Kopan and Kathmandu

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.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Sumati and I finally arrived at the Ranch in Oregon in either late November or early December. We had started out from New Jersey on the first of September and crisscrossed the U.S. as well as driven into Canada.

Rajneeshpuram, OR

All along the way we stopped in bookstores and visited distributors taking orders for Osho’s books. The response was really, very, very good. Of course, all the publicity surrounding his coming to the States did not hurt. Neither did the ads that Chidvilas had placed in Time magazine with his quotes. People were very curious and were going into their bookshops wanting to find out more.

It was also a tremendous learning opportunity. Finding out exactly how the book business worked and what the bookshops and distributors wanted from us in order to aid them in the sale of the books. Many strong connections were forged that lasted for years.

Every couple of days we would call Vidya and check in. Occasionally she would relay something that Osho had said concerning the selling of the books.

When we did finally arrive I had a bit of a debriefing session with Pratima, who was in charge of book publishing. We had gathered a considerable amount of constructive feedback that we could use to chart our course with publishing.

After a couple of days, we were invited to Lao Tzu House to see Osho. This was the first time I had had such an intimate (Osho, Sumati, myself and I think Sheela) meeting with him, except for when I programmed the VCR at the Castle.

He gave both Sumati and me gifts; mine was a leather cowboy hat. I don’t remember what she received but it might have been the same.

Then it was down to business and he asked when we would be going out again. This was rather ironic because, in Poona, when anyone arrived back from the West the first thing he would ask was “How long will you be staying?” In this case, it was, “When will you be leaving?”

I explained that now was not a good time to be out selling books because the stores had already made their orders for the holiday season and that it would be best to wait until at least mid-January. He nodded and that was the end of the discussion.

Many times later I would look back on that situation. If I hadn’t been so involved in the book distribution, and so very interested in doing it right, I might have answered Osho’s questioning with more of a desire to say what I thought he would have wanted to hear. But as it turned out, I was not tuned into that at all. I simply told him how I saw the situation and he understood.

I give this as an example not of how I was above wanting to please, I’m sure that I can come up with many of those examples, but rather of what happened if one did not.

This was one of the lessons that so many of us learned at the Ranch—and we had so many opportunities. On the one hand, everyone wanted to stay close to the master so they would do whatever necessary in order to make that happen. But, the reality was, to be true to yourself (and by yourself I do not mean the whims of your mind or the pitfalls of the ego, but that silent inner voice) is the way to be close to the master.

One more of these situations involved Sheela. Rama was the coordinator of Buddhagosha (the book distribution department). Because I was the one most involved with the bookstores very often I would suggest things that we should do to support the stores. One time, I think it was involving a catalog or other marketing material, I had made a suggestion to Rama but he was concerned with how Sheela would react. He hesitated to pass it on. For one coordinators meeting with Sheela, Rama was ill and so I had to stand in for him. During the meeting, I made the proposal to Sheela and she accepted without a flinch.

It is important for us who were at the Ranch to look to what our own experiences were. What do we know from our own experience? After the Ranch it became ever so apparent that we all had not had the same experiences. We have different conditionings, resistances, proclivities, needs and desires, and because of that we found ourselves in differing circumstances.

This is not just a lesson concerning the Ranch but this applies to life. It illustrates how the commune was a large laboratory, a stage for learning about ourselves and the inner obstacles that prevent us from living a life of love and understanding. The commune provided opportunities for lifetimes of growth in both.

I’m the one with the short beard.

When I was not working with the books I was being a Peace Force (police) officer. This mostly involved driving around the Ranch and dropping in for tea at different locations. This provided another opportunity to bring the bliss down into the real world. As you can see from the photo above, Osho did not make it easy on those who were charged with keeping his body from being mobbed. You can also see that he enjoyed the whole affair.

Krishnamurti Lake
Krishnamurti Lake

Sometimes our duties became more serious. During the last festival(1985), while on patrol, we were called for an emergency at Krishnamurti Lake. There had been a swimming accident, apparently someone had drowned. When we finally got the body out of the lake, to my surprise, I found that it was Adinatha. He was the Japanese sannyasin that Sumati and I had stayed with for some time in Tokyo. The investigation showed that it may not have been accidental, that he might have just allowed himself to sink into the timelessness of the lake and never resurfaced.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

 

 

 

 

The Second Zen Stick

Deeksha in Vrindavan
Deeksha in Vrindavan

My first Zen stick happened when I was around three years old. It is one of the earliest memories I have. Of course I had never heard the term and it would be another twenty-three years or so until I would.

I was sleeping in my bed in a room with no one else present and suddenly, how could it be otherwise, I felt a whack on the top part of the back of my head. I sat up and looked around the room but there wasn’t anyone there.

Twenty-three years later I met a ferocious Zen master who carried a Zen stick made out of her words. Her name was Deeksha. Deeksha was the boss, the mom, the coordinator of the Vrindavan kitchen in the ashram.

Sumati and I had arrived from Japan with our pockets full of money saved from working and wanted to make a contribution to the ashram. Sheela gladly accepted but suggested that we save some for our own expenses and then assigned both of us to work in Vrindavan. Deeksha was not only in charge of the public ashram restaurant but also had her own band of handymen for whatever projects that came up. It was almost as though she had her own empire within the ashram; this certainly was no secret from Osho. Sumati went into the kitchen and I became a handyman.

Deeksha was known for her passion, energy and insults as well as being extremely capable of organizing work. She was also one of the most generous people in the ashram, often using her personal money to come to the aid of her friends and workers. But no one wanted to be called on the carpet by Deeksha. One day you could be leading a crew of carpenters working on building bookshelves for Osho’s library and the next day you could be banished to the bakery that was offsite and away from the ashram.

On one particular day during the lecture, a deep meditation had descended. It was one of those discourses that Osho would take you by the hand and lead you ever deeper into your interiority.  With this sense of being came a peace that knew no fear. I lingered longer than usual after the discourse bathing in the majesty.

When I left Buddha Hall, someone had been summoned to find Purushottama and bring him to Deeksha. I knew what awaited me but there was a calm easy feeling that accompanied my walk. I remember that she was standing with her back to the kitchen wall and she let fly all of her quivers. She was extremely animated and I have no idea what she said, but what I remember was that it was as if love was pouring from her in what would look like to an onlooker as anger. The energy that issued forth just washed over and through and yet didn’t touch me. I was a witness to a raging Zen master but inside was the same peace that I had left Buddha Hall with. From that moment I knew it was possible to be in the marketplace but not of the marketplace. I remained untouched.

Years after we had left Poona and even after the Ranch had closed I would think about Deeksha and feel some regret that she had not had a Deeksha like I had. Deeksha offered me an opportunity that no one else in the ashram could. It was easy to see why Osho gave her so much freedom and so much responsibility.  In his Buddhafield even the wildest, fiercest expressions were love.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Time to Be

Touched by majesty
Bathed in glorious mystery
Surely shaken, perhaps awakened
Worked, played, meditated, celebrated
We knew it was time in magic.

When the moment passed
Some put away the treasure
Knowing that when the time was right
We’d bring it forth and let it shine.

So we burrowed, and integrated
Hibernated and some emigrated
There were those who propagated
Even a few were castigated
And Still the treasure we knew
Lived in us—our life.

Been hiding in the dark lying wait
Searching for the time of Now.
As time came, always knew it would,
To shine, to share, to be aware.

Need not wait, no more
For surely Now – is the time to
Be
Unto ourselves – the Light.

-purushottama

This poem is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Bodh Gaya

“Be ye lamps unto yourselves,
be a refuge to yourselves.
Hold fast to Truth as a lamp;
hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves.
And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves,
shall betake themselves to no external refuge,
but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp,
and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge,
they shall reach the topmost height.”

Buddha’s Farewell Message to Ananda

Setting the Time in the Timeless

DSC_0050In the spring of 1981 Deeksha took a group of her workers and a few others to New Jersey to prepare a large house which had been known as Kip’s Castle for the arrival of Osho a month later. The Castle was a 9,000 square foot, 30-room mansion, complete with turrets and a small chapel. There was a lot to do within a very short period of time. The main house and carriage house had to be completely remodeled. The castle was in Montclair sitting on the first ridge with an incredible view of New York City. You could even see the Statue of Liberty on a clear day. Our nearest neighbors were Salvatorian Fathers who lived in a monastery next door.

Osho arrived on June 1st. Because of his bad back, we had installed an electric chair to take him up the entrance stairs at the side of the house, inside was an elevator. He took one long look at the chair and walked up the stairs; he never used it.Castle stairs

The atmosphere of living and working at the Castle was so very different from Poona. Because of the small group compared to the throngs in Poona, Osho was free to walk around the grounds and check out our work. I remember one day running very quickly around the back of the house and almost running into him. I came to a skidding stop.

Soon after his arrival he started having driving lessons so that he could get his driver’s license. He would occasionally pick someone from the group (that would gather to see him off) to accompany him. Most everyone that rode with him was scared to death. Of course Osho was a fearless driver and that is what terrified the passengers. Before too long, the musicians began to gather for his departure and arrival which soon blossomed into mini celebrations. He would often give some small gift to someone who he picked out for that day. He once gave me a rather nice pen, which would later be used to write book orders. Our work schedule was not so demanding by this time because we had already completed work on his living quarters.

When he first arrived he shared a floor of the house with a tenant who had a lease from before the purchase. I forget the fellows name but he had a big dog. Occasionally Osho and he would meet in the elevator.

One day I was downstairs in the main office when Vivek came down. She said that she needed help programming the VCR that had just been purchased. I looked around and as there was no one else present said that I would be happy to.

I followed her up the stairs and into a room that had been outfitted for Osho to watch videos. He was sitting in his comfortable chair beaming as we entered. On the floor was the new VCR with its LED time flashing at 12:00.

Setting the clocks on these machines just required pushing the correct button until the clock moved around to the correct time. And on this VCR, like on most, there was one button for fast changing of the time and one for slow.

I sat on the floor and explained how to do so, while setting the time. The difficulty was that as I was focusing on the time (so that I did not go past the needed setting); there was a tremendous expansiveness taking place. It took a lot of awareness to remain grounded in time and simultaneously be dissolving into the timeless. And of course Osho would ask a question here and there to make it even more interesting.

I think I missed the mark the first time and passed the correct time, but I was sure not to do so on the second go round.

-purushottama

 

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva

I have just completed a collection of stories and essays from along the way. Some of the material has already been posted on Sat Sangha Salon but most of it is new. You are free to download and distribute in any non-commercial fashion you wish.

You will find it here:

From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva

Love Is Being,

Purushottama

From Centering to Satori

Sumati and I spent almost five months making the journey overland to Poona and it was not easy at times. We had started off from England and combined hitchhiking with a few buses. For part of the journey I drove a Mercedes-Benz car to Beirut where it was to be sold by the owner.

She was only twenty and had not experienced that kind of overland traveling – it took its toll. I was so relieved by the time we arrived because I felt I had delivered my package to Osho. There were times, like once on the side of the road near Ankara, Turkey, when both of us wished we hadn’t embarked on the journey together. But in the end we made it and soon we were in harmony again.

Osho gave me five groups to do this time; Centering, which was the usual first group, Enlightenment Intensive, Tantra, Zazen and Awareness. Sumati was given a different schedule of groups.

A couple of insightful moments led up to a breakthrough.

There was an exercise given in the Centering group which used a nonsensical phrase that had to be memorized in a particular pattern and which required very keen concentration to remember correctly while performing other unrelated activities. The phrase was something like “shattaty, shamoui. Shamoui, shamoui, shattaty. Shattaty, shamoui, shamoui, shattaty, shamoui etc. And once we memorized this phrase we were paired up and sent into the busiest market area in Poona. Rickshaws, cars, bullock carts, cows, beggars, thousands of people all moving about and we had to maneuver through this chaos all the while reciting our phrase. This exercise created a witnessing consciousness. You concentrated on the phrase so much that all the other actions, crossing the road, making your way through the throngs of people happened almost as in a dream. And because of your non-involvement it flowed harmoniously. It really was quite remarkable.

Enlightenment Intensive was based on the format developed by Charles Berner, who combined interpersonal communication processes with the questioning “Who Am I” so that rather than internalizing the question, practitioners were paired up and asked each other to “tell me who you are.” This was a three day group and in the beginning very superficial answers would assert themselves. I am a man. I am an American. I am a Leo. I am independent, selfish, wonderful or any other adjective. As one persisted and exhausted all superficial responses one was left with only an objectless inquiring. Of course, some people mistakenly made an objectification of this empty inquiring and thought, “I’ve got it.”

During the Tantra group I had the opportunity to face jealousy. When a break happened, I walked out and saw Sumati in a loving embrace with one of the guys Kaveesha had sent off to Poona from Kansas City. I could feel the energy of what one would call jealousy but, in fact, when I looked carefully it was just energy. I had heard and read many times Osho talking about facing fear, jealousy, anger and not reacting but just observing. Here now, in front of my face, was an opportunity to do just that. And as he had said, I found that when one stayed with this energy without condemnation, it transformed, and lo and behold it had become love. And I felt the most love for the fellow; perhaps because of the opportunity he had given me, to experience this transformation of emotion (energy).

At some point within the five days of the Zazen group it became clear to me that I would be going to Japan. It just suddenly dawned on me. The experience seemed to trigger some very deep feelings that would need to be freed. Besides the sitting and walking meditation we experienced a Japanese tea ceremony performed by Asanga and a shakuhachi performance by Chaitanya Hari (Deuter).  During the time I was in the Zazen group, Osho was speaking on Buddha’s Heart Sutra.

While I was in Zazen, Sumati was doing the Leela group led by Somendra. My next group would also be led by Somendra, the first meeting of a new group called Awareness. After my Zazen and Sumati’s Leela group finished we had a day or two together before I was to begin my last group. It was then I learned that part of her “therapy” in Somendra’s group was his bedding her. Somendra was known for his magical work with energy, a bit of an energy “wizard”, and so apparently he worked his sexual wizardry on Sumati.

Because of my knowledge of this, I went into the Awareness group with a presence of energy in my hara which I was very much aware of. This energy fueled my meditation within the group. I’m sure that Somendra had no idea that I was the partner of his bedfellow nor probably would he have cared and I never said a word. I stayed with that energy and let it work its own magic in my belly.

Several days into the group we were lying on the floor in a meditation and I was “being with” the exhalations of my breath. With each one I went to its end and then let the inhale happen on its own. On one of the exhalations as it finished there was a movement that I would describe as that of the motion of a French Press coffee maker pushing down the plunger, plunging my head down into my torso, but then it stopped. At the time I felt like I was just on the verge of something but did not know what. At the end of the meditation Somendra told the group that I had had a mini satori.

The next day in one exercise we were moving around the room with blindfolds on and I found myself drawn to the window. It felt as though my being was looking for a way out. Later we were again on the floor, and again I was staying with my exhalations and letting them come to a complete stop and waiting for the inhalation to happen on its own—and then—the French Press. Only this time it completed its plunge and it was as if everything that had been in my head, moved down into my torso below the shoulders. The head was gone. Just at the moment of this happening a call of a bird was heard—but there was no space between the call and myself. It was as if, up to that point, there had always been a very subtle screen through which the outside world had to pass; but not now. There was no separation. The meditation ended and Somendra had us sit up. We had had blindfolds on and when I moved mine off my eyes they looked like some kind of antenna and Somendra made a remark and everyone laughed. But when everyone laughed, I laughed and there was no sense of a person who was being laughed at. There was no person there.

He must have motioned for me to speak because I heard myself say, “The goose is out.” I went on to tell him that yesterday when he said that a satori had happened that he was wrong. It hadn’t quite fully come to fruition, but today it had.

Note: Following is a question from a discourse in which Osho talks about Satori.

Beloved Osho,

Over the years, I have heard various sannyasins saying that they experienced a satori. What exactly is a satori, and how does it come about?

Satori is a glimpse of the ultimate… as if you are seeing the Himalayan peaks. But you are far away, you are not on the peaks, and you have not become the peaks. It is a beautiful experience, very enchanting, exciting, challenging. Perhaps it may lead you towards samadhi. Satori is a glimpse of samadhi.

Samadhi is the fulfillment of satori. What was a glimpse has become now an eternal reality to you.  Satori is like opening a window – a little breeze comes in, a little light. You can see a little sky, but it is framed. Your window becomes a frame to the sky, which has no frame. And if you always live in the room and you have never been out of it, the natural conclusion will be that the sky is framed.

It is only in this decade that a few modern painters have started painting without frames. It was a shock to all art lovers, who could not conceive it: what is the meaning of a painting without a frame?

But these modern painters said, “In existence nothing is framed, so to make a beautiful, natural scenery with a frame is a lie. The frame is the lie – it is added by you. It is not there outside, so we have dropped the frames.”

Satori is just a glimpse, from the window, of the beautiful sky full of stars. If it can invite you to come out to see the unframed vastness of the whole sky full of millions of stars, it is samadhi.

The word samadhi is very beautiful. Sam means equilibrium; adhi, the other part of samadhi, means all the tensions, all the turmoil, all disturbances have disappeared. There is only a silent equilibrium… as if time has stopped, all movement has frozen. Even to feel it for a single moment is enough: you cannot lose it again.

Satori can be lost because it was only a glimpse. Samadhi cannot be lost because it is a realization. Satori is on the way to samadhi, but it can become either a help or a hindrance – a help if you understand this is just the beginning of something far greater, a hindrance if you think you have come to the end.

In meditation, first you will come to satori – just here and there glimpses of light, blissfulness, ecstasy. They come and go. But remember, howsoever beautiful, because they come and go, you have not yet come home – where you come and never go again.

-Osho

From The Path of the Mystic, Chapter 37

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

That was the last group that was assigned and the last group that I did.

Within a short time Sumati and I made preparations to go to Japan. We had bought the very first tickets for the train to Gujarat going to the new commune and because it was delayed we decided to go to Japan and make some money teaching English. We got a refund on our tickets for the train and bought some tape discourses to take with us. My friend Peter, who I had traveled with from Kenya to Madagascar, was living in Tokyo and so that would be a good place to land.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.