SWAMI ANAND NEERAVA (Blissful Silence)
Born in 1948 in London, England Took sannyas in 1978 Presently living in Perth, Western Australia

If I’m honest, it was clothes and sex – two of my favourite things (when I was younger) – which started me on my way to Osho! It’s a long story because it took me a long time to get it; Osho and sannyas eased gently into my life.

In the mid-1970s, I was a young and idealistic left-wing lawyer, and former professional rock drummer, working in a legal aid practice in the East End of London. I wanted to help change the many injustices and things I saw wrong in the world.

It was a heady time in left-wing politics – the Vietnam War had recently ended and it was possible to view the culture of ‘revolutionary protest’ as having helped to achieve this. The student ‘revolutions’ of the late 1960s were still fresh in people’s minds; radical feminism was in the air (most of my friends were women involved in it); and there was a feeling that a person, or rather people working together, could change the world – for the better.

However, working in this environment of both working class poverty and somewhat idealistic middle class political activism, two things happened to me:

  1. I realized that I did not want to live in a world run by most of the people that were active in hard-core left-wing organizations at the time and I became aware, through exposure to libertarian-left ideas, such as Lotta Continua, and my own feelings, that politics is personal; that repression has been internalised and real change, real freedom has to come from within, not just from changing the people who controlled the external structures, but changing yourself and the way you interacted with the world and the people in it; and
  2. I fell in love with Christine, who was working in the same place – a New Zealander who was in London with her dentist husband. With her, I discovered tantric sex.

Christine left her husband and eventually decided to go back to New Zealand ‘overland’. I was deeply in love and lust, so I gave up my job and went with her, across Europe to Greece, through the centre of Turkey, crossing into Iran via the mountains of Kurdistan, then across Afghanistan, Pakistan to India, travelling by local transport, from town to town, with only a vague idea of the general direction we were heading (this was in the days before “Lonely Planet”).

My beard grew, my clothes wore out. I bought a suit of black embroidered Afghani clothes in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I remember vividly the tiny town of Bamiyan, in the central mountains of Afghanistan, where the ancient giant Buddhas were carved into the cliff – you could sit and meditate on top of their heads, watching the sunset over the snow peaks of the Hindu Kush, and then rush back down the mountain in the gathering dark, to get back to the village before the wolves came out. I was walking down the sole street with my beard and black outfit, when I was greeted by a local man with the cry “Hello, Sufi!” and I felt obscurely proud. My mental image of who I was changed with that simple remark.

I had never been religious and I was not consciously seeking a guru or teacher, but I was interested in altered states of consciousness and the long hours on local buses (or waiting for local buses that did not exist) opened my mind to new ideas and experiences, exploring my conviction that what I needed to change was myself. I was reading books on Sufi tales, Buddhism, and Hinduism to make sense of what I was seeing around me on my travels. We visited temples, mosques, shrines and monasteries along the way.

I was also trying intermittently to meditate during these long waits and journeys and at other times, but was finding it hard to still my mind, which was a highly trained thinking machine. ‘Just sitting’ and finding bliss did not come easily to me.

In India, I bought myself two sets of fine white cotton pyjama pants and waistcoats for the heat and because white seemed a suitable colour for the beginning of a new adventure.

We travelled down to Goa for the Christmas/New Year season, taking a ship from Bombay and by-passing Pune which I then knew only as ‘Poona’ – an old British Raj garrison town of little interest. We then journeyed on around India to Sri Lanka, and back up to Nepal, many thousands of kilometres over several months, often sleeping rough or on crowded trains.

My pristine white pyjamas became grey from travelling third class unreserved on the Indian steam trains for days on end, and I had them dyed a ‘sadhu saffron’ colour to hide the dirt. In Nepal, I acquired a Tibetan mala, as a souvenir.

I remember the first time that I heard the name Bhagwan (as he was called then). I was dressed in my saffron pyjamas and wearing my Tibetan mala, sitting at a shared table in a café outside Pokhara one night. Someone asked me if I was a ‘sannyasin’. I said, “I don’t know; what is a sannyasin?”

This innocent question triggered a ten-minute tirade about some shyster guru in India and his deluded followers that I did not entirely follow, not knowing who or what he was talking about: apoplectic about a man who called himself ‘God’. I remember saying, “…but the Nepalis say we all have God within us,” – but to no avail. Yet rather than putting me off, I became interested in the passion which this unknown man had aroused in him, and this interest stayed with me – I wanted to know more, in a vague sort of way.

After a trek together into the Himalaya, Christine left me to go travelling alone through North India (returning to Nepal some weeks later with a new lover in tow). I stayed – I was in love with Nepal, a place where they never asked “Why?” but always “Why not?” A place where they see holiness in everything.

To heal my slightly damaged heart, I went alone for a further trek in a beautiful valley in the Himalaya north of Kathmandu, taking with me the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, or tantric sayings of Shiva: short, pithy sutras which encapsulated great wisdom in a few words and which I ‘meditated on’ as I was walking. I went high up into the mountains to the holy lake Gosainkund, a place of pilgrimage. It was physically one of the hardest things I have done, and although my body came down the mountain the next day, inside I remained on a natural high for weeks.

I had gone up the mountain sad and lonely and came down strong and filled with joy. I knew this feeling came from inside me and resolved to find out how to make it last forever.

Back in Kathmandu I came across some Nepalis dressed in bright orange, selling a magazine called Sannyas in the streets. It was glossy and I refused to buy it, as it was expensive, compared to the cheap books available in Kathmandu itself, and I was outraged at the price! However, some days or weeks later I did buy a copy, because it contained extracts of the ‘guru’s’ (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) discourses on the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra which I had been reading. I was mildly outraged again that, although I liked what he was saying, generally, he took ten pages to explain what the original had summarized in 15 words! Talk about long-winded!

Time passed with a number of adventures, the Sannyas magazine always in my backpack, and it was almost a year later that I visited Christine in New Zealand, to explore whether we could somehow get back together again. She lived on Waiheke, a small island in the Hauraki Gulf, one hour (back then) by boat from Auckland. I had only been there a day or two when Christine told me that her husband (the dentist) had returned from London and was going to visit her for the weekend to see if they could get back together again. I would have to leave the island so that he wouldn’t know I was around! I knew no-one else in the entire country, where was I going to go?

“Don’t worry,” said Christine, “I met a nice guy selling Indian clothes in the market last week, who invited me to a weekend meditation camp in the Waitakere Hills. I can’t go. You can go there and come back on Monday afternoon.” She gave me an address and a kiss goodbye.

So I took the ferry back to the city, found the house, and knocked on the door. The door was opened by a small elf-like person with long flowing hair and a beard, dressed in pink clothes and wearing a mala around his neck. He made me welcome and explained that he was a follower of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. We got on well, despite my initial suspicion, and sat up for hours, talking about India, life, and, of course, his guru.

The main thing I recall from this first long night of talking was asking, “But how can you tell he’s enlightened? How do you know he’s not a conman?”

Vineet replied that even if it could be proven to him, scientifically and conclusively, that Bhagwan was a conman, it would make no difference to his love for him. He had experienced so much joy from following Bhagwan’s suggestions that he would be grateful to him forever for the experiences and nothing would change that. This made a deep impression on me because it challenged my rationality and belief system.

Vineet also said, “Bhagwan never orders you to do anything; he makes a suggestion and it’s up to you to decide whether or not to try it. If you try it and you like the experience, then you can do it again, or he will make another suggestion; again it’s up to you. The doors are never locked from the outside, you can stop trying, or leave, any time you like.” This also made a deep impression on me, because it allayed all my indoctrinated suspicions of ‘cults’ and at the same time appealed to my adventurous spirit.

I went to the meditation camp, where there were perhaps 15 people in a beautiful little farmhouse, and enjoyed the meditations in the barn, which for me were radical in that they were highly active and did not involve ‘just sitting’ which, with my active mind, I had always found difficult to do alone. But I also enjoyed the energy of the people, who were far different from the ‘holy’ types I had come into contact with in other meditation circles – such as the Western Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal – although they made fun of my “Surya Namaskar” yogic ritual, which I was accustomed to doing every morning. We listened to discourses by Bhagwan in the warm afternoons, and I fell asleep, but was taken by the feeling of what he said. His words resonated on many levels.

Time passed intensely. I shared Vineet’s house in Auckland for a while (with Christine) and we went often to the Rajneesh centre, which was a short walk away. I made sannyasin friends. I went travelling again (alone) back to Australia to make money in order to return to spend more time in India.

My initial resolve to return to India had already evolved into a determination to return to India and visit Pune. Gradually I became aware that this in turn had changed into a resolve to return to India and take sannyas in Pune – and slowly the realization came that it was silly to wait: I had made up my mind that I was going to take sannyas and it was pointless to put it off until I actually went back to India. Being here now was, after all, what it was all about.

So, much later, maybe a year after that first meditation camp, two years after I first heard his name, while I was living alone in the Blue Mountains in Australia, digging railway tunnels – far from the nearest sannyas centre – I dyed my clothes orange. I wrote a long letter to Bhagwan, asking for sannyas, telling him about my earlier career as a drummer, how music brought me nearer to ‘God’, my views on religion, my travels, and enclosing a long poem about my desire for (or attainment of) enlightenment, pouring out pages and pages of my innermost hopes and fears….

The reply came back from Pune: “Your new name means silence – blissful silence….” Yes.




I eventually made my way to Pune, and ended up staying two years there. My job on the railway tunnels had made me fit and with enough money to support myself (and even buy a drum kit) in India. I arrived just before Osho’s birthday celebration. I was so happy to be there, to see Him after all this time. My first discourse to attend was in Hindi, in the Chuang Tzu Auditorium at his house. I had to sit at the back, because I was not yet scent-free, and of course I could not understand a word He said, but my heart was full of love, as He greeted every person in the room with a namaste, as He came in and as he left. My grin made my face ache.

At my arrival darshan, He told me about my name. I was so lost in the depths of His eyes that I could not remember His words, just an impression of what He meant – deep and beautiful descriptions of stillness and silence and bliss. Reading the Darshan Diary some years later, I was sure that I had heard a lot more than was printed – whether He actually said it out loud or not, I’ll never know.

I was slow to take sannyas, but it has lasted – all this took place 31 years ago now, and I still carry Him in my heart. On the outside, I’m still a lawyer and a part time drummer, still cutting wood and carrying water. On the inside, I’m still dancing my way to God. Silently. Blissfully.

“Life has to be lived as a song and not as a syllogism. Life has to be transformed into music, into rhythm, into love; only then one comes closer to God. Not by rituals, not by scriptures, not by being a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim, but by becoming a song, a joy, a blissful dance….

And my sannyasins have to become songs, dances, rejoicers.”

Osho, Snap your Fingers, Slap your Face and Wake up! Ch 20

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

Past The Point Of No Return

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