Laxmi, Osho’s second secretary describes part of her search in India for an ashram to replace Poona. She describes part of it here in the third person. Also the events that gave rise to Sheela’s rise to power by taking advantage of her long absence in 1981.
(SN collective remembers this time well, sannyaisns even bought train tickets to go to Kutch, and never used! It was at this time Laxmi’s presence was mssed by many of us, as Sheela began to be in the ascendant. Osho was clearly ill when he stopped speaking in the Spring of 1981. Street wise amongst us felt that the silence was a sort of convenience, but there again, it did sort the intellectuals out, and many left! )
“Meanwhile in Poona overseas sannyasins, particularly westerners, were repeatedly falling sick with amoebic dysentery, hepatitis, jaundice and problems as a consequence of the poor hygiene in India. Osho did not keep well either. He had a severe back problem. It was felt it was time for the ashram to be moved to a healthier climate in India. A hunt for land, more acceptable to Osho’s body began.
Laxmi traveled to and forth from Pune, Mumbai, Gujarat and New Delhi. There were a few properties in the Himalayas and Gujarat that were adequate. However the Indian government did not approve of an ashram close to sensitive and high security risk areas. As there were many overseas sannyasins, proximity of the Himalayas to China, and Gujarat bordering on Pakistani territories respectively, the Indian government did not grant permits for an ashram in these states. However the Indian government did not spell this in so many words, but dilly-dallied the issue for a long period. Unaware of this dilly-dallying, Laxmi stayed out of the ashram for long spells in Mumbai, Gujarat and in Delhi, and for four months at a stretch in 1981, awaiting a decision.
Meanwhile back in Pune, owing to ill health Osho stopped discourses for the first time. He even stopped initiating neo sannyasins. In the spring of 1981, he announced that the last phase of his work had begun and it would be intense, concentrated and full of silence.
In search of a place for an Osho Ashram, Laxmi first went to Kutch, Gujarat as she was familiar with the area. For Laxmi it was interesting to return to Gujarat as her childhood memories were refreshed. She had spent a beautiful childhood here. Accompanied by two or at least one sannyasin, Laxmi would drive by road each day. If there were two sannyasins each one would drive for five hours at a stretch to be relieved by the other in turn. They would set out full of energy for the day at four each morning. Laxmi particularly liked Wakaner Palace, a place in Morbi and Rajpipla near Kutch. A farm on about 20,000 acres with several lakes on the property and trees over 100 years old and the palace was fpr sale. Negotiations commenced. It involved the owner, local community and state government. The consent of the local community was integral. Unlike in the west, bureaucracy in India worked at a snail’s pace. Nothing seemed to move ahead.
Laxmi learnt much later since it was too close to the western border, the government disapproved of the ashram in the vicinity. The government was concerned foreign agents would gain entry into the country in the guise of sannyasins easily. Being an international organization it was difficult to warrant this. However the Trust had no choice but to respect government policies. Later Laxmi learnt there was a possibility of nuclear testing in the zone. So she was glad that the project there failed. Laxmi then went up country.
A frantic search began in the north, particularly near the Himalayas. Osho had had said many a time that he loved to be in the Himalayas because of their spectacular beauty. Laxmi came across several palaces. As the Indianmaharajas were no longer rich palaces could not be maintained owing to exorbitant costs. Neglected for want of money they were in ruins now. However as soon as the owners learned that the Rajneesh Foundation was keen on their property, prices shot up. There was a misnomer that the Foundation has loads and loads of wealth. This was not true. In fact Osho said currency must move regularly and not stagnate. Although there was a perpetual fund crunch the trust did not stop work at any stage. Even on this basis the ashram derived joy from work round the year. Barely was money received, the trust disposed it off in minutes to meet expenses. Currency was always mobile. Money was barely seen and seemed to vanish in no time, but it generated a lot of creativity of sannyasins and non-sannyasin workers. Nevertheless the misnomer that the Foundation was fabulously rich persisted.”
extracted from “The Journey of the Heart” by Ma Anand Laxmi.