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Maitreya: The Synthesis of Zorba the Buddha and Advaita

Maitreya is of particular interest to this site because, of all the teachers in the sannyasin diaspora, he seems to have remained the most 'sannyas.'

For Maitreya Osho's great achievement is to have created a pro-life religion – something epitomised by his concept of Zorba the Buddha; and Maitreya has spoken of his own work as trying to bring about a meeting of Zorba the Buddha and advaita – of the sensuality and adventurousness of the one with the electrifying mysticism of the other.

Certainly Maitreya seems well qualified to speak of Zorba. In his recent Biography of a Buddha he tells his own story. Born in the North of England in '47 Maitreya dropped out of school at fifteen to become a rock musician – and promptly got sent to Borstal for a year for car theft. No sooner was he out than he was done again, for breaking probation; then he did another eighteen months for dealing acid. Only after this did he go to India and met Osho in '75 – spending the next fifteen years in a typically sannyas fashion, batting between the poles of a nature attracted by both meditation and sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll.

Only with Osho's death in '90 did something different start to kick in. Like many sannyasins in India he went to Poonja in the early 90s and it was there that he had his first major satori. It lasted several months, but then disappeared, leaving him even more desperate for a further year and a half. Then he met Ramesh Balsekar in Bombay and just talking to him precipitated a second massive satori; but when that one disappeared in its turn Maitreya didn't despair, but went and spent two years sitting in silent meditation with Samdarshi in Manali.

The first product of this was his channeling of the book God's Vision . Wild, provocative, quasi-apocalyptic, when I read the first edition I thought it split down the middle. Half seemed straight-from-the-horse's-mouth esotericism, like early Osho, and half vipassana ("Become an inner scientist with a single hypothesis to verify with your own experience: God is all there is, I am not separate from That.") Re-reading the revised edition, it seems much more coherent in a strange, dialectical way. You remember how Osho would be going on one month about love, the next about meditation – forcing you to adopt your own attitude? God's Vision seems to work in a similar way; it makes you think for youself. Read this book; it is essential reading for any sannyasin.

At the same time Maitreya started to give satsang – and this he says is his real work. While working in the ashram with Pradeepa Maitreya invented the Tantric group 'Watching The Fire' and he's brought the same creativity to satsang. Not only are these the only satsangs where there's genuine discussion taking place – sannyasins are actually being invited to think! – but the subsequent sitting is extraordinarily intense. Again like Osho, Maitreya is the only person on the whole satsang circuit stressing the vital importance of meditation. During the sitting Maitreya says he's processing everyone's negativity; all I can say is that I've always felt very relaxed and empty afterwards.

This is the context of Maitreya's 'synthesis of Zorba the Buddha and advaita.' If Zorba the Buddha in sannyas has always tended to be nine parts Zorba to one part Buddha, advaita on the contrary tends to be elitist and intellectually top-heavy. Both need the other. And Maitreya's exploration of Osho's early work on the chakras – on the succession of dimensions or 'bodies' through which human evolution passes – gives some practical sense of what full self-realisation might mean. Maitreya insists, quite rightly so far as I am concerned, that sannyas can only be based on self-governing communes. He's got therapy in its place. He's also particularly insightful on the 'fourth body' and the role of surrender. (For all of this you could start with the section 'Esoteric Science' in God's Vision.)

One of the main issues this site is trying to digest is Osho's heritage. What exactly has he left? Just his purely personal influence on individuals? Or, on the contrary, did he leave the basic shape and rhythm of a new heretical tradition – freewheeling, celebratory, packed with wildly idiosyncratic teachers – something like the Zen tradition he was exploring during the last years of his life? I've heard Maitreya describe himself as 'a sort of sannyasin,' and fair enough. Until we're free of the awful image of Osho put out by the Poona ashram what more can anyone say? But compare Maitreya's work with that of Mikaire, the other wonderfully 'sannyas' teacher on the scene, and there's a definite sense that Mikaire in opting for a solo career has cut himself off from his roots. And – please excuse me if I'm wrong – that it isn't panning out.

After a summer in Brighton Maitreya is leaving for Osho Mevlana in Byron Bay. Whatever he does will be posted on this site but anyone wanting more information should go to Maitreya's own website. Biography of a Buddha and the new edition of God's Vision can be purchased from there.