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Commentary on Poona 2000
The Enduring Paradox
I lived physically around Osho for some parts of the Poona One period 74-81, and was a commune member between 82-86 in Medina, Hamburg, the Ranch and London. I hadnt been in India since 1981 but visited the Poona ashram for the month of February this year. When Osho died in 1990 I thought one way or the other way that the organisation would gently slip away. I almost felt that was what he would have intended, given the fact he had confided that he had deliberately allowed his church (Rajneeshism) to exist within his lifetime, and finished it too. So this commentary exists also unexpectedly, people still do in their many hundreds, from both the old world and the new, find their way to the Gateless Gate, the Poona Ashram.
It was also to my surprise that what can only be described as Oshos energy, the energy of a Buddhafield, seemed to drench Buddha Hall (where Osho used to lecture and where most of the meditations still take place) and the Samadhi (where his ashes are) and thereby in a way the whole of the Ashram and surrounding street areas. I could not believe the power of it. It was for me as when he was alive. The synchronicity of a Buddhafield was also still there, the way you would meet just the right person at the right time yes, that was still there. Was it still the magnet of his energy pulsing out destroying all bad-mouthing, all opinion, all bad press, that continues to draw those thousands there?
There were changes from the organisation that upset some, his chair is not put out for the White Robe meditation, people can now take sannyas wearing jeans, there are no photos of Osho anymore, you dont have to religiously wear a maroon robe in the Ashram. His picture is no longer on the front covers of the books. (All current changes). Gossip says its all a preparation for making the place a resort acceptable to anyone, a sort of deculted cult! Paradox, just like many decisions, (if such a decision it is), when Osho was actually alive, it defies common sense, can anyone really see the outskirts of a highly polluted Indian town in a climate not suitable for many Europeans (outside the November-February season) as good Resort material. If so it beats me! Similarly could anyone in 1981 really see a desert place unsold for 50 years becoming a garden paradise full of seekers?
It was that which had not changed that mostly left me feeling blank. I never understood why Laxmi and Vidhya (Oshos first administrators) ever recruited Indian labour to do so-called rough jobs in Poona One. It always felt like less of a commune to me. Now that is much worse. Indians do the washing up, clean the toilets, and a whole army of builders labourers are engaged in building the New Buddha Hall, which stretches almost as far as the Blue Diamond Hotel. Commune, my foot! It would seem a simple matter to create kibbutz type volunteer terms sensibly open terms, and those who search a commune in which to work and have ones being, might really still find it here. It happened in Poona One and on the Ranch (and happens still, in small numbers), but in a confused, covert way in which those who conform often get the food passes. Without some reform of this type, the word commune is meaningless. Some say well less than 100 people actually run the ashram at present. Paradox, normal organisational sense does not apply here and never did and they say thats the way he meant it to be!
Theres now a beautiful seven acre public garden east of the ashram, the Nulla Garden, built on Hollywood money by the ashram in the early 90s. I loved it. I never saw a sannyasin working in it only Indians, and only rarely any sannyasin just being in it. Such a waste and talking of waste, not a single composting area. Composting would really give an example of a sustainable sub-tropical garden but no, not neat enough. (Osho himself loved gardening and did his own garden in Jalwalpur.) Theres also an Ashram organic farm where a percentage of the food is grown. It is run by Indians, I was told and not very interesting what a wasted opportunity for commune involvement. Paradox, the riches of enlightenment are greater than any commune. Oshos words to Savita, (Oshos number two in the Ranch period), that prefigured her betrayal. Was Osho really about a commune anyway, perhaps not.?
One unchange I liked! Twenty five years ago I used to smoke beedies in the so-called smoking temple, till my lungs were on fire, and just enjoy the unpretentious energy. (Sometimes in the ashram proper, like now, it can be a little pretentious and precious.) I dont smoke anything now, but it was great just to sit there not smoking, unjudged, unnoticed even, sometimes spoken too, sometimes speaking, like you would behave in a plain English bar.
The Other Poona
Within a few miles of the Poona Ashram it is now said that seven or eight sannyasins give satsang in their own right so anyone into this type of thing can have a right old time of it. Some would say it now makes the whole Poona experience more rich and broad, some that it dilutes the Ashram energy! Perhaps the most famous is Kiran, an old Indian sannyasin of Osho who lives near Poona in the Bubaneshwar forest. (His phone number in India is 91-20-4263842. No web-site or e-mail as yet.)
I sat with John de Ruiter (not a sannyasin but someone who seems to appeal to sannyasins and comes to Poona annually) with about 100 others on the river bank for a few nights. It felt quite biblical and on occasion awesomely still! I used to sometimes get on my bicycle and go to the Ashram to eat afterwards I personally never felt the two were in conflict. Similarly with Maitreya, who is an English sannyasin with whom I also sat. However the Ashram authorities disagree, and it seems that Maitreya has now been banned from India and he suspects that the Ashram have pulled the strings. I actually witnessed Maitreya on several occasions urge seekers to go and do groups at the Ashram because they were not ready, as it were, for his group. I can hardly see how the ashram could experience this as competition. (Web-site addresses, etc can be found on our links page for these people, or if you are in Poona for a longer time, also try Madhukar Thompson (author of Teachings on Route to Freedom amongst many others). He is a sannyasin who lived in Poona during Poona One and Two and on the Ranch and who currently lives in Poona, and knows the whole scene. You can find his books very readily available throughout Koregaon Park bookshops, but not the Ashram! You can also e-mail him on email@example.com.
Another group of old-time sannyasins are trying to create what they call a real commune, just 30 kms from Poona called the mystic village. Growing their own vegetables organically and seemingly in love with India as well as Oshos energy. The reports felt real to me. (Directions on how to get there from Norwegian Mangala, her e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.)
On my last day I remember three blind Indian men, holding the arms of each other, white sticks bobbing, walking cowed, across the, now very busy, Bund Garden Road, and my eyes fill, as they used to 25 years before, with tears. I am after all still in India, a land of enormous deprivation and human tragedy, and then
I visit an old friend. He says if they (the Ashram Authorities) move the location of Buddha Hall (as is threatened in the new building developments) 300 of the old-timers who still live in Poona, will sit in, e-mail all other oldtimers to come, and stay there and meditate until they desist...
I stay up very late. India is often very, very quiet between twelve and four in the morning. I walk a deserted road near the Ashram, a sannyasin approaches from a long way off, a fellow seeker, a fellow lover, marooned also in the night, she smiles that Mona Lisa smile without speaking. And we both know a moment of mystical intimacy, beyond all words and all dispute. It is enough, the Buddhafield lingers still.
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