Oh-So long, OSHO…

Posted on September 30th, 2008 by Jim

Despite making the call for an early last night to de-robe, pack and conclude my stay here at the OSHO retreat, Pune I was distracted during my amble back to my room. I noticed that the dark side of the moon auditorium doors were open which was unusual as after the white robes meeting was concluded they were closed.

Sean Connery anyone? Just click on the image

All that was missing was the Bond theme tune (inspired by GO! Smell the flowers founder Lib) as I tiptoed up up the stairs at the side on the main entrance to find….

a gathering of 70 or so people, in their maroon robes (highly irregular after 5pm in the evening) finishing off dancing to the OSHO band. I’d walked in on the initiation into Sannyas which is a personal affair and the responsibility for fulfilling what is required as a Sannyasin – in one word: meditation.

It involved changing your name.

People danced as others came forward by collecting their name certificates and then moving towards the centre of a circle. I watched from the side door realising pretty quickly that I should leave this peaceful ceremony in case I was up next to change my name to Bond, Jim Bond. The music wasn’t my thing anyway, it needed a touch of Mozart bond in my humble opinion.

People could either sit in silence for a few moments or express their joy or let-go, their sense of wonder, their gratitude for this new opening in their life in anyway they felt.

This new name can be either chosen yourself of selected for you (by good, understanding friends I assume) as you break away from the past.

“The meaning of changing the name is that we break with the old identity. Now we go on a new journey with a new identity.” Explained one of the Osho-ites, if indeed that is a term as if you say it quickly it sounds like an Irish person cursing.

I don’t want my people to be lost into non- essentials. In the beginning it was necessary. Now years of listening to me, understanding me, you are in a position to be freed from all outer bondage. And you can for the first time be really a Sannyasin only if you are moving inwards.” – OSHO

A new identity?

We should be as individual as the fonts we use to type with, right? A bad example as WordPress has its limitations :-)

Off I went, back to my room to leave the name changers to do exactly that where I packed in under 60 seconds, only 1 more sleep to go and left out a Sopranos DVD’s, toothbrush and my civilian clothes for leaving OSHO with. Considering the ‘self-help’ (help us to help ourselves) environment I’d been in this one bedroom scene with Tony and his Russian lover tickled me:

“What’s that?” asked Tony grabbing the book his lover was reading.

“Oh that’s Chicken Soup for the Soul” She replies, grabbing it back and holding it to her bare chest.

“You should read tomato sauce for your ass, the Italian version” chuckle Tony getting back to puffing on his oversized cigar. Tony had helped me keep my feet on the ground here at OSHO, that’s for sure so thanks to Urban Pagan for making that call a couple of years ago “You must watch it” was his advice.

Only one more breakfast in this maroon robe. I thought as I sprung out of bed and used the last of my vouchers. The same orderly meal was being served and enjoyed as I scanned a copy of the latest OSHO times whilst waiting for my masala omelette. I had to chuckle at the headlines on the front page and related them to my last 8 days here:

‘Relating – Keeping Love Alive’

Hey come on people – readers of GO! Smell the flowers thought it was a sex commune when I pitched up last Sunday.

‘Wellness – The Target is You’

Really? That’s not how I felt when I was sick and couldn’t attend my Work / life course.

‘Working life – getting it all together’

Assuming you’re fit to attend class, of course.

Call me captain cynical but those were my genuine reactions as I waited. Having had my ‘donations of meditation classes’ crossed off my card I still had a few hundred rupees to use but not enough time to spend them. Resisting the temptation to return to the OSHOp and buy a few postcards and a book I simply handed it over to the maroon robe stood next to me at the till.

“Hey, THANKS! Wow, that’s so KIND” She said ecstatically.

This was by far the most accepted I’d felt all week as her zen like layers fell right before me as I witnessed the basic human act of gratitude!

‘Find a tremendous peacefulness surrounding your inner space and flowers of the beyond start raining on you’ OSHO quote on the back of a postcard.

Did anoyne mention flowers?

What of these zen layers? It was time for one final experiment. With an hour to kill before my cab to Pune airport I decided to take a trip out of HSBC bank, to the same ATM as a few days earlier as it was hit and miss which banks would take my cash. Flashing my OSHO pass for the final time I left and low and behold rickshaw Raju was outside.

This time, I left my maroon robe on to venture out into reality.

“Ello Sir, more art for you, Sir?”

“Just HSBC bank please, Raju – the same place”

We headed off amongst the car horns, beggars, dogs and dust and straight over to HSBC as I felt like I was breaking all the OSHO rules doing this as we were ‘not to wear out robes anywhere else outside OSHO‘ well what would they do with an hour left? Confiscate them? I wanted to see what it felt like.

Standing alongside the suits, frowns and briefcases as HSBC felt strange, like I was playing a role in a sit-com. Sadly alongside the premier, status and normal guys queues there was no OSHO account of credit card I’d could have been given the green light for. The rupees came, we left and stopped for fuel on the way back so I took it one stage further, went into the garage and flicked through a magazine while Raju topped the rickshaw up. Again, if felt like I was in fancy dress but my robes in the outside world felt as odd as my civilian clothes did on the OSHO campus.

Back at the OSHO campus Raju assured me he would get me to the airport on time and didn’t mind waiting. So that was one less thing to think about, aside from what my last thought on this whole experience had been. It’s going to take sometime to digest and writing about it has helped from being trapped in the toilet on the first night right through to leaving my robes in the corner of my room with rupees for the maid.

I’d paid my way all week & I’d paid in full and wondered if many other guests quietly tipped the unsung heroes of the place, the staff:

YouTube Preview Image

As I settled my bill with Mastercard – no vouchers :-) – my week long fancy dress party had come to an end as I dipped in and out of witnessing emotional valium for the internationally depressed. Some addicted, some trapped and some looking for that quick fix which brings them back year on year as the courses continue, badges get worn and names get changed.

I just hope they didn’t lose themselves in search of looking for exactly that!

I mean, after the whole registration process at the start, up for 6.00 am, maroon robes, white robes, eye patches and closed eyes may not have been so off the wall if it wasn’t for the comments at GO! Smell the flowers and the Sopranos. I had one foot in camp OSHO and one out and feel I’ve everything I could have hoped for from this experience.

As I trundled my suitcase along into Raju’s rickshaw I felt a great sense of release leaving the place as ME! My personality, my beliefs and a product of all my experiences to date. Maybe this was the cosmic joke that I was in on and one that OSHO was chuckling at from his Roll Royce in the sky?

Thanks for all your comments over the last 8 days here at GO! Smell the flowers – comments and questions which have helped me learn on my journey which revealed many discoveries. It was the right call to extend my stay from 24 hours to 8 days.

I’d love to know if you’ve any more questions, thoughts or opinions on this whole episode – one which I’ll not forget in a hurry.

Thanks for reading.

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29 Responses to “Oh-So long, OSHO…”

  1. Urban Pagan says:

    Ace stuff Jim.

    Eye opening and a very candid account from first to last. the best writing I’ve seen on here other than my words of wisdom anyway (ahem).

    What has interested me most here is that the retreat ultmately fails those who need its help the most.People who are trying to find ‘themselves’ are made to shun individuality and conform under the guise of ‘non-conformity’.

    What I also found interesting was the different methods of control- the’tokens’, the robe and dress control, the indoctrination, the ilogical rules for the sake of them and the them and us environment.

    On a more serious level I feel it attracts people least likely to cope with the cult mentality which is a shame.

    Pune however sounds a really interesting place- and a good counter balance of life inside the compound has been the fact that the ‘real india’ seems a fascinating and much more stimulating plce than the ‘new age’ western inspired idyll of pseud-indian mysticicsm.Its been good to read elementf of both sides. From the acount lone Pune is somewhere that sounds interesting if only to go there to go shoplifting in the osho shop!!

    good stuff.

    do we get a ‘checking out’ piece as well?

    • UP,

      Regarding, “On a more serious level I feel it attracts people least likely to cope with the cult mentality which is a shame.” That is exactly who cults attract and why they become so successful…it really is sad.

  2. Urban Pagan says:


    I only got the bit up to tony the first time i tried to read it!!!!


  3. I am so glad that you stayed and had a fuller experience. It sounds like it was similar to the concerns that many of us expressed at the beginning, but now we have a Westerner experience of it. This post was a great summary and I’m glad that you got to see the name changing ceremony which is a lot like the same ideas and ceremonies in many religions. Thank you, so much for sharing your experience…it has been enlightening!! However, I feel a bit sad for all those who are “lost,” which is such a painful place to be in. But, now you are free!!!

  4. I do wonder how different your experience would be if they knew that you were going to stay longer or that your stay was open ended.

    • Jim says:

      Well funny you should say that – I always mentioned I could stay as long as I liked so I wasn’t treated like a short termer……the do these OSHO weekend deals where people have lifelong memberships and can come and go as they please…

  5. mike says:

    Excellent thanks for the fly on the wall reporting Jim – where next as our undercover reporter! I read a book caled Minyan recently in which one character’s background had loads of this kind of stuff – a life time of it and the characters comment?

    At the end of it all I felt a little better. Cosmic.

    • Jim says:

      I can relate to that wrap up sentiment Mike – it did feel good to check out!

      • Arvind says:

        So what next Jim?

        Hare Krishnas?



        • Tight Speedos says:

          Oh for god’s sake (with a small ‘g’) Arvind! Wake up and lead our crusade for the Ghurkas!

          How many other Monarch States are there who have a totally foreign nation fighting on their behalf? And before we mention the French Foreign Legion, I exclude them! Yes! (Justifiable of course, because they can’t help being Francophiles and are therefore somehow inferior)…………………………………………..

          I am too tired right now. Its all coherent in my grain, just not in me swede.

          Tomorrow People!

          (who remembers that jaunt then?)

        • aussiecynic says:

          Dont hassle the Hare Krishnas…. their very nice people… ;)

          The rest is fair game…. :)

        • Jim says:

          NEXT STOP – the 3 D’s

          ONTO Delhi then home of the Dali Lama – DHARAMSHALA before back to Dubai!

  6. aussiecynic says:

    A brillant conclusion to a very interesting if somewhat worrysome 8 day adventure…

    From our intial concerns for your physical, mental and emotional well being (you really did have us worried there for a while)
    to your eye opening experience with the visitors and residents it has given us a complete picture.
    I must say one of the things I have enjoyed is the people you spoke to and their reactions to being there… as well as their reaction to your real life situations eg being ill, news of the outside world…
    Still trying to grasp how some can get so caught up in this life, perhaps it becomes habit, perhaps feels safe and in many ways it may be equality with everyone else which for those who have suffered from always being an outsider or those who left out of society I guess this place looks like heaven. It is unfortunate it is only there to exploit their vulnerablities and degrade them whilst they themselves feel like they actually doing some good and earning browny points to Nirvana.

    The concept of trading Board for labour is not a new one, however for those who have no cash, it leaves them with a perplexing problem of how to leave and return to their native countries… therefore needing to remain and being trapped, until it becomes their entire life.. much like a prison with day passes or a military unit…
    It does remind me of of both these situations. Both have uniforms, rules for the sake of it, courses to give you something to do, rewards for good behaviour, and a loss of individuality and conformity which OSHO heavily promotes, as well as the passes which allow you to enter the real world from time to time, but only during a set time etc….

    I am interested to hear if you consider either of these comparism justified or off the mark totally…
    Or whether you would consider (given what you have seen and experience) this to be a money making retreat or a cult or harmless to those who stay long term?
    Thankfully you kept your feet firmly in both worlds, but what of those who put all their into a single basket?
    did you find Dave?

    • Jim says:

      Hi AC,

      Thanks for this…

      I’d say that YES it can be a comfort zone and one easily slipped into away from reality – it was a relaxing place, lots to do, lots of support and lots of ‘come and join this course’ with strong emotional bond made that have often been hidden away for years.

      The comparisons you made were justified, for sure – remove the zen-blurb features of the place some may climb the walls and feel trapped but its their choice instead of turning to crime, homelessness or a low paid job – they’re free to do either of those 3 and provided it was for a short spell and they had specific goals and a head on their shoulders then one could do alot worse than OSHO.

      I did met someone on the way out who as an IT exec from Germany – he just pops into OSHO every few weekends for a couple of days of relaxation in a peaceful places – reads fiction books, swims, relaxes so its almost like a health club to him – puts another perspective on it even though this was after I’d left. Like me, wants to learn bits and pieces to apply to ‘reality’ but where better to learn than than ‘ reality’?!

      I only found Dave on my last night and had a hot chocolate with him – he was on fine form, in great spirits and apologised for his lull when he met me – he was going to stay for 1 more month then train to be a fitness instructor back in the UK so it’s all good!

      A money making retreat – for sure – it is a business that sells materials, food, heads of beds and courses.

      A cult – Not in the David Koresh sense of the word as you were free to leave, rest, take classes or not- it wasn’t a timetable of brainwashing by any stretch but had its moments as most were intent on aiming for ‘ no-mind’. That is relative though – 10 seconds of no-mind of 6 months? One size doesn’t fit all and to be in the moment is great – to be fully into what we are doing at any given time – works for most.

      Harmless – I’d have to conclude not if that saved the individual from harming / killing others which is highly unlikely in the ‘trusting’ environs of an OSHO retreat.

      Apply what you learn there to the real world then now you’re talking!

      Hope this helps,

  7. Svasti says:

    Oh, and check out the wikipedia entry on Sanyas – its not too bad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sannyasa

  8. Hoops4Life says:

    well osho is my guru

  9. Lynda Lippin says:

    Do they have a new leader or is everyone still beholden to the digital Bhagwan?

  10. Kathleen says:

    Welcome back! I think you should (if you will), discuss this again in a couple of months – I mean, I would be curious to know how you feel then – or six months, or even next year. Sometimes, we go away with thoughts and emotions, then later an experience takes on an entirely new meaning of personal significance.

    Did anyone there fart during meditation or Yoga? That’s my favorite part of Yoga and meditation classes – it takes great focus not to laugh hysterically – whether it’s coming from me or someone else. lolololololol…see what I mean? Just the thought of it sends me into a state of….”otherness”.

    I also think I could not resist the temptation to change my name to “grasshopper”.

    Kidding of course…just swinging the pendulum. I greatly appreciate and agree with Svasti’s assessment of how far tradition has strayed -no doubt in an attempt to accomodate the “post-modern” world.

  11. Jim says:

    Thanks for the Sanyas insights Svasti!

    It makes far more sense now…

  12. Yes, it is sad. But, in another time in my life, I could see me being drawn into a Christian cult like group. Although some believe that Christianity is a cult now. But, I was so vulnerable and had no sense of self at one time…still working on it.

  13. Jim says:

    Ok, thanks for sharing that comparison CC…its a biggy!

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