Written by Prem Shunyo
Love comes faceless
Lao Tzu House (Osho’s house) used to belong to a Maharaja. It was chosen because of the gigantic almond tree that stands over the house, changing colors like a chameleon, from red, orange, yellow, to green. Its seasons change every few weeks, and yet I have never seen it with bare branches; as one leaf drops, the new shining green one is already waiting to take its place. Under the tree’s foliage is a small waterfall and rock garden, created by a crazy Italian who has never been seen since.
Over the years, Osho’s magic touch has turned the garden into a jungle, with bamboo groves, swan ponds, a white marble waterfall that at night is illuminated blue, and as the water runs into small pools those pools shine with golden yellow light. The giant rocks, from a desert mine in Rajasthan, tower above and glisten in the sun, in contrast to the black granite walls of the library wing. There is a Japanese bridge and watercourse; and a rose garden that blooms out of season and is illuminated at night so that the roses stand and stare into Osho’s dining room, with clown-like surrealism and dazzling colors.
There is, winding through the jungle, a science-fiction wonder of a walkway – air conditioned and made of glass. It was designed so that Osho could walk through the garden without being disturbed by the heat and humidity of the Indian climate. It somehow adds to the mystery of this strange garden, where there are white peacocks, and blue peacocks courting each other with their extravagant dance; swans, golden pheasants, cockatoos and the bird of paradise, all brought to Osho from around the world by disciples as their hand luggage. Imagine arriving at Bombay customs as a tourist: “Oh yes, I always travel with my pet swans!”
There is an abundance of Indian birds that come and preen themselves in the reflection of Osho’s dining room window, unaware that they are being watched by a Buddha on the other side. Osho’s dining room is small and simple and he sits facing a wall of glass, through which he can see the garden.
There is the cuckoo that calls first in the morning, then half an hour later the rest of the orchestra wakes up and makes its declaration. Best of all is a recording of a rooster that is hooked into a loudspeaker at the gate and cockadoodledoo’s everyone out of their skin every hour, on the hour!
“To remind everyone that they are still asleep,” said Osho.
Osho has tremendous love and respect for any living thing. I have heard him say, in regard to some trees being cut in order to build a house, that “The trees are living, a building is a dead thing. The tree is the first priority, and you must build around it.”
Inside his house is mostly library. The marble corridors are lined with glass-covered bookshelves. I remember on the day I moved in I crashed into them with my suitcase, and by some miracle, nothing broke. Still, to this day, every time I pass that spot in the corridor I remember the time I moved in.
When I started doing Osho’s laundry, I was in shock. I have waited for that feeling of shock to wear off, but it never did. I felt the energy so strong in the laundry room that I would say to myself, “Whatever you do, don’t close your eyes.” I thought that if I closed my eyes I would be gone!
Everything was washed by hand and hung on a line on the roof. I used to splash around in the water like a kid at the seaside, and would end up drenched and dripping from head to toe. Many times I fell flat on the wet marble and, like a drunkard, would bounce and get up unharmed. The work would so totally involve me that at times it would feel as though Osho was in the room. Once I was suddenly overcome while ironing a robe and I fell to my knees with my forehead resting on the table, and he was there, I swear it!
Times changed and since visiting America I did the laundry in washing machines. I rarely got even my hands wet, as I wore rubber gloves for the handwashing. The amount of laundry always miraculously changed according to the amount of working hours. I have never understood how it was possible for one man’s laundry to be someone’s full-time work. But it was. My mother, on hearing that I was to stay in India and had the great job of Osho’s laundry woman, wrote saying that she couldn’t understand why I had to “go all that way, just to do someone’s laundry. Your father says come home, and you can do his laundry.”
I not only “came all this way to India to do laundry,” but I moved all around the world to do laundry. My pristine, super-hygienic conditions in Poona were to be changed for a basement in a castle in New Jersey, a trailer in the Oregonian desert, a stone cottage in North India where we had to melt the snow in buckets for water, a hotel basement in Kathmandu where I worked with about fifty Nepali men, a bathroom in Crete, a converted kitchen in Uruguay, again a bedroom in a house in the woods in Portugal, and finally back to the place I started, in Poona.
My laundry room feels like a womb for me. The laundry room was opposite Osho’s room, and so it was a part of the house where nobody ever came. I was left entirely alone; sometimes the only person I saw all day was Vivek.
People sometimes asked me if I got bored doing the same job for years. But boredom was not something that I ever felt. Because my life was so simple I did not have much to think about. Thoughts were there but they were like dry bones with no meat on them. Since I had been with Osho my life had changed in a way that I could never have imagined. I was so happy and fulfilled that to do Osho’s laundry was my way of expressing gratitude. And the funny thing is, the more lovingly and carefully I did his clothes, the more fulfilled I felt and so it was like a circle of energy that kept returning to me.
He never complained or sent anything back even though during my first monsoon I sent the towels in to him smelling of mildew. You will have to have been in India in monsoon to know what happens to damp clothes: the smell that they get cannot be detected until the towel is used, and so I was unaware of it. When Vivek told me that the towels were smelling of mildew I was surprised, but when she told me that actually they had been smelling for about a week I was really shocked. “Why didn’t Osho tell me immediately?” I asked. He had waited for a few days to see if I would realize it myself, or to see if it would change without him having to complain.
There were times when I would stop and sit still and feel overwhelmed by a feeling of love. Not thinking of anyone, and not even able to summon up a picture of anyone’s face in my mind, it was a strange feeling. I had felt overwhelmed by love before only when there was someone around who had triggered it. And even then it was never as strong as this. I would feel as though I was extremely drunk, although it was a subtle and refined drunkenness. I wrote a poem about this:
“Memory can’t recall your face,
So love comes, faceless.
Unfamiliar is the part of me
That loves you.
She has no name,
And she comes and goes
And when gone,
I wipe my tear-stained face
so that it remains a secret.”
“Love is a mystery – the greatest mystery there is. It can be lived, but it cannot be known; it can be tasted, experienced, but cannot be understood. It is something beyond understanding, something that surpasses all understanding. Hence, mind cannot take any note of it. It never becomes a memory – memory is nothing but notes taken by the mind; memory is traces, footprints left in the mind. Love has no body, it is bodiless. It leaves no footprints.”
He explained that when love is felt as prayer, uncontaminated by any form, it is felt by the superconscious. That was why the way I was feeling love was unfamiliar. I had at this stage no understanding of my superconscious. So much of what Osho has said over the years was beyond my understanding at the time, but has slowly clicked into place as I have experienced myself more.
“…These are the three stages of the mind: unconscious, conscious, superconscious.
“…As your love grows you will come to understand many things in your being which have remained unknown to you. Love will provoke higher realms in you, and you feel yourself very strange. Your love is entering into the world of prayer. It is tremendously significant, because beyond prayer there is only God. Prayer is the last rung of the ladder of love. Once you have stepped beyond that, it is nirvana, it is liberation.”
Hearing Osho speak on things like levels of consciousness, enlightenment, felt like pure magic to me. I would feel so inspired, so thrilled and excited that sometimes I wanted to scream. I told him once that his discourse was so exciting that I wanted to scream. “Scream?” He said, looking puzzled, “While I was speaking?”
Working close to Osho is a great blessing, whether a person is making clothes for him, or directing clean air through his air conditioners, plumbing all night so that he can take an ice cold shower in the morning, or any of the one thousand small tasks that disciples love to do. This blessing comes from one’s own awareness and love. This will be difficult to understand for people who live and work for money, whose work does not fulfill them. Their day is divided in two parts – time belonging to the boss or the company, and time that is “free”. In the ashram, the whole day is free time, and the way I spend that time depends on what nourishes me the most. I feel invigorated and alive when I have done something for Osho, because his awareness sparks off my awareness. Anything done with awareness, consciousness, is more fun.
I have always been very touched by the way people work around Osho, even though I can understand why they work with such joy. If someone works all night making something for Osho, the very quality of the way in which they have been working will create such a great feeling. The reward is just that – feeling great. And when you are around someone who makes you feel good, what can you do? – except say thank-you in whatever small way you can.
It is so easy to love Osho because his love is unconditional, he asks nothing. And I have known by experience that I can do nothing “wrong” in his eyes. I can act unconsciously and make mistakes, but then it is always me that suffers by my unconsciousness; he knows that and his compassion seems to be even greater. He only asks that we meditate, and learn by our mistakes.
I have seen that Osho is in a permanent state of bliss. I never saw anything happen to put Osho in a mood or to change his calm, relaxed centerdness. He has no desires or ambition, and needs nothing from anyone. Because of this, there has never been a question of exploitation. He never told me what to do, or how to do it. At the most he would make a suggestion if I asked him about a problem. Then it was up to me whether I accepted his suggestion or not. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I would want to do things my own way, but he never criticized that. He would accept that this was the way I chose to learn – the hard way! – because it always turned out that he was right. It became more and more obvious to me that his sole purpose for being here was to help us grow in awareness and discover our individuality.
As I said earlier, before I started meditating I thought I was my mind. The thoughts that ran constantly through my head were all I knew. I now begin to understand that even my emotions do not belong to me, but my emotional reactions come from conditioning that constitutes my personality. A master has no ego, no personality. He has realized his essential “self”, and in that realization the personality disappears. Ego and personality are given to us by society and people who made impressions on us as children. I see it in myself sometimes when my reaction to a situation will be “Christian”, and I wasn’t even brought up Christian! At least, I didn’t go to church, and we didn’t have a Bible in the house. I have been amazed with each discovery of my Christian conditioning and I can only presume that it is in the very air we breathe. Christianity is everywhere, in the way people think and behave, and yet what kind of religion is it now? All that is left are the morals and outdated ideas, which someone like me picks up. It is easy for anyone to see how people from different countries have different behaviour patterns. When I see that we are all human beings, made of the same flesh and bones, then it becomes obvious that conditioning is not a real part of who we essentially are. To be aware of all my conditionings is the greatest work that meditation does, because in meditation I am simply an unchanging silent presence.
I used to practice latihan in my room. Latihan is a meditation technique used in Subud, in which the meditator stands silently and “opens” to existence. Energy can flow through the person and can take any form – dancing, singing, crying, laughing – anything can happen but you are aware that you are not doing it.
I enjoyed this experience very much. It was a feeling of losing myself, and made me elated. I would stand in the same place every day (like someone having an evening drink, I guess, because I looked forward to my latihan time and missed it if I did not do it).
This continued for weeks, until a time came when I started to feel sick. I did not have any specific illness, but my energy was low and I cried very easily. I was worried that maybe I had been allowing the “possession” to happen too often and it was making me ill. One day I was crying and Vivek saw me and asked what was going on. I told her that I thought I was making myself sick because I was doing the latihan too much. She told Osho and his answer came back that I was to come to darshan and bring my latihan with me.
I went to darshan and Osho motioned to me to kneel at the side of his chair and then he told me to let the latihan happen. I closed my eyes and the feeling I used to get came to me, but not so strong. It was as though someone was standing behind me, somebody very, very tall, and then that presence moved into me and through me and I felt expanded and could see and feel myself across the whole of the Auditorium. A few minutes later Osho called me back and said that everything was good. After that darshan my desire to go to that spot and be possessed faded away and I never thought about it again. The room was later converted to a dental room for Osho, and it was to be seven years later under different circumstances that I found myself back in the same place, once again possessed.
Vivek had been Osho’s caretaker for about seven years at this time. Her relationship with Osho goes back through past lives, as he has talked about in discourses – and she can remember. She was a mysterious child/woman, Pisces, with all its qualities of Neptune, with large blue eyes. She had never been away from Osho for even a day, so when she announced that she was going to England for a couple of weeks and would I take care of Osho….
I spun dizzily in a confused state until, in an effort to stay in the moment I said to myself that, “Nothing is really happening, nothing is really happening. Just stay cool.”
How could I possibly be clean enough to go into Osho’s room? On darshan days, I use to take all day long in the shower before I felt ready. I almost washed my skin off.
The first thing I did for Osho was to give him a cup of tea. A cold cup of tea! I made his tea and took it to his room before he was ready for it. He was still in his bathroom, taking a bath. I sat on the cold marble floor staring at the tray of tea, wondering what to do. If I left the room to make another tea, then he might come out of his bathroom at that moment and wonder where his tea was; so I waited and waited. It is very cold in Osho’s room. In the last years Osho liked the temperature at twelve degrees centigrade. Wherever Osho moves I can detect a subtle perfume of camphor, or mint. It was present in his room that day.
Osho was suddenly there! walking across the room towards his chair. He chuckled and said hello. At that point I completely forgot the situation of the tea, and passed it to him. He drank it as though it was the best cup of tea he had ever had and didn’t say anything until much later, when he pointed out that maybe I could pour the tea after he came out of the bathroom and not before, next time.
I was struck by his humbleness. He could easily have said, “Yuk! Cold tea. Get me another.” Anyone else would have done. But he managed it so that I wasn’t even embarrassed. In fact, I didn’t even realize what had happened until afterwards.
How does the man of Zen take his tea?”
“For the man of Zen everything is sacred – even
taking a cup of tea. Whatever he does, he does
as if he is in a holy space.”
Osho used to receive the sutra, or discourse questions at about 7.45 a.m. He started the discourse at 8.00 a.m. I read him the questions and he would select a few, and pick a few jokes to go with them. Reading the questions and sutras I would sometimes get so touched that I would cry. I remember one time when tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t speak. I was sitting at his feet and looking at him, and he was waiting for me to continue speaking. He deliberately turned his head away from me and without seeing his eyes, I was able to pull myself together. I was learning that I am not the body, not the mind, but “not my emotions” was more difficult. When tears came I would feel them running down my face and sometimes I felt separate, but helpless to do anything about it. It was always a great test for me to carry on in such a situation without my emotions interfering. He said of me once that I was the perfect crying and weeping type.
There have been a few occasions when Maneesha, who reads the sutras and questions to Osho in the discourse, has been sick, and then Vimal, her stand-in, also got sick. Although at a loss for who should read the questions (Osho always liked an English voice for the reading), Osho said, “Not Chetana, and not Vivek – they always cry.”
Knowing how close Osho and Vivek had been for years, I was amazed to see that her going away did not change him at all. He continued as though nothing had happened. I had never seen a human being who was not changed by new situations happening around him. He has a vibrancy and aliveness that never changes. Moods are not there, just a constant river of being.
I have seen it happen with many, many people, so I know it is not just me, that to do anything in front of Osho, one’s self-consciousness becomes so immense that it is difficult to even walk. He is so still, graceful and present, that he acts as a mirror. Just to open a door, suddenly I was confronted with so many difficulties – timing it just right so as not to knock him in the face, which hand, left or right, whether or not to lean in front of him just as he reaches the door. At the same time, this does not cause tension, because Osho is so relaxed, it simply gives you a good look at yourself doing something for the first time consciously. When I first started to do each act consciously I felt a little awkward. The habit of doing a thing mechanically makes for a much smoother operation. Handing Osho a glass of water, consciousness is there, and that is the incredible gift of being close to him. It might not sound like much, but a beginning to living a conscious life is for me the most valuable gift I have ever received.
On the day Vivek telephoned to say she was coming back, Laxmi rushed excitedly into Osho’s dining room where he was having lunch and told him that Vivek was on her way back. Osho was talking to me at the time; he turned and thanked Laxmi for her message, and then continued with what he was saying to me, without missing a beat. I was flabbergasted – no sign of emotion, no flicker in his eyes. He was a living example of what he talked to us about – love without attachment, and living in the moment.
How much can the Master see when he looks at us? Does he check out our auras? Does he read our minds? Would he want to read our minds? I guess not. But certainly he sees things that I can’t see.
One morning I went to discourse with Osho. I collected him from his room at 8.00 a.m., walked behind him down the corridor to Chuang Tzu Auditorium and then I sat there while he spoke for an hour. I was aware that meditation was particularly strong for me that morning. The hour passed like two minutes and I could feel something more than usual had happened. I walked back down the corridor just ahead of him.
As I opened the door and he walked towards me to enter his room, he said:
“Where have you been, Chetana?”
I thought to myself, “Oh! he has forgotten that I took him to discourse. He must be spaced out.”
I replied, “I’ve been to discourse.”
He was just walking past me at this point and he chuckled.
As he laughed, I laughed. I remembered where I had been.
In discourse Osho was magnetic and charismatic. his eyes were like fire and his movements like the grace of a wildcat.
In those Poona years his days were full, as he used to read one hundred books a week, do work with his secretary, Laxmi, and, apart from discourse at 8.00 a.m. there was always darshan at 7.00 p.m. He was never sick, and during those Poona years he spoke on Jesus, Sufism, Zen, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Taoism, Yoga, Hindu mystics, Hassidism, and Buddha. He spoke on every sutra of Buddha. One comment on the Diamond Sutra was:
“The Diamond Sutra will appear to most of you as absurd, as mad. It is irrational but not anti-rational. It is something beyond the reason; that’s why it is so difficult to express it in words.” (Hui Neng and the Diamond Sutra)
Osho spoke on all the Buddha sutras over a period of five years. They were interspersed with talks on Sufis and questions from disciples. For a few weeks he didn’t come out at all because there was an outbreak of chickenpox and it was thought too risky to expose him. It was the day of the Buddha full moon, (full moon in May), when the last of Buddha’s sutras was read; Osho said, “Buddha was born, became enlightened and died on the same day, and by coincidence today is that day.” Osho’s timing has always been, and still is, beyond mysterious.
For two years I rarely went out of the house. Just the laundry and morning discourses filled my day so much I was on overflow. Sometimes Osho would send me a message to come to darshan, because he was talking less and less at darshan and energy darshans were slowly becoming more frequent. When Osho gave darshan he used to answer anyone’s problems. He would sit and listen intently to whoever was speaking, as though that person was the only person in the world for him, and then he would talk for a long time to try to help with the problem. After a few thousand people have talked about their problems you realize that there are no problems, or rather, there are very few and those few are continuously repeated. The mind is the only problem, really. So for how many years can a person go on listening to the same thing again and again? Osho’s compassion and patience with us always astounded me.
My last “speaking darshan” was the one that left the strongest impression on me. Still, many years later, I dip into that feeling I received then and feel cleansed and nourished.
I wrote to Osho about some great drama I was having at that time. I remember ending the letter by saying that I was “screaming” for help. I received the reply, “Come to darshan.”
I sat in front of him. He looked at me and asked, “What is it?”
I looked into his eyes and everything disappeared.
I said, “Nothing,” laughed, and touched his feet.
He chuckled and said, “Good.”
Since that day, whenever I feel disturbed by something, I stop and ask myself what is really happening, what is it? In That Moment nothing is happening, absolutely nothing.
Of course, I don’t always remember this. The habit of the mind and its ability to create problems is deep. It is always a great mystery to me how many times we “get it” and then forget it. Sometimes I am as free as a buddha and then I slip right back and allow my mind to enslave me.
Almost two years passed and I had no interest in men. They were the happiest and smoothest years of my life. No problems. I was happy being alone. Sometimes going towards my room I would have a feeling of excitement, as though I had something waiting for me. I would think, “What is it? Am I in the middle of a gripping novel that I am about to continue?” But there was nothing, I was simply looking forward to being alone. I felt utterly fulfilled.
Sitting in discourse one morning I was surprised to hear Osho speaking of me with reference to discovering which path the seeker is on:
“The first thing is to decide whether you feel joy being alone. For example, Chetana is sitting here. Vivek always asks me, “Chetana remains alone and she looks so happy. What is the secret?” Vivek is unable to understand that one can live totally alone. Now Chetana’s whole work is doing my laundry; that is her meditation. She never goes out, not even to eat in the canteen. She brings her food…as if not interested in anybody at all.
“If you can enjoy this aloneness, then your path is meditation. But if you feel that whenever you relate with people, when you are with people, you feel joy, cheerfulness, bouncing, you feel more alive, then certainly love is your path.
The function of the master is to help you to find out what your real work is, what your type is.” (The Dhammapada)
A few weeks after this discourse there was the chickenpox epidemic in Poona and the risk was too great for Osho to come out and speak.
For the first time in many years I was cut off from seeing Osho and I missed him. I listened to the tape of the discourse, where I had been told quite clearly that my path was meditation and aloneness. I wanted to test what he had said about me. I wanted to see if I really was that centered in aloneness. As I walked out the gate, a man I had seen before and who was known as one of the worst flirts in the ashram, shouted to me, “Hey, how about a date?” and I said yes.
his name was Tathagat, and to me he looked like a warrior – muscular, with a battle-scarred face and long, dark hair half-way down his back. I “fell in love” with him and that opened the gates to all the emotions I had not felt for years, and had presumed finished. Jealousy, anger – you name it – I had it. I was back on the merry-go-round.
“Be in the world, but not of it,” I had heard Osho say many times. Here was another chance for me to give it a try. I had virtually been living like a nun for the last two years. I was blissfully happy, but somehow, too safe, too easy. Now I wanted to try going through the old dramas again, but this time, watching them from the wings.