Have you ever found yourself in a place so bizarre and ridiculous that all you can do is laugh to yourself and think “Where the f**k am I? Is this place for real?!?!?!?” ? Well, this is precisely what happened to me during my stay at the Osho Commune in Pune. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so I don’t have any photos to document just how strange the entire place is. Sometimes my curiosity lands me in the most absurd places and there is absolutely no embellishment in what follows…

I really dig a lot of what Osho has written (though Osho never really “wrote” anything and the 600 + books to his name are really just transcriptions of discourses he gave) and thought that while I’m living in India it would be interesting to visit the commune and a good opportunity to practice “openness” and “non-attachment to view.” I really didn’t think much about what to expect when I decided to visit Osho Land but within seconds of my arrival when I was greeted by a man that looked like an Indian version of Kenny G I realized I was in for quite an interesting experience. I’m pretty open minded, have done enough weird shit in my life so I figured I’d just roll with the whole “Osho experience” and make the most of my time there. Though I did bypass having a past life regression and opted for an extra plate of organic broccoli instead and I also managed to escape the commune to check out the Iyengar Yoga Studio in Pune which was really, really cool.

The Osho Commune is a cross between a space station and a Zen paradise and is really nothing more than a bizarre, new age spa where wealthy people go to have an “experience” (myself included).  When I arrived I found out that the Commune is also called the “Osho International Meditation Resort” and upon discovering this I seriously thought I’d ditch the whole idea of staying at the “Resort.” I felt ashamed of myself for wasting money in such a ridiculous manner because I am really trying to live more simply but I was already there and just so tired and at the very least figured it would make for a good story.

No matter how hard I tried it was impossible for me to take anything that went on there seriously. In fact, my stomach is sore from laughing so much at the ridiculousness of it all and I was actually reprimanded and almost kicked out of a few “meditation sessions” for laughing too much. But it was just so totally insane I couldn’t help laughing! In order to get rid of our deep conditioning we were asked to speak in “gibberish” for an hour, act like animals (I had to bark like a dog and act like a cat) and my personal favorite—”connecting with our inner child” where we had to crawl around, scream, cry and act like babies/infants while screaming “mommy!” How could I not laugh hysterically? Ouch, my stomach is still hurting from laughing so much! On the third day I had to call my big brother and my friend Gina in the States to share how it was this insane new age spiritual supermarket!

Upon my arrival I had to take an AIDS test (some of you know about Osho’s liberal views on sex) and after a lengthy registration process I was escorted by this Ewok looking man to get my “robe.” In order to participate in any of the activities you have to wear a maroon robe (don’t ask but the maroon color has to do with energetics or something). A middle aged Indian man who insisted on calling me “baby girl” picked out my “robe” which was really just a tight fitting, scandalous, backless maroon dress. I figured I’d never do anything like this again so I put on the “robe” but also managed to snag a maroon shawl too. Staying at the Osho Commune isn’t cheap but there are tennis courts (they call it zenis), a pool, a sauna and access to all of the “meditation sessions.” The food is pretty affordable and excellent but there is no money at the commune and you have to buy everything using “Osho Vouchers.” When I was there I really felt like I was caught in an episode of the twilight zone and I had to wonder if anyone else there took it seriously! I could literally hear Osho laughing at what his devotees had made of this place because in so many ways it goes against a lot of what he stood for.

Every evening the entire compound shuts down for the “Evening Meditation” in the Osho Auditorium which is futuristic looking structure with a large marble hall inside. You have to wear a white “robe” for the evening meditation (again it has to do with energetics). As you enter live music is playing which is a cross between John Tesh and Yanni and you are expected to just totally let go and dance. There were probably more than 500 people in the hall dancing like crazy and I figured I’d just have fun with it and try and get in a good workout too so I just did the little capoeira I know and jumped up and down like a maniac. After dancing for some time all of a sudden the music stops and we had to throw our hands up in the air, jump and scream “OSHO!” Everyone got so into it and it totally weirded me out. After dancing and screaming “OSHO!” we then watched a discourse Osho had given on Zen and I actually really enjoyed this. Even though the entire commune is completely strange I still think a lot of what Osho has written is right on. But after the discourse you have to start screaming like crazy. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. On my right a man with a heavy South Indian accent was screaming in Telegu and to my left a middle-aged Californian woman screamed demonically “Mother F****r!” I just sat there in the middle laughing hysterically at how bizarre it all was. Then after the screaming we have to stop suddenly, maintain silence and lie down in savasana. After savasana the “Evening Meditation” is over and we leave. As I was leaving all these people were saying how great the meditation was and I just thought to myself, “When the hell did we meditate? I thought we just danced like fools and screamed like idiots with a pretty cool Osho talk sandwiched in between.”

So, I’m all for being friendly and hugging people I know but getting down with strangers is just not my thing. My second day I was quietly reading “Old Path, White Clouds” while sipping chai at the “Zorba the Buddha” Café not to far from the “Osho Plaza” and “Buddha Grove” and all of a sudden Daddy Yankee starts blasting and this incredibly beautiful but of course bizarre Brazilian man just picks me up and grabs me (apparently he was excited because he thought I was Puerto Rican—I haven’t been mistaken for being Puerto Rican since I was living in NYC 5 years ago!) and at that moment I decided that I had had enough. After two days I’d had my fill of amusing stories from sketchy encounters with strange men and I made a sign that said “practicing silence” pinned it to my “robe,” wrapped myself in my maroon shawl and boycotted all activities except for the sitting silent meditation which was held three times a day at hour long intervals in a really nice marble meditation hall with of course a large Osho statue erected in it (but right before you enter the hall there is a dentist chair—I never really got why that was there). I really enjoyed these sitting sessions because I rarely get a chance to sit like this and focus on my breathe, posture and awareness. (There was also an “Osho Vipassana Sitting” but it was pretty different from Goenka-ji and we weren’t even told to scan.) Aside from these silent sitting sessions, which were held in the morning, early afternoon and late afternoon I just read, swam and relaxed. But in order to swim in the pool or use the sauna you have to wear a maroon “Osho” bathing suit which was of course scandalous and the type of thing I would only bust out in Brazil but I figured “When in Rome…” There was this crazy Scandinavian woman that monopolized the sauna and every 15 minutes she would just start yodeling! It was totally insane! I think in addition to taking an AIDS test you should have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to visit the commune. I know I am totally judging here and have a LONg way to go but the whole Osho path seems so selfish to me. I really believe with all my heart that “To whom much is given, much is expected” and while I understand you can’t really know if you are truly helping if you aren’t enlightened there is absolutely no real emphasis on protecting the environment and helping others but I know that wasn’t what Osho was about.

Even though I totally failed with practicing “openness” I think that even Thich Nhat Hanh would have found the whole “Osho experience” beyond absurd. And just how I thought a lot of what went on there was ridiculous and strange I’m sure if someone walked in on my sangha singing Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village songs they would think we were a bunch of weirdos too—it’s all relative I guess. So, if you are into reading Osho I would suggest sticking to just reading his stuff and not visiting the commune in Pune unless you are only looking for a really good laugh—which you will definitely get. I’m glad I spent a few days there, I have no regrets. I’ve had enough laughter to last the next few years and it was such an amusing way to start my Winter Travels! I’ll be laughing about this whole experience for years to come! I haven’t even shared half of the insanity I encountered there. I could write a novel about the characters I encountered there.  Still, I did meet some genuinely sweet people there. I met a young man with down syndrome  who I really connected with and unlike me he was able to just not judge and truly roll with the “Osho Experience.” When I was in Middle School I spent every study hall volunteering in my school’s Special Education classroom and worked at a school for autistic children the summer before I went to college and always felt like I was being helped more than I was helping.

I just arrived in Aurangabad and am off to visit the Ellora Caves but just had to send out this email—I’ve been laughing so much and writing this has helped me let a lot out. I have to stop laughing to myself or else people will think I’m crazy! My stomach is really sore, ouch! I don’t think it is possible to laugh this much. In fact, I was thinking about one of our interpretive dance sessions this morning and I walked into a glass door, ouch!

Pune itself is a really cool city. In fact, after Pondicherry it just might be the most chill place I’ve ever visited in India and I could totally come back here and spend a lot of time. Visiting the Iyengar studio was awesome. I got to observe BKS Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta teach an all women’s intermediate two-hour Iyengar class. Wow, Geeta-ji is super strict and was yelling a lot throughout the class! The class was almost all Indian women and I was impressed with just how strong they all were. Unlike many female yoga practitioners in the US all of the women (even the few foreigners there) were anything but “traditionally slim and fit.” In fact, each woman had a pretty enormous tooshie and so does Geeta-ji and they were all wearing these tiny shorts. It’s funny how different yoga is in India and how us Westerners have such deep conditioning with respect to our bodies etc. The studio itself was gorgeous and I’ll post pictures on facebook when I can! 

After Ajanta and Ellora I’m off to Bodh Gaya where I’m taking some courses with this amazing American Nun, Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi who was in retreat for 6 ½ years at the Root Institute. I am also hoping to get seeds from THE Bodhi tree to plant back in the states!

Well Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 Smiling and Giggling,

 Meena 🙂

 

“My finger can point to the moon, but my finger is not the moon. You don’t have to become my finger, nor do you have to worship my finger. You have to forget my finger, and look at where it is pointing.” – Osho, The Rebel

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