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Poona 2001

I don't think I've ever been to Poona and come back with so schizophrenic an account. On the one hand there's a burst of new people and fresh energy – and on the other a power structure which is almost caricaturally corrupt…

At first everything seemed fantastic. There were more people around than there had been for ages. The majority of them young people on the road who had heard of the Commune and come to check it out for themselves; and once there they stayed on and took sannyas. The energy at the new-format Sannyas Initiation took the roof off. The dancing could have rivalled any rave.

Just before I left London Dhyano at Osho Leela had emailed Sannyas News saying, in an almost puzzled way, there were a lot of new young people around at Leela. Was something really changing then? I wondered. Was the graveyard shift of sannyas finally drawing to a close?

Fear and loathing in the here and now

A couple of days passed before the penny dropped. While there were a lot of new faces around there were precious few old ones. I mean the real old stalwarts, the people you thought were part of the fittings. I'd heard about Pradeepa being thrown out of the Commune "for not going often enough to White Robe," and was really shocked. Pradeepa's a true blue if ever there was one, and this kind of bullying of an individual by an organisation makes me see red. But what had happened to all the other therapists, where had they gone? Where were all the old Indian sannyasins? I'd heard many had left when Keerti, Neelam and the other Indian sannyasins were thrown out last summer – but had this many left?

That was when I tuned in to the badmouthing. So many things, on so many different levels… The spiralling cost, the price of the gatepass alone having doubled overnight… The destruction of Buddha Hall, tearing the heart out of the Commune and replacing it with a new meditation hall nobody wants… The trademarking and copyrighting of everything, to the point that sannyasins who want to do an Osho meditation in public are meant (?) to have written permission from New York… The ongoing violence (while I was there Mitra, who runs the Byron Bay based website Friends of Osho, was not allowed through the gates for merely having given space to differing viewpoints on the site)… Fingers were pointing beyond the Inner Circle – largely dismissed as a catspaw – at Jayesh and Amrito personally. Amrito's account of Osho's death was being questioned; as was the very existence of the 'directives' Amrito and Jayesh claim Osho left them for running the ashram. And anyway who was this guy Jayesh who's supposed to be in charge of everything and never comes to the Commune at all?

A range of trademarked 'spiritual' commodities?

Firstly, is there any clear strategy behind what Jayesh and the Inner Circle are trying to do?

Yes, there is – and it's the idea Osho should go mainstream. Now, while I'm sure all sannyasins want to get Osho across to as many people as possible, mass-marketing does not seem the way to do it. Osho was killed by this society because he was totally incompatible with it – and the only way you can commercialise him is by totally distorting his life and teaching. Osho himself has to be sanitised, despite his systematically outrageous behaviour. (I.e. his gargantuan drug intake.) Sannyas – sannyas as an experimental, counter-cultural lifestyle – has to be replaced by a range of trademarked 'spiritual' commodities. We aren't going to be sannyasins any more, we are going to be, to use Mrs. Thatcher's favourite term, 'Osho customers.'

What Jayesh and Amrito are trying to do is turn a radical spiritual rebellion into a socially acceptable consumer good. The whole anarchic side of sannyas has to go – the young, the footloose, the rebellious, the desperate. Look at the way the Inner Circle sabotaged Harideva's rolling planetary roadshow, Osho 2000, with its libertarian slogan "bringing Osho to the streets." The streets are the last place they want to bring Osho: they want to take him to the boardrooms and ritzy health clubs. Posho. And, okay, fair enough, explore everything… but it simply hasn't worked. Stressed-out executives have failed to come to Poona to do the Nadabrahma. So far as I could see, the people coming to the ashram continue to be the upmarket end of the backpacker scene (including, ironically enough, a high proportion of Israelis turned on by Harideva's present work in Israel).

Any real concern with enlightenment is out of the window. Kiran, Samdarshi, Mikaire, Tyohar, Cuckoo, Maitreya, Dolano, Rani – all are banned from the Commune. Okay, so maybe some of them aren't quite as enlightened as they think they are – and okay, whether or not they should teach in the ashram is a moot point – but either way it's essential that sannyasins listen to what they have to say and make up their own minds. Osho died in agony for the possibility of a large-scale awakening. When it starts you don't desperately try to stamp it out.

Why is every great teacher of freedom followed by a Church which puts his teaching through a 180 degree turn? Why is Christ always followed by St. Paul? Why do two deeply conservative individuals, who by the look of things have never heard a word Osho said, feel called upon to run sannyas? Whatever the reasons – the pair of them have got to go.

"Bringing Osho to the streets"

How? Several different strategies suggest themselves.

(a) Don't do anything at all. Be Taoist. Leave it alone, and it will all work itself out spontaneously. As I said at the beginning, Poona is a wonderful place to be at the moment: nowhere else in the world is there any comparable coming together of like-minded souls. Focus on this and just sidestep the organisation, it's easy enough… And in any case Jayesh, Amrito and Co's days are numbered. They've lost India, there's no way they're going to patent or copyright anything there. Just give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves for sure.

(b) Screw that. The world's teetering on the edge of a nightmare which can only be escaped by a mass awakening; and more of the elements necessary for this are gathered together in sannyas than in any other single place… Take these creeps on. Call their bluff about these pricey court cases they're forever threatening sannyasins with. Lure them into court – and turn it into a media circus. They're terrified of publicity, and with good reason. Whatever the verdict in purely legal terms there's no way Jayesh or Amrito would survive a well-publicised court case.

(c) No, that's not fair. It's not Jayesh or Amrito or the Inner Circle who's to blame, it's all of us. It's the downside of sannyas we're dealing with here – the irresponsibility, the narcissism, the plain gutlessness. It's been there since Sheela and the Ranch, and failure to sort it then is the reason we're facing it again today… The thing is in some way to outflank them. There's another great bit of gossip going round that Neelam and the Indian sannyasins are going to start a new Commune in… Dharmasala. This is a brilliantly cheeky choice of venue. There are more foreign seekers going through there than anywhere else in the East; and Osho always wanted the new Commune to be in the Himalayas.

So far as I can see, what we need is to return to the core project of sannyas which is something which has been abandoned since the Ranch. This is to recreate our lives as a whole, and from the ground up. To build a different way of life – and ultimately a different form of perception altogether – based on a series of experimental Communes. Until this is taken up again, and on an explicitly democratic basis, sannyas will continue to flounder.