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The London Times Feature Article (March 8th) re the Pune Resort.

Editorial Comment The article below is relatively neutral though in places unneccessarily snide and cynical. It also unintentionally strays a long way from the truth in some places. This is partly because of the people interviewed! [Choice representatives of the Pune Management who arguably have always been distant from ordinairy sannyas.] However it does try to be relatively honest, and this may be the result of the efforts last month of Giten and Alok John in complaining both to the Times Newspaper and the Press Complaints Commission about their devrivative January articles, which mis-used Tim Guest's book My Life in Orange. [In these a whole load of old press nonsense about the communes and Osho from the eighties was rehashed in reviews of Tim's book]. Well done to Giten and Alok John for their efforts.

As for the feature, it rankled with me that Amrito's picture of Pune One was so negative and it did not tally with my own experience at all. Osho was alive and well in the bamboo huts, and my own health, like many others was as good, if not better than in the West. If he felt it was so bad, what was he doing there?

The writer's assumptional statement that the 1985 debacle at the end of the Ranch period was "the end of a dream" is not consisitent with my own experience. As I have written elsewhere getting rid of so much authoritarian bullshit enabled the dream to begin. The right wing views of those interviewed sounded totally unrepresentative of sannyas as I know it. Some sannyasins do go on demos, and feel it reflects Osho's advice to live in the world. Also I know many who are so-called "poor", but richer by a mile in spiritual life than those interviewed. Osho was big enough for both rich and poor, and often disdained the emptiness of a rich life, and praised the sharp intelligence of the so-called poor. When will people learn that Osho can never be quoted, and this was his intention. He always stated at different times both sides of an argument, and with equal persuasiveness. Only then would the mind even contemplate its own demise...

Anyway now for the article and judge for yourself....

Parmartha [Ed.Sannyasnews.com]

Never Mind the Poor . . . I'm Helping the Rich
By Nick Meo (from the London Times, March 8th, 04)

Once a primitive, disease-infested hippy commune, the Osho resort has been transformed into an upmarket meditation centre for the well-heeled in search of inner peace...
AMRITO chewed his pasta al funghi meditatively as he recalled how very different commune life was back in 1974, when he arrived in Poona, eastern India, in an old Volkswagen camper van that he had driven across Afghanistan. It was really primitive, he said, taking another sip of Italian white wine. People were living in home-made bamboo huts in the fields. There were a lot of diseases. Everyone was getting dysentery all the time. In those early days, no one could have imagined that one day the shambling hippy commune would boast a restaurant called Zorba the Buddha, serving fine food with no laxative properties. Yet it is here that I find Amrito, dining well after the nightly White Robe Brotherhood a meditation, where 1,000 commune guests gather at dusk inside a giant black pyramid to dance and whirl frenziedly. Afterwards they watch a two-hour video recording of their dead guru.

Amrito was a London GP called John Andrews when he first arrived in Poona to sit at the feet of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the notorious Indian mystic christened the Sex Guru by the press. I suppose I could have been a consultant by now if I'd stayed in London, commuting in every day, Amrito grinned. I've been lucky to spend my life here. Now he is one of the inner circle and proud of his role in transforming the commune into the Osho Meditation Resort, unashamedly upmarket and aimed at the well-heeled in search of inner peace. Who wants to stay in some stinky, hot ashram where the food is inedible and you are sick all the time? added Indira, a stunning former Russian model who had joined us for dinner. In her former life, she took the plane from Milan to Miami as if it were the bus, and had her agents number on speed-dial. But when she finally glimpsed the yawning emptiness at the heart of her existence, she booked a flight to Osho. It was the nagging feeling that something was missing that drew Amrito here too, all those years ago. One of the few original survivors, he insists that the commune has changed with the times, not sold out. We have to pay the rent, he said. Anyway, Osho always said that the whole world is helping the poor. He wanted to help the rich.

Osho changed his name from the Bhagwan when he returned to Poona in 1987 after a disastrous attempt to set up a commune in Oregon, the time when he was driving around in 93 Rolls-Royces and being chased by US immigration officials. For his followers it was the end of a dream. They had wanted to make a new life together that rejected Western society, a life without possessions, sharing free love and trying to mould a new consciousness for humanity.

Under siege from a hostile population and split by internal feuds, the Oregon commune collapsed in recrimination. It brought out the worst in everybody, Amrito said. Back in Poona to lick his wounds, Osho struck on the radical idea of a resort. It was in fact his dying wish. Or last wish before he checked out of the body, according to the followers who built the resort as his legacy..

The guests or beloveds, as they are called here are mostly trendy professional couples or singles who book a spiritual holiday over the internet, meditation courses included in the price of the package. At the airport they are met by a resort driver who takes them to their air-conditioned on-site hotel, the kind where the staff say Have a nice day. The £30-a-night hotel is comfortable and stylish. Activities on offer are not just New Age therapies. Facilities include tennis (known here as Zennis), a well-equipped art studio and a beautiful swimming pool at Club Med. Med is for Meditation, one of the guru&Mac185;s little jokes. The management is desperate to play down the free love image, there's a zero tolerance policy for drugs, possessions are a virtue not a problem, and hang-ups have become a golden marketing opportunity with a meditation course for every personal issue.

The transformation to corporate bastion is almost complete. In the last year the international catering firm Sod- exho won the cleaning contract, Diet Coke dispensers were placed discreetly next to the meditation halls, and corporate workshops were launched to cater for the executives of companies such as Airbus, Mercedes and Nike. Why shouldn't we have meditation classes for Airbus people? Amrito said. It's important that they are operating well, aeroplanes need the right wings put on them. At the entrance to the resort is a little booth where you must take an Aids test. If you don't pass they won't let you in, even though there's officially no free love any more. Waiting for the results, I watched as a human babel flowed past in maroon robes. Maroon is the only colour allowed, except for the White Robe Brotherhood, and if you want to go in the pool you must buy maroon trunks. People come from 100 countries, my guide, Yogendra, told me. We're very excited about China opening up. The people in maroon were heading past a Japanese water garden towards the large black pyramid hidden behind jungle trees. Dim sounds of drumming and chanting could be heard from in there. A couple paused to hug by a Buddha statue, eyes shut in bliss. Others were wandering around with beatific expressions or sitting staring into space. There were lots of Jesus lookalikes, and a few of the older guys resembled Grizzly Adams. Nobody was talking above a whisper and there seemed to be a smile on every face. It was weird, and I couldn't help thinking I had seen it all before somewhere. I think it might have been a bad episode of Star Trek.

In another life Yogendra was a patent lawyer called Darcy O'Byrne, but he always felt that something was missing. He has helped Osho register its trademarks in New York, protecting key products such as the Kundalini Meditation. He says: this is a place to escape the world and recharge your batteries. We are not interested in religion. There are no politics either. Nobody here would go on a demo. He shows me around the multimedia centre where tapes from Osho's years of talks have been lovingly transcribed into 600 books translated into many languages. Some devotees have read the lot and most are on sale in the bookshop, including the one that made all the fuss, From Sex to Superconsciousness.

Yogendra is keen to tell me how many devotees have PhDs and master's degrees, and how many run their own businesses, and he takes the opportunity to rubbish the competition. Sai Baba's followers are very uneducated, he sniffs. They expect miracles. Like everybody else here, he believes Osho's philosophy offers the only hope for mankind. The world is going down the toilet. If there is a future for humanity, it is here. Most of the beloveds seem more interested in themselves than in the rest of humanity. Or in each other. Everyone looks gorgeous in maroon, and there's
lots of touching and hugging going on.

Beside the swimming pool a couple in their maroon costumes were petting without embarrassment. Two blonde girls lay on a sunlounger near by fondling each other. It's no wonder that the Indian press used to work itself into a lather about this place and print stories about Tantric meditation sessions ending in orgies. The sexy atmosphere pervaded the Welcome Day, where new arrivals were eyeing each other up as if they were at a classy New Age pick-up joint. They were the usual mix, apparently. Loud American grad students, Israelis fresh out of the army, several serious-looking Germans who were having trouble letting go of their inhibitions and a Japanese couple who kept bowing to everybody. Backpackers drop in but they aren't really encouraged. The prices are a bit high for them. Waifs and strays from the Goa trance scene make it up here, but they are looked down on by Osho-ites. I'm told: We get a lot of people who come here and ask Where are all the orgies? But they don't usually stay long. Indians now make up around half the beloveds and for them it is an exotic experience, like visiting a little slice of Southern California. This is an oasis cut off from the chaos of dust, cows and beeping traffic outside and nobody I spoke to had the slightest interest in Indian culture, let alone religion. Even Indian money is banned here. Instead you have to buy vouchers. Rupee notes are dirty, I was told.

The 40-acre site is tranquil and spotless, with paths winding through flowers and trees past meditation plazas and pools. A cafeteria serves tasty food, and the more expensive Zorba the Buddha has fresh pasta by an Italian chef doing Work Meditation. Every night is party night, and on Friday nights Indians arrive en masse for the weekend from nearby Bombay. Some of the men don't trouble to disguise their interest in meeting European girls. The foreigners are generally more subtle. Chan, an extrovert Chinese-American, came because Californian friends had told him it was a heaven on earth. He immediately signed up to a week-long Tantric pulsing course, designed to deepen relationships between men and women. I've been on the road by myself for six months so it&Mac185;s nice to be in a group with people again, he said without looking me in the eye. But I knew what he really meant.

An attractive 41-year-old Dutch woman called Lama ( everyone seems to be attractive here) is proud to run kitchens which turn out five-star quality food as well as supervising the 30-acre organic farm. The best thing I have done in my life is bake cookies at Osho's, she said. Her parents didn't like it when she started hanging out here in the Eighties, but they have got used to the idea and now she spends several months a year at Pune . Nobody lives here permanently any more. She's never been to an orgy. Of course people have a lot of relationships. It's easy to meet people here, she said. A lot of couples split up because they scrutinise their relationships in the meditation classes and decide they aren't getting what they want.

Lama is proud of working without pay, like many long-termers. It seems strange that they work for free when the resort must be minting it, but Lama thinks her work is meaningful and looks shocked at the suggestion of exploitation. Amrito and Yogendra get a bit hazy when I ask them where the money goes. Nobody owns the resort, it is a charitable trust, and they say they aren't quite sure whether there is a profit. There used to be a sign up outside the Oregon commune, Amrito tells me. &Mac179;Jesus Saves, Moses Invests, Osho Spends.

Meditation is the meat and potatoes of the place, Yogendra tells me. It is available all day, starting with Dynamic at 6am in the pyramid where everybody gathers to jump up and down, waving their arms in the air, hooting like gibbons and shaking like fever victims. This stimulates the sex centre,
apparently, and the noise gave me a nasty wake-up call. But the centrepiece is the White Robe Brotherhood in the evening, when up to 1,000 people dance furiously before sitting down to watch videos of the dead guru's talks.

For many, Osho has transformed their lives and I repeatedly met nice apparently normal folk who were desperate to share their happiness with me. But I wasn't getting into the spirit of things. I'm not in touch enough with my feelings, I expect and watching the video felt like being pinned in a corner of the pub by an intelligent lunatic forcing his personal philosophy on you.

The 90 minutes dragged like a double chemistry lesson and there was no way out without risking 1,000 hostile stares from people in white robes. Osho told a long anecdote about setting Mahatma Gandhi right on a few points about the purpose of existence before telling a few jokes that I didn't understand.

Stiff from sitting cross-legged and bored rigid by the end of it, I stretched and hurried out. That was so profound, said a lady with an American accent and her companion nodded sagely. They looked as if they'd got their money&Mac185;s worth, anyway.