Written by Prem Shunyo
The flight to Kulu Manali took off from Delhi at 10.00 a.m. It had already been a full morning as Osho had given a press conference at 7.00 a.m. in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in which he spared no bones while expressing what he thought of America.
I had snatched a couple of hours sleep, before a hair-raising and chaotic race through Delhi on a lorry, with the trunks that the Indian press had described as “silver and encrusted with jewels.” These were the very same trunks that I had packed two nights before that had been bought at a hardware store in the middle of redneck country. Osho’s mother, Mataji, had joined us with some of her family, and close behind was Haridas who had been living with us in Rajneeshpuram. Ashu, young, red-haired and with porcelain skin and a wicked laugh, was Osho’s dental nurse, and she travelled with Haridas and Mukta. Mukta was one of Osho’s first Western disciples and hails from a Greek shipping family. She has a mane of silver hair and has been Osho’s gardener for many years. I was happy to see that Rafia was travelling with us. He had been Vivek’s closest friend throughout the last two years. He emanates a strength that is centered deep inside and yet he is light and playful and always ready to laugh. We filled the plane, but the trunks would not fit and so they were to follow – we hoped!
Aah! what joy it was to finally sit in a plane that was taking off – nothing more to do. I looked down the aisle of the plane and saw Osho sitting next to the window drinking a juice. Osho had spoken so much about the himalayas and I felt thrilled that he would see them, and I would be able to see him looking at them. However, these were not the romantic snow capped peaks, this was only the foothills of the himalayas, but still…
Hasya and Anando were to stay in Delhi and work. Osho suspected that the government would make it difficult for Western disciples, and there were contacts to be made and arrangements regarding the purchasing of property.
It was only a two hour flight, and then we were driving along winding roads,up into the hills. The local people we saw along the way were very poor, but had a grandeur that the poverty-stricken souls in Bombay did not have. They had beautiful faces that told of mixed blood, maybe Tibetan? The property, called Span, was about fifteen kilometers away and the road for most of the way ran parallel with a river, then across a rickety bridge past miles of primitive looking stone walls, and winter landscape.
The cars suddenly turned right and we drove into a totally different world. Here was a rather nice looking holiday resort, with about ten stone cottages centered around a large building of stone with two walls of window overlooking a river. One of the small bungalows nearest the river was to be Osho’s and the big house was where we would eat, watch movies and shout into the telephone in many hopeless attempts to speak to Hasya.
But there was something about the place that didn’t quite click. The management in the large house never treated us as though we were the people who had bought the property, and I wondered!Maybe they didn’t know that we were the new tenants yet.
Osho was out the next morning looking over the property and saying to Rafia that the mountain over the river would be purchased, and a bridge built across to it. He walked around, hand on hip and told Rafia of his vision of the place and its possibilities. This touching and inspiring scenario was to be repeated whenever Osho arrived somewhere. Immediately, he would have a vision of it and would be pointing to buildings and pools, and gardens, yet to be built. For Osho, wherever he was, was The Place.
The Indian press came to interview Osho, sometimes twice a day, either in his living room, or on the porch overlooking the river.
The river bed was very rocky and so the water made a tremendous noise as it rushed past. It was a small river though, and how anyone ever imagined an island in the middle of it was beyond me. Osho walked each day along the river, and past the cottages to a bench where he sat and looked at the himalayas. Each day the approaching snow could be seen as it covered the mountains.
Many old friends and sannyasins came to visit him and he would meet them on his walk and chat withthem. Sometimes I accompanied him on the walk and sat with him on the bench as the river roared past and the pale winter sun turned the tops of the mountains golden.
News of Rajneeshpuram filtered in and I heard how the American government had frozen the assets of the commune and declared it bankrupt. Hundreds of sannyasins were leaving the commune and going out into the world with no money. It felt to me like a time of war, when families and friends are separated and lost. I had always presumed that the commune would be there for ever, and now I thought of all the times I had been miserable because my boyfriend had chosen to be with another woman. I could have used those times to enjoy myself, if I had only known how temporary it all was. I reflected that death would come one day, just like the American government, and I vowed that I would not look back and regret. There is no time to be unhappy.
A reporter asked Osho:
“Do you feel any kind of responsibility towards your sannyasins who have lived in your commune, invested money, sometimes their inheritance, and their working powers into the projects of the commune…?”
“Responsibility according to me is something individual. I can be responsible only for my acts, my thoughts. I cannot be responsible for your acts or your thoughts.
“There are people who have given their whole inheritance. I have also given my whole life. Who is responsible? They are not responsible because I have given my whole life to them, and their money is not more valuable than my life. With my life I can find thousands of people like them. With their money they cannot find another me.
“But I don’t think that they are responsible for it. It was my joy, I loved each moment of it, and I will continue to give my life to my people, to the very last breath without making anybody feel guilty that he is responsible…”
Sarjano came to visit during the first week in December and to interview Osho for a magazine. He is one of Osho’s wild Italian disciples, and quite unusual in that he has always been able to keep contact with the magazine world with his talent for photography and his writing, and also has spent years sitting at Osho’ s feet. To follow up on the article he arranged for a television company to come and make a documentary about Osho.
He contacted Enzo Biagi, who represented Italy’s national television. Biagi was a well-known film maker in Italy, who had his own show, “Spotlight.”
The Indian Embassy refused to grant visas, and for me this was the first indication that India was as unable to recognize a Buddha as any other country. The US Attorney, Charles Turner, had made it quite clear the US government’s intention was that Osho should be isolated in India, cut off from foreign disciples,
restricted in access to foreign press, with no freedom of speech. Clearly Osho’s work, or message to the world, was to be finished, and obviously India was not beyond the reach of powerful American pressure.
Meanwhile we lived one day at a time, and my days were filled with the laundry – which was quite different from my set up in Rajneeshpuram! I washed clothes in a bucket in an Indian-style bathroom, which consisted of one tap through which came rust-filled water. The adjoining bedroom was where I ironed on the bed, and hung the clothes to dry with buckets and bowls to catch the dripping water. Osho’s beautiful robes soon started losing their shape, picking up the damp smell of Kulu, and the whites turned brown. But I was lucky, for within a couple of weeks the snow would be coming and then there would be no electricity and no water at all – only snow to melt.
Osho was often speaking to the press twice a day and we sat outside listening to him with the background sound of the rushing river and the thin pale sunlight on our faces. I heard him say that, “Challenge will make you strong.” His patience with his interviewers was immense. Many of the Indian press would interrupt him as he was speaking, to agree or disagree. I had never heard such a thing and sometimes these interactions were hilariously funny.
Neelam and her daughter, Priya, arrived from Rajneeshpuram. They had been with Osho for fifteen years, since Priya was newly born, and are beautiful women who look like sisters. They are two of the many Indian disciples of Osho who are a perfect blend of East and West.
Neelam gave Osho his lunch and accompanied him on his walk, the day that all nine of us went off to get our visa extensions from Mr. Negi, the police superintendent in Kulu. We had a very pleasant meeting with him as he supplied us with countless cups of chai and seemed very pleased to have
such a lively audience to whom to tell his stories of tourists who had been eaten by bears. He assured us that there would be no problem, we shook
hands and drove back happily to Span.
The next day, December 10th, I was in my room when Devaraj came to tell me that our visa extensions had been cancelled. I felt nauseous and sat on the bed. How was it possible? The efficiency of the Indian immigration office was, in itself, worrying. I thought to myself that it must be an urgent and serious case for them – I had never experienced Indian authorities getting anything done quickly. It was difficult at that time to even make a telephone call because winter was closing in. The weather conditions were worsening and the plane flights to Delhi were being cancelled regularly. Trying to connect with Hasya in Delhi had been so difficult that on one occasion she found it quicker to take the plane and visit us than to try and speak on the telephone.
That same day the police arrived at Span, asked for all the foreigners and stamped in our passports, “Ordered to leave India immediately.” Vivek, Devaraj, Rafia, Ashu, Mukta and Haridas missed them by minutes as they had gone to Delhi to re-apply for visa extensions.
The day before Vivek left for Delhi I heard her talking to Neelam, telling her that Osho had said that if we were all to be deported, then he would come too. Vivek was asking Neelam, “Please, don’t let him follow us, because at least in India he is safe.”
Hasya and Anando had been busy in Delhi making appointments to see officials there.
Arun Nehru was the Minister for Internal Security then, the man at the root of this problem, but their appointments with him were continually cancelled. When they did see an official they were to be told “confidentially” that we should look within our group to see from where the trouble came. It appeared that Laxmi had written to the Home Office giving full details of all the foreign disciples and her words were to be repeated to us that “it was not necessary that Osho
need foreigners to see to his welfare.” It was necessary actually, because more important to Osho than life itself was his work, and Westerners were needed for that. Osho was to say, “My Indian disciples meditate, but will not do anything for me. My Western disciples will do anything for me, but will not meditate.” I didn’t understand this at the time, but was soon to learn.
That afternoon, just before Osho was to take his walk along the river, there was a great commotion at the main gate of Span. I went to investigate and the staff of Span were in a desperate struggle with a busload of drunken Sikhs who had arrived and were shouting aggressively about Osho and wanting to see him.
I ran across the lawns and zig-zagged through the cottages to where Osho was already standing on the porch waiting to go for a walk. He was visible from the road and I said to him to please go inside, there was a busload of drunken Sikhs who were becoming violent. We went inside and I closed the curtains of the sitting room. Rain started to fall outside and the room darkened as I looked at Osho and he said:
“Sikhs! but I have never said anything against Sikhs. Such stupidity! What do these people want?” And then, as he sat on the edge of the sofa with his shoulders hunched he said, “This world is insane, what’s the point in living?”
I had never seen Osho anything other than blissful. Throughout jail and the destruction of the commune he had remained untouched. He was not sad now, or angry, just tired. He looked tired as he sat there looking at nothing and I stood a few feet away from him unable to move. Anything I could have said would have been superficial, any gesture I could have made would have been meaningless. It went through my mind that it was his freedom to feel like this and there was nothing I must do to interfere. We remained frozen in our stances as the sound of the falling rain filled the room and I felt as though I was standing on the edge of a precipice, looking into a dark abyss.
After how long, I will never know, out of the corner of my eye I saw a chink of sunlight coming through the curtain. I moved across the room and opened the curtains – the rain had stopped. I went outside and it was silent. The Sikhs had left.
“Osho, would you like to go for your walk?” I asked. As we walked along the river I felt such overwhelming joy I could barely contain myself from dancing around him like a puppy dog as he walked. He was smiling, and waiting near the lawn were some sannyasins to greet him. Among them, two old friends, Kusom and Kapil who were two of the first people to take sannyas, with their grown-up child, who Osho had not seen since he was born. He touched the boy lovingly and chatted in Hindi to them for a long time. I was walking on air. This was the first day of my life, everything was so new and fresh.
Since that day whenever I feel surrounded by darkness and hopelessness, I stop still and wait. I simply wait.
At night I would read to Osho. I read the Bible to him, or rather The X-Rated Bible, by Ben Edward Akerley. It was a newly published book that consisted of three hundred pages, untampered with, straight out of the Bible. These pages are pure pornography and it is one of the biggest jokes to me that probably even the Pope does not read the Bible, otherwise he would freak out.
When we left Rajneeshpuram everyone in our small group left their jewelry behind for sale. Osho had given me a necklace, ring, and watch, and looking at my naked wrist in Kulu one day he asked me where my watch was. A few days before, Kusom and Kapil had given Osho a gold chain bracelet as a gift, and he told me to go and get the bracelet from his bedroom table, it was mine. I was touched, because he also did not have anything, and this was the first gift he had received since he left everything behind in America. He said that, “Please don’t let Kusom see, because it may upset her.” My eyes filled with tears when he then went on to say that, “One day, when we settle, I will be able to give everyone a present.”
I saw the police arriving one morning, and as they entered the manager’s building, I ran to tell Osho, and with a great flourish I announced their arrival. “What are they here for?” he asked.
“Oh, they are just more players in the drama,” I said with a theatrical wave of my arm.
He looked at me in a way that told me he definitely did NOT need an esoteric answer from me. He wanted to know what was really happening, so feeling a bit foolish I ran to Neelam to get the bad news. We had to leave – now.
The police left and Asheesh, Nirupa and I packed our bags. We would be in time for the plane to Delhi. I went to say goodbye to Mataji, Osho’s mother, and Taru, and all the family. I wept so much I was a little worried that I had overdone it and upset Mataji. This felt like goodbye forever. Before approaching Osho I looked at him for a few minutes. He was sitting on the porch, with the himalayas in the background, peaks now covered in snow. The robe he was wearing had always been one of my favorites; it was dark blue and one of the few that really washed well. his eyes were closed and he looked far, far away. I had been here before – deja vu – the disciple leaving his master in the mountains. It was all so familiar as I touched his feet and rested my forehead on the ground. He bent down and touched my head, and with tears streaming I thanked him for everything he had given me. I said goodbye and dragged my numb body to the car and we drove away. As we drove out of the gate I turned my head and looked back. Two hours later we were at Kulu airport and with more tearful goodbyes we approached the plane carrying our suitcases. The pilot from the Delhi-Kulu flight handed us a letter that Vivek had given him in Delhi, telling us that they had not got the extensions arranged, but as it was a weekend (today was Friday), then stay with Osho until Monday. Anyway we had until Tuesday officially to be out of the country.
We drove straight back to Span and I was in Osho’s sitting room, my drama of a few hours before light years away. He woke up from his lunchtime nap and walked in:
“Hello Chetana,” he chuckled.
The police arrived again and were furious with us. They had seen us at the airport and wanted to know why we did not get on the plane. Were we trying to trick them? Neelam, with enough charm to stop a hurricane, explained the situation. It was the weekend; the plane was gone; the roads were full of ice; anyway, we couldn’t leave India today, etc. They stormed off and said they would be back in a few hours but they didn’t return.
Osho spoke about going to Nepal, and Indians do not need a visa for Nepal, so it would be easy. His work would not grow here in the back of beyond with only a few devotees, who would love him and take care; but it wasn’t for him to just live happily ever after with a few disciples. His message had to reach hundreds of thousands around the world. He said in Crete a few months later:
“In India I told sannyasins not to come to Kulu Manali because we wanted to purchase land and houses in Kulu Manali; and if thousands of sannyasins had started coming, immediately the orthodox, the old-fashioned people would have started freaking out. And the politicians are always looking for an opportunity…
“Those few days that I was not with my sannyasins, not talking to them, not looking in their eyes, not looking at their faces, not listening to their laughter, I felt undernourished.” (Socrates poisoned again after 25 Centuries)
Thus began a few days which I am sure Asheesh will never forget. The message had to get to Hasya, Anando, and Jayesh, who had now joined them in Delhi. They were to make arrangements for Osho to go to Nepal. The telephone wires were down, there were no planes at the weekend, and that meant a twelve-hour journey by taxi for Asheesh to take the message, receive an answer and come straight back. The roads were hazardous with ice and snow falling so thick that many roads were completely blocked. The distance between Kulu and Delhi is seven hundred kilometers.
The first night Asheesh took off in the car with instructions such as, “make contact with the cabinet ministers in Nepal.” One was in fact a sannyasin and it was said that the King read Osho’s books. But we didn’t know at the time the full situation, and that is that the King had a brother who was wicked and in control of the army, the industries, and the police.
Asheesh reached Delhi at 6.00 a.m., had breakfast and was back in Kulu in the early evening. Ah Ha! Another message. Find a house in Nepal – a palace on the side of a lake.
Asheesh ate a quick supper and told us how the fog had been so dense on the road that it had been necessary for him to get out of the car and walk in front to avoid the driver going into a ditch. He then took another taxi to Delhi, and returned the next day with a reply, but he was staggering a little and bleary eyed. On this trip the car was lost in the fog, and when Asheesh explored his surroundings, he was in a dried up river bed. Silhouetted against the moon, that broke through the clouds for a moment, were three camels.
He could not sleep in the taxi, and now it was two nights and days that he had not slept. One more message, very important. Asheesh was delirious. He staggered out into the cold night with his missive and was back again just in time to catch the plane to Delhi with Nirupa and I.
Driven by extremely demanding situations, Asheesh blooms. When in Poona he had worked all day and all night without a break making a new chair for Osho, it was said by Osho that he (Asheesh) had a psychedelic experience when the chair was completed.
Asheesh, Nirupa and I touched Osho’s feet, said goodbye and left Span, once more.
The police escorted us to the plane and on arrival in Delhi we met up with the rest of our group in a small hotel. Vivek, Devaraj and Rafia were to fly to Nepal first and look for the palace. We were to follow the next day and stay in the commune in Pokhara, about one hundred and eighty kilometers from Kathmandu.
A few days later Hasya’s visa extension, which had been granted without any trouble a few weeks before, was cancelled and police called at her hotel and took her to the airport at the point of a gun. The Calcutta paper, the Telegraph, of December 26th, 1985, reported that: “The government has imposed a blanket ban on the entry of Bhagwan Rajneesh’s foreign followers into the country.” It went on to say that the decision had been taken by Arun Nehru of the Union Home and External Affairs Ministries. In addition, Indian embassies and foreign regional registration offices had been instructed not to grant visa extensions to any foreigner “if he or she was identified as a follower of Bhagwan Rajneesh. Such a person would not get any visa, even as a tourist.” To justify the government’s action, it was suggested that Bhagwan was a CIA spy!
A very tired Asheesh, Nirupa, Haridas, Ashu, Mukta and I were at Delhi airport about to board the plane for Nepal, when one of the officials saw that I was missing one of the many papers that had been issued us by the authorities. He said that I couldn’t leave the country! I pointed to the page in my passport that read: “Ordered to leave India immediately,” and asked him what the hell was he talking about, and if he didn’t stop messing around I would miss my plane. He then called everyone back from the exit lounge, wrote our names down, let everyone go again, but kept me. He had by now called in three other officers and I was reeling with the insanity of the situation.
I was carrying a rose that I intended to place on Nepalese soil as some kind of symbolic offering. I gave him the rose, he took it, and with great embarrassment, laid it down quickly on his desk and told me to go.