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OSHO LEELA (A Place of Open Hearts and Minds)
from Swami Rashid (first published in Viha Connection)

Those who come to Osho Leela have, for the most part, done the work. The speaker was an Opera singer with an international reputation. He was teaching Close Harmony and Spirituals at the first week of the Leela Month in Paradise music Festival back in August. And he wasn't talking perfect pitch or voice projection: he was talking being in the present. He was talking singing with awareness.

Osho Leela is a place where people come to work with both intensity and lightness . . . on themselves. The outcome of that work is there for all to see as love and creativity, celebration and respect for planet Earth. For the most part, in my view, communes do not work, do not hold together. Our egos will inevitably assert themselves and cause the conflicts that eventually will tear the tender fabric of community relationships. When a commune does work, it usually has one or other of two features: a charismatic leader (preferably enlightened) or a doctrine that everyone subscribes to. Sannyasins have been spoilt for both.

I asked Dhyano, the founder, one of the Directors, and prime mover of the Osho Leela commune how and why Osho Leela works. 'I donít know,' he said. I'm just doing what I think my Master told me to do. I'm just trying to live my life in the way he pointed. I've no idea if it's the right way. We're a grass roots community not trying to be anything special. We're not trying to impress anyone with Osho or spirituality or therapy (of course we want to promote our activities and look attractive in our brochures) - and we try to keep an atmosphere of openness in which people can be themselves. Nobody has to be anything'. We were sitting on a garden bench on the lawn in front of the main Osho Leela house. Around us moved a throng of the Song and Voice camp participants. This was the first week of the rolling, one month, Festival that turns into a dance and movement week, then theatre and circus skills, culminating in a joyous week of live music.

Osho Leela is, these days, the venue where many generations of sannyasins and Osho-friendly people gather for their celebrations. They come from across the United Kingdom and from Europe. Osho Leela happens in a large, English Victorian manor house surrounded by its own extensive grounds, two hours from London. Some portion of the grounds has been assigned for camping and for caravans. Half a dozen mobile homes have been installed; all to ease the problems of accommodation - since the house itself can only sleep about fifty people. The core community fluctuates around twenty five adults and three children — and still they need more people to handle all the work that comes their way. Osho Leela pays its way and funds its vital programme of improvements and construction of new facilities by running groups or trainings or workshops every weekend of the year. There are ambitious plans to build a separate, eco-friendly, polygonal hall for groups and meditations to augment the sizeable rooms inside the house and the marquees erected in the summer

'Leela's never really had a vision,' Dhyano continued. 'I cannot explain what is really happening here. I cannot explain why things happen as they do. An idea pops up. We follow the idea. It's been easy. Ideas appear and events collaborate with them. I assume that's how its meant to be. I'd say there ís a whole bunch of people committed to each other and to some indefinable purpose.' A shower threatened, workshops were beginning, Dhyano had another appointment. We stood and hugged - Dhyano is a champion hugger. In fact anyone would get a Ph.D. in hugging when they've been in Osho Leela for a while. As Dhyano turned to leave, an afterthought occurred to him that seemed to put our interview in context. He was laughing. 'I think Leela's a mystery.

For me as a partial outsider, it is this open-mindedness combined with open-heartedness that make Osho Leela such an attractive and colourful beacon in our restless, monochrome, time is money, so-called culture. Since Osho left the body and we members of his communes rolled out across the world like beads from a broken mala I have visited and been involved with many attempts at communal living - which is, after all, the most intelligent, creative and economical way of thriving on the earth. When I was invited three years ago, to design and make a place of beauty of the fifteen acre (seven hectare) grounds at Leela, I did not have a moment's hesitation. Together with biologists, geologists, ecologists, botanists, geomancers and gardeners we have created Fields of Play, a place where nature and humans may re-establish their connection. Fields of Play is a space for both adventure and for watching the grass grow by itself. It is a place for experiencing the resurgence of nature when the right flora are planted and butterflies and birds and mammals reappear in their former numbers and it is a place of self-discovery. By now three thousand trees and a quarter of a mile of hedgerows have been planted, an amphitheatre has been built, an orchard established, a maze constructed (in the form of a Buddha visible only from the air,) a wild flower meadow is in process and a lake is currently being dug that will be fed by a meandering stream. Fields of Play manifests and complements, without dogma, the work of Osho and the work of Osho Leela.

'I feel so welcomed,' said a first timer when I wandered round the Osho Leela house and grounds asking people for their impressions of the community. 'This place provides so many opportunities to develop and to experience new horizons' said a business man and regular visitor. 'I'm always grateful that there is no distance between the community and us tourists' said another visitor. One person commented, 'The food is wonderful, excellent accommodation in beautiful surroundings, supportive staff, and still thereís more!' Many people referred to the acceptance they immediately feel when arriving at Leela. Others to the dynamic balance between order and chaos, efficiency and loose administration.

In the end we'll never really know why some projects thrive and others, equally well conceived, go to the wall. Perhaps as Dhyano says NOT knowing is the thing to trust. Perhaps a carefully conceived and costed project is no more assured of success than skating on the thin ice of existence; trusting in the impetus and life force that informs us.