Recent account of 48 hours in Pune Resort by a Newcomer
Hours 48; moments of epiphany 4; hugs 3 (totally platonic); kiss 1 (avuncular at best); sex free or otherwise zilch; PDA (Public Display of Affection) ditto.
Things have changed since Osho “left his body’’ 20 years ago—the word die isn’t ever mentioned. India has become much more liberal—free sex isn’t restricted to his meditation resort. Ashram is another taboo word. “There is this particular image about the word ashram that we don’t want to encourage,” says Sadhana, in-charge of media and my shepherd for the two days I was there. The world squandered more of its ability to wait, Rajneesh himself has been embraced as an original thinker by no less than Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, and Osho is a hit on Youtube. On January 1, he had eight million users.
It is still like walking on to the sets of Hare Rama Hare Krishna—dark glasses, the dirty blond hair, the strumming of the guitar, lots of dancing, the quintessential ‘hippie scene’. There are more goras on the serene campus than on the streets of London. But quiet, yet alive, with stagnant pools of water with statues of Buddhas sitting meditatively, there is this feeling of energy that is impossible to miss. (And it isn’t the high of marijuana, even though the idea of dancing uncontrollably to Destination Unknown at 9.30 a.m. without any form of stimulant, except life, is baffling.) Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, couldn’t escape it, Vinod Khanna has famously talked about his experience, the greatest Indian musicians have played here, and even David Headley couldn’t resist.
“It is good that Osho left his body,’’ says Meera, a Japanese artist who is Indian in her soul. “People have become more responsible, more aware. They are not here looking for a guru. They genuinely want to find themselves.”
One of the first few followers, Meera threw away all her clothes in the garbage and decided to go orange with a vengeance. “We even painted the walls in our house orange. We were that committed. My ex-husband, a professor in MIT in the US, went to teach in orange robes and a huge mala. Osho was so radical,” she says.
Meera’s first Osho experience—all the old-timers talk about their firsts with an obvious thrill—was at a mandap near the now gleaming black granite welcome centre. There was only the ground full of sand, there was music and him. “He has left so much to be completed. Everything changes, even bamboo,” she says, as she reaches out to embrace me, the first of my all platonic comfort hugs.
There was no sex. Not behind bushes or in the quiet corners of the green campus, where trees grow thick, wild and green. It was like being in a 1970s Hindi film—incredibly sanitised, plenty of music, crazy dancing, beads and people speaking Hindi with bad accents. There was a tiny bit of skin show, as my prudish friend would refer to it, near the pool. My heart raced, as this young lissom girl peeled off her maroon robes to sit in the sun in a bikini—Zeenie Baby was much bolder—and my heart raced hoping that I would catch some of that famed free-love moment. Only to come to a screeching halt as time was fleeting and as short as the attention span of a child after a box of candy and a huge can of Coke.
For Osho, the biggest change has been the internet, says Pramod, hugger number 2. Osho’s is one of the most popular channels on the web. His speeches are translated immediately and beamed across the world—to reach out to millions of people, and to those who are in desperate need to find inner peace. His philosophy of not frowning on comfort helps—he has touched people from Latvia to Brazil. At the touch of a button.
Sadhana, who is always dressed immaculately with a string of pearls around her neck, says that basic comfort levels ensure that meditation is easier. “You won’t constantly think of the dirty bathroom that you have to go back to or the room. It is easier to find yourself.”
Anyone who has been part of the active mediation that is specifically designed and practised here, especially those who believe that changing channels is exercise, will probably find it easier to find muscles they didn’t know existed. However, there is a strange sense of peace—or stillness—that fleetingly, in the kind of euphoric moments that Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat, Pray, Love, creeps in suddenly. Holding on to it is incredibly tough. It is like hanging on to a wet, soapy glass—very slippery. Meditation, the constant switching from music to quiet, to music again, helps you feel centred.
The sit-alone-chanting-a-mantra to find that moment of epiphany doesn’t work here. It is all about dancing (to my utter horror and deep embarrassment). If you are the kind of person who cringes at the thought of moving to music, this is your nightmare come alive. Every form of meditation has some form of dancing involved—rattling off in gibberish, letting go, jumping up and down shouting “Hoo Hoo’’ deep from your genitals and sudden bursts of stillness.
“This is to let all the conditioning go,” says Sadhana. “In India women are conditioned all the time. It is very tough to give it up and choose this life. My parents were shocked. I was always on the look out for spirituality. He offered me meditation. But I didn’t have to bow down to him.”
These finding-your-self-through-mediation stories abound. Everyone seems to have one. “I had read a few books and I decided to stop by on a trip to India. I stayed here for a week and just fell in love,” says Chota, who works at the tiny coffee shop. A Spaniard by birth and a sanyasi by choice, he abandoned his name, Raoul, for Chota. “This place got me in touch with my inner child. Meditation is the key to self growth. I’d like to grow up here.”
A hot shot executive in a leading designer firm, dressed stylishly in a deep maroon slinky robe, has been coming to the resort since she was a baby. “I was two,’’ she says. “It was not easy. We had to wear only orange and this huge mala even to school. The kids in school were very mean and used to call me Rajneesh. But I come every year.”
Aamir Khan would fit in here. His magical potion that has made time stand still for him—unlike his other competitor Khans—seems to be an open secret in the Osho world. Sanyasins—you can tell one from her eyes, they shine, says Meera—seem to have defied age. Sarani, 38, looks at least 10 years younger (she runs an Osho centre in her country). But perhaps, that is because Osho is still young, too.
He still gives darshan each day at the evening meeting with the help of technology, of course. Dressed in pure white robes, everyone in the resort waits to get in. Their reflection in the black granite pool is like swans, as Sadhana puts it. The only sounds that you can hear are of pressure cookers whistling in nearby flats and birds going home. There is a sense of anticipation as you walk into the hall quietly to dance, find a little silence and meet Osho.
He is beamed into a hall full of white-robed seekers tired after the dancing session (the band plays instrumental music and the auditorium turns into MTV grind, without the skimpy clothes) to listen to the Master, as he leads 7,000 Buddhas into mediation. The evening meeting is thrilling, terrifying, powerful, chaotic, crazy. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t dance, as I found out later.)
Masais only know the present, claimed Robert Redford in Out of Africa. They have no sense of the past or the future. They would die in jail. Osho wants people to be like that tribe. It is far from easy, especially in a world that is changing every second. For those in the business of tracking these minute spilt-second decisions, it is perhaps impossible. I realised that in a second of clarity as I walked out of the meditation resort two days later. My laminated pass is in my bag—a prized possession and a great way to break the ice at parties. I feel lonely. “Together, but alone,” is Osho’s philosophy. Will I go back? I am not sure. I am still not ready. But I think, it is important that I should.