I grew up in India in the 80’s.
I had heard of Osho or Rajneesh. Gurus and sages scatter the Indian landscape like dandelions in an open field. Yes India has a deep and long history with the foundations of several of the World’s religions. Holy men and Holy cows are the stereotypes.
Osho was well known and stood out. He had broken norm on many counts. The rumors I first heard were about were open sex. I was probably a teenager then so it truly stuck to my inquisitive mind. Later my brother went to study computer engineering in Pune, the city where the infamous Pune ashram was located. Through my elder brother I heard about how people were tested for HIV/AIDS before they could enter the ashram. Again remember its the 80’s and the AIDS epidemic was rampant. Visualize needles, sex and other taboos floating together as a concept. My knowledge of Osho and his actual teachings was a little non existent. This was just the folk lore mingled with urban myths that had permeated my knowledge.
Fast forward to two decades later. I am a mom now. A yoga teacher and documentary filmmaker. I was always a spiritual seeker. I have dappled in Reiki, EFT, Vipassana Meditation and Yoga. Many workshops, trainings, courses and more. I live far away from India in the vast rugged expanse of the Montana winters. I say winters because spring, summer and fall roughly last 5 months of a year and for the remainder this land is white. Covered in snow. I still get to go home annually to New Delhi to visit family and its on one such visit this past year that I got the opportunity to spend an extra week fueling my spiritual meanderings. I found Kaivalyadham, apparently the oldest yoga institute ever. This is before Yoga journal, online trainings, yoga retreats in Bali, detox facebook forums, sex gurus, yoga celebrities etc etc. The real deal yoga and Ayurveda clinic I told myself. I had completed my yoga teacher training from The Sivananda Vedanata center in Kerala, India. It is a wonderful introduction into Yoga’s roots submerged in Hindu Vedic traditions. Being Indian I’m a stickler for learning authentic yoga ,whatever that is you might say. In my head what it isn’t is a white teacher telling me the meaning of asana in California or Peru. So I was headed to lonavla which is where Kaivalyadham is situated and was going to fly into Pune first. On a whim I thought of the Pune ashram which I later found out is really a resort and decided to see if I could check it out now that I was in my thirties, still seeking adventure and in Pune.
I only had a few days and so began this incredible adventure into the land of the mystical robes. I must say the process of getting in, figuring out protocols and rules felt like Alice aka Vandana in maroon Wonderland especially since I had missed the Welcome Morning where you are taught the rules, regulations, meditations and venues in the resort. I spent my first day in a quest to figure out where to be when, wearing what and behaving how. I had a frail looking white grandmother shake her head at me when I walked into the canteen, Zorba the Buddha cafe on my first night. I found out only the next day that the white robe is only for the evening meditation and cannot be worn anywhere else at any other time of the day. I also had a maroon shawl. I had strategically found and packed the only maroon piece of clothing I possessed. A very friendly and touchy feely white guy picked the edge of my shawl and then flicked it into the wind.
It was highly confusing and tiring. Maybe this was part of Osho’s spiritual obstacle course I said. After all there were several white people sashaying about in serene accordance to these unwritten laws. In the span of half a day I was reprimanded for wearing white with a Maron scarf, serving my food incorrectly into my plate, not being allowed into the meditation hall because I wanted to pee and other such ridicules. Osho himself was against organized religion and the trappings of rules and laws that bind people away from their freedoms. I found it ironic that the Osho ashram was this highly controlled environment oasis in the midst of all the lawless, uncontrolled ways that make India so appealing to westerners who have have felt straight jacketed all their lives. And here in India they create this commune that has all the trappings of the same societies they claim to abhor. Anyways I stuck it out. The first meditation I participated in was the Osho Dynamic meditation. I scrambled to get my maroon garb from the roadside shop rather than the exhorbitant boutique inside the resort. How I found my used robes is a beautiful story in itself.