| MA DEVA PRIYA
Experiencing A 21 Day Silent Retreat
Priya got nudged by existence and decided to immerse herself in a 21 day silent retreat at Osho Nisarga.
A good friend of mine from Spain, Santoshi already did two silent retreats at Nisarga and when she was sharing her experiences with me on Osho’s birthday last year, I had a feeling that existence was giving me a message. Or maybe it was a kick? The kick being that now is the right time for me to go ‘in’. Santoshi gave me the book “Meditation: The Art of Ecstasy” where Osho explains the structure and techniques of all meditations including silent retreat. Suddenly Osho’s words sank in: “Don’t postpone. Do it now!”
January is the coldest month in Osho Nisarga. I always escape this time of the year and go to sunny Goa. But this was the first time that an urgent longing came to me, having to do this retreat now. The first challenge was for me to prepare my body for the daily routine of the retreat which started with Dynamic meditation. This meant getting up early at 6 am, taking a bath and then going for the meditation. I was surprised to see how my body adapted to this new structure and all my previous fears about the cold disappeared. Looking in, I realized that my inner being seemed to be in harmony with my body and that there was no split.
As Osho explains in the book, I did Dynamic and Kundalini meditations every day and went for long walks in the forest. Other than that, there were just silent sittings. No Osho discourses, no words, no emails, no mobiles, no TV, no music, no external stimuli. It was absolute seclusion.
I did have numerous thoughts, many voices coming loud and clear, and countless situations of my life repeating themselves as if they were real again. But in spite of this there was no depression, no anger, no sexuality, and no catharsis. It was a stable and constant energy.
Gaps of no mind happened and in Kundalini meditation I experienced amazing shaking that has never happened to me before. Nature seemed more beautiful and close to me. From my veranda I could see the fresh snow clad mountains, hear the sound of the river, witness the new arrival of winter birds in deep maroon with long blue beaks and become one with their singing and chirping. Sunny days were even more beautiful to sit outside and merge with nature. Existence was right. This was the perfect time for me to go on this journey.
Evenings were special. I would decorate my room with candles and incense which made it very sacred. With the room heater and a shawl wrapped around me it was nice and cosy. I did the silent sitting during the White Robe and the energy was just like meditating in a temple.
During the retreat I had a lot of clarity and insight about what ever negativity I had previously faced in my life. I also felt to have to thank some of my family and friends for always being there for me. Above all I felt a lot of gratitude for Osho for showing me a precious key to continue discovering my inner space.
After the 21 days of silence my re-entry in the world made me realize how vulnerable and sensitive I had become. I also felt that the effects of my journey will keep unfolding over time and that I have to slowly absorb this process as it is a much deeper and subtle phenomenon than I can comprehend.
“My sannyasins have to take life very playfully – then you can have both the worlds together. You can have the cake and eat it too. And that is a real art. This world and that, sound and silence, love and meditation, being with people, relating, and being alone. All these things have to be lived together in a kind of simultaneity; only then will you know the uttermost depth of your being and the uttermost height of your being.”
The Dhammapadda: The Way of the Buddha Vol. 2, Ch 2, Q 2
First Published in http://www.oshonews.com/2012/02/21-day-silent-retreat/
Sannyas is For The Adventurous Soul
Sannyas for me has been a beautiful journey of this life. It started when I was four months old. Osho blessed me and gave me the name Priya. I was one year old when I first attended the meditation camp in Mount Abu in 1970. Obviously I have no memory of it but the feelings are very strong of being around him. As a little girl I was very attracted to him. I was pulled towards his presence. I remember playing with hair on his chest and feeling very warm and secure there.
I was too young to know the actual meaning of sannyas and meditation. I was hardly seven years old when I went to Pune and took sannyas in 1976. It was a natural feeling to be initiated by him and to be closer to him. And I always wanted to be a part of his orange group and wear the mala. I loved everything about him, not only his physical presence but his commune throbbing of happy and joyous people. I used to feel elated as I would enter the gates of 17 Koregaon Park. It was a different life – a life of freedom, intelligence, independence, bliss- a life that was not being lived anywhere else in the world.
I often visited Pune for a few months every year as and when I would get my school holidays. It used to be the best time for me as I would love wearing the robe and hang out in the beautiful tranquil landscape of the commune. I used to love doing the kundalini meditation even though I would fall asleep in the last stage of silence - the guards would come and wake me up. The kirtan celebrations at Daddaji’s house were enchanting. The Radha Hall which used to be next to Osho’s Lao Tzu house and is now the bookshop used to be the place where the musicians would create music in the evenings. They would have a candle in the middle and play on their different instruments. The ambience and the vibrant energy were so heavenly that I was magnetically drawn to it. I also loved attending the music group with Anubhavo and Anita singing Osho songs. This created a wonderful heart space enveloping the entire Buddha Hall. As I was small I could not understand all what Osho said but still I loved to go for the morning discourses and be in his presence.
The seeds of meditation were planted very early in my childhood. These seeds flowered as I became a part of the commune in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon, USA. I was 12 years old by then. It was a different phase of Osho’s work. There were no more flowing robes but rough tough clothing suitable for hard work that was needed to transform a muddy ranch into an oasis. Work was meditation and I learnt a different meaning of sannyas. With twelve hours of hard work the city was abuzz with ecstasy. It was about being in harmony with the sangha - the commune was the focus. We all had left our countries, families and committed ourselves to the Buddha field. With thousands of people from different countries working together and living a communal life was very challenging indeed. It was a device created by Osho where totality and surrender were the central themes. Only the ones who loved him absolutely and had the longing to be with him at any cost could survive this unique experiment of Rajneeshpuram.
As Osho says: “The greatest courage in the world is to drop the known for the unknown. It is only for the adventurous soul. Sannyas is not for all; it cannot be. It is not for the herd mentality. It is only for the few -- the few lions who can rush roaring from the known into the unknown.”
My sannyas took many flavors as I grew. After four years of the ranch I went out in the world to study and pass my high school. Those two years of separation from him were very painful. I understood his vision of a multidimensional life but missed his presence. Soon he called me back in Pune two in 1988 where I studied and did all my degrees as well as lived and worked in the commune. That was a complete life in every way. It was being in the world and yet my roots were in sannyas. I lived those years of his vision of Zorba the Buddha – rich in all dimensions. I did extremely well in my education, lived a wild life in the commune, worked and meditated and lived in his presence. It was really a rich and juicy life.
Even after he left his body the commune meant a lot for me. It was my home I had loved. It was a vast gathering of friends with whom I had gone through many intimate experiences and shared the same longing. I had always loved Osho’s vision of the commune – where meditation brought thousands of us together.
As my yearning for the inner grew I discovered his Hindi discourses which I was unable to understand when I was young. I was completely mesmerized by his poetic sonorous voice and his command over the Hindi language. There was suddenly so much treasure that I had to explore. I started listening to various series of discourses and finding a space in me that took me to another dimension of sannyas. Now sannyas for me means more of exploring my interiority, moving towards my center, to find what meditation is all about. Living now in Dhramsala at Osho Nisarga, in the serenity and majesty of the Himalayas where I organize and participate in different meditative groups and therapies, I feel fortunate to have the space to be rooted in my inner stillness.
And my meditation voyage still continues unfolding my wings to fly high in the open sky. It is an unending journey.
Joy at Workplace
The first time I started work was when I was 12 years old in Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, USA. As I was studying in Ko Hsuan School our commune program included work in the evenings for a few hours. We often changed our departments as Osho wanted all the kids to learn different skills and explore in different dimensions of the commune. I was given all kinds of work from cleaning to chopping veggies to baking yummy cakes and muffins in the kitchen, to finance – taking care of cash and accounts of our ranch, to working with the tough guys in the construction crew, to designing jewelry and learning the finest details of stone work.
Work was called worship. People would ask each other “Where do you worship?” It was a beautiful revelation to me that by simply using the word "worship" the whole quality of work would change. Our work space would become a place of meditation. The commune was a rare experiment to learn flexibility, to learn non- possessiveness and move in different work situations. It was impossible to hold on to any position or status at work for too long. There were no higher or lower jobs. A toilet cleaner would be as much respected as a secretary in an office. In fact a periodical rotation of jobs was a must for everyone.
Even though the set up of the commune was to work for twelve to fourteen hours a day - all the seven days of the week, yet the atmosphere was of joy and playfulness. This was the magic of being in the presence of an enlightened master. Work was out of our love for him and not out of ambition, there was no goal but a deep gratitude of being surrounded by His presence. There was no reward or punishment – just the satisfaction of being in the commune was the fulfillment.
Hence, the nature of work did not matter. It was the quality of joy and celebration that made work so much fun.
In the last year of the ranch I was sent to the commune in Hamburg, Germany for six months. This was the exchange program where the kids from other European communes could come and be with Osho at the ranch and we were sent in place of them. No two friends were sent together to the same commune, the emphasis was to explore the unknown, to work and be in a totally new country, in a new environment. I had the most enjoyable time discovering the place and making new friends. I loved working in the creative department designing advertisements, in the evenings I would work in the commune restaurant learning different cuisines. On the weekends I was sent to Hannover which is a two hour
drive from Hamburg to help in the Zorba the Buddha discotheque. I have never been as joyous as I was then doing so many diverse jobs at such a young age, I have often asked myself – Was it presence of Osho? Or was it my totality, my longing to be with him? Every time I see the ranch videos I am amazed to see our faces radiating joy and bliss that are not seen in the world outside. From the exterior it appeared a tough life as the whole emphasis was on work but it was through work that we all went through major transformations internally. It was not work in the ordinary sense; but the Master's device to create situations for our growth.
In Pune commune I was given more responsible jobs of working in the finance and legal departments. This involved more presence of mind. And there was another aspect of watching ourselves how we behaved with each other when we had differences with our co-workers and coordinators. Situations did create some conflicts or heaviness that easily evaporated during our daily evening meditations. Just sitting, singing, dancing, celebrating at the feet of the master, and listening to his words in deep silence would wash away all our tensions and conflicts. We could joyfully laugh off and become unburdened and fresh again. Disturbing thoughts, stress at work, unnecessary anxiety would simply melt away. Dynamic meditation in the morning and white robe in the evening was the key to all kinds of crisis.
Now I happen to be the part of the administrative set up at Osho Nisarga, a meditation center in the Himalayas. Once again it is a new situation--quite isolated location, far away from the city life of Pune which I got used to and where I had the maximum number of friends. Sometimes it is also quite challenging to continuously be here and work with people all day. But the master-key that I continue to possess remains the same: Understanding my own individuality and respecting the uniqueness of other individuals, it makes the place a sacred space where we continue to blossom. And of course the daily meditations, the beautiful groups and programs keep on flowing in the foot-hills of majestic Himalayas! Though some times we may forget that work is worship, which is quite possible and very human too.
The More Intelligent A Person, The More Bored He is
What is boredom? I frequently ask this question to myself. It is one of my strongest issues, especially after Osho left his body.
I live a life of sannyas which is breathing in adventure. It is a life of insecurity, of taking risks. I like to take the challenge of the dangerous which keeps me on the path of awareness. And the longing is to find the inner stillness that can help me to transcend the restlessness that I devour from outside situations. Only then boredom can disappear.
As long as he was alive - life had a purpose, a meaning. His presence was an uplifting drug. Living in his communes while he was alive was an immense learning. Everyday I would get up with the feeling of being blessed to have yet another day to be in His Buddha field. Living a life so closely with an enlightened master and a maverick man like Osho is living on a razor’s edge, everyday was different and intense. It was a multidimensional life, rich from every angle from work to meditation to having fun with friends from all over the world. I remember writing in my journal pages and pages about the different experiences I would have.
It only hit me in 96, few years after Osho left - a vacuum started to envelop me. I started to miss the vibrant throbbing energy I felt in his presence. I enjoyed working and doing different jobs, friends and relationships but underneath a void stayed. The feeling of ‘What is next in my life now’? Unfortunately this feeling still continues and I have no answer to it. There is really nothing on the outside that satisfies me. Maybe because I lived such powerful years with Osho at such an early age that now everything on the external feels too small of that experience. I know the answer is only meditation and I have been working on it for years. I have been lucky to do various meditation groups in Osho Nisarga in the Himalayas and had beautiful insights from it which have been a great help. In fact with meditation all the problems come up to the surface, they get more clear and obvious.
I recently did Satori group where boredom is used as a technique. The whole structure is designed to bore you to death. We had to give away our mobiles, our watches, laptops. The group was in silence, the only talking was inside the group. We were not allowed to go outside, not allowed to entertain ourselves in any way. We had to keep on asking the same koan “Tell me, who is in” over and over in the group room from early morning till late night for seven days. The whole idea of this process is to bring boredom to such a point where no escape is possible and one has to go through a breakthrough. When boredom reaches to a crescendo and becomes unbearable – from that extreme a jump happens and boredom disappears, because the mind itself disappears. This is the whole method of Satori. The first two days were difficult - few participants even quit the group. The others only thought of it but had the courage to stay on. On the fourth day most of us felt a sudden shift when the mind gives up and relaxes and this is the turning point. It was crystal clear to see the whole mechanism of the mind in this makeup.
As I have been in Dharamsala I have closely watched Tibetans do their rituals and repeat mantras which after a while sounds extremely dull and monotonous. All the monks look alike with shaven heads and similar robes. Their faces have no individuality. Their lives have no thrill. They live in the same monasteries, eat the same food, and do the same meditation year in and year out.
As a philosophy student in college years back, I was fascinated by Jean Paul Sartre when I read his book ‘Being and Nothingness’. I could relate to existentialism, which has boredom the central theme of thinking. I could connect with the concept of inner anguish which is all pervasive, a universal condition of man’s existence. There are times in our life where we all have feelings of despair, alienation, meaninglessness. Life seems so futile, so repetitive. One feels like a cog in the wheel doing the same thing over and over. Questions like ‘Who am I’, ‘Where am I going’, ‘Is this all to life?’ do arise.
But for these questions to emerge certain sensitivity is needed. An average mind does not have this query. Common man is so engaged in the mundane - in job, family, kids, success and money. There are several entanglements that one is occupied with that really there is no time to feel boredom. I observe people around; they hardly have the same inquiry that is simmering inside me.
As Osho says “The more intelligent a person, the more bored he is in this world. Buddha became bored with the whole nonsense that is called life. He became bored with birth, he became bored with love and he became bored with death. Religion is nothing but a search to get out of this boring existence, how to get out of awagaman – this constant coming and going, this continuous birth and death. It is boring! It has nothing new in it.”
“First to see boredom certain intelligence is needed and then to go beyond boredom tremendous intelligence is needed”.
Guilt: A By Product of Hypocritical Society
Having been born and brought up so close to Osho and been often in his presence, my life has been very unusual. I lived in most of His communes, from Pune 1 to the Ranch to Pune 2, and it has not been a standard routine life in any way. Living with a master like Osho is living a very natural, authentic, fearless life. It is far away from the conditionings and boundaries of the mainstream world. So, the concept of guilt does not exist in my mind, heart or being.
But yes, when I think of my childhood days in the convent school, I can remember the collective psyche of the school which was based on fear and guilt. The whole teaching was on perfecting your manners and on having a good character; on whether you were a good or a bad student; on reward and punishment, all of which are the basic fundamentals of Christian philosophy. It is amusing that when I left school I even got a character certificate, a certificate of code of conduct. In contrast, Osho has a totally different attitude towards life. He talks of having consciousness rather than a conscience or a character; He does not talk about the past but about here and now. Guilt is related only to the past. But the past is past; it is gone and gone forever – so why worry about it? But to remember not to repeat the same mistake again needs more awareness. Christianity continues to harp on repentance whereas Osho awakens us to self-remembrance, awareness and love.
As a child I used to find a big contrast in these two worlds, a world that I used to see in school and a world that existed at my home where Osho’s discourses were being played every day.
The atmosphere in school was very depressing with the serious and strict nuns around who encouraged competitiveness in every student at such a young age. If you did not do well academically, feelings of fear and shame were forced into you, making you feel that you were not good enough. The feelings of guilt about not being the topper create a situation where deep cut-throat competition is taught at a young sensitive age. I used to wonder…. With a class of fifty students and only one can top the rank, should all the others develop feelings of inferiority?
It almost felt inhuman to see the teachers and the nuns punish the kids for every small mistake, like forgetting to bring a notebook, or not doing the homework. It is so humiliating to a child to be punished in front of a big class. All the feelings of unworthiness and guilt that completely destroy natural growth are ingrained from these early experiences in school. Only an obedient student was a good student; it had nothing to do with intelligence.
My life would suddenly be elated as I would walk through the beautiful gates of the Osho Commune in Pune during my summer holidays; the whole ambiance would change to love, laughter and joy; Thousands of sannyasins in orange robes looking so happy and shining with an amazing glow and radiance that I had never seen in the normal world ever. As a six-year-old I could not understand what Osho was actually saying in his discourses but I could feel the vibrant energy of the whole commune throbbing with ecstasy. I was in a mad love affair with Osho, with his radiant presence and his commune, a commune with a vision that would mark a milestone in the consciousness of humanity.
What a school the commune school was! Its name was ‘No School’ – unlike any school anywhere. The kids were given so much respect and care. Each child was considered a unique individual with a great potential and was taught to explore his or her own talent. So there was no question of comparison, fear, guilt. Instead the whole idea was on accepting and loving oneself. It was a world I fell in love with totally and I knew this commune life would be my home forever.
At the age of 12, I went to America and became part of the commune in Oregon. My school, ‘Ko Hsuan’, was the most enriching experience of my life. There were no examinations, no grading, no ranking. The teachers were simple loving guides who helped us to find our potential in whichever field we had the aptitude for. It was a very relaxing school as the whole energy could finally go into being oneself without the effort to compete. We could be in nature and write poetry, do creative writing and painting. We were sent into different departments in the commune to learn different skills, from photography to jewelry design, from cooking to accounts. Along with sharpening our academic skills and intellect, love and meditation were at the heart of the commune. Unlike my convent school, where the ranking was only on memory and obedience, the emphasis here was on intelligence, playfulness, rebelliousness – an invitation to live a wild natural life as well as have roots in meditation. It was a complete education in every way.
After four years of being in America, I came back to India and joined in a regular college in Pune. I was surprised to see how easy studies had become for me. All my fear and anxiety of exams had disappeared. It was so simple to get a masters degree and excel in all the subjects. I had discovered an internal confidence and strength in myself that I had never known before. In fact I had learnt to love and respect myself. I had learnt to live life according to my own intelligence. I had become available to my own inner guide and not to the control of any outer authority.
As I lived more and more in the communes where sincerity and authenticity were the core foundation of Osho’s vision, the concept of guilt did not exist. The model of a commune was based on being natural, on being free, open to live life in all its dimensions -- be it physical, psychological or spiritual. There was no division between any worlds, rather an encouragement to synthesize and to find harmony between the inner and the outer. With this upbringing it was impossible to have the feelings of guilt. In fact I found nothing in this world around me that I could feel guilty about.
Guilt is only a byproduct of a hypocritical society. It can only exist if you live a repressed, double-standard life which creates complexities, pathologies or other insanities. Guilt means to have an unnatural idea in the mind about how life should be or of what should be done. And if one day you find yourself enjoying the small joys of life, being natural and spontaneous, you feel ashamed of going against your own ideologies. Such a situation creates guilt. And this certainly is a sad state of mind. It is a kind of inner suicide on a subtle level and unfortunately, most of the people live in this state.
I feel blessed to have lived with Osho so intensely in my early years in a rare experiment in the form of a commune. It was a commune that heralded a new consciousness for the world, where life was an expansion, a benediction. With guilt you shrink and imprison your being into a cocoon. And with love and celebration, you grow wings to fly high in the sky.
“My people are the first people in the whole of history who are life-affirmative. All other religions are life-negative. Their function is finished; they are no longer of any use. Life-affirmative people are needed. And if you are overflowing with life, it is contagious, it starts infecting other people. So wherever you are, rejoice, celebrate. Help your love, your life, your laughter to spread all over the world.”
From Death to Deathlessness, Chapter #15