)
I was leading my own secret life that no one ever found out about. My washing line was about five minutes walk into the mountains at the back of the house. I arrived at the washing line, hung out the washing, put down the basket, threw off my clothes and ran like a wild woman naked through the mountains. The mountains stretched for miles and I followed an old dried river bed, or deer tracks through the long grass in summer. I had my own bed and a garden way into the mountains. I worked hard on the garden and at one point had seventy-two flowers in bloom!
When I first stood still in the hills, the silence was so immense that I could hear my own heart beating and the blood pulsing in my ears. At first I was frightened, I didn’t recognize the sounds. And when I slept out in the hills I felt as though I had been wrapped in the womb of the earth herself. This was the summer, and in the winter, I ran in the snow, and sat under the juniper trees for shelter.
I fell in love with a cowboy. He had blue eyes, blonde hair, tanned skin and a deep Virginian accent and was called Milarepa. Most of the men were dressed as cowboys – after all this was cowboy country – and Milarepa was no exception. He sang country and western songs and played a banjo, and I was enveloped in the magic of this mountainous terrain colored only by sage brush, junipers, pale grasses and wide open spaces. There were deer and rattlesnakes, and one day while returning home over the mountains, I came face to face with a coyote. We were only twenty feet from each other and he was a proud and handsome specimen. His coat was thick and silky and his eyes stared straight into mine. We stood and looked at each other for several minutes in wonder, and then he turned his head and slowly, so slowly and with great dignity, he walked away.
There were two lakes, just as Osho had promised there would be in “the new commune”, Krishnamurti Lake which was huge and Patanjali Lake, tucked away more in the hills, smaller and for nude bathing. It was here at the beginning of the Ranch that I used to take off in a borrowed pick-up truck with a few of the boys, to go fishing. Being vegetarians this was not the thing to do! We hurtled across the dirt roads in the dark and, like outlaws, we swooped down onto the lake where we went off in different directions to see who could catch the biggest fish, or any at all. I had no interest in eating fish but I enjoyed the adventure and we laughed a lot. We were never discovered, but one day it was over. The fun was gone, and it seemed gross and cruel to pull fish out of the water. So that was that.
Rajneeshpuram was in a valley surrounded by mountains and hills and from the top of the
property you could see the rolling hills, blue colored in the haze of the horizon. To reach to the top took good driving, because the road was steep and curving and had not been repaired for years, and many winters’ worth of snow and rain had washed half of it away.
Once off the dangerous mountain road we would be confronted by rednecks in their pick ups aiming their rifles at us, just for fun, or standing by the side of the road giving the finger or throwing stones. The roads were icy and hazardous, and the odd rock from an avalanche in the middle of the road made extra business for the Rolls Royce repair shop more than once. The land was flat and desolate, not a tree or building would stand between the road and the horizon in some places. Every few miles I would see an old wooden barn or house, blackened by the harsh weather and leaning over as though it had been hit by a hurricane; and there were billboards that read, “Repent ye sinners. Jesus saves.” And in this Christian land, Oregonians hung rotting corpses of coyotes on their barbed wire fences along the roadside until nothing was left but the head and empty hide.
Walking across the frost-covered lawn one night as I approached the house, I saw Osho getting into a car alone. Someone always drove with him, so this had never happened before. I opened the passenger door and asked him if I could go with him and he very sternly said, “No.” I went to Vivek and told her and we both ran for her car to give chase. Osho had five minutes on us and he was in a Rolls, we were only in a “Bronco,” and one that had a weakness for turning over on its back, though we didn’t find that out until later.
The road was slippery that night with ice and as we skidded around one of the corners of the mountain road, Vivek told me that she had never taken a driving test, in fact she couldn’t really drive. She had only had one lesson, twenty years before in England and only driven once after that. When we arrived at the Ranch she wanted a car so she told Sheela that, yes, she had a license. Looking back, I realize I must be crazy because the thought that came into my head was that “I can really trust this woman, because she has guts!”
It started hailing and through the storm we broke all speed limits and tried to catch up with Osho. We had to guess which way he had gone and then we realized that once on the open road, we would never catch him. We stopped by the side of the road and waited, hoping that he would turn around and come back to Rajneeshpuram. As each car rushed towards us, headlights blinding, and rain soaking us, we had a tenth of a second to see if it was Osho or not. After a few false chases after the wrong cars, there he was! We jumped into the Bronco and moved up close behind him and started honking and flickering the lights. He saw us and all seemed well; in fact, all seemed wonderful as we followed him safely back to Rajneeshpuram. On arriving back at the house nobody spoke, we simply parked the cars and went inside. The incident was not mentioned again.
Although I have never been with another enlightened master, I am sure there are similarities and one of them must be that you just don’t know what he is going to do next. However, you do know, that he will do ANYTHING if it will wake you up. Why he took off like that into the night in the middle of redneck country, I will never know.
During these winter months while the roads were treacherous, Osho drove into ditches five times. Each time he went into a ditch, Vivek was with him. She had to climb out of the car, once with an injured back, go to the road and flag down a car, hoping it wouldn’t be one of our redneck neighbours. Leaving Osho sitting in the car, unaccompanied, was the difficult part for her. But she said he just use to sit there with his eyes closed, as though meditating in his room.
Osho would go out driving twice a day and one night Vivek returned home very shaken and told us that a car had been tailgating them, and going too close to the bumper of Osho’s car. This was quite common and always scary. Pick up trucks with two or three cowboys in them shouting insults found it a great sport to try and send Osho off the road. But this night as Osho approached the ranch two sannyasins were coming towards him and he stopped the car and asked them to help. The man who had been following took off in the other direction at the sign of help and the sannyasins followed him. He drove into his yard, parked the
car, jumped out with a gun and started shooting. He was clearly quite mad, and was threatening that he was going to “Get the Bhagwan.” The sheriff was called, but he refused to do anything about it, because a crime had not been committed – yet!
The next night, at exactly the same time and taking the same route as always, Osho wanted to go for his drive. Vivek refused to go, so I went, but tried to persuade Osho to at least go on a different route because this madman knew exactly where Osho would be and at precisely what time. He refused. He said that it is his freedom to drive where he likes and when, and he would rather be shot than give up his freedom. And, he continued, “What if they do shoot me? It is okay.” I gulped at this. It certainly was not okay with me.
It seemed darker than ever that night and Osho stopped the car in the middle of the wasteland to take a pee. I didn’t know whether I was shivering from fear or cold, but I got out of the car and walked up and down the road staring out into the darkness, not understanding why freedom should come before security.
The madman didn’t show up that time. There were other times when we received threats that there were gangs out on the road waiting for him, but he always drove exactly where and when he wanted to.
Osho said in discourse that it was no joy to drive within the speed limit if the car can do l40 m.p.h., and anyway, who is looking at the sides of the road to see what the limit is? He said it’s better to keep your eyes on the road. It was my responsibility to look right and left at crossroads and to say when it was safe to go, because Osho never turned his head when he drove. He just looked straight ahead. Having never driven a car, I did not have a clear perception of distance and speed, and I also didn’t know the rules of the road. Maybe I would have been more nervous had I known, but as it was I trusted that whatever happened would be happening in awareness and that was all that mattered.
The First Annual World Celebration came in July 1982, with more than ten thousand people arriving from all over the world. It was the first time we had
all met since being in India together. In the valley a huge temporary Buddha Hall was built, and when we all met and meditated together it was very, very high energy, and Osho came and sat with us. On the last day of the festival Osho beckoned to Gayan to come on the podium to dance. Twenty people thought he was looking at them, and so they all got up; and then hundreds of people followed them, and Osho disappeared from view. It could have resulted in him being mobbed, but it was just an overflow of high energy. He said afterwards that everyone was so gentle with him and so respectful that when he walked, people simply stepped back and made room for him. Even those who touched him, did so with care, he said. At that time everything seemed so perfect, and there seemed to be no reason why our oasis in the desert should not bloom and be an example to the world that thousands of people can live together without all the ugliness that society, religions and politicians bring.
It was a beautiful festival. There was a full moon eclipse, which I watched from my bed in the mountains, and as the moon turned red and sank in the morning sky, I felt I was not on planet Earth.