AN OASIS IN THE DESERT

MA DEVA NANDAN (Divine Joy)
Born in 1945 in Sonthofen, Germany. Nandan took Sannyas in 1977 and presently lives in Tuscany, Italy

27 Ma Deva Nandan

In 1976, I lived with my six-year-old daughter Tatjana in a beautiful, large, old-fashioned flat in Schwabing, Munich, in a very well-functioning community of seven adults and two children. Most of us had already some years of experience in communal living, so we no longer needed to argue about subjects such as not leaving the kitchen in a mess after cooking or how to clean the bathroom. Everybody had their own room, and we had transformed a spacious corridor into our communal living room with an immense podium that was our space to hang out; all of us could sit there, whether it was for a meeting or for a relaxed evening listening to Pink Floyd and a home-grown marijuana joint making the rounds…

I remember one particular afternoon coming home from school after the usual six hours of teaching. I was feeling totally tired and exhausted, but suddenly my energy changed completely when I overheard a friend talking about what happened to her in the first sannyas therapy group she participated in. The energy just pulled me to our podium with my ears and my mouth wide open.

None of us were particularly interested in therapy at all; we all felt that we could look at our problems and solve them within our community, especially since we all had some background in psychology; we thought groups were just for rich and ignorant people. But right now, seeing this friend so changed, so radiant and full of energy, and hearing what she was sharing about being herself for the first time, without any mask or fear of being judged, really got me. This was exactly what I had been longing for! So I went right away to the telephone and booked the very same 48-hour marathon group our friend had spoken about.

Those 48 hours changed my life rapidly; it was very challenging to be completely naked in every sense. What an eye-opener stripping off all these ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, facing for the first time all my fears, and getting in touch with this mass of energy that was unleashed after expressing all the rage and anger that was hidden under the fear…and what a total surprise that I wasn’t even tired after 48 hours non-stop without sleep; it felt like a miracle to me!

The group leader, Veeresh, was a sannyasin, all dressed in orange and wearing a wooden beaded necklace with a picture of his Indian master Bhagwan around his neck. Whenever he was talking about his master Bhagwan, it was with so much love and gratitude towards him, sometimes even with tears in his eyes, that it touched me deeply and made me very curious. Also, the picture of Bhagwan on the wall in our group room had a strong fascination; it felt as if the eyes were looking at me, calling me.

At the end of the group, I went right away to one of the women, also dressed in orange, who I had come to like a lot during the group process, and asked her all about her master and what it meant to be a sannyasin. Since there was not much time to talk, she lent me her favourite Bhagwan book, My Way: The Way of the White Clouds. Wow, this book really got to me! I was reading some pages every night before falling asleep. Even though my English wasn’t great, it was very easy for me to understand; it went right in and was very deep; it felt much more than just reading a book; it felt like a revelation, for which I had been waiting for such a long time.

One night I had a dream where I met Bhagwan in an oasis in the desert. There was such a strong energy coming from his eyes towards me, that it became totally clear that I had to fly to Poona with my daughter during the next summer holidays to meet this incredible being.

In the meantime, I went with Tatjana to the small Munich Sannyas Centre for the meditations. I remember how Krishna, the centre leader, was explaining about the Kundalini energy being like a sleeping snake curled up at the base of the spine, and that by moving the hips and shaking the whole body to the music, the snake gets woken up and rises up the spine. This energy becomes stronger and stronger every time we do the Kundalini Meditation. So here we were shaking along, and Tatjana was as fascinated as I was; since nobody was allowed to just sit there and watch, she decided to participate, and so we did everything together from the very beginning.

When we finally arrived in Poona a year later, I had heard so many stories about Bhagwan and the ashram, and I had so many expectations, that when I was sitting in Buddha Hall to listen to the discourse for the first time, I was actually disappointed that I didn’t see any aura around Bhagwan, as my friend in Munich had told me. And the guards who made sure that nobody was a disturbance by coughing or moving during the discourse were looking so serious to me and made me feel rather uncomfortable. But when I was finally looking into Bhagwan’s eyes, all this disappeared; I was deeply touched in my heart, and it felt like I was disappearing in an ocean of love, something that I had never felt before.

The first week in Poona felt like a rollercoaster, going from fascination and a big heart opening to sudden panic, judgments, or feeling rather alien; everything was very new or strange. Not only did it feel like this in the ashram itself but even more so outside the ashram, where we would enjoy walking among the gigantic banyan trees or seeing monkeys and big flocks of very colourful parrots swarming around, but then suddenly feel shocked and uneasy by the sight of the beggars lined up along the street to get some paisas from passing sannyasins. It made me feel so embarrassed at first that I tried to look in the other direction and walk by very quickly, but Tatjana had to check it all out thoroughly: there was one with no eyes who was always singing, another with no hands and no legs due to leprosy, a very young mother with a tiny baby in her arms  – we ended up making sure to have some small money ready each time, so we could give something to everyone. We became friends with them, and then it was easy to give something only when we really felt like it; otherwise, we just waved at them, nevertheless receiving a big smile and a namaste.

At that time, it was quite difficult to find a room to rent close to the ashram, especially at an affordable price, so we ended up in a newly opened dormitory, which was in a beautiful old English mansion close to the Café Delight, one of the favourite breakfast places for sannyasins at that time, where you could get anything from delicious mango pulp with cream to a very rich classic English breakfast. Unfortunately, it was quite far away from the ashram, which meant we had to find a rickshaw, which was sometimes very difficult, and then walk for 10 minutes through the most horrendous Indian traffic.

But as soon as we walked through the big door of our villa, we were greeted by a cool breeze and a peaceful and quiet energy. Since the rooms were very large with high ceilings, we didn’t feel crowded, even though there were probably more than ten people sleeping there; everyone only had a mattress and their luggage, and it felt totally okay.

Step by step, I was getting more used to our completely new life in India when Tatjana came running to me one afternoon full of excitement, telling me that she wanted to take sannyas now and that Nirup, a friend of ours from Munich who had asked her when she would be taking sannyas, had told her that she wouldn’t need to wait for her mother to feel ready but that she could just go by herself to the office and book a sannyas darshan.

I was shocked and furious that Nirup would say such a thing. But then I remembered how much I had been waiting to come to Poona to be able to take sannyas, and now here I was hesitating, trying to figure out what to do because I didn’t want to go to the office and ask for sannyas or wasn’t sure whether I was really ready.

What I wanted was to just sit in front of Bhagwan, look into his eyes, and see what happens… but I also didn’t want to stop Tatjana, so we went to the office together, where Tatjana asked for her sannyas darshan. I planned to ask for an arrival darshan, but strangely enough, Ma Arup, the woman in the office, must have sensed something, or existence wanted it like this, because she didn’t ask me anything; she just wrote down our names for the darshan the next day.

We rushed by rickshaw to M.G. Road, the biggest shopping area, to buy beautiful new darshan robes and, of course, non-scented soap and shampoo to be totally acceptable. We absolutely didn’t want to be rejected by the sniffers, who had to check the smell of everyone entering the auditorium since Bhagwan was allergic to smells.

So the next day, after standing in line for a long time, we finally entered very silently the intimate small auditorium called Chuang Tzu. I sensed a deep silence walking on the beautiful marble floor, surrounded by tall marble pillars and the even much taller trees of the jungle-like garden of Lao Tzu House, Bhagwan’s home, where he was just having his dinner, as we had been told. Once in a while I heard some bird calling, just deepening the silence. Every one of us was freshly bathed, scent-free, and sitting on the marble floor, waiting for Bhagwan to enter…

And then he finally arrived, very silently, like a white cloud, greeting everybody with his hands held in namaste and looking at every single one of us.

Suddenly I heard our names being called; it was so unexpected, I didn’t even have time to think. We just got up, went to the front, and sat down right in front of Bhagwan. He smiled at us, saying, “Just close your eyes!” It felt so good to close the eyes, not having to do anything, just feeling His presence and being filled by a beautiful fresh scent of mint surrounding Him, which felt so soothing…

And then I heard Him calling me back out of this seemingly vast eternity: “This will be your name: Ma Deva Nandan. Deva means divine, Nandan means joy, divine joy… for being miserable there is always a reason, for being joyful there is no need for a reason.” He was explaining my name in such a beautiful and lyrical way, it felt like a poem; it entered right into me, not so much via the intellect, but rather like absorbing it with all my cells.

Then, turning to Tatjana, He said, “Anand means bliss, Disha means direction; Ma Anand Disha, will it be easy to pronounce?”

When we came out of Lao Tzu Gate after darshan, we felt like drunk, so full, so light, also light in the head, not able to immediately recall what he had said when some friends asked about it; I couldn’t say anything, I just needed to stay quiet.

Walking through the ashram’s gates, we saw that every single rickshaw had left and we had to walk all the way to our dormitory, which normally would have been a disaster because Tatjana hated walking; somehow in that night everything was okay, even this half-hour walk through Indian traffic! I remember how grateful we were to be finally stretching out on our mattress in the dormitory room, feeling so full and rich, even in this simple living situation with just our suitcase and a thin cotton mattress on the floor… I didn’t even miss my friends or having a party. What had happened in darshan had been so intimate that it felt just right to be alone in this utter simplicity. I could not talk about it; on the outside, it seemed like not much had happened, but on the inside, I felt so deeply touched by Bhagwan’s love. I felt for the first time that I had been seen for who I am and totally loved and accepted as I am. What a precious gift!

After darshan the next day when I arrived at the ashram, a friend came rushing towards me, saying that she had booked the Leela group but couldn’t participate because she had an allergic reaction to something and whether I could take her place. I had heard that this was one of the most wanted energy groups, which was always booked out and actually only for ‘advanced people’. But since there were only a few minutes left before the group was starting, I said yes, and I was immediately in my first group, which became one of my most important group processes. It began with Somendra, the group leader, telling us to take off our robes and come to sit in a circle just in our underwear. Of course, I also took off the mala, and then I heard Somendra calling somebody, and it took me a while to realize that he was actually calling me by my new sannyas name, which I was not familiar with yet. And then he told me not to throw my mala in the corner with the robe but to always keep it with me, and that maybe I didn’t realize yet what a precious gift I got last night! That really shook me and woke me up from my usual panic-insecurity-trying-to-hide-movie, and an hour later I was roaring full blast with all my piled-up anger at some Swami who tried to come on to me in a very cheap and disrespectful way, which I hated.

I also remember this immense feeling of freedom, of just expanding, just being, just being joy… It was like experiencing deeply the name Bhagwan had given to me.

When my six-week summer holiday came to an end, there was still one big question that I couldn’t figure out: whether to quit my job as a teacher, pack up in Munich, and come to live ‘forever’ in Poona. It still felt quite scary to me to leave this job, when I had just passed all the exams for a civil service career, which was extremely difficult in those years, especially for someone like me who was active in left-wing politics. I remember the moment when all the exams and all the effort to make it through were over: I was feeling suddenly totally empty with only one question remaining: “And now, what do I do now?” The idea of remaining in this tight system of teaching every day until the age of 60, the age of retirement, felt like a life sentence. It was just such a horrible thought, and this couldn’t be all that there is to life!

So that’s why it felt very appealing to just pack up and leave, but it also felt like running away from something. Just then I heard Bhagwan answering somebody in another darshan I was attending, “Never leave anything out of fear. If there is fear, you need to face it and go through it until the fear is gone, and then it will drop by itself.” This had a big impact on me, and in my darshan before leaving, when Bhagwan was asking me, “When are you coming back?” I replied: “I wrote to you that I don’t know when I will be able to leave my teaching job without fear.”

He looked at me with a huge smile and said, “Come here, Nandan, and let’s have a look!” He picked up a beautiful small golden torch, positioned my face right in front of His, and while shining the torch into my eyes, it felt like He was looking deeply into my eyes. It was a moment that seemed like a timeless abyss; there was just nothing else but this very bright light I was looking into, which seemed like ten thousand suns, and a feeling of deep trust and being held… and then I heard His voice saying, “Very good Nandan, come back. You can drop your teaching job very easily, without any fear. You can come back here soon and stay forever, hmm.”

It felt like He had surely melted away all the left-over fears with this torchlight and His eyes. From that moment on, I felt ready to let go of my past, my security, and all attachments in Munich. It was clear that my life from now on would be lived at the ashram in Poona.

Also Disha felt ready; my being indecisive and not clear whether to return ‘forever’ had given her enough time to go through her own process. At first, she faced some hard times when I was doing groups and was suddenly not available for her, having to face the difficulties of getting in contact with the ashram kids, who spoke only English; but then, towards the end of our holidays, she had made so many friends, even among the ashram kids who had seemed so arrogant to her in the beginning. I remember very clearly how one day she came running to me with one of her friends who lived in the ashram to tell me totally excitedly: “Mom, we have to come back to Poona forever next year! I also want to live here; I don’t want to live in Germany anymore. I went to the ashram school today; it’s so beautiful, and this school is so much more fun! “Perhaps you can also teach there; you will also like it much better here!”

I was very happy that Disha proposed to return and stay forever, and I could see that she was really clear about it, including leaving her dad behind in Munich. It was very important for me to know that it was her decision, not just a coming along with me. At this point, it was even easier to leave Poona, since it was clear we were leaving to come back together ‘forever’.

And now, 32 years later, I feel immensely grateful for all these years and experiences with Bhagwan or Osho. In a way, I can see all these years as a search and a quest of ‘Who am I really?” where meditation had a big part in it, experiencing non-being, just being, or being one with all…

Nevertheless, when Osho left His body, at first I fell into a deep crisis. It was painful, and it took me a while to see and let go of my attachment to Osho, my role as a devotee, the commune, and all the new concepts and beliefs I had taken on in the sannyas world. It felt very healthy to come back on my own two feet, just living an ordinary life, earning money in the world, and being a nobody.

And as I open up and let go more and more, also my vision of a Master becomes vaster, like Osho used to say, “Look at the moon, don’t bite my finger!”

What remains is a deep gratitude to Life, to Existence, to the Whole.

“Take the risk! In your dream-world nothing is secure, not even your so-called secure job. In your so-called world nothing is certain. The dream-world cannot be certain – it is a flux, everything is changing and moving. Today you are in a secure job, tomorrow you may not be in it. Today you are living with a woman, tomorrow she is gone. Today you have a beautiful child, tomorrow God has taken it back. What is secure here?

Except awakening, nothing is secure here. All is just… hallucination, all is just… deceiving yourself, creating newer and newer mirages. The oasis exists not! This world is a desert. The oasis exists in your awareness only. Create that oasis of awareness. And whatsoever is needed for it, do. Whatsoever price has to be paid, pay. Whatsoever has to be risked, risk – because all else is going to be taken away from you anyway. Death will come, and your job and your wife and your children and your name and fame – all will be taken away. Before death comes search for awareness, because those who become aware in life, for them, death never comes. They become deathless. They know what immortality is. Because in your awareness you come to know not the body, but the one who resides in it.”

Osho, The Wisdom of the Sands, Vol. 1, Ch 5, Q 3

From the book, Past the Point of No Return by Ma Anand Bhagawati

Past The Point Of No Return

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