FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
Pune, April 15:
No sex, no drugs — only meditation.
April 16, 2001
This is the new mantra of the Osho International Commune, formerly Rajneesh Ashram.
Once a retreat of mostly zonked-out social dropouts from the West in search of libido-induced nirvana, the commune is now off-limits to anyone smoking even a cigarette.
To get in, you have to pass an AIDS test. And if you thought you would at least witness some heavy-duty necking inside, you would be sorely disappointed.
A hug is about the limit in public here, which Rajneesh followers prefer to call a “meditation resort” to rid the place of any stigma associated with the word “commune”.
“What they do in their rooms is their business, but inside the commune, sex is forbidden,” says Swami Satya Vedant, one of the five members of the commune management team.
“We don’t allow smoking in the commune, let alone drugs. We have a set of strict guidelines and you have to follow that while in the commune,” says the Swami, the US-educated chancellor of Osho Multiversity, a centre for personal growth.
Instead of Beatniks and junkies, the commune — a 32-acre, tree-lined oasis in soot-smudged industrial Pune — now draws mostly professionals and white-collar workers, many of them Indians, trying to escape the stress and boredom of modern life through exotic meditation.
The commune is non-residential. Visitors have to stay in hotels outside, but can go there only to meditate.
Ma Saadhna, a management team member and editor of Osho Times, an in-house magazine, says the commune is drawing visitors from nearly 100 countries largely because of a new-found interest in Osho’s teachings.
“Here, there is no worshipping, no prayers and no dogma. This is all because Osho never preached any religion. In fact, he was against religion which he said suppressed people. You come here to meditate and relax,” she says.
Rajneesh’s teaching has caught on in the West in a big way in the last five years, says Swami Ketan, a Rajneesh follower from Spain and a frequent visitor.
“Earlier, very few bookstores in Europe kept his works. Publishers would call his ideas crazy and wouldn’t touch his books. But now it has changed. Even in my city, Barcelona, you get Osho’s books in Spanish,” he says. He gave up his job as fashion photographer after his initiation.
Rajneesh, an articulate preacher, who first prefaced his name with Bhagwan and then renamed himself Osho, was castigated in his lifetime for “promoting sexual orgies and antisocial behaviour”. He was imprisoned in the US.
“It is sad that people misunderstood him in his lifetime. They started realising the value of his teaching — which is the best of all religion — only after he left his body in 1990,” Swami Ketan said.
With his 650 books, 10,000 audio and video cassettes, Rajneesh, his followers say, is being “rediscovered” by people more than a decade after his death.
With the passage of time, his ashram, too, has evolved into a modern meditation centre, replete with architectural fantasies and air-conditioned comfort.
Here, you can get your mind in shape with “chaotic” meditation — one of the several types on offer — that lets you jump up and down and release pent-up frustration with shouts of “hoo”.
To get your body in shape, you can play a game of tennis or volleyball, go to the gym or to the pool for a swim.
Just take your pick.
When hungry, go to the cafe or to the elevated restaurant and stuff yourself with Western or Indian vegetarian cuisine.
Even without drugs and sex, you can keep your body and spirit together at the commune — at a price, of course.