Her Master's Voice
By Vered Levy-Barzilai
When Radha met Osho, her world changed all at once. She was only 20, and she wasn't even Radha yet - she was Camilla Luglio, a young Italian Catholic from Naples. But when the gate of the ashram opened, her heart beat furiously, she recalls, and time stopped. Thirty-one years have passed since her first meeting with her famous spiritual mentor in Pune, India.
From her point of view, that was the moment when her life changed. In her book "Tantralife: A Woman's Journey of Transformation" (Wisdom Tree, New Delhi, 2005, 222 pages, $12), which was recently translated into Hebrew, she says that she felt that there was nothing in the world but her, walking toward the man on the chair, and him. Nobody and nothing else was important any longer. The only important thing, absolutely and totally, was the present moment. She approached to touch the soles of Osho's feet, and when she looked into his eyes, she writes, she felt as though she was she was looking into the eyes of nothingness. And within this nothingness, she says, she felt complete for first time.
Radha spent about half the time since then in Osho's commune, "at his feet." In Pune, Radha was a disciple, and was among the small group of commune residents who served Osho as mediums for transmitting his spiritual message to his believers. Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh, was born in 1913 to a family of Indian merchants. At the age of 14, he experienced his first enlightenment, and at the age of 21 he achieved total enlightenment. He studied and taught philosophy, and in 1970 established the Dynamic Meditation stream, and began to train his students. In 1974 he founded the ashram in Pune together with his disciples, and since then, tens of thousands of believers visited the place, stayed in the commune, learned Osho's philosophy and lived there from time to time.
In 1990, after he "left his body," as his disciples put it, Radha continued to follow his path, but in her own way. She went to live ("permanently/temporarily, because everything changes and everything passes") in the Tuscany region, began to teach what she had internalized during her years in Pune, and became a teacher of tantra. Today she teaches men and women "neo-tantra," according to the ideas of her Master.
Radha says that tantra is only a small part of Osho's spiritual message. Small, but substantial. In workshops that she gives in Europe, Japan and Israel, she teaches experientially "the basic principles of tantric energy work - movement, creating a feeling of vitality in the body, openness to existence, and openness to acceptance." Two weeks ago, in her latest trip to Israel, she gave a five-day seminar at the "desert ashram," at Shittim in the Arava.
It is not easy for her in the Holy Land. "I like the Israelis very much, I like Israel less. There are difficult energies here, I experience them with every fibre of my body and soul." Osho's perpetual disciple is a warm and happy woman, who speaks English with an Italian accent; her voice is warm and rich. She emanates vitality and is dressed in a semi-casual Shanti style - her flowing hair is well cut and cared for, she wears a simple cotton galabiyeh and flip-flops. She is 51, looks younger than her age ("it's the light from within, not the light from outside") and under no circumstances is she willing to call herself enlightened. "There are very few, isolated enlightened ones, on the level of a `master of masters' like Osho. I'm certainly not there, nor am I a master; I'm a teacher."
She was given the name Radha years ago, by one of Osho's students. Her full name is Ma Krishna Radha. The name "radha" means river in Sanskrit, and her name was interpreted as: a river that returns to its sources. Since then she has been in love with this name, and doesn't want another one. She lives by herself in a rented house in Tuscany ("one can barely make a living from tantra workshops. My colleagues don't manage to live on it; I'm lucky, but not to the point of buying a home").
Four years ago she separated from her partner, a Japanese musician, after a 10-year relationship ("every love, as great as it may be, finally ends"). She tries not to suffer from separations ("love is constant change, and everything that happens should be celebrated, including death or separation"). She has no children. "It's impossible to have a lifestyle like mine and to be a mother, too." And on the same topic - "Osho helped me to become liberated from this ancient reflex that was definitely etched deep into my Neapolitan bones." She says that her life is full and fascinating and rich and showers her with happy miracles, each time anew.
To Make Love to Existence
She wrote her book "Tantralife: The vision of Tantra expressed through one woman's journey of transformation" in English. It was translated into Japanese and was first published in Japan, and now it has been translated into Hebrew and published by Inbar. The book tells the story of her personal journey of self-discovery and the discovery of the secrets of the world of tantra. And when Radha says "journey," she means a physical journey as much as a spiritual one. She travelled all over Europe, and afterward all over the world. It is hard to grasp the revolution she brought about in her life - from a girl born to an established middle-class Catholic family in Naples, to Osho's medium in Pune. "The role of the medium is to be totally not present, so that I can penetrate your entity totally," Osho is quoted as saying. That is how he explains to her and her female friends (a dozen beautiful young women who are sprawled at his feet in the ashram) what they are supposed to do.
In her childhood, the church was at the center of family life. The school she attended was a Catholic convent. But her rebelliousness was percolating. In her early teens, she says, she felt that the outside world was calling her and that she was suffocating at home. A year later, she informed her shocked parents that she was leaving school. In the mornings she worked, and in the afternoons she studied subjects that interested her, such as foreign languages. She began to hang out with boys and "to examine her sexuality," which was not acceptable to the family, to put it mildly. The conflict became increasingly bitter, until she was thrown out of the house at the age of 19 (together with a friend) to see the world, "with a knapsack on my back and $100 in my pocket."
Thus began the journey of her life, which included, among other things, LSD. She had heard from someone that "if you take 100 trips, you know everything there is to know," and she actually did it, 100 times. Miraculously, she admits, her brain was not completely screwed up, and she managed to regain her balance. She was desperately searching for something she couldn't identify. "I hadn't yet heard about mediation, gurus, enlightened masters, tantra, or anything like that," she says, "but I didn't believe that the only thing people can do is to find work, marry, have children, and that's it. As a young woman in southern Italy, that's exactly what awaited me, that was the life I was going to live."
Shaken up and Collapsing
For a year, she roamed around with her boyfriend, and later by herself. She met men, fell in love with them, left them, or was left. Her intuitive journey of many stops led her to India, where she met the person who guided her to the ashram. Her first hour in the presence of Osho did not provide answers to all the questions she had accumulated since her childhood, but it gave her the feeling that they were here in this place, alongside this man. During the five of the next 15 years she spent alongside him, she did "work meditation": All day, every day, she cleaned a corridor leading to the master's residence.
But even in hindsight, she has nothing bad to say about her experience. "It was my melting pot. There I learned, through suffering, that I can be a cleaner, or someone's doorman, or the person who brings his food to the room, or the Director of the commune and it's all the same, because it doesn't matter at all what I do. There I finally realized that it doesn't matter whether or not I do something."
During her early days in Pune, she was the youngest of the students. She fell in love with Osho immediately. But she explains, it wasn't the usual situation of a woman falling in love with a man. "I was madly in love with him, full of unexplained joy and happiness. Understand, the moment you sit in front of him, a transition to a situation of love takes place. In cosmic love you are never lacking anything. A certain part of me wanted him as a man, I admit, but the interaction took place in a different dimension entirely. It was growing into love, feeling surrounded and flooded with love. I didn't feel a need to be with him all the time, to feel his touch, as I experienced with `ordinary' men."
But the love for him that you describe in the book is definitely erotic love. "True, there was an erotic dimension to it. But the difference between love of a man and love of a Master is tremendous. My love for Osho never ends. And never will end. With Osho, things happened to me that I didn't know could happen. All he had to do was just to look at me. I experienced penetration from his look, and I reached orgasm more than once, only from the energy transmitted to me by that look."
A divine cosmic orgasm, or a real, physical orgasm, the way that non-spiritual people experience it? "A real orgasm, very physical. With all the accompanying sounds and involuntary movements, I would stand there, moaning and screaming with pleasure, while he simply went about his own business, doing other things entirely. From the power of the experience I would be shaken up and collapse - my body was not capable of containing all this sexual energy, I would fall to the ground in front of him, at his feet. Sometimes he would look at me for another moment and say in the didactic tone of a teacher giving a grade to his student: `Very good, Radha, very good,' and turn back to his affairs."
And all that happened during a group meditation exercise, in the presence of many other men and women? "Yes, and not only to me - I knew other people in Pune who experienced it as I did. And in the workshops I teach, people who have never experienced such things get into it quite quickly. You'd be surprised."
A Parody of Hedonism
Radha's book is first of all the story of her wild, rebellious, unusual life. And she tells all, with no holds barred. She exposes herself and what she experienced, for good and ill, the favorable and the embarrassing events, as well as the large number of lovers she has had.
This is personal testimony about the everyday life in the world's most famous ashram. Radha is not objective, of course; she is a follower and a great admirer of Osho even today. He is "my beloved, the great Master, the Master of Masters." When asked about Oshos apparent wealth and about the fact that he had a fleet of 93 Rolls Royces, gold watches and other ostentatious luxuries: she simply says that was a sophisticated provocation - "a parody of the hedonism and the foolish acquisitiveness of the blind West."
There is a tendency to connect true spirituality with qualities like asceticism, modesty and mercy. Isn't it possible to expect a spiritual leader of Osho's stature to have a different order of priorities? For example, to sell the fleet of cars and to help needy families in India with the money? "Osho did not believe in asceticism or modesty. He disdainfully rejected these false messages common to all the religions. He's the one who brought to the world the message of spirituality that celebrates life to the full. He is one of the only spiritual mentors who included sex and pleasure in the road to enlightenment."
Osho, who was portrayed in the American media as a man who invited a different young woman to his room every day for lovemaking, appears very differently in the book as an authentic spiritual guru, about whose private life no one, including the author herself, knows nothing at all about. Radha insists that she doesn't know whether during her time he ever slept with any of the women who visited the ashram. To the question as to whether she herself was his lover, she replies: "I'm not willing to answer such a question. There's a fear here of undermining Osho's privacy. I repeat that my relationship with him, as well as those of the others, were not on that plane. Osho was free of any manipulation, his communication with us came from a clean and pure place. Some people hear `tantra' and immediately imagine pornography, because their lives take place in a pornographic dimension. Others have a different experience of existence. Let anyone who wants to believe, believe, and anyone who doesn't want to - shouldn't."
(This article has been abridged from an an article first appearing on www.haaretz.com)