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 Osho Would have been my Guru - Khushwant Singh

He adorns a bun on his head, wears a headgear, dons a beard, is a Sikh, yet the noted clumnist Dr. Khushwant Singh says he is an agnostic. Rational, yet he has a set of beliefs. Not a devout Sikh, however he translated the holy book Guru Granth Sahib for the love of it. Not ritualistic, he held the holy book, sipped whiskey and wores shoes on his feet while translating.

Daring, he claims he was foremost to lead a campaign against religious and fundamentalism. He writes to end prejudice towards minorities. Many expect him to convert to his religion, since he has written so well about the tenets of religion.

Singularly he condemned the fanaticism of Bhindrewalan, a Sikh militant who claimed to be the saviour of Sikh religion. He advised the Sikh panth (a religious group), to not to follow Bhindrawalan. He said Sikhs are essentially Indians, and to ask for a separate nation would lead to harakiri.

Unable to face the fear of death he pursues a punishing schedule. Up at 4.30 a.m. he reads a book each day and writes passionately for over 150 publications. He carries on with work irrespective of what goes around him. Satisfied as his writing influences public opinion around the world he said it is important to express a viewpoint even if it drew nasty mail.

We spoke to the veteran columnist whose words in their own way shape the thought processes of readers all over the country.

Excerpts:

When did you first meet Osho?
It must have been early 1970's when he resided in Woodlands, Bombay and I was the editor of an English magazine. Sardar Gurbaksh Singh, who now runs a school, did part time PR kind of work for Osho. He got an appointment for me to see Osho.

I went in the morning and was led to a large room lined with books all around. While I waited, I went around. I was surprized at the range of books: fiction, history and science... Just about every subject. I wondered how Osho coped up with all this and still ran this vast organization.

During the meeting Osho asked me, "Why do you come to see me?" I replied, "Quite honestly, I came as I was curious. I am an agnostic, I don't believe in God and I have only one problem. I can't tackle the fear of death and the fact that it is inevitable. I am unable to take it in its stride. I can't somehow come to terms with the fear of one's own death and that of other people.

Osho told me that the only way to get the better of it is to expose oneself to death. I had already done that. In acute depression or post a setback I would go to the cremation ground and just sit and watch. What seemed to me a real sorrow of a father who lost a child, the only child, would make my own problem small and trivial. It did cleanse me of some of it however not totally.

Osho advised that I expose myself to more of it. "I have no other advise to give you on this particular subject just for the moment", he said.

With this ended the first and only meeting I had with him.

How is Osho different?
Soon after meeting him I began to read his books. I was very impressed that there is one teacher who is higly erudite. All the others - the prophets were illiterate and something came out of them. Yet they lacked this kind of erudition and the study of other faiths as he had.

he could talk about any subjects - religion, psychology, his range and vision was enormous and unmatchable.

The strong point is his lucidity, there is no confusion about what he said.

Also he impressed me as he liberated people from their preconceived notions, superstitions and beliefs. So I got more books to read. I kept reading.

Once, as a writer I was asked to write about the best book I have read during the year by a leading English daily - The Times Of India. I mentioned three and I put Osho's book on top. My readers were very surprized because I normally included fiction. I had had to explain why.

Did you meet him again?
I went to Osho Commune, Pune, however, Osho was not well. I didn't even ask to see him because I felt that was imposition. I spent talking to people, including his secretary in India, Ma Yog Neelam and many others. Thereafter I just read his sermons and Osho Times, the international English monthly magazine. I quoted Osho many times in my columns.

What do you value most about Osho?
I can say he comes closest to, if I have any faith to answering my questions. I find many contradictory things about him. But that's all. I remember very distinctly when I talked to him on the issue of rebirth I said that there is no basis for believeing in rebirth and he seemed to agree with me. Now I see in his writings, he does talk about it. So I am a little confused about his views and there are some other aspects, which I couldn't quite reconcile with my image of the man and his teachings. But I find them not particularly important.

I think the key message that I have imbibed from him is to free your mind of the cobwebs in there and clear it. Like on the matters of God, life on earth and life hereafter. That is why I value the little I know of him.

How do you view death?
Well, that's very simple. I am eighty-seven years old and the fear of death still haunts me. I have not been able to overcome the fear of death. Of self and that of others. The closer I come to the time the more it bothers me. It keeps coming intp my mind the whole time. I argue myself out of it and say that it is inevitable.

Moreover the limitations of an aged body irritate me because I can't read tiny print size. My eyes are weak. I can't go for walks any more. But I religiously go for a swim every afternoon.

Therefore I just pack every minute of my life with what I like to do with fulfillment. Not pursue money or material things. I lead a very punishing schedule of work which I enjoy doing. Up at 4.30 in the morning, I don't waste time on prayer. I just get down to work, reading good stuff, writing the little I can to the best of my capacity.


What is your viewpoint on rebirth?

I am still absolutely certain that there is no positive proof for any rational person to accept it. It makes more sense vis-a-vis the Juadaic belief of the Last Day of Judgement that people will rise. That's childish. This is my way of thinking. But rebirth that makes a little semblance of sense has also no basis for it.

I quote my interview with Dalai Lama. I went to see him some years ago in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh and I put the same thought to him. I told him, I am an agnostic. I don't believe in God and I don't think it is important to believe in God. It has nothing to do with making a person evil or good. He roared into laughter and said, "I'm a Buddhist, I don't believe in God, you work out your own."

I replied, "But you believe in reincarnation." He confirmed he did. I asked for a minimum of one scientific basis for his belief in reincarnation. He gave two-three usual stories about some child having retained the memory of his previous birth and who recognized his parents. I told him, "Your Holiness, you agree with me that these are childhood fantasies of children brought up in the belief of the previous birth and after. Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Hindus from childhood are told that you get the fruit of the deeds of the previous life. I requested for one instance of a Muslim child who recalls his previous birth. Again he roared with laughter and said, "If I didn't believe in reincarnation, I'd be out of business". This was a very honest and straight reply.

I still find no reason to believe in rebirth and reincarnation. Until there is positive proof, I will not accept these stories.

What about the thin line between faith and reason?
Well there isn't a thin line. Where reason ends the honest man's answer should be - I don't know. That is my usual answer when people tell me about the Gods, the Gurus or the scriptures. They ask, "Have you no faith?" My reply is that unless it makes sense, I will not accept the theory of having faith in it. If you agree you should honestly say I don't know.

Osho always said, he is a fellow traveler, he never projected himself as God.

I agree. I'm entirely on his side on the fact that he could deliberately introduce a Joke at the end of every sermon, and sometimes more than risque jokes, the use of four-letter words. I feel that was a calculated attempt to squash this tendency of people to make him into a divinity, which I think goes entirely in his favour. He did his best not to be made into a Godman.


Did he demystify any such image in the human mind?

Yes.

What do you admire most about Osho?
I have written an introduction to one of his books based on whatever I have read. He wrote so much that it is difficult to say that I have read everything. I have not. I wrote this introduction because of a genuine admiration for the man who had the courage to speak his mind.

What do you have to say about Osho's interpretation of the Japji Sahib?
I have his tapes on the Japji and I don't think anyone has explained Japji with more lucidity than Osho. I have translated the Japji, the short morning prayer and I am surprized how much more he was able to read into Japji. I had two or three audio sets which were borrowed by my Sikh friends and have not returned. They are the treasure of Sikh homes. These Sikhs are very impressed with his interpretation.

In a small town like Kasauli where I spend my summer, I was surprized to find regular meetings of the Osho groups celebrating. What occassionally amuses me is his very distinct Hindi pronunciation of words because he has such a great command of the language when it comes to writing. But when it comes to speaking, his Madhya Pradesh Hindi occassionally intrudes in which I find more amusing than anyone else.

If you ever had a Guru in life, who would it be?
Osho. Yes certainly Osho.

 

 

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