MA SUNDER AVINASHO (Eternal beauty)
Born in 1949 in Einbeck, Germany. Avinasho tool sannyas in 1982 and presently lives in Marin County, California, U.S.A.

15 Ma Sunder Avinasho

“How on earth can you hang someone else’s picture around your neck?” I demanded, almost shaking with indignation in my blue denim overalls. My sister, her two-year-old daughter, and I had just returned from vacation and were shocked when we saw her (then) husband standing at the arrival gate in the airport with a big smile on his face. He had shaved his head, was wearing bright-red jeans and T-shirt, and – worst of all – a weird necklace. He had joined a cult! What an irrational thing to do! Hadn’t he learned anything from the stupid Germans who had blindly followed another mad leader?

This disturbing incident happened in my early thirties. I had just entered a new phase in my life: I had started therapy and become active in a local group of ‘peace fighters’, participating in all kinds of demonstrations and happenings (hence the denim overalls). This type of ‘politically correct’ garment was replacing more and more the demure, elegant outfits that had marked my ladylike twenties when I was married to an MD and trying my hardest to fit into his ultraconservative family of doctors and professors. In my desperate efforts to please him I had allowed him to control almost every aspect of my life – he would even go shopping with me and remind me that “a lady doesn’t wear red.” He probably would have had a fit had he seen me a few years later, dressed in red and pink down to my underpants – but wait, we aren’t there yet.

I went into complete shock when our marriage ended a few years later – the concept of divorce hadn’t even existed for me. My husband decided that he wanted to divorce me, without telling me why. It took me several years to recover, but then slowly, slowly, I had the first glimpse of an understanding. I saw that all kinds of fears were preventing me from leading the kind of life I really wanted. I felt stifled and unfree. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but what started me off on my path was simply the desire to have a good time! I was not a seeker. I had never read an esoteric book. I had never travelled to India. And I sure as hell had no interest whatsoever in finding a guru or a Master.

Realizing that something was ‘wrong’ was one thing, but doing something about it was something else. Making a change seemed very scary, but finally I took a first step: I started group psychotherapy. Sometimes in the sessions the two group leaders would joke with each other about some guru in India who had stopped talking and was now communicating silently, ‘heart to heart’ with his disciples. They thought this was hilarious, but I had no clue who or what they were talking about – that is, until I saw my ‘transformed’ brother-in-law. From then on, during every visit to my sister’s, I would notice more books by this guru everywhere in the house, and there was talk of strange meditations held at the ‘Centre’, apparently in the nude, involving shaking and screaming, and God knows what else. Other red-clad figures would visit the house, and I eyed them suspiciously, from a safe distance.

I soon realized that meeting once a week in my group sessions where we sat around and talked about our ‘problems’ or listened to other people’s stories was not getting me anywhere. I was looking for something more intense, where the therapists wouldn’t freak out and frantically look for tissues when someone started crying.

I heard of a workshop that included guided meditations, dance, and something called Zen walks. That sounded intriguing, so one summer Friday I got into my car and drove the six or seven hours to the north of Germany where the workshop took place.

It was wonderful! During one of the guided meditations I was overcome by an intense longing to disappear and melt with the beautiful nature surrounding me. This longing was so strong that I cried for hours. I did not know then that this is what meditation was all about….

On my way home I stopped at my sister’s house and raved about that weekend. My brother-in-law, who was listening with a somewhat condescending smile, finally said, “Do you notice that you are constantly in the past and never in the here and now?” What the hell was he talking about? He pissed me off even more by saying, “If you want to do something really intense, why don’t you do a group with sannyasins?” I told him that he must be out of his mind, that I did not want anything to do with his cult or the ‘sex guru’.

But what he said about intense therapy stayed with me, and about six weeks later, I signed up for a group with a sannyasin therapist – not just for one weekend, but for a six months course!

I was scared out of my skull when I drove to that first weekend in the little ‘ashram’ near Würzburg, and arriving there did nothing to alleviate my fears: everything and everybody was so weird! This was November 1981, predating the message from the Ranch in Oregon where Osho now lived, to “cut your hair, dress in western clothes, and get a job.” Everyone looked like they had just arrived from Poona, and the whole place was shrouded in all kinds of red or orange scarves and fabrics.

Strange music was playing; I usually only listened to Mozart and maybe a little Bach once in a while. Worst of all, photos of the guru were everywhere. You could not even sit on the toilet without seeing him smilingly encouraging you to “Let go!” Even the smells disturbed me: a revolting mixture of incense and sweat. Soon I developed one of the worst headaches of my life.

Fortunately, only part of me freaked out. Another part loved the meditations, totally appreciated the therapy, and enjoyed the sannyasins around me. On my way home I decided that this was the kind of therapy I wanted. I would continue, but I would never get involved in the cult thing.

Famous last words…

I was high for weeks afterwards and could hardly wait for the next meeting of the group. I bought Satyananda’s book about Osho and the ashram, Totally Relaxed in the Here and Now and could not put it down. Soon I caught myself thinking about taking sannyas but told myself to forget it. I really was not into the guru thing, and liking sannyasins so much did not really seem enough of a good reason to take sannyas. Besides, I was head of the language department of a Catholic high school for boys – no way could I appear there in red and with the mala. But I started dyeing my underwear red…

One day that February I woke up and found myself in the strangest mood I had ever experienced in my life: I felt simply overflowing with love and one with the Universe. This was weird! What was going on here? I could not figure it out but it felt wonderful.

I sang and danced and, wanting to share my bliss, called some friends and family members, even my ex-husband (a mistake: we immediately started fighting). Lunch time came, and I decided to prepare some food. I was cleaning Brussels sprouts, and suddenly – the hausfrau-style satori! I simply knew: I was going to take sannyas! There was no question, no fear, no hesitation – I put my kitchen knife down, went to my desk, wrote a letter to the Centre in Würzburg requesting an application form, and walked to the mailbox to send it off.

I did not have much of an idea what it meant to have a Master; I was not even too sure where He was! None of that mattered – I was in love! When I went to my sannyas celebration in April 1982, everybody in the Centre was ecstatic about going to the Ranch for the First Annual World Celebration. It hardly crossed my mind that I too could go there.

I think that I was so in awe at the enormity of the gift that I had received (pretty much against my will) that the idea of actually going to see Him was way too much. It took me another year and a half until I finally got to see Him.

Throughout that time, the longing to be with Osho and His people grew so strong that I kept having vivid dreams that often woke me up in tears. But I was afraid that a visit to the Ranch might turn my whole life upside down. What if I decided to quit my job and leave everything behind? I was still teaching at the same school, dressed in all shades of red, with my mala tucked inside my clothing. People knew what the red clothes meant, but no one said anything to me. It wasn’t until a year later, when I decided to wear my mala outside, that the owners of the school decided to kick me out.

I could no longer resist going to the Ranch. In the summer of 1983, I booked the shortest possible stay, one week, to make sure nothing too dramatic could happen. And when the little plane from Portland to Rajneeshpuram circled above the Ranch, I could hardly believe that I was actually going to see Him at drive-by that afternoon.

Being at the Ranch felt like a true homecoming to me. A deep relaxation came over me. I had found my Master, I had found my people, and I had found my place.


“There is a tendency in the mind to avoid intimate relationship with the master; that’s what becomes a barrier in taking sannyas. You would like to remain uncommitted; you would like to learn, but you would like to remain uncommitted. But you cannot learn, that is not the way; you cannot learn from the outside. You have to enter the inner shrine of a master’s being. You have to commit yourself. Without it you cannot grow.

Without it you can learn a little bit from here and there, and you can accumulate a certain knowledge – that will not be of any help, rather it may become an encumbrance. A deep commitment is needed, a total commitment in fact, because there are many things going to happen. And if you are just outside on the periphery, just learning as a casual visitor, then much is not possible, because what will happen to you when the first satori comes? What will happen to you when you go mad? And you are not losing anything when you commit yourself to a master because you don’t have anything to lose. By your commitment you are simply gaining; you are not losing anything because you don’t have anything to lose. You have nothing to be afraid of. But still, still one wants to be very clever, and one wants to learn without commitment. That has never happened, because it is not possible. So if you are really authentically, sincerely a seeker, then find someone with whom you can move in a deep commitment, with whom you can take the plunge into the unknown. Without it you have wandered for many lives and you will wander. Without it the supreme accomplishment is not possible. Take courage and take the jump.”

Osho, Tantra: The Supreme Understanding, Ch 10

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

Past The Point Of No Return

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