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Spiritual Insights

Zigzagging along the potholed street in a yellow and black rickshaw, we weave in and out of hissing, honking traffic passively gulping in diesel fumes, the occasional stench and the rare yet welcome waft of burning incense.

Zigzagging along the potholed street in a yellow and black rickshaw, we weave in and out of hissing, honking traffic passively gulping in diesel fumes, the occasional stench and the rare yet welcome waft of burning incense.

We’re heading towards the Osho Meditation Resort in the heart of Pune. While Dubaians often drive as if they’re F1 racers, the denizens of Pune zip around with a seemingly carefree attitude – motorcyclists rarely wear helmets and babies are often precariously perched somewhere at the front or squashed in the middle of a couple. Westerners might accuse them of desiring a death wish, however I’ve come to the conclusions that the locals feel that they are simply putting their faith in destiny. What is meant to be will be.

According to Osho, there is no fate or destiny. He once said: “Unless you take responsibility yourself, you will never become strong, you will never become independent, you will never taste freedom.” The self-declared enlightened master garnered a cult-like following from all corners of the world and his sannyasins would often remark upon his piercingly hypnotic gaze. They claimed it penetrated straight into your soul, giving the impression that he was an otherworldly host simply passing on nuggets of wisdom. Besides igniting the hearts of those longing to reach transcendental heights, he also managed to ruffle a few feathers. In fact, Osho got deported from the United States (they nailed him for immigration violations) and was subsequently refused entry into 21 countries. Despite being a peace-loving advocate of universal love, the long-haired Indian guru’s unorthodox ideas were perceived as a global menace, which to me, conveyed the idea that his popularity was increasing and his questioning of conventional ideas was a threat.

These thoughts go through my mind as we pull up outside the Osho Meditation Resort. A couple of heavies are blocking the imposing black marble entrance, which features a metal detector and security conveyor belt. Ironically, the meditation centre is still a potential target for extremists –only a year ago, a man was found guilty of killing 17 people in the bombing of the German Bakery, a nearby eatery, popular with Osho visitors.

The American blonde at the reception desk turns out to be one of Osho’s former disciples, dividing her time between here and New York. When I ask her what the ashram was like during the 80s, she breaks into a radiant smile. “The atmosphere was never the same after Osho passed away,” she admits.  “He was one of a kind, unbelievably perceptive, always acting as a mirror to reflect your own behaviour back at you.” This place used to be a sprightly commune brimming with affluent types, some disillusioned with the white picket fence and 9 to 5, others hoping to resolve existential angst and evolve up the human ladder.

Inside, it’s a breathtaking space. Fountains, statues of Buddha and bamboo trees hug the marble buildings. To keep it looking pristine, it’s run like a business – a maroon robe must be purchased in order to attend the daytime meditations and a white robe has to be worn for the much-raved about evening session. There’s also an entrance fee as well as food vouchers. Controversially there’s a compulsory HIV test (with instant results) – no-one really explains why this exists, but some might imagine a hotbed of over-amorous lovers waiting inside. In reality, the parties here are non-alcoholic (imagine a bhangra full moon party) and are pretty tame affairs.

One afternoon, I bump into Osho’s former doctor, a British grey-haired man who goes by the name of Amrito. He was part of Osho’s inner circle and was with him when he passed away. Like many, he reiterates Osho’s spellbinding presence. I quiz him about the commune in Oregon, where Osho had 93 Rolls Royce cars. Amrito argues that Osho used them as a publicity device to get across his message of truth. “He had a satirical side to him. He was completely indifferent to the cars, he didn’t feel any attachment to them whatsoever. It was more of a practical joke on America’s obsession with materialism and he also used them to create a bridge to communicate with a wider audience.” If he was still alive, Osho would probably poke fun at the brash display of opulence in the Gulf countries, while also cruising down Sheikh Zayed Road in a Roller.

Next I question Amrito about Osho’s sex guru label. I’m quickly reminded that out of 600 published books; only one is about sex (and that focuses upon transforming sexual energy into spiritual energy). Clearly those who pigeonholed Osho hadn’t even bothered to read his literature. “We never know who will walk through the gate, it’s a complete mystery why some people come and go from here, ” reveals Amrito. And as a result the guru attracted a few wayward followers who indulged in indiscriminate sexual activity, even though this was never encouraged by Osho, who in his own words said: “I request you to approach sex when you’re feeling bliss, feeling love; only when your heart is full of joy, peace and gratitude.”

When I ask why Osho was accused of being a counterfeit cult leader, Amrito explains that Osho discouraged disciples from becoming dependent upon him in any way – he only wanted to act as a vehicle to spread a higher form of consciousness. Quite the opposite of a brainwashing power-hungry cult leader. Our conversation later touches upon the alleged poisoning of Osho by the US authorities – Amrito says that the rapid deterioration in Osho’s health point to the possibility of thallium poisoning.

That evening, in my white robe, I climb the steps leading up to the gargantuan auditorium. The first stage of this evening meditation is dubbed ‘gibberish’ and involves saying anything that comes to your mind – the idea is to completely let loose. Apparently this is a scientific way to cleanse the mind, although amid all the howling and shrieking, it could look like you’re heading towards a super asylum rather than super consciousness.

During the silent sitting stage, I attempt to still my mind. Yet it wanders. I start contemplating the subtle similarities between Osho’s message of elevating consciousness and the religious texts. While Prophet Mohammed asserts, “The greatest jihad is that for the conquest of Self,” in the New Testament Christ says, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Meanwhile Osho says we search the world for the meaning of God and yet we should find it within ourselves. His hope was to encourage peace of mind so that people could then do something useful for mankind.

Despite becoming more technologically advanced with the development of Google Glass et al, we aren’t necessarily making more genuine or intimate human connections. In fact studies say we are facing a loneliness epidemic and we are also more stressed than ever before, often trapped in the past and anxious about the future. Narcissistic rather than selfless behaviour is rife. It’s no wonder many of us are looking towards the East for spiritual nourishment. Today, it seems Osho’s words are more relevant than ever.

For more information visit Sarah’s blog www.oncloudzen.com




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