Editor Interviews Alok John
Parmartha : Meeting up with Osho, on the face of it sometimes seems to be a matter of chance, but my take on this is that it only occurs when "the disciple is ready". How was it for you?
Alok John : In the 1970s I was in my twenties living in London. At that time of course sannyasins wore red, or even fiery orange, and as soon as I saw them I knew I was seeing something very special. Whenever I was doing something stupid I seemed to bump into a sannyasin and His picture appeared to jump out of the mala locket in my direction. I suppose I was a seeker and I did try a few other things but at the back of my mind I always knew that Bhagwan (as Osho was then called) was the real thing. After coming into contact in this way, I then did go along to Kalptaru the London Centre at the time, but my impressions of some of the disciples was unfavourable, I found them childish I suppose and hesitated to become further involved. I liked Sufi Dancing, but I was pretty timid and distrustful. I certainly wasn't going to do a "No- Limits" encounter group which seemed to represent a kind of initiation for many sannyasins at that time.
It was actually some years later in 1983 I would drive up to Medina on Sundays for afternoon tea and music group which I am sure you remember was wonderful. I did a couple of introductory groups at Medina, one with Vismaya, mother of Tim Guest. There was nothing wrong with Vismaya's group, she treated me quite well. But I was immediately aware and suspicious of the authoritarian set up at Medina. People were encouraged to surrender to Poonam, then leader of English sannyas. I had received a very authoritarian upbringing, being forced to surrender to my parents and schoolteachers and now that I was an adult I certainly wasn't about to surrender to anybody. Poonam could see that and eventually she banned me from Medina and the sister Body Centre in London because I had "bad energy"!
Parmartha: Strange this to me in a number of ways... On the surrender point I always saw surrender as a fresh experiment in consciousness at the time, something I myself had rarely done voluntarily, so it appealed. It did not matter to whom one surrendered, it was becoming familiar with the act of surrender itself. Your own earlier experience was forced surrender which is no surrender at all. But surely when it was of one's own free will a whole range of other forces come into play. Any comment?
Alok : I see your point. First I'd say you need some degree of trust in someone in order to surrender to them. You need to be sure they are not going to tell you to do something really stupid. I did not have that trust in Poonam. Actually, as my parents were untrustworthy I find it hard to trust anyone, and learning slowly to trust has been one of my challenges in this life. But secondly I have always seen sannyas as an inner process of living without goals, surrendering to existence rather than to an individual.
Parmartha: Did you ever meet Osho in the flesh?
Alok: Due to poverty and ill health I never managed to get to Pune 1 or the Ranch.. But in the autumn of 1989 I felt this pull to go to Pune 2. The pull was really strong and I managed to borrow the money and arrived in Pune on January 3rd 1990. At that time Osho would come out and meditate with us for a few minutes before a video discourse, so I saw him maybe about fifteen times in all. I was In Buddha Hall when his death was announced and went down to the burning ghats with everyone for His celebration.
Parmartha: A major thing to be around at his death, and what could be seen as an immense blessing. How was it?
Alok: Well it all happened so quickly. The announcement was made at about 6.45pm, then they brought the body to Buddha Hall for about an hour and then we set off for the burning ghats in our white robes. As Osho's body went up in flames hundreds of sannyasins sang Anubhava&Mac185;s haunting song "The universe is singing a song. The universe is dancing along. The universe is
singing on a night like this". I stayed around till eleven or twelve and then went back to my room in Popular Heights. What else could you do? And the next morning everything was continuing as normal at the ashram, dynamic, breakfast etc. I am sure Osho wanted it that way.
Parmartha: Alok, on another tack, readers may find it illuminating to hear that you are an Oxford Graduate and intellectually inclined. By contrast to me you have always felt to be a devotee of Osho, which I feel is a little different to being a disciple. In my experience it is rare to find an intellectual "devotee" with Osho (or anyone else!). Have you any comment on this?
Alok : That is an interesting question Parmartha. I think there are two answers. First being a "scholar" I do read a lot and remember most of what I read. So I appreciate how unique and revolutionary Osho's philosophy (for want of a better word) is. I also have pretty good general knowledge of history and the social sciences. So for example, there remain people in the world who still think there is some mileage to be gotten out of Marxism-Leninism, but I know enough about the subject to know this isn't so. My judgment is Osho's teachings can transform the planet.
As to being a devotee, I became one because I didn't (and still don't) have much choice. I was the victim of incredibly severe child abuse. So if I go back to my mid twenties, I was too damaged to compete effectively in the employment marketplace, I was too damaged to have relationships. And in my mid twenties I was severely mentally and physically ill, homeless as well. So there was nowhere to go but "in". Spirituality has never been a game or a bit of fun to me. I took it up because there was nowhere else to go.
Parmartha : How do you see yourself as having matured through your long relationship with Osho?
Alok: Well I like to think I have gained some awareness and compassion! I am much less judgmental about people and most of the time see them as doing the best they can--which I suppose is the reality.
Parmartha: Any final words (for posterity?!), after almost twenty years as a sannyasin?
Well I have started writing a screenplay for a feature film about the life and work of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho). I don't see any reason why a feature film shouldn't be made. It would help the public understand Osho and counter all the negative publicity. But whether the screenplay will get finished and whether the movie will actually get made, I am leaving that up to existence!
Parmartha: Sounds like a good idea. Best of luck with it. Thanks for this interview.
Alok: My pleasure.