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The February Interview:
Sannyasin for 28 Years and Editor of this site,
Anand Parmartha answers questions from Alok John.
How did you come into contact with Osho?
I met a Dutch girl at a hospital dance when I was 27. At the time I was into Buddhism so I knew what meditation was! We hung out with each other a while and she introduced me to dynamic meditation. It was at St Saviours Church Hall in Chalk Farm. Teertha or Sham Singer used to lead it. It seemed like a different world, most people meditated naked in those days . My God in a Church Hall! Teertha told me drop everything! I wonder what he meant, even now! The nurse went off to see Osho in India after a few months, and I followed her. By the time I had arrived however (Nov, 74) she had left Poona, but Osho was well and giving discourse regularly.
How did you come to take Sannyas?
Unusually for the time, Osho acknowledged in darshan my confusion and doubt re sannyas. Try a full camp he said and see how it is. I wandered around in orange without a mala for quite a while and returned to London. I re-met up with Krishna the girl who had run the small commune of about 15 of us, called the FreeHouse, opposite the Central Poona Post Office, during the winter of 74/75. She was a sort of unofficial leader of North London hippie sannyas in those days. I took sannyas from her, danced around by all her wonderful friends.
Did you meet Osho?
Yes, I met him with about 12 people in a few darshans late 74/early 75. He answered personal questions and seemed very focused and extraordinarily gentle to me. He used to come in, supported by Vivek who seemed to take some of his weight as he walked. He was very complimentary about my admission of confusion. He said more or less as I remember that everyone was confused, but it took a brave man to admit it! Once he interpreted a predictive dream of mine about my mothers death and said it was actually symbolic of my mothers health. He concluded by saying: dont worry; your mother will live a long and happy life. He was wrong; she was dead within two years!!
By the time I returned twice to Poona in 1978 and 1980 Osho was more remote, but accessible in large groups. There were energy darshans, especially for those such as myself who worked in the ashram. The energy darshans were a revelation. If one was open, which I wasnt always, they seemed to sidestep the usual defences, and open one up to streams of ecstasy which would last the whole night through.
On the Ranch I used to open the door of his press conferences occasionally as a European Commune rep. Im glad I knew him in a sense a little close up, but my feeling was he never really saw or recognised people, just energy.
Tell me about Life at Medina
Medina was very rich, at least for me. I think this was in spite of the totalitarian matriarchy, but some say it was because of it! I think that a lot of people, myself included reached a point where the word work became meaningless, we just flowed all the time. This was helped by the enormous reservoir of love that seemed to be around, for Osho, and for each other. There was some backbiting, etc, but very little when I compare it with other places I have lived and worked. The love life felt very right for me at the time, but not unduly promiscuous, just freedom was acknowledged where it was clear it had to happen. I myself had four very meaningful relationships over a three-year period, and the traces of those relationships are still with me in all their love, depth and stark unusualness.
Of course places like Medina were isolated (the news of the Falklands War did not arrive to three days after it began!) and also dictatorial. I remember so-called workers meetings every Sunday evening, when people were balled out for some offence or other, like a Chinese communist commune! Very few communards spoke at these, except Poonam, the commune leader, and her immediate entourage. I can remember quietly feeling sometimes the matriarchy were missing the point and not having any fun. In retrospect I think I was right. However I loved the ordinary sannyasins there, and still count, after 20 years or more, many of them as friends.
Did you go to the Ranch?
Yes I went to the Festivals. In July 1985 I went there for six months as a European commune exchange person. That last six months was real, for sure. Every day something seemed to be happening. The National Guard were over the hill. My mates got local maps and found ways of getting to the local road along a river for us to hitch out of there if the NG appeared! Sheela and her gang left. Osho disclosed in discourse all their wrongdoing, which was all quite a shock!! Osho Left! Dont regret a moment. Very alive time.
Did it seem Fascist to you?
The leaders and their infrastructure were a strange totalitarian matriarchy. Lots of ordinary sannyasins just lived for their love of Osho, their own love lives, the joy of their work and living in that majestic and wild place. We were all (that is the commune members) taken in by the arguments of surrender. Very dangerous arguments, as they leave you nowhere to go. I would never again allow anyone to say to me of a doubted order, (that ran counter to my own judgement), that it was a question of surrender to anyone or anything. Its a major lesson. It is always the danger of devotion. One argument the matriarchy used to make that now seems particularly sophist. That is only through surrender can one change. If that is the ONLY way, I very much doubt it. I am sure there are many others. And it seems such a dangerous way that I feel that it should be abandoned by all teachers.
How did you feel when the Ranch collapsed?
Mixture: There was a wonderful sense of new freedom. There was a fresh love of Osho, and a lot more self-maturity. And there was anger about what I saw as the commune leaders totally messing things up and a determination that this should not happen again. Perhaps some of that anger was self-directed, how could I have been conned by those arguments of surrender!! Anyway it motivated me to start up the alternative sannyas (English) magazine Here and Now that ran between 86 and 89 and continue to organise and network and lead meditations in London over all the intervening years, and more recently with the sannyasnews.com website.
Have you ever had satoris or other spiritual experiences?
Ive had moments, and even periods of time, when I felt nothing mattered and was very blissed out. The context of such times have nearly always had some energy connection to Osho. I myself feel the so-called enlightenment obsessions rather dangerous. Maybe some people enter permanent states just before their death, but on the whole I feel it is a mistake to even talk about it.
Has your opinion of Osho changed over the years? How?
When Osho said he had gone long before his actual death and no longer existed as a personality, I think I understood what he meant. I dont really think he took so much in, except in energy terms from about 1976. I was shocked to find out the full nitrous oxide story, and still find it hard to believe that he risked his life in this way, and it almost certainly contributed to his early death. I realise now that he was more of a psychedelic master than I had previously understood!! My own connection seems unbroken with him and I still feel it strong after 28 years or more, but I remain uninterested in psychedelics except those that occur naturally in the body.
Are there other teachers whom you especially respect?
Yes, I respect and am interested in all those sannyas teachers who continue to actively acknowledge Osho in their work, and who seem genuine to me. I would include Satyam Nadeen, Maitreya, Tyohar and Makaire in this category. Nadeen is by a long way the most naturally democratic teacher I have ever met. I dont like on the whole those teachers who were with Osho and seem to disown him. I include Paul Lowe and many of the other Poona one therapists in this. Tony Parsons is an unusual case. I knew him personally as a fellow commune member from Medina. I quite like his style, but I dont like at all the way he half-disowns Osho.
Any final words, after your 28 years as a sannyasin?
My life has had the luck to be magical through sannyas. It is always a matter of continuing wonder to me to realise that one is alive in an indisputably magical universe, and that Existence somehow, somewhere, feels one is worthy of consciously sharing it.