SOMETHING IS AWAITING YOU
SWAMI PREM NIRVANO (Love and Enlightenment)
Born in 1941 in Gera, Thuringia, Germany. Nirvano took sannyas in 1976 and presently lives near Cologne, Germany.
It was a cold Sunday afternoon in London. I was waiting for a friend, standing outside Burlington House where we were going to see the exhibition ‘The Golden Age of Spanish Painting’, when suddenly I saw two people in orange coming towards me from Trafalgar Square. Presently, I recognized in them my old friends Luigi and Mario, a gay couple. I hadn’t seen them for about three years; they were then living in South Kensington and I had spent almost every weekend with them, coming down from Cambridge.
“Have you fallen for one of those sleazy Indian gurus?”, I asked after an enthusiastic exchange of hugs and handshakes. For besides the orange colour, they also wore the typical wooden beads of Hindu monks, except that their necklace even had a locket on it showing the face of an Indian with a broad smile. London was then a hotbed for the guru craze that the Beatles had kicked off with their visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
In fact, I first thought that the face on their oval plastic lockets was his. So I wasn’t the least bit impressed. I had once gone to see him, out of curiosity, at a gathering of his followers on the premises of the University of Cambridge. I had gone there because my boss, Professor Stern, was scheduled to read a paper. It was Stern who had got me to St. John’s College for a two-year stint as a Lector (a sort of tutor) for German literature and language.
Then, the whole Maharishi event, full of pale adepts of both sexes strewing flowers and waving incense sticks, had struck me as utterly bogus. Stein had seemed most embarrassed when he detected me in the audience and what he then said came more or less as a serious warning addressed to Western Civilization not to be seduced by the Easy Answers of the East. He seemed to be wriggling out of a commitment inadvertently made. As for the Maharishi, I saw my worst prejudices confirmed: What a sleepy, slippery man he was, and cunning to boot!
Well, seeing my old friends out of the blue in this quaint outfit put me into a tight corner. Ages ago, having lost faith in our friendship, I had deliberately and abruptly stopped seeing them. And so I was pretty deaf to the hype that came gushing forth from their mouths as they praised ‘Bhagwan’, their guru. His ashram was apparently in an Indian city I had never heard of, called Poona; according to them, this place was bursting at the seams with orange-clad sannyasins such as them, mostly coming from all over the Western world. Still, there could be no doubt that these two had been genuinely touched by something new: I couldn’t find any trace in Luigi anymore of the icy cynicism that had made me turn away from him. Moreover, they both wanted to be called by their new names: Luigi was now Swami Anand Samarpan (meaning ‘surrendered to bliss’) and Mario, Swami Prem Murti (meaning ‘image of love’). These were Sanskrit names given to them at their initiation by their Master! Strangeness upon strangeness …
Finally, my date for the exhibition turned up, and they invited me to drop in later that evening at their meditation centre on Lonsdale Square, Islington – which was the flat of the actual centre leader who was in Poona at the moment, they explained; they were only looking after the place. Mellowed enough to take up the offer, I took their phone number and each went their ways.
I must add that at that very moment, my life happened to be at a turning point once again. My contract with the college had come to an end, and I had declined to prolong it when the offer was made, coming both as a surprise and a distinction. The Cambridge world, for all its comforts and amenities, had reminded me of Gulliver’s Laputa, a kind of mental asylum for the erudite floating high up in the clouds, only connected to the ‘real world’ with a thin cord. But it was this very ‘real world’ which I myself was so desperately still searching for, deeply convinced that I would find it one day. I was nearly 35 now and had by no means found ‘my place in life’….
In short, I was still a ‘mixed-up kid’. But woe to him who dared say so aloud! (Ironically, the very first thing Osho was to say to me three months later was: “You are confused.”) Taking myself very seriously in my German way, I had done nothing so far but dismissing life’s offers one after the other as ‘not good enough’. From grammar school teacher in Bremen to Lector at St. John’s in Cambridge to nine months of backpacking through North Africa to moving in with my London friends Wilfried and Joanne in Lambeth, who had just founded a group of film makers called “Four Corner Films”…. And had it not dawned on me, only very recently, that I might be heading for suicide, I don’t think I would have pulled the emergency brakes and humbly asked the Bremen school authorities whether they would have me again.
And lo and behold, they would. In fact that very day was my last day in London; the next day, Monday, the ferry boat was going to take me ‘back home to Germany’ where I would start a ‘new life’ as – a school teacher!
Was I aware that this meant the end of my search? I don’t even think I was aware of being on a search. Yet in retrospect I know that I was – acutely so, desperately so. And now I was about to slam the door shut once and for all… for that’s what school teaching meant.
From the Angel tube station, around ten that night, I rang up the meditation centre, and within minutes Luigi-Samarpan turned up. Not only in a car – he had never had one before! – but one with a huge Mickey Mouse painted on the driver’s door! What had gotten into his proud Italian mind to fall so low?! But never mind, I was only here in order to close a chapter from my past….
When I entered the meditation centre on Lonsdale Square, the first thing I saw was a tall photo on the opposite wall showing a bearded man’s head in half profile, looking peacefully into nowhere. Instantly, the sight went into me like a lightning bolt, and I felt catapulted into endless heights, filling me with an elation I had never experienced before. And something inside me simply said “Yes!”
Whenever I remember the scene, this was the moment I became Osho’s sannyasin.
When my friends saw this sudden transformation in me and wanted to fill me in with more of their hype, I got into a sort of time warp: I saw myself back on one of the huge Habitat cushions in Luigi’s South Kensington flat, with him and his friends from Quaesitor, the Humanist therapy centre, raving about the wonders in their ongoing Encounter Group led by a black man called Denny Yuson (later Swami Veeresh). As I now just sat there, positively ecstatic, listening to those two going on about ecstasy upon ecstasies, I thought: “There we go again: sheer verbal diarrhoea! But then, who am I to judge? What do I know about Bhagwan?” So I decided to just enjoy my elated state and dutifully play my role as the listener, egging them on with questions, while it all just went in one ear and out the other. Every fibre in me was jubilating: I HAD FINALLY FOUND! I didn’t even compare the majestic face on the wall with the one on their mala locket that had failed to impress me before. Forgotten was my distaste for the Maharishi; instead, my brain, as if trying to grasp this miracle that even had a name to it, kept hammering this name: “Bhagwan, Bhagwan, Bhagwan….” And while they emptied their memory bags full of breath-taking Poona group anecdotes, a faint small voice inside me kept saying: “Let them talk… it’s okay. They just can’t fathom this immensity!”
We stayed up all night; they playing the part of the besotted missionaries and I that of the besotted convert: drinking tea, smoking cigarettes, having a bite to eat in-between. When the morning dawned, Mario-Murti said: “Let’s get ready for Dynamic!” Indeed, people had been streaming in since quarter to six. Now they stripped stark naked and positioned themselves on the floor. Samarpan took a mike and explained the five stages of this Dynamic meditation and why a Dynamic meditation was good for you (the old schoolmaster!).
Of course I was eager to try, wondering whether I’d manage. And manage I did – afterwards feeling even higher than before. For days after, I was virtually walking in the sky! In fact I wondered how I was ever going to get my feet back on the ground. Still, I wasn´t one bit upset. Everything was fine, to say the least. I had never felt so good: as safe as a baby in his mother’s lap.
After breakfast, it was time for me to go if I was to catch my boat train. But now I didn’t care. There would be other boat trains. So I stayed on and the talking went on. Years later, Murti told me he had never seen anybody falling for Osho as headlong as me.
In fact I stayed on in London for several days, in a permanent state of elation, and told all my friends about my wonderful discovery. Whenever I caught glances wondering “Has he gone potty or what?” I just laughed to myself.
Still, I had to make up my mind. Couldn’t I go straight to India to check this out? But all the money I had left was in a German bank.… One evening, I withdrew to my tiny Lambeth room with the express intention to make a final decision. Shifting books around, a piece of paper fluttered out of my diary with a sentence written on it – in my own handwriting, dated exactly two years before, to the day! It read: “Do you come here often? It is time you went.”
I was stunned: What could it mean? Where did it come from? What was the context? I had no idea. Yet at that moment it was an indisputable sign to act here and now. So I jumped up, took the tube to the all-night post office on Trafalgar Square and hastily jotted down a telegram to Bremen: “Fallen ill – can’t come. Details later.”
Hardly had I paid and seen it disappear through a slot, I had a flash concerning the cryptic message. Suddenly the memory was there: That sentence was the punch line of a nightmare! In which I had just entered a dark room full of naked people involved in a sordid orgy when a person disengaged from the knot of people and came towards me, saying those very words….
Did they mean the opposite, then, of what I had taken them to mean? Were they a warning rather than an invitation? In a cold sweat, I reclaimed the telegram and tore it up.
Now what? Then and there, I resolved to go to Bremen and start my job. And if this whole Bhagwan thing was really real for me, it would hold water. Come Easter vacation, I could go to India and see for myself.
The following day I left London.
Samarpan had given me a Bhagwan book for the journey, My Way: The Way of the White Clouds – Questions and Answers. It only proved further fuel to the blaze raging inside me. By now, I was dead tired yet wide awake. I just couldn’t get a wink of sleep. As I lay reading on my bunk, the bottom fell out of the boat as it peacefully ploughed through the North Sea. I got up for a lonely stroll on deck. The whole situation felt like a déjà vu.… Yes, on my last crossing, coming over from Germany last May, something had happened to me that somehow had presaged what was happening now…
That crossing had taken place just after I had broken off my African trip at Easter ’75. The day before, I had had an encounter with my father on the lawn of my parents’ house at Westerstede, north of Bremen. He had just handed me a pack of letters and postcards I had written from Africa, saying: “Isn’t it time you wrote your book?” “Which book?” I replied. “Well, you’ve got to do something worthwhile with your life, don’t you think?” – “Yes, but that’s for me to find out, not for you to tell me!”
As we were getting louder, my mother intervened, calling us in for supper. It was a very sullen supper – not a word was spoken. This was the first clash I had ever had with my father, and so we were both gnawing on the sheer pain of it: our tacit love affair, our symbiosis after all these years was broken!
In my bunk on the ferry, late that other night, I still hadn’t quite managed to grasp it. I felt as if the whole front of my body had been torn down by an iron hand and all my entrails were hanging out. As if drawn by a deep urge, I got up and picked my way to the front of the boat, all the way to the bowsprit. It was after midnight, nobody had seen me. My eyes went down the bowsprit line and fixed themselves for minutes on the foamy wave. But I just couldn’t bring myself to jump.… Finally, peering out into the night, I made out the vague outline of another boat, miles ahead.
Half consciously, my lips formed the words: “Something is awaiting you, just be patient!” Soothed, I slunk back unseen to my cabin and slept all the way to Harwich.
So this had been the meaning of that nebulous boat miles ahead nine months ago: It had symbolised the advent of my Master! Seeing this made me relax at last and again find some sleep. In Bremen I stayed with my old colleague and friend Annegret, the buxom blonde art teacher with whom I had gone to London for the New Year 1972, together with a whole bunch of art lovers. (And strangely, during that trip, all our lives had taken a sudden turn, each of us in a different direction. As for me, I had met Luigi….)
Hardly arrived, I fell ill, and so of course couldn’t start my new job. For a week, I was in bed with an in-descript fever – obviously my body’s answer to the last few days. My German friends found me very much changed, but mostly for the better, I gathered. For inwardly, I was still flying high, though considerably mellowed down now and no more wanting to blurt it all out. Soon, I was a teacher again, this time in a newly opened school project, a combination of the three traditional German types of student training after the tenth grade. There was a whiff in the air of real reform, of our 1968 student rebellion coming to fruition. And I liked what I saw and the people I was working with. And, most of all, I liked the students. Yet at times I was rubbing my eyes at all the strange rituals of the German school system; then, I felt like an alien, but in such moments I reminded myself that I was only marking time, quietly and serenely waiting for the end of March, when I would be on my way to Bombay!
And so I was. Arriving at the Shree Rajneesh Ashram, as it was then called, felt like entering the exotic world of thousand-and-one nights. The ashram address itself sounded unpronounceable enough: 17, Koregaon Park. Located on the outskirts of Pune (as Poona is called nowadays), Koregaon Park had served as a residential area for Maharajas and the crème de la crème of the British Raj, the Civil Servants and army officers of the Empire. They had built themselves splendid villas surrounded by lush and once very genteel parks.
Koregaon Park was laid out in a grid of narrow straight streets. Everywhere, I saw slow-moving, saintly looking figures in long, orange robes – men and women alike well-groomed and with long undulating hair. They all seemed to stream to and fro the magnificent ashram gate, made of solid tropical wood and studded with polished brass knobs. It stood wide open, and like a giant mouth, it seemed to suck them in with a magnet while simultaneously spitting out others who had been well chewed through. Strands of flute and guitar music filled the gently wafting warm air of India’s hottest season. To either side of the gate, fierce-looking guards in orange were checking entry passes, and along the outer walls, long lines of black motor rickshaws were parked, interspersed with masses of antediluvian bicycles.
Right next to the gate, there even was a small, closed-in area for smokers that was actually called ‘the smoking temple’! Opposite, in the shade of huge banyan trees, haggard-looking vendors were flogging heaps of cheap orange clothes and all sorts of tropical fruit, with the occasional snake charmer in between, all of them calling out enticingly to the passers-by. A veritable oriental bazaar.…
Years later, I witnessed a large group of Georgians arrive at the Main Gate. Seeing the way they all fell on their knees and kissed the earth, one gathered that they must have just crossed an immeasurable desert without a drop of water. Without doubt, these people had reached their Promised Land. This scene brought tears to my eyes and made me remember what I myself had felt when I passed through this gate for the first time.
But nothing could match the mystique of my first meeting with Osho. It took place on the evening of April 4, 1976. Outside Lao Tzu House, the 1930’s style villa where Osho lived, a dozen or two festively clad sannyasins and guests had assembled, waiting to be led through the garden gate, along richly flowering borders to the back porch for darshan, the nightly rendezvous with the Master.
I was the first to be called up. Minutes later, I was a sannyasin – very much to my own surprise. For I wasn’t even wearing orange, just a blue shirt and brown trousers! It was only afterwards, when leaving for my hotel, that I realized what had happened. And I said to myself: “He didn’t even ask me whether this was what I wanted!” And with this thought, a wave of gratitude rushed through me: By not asking me first, my Master had simply by-passed my mind! God knows what nonsense I would have spilled out if He had! He knew as well as I knew – and that was that.
He had just said “Close your eyes – and if anything happens in the body, let it happen.…”, and when I opened them again, he just slipped the mala over my head and handed me my ‘birth certificate’ with my new name on it: Swami Prem Nirvano, written in His own hand, small, careful and aesthetic. He explained: “Prem means love, and Nirvano means enlightenment. Can you pronounce it?” I showed I could, whereupon He advised me to wear orange and to find out which of His dynamic meditations would suit me best. Then He ‘gave’ me two introductory therapy groups to do, Enlightenment Intensive and De-Hypnotherapy.
In my first few days there, seeing Osho only from a distance, during lecture, I had anticipated dropping dead at His feet. But in fact when I did sit down at His feet, I felt thoroughly cool, calm and collected. There was no doubt: I had come home. Coming out of darshan, I felt firm ground under my feet – at last, I walked the earth! Opposite Lao Tzu Gate, I saw a tap dripping in the bushes, each drop gleaming like a diamond in the setting sun. Never ever in my life had I felt so rich, so blessed!
“My sole function is to leave you alone to yourself. You have not been left alone by your parents, by your teachers, by your rabbis, by your monks, by your priests… you have not been left alone. Nobody trusted you. I trust you. They all wanted to make something of you, in their own image. I don’t want to make you something in my image. I want you simply to blossom into your own authenticity. I don’t know what it will be, you don’t know what it will be. And it is good that we don’t know what it will be, because then it is so much of a surprise – as if suddenly you have found an infinite treasure.
I said, I trust you. So I will not give you any belief, because I know you have the absolute capacity to discover life, love, laughter.
Just all the rocks that have been put upon you have to be removed. Don’t cling to those rocks. They are your enemies. If you are a Jew, Judaism is your enemy. If you are a Christian, Christianity is your enemy. If you are a Hindu, Hinduism is your enemy. Whoever you are, if you have accepted something without searching, seeking, it is your enemy. Say, ‘Goodbye to you.’ Say to the enemy, ‘I am finished with you. Now I want to be alone. I want to be absolutely clean, unburdened.’ And you will be amazed: the moment you are unburdened, you can open your wings into the vast existence that has been awaiting and awaiting you.”
Osho From Unconsciousness to Consciousness, Ch 14, Q 1
From the book, Past the Point of No Return by Ma Anand Bhagawati