The first indication that my life was about to change was the engine in my Cadillac El Dorado blowing up in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was at the end of a road trip taking orders for waterbed products. I took a bus back to Kansas City.
The second was when I learned that while away, my friend Charlie, my parakeet, had been killed by the cat that belonged to my friends who were house-sitting.
Charlie was a real character and he used to fly out of his always-open cage and land on my nose to wake me up in the morning. That’s what did him in. Charlie had been given to me by Scottie. Scottie was my oldest friend, not that I had known him the longest, but he was over 60. I was in my early twenties. He had named Charlie after Charlie Parker, a personal friend of his. Scottie was into Jesus, Jazz, going to the horse races, and smoking pot.
The final straw, however, was that my apartment was broken into. The thieves took my stereo and speakers but very fortunately left my album collection. I could either fight or let-go and go with the stream. I decided on the latter and endeavored to get ahead of the curve.
Soon, everything that had any value, which wasn’t much, really, had been sold. It mostly consisted of the records and two Chinese rugs. The money was going to Europe with me. I was leaving behind my interest in a business that I had built up over the past two years. I wasn’t even going to tell the other principals involved; they could have what was left. I was concerned that I might be persuaded to change my mind.
We had been applying for an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan in order to take our waterbed frame manufacturing business to the next level. We were getting orders, I had brought back plenty, but we needed capital in order to produce at a level that we made money on our sales. When the SBA loan fell through, I knew that meant we would have to drop back and punt. But I was burnt out. I had had a nervous breakdown at 21. I was drinking 10—12 cups of coffee a day and smoking three packs of cigarettes. If this was life, I wasn’t interested. I was ready to chuck it all in and go to Europe with whatever cash I could assemble and see what happens.
Six hundred dollars is what I would be landing in Luxembourg with after buying a cheap Icelandic Air flight. The last ride I got, hitchhiking to New York was with the equipment truck for the rock band Seals and Crofts. Here was the first sign of what lay ahead. Seals and Crofts were into Baha’i and the driver of the van was a devotee of the young Guru Maharaji.
Soon, I was lying in the grass on the side of the road waiting for the sound of a car so I could jump up and stick out my thumb. The destination for the day was not known only the direction; in the meantime I was feeling the ground beneath my back, smelling the green grass and listening to the sounds of the birds flying nearby. I was reminded of Saint Francis.
Here, in stark contrast, was the difference between becoming and being.
It was the most amazing New Year ever, crossing into Nepal in a bullock cart at sunrise. The sky was ablaze, the haze and dust in the air heightened the reds and oranges of the sun. It was New Year’s Day, 1976, sure to be a super year, and as it turned out, it was.
During that last term in Madagascar I heard from my friend Peter. He was now in Nepal studying Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Yeshe at the Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. Randy Dodge, who was still living at the house, was attracted to going to India and Nepal. He had been practicing Yoga for several years and was also interested in Buddhism. I was interested in Nepal but somehow fearful of India. I knew deep down that it could grab me and not let me go. By this time, Voahangy had gone to Brussels to join her U.N. boyfriend. Rickey was making arrangements to go to university in France. Randy and I were busy changing Malagasy francs into U.S. dollars with the Indian money changers and making preparations for our trip to the sub-continent.
Randy and I had discovered that there was an Indian passenger ship that traveled from Mauritius to Bombay and so made plans to go to Mauritius and leave for India from there. I said goodbye to my home for two years and a people that will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Thirty-three years after first arriving in Madagascar, I finally made a trip back with my wife, Amido in 2006. She loves the place as much as I do. Many things looked the same, although Tana was a bit of a shock. In 1975, the population of Madagascar was around eight million; in 2006, it was sixteen million and most of those are now in Tana. I have never seen so many kids.
The ship we took had several classes of travel. I think Randy and I took the next to last. It was not too bad really, dormitory style with bunk beds. The food was good. There was both a vegetarian line and a non-vegetarian line. We used the vegetarian line for lunch and dinner and the non-veg for breakfast because we wanted eggs. The trip took several days and on the way we were treated to Indian movies. That was the first time I had ever seen a Bollywood production. Treated is probably not very accurate because the sound system was terrible and it was way too loud. The days were spent on the deck watching the sea go by and reading Herman Hess’s The Glass Bead Game. So, after another trip across the Indian Ocean we arrived in Bombay, India.
In Bombay, we stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel. On the streets were quite a few wasted westerners wandering around. We didn’t really expect that to be our fate but it was a good heads up. We were both interested in getting up to Nepal as soon as possible and decided to take a train out to a good place to begin hitchhiking from. We didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t hitch in India. On our very first ride we had a surprise. A truck stopped. It was open in the back and we just needed to climb up and jump in. We threw our backpacks over the rail and climbed up and landed in a truck bed of manure. It wasn’t very wet so we just shrugged our shoulders and we were on our way.
After a couple of days traveling, we were ready to enter Nepal. We had arrived in the border town too late to be able to cross that day. We would have to wait for the next day. It just happened to be New Year’s Eve. I don’t think we made any festivities but just awaited our trip into Nepal in the morning.
After arriving in Kathmandu, we found our way to Freak Street where I knew Peter was staying in a guest house. Randy and Peter had never met. Peter had already left Madagascar by the time Randy showed up. Peter was very much into his exploration into Tibetan Buddhism. He was involved in a course that was being offered at the Kopan Monastery on the outskirts of the city. One day we went with him to visit and had a short chat with Lama Yeshe over a cup of tea. He offered his cup which we shared. He was a very kind man with a boyish grin. There were many westerners involved in the meditation teachings at the time but for some reason I wasn’t drawn to joining.
Randy and I went on to Pokhara in order to do a trek. In those days Pokhara hadn’t really become a big scene like it is today. On the sides of Lake Phewa were a few guest houses. Nearby was a Tibetan refugee camp and so a few Tibetans would set up on the paths and sell their goods. I bought a Tibetan mala and some pieces of coral with holes drilled in them for stringing on a mala. The guest house was very simple but I remember a nice garden and of course the views were incredible of both the lake and the mountains, a truly idyllic scene. There was a Japanese couple staying in the guest house that I noticed. She was very sweet and soft and he was intense with the stern look of a samurai. I would meet this couple again and they would get new names and become Geeta and Asanga.
Perhaps this can be helpful to someone. I have noticed recently that when I watch thoughts (content) there is a container (me). But when I watch the activity (not content), there is only witnessing.
This is important because that means that as long as I am engaging in the content the “me” remains. And if I take one step back and watch the movement, witnessing is, without a center. And this witnessing without a center is delicious.
This “take one step back” is really a misnomer. It is not a question of doing anything but simply “not doing.” Engaging in the content is “doing.” To watch without either grasping or rejecting is not doing and it is by watching without engagement that one finds oneself first witnessing the movement without content and when that movement is also witnessed without engagement, then one is Not, and only awareness Is.
In early fall of 1968 a good friend of mine, Michael and I rented a house in a predominately African-American neighborhood of Kansas City, MO east of Prospect on the corner of 69th St. and College. Before we rented it, the house had been used as a neighborhood church. It had a big front room, which had been the meeting room, two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen and a room that was used as a living room. The house was painted pink and had a somewhat flat roof, hence we called it the Pink Flat.
Immediately the house started gathering a commune within its walls. Michael and I would go around to building sites after dark and pick up discarded plywood, two by fours and whatever else we could find and bring it back to the house. We then constructed a loft around the perimeter of the big room so that there were two levels of sleeping spaces and it began to fill.
We all made an effort to keep the house neat and tidy. Sometimes that required posting reminders. Some would remind us to wash our dishes, others would remind us to keep the bathroom clean. And all in all it remained remarkably clean considering the number of people who lived there.
Sometime in late spring or early summer of 1969 the extremely pure form of LSD, Orange Sunshine, appeared on the scene in Kansas City. Orange Sunshine was unlike any LSD that had preceded it.
One evening I took a dose of Orange Sunshine at the Pink Flat. It turned out to be my most significant LSD experience and laid the groundwork for a lifetime with meditation at the center.
Once the LSD started affecting me I left the house and walked around the neighborhood alone. I was a couple of blocks away from the house in some neighbor’s yard when I started to experience hallucinations and paranoia. This was unusual for me, it was rare for me to experience paranoia and I was not prone to hallucinations. But on this occasion it was happening. At some point it clicked that I was the one who was creating the hallucinations and the paranoia. And immediately with that realization the energy being projected from the mind started to go in reverse. It was literally as if I was reeling in the mind. And when all the energy that had been projected out returned home there was peace, a clarity, an At Homeness that I had never experienced so profoundly before. I was experiencing Being. I was at home, the ground of being.
It also became clear through this experience that I had had this realization as a result of taking the LSD but the truth of the experience of At Homeness was because of an ending of mental projection. The seeing of this was enabled by the heightened state of consciousness from the LSD but the realization that took place was beyond the chemistry. I had seen, quite literally, how the projecting mind works.
This new found at homeness lingered for weeks, perhaps even a month or more because I found I could return home by stopping the journey away from home. And the summer of 1969 continued to be a summer of awakening.
Most everyone in our Pink Flat commune began selling copies of The Kansas City Free Press, the local underground newspaper, on street corners as a means of income for the house. While I was creating a sales chart for our house sales I experienced the “witness” as I watched myself (from beyond the me) draw the columns.
A couple of months later after we had closed the house and everyone dispersed I was on The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City selling the Free Press on a street corner when a man named Charlie walked up and introduced me to Meher Baba. And through Meher Baba I was introduced to Tratak meditation.
Seven years later, in 1976, I would find myself being initiated by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) in the city that Meher Baba had been born and grown up in, Poona, India. And through Osho a much wider world of meditation opened before me.
If I remember correctly I took LSD one more time in that seven years after the Orange Sunshine experience and before I arrived in Poona and that was, as I saw it, some kind of self-check-up.
It is only within the last year that I came to know that the creator of Orange Sunshine, Nicholas Sand, also went to Poona, India in 1978 and was initiated by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) and became Deva Pravasi. Ironically his sannyas darshan with Osho is recorded in the darshan diary titled Turn On, Tune In and Drop the Lot.Our paths crossed a few times at Rajneeshpuram but I didn’t know that he hadbeen the creator of Orange Sunshine.
I am extremely grateful to Pravasi and his gift of chemistry for giving me a glimpse of the workings of the mind and that first experience of no-mind which helped propel me to meeting my Master, Osho.
Osho introduced me to the Meditation of watching the mind and by and by I discovered that the heightened state of consciousness that I had experienced with Orange Sunshine was none other than my “natural state”. I discovered that this “natural state” is clouded with mind, with desire, with thought, with identity and that it is possible to come clear of the clouds by watching directly the comings and goings of the mind. But the important ingredient to this watching is watching without grasping or rejecting, watching without judging, watching without jumping into the fray. And as one watches without interference the energy that is involved in thought begins to return home and the mind is reeled in, not by any effort and not by chemistry, but by no longer being a party to the creation of the me.
Of course as long as there are impressions remaining within the mind one is drawn out again and again but also it becomes easier and easier to return. This is the gift of meditation and this is the gift of Osho.
After watching the entire seven hour documentary on Netflix Wild Wild Country the following poured out. Pranam to ALL.
Does anyone, after hearing directly from the U.S. Attorney, Oregon State Attorney General, Bill Bowerman, and then there were those who we did not hear from in the series but have been documented in Passage to America, Edwin Meese (US Attorney General), Pope Benedict before he was pope (Joseph Ratzinger) and many more, after hearing from these people, does anyone really believe if we had been a little more good neighborly that they would have allowed us to continue? Perhaps if all we had wanted to do was have a communal farm for a couple of hundred friends? Maybe. But I am doubtful of even that.
Osho wanted to build a city/commune, a place where thousands could gather and meditate together. In order to create that space there was a lot of work to be done, but this work was to be done with awareness, with love. This was only possible because of someone like Sheela and her “gang” who created a protective shell around the community for the meditators/workers to carry on. Her job was to keep the forces that colluded from day one to close us down at bay long enough to for us to finish the job.
You see, I do not subscribe to the belief that Osho ever intended Rajneeshpuram to be an ongoing, permanent community. It was as Osho has said about his community “an experiment to provoke God.” We were creating a “footprint” on the earth. A footprint of consciousness. Just the effort to create such a community was an opening in the consciousness of the world. It has been attempted before to lesser degrees and with each attempt it has moved the ball forward. But, this attempt was not scorning the use of science and technology. This attempt was not renouncing the world; it was an attempt that would bring Zorba and Buddha together in harmony. It would ultimately bring 10,000 meditators together into a city that they had created for themselves. And in that work of creation the effect would be that many of those who worked on the project were transformed.
But in order to create this Buddhafield someone was going to have play defense so that the work could continue. Most of us inside the Ranch did not know the extent of the opposition to our very presence until the bombing of Hotel Rajneesh in Portland. And, this event was a wakeup call for Sheela too. If we were going to survive long enough to complete the experiment we would have to be able to protect ourselves. And the best protection was in showing the outside world that we were willing to protect ourselves and had the means. That was a language they could understand. We very publicly displayed our resources and even filmed our abilities at the shooting range. This was enough to create doubt. And in my mind, this is why nobody was ever shot at, no one was ever hurt by firearms.
In the Wild Wild Country series you hear Shanti B. describe what it was like to be in the meetings with Sheela and crew. They would gather around and problem solve. For example, we weren’t allowed to have commercial activity at the Ranch; Okay we’ll do it in Antelope. We weren’t allowed to do it in Antelope; Okay we’ll buy up properties in order to control the decision making. We weren’t allowed by Wasco County to carry on our activities; Okay we’ll bring in more voters to the county. Where can we get more voters? How about the homeless people. Good idea and then we can do two things, we can help the homeless and elect out representatives too. They were just problem solving to the best of their abilities. All the while “running interference” so that the work at the Ranch could continue.
In life we have projects that we are working on, and if we are very determined, we try every avenue of success but sometimes we just have to know when “the jig is up” and let go. In hindsight, it appears that being about to lose the Wasco County Commissioner election was one of those times. Many will say that we shouldn’t have tried to affect the election with the Share-A-Home program and, that is probably true. But just as it is one-sided to talk of the benefits of the program (bringing homeless off the street, exposing street people to meditation, giving a sense of self-worth to those who felt abandoned, etc.), without talking about the well-known ill effects, so too is it one-sided to ignore the benefits. By the way, yes, there were some who were forcibly removed but there were also some who remained to the very end, long after many of us had found new homes.
But, clearly, when we were not able to affect the election with our new found comrades then, that was the time to realize we had done all that we could do. And, Sheela should have been willing to let go of her position if that is what it meant. It is interesting that Osho decided to begin giving discourses again the very night we had a voter rally with the homeless. I think he knew “the jig was up.” We would be able to continue with the momentum created for just one more year.
Now, how to unwind this experiment that many had mistakenly thought was a permanent utopian dream?
Fortunately, Sheela provided the answer for most of that too. It was her own unwillingness to accept defeat, to let-go of power, that would be the means for unwinding the commune. The crimes that were committed in order to hang on to power were the means to allow the forces to extinguish the experiment. But the experiment had already succeeded. We had already created a city of 10,000 meditators. We created a beautiful eco-friendly community in the desert. And, in the process, all of us were transformed in varying degrees. It was time to let-go.
Osho saw the situation and very wisely left the Ranch which avoided the confrontation that the Oregon National Guard, FBI, State Police and local law enforcement feared.
Osho returned to India after a few stops along the way. Many sannyasins joined him there to listen to his talks for a couple more years. (He still had a few things to say). Others took whatever light that had been ignited in “the experiment” and went out into the “marketplace.”
Do you really think that if it had been someone different in Sheela’s place the result would have been better? Personally, I doubt it.
It goes without saying that none of this would have taken place without Osho. I bow down. But, perhaps, what is not so obvious, is that each and every actor is essential in this play.
So I bow down to everyone who participated in whatever way you did and I don’t exclude anyone. Everyone played their part, which includes the residents, the RHT workers, the festival workers, all of the visitors, those that stayed and those that left, those who never managed to make it to the Ranch and those that stayed to the very end. And how can I bow down to Sheela and her crew without also bowing down to the residents of Antelope and Wasco County, the government officials, and the Rajneesh Hotel bomber, because without any of you there may not be that “footprint of consciousness” in the Oregon desert.
Back in 2011 the essay Awakening Before Enlightenment came gushing out onto the computer screen. I was very reluctant to edit it much at all because it didn’t feel like my writing. It just poured out.
Now almost seven years later it seems like perhaps it is time for a check-up.
In the last paragraph it was written:
So here we come to the point that has been the fuel for this inquiry for all these years. Without exposure to the presence of an Enlightened Master and, unfortunately for some, even with, it is very easy to believe that the “awakening of the witness” is the end of the journey, is itself enlightenment. Some fellow travelers might very well believe that there is no ending of the mind, because that is the limitation of their own experience.
What is the landscape now at this time? What has changed?
Through these last years I have spent even more time exploring coming out of mind. I have experimented with many of Shiva’s 112 Meditation Techniques explained by Osho in The Book of Secrets. And with each I have discovered that same core that Osho points us to again and again, witnessing.
And it is from here that the mind is witnessed, that one sees all the ways to get entangled, and these are not just seen once or twice but again and again. But each time that seeing happens the strength of the proclivity is lessened. It becomes easier to come out, easier to let go of grasping, easier to remain with that which may be uncomfortable.
And yes, there do come more moments, and longer in duration, where one is without thought.
When thought subsides one is capable of exploring the region of feeling. Not feeling with a tour guide who is naming all the sights but feeling just in feeling. Feeling the very sensation of moods, sometimes the feeling of burbling, gushing raw emotion of some long forgotten happening.
And yes there also comes moments when all thought and feelings subside and one is left with only a sense of being.
And this sense of being, this wavering in the belly, is witnessed, is seen and in that very seeingness, when the seeing is total even that sense of being, that ripple comes to rest. In these moments there is “an ending of mind.”
Surely this momentary “ending of mind” is “samadhi with seed.” It is seed because the seed remains and because the seed remains it invariably re-sprouts. Nevertheless in this moment I am refreshed.
So now I can revisit the post and still say yes, for me, it is true that “awakening of the witness” is not “the end of the journey.” In fact it is the real beginning. The beginning of the end of “me.” And in this witnessing there is “a knowingness” that exists without any support. It is self-evident.
It is also important to emphasize that “the ending of me” does not come about by any doing on my part. I am not dissolving or evaporating my mind. Any such activity would only strengthen the doer, the “me.” The mind does dissolve, it does evaporate not because of any doing on my part, on the contrary it does so because in those moments I am no longer contributing to its survival. My energy is with that “knowingness.” And because I am residing at home (in those moments) there is no energy feeding the “me.” And I am perfectly happy to let all of the un-entangling, all of the exposing, all of the evaporation proceed without any interference and bask in the moments of “now-here” that appear on their own.
I am sure that whatever I say will not make one iota of difference to anyone, but still it has to be said.
It seems appropriate to ask ourselves what it was that took us to Rajneeshpuram.
If we were attracted by the idea of creating a utopian community and that is the only reason we went then it is natural that we are disappointed that the experiment did not deliver the goods. And I suppose then there is some benefit in reviewing the history and events that took place so as to do better next time.
Perhaps we were attracted by the idea of being with a “godman”, some saintly character that would conform to our own ideas of “enlightenment”. Just the idea elevated our own status. We were one of the chosen few. Is this anything more than an ego trip? And of course we were headed for disappointment. Masters do not conform to anyone’s ideas of enlightenment, Gurdjieff did not, J. Krishnamurti did not, and certainly U.G. Krishnamurti did not, just to name a few more recent examples. And it is natural that our egos would be bruised when we realized that life did not live up to our expectations.
And then there were some that were lured by the prospect of opening ourselves to the unknown, of diving deep into our own inner depths, of examining every aspect of ourselves, both the dark and the light. There are not many in this group who were disappointed, Rajneeshpuram delivered on all accounts for many.
Whatever it was that took us to Rajneeshpuram, what we can take away, even if only beginning at this moment, is meditation.
We can forget all about Osho, but if we forget about meditation, the whole journey was for naught.
If we persist in meditation (and by meditation I mean observing the contents of the mind without pushing them away or without jumping into the fray) then we rediscover that space, that magical space of silence and love. From here it is hard to be anything but so overwhelmingly grateful for the one who spent his entire life pointing towards this door to no-mind. And, in fact, it is THIS no-mind, this oceanic space of silence and love that is Osho, this very moment.
This was originally posted on the Facebook group page Rajneeshpuram Residents and was part of an ongoing conversation. I thought perhaps it might be interesting to some who are not part of that group.