Lokesh views his experiences with Osho and Punjaji in retrospect and reflects on a fundamental lesson from his experiences with them.
“We need a leader, we need a master
We can’t do it all on our own
We need a guru, we need a boo-hoo
We’re afraid of being alone.”
Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
During the time I spent compiling content for the book, ‘The Very Best and Worst of Sannyas News’, I read hundreds of Osho quotes and passages from his discourses. It’s the most I have read his words in forty years. I also looked at hundreds of Osho photographs, searching for pictures suitable for creating advertising flyers for the book. Osho had entered my life again. I realize now that this had an interesting side-effect upon me. For the first time in many years I started examining deeply how I view Osho in retrospect.
When I meet people who are twenty-four years old they look young to me. I was twenty-four-years old when I first met Osho in March 1975. I was young. The experience was so powerful I still remember it clearly today. It left an indelible imprint on my memory. Like most people meeting Osho personally for the first time, I was blown away by him, to say the least. I went on to meet him many times in darshan and it was always intense, but somehow, over the years, I became accustomed to entering the unique field of energy created by his presence. I became more grounded, more centered, which isn’t to say that sitting directly in front of him no longer blew my mind, it did, but in a way that I was able to assimilate. To this day I have never met another human being who affected me like Osho did, even taking into consideration that I was a young man at the time.
Due to the onset of a dreadful disease in 1981, I found myself having to fight for my life. I almost died. It took me two years to regain full health. Those two years involved a personal struggle that left little room in my life for anything else, including Osho. I also ended up broke, and had to try and make money by any means possible, or risk ending up on the street. The eighties was the most difficult decade in my seventy years of living. I survived. Then Osho died. His death surprised me, but did not come as a great shock to me.
In 1990, my wife travelled to Lucknow in India and met HWL Poonja for the first time. She stayed there for two months. When she returned home, she was positively glowing. When she began to try and convince me to go and meet Poonjaji, I groaned inwardly and thought, “Oh, no, not another bloody guru in filthy India!” Her powers of persuasion eventually won me over and I flew to New Delhi and then travelled by train to Lucknow.
In terms of presentation, Poonjaji was nothing like Osho. The master’s satsangs contained little in the way of theatrics or opulence. They were humble, and held in a big room in a nondescript bungalow on the edge of the city. From an uninformed distance, Papaji looked like an old man, who did not do anything in a hurry. He took his time reading disciples’ letters, talking the Advaita talk and engaged in verbal exchanges with members of the satsang community. I eventually reached the master’s feet…
Wham! I knew the vibe. It was exactly the same vibe I felt during my meetings with Osho, and it was thanks to my close encounters with Osho that I was able to handle meeting Papaji in a mature way. I wasn’t a new kid on the block anymore.
There were certain differences between Osho’s and Poonjaji’s approaches to life that are worth noting. Unlike Osho, Papaji did not want to gather a permanent crowd around him. He wanted to share what he had to impart and then for you to leave. I found this quality of Poonjaji’s to be liberating. In Poona I had always felt like I would be missing out if I left. Poonjaji was not interested in the trappings of wealth. He lived off a meagre pension gained from serving in the military.
And one finer point: In contrast to Osho, Poonjaji made it very clear that what you were experiencing in his presence had to do with you and you alone, and had nothing to do with him. Osho said as much also, but not to the extent of telling you directly to your face in a very clear and explicit manner. In my eyes, Osho enjoyed adulation from his followers. Poonjaji did not. That is a personal observation that some might disagree with. I don’t have a good or bad judgement about it. It just appeared that way to me. I found it refreshing.
All of the events described took place decades ago. During that time, I have met several satsang givers. I found none of them to be authentic. They were either delusional or fake. If you have been driven in a top-of-the-range car, you recognize a banger immediately. There are a lot of bangers around these days.
To this day I have no idea if Osho or Poonjaji were enlightened. I don’t think it really matters. Those two men possessed the power to transform people’s lives in a positive way and, when it all boils down, that is what counts. We live in an age where myth has replaced fact. Spiritual masters can be, and often are the perfect screen to project all manner of fantasies upon. I’ve done my share of that, but no longer have a need for it. Many amazing things happened around Osho. There is no denying that. Why these amazing things happened could have multiple reasons, many of them interrelated. It is easy to project images of godliness on such a remarkable man, and forget he was simply a remarkable man. Osho was not a saviour and he certainly harboured no desire to be someone’s spiritual crutch.
Wise men, spiritual teachers and gurus, have existed down through the ages. They exist in a sometimes dark world and serve to point the way to the light, the light of understanding, the light of awareness, the light of freedom. To become attached and identified with the one pointing the way, instead of following the direction indicated is, in my eyes, pure folly. We must do the intelligent thing and head off on our own.
When searching for relevant quotes for this article I came across this one by Baba Ram Dass: “I’m not interested in being a ‘lover.’ I’m interested in only being love.” A simple statement that says a lot.
I always liked Ram Dass, a spiritual pioneer in his time. Taking what he said into consideration, I can say that I am not an Osho lover. Being an ‘Osho lover’ is a proposition that reeks of sentimentality. And it must be remembered that Osho was not a sentimentalist. Osho is, for me, a spiritual friend, one of many I have been fortunate enough to meet on this mysterious journey we know collectively as ‘Life’. One thing Osho told me forty-five years ago is encapsulated in the following:
“A single moment of knowing the realization that you are alone – alone to tread the path, alone to create the path, alone to be committed to living, alone to be involved in the moment – can penetrate you and society vanishes. You are alone.”
It still rings true today.