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.

From Meher Baba to Osho with Love

As the rickshaw pulled to a stop, I looked up and read the sign at the top of the gate – Shree Rajneesh Ashram. Quite a large fellow with a German accent (Haridas) greeted me and I heard myself say, “I’m not where I was going, but I’m sure I am in the right place.” At the Poona train station I had told the rickshaw driver, “Sai Baba Ashram, not Rajneesh Ashram.” He responded, “Yes, yes, baba.” Mistakenly I had been told that there was a Sai Baba Ashram as well as a Rajneesh Ashram in Poona and so I thought I would be able to visit both but had decided to start with the Sai Baba Ashram.

As soon as I stepped out of the rickshaw – I knew there had been no mistake.  After only a day or so, I went to the front office and asked Arup for a Sannyas Darshan, in fact I showed her that I already had a mala; I just needed Bhagwan’s photo attached. I had arrived wearing a Tibetan mala that I had bought from Tibetan refugees in Pokhara, Nepal and all green Indian clothes. Later I heard Osho say that green was the color of the Sufis. I looked Arup straight in the eye and asked if she couldn’t see that I was already a sannyasin. She was not impressed and so I was instructed to do the meditations.

My first exposure to meditation was through Meher Baba. Interestingly enough, in the book Dimensions Beyond the Known, Osho says that Meher Baba and he had used the same meditation technique. It had been seven years earlier, while selling Kansas City Free Press newspapers on a street corner in the Country Club Plaza that I had been introduced to Meher Baba. An older fellow named Charlie walked up to me and started telling me about him. We walked over to a coffee shop and I learned about this modern day Master who was from Poona, India and who had dropped his body six months earlier.

My connection to Meher Baba was totally a heart connection. I had tried to read his book God Speaks but was unable to take it in. I had totally forgotten that Meher Baba was from Poona, but it was the connection to Meher Baba that took me to Poona, both for the Shree Rajneesh Ashram and looking for the Sai Baba Ashram. The interest in Sai Baba stemmed mostly from the fact that one of Meher Baba’s Masters was Sai Baba of Shirdi and this current Sai Baba was proclaiming to be a reincarnation of him.

While staying at the Sunder Lodge I met a beautiful German sannyasin named Gatha and we established a nice connection. After being in Poona for some time she asked me how I was feeling. I remember telling her, “I’m more in love than I have ever been in my life.” I felt that I was swimming in love. When I told her of my meeting with Arup she suggested that I go with her and see Laxmi who was a friend of hers and also Arup’s boss. Because Enlightenment Day was nearing, the soonest I could get an appointment for a Sannyas Darshan was March 28th exactly one week after Osho’s Enlightenment Day celebration on March 21st.

On the day of the celebration of Osho’s Enlightenment I was aware of the anticipation of the unknown. I had only seen Osho in discourse and had not had a darshan (a face to face meeting with him with only a small group present) so I really did not know what to expect but there was a heightened energy around. I also remember consciously taking myself inwards. I wanted to be as present as possible for that first meeting. I spent the entire day not meditating but “being” meditation. I was aware of all the emotions, thoughts, and even body sensations that were visiting but I stayed anchored in that heart space where one is just being.

I believe 1976 was the last year that Celebration Darshans were held in Chuang Tzu Auditorium before moving to the much larger space of Buddha Hall. In that time on Celebration Days, people filed into Chuang Tzu past Bhagwan for darshan. I remember standing in the queue which was long and stretched out towards the front gate. We began lining up in daylight but it was dark before I finally arrived at Osho’s chair. Music was playing during the entire time and as I neared the entrance to Chuang Tzu. A beautiful female voice  was singing Elton John’s Love Song; so appropriate as I was sinking deeper and deeper into heartfulness.

   “Love is the opening door
    Love is what we came here for
    No one could offer you more
    Do you know what I mean
    Have your eyes really seen.”

Just as my space in the line was reaching the entrance to Chuang Tzu the music changed dramatically and became high energy drumming. This increased the excitement and anticipation tenfold. It still was not possible to actually see Osho because of the crowd in front.

Finally I arrived and it was my turn to approach Osho. What followed I still see as if looking through a dream. It was as if some body memory took over. In front of him I bowed down and touched his feet and then my body made motions as if it was pouring water from his feet to my head and this happened several times, then my hands folded in Namaste. When my hands touched it was as if a current had been completed and I felt what can only be described as a powerful electric current circulating between my hara (area around the navel) and my hands clasped in front.  My body then went limp but I did not lose consciousness but simply watched what unfolded. The same German Sannyasin that I had met at the gate on my arrival was there, Haridas. He slung me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes (but very lovingly), carried me out of the auditorium and placed me outside the gate on the ground to gather myself. I had met my Master, a living Buddha.

My sannyas darshan was still one week away and as one could imagine I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be even more powerful? As it turned out it was rather anticlimactic. I followed two Americans who received the names Milarepa and Marpa. Then it was my turn—he told me my name, Swami Prem Purushottama, and asked if it would be easy to pronounce. He said, “Prem means love and Purushottama means God. So love of God or God of love.” He then asked how long I would be staying and that was it.

To this day I do not know what the “current” experience was, perhaps some of our Indian friends can explain, but to me it was my true initiation. Hence in some ways I have two sannyas birthdays. Somehow by keeping it to myself for all these years it has not been able to be what it is, just another naturally ordinary experience with the extraordinary. Now I set it free.

Thank you, Osho. Your Enlightenment that took place so many years ago made each of our own experiences possible. Your sannyasins are eternally grateful.

A few days after my sannyas darshan, I walked out of Sunder Lodge and made a right turn. Up to that time, I had always turned left. The first building I came to was a memorial to Meher Baba. All the while, I had been staying next door to the Guru Prasad Apartments which is the spot where Meher Baba held his East-West Gatherings. At that moment Meher Baba and Osho were One. Tears of gratitude flowed down my cheeks. Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami.

 

-purushottama

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

 

Be a Light Unto Ourselves

Why did Osho change the traditional order used for The Three Jewels? At first, I wondered if it was just a mistake that Sheela made when introducing us to them, but later I found discourses in which Osho referred to them in the order that was presented to us.

Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Awakened One

Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Community of the Awakened One

Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami – I take refuge in the Ultimate Teaching of the Awakened One

Traditionally they are said with Dhammam preceding Sangham. Each of us will have our own insights as to why he changed them, but regardless as to why this is the order that his work has operated on me.

First it was I bow down to the Buddha, to the Master. This is the easiest. Who cannot, but bow down to the Master once the Master is met? For me this is what took place in what we refer to as Poona One. It was all Him. He gave us meditations. He gave us daily discourses. He guided us through our personal issues during darshan. He then began working on us in energy darshans; and finally introduced us to Satsang.

Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami was more difficult; and for some almost impossible. To surrender to the commune is much more arduous, because often it means saying yes to stupidity. But it is that saying yes to stupidity that is intelligence because one understands that it is transformative. It is surrender. Surrender means putting aside the conditioning and saying yes. This then lessens the grip that the conditioning has on oneself. In fact, it lessens the grip of oneself. One can let-go of conditioning only with awareness. Not saying yes because of a need for appreciation or because of a hunger for position or power but in the understanding that it is here that the transformation takes hold. It is here that awareness is strengthened and the ego begins to lose its grip.

When I saw Osho take off in the plane from the runway at Rajneeshpuram, I knew at that moment I would never see him again. This was the beginning of Dhamma, the ultimate truth of the awakened one. What does it mean to surrender to the ultimate truth? It is when one starts being the teaching. One starts living the understanding in one’s own light.

The beginning of living the understanding didn’t immediately start at that moment of watching the plane take off, it took a little time. I was still involved with the distribution of Osho’s books. We had to move the books to Colorado and setup distribution anew. And then because of conflict with the organization I moved further and further away until finally I was standing on my own. The call of the inner guru was heard.

For the first time the spark of inquiry was lit. Up to that point I had meditated but it was witnessing phenomena, be it sensations, thoughts or feelings. Now the consciousness was seeking its source. This is what I believe to be conversion. It is here that surrender to Dhamma begins. To me this means Self-Inquiry. It is the movement from seeking to inquiring. It is the movement from the outer guru to the inner guru. Up to this point one is living on borrowed bliss. From this point on, one is relying on one’s own light of understanding that has been lit by Buddha, strengthened by Sangha and is now being stabilized in Dhamma.

This does not mean that one is no longer open to the understanding being expressed through the Masters; on the contrary one is more open than ever. And once the contact with the inner guru is established, there is no fear whether some teaching is valid or not because it is seen from one’s own understanding and there is clarity. The understanding is experienced for oneself, it is acted upon, even more accurately it can be said that the understanding itself, the seeing itself is the acting, is the transformation. It is in the fire of this Being Understanding that the “me” is consumed, impression by impression, Gathe, gathe, para gathe parasam gathe. Bodhi svaha. Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. O what an awakening all-hail!

Everyone passes through The Three Jewels at their own pace but what is important is that we don’t linger too long on the way and that we continue until finally we are living the Dhamma, being a light unto oneself.

PostScript– It occurs to me that there are many who reading “Be a light unto ourselves” will think that it is ironic for those of us who have lived with a master, who have lived as part of a commune to place importance on being a light unto ourselves.

To those, I would say that is precisely what drew us to the flame. We had become aware that until we were capable of separating ourselves from this conditioning, we would not be that light. We had already discovered that our minds had been filled with conditioning—by our parents, the society, the churches, the politicians and the schools.

We could also see that anyone who has not managed to extricate themselves from that conditioning is simply not capable of being their own light because it is through that conditioning, that mind, which one sees the world, acts and reacts. Is it any wonder that we live in a world in conflict? And we found that meditation is the means of brain washing (de-conditioning).

Meditation is not a learning, rather an unlearning which in the end uncovers the original face.

“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

Bodh Gaya

-purushottama

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

Osho and the 16th Karmapa

16th Karmapa performing Black Crown Ceremony
16th Karmapa performing Black Crown Ceremony

The first time I heard the name Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was on a bus from Pokhara to Kathmandu. My friend Randy, (who had traveled with me to India and Nepal from Madagascar), and I were trekking on the Annapurna route and reached the point where we decided to turn around. Ben and his girlfriend Kathy (actually I’m not sure of their names but will refer to them as Ben and Kathy from here on out), were coming down the path and said that they had run into snow. Being ill-equipped, without even sleeping bags, the decision was choiceless. We all spent the night in a teahouse.

There seemed to be some tension between Ben and Kathy. They were both involved in Tibetan Buddhist practice but it seemed that Ben was keener than Kathy and this was causing some friction.

On the bus ride back to Kathmandu, Ben and I sat together and Randy and Kathy sat together with a growing chemistry. Ben told me about his experience doing a Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat at the Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. Randy and I had visited Kopan a week or so earlier with another friend from Madagascar and had the good fortune to have a cup of tea with the head Lama, Lama Yeshe. He was a very sweet man and enormously generous. But as I explained to Ben, I wasn’t finding myself attracted to the Tibetan Buddhist practice. In fact, the words that I heard come out of my mouth as we talked were, “I’m looking for something more universal and more personal.” For one thing, it was the limitation of the “ism” in Buddhism that turned me away. My own intuitive spiritual sky was wide open and did not want to be confined into a container, however much I respected the teachings.

Ben told me that I should pay a visit to the ashram of a guru in India named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and proceeded to give me the address. Ben had met one of Rajneesh’s sannyasins recently while he was on a visa run and so was visiting Nepal in order to return to India with a new visa. This sannyasin named Devanand had impressed him and what he heard about Rajneesh interested him but he was quite immersed in the Tibetan Buddhist dharma. So I put the piece of paper with the address away in my wallet. The bus ride was a few hours and so Ben and I had quite a long chat. He was a sincere practitioner, perhaps I thought a bit too serious, but regardless we had a very nice connection.

When we arrived back in Kathmandu, both Ben and Kathy returned to Kopan to continue their practice and Randy and I stayed in a guest house. Randy and I were intending on spending a couple more weeks in Kathmandu and so found a room in a private house. It was a lovely situation because the house had a walled garden and so offered a retreat from the daily busy-ness of the city. This house was closer to the Tibetan Swayambhu Monastery which we liked to visit.

We had learned that a very important Tibetan Buddhist teacher was coming to Kathmandu soon to perform an Empowerment Ceremony and this event was to take place at Swayambhu. I wasn’t really sure what an Empowerment Ceremony was but it sounded interesting. Unfortunately, we also learned that it was only open to practicing Buddhists.

The day of the event I spent meditating in our room. It was a silent, cool oasis. We were close enough to the monastery to hear the Tibetan horns and in my meditation I felt a humming sensation in the area of my heart.

During our time in Kathmandu both Randy and I became interested in Satya Sai Baba. He was quite popular with the Hindu Nepalis and his photo and books were everywhere. I was intrigued by the possibility of a “living” Master. I had been introduced to Meher Baba seven years before, six months, however, after he had passed away, so the idea of meeting a living Buddha very much appealed to me.

Randy and I decided to end our traveling partnership. We had different schedules. I wanted to go to India and head south and possibly meet Sai Baba. Randy also wanted to do the same, but he had become involved in a torrid affair with Kathy that hadn’t burned itself out. We bid our farewells with the idea that we would meet up at the Sai Baba ashram which was in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Note: I will now intersperse my story with a letter I received from my friend Randy (Narayanadeva) after sharing what I had written of our journey in Nepal and India.

Dear Purushottama,

What a flash from the past. Thank you for this.  It brings so much back.  Your memory is like a video recording.  My memory is patchy with particular moments fuzzily framed. If you don’t mind I want to share what I can.

I believe if we hadn’t stopped where we had at that last village at 10,000 feet that we would have gotten into serious trouble.  There was a group with a broken leg still on the snowed-in trail was the story.

 I remember the couple.  The name Ben comes to mind and I can’t remember the name of the girl, Kathy is very close.  This was a significant time.

She was from the east coast, living in an artists and musicians commune, a photographer and roadie with Jethro Tull, I think.  The social and other experiments she participated in at such a tender age, this boy from Nebraska was challenged to comprehend.  In this respect she was much more worldly, wiser than me, an elder in a killer 20 something body.   

She was also the first lover in my life where the center of gravity and conversations were about spirituality, Buddha’s teachings in particular, and how to reconcile our limited understanding with what we saw in the monasteries and monks, which was then followed by the most present lovemaking for me up to that time.  We flew high, were consumed with each other, and parted consciously in mid bubble, purposely in crescendo. I review that time with joy and sadness. It is hard to think of that extraordinary woman and time without sometimes tearing. She was finished traveling, wanted to return to her art. I knew I didn’t want to go back to anything. I was sure I wanted to go forward. We knew but unspoken that to go further would have brought reality into the mix. We wanted to say goodbye in full bloom. Things like that were easier in your 20’s.  I must say probably the most, bitter sweet, intense affair I ever remember in a life riddled with less meaningful affairs.

I remember spending the winter in Kathmandu immersing myself in everything I could about the Buddha’s teaching, going to the temples, hanging with the monks, partaking in the local produce followed by the pie shops.  I was completely blown away and still am today about the psychology, the profound understanding of the science of the mind, but could not get my head around the asceticism. Why the monks, western included had to walk around in winter without shoes or why the poor food needed to be covered in flies.  Also the live translations of the Lama’s discourses by some very severe and grim western types.   If there was any juice in the teaching, these translators sucked it out and everything was completely lost in translation. I knew for me to go deeper I needed to be able to listen and speak about all this in my tongue.

This is also where the timing gets confused. I do not remember you during that winter.  I remember attending the Karmapa’s Black Hat ceremony after spending those cold months in study.  This is when I had the most profound experience with him.

The ceremony lasted several days.  There were many westerners mingled with the overflowing crowds of Tibetans.  The first few days I could not get into the hall but stood outside with the multitudes listening and catching glimpses through the barred windows of the pageantry.

There was one day that I did get in and sat with a few other westerners along with it seemed several hundred monks with the Karmapa on podium doing chants and mudras. The monks deep toned chanting in response, the horns, the incense, I got completely stoned.  When it was over, I lingered.  The hall was clearing out.  I stood in the middle looking up at all the hanging tangkas.  I turned around, a few people parted and there was the Karmapa sitting alone on his dais looking at me with an inviting smile a few meters away.   I was so shy and not sure what to do.  I smiled, bowed and retreated. 

The next day I could not get in. I was peering through the open air barred window being jostled back and forth by the crowds feeling the music and chanting; suddenly the Karmapa was at the window looking directly at me about 50 centimeters away. He had been making the rounds inside, blessing everyone in the hall.  He looked in my eyes and smiled. He threw water on my face and these words came into my head “Don’t worry, this path is not for everyone” Then he was gone.

I was so shocked. This was the confirmation.   Whenever I think of this I feel I was blessed by this very extraordinary being. How he got those words clearly into a very confused mind was magical.

It was not long afterward that I headed south and planned to go to Sai Baba’s ashram as we had planned, on my way to Madras before heading back to the states.  As you remember we gave Sai Baba magical powers and were convinced he was going to help us financially.

I got to Bombay and stayed at the Salvation Army behind the Taj Mahal hotel.  The very place you and I stayed on our first nights in India coming by boat for 10 days from Madagascar and Mauritius.  Do you remember waking up to the Shiva Baba’s with their pythons and cobras, the junkies some dyed from head to toe in blue, including one with a blue dog, the color of the local antiseptic? What a circus before we took a train to the edge of town and hitched our way to Nepal.  Do you remember the time a truck stopped for us and we threw our packs into the back, climbed up and jumped into a truck full of cow shit along with our packs?  Do you remember all the chillum brakes at the roadside temples?  Or the nights in small villages waking up to thousands of the same face staring at us with vacant eyes and all with small pocked scars, village after village the same?  

When I was in New Delhi, I heard that there was a Meher Baba center and so I visited during one of their evenings. Upon hearing that I was on my way to visit Satya Sai Baba, an older Baba lover suggested that I go see a rebel of a guru named Rajneesh. I remembered the name and said that I did have in mind possibly stopping there as well. He told me that the Rajneesh ashram was in Poona, just a couple of hours by train from Bombay. He also said that although Satya Sai Baba was not in Poona, there was some kind of Baba center there. At this point, it became clear to me that I would indeed head to Poona.

Walking out of the Poona train station, I found a rickshaw and told the driver to take me to the Sai Baba center. I said, “Sai Baba center, not Rajneesh ashram.” “Yes, yes,” he replied. I had decided that I would first go to the Sai Baba center and then check out the Rajneesh ashram.

As we got nearer and nearer to our destination I saw increasing numbers of young western people dressed in orange clothes. By this time, I had been exposed to a couple of Rajneesh sannyasins and so recognized what I was seeing. We arrived at a large gate and on the top was written Shree Rajneesh Ashram. A large blonde German fellow greeted me and I heard myself say, “I don’t think I am where I was going, but I know that I’m in the right place.”

The first thing that I read from Osho (I will now begin to refer to Rajneesh by the name he took only a few months before leaving this planet) spoke directly to me. There was no space; no separation between the words and my self, there was an immediacy. It was clear within days that I would not be going on to the Sai Baba ashram; I had found the living Master I was looking for. I had arrived just weeks before a major celebration day, March 21st, honoring Osho’s day of Enlightenment. I took initiation, became a sannyasin and did a couple of groups. During this time I read one of Osho’s books called The Silent Explosion. At the very end of the book was the story of an Indian sannyasin who had gone to Sikkim and visited the Karmapa at his Rumtek Monastery. This was the same Lama that had been in Kathmandu months earlier. I had learned that he was highly respected in the Tibetan Buddhist community and was on par with or even more highly regarded than the Dalai Lama.

This is the story that was recounted:

     In 1972, Swami Govind Siddharth, an Osho sannyasin, visited the Tibetan Lama Karmapa, who had fled from Tibet and who at that timed lived in his Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. When Siddharth arrived, accompanied by his wife and two young daughters, the monastery was completely closed. In an interview at the time, he told of his initial disappointment at not meeting the Karmapa. Then all of a sudden, one monk came running out to tell him that he was immediately wanted inside by His Holiness. He went in and was greeted by the Karmapa as if he was expected there. The Karmapa never even knew anything about him beforehand as he had not made an appointment… he knew nothing about him except that he was dressed in the faded orange of early neo-sannyas.

     Of Lama Karmapa, it was said he was a ‘Divine Incarnation’, a Bodhisattva. In Tibet, they believe that whosoever attains to Buddhahood, and then by their own wishes is born again to help people in the world is a divine incarnation — Bodhisattva. His Holiness was said to be the sixteenth incarnation of Dsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, who was born about 1110 AD.

     When Swami Siddharth first entered, the Karmapa immediately told him that he knew where he was from. He said, “I am seeing that you have somewhere some photograph or something which is printed on two sides, of your Master.” Siddharth answered that he had nothing like that which is printed on two sides. He had completely forgotten about the locket hanging from his mala with Osho’s photograph on both sides! There was an English woman who was acting as an interpreter, since the Lama Karmapa did not speak English. She immediately saw his mala and said, “What is this?” He then remembered that the locket was printed on two sides and he said, “This is the photograph of my Master.” She was curious to see it, so Siddharth took it off and showed it to her.

     Immediately, the Karmapa said, “That is it.” He took the locket of Osho in his hand and he touched it to his forehead and then said: “He is the greatest incarnation since Buddha in India — he is a living Buddha!” The Karmapa went on to say, “You may be feeling that he is speaking for you, but it is not only for you that he speaks. Rajneesh speaks for the Akashic records also, the records of events and words recorded on the astral planes. Whatever is spoken is not forgotten. That is why you will find that he goes on repeating things and you will feel that he is doing this for you, but, as a matter of fact, he speaks only for a few people.  Only a few people realize who Rajneesh is. His words will remain there in the Akashic records, so that they will also be helpful to people in the future.”

     The Karmapa went on to say that Osho had been with Siddharth in past lives. “If you want to see one of Rajneesh’s previous incarnations — who he was in Tibet — you can go to Tibet and see his golden statue there which is preserved in the Hall of Incarnations.” He continued to chat about Osho and his work, “My blessings are always there, and I know that whatever we are not going to be able to do to help others, Rajneesh will do.” He explained that one of the main aims of the Lamas in coming to India was to preserve their occult sciences. Osho from his side also confirmed this in his Kashmir lectures given in 1969. He said then, “The Dalai Lama has not escaped only to save himself, but to save the Tibetan religion, the meditation secrets and the occult sciences”

     The Karmapa went on to explain, “We have gotten these things from India in the past, and now we want to return them back. Now we have come to know that here is an incarnation, Rajneesh, who is doing our job in India and the world, and we are very happy about it. The world will know him, but only a few people will realize what he actually is. He will be the only person who can guide properly, who can be a World Teacher in this age, and he had taken birth only for this purpose.”

When I read this story I was very skeptical, because all devotees of gurus like to exaggerate the importance of their teachers. Although I believed the story must be based on some truth, I could not be sure what the Karmapa thought about Osho.

In the meantime, I had written to my friend Randy to tell him about Osho and the ashram and had sent it to American Express, Delhi, where I knew he would pick up mail. One day I went into the ashram office to check for a response and as I was walking down the steps leaving, coming through the gate was my friend Randy. He had never received my letter but had learned of Osho on his own.

Narayanadeva’s letter continues:

Anyway I returned to Bombay to catch a boat to Goa and then planned to go to Sai Baba by land.  I needed to get something to read.  The best bookstore I knew was at the Taj Mahal Hotel.  I went to the section on psychology and religion.  I was browsing when I swear this book fell on my big toe.  “Archarya Rajneesh” was the title.  The first page mentioned that he gave lectures in English and lived in Poona only one day away. 

Getting there, first person I meet is you.  And our stories join and the rest is history.

Brother, we shared some amazing times together.  I have forgotten so many of them.  It is a complete delight to hear from you with your photographic memory of those days.    We were so lucky. I am so grateful for that time.

Much Love to you my fellow traveler.

Narayanadeva a.k.a. Randy

I had by this time realized that my time traveling outside of the States was coming to an end. Taking sannyas was a new beginning for me and to be honest I wanted to return to my hometown and share this remarkable discovery. I had received a name for a meditation center that I would start. Randy, (who had become Narayanadeva by this point), and I said our farewells again with approximately the same plans to return to the States by going east from India through Thailand but with slightly different time frames.

On the plane from Bombay to Calcutta I sat next to a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He didn’t speak a word of English but there we were— he in his maroon robes and me in my orange clothes.

It might have been the first or second night of my stay in a Sutter Street guesthouse in Calcutta and in walked Ben, the American Tibetan Buddhist who had given me the contact info for Osho. I was very happy to see him. I had thought about him many times and was so grateful for his sharing and I wanted to tell him what I had found. We talked a bit and then he told me that coincidentally the Karmapa was in Calcutta and he was going to see him the next day at the Oberoi Hotel. He invited me to go with him. I was delighted. For one thing in the back of my mind was the Rumtek story and so I thought I would be able to see what the Karmapa actually did think about Osho for myself.

The Karmapa’s room was a corner one and Ben and I approached from one hallway and as we neared we could see an Indian sannyasin couple in orange approaching from the other direction. He was dressed in a lunghi and had a very long beard and long hair. She was dressed in an orange sari. They were Osho sannyasins and ran the Calcutta Osho center.

We all entered the room and were shown to sit just in front of the Karmapa who was seated on a sofa. He was immensely childlike, full of love and innocence and looked to be always on the verge of a good chuckle. He sat stroking the beard of the Indian sannyasin who was sitting slightly to his right. This in itself would have been enough to let me know what he thought of Osho but it was not all. Sitting next to him on the sofa he had propped up a copy of Sannyas Magazine (published at the ashram) with a photo of Osho beaming out on to our group.

At that point it did not matter whether the story that I had read was factual or not, I could see the connection between the Karmapa and Osho. That space out of which the Karmapa and the photo of Osho appeared was One.

Of course I had related the story to Ben when we met in Calcutta but after the meeting at the Oberoi we didn’t talk of it again. We were invited to a private Black Crown (Empowerment) Ceremony that was taking place at the home of a wealthy Indian woman later that evening. This is the same ceremony that took place months earlier at the Swayambhu Monastery in Kathmandu but that I had not been able to attend.

One of the first people I met after arriving at the house was the Tibetan monk who had sat next to me on the flight. As it turned out he had been traveling to join up with the Karmapa and return with him to Rumtek. He was as surprised as I was.

The ceremony was penetrating; to be in a room with Tibetan horns blaring is in itself a transformative experience. After the ceremony the few westerners that were there, I think maybe we were five, were invited into a side room where the Karmapa gave a teaching on Tilopa’s Song of Mahamudra. This is the most important text of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Osho had himself given a discourse series published as Tantra: the Supreme Understanding on this text, and I was traveling with the book.

Because the Karmapa didn’t speak English he had a translator, but his translator told us he was having a very difficult time translating this teaching into English. He was frustrated but the Karmapa was understanding and compassionate. This experience highlighted for me one of the advantages of having a teacher who spoke English. Osho’s words did not need to be translated and we were able to hear them directly without a filter.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to first spend some time with the Karmapa and then to take part in this mysterious ceremony. It was the only time I met the Karmapa. But my wife, Amido, and I did have a chance in 2006 to visit the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim where his relics are today housed.

-purushottama

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

I have recently come across the entire story of Govind Siddharth’s visit with the Karmapa A Visit to a Tibetan Monastery.

Another post related to Govind Siddharth’s visit with the Karmapa is Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami.

And another: The Enlightenment of Govind Siddharth.

Link to site for Tibetan Black Crown Ceremony.