I was a commune sannyasin between 1982 and 1986 – and often thought since about my fellow communards – we were a surrendered bunch, unlike sannyasins who lived in the world – and without that atmosphere of surrender it would not have been easy to stay… , and it is true that, more than is advertised some did leave. I can remember a friend leaving in the night, hitting the walk to the nearest road, and hitching out of Medina, or having taken a short holiday to visit family etc, coming back but saying they had to go and lay on a beach. So what type of people were we really – the ones who stayed, and stayed, until rather than us leaving the commune, the commune simply disintegrated around us and left us on the beautiful free road again, going nowhere and nowhere to go. ( A great space by the way!)
There is a little known study about us published in 1987 by the University of Oregon in the journal Sociological Analysis which conveyed a demographic and psychological picture of commune residents gathered from surveys done in 1983.
Some facts were interesting: 54% of residents were women, 75% had been sannyasins for more than 3 years, nearly half for more than 5 years. 60% reported themselves as not being religious before taking sannyas.
Commune residents according to this report were incredibly well educated compared to the general population, 95% graduated from high school and 64% from university. Fully 36% of the residents had a masters or doctoral degree. About 60% of the degrees were in arts and humanities or social sciences. Almost 50% of commune residents came from cities of 100,000 or larger, an urban group, to be sure, for a partly agricultural commune (on the Ranch at any rate). 62% professed liberal or radical politics.
As for psychological well-being and mental health, commune sannyasins scored high as compared to the general population. 93% reported being in the top two categories of life satisfaction. Their mean rating on the Perceived Stress Scale was 15.22, much lower as compared to 23.34 for the general population.
Such findings were summarized as showing that commune residents scored high on measures of affluence, education, mental health and psychological well-being.
It seems then we were an educated bunch, but I do wonder if we lacked common sense, and realism. How come we tagged so easily into surrender, and how come some hard to excuse crimes happened just hidden out of our sight, though not the sight of all. And why didn’t those who kind of knew make more a fuss? Can I suggest that “education” is a poor indicator of real qualities like courage, independence of thought, and wisdom in power situations? Now I wonder what do our beloved readers think!!