Dharmen ( Brian Hemmings) died at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, London last Tuesday (May 16th, 2017) .
(He is now the second founder of Sannyas News to die. ( Prem Paritosh died in 2009). Sannyas News (digital version) was founded in 2000 by Paritosh, Parmartha and Dharmen, and supported by a small group of North London Sannyasins. A formulae which has persisted over the last 17 years.)
It is less well known that Dharmen, also together with Ma Prakrati and Parmartha was an ever present producer of the first paper version of SannyasNews in 1985, which then became the Here and Now magazine. That was a whole ball game. I remember the three of us bearing down over make up pages on the first Apple computers, wonderful times, and very time consuming! Much more than once, I can remember the “production” ending as the sun came up, and feeling a sense of ecstatic relief. Dharmen would then suddenly become interested (in a way I still remember as amazingly ‘slow’ and meditative) in food, and would make a delightful avocado and mayonnaise sandwich, as we drenched in the early morning sun.
I remember him recording to me more than once his experience of Ouspensky’s book about Gurdjieff called ‘In Search of the Miraculous’. He wrote, it was “quite a book, I read it when I was 21 or so. I read it, continually, for about 2 years. It became like a Bible, it had quite an effect on my young mind.” so that was how his “seeking” began. The search for meaning was an ever present thereafter, and he took risks along the way in pursuing it. Not only that but he informed his life and insight with a Gurdjieff take and taste on things. On many occasions when working with me I felt that subliminally.
In 1977 a couple of buses went overland to India from North London, full of those who were interested in Osho. It was a social as well as a spiritual experiment. Money was pooled, and sometimes they got stuck on the road. The money at that point belonged to everybody, and apart from reserves for petrol, anybody was allowed to spend it on anything they wanted. A lot of it got spent on ridiculous items along the way which depleted financial resources and those who had remained on the bus all arrived in Pune penniless.
As they got off the bus for the final time Dharmen managed to lay hands on a brick clay oven. He showed initiative with this, and began to produce, as his way of survivng, (for he had arrived virtually penniless), banana bread and peanut butter, which he sold outside the ashram at the end of morning discourse.
But life in “Poona one” was not all it may seem from the shiny spectacles of the present day, especially for those surviving on virtually nothing. Waking up one morning Dharmen knew instantly he had hepatitis. He was living in penury in a tent near the river at the the time. Luckily friends brought him a water melon every day, and he lived on w/melon juice as his only source of sustenance. A difficult situation and on the edge. The tent became unbearably hot. But once again the luck that Dharmen often said he thought accompanied him throughout life came to him in the form of the restaurateur who owned the field where the tent was. He gave him free food and offered him a meal a day of rice and dhal.
Pune one proved almost disastrous, for he then suffered from amoebic dysentery, but managed to take sannyas in 1978. Later his friends reflected when he got ill later in life that these early encounters with mortality may not have helped his body over time.
I myself met Dharmen fully in the English Medina Osho commune where we were both commune members. (circa 1982/5) . He had an unusual sort of relationship with the “leaders” of the commune, and one had the impression they made things difficult for him, but always drew back from ejecting him, perhaps in the hope he would himself leave! Once he was directed to work in the Kid’s house where I was the regular worker, but he refused point blank, as he saw it as his idea of hell! To his surprise the leaders relented and he was given other work.
There was a type of luck that seemed to follow Dharmen around. I remember once in 1988 he won an English sannyas raffle ticket draw for a ticket to Pune… and would not have had the money to get there had he just wanted to go. He ended up working in the Rajneesh Times office, ( I think using some of the skills he had taught himself on Sannyas News and the first Mac computers! ) He gained as I recall some kind of ashram status and was given a food pass… ..
Dharmen liked walking when he was well, and I remember a number of walks, including silent walks, over the last thrity years on the South Downs with him and various sannyas groups from London. Memories I cherish.
After Osho’s death he looked around other teachers and was for a while with Andrew Cohen, but always seemed to retain a thread to sannyas, and went straight to a sannyas house when he left the Cohenites.
In his spiritual maturity he felt at home with advaita, and was a stalwart member of a seeded advaita group from the Satyam Nadeen teachings.
In many ways he was a careful and even private man for a sannyaisn, but capable of taking risks, and embracing the moment in unexpected ways. In his last illness I think he always felt that his luck might turn up again. and find expression through the various “alternative” medical procedures and treatments he leaned towards. But it was not to be.
(Swami Anand Parmartha)