I was a Sannyasin for some years during the 1980′s , perhaps during the most expansive time in the period of Sannyas and Osho. The period spanned my twenties and into my thirties, and was a period of great change within and without. It was during this time the Sannyasin experiment was played out on the world scene, where the therapy business expanded within Sannyas, and Osho was discussed and dissected by the media and became known to a much wider public.
It also saw the move from the ashram in India to the USA and then the final return of Osho to India.
I was party to the experiment of Osho’s. And it was an experiment, a journey, for him and for me and for many others involved. At the end of it I was no longer a Sannyassin, I had changed my name back to the original, but I was forever in gratitude to Osho, and I still am.
As I grew in self understanding, as I practised the techniques of self enquiry he had suggested, as I grew through relating with others, so my ability to discriminate or view the circus around and within Sannyas developed.
I no longer thought as a young man, easily impressed by my so called peers, but began the process of seeing through some of the simplistic notions I had once believed in.
Foremost amongst these was seeing that any teacher or master I came into contact weren’t impregnable, weren’t without faults or without the influence of the culture and mores of their past conditioning and upbringing.
Whilst Osho had once appeared to me as the pinnacle of consciousness, I now began to respect him more, but follow him less. Yes, he’d offered a path, but it wasn’t the only one. He too had altered his views, “made mistakes”, he was as human as I was.
What he demonstrated to me, was his undoubting knowledge of a place beyond the mind, and a remarkable ability to express his love of truth. He was a beautiful, inspiring wordsmith, with a mind able to dissect profound texts and make them his own.
He loved and lived the truth to the best of his ability, but there were other teachers also attuned to help seekers like me, who had been alienated and confused by sexuality, by bad parenting, by issues of love and pain and man and woman. Nevertheless his influence and ongoing message was a constant reminder and inspiration.
These issues of western alienation and confusion had been, to some extent ignored, and out of the reach of Osho’s understanding. He was an easterner, moulded and fashioned by the east, whilst I was a westerner.
So often on the Sannyasnews web site, we see the debate and difficulties faced by followers of Osho from east and west, who often see Osho in very different ways.
In the east, ideas of surrender and the master are more highly regarded. We in the west are more moulded by ideas of individualism, and have less respect for authority as a whole. We are suspicious ( rightly ) of those who demand we think one way and not another, and we can be over cynical.
The battle rages on within these SN pages, with little likelihood of resolution. To me, it is irrelevant, east vs west is just another symbol of the battle within each of us.
The goal always was self realisation or enlightenment, where there’s no east or west.
For the east, the idea of enlightenment is such a grandiose and elitist phenomenon, rare and seldom attained. Osho seemed to reinforce this view: and more often than not pooh poohed other teachers or masters, especially modern day ones. He rarely acknowledged any of his students or disciples who got close to, or even suggested they had realised the truth, but would occasionally delight in telling us tales of semi illiterate or uneducated people he had met who had ” attained”.
At the same time, he was forever reminding us that the goal was achievable and in essence profoundly simple. What would confuse me is that the goal isn’t so difficult after all, if we simply practise self enquiry, if we simply negate all our belief, if we simply allow the moment in, live in the present, as far as is possible. Simple? Eh?
Whereas once I believed in enlightenment in some of the ways Osho had described – being in a state of pure joy, bliss etc, because Osho appeared to suggest it as such, I began to see this was fanciful and would always remain outside of my experience. No such state exists or ever has. Osho loved poetry and he loved exaggerating. And he never truly lived in the west, when he was there he was always surrounded by love and support and he didn’t worry or think about electric bills, or work. He was elevated by his position, and seldom out of his comfort zone, ( except late 1985 in the USA ). It’s no wonder his description of enlightenment is unique to his experience and conditioning.
I continued to ask myself and discover if the term was actually of any use in the west, and whether the term was even appropriate to the new teachings I was involved in. The idea that there is a final conclusion or realisation to understanding and living the truth, or attaining a complete sense of enlightenment seemed outdated to me.
After all, most teachers who describe some moment where they realise the truth and have now completed their transition from “unenlightened to enlightened” ( under the Bodhi tree) also discover that life and consciousness move on. They are still faced, by the ongoing issues and choices that life presents to them, and continue to learn and morph their understanding to the new conditions they face in life.
They continue to learn, make mistakes, alter their views. If they don’t, all the evidence is that they stagnate, and get frustrated. The list of teachers who have have been affected by this appears pretty much endless, from da free John to Andrew Cohen. And in his own way Osho expressed this too. With his emphasis on Sannyas, on surrender, on his being the only path, to the white brotherhood and the ringing tones of Osho at the end of his discourses, so I saw him becoming more and more caught up in his own self importance – which was in direct contradiction to the profoundly simple, delightful message he had once so beautifully demonstrated.
Today there is no need for Sannyas, no need for the master-disciple relationship, which was outdated once the numbers of followers had grown beyond the ability of one man to engage with them.
We may be moved by our memories of the man, we may relive these, through imagination and dreams, but we no longer need to view him or anyone else as the “pinnacle of consciousness”, but to remind ourselves that he demonstrated a great truth, and lived joyously and totally. Our job is to do the same.. As he said on a number of occasions, (sorry no quote,) “forget me and live your own understanding and truth”.