YES! YES! YES!
MA PREM TAO (Ultimate Law of Love)
Born in 1942 in Toronto, Canada. Tao took sannyas in 1977 and presently lives in Hawaii, USA
The Story Begins
My first exposure to Bhagwan was in 1971 in London, as I sat in the office of Kaleidoscope (later called Community), a Growth Centre for Self-Development that Michael Barnett (later Somendra) and I co-ran.
I watched various dear friends, acquaintances, and colleagues come visit the centre, go to India, and return some time later, in orange robes and with long beards, in the case of the guys. One such close friend was Hugh Milne, Shivamurti, who had a room in our centre. Upon his return from India, I can remember him sitting in the small admin office while I worked, knees pulled up to his chest, back against the wall, as I was typing, or on the phone, or doing some administrative task, and he’d talk to me of India and of his beloved Master. And what it all meant to him. Then he would turn to me as if to ask, “Well, what about you? When are you going?” Well, you might as well have been asking me when I was going to fly to the moon!
Another two acquaintances were Patricia Clare and Paul Lowe (Poonam and Teertha), who ran the ‘other’ London centre, Quaesitor. I know, we were supposed to be so enlightened that we would not be competitive with each other, rather cooperative; but that was not always the scenario…still, their disappearance to India was an event.
They would come and go, especially Poonam; they introduced Dynamic Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, and Nadabrahma Meditation as well as scheduled evenings to discuss the ‘India Experience’ and listen to discourse tapes.
Over the years, more and more people I knew from the Growth scene vanished to India. Juliet (Maneesha), my dear sister-friend and important part of Community, left the centre to visit India, and that was the last we saw of her.
The centre leader in Amsterdam, with whom I often spoke about centre business, went to Poona and became Arup.
In 1974, Michael and I left the centre and did the Arica Training course in London, England; upon completing the training, he went to India to transform into Somendra, while I went to New York…YEAH!…to do the Advanced Arica Training.
From Europe to the USA
Now skipping ahead, in 1975 or 1976, I left England and, after a short stay in Toronto, my hometown, I went to San Francisco, where I moved into a lovely flat with two women friends, one of whom was clad in orange, a sannyasin called Ma Prem Sharda.
In the 9 months that I lived in San Francisco (note the time length), I gravitated towards and drew to me more and more sannyasins. I really did not pay much attention to it, except that I thought it was pretty silly stuff – always wearing orange and having a very strange picture around your neck. Later, when I became a sannyasin, I was to pay heavily for my negativity about it all, explaining it to my family and old friends. And my new friends were constantly asking me the question, “When, Libby, when are you going to take sannyas?”
Up until this time, my heart had really not been touched, had not opened up in this particular way, and so, although I loved my sannyasin friends and loved the openness and free way of living, which was my style as well and how we all expressed ourselves, it was not even an option I thought about.
One day I went to visit Sharda, who had by then moved to Geetam, the Rajneesh centre in the desert, a converted Dude Ranch in Lucerne Valley. I had such a great time and also a little romance with one of the sannyasin men who lived there. I returned a few more times and made some really good friends; I think that my judgements began dissolving and my perspective started shifting and mellowing.
On one such visit, a few sannyasins were invited to come to Los Angeles for a private meeting with the Karmapa (exactly which Karmapa I cannot recall but who was highly regarded), who was visiting and staying in the home of a famous Hollywood actor, who I believe was Lee Marvin. I was invited to come along too, and that meant I had to change into something orange. I put on a great-looking robe kindly loaned to me by Sharda, and off we went to Los Angeles. It was such a fascinating experience:
We were asked to wait inside the house; the rooms were filled with incredible pieces of sculpture, antique artifacts reflecting and symbolizing Eastern spiritual themes, beautiful paintings, and many martial arts artifacts. Then we were invited out into the garden, and that is where the Karmapa was waiting for us, seated in a chair. On either side of him sat a few monks. I was surprised that I didn’t really feel anything stir in me, anything different, for being in his presence. Until they started chanting, that is. The chanting was beyond the beyond and took me there. It was glorious! Also, I was excited, of course. Just being there was exciting to me – being in a brand new situation, in a Hollywood home, and about to step into an unknown experience with so much potential in so many directions.
I took my turn going up before the Karmapa to receive a blessing and the red string, and I kneeled before him quite willingly. I wanted something to happen to me. If you had asked me what it was I was expecting, I could not have told you, but I knew that I would know it when ‘it’ happened. But nothing happened. I felt exactly the same afterward as before. And then, when everyone had received their blessing, it was over, and we left.
I bring this up specifically because when I was on my way to India, my biggest fear was, “What if, after all this trouble, risking life and limb to get here, I might sit before Bhagwan and feel nothing at all?”
The Turning Point
One day I looked around me. I really looked around at my activities and the people around me – the people I did things with, lived with, socialized with, and talked to – and realized with a gasp that every single person was a sannyasin. And I said to myself, “My, oh my, something is going on here.”
The other interesting (well, to me) synchronistic bit is that everyone who I knew leaving for Poona seemed to say that they had $2,000. And that figure kept being repeated over and over again in my head: It was $2,000 needed to go to Poona and stay comfortably there for a while.
One day I was musing about life in general and thought what am I going to do with the next part of my life? What now? And when I took a look at my resources and how much money I had, it was just a little over… $2,000.
I have found that there are always three synchronistic events that precede a major change, three parts to an ‘aha’ experience taking place. The third part to this was that my household was breaking up, and somehow the bond that kept us glued together as a family suddenly had dissolved.
A magical part of living in this apartment building was the man downstairs in the garden flat, who was a unique person with a beautiful heart. He had rescued a piano from a Chinese restaurant that had been used as a serving table for food going from the kitchen to the customers. It had been a mess when he brought it home to his garage, where he completely restored it. There it sat with the lid down until one day I asked if I could play it. And so I would come down every day and play this wonderful, wonderful piano. One time, he put two candelabras on the piano, and from that day on, he would come in when I was finished playing with two glasses of champagne for us to celebrate the music. He was a treasure, and now he too was making some life changes, considering moving in with a friend.
All I remember now is that one night I went to bed, and the next morning I woke up and knew I was going to Poona. Just wham! There it was. And the moment I thought that, the phone rang, and it was my mother calling, wanting to know how I was. The intuitive thread that mothers and daughters have was on the job. I said, “Mom, sit down; I’m going to India.”
Arrived in Poona on June 13, 1977. I felt perfectly at home and knew so many people – more than I even realized were there. In fact, I think Europe transposed itself to Poona. I was wearing a pale pink top and emerald green pants. Why those colors? Looking back, I think part of me was already moving towards the orange, not quite there, and the other part was definitely holding back and onto all that Libby was at that time.
I was in darshan three days later. Those taking sannyas were called up first, and then everyone else followed in some prearranged order. As I was unsure of what I wanted to do, I was near the end. And how perfect that was! I had a chance to listen to all the interchanges between Bhagwan and visitors, returning sannyasins having their welcome darshans and other sannyasins having their leaving darshans and problems being aired and attended to, and I also blessedly experienced the sannyas-taking process. And my biggest fear vanished, dissolved, and melted, and so did I.
Just before going to darshan on that day, I noticed that the reservations I had felt and the arguments for not taking sannyas that had been running through my head were utterly gone, although nothing had been discussed, debated, or even resolved. They were simply no longer there.
So what happened in darshan? I experienced, for the first time ever, Love. Real Love, and the game was over. I had never heard anyone speak to another human being in the way Bhagwan spoke to those who came before Him. Everything from and about Him was soft, flowing, pliable, warm, delicious, fragrant, and with such acceptance and grace that I just wanted to fold into Him and into His vast loving energy and embrace and stay there forever, not saying a word, not doing a thing, but just reveling in Him.
My name is called, and I get up and sit down before Him. Maneesha and Shiva are both sitting there, and we acknowledge each other. I notice that my hand is edging towards Bhagwan’s foot, and I just let it gently rest there. (Devil that I am, I know I am not supposed to touch Him.)
Bhagwan is talking to me, and I do say something, but then I just want to fall into His gaze and say nothing. He stops asking me questions; there is a big pause, and then He asks…”What about sannyas?” Out of somewhere in me just erupts this passionate mini-explosion, and with my arms flung out wide, as wide as the universe, I shout, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Everyone in the audience just bursts out laughing.
He puts His blessed thumb on my forehead, and I feel myself dive into this place I never want to come back from. And then He says, “Ma Prem Tao.” And I know it is right. I feel a huge smile inside me. Yes, Chinese! I am Chinese!
I had always had connections with the old China. In fact, as a child, when I would see myself sitting at the feet of a wise man, he was always Chinese. With a long white beard, long silky sleeves in a silky-satin kimono, and a Fu Manchu moustache. As Bhagwan explains the three meanings of Tao, it all just feels right.
Those who have gone through this process know that most of it – the real parts – cannot find their way to paper. Something happens. Something definitely different. But not easily definable. I would laugh to myself when people said they were leaving sannyas. You can’t leave sannyas. Leaving Bhagwan or leaving Poona makes no difference, because taking sannyas is totally an inner experience, an internal altering in some marvellous way, and you take it with you because it is you now.
I was changed. And I knew it. I felt different. As if the inner choir had returned, and now I had music within me. I don’t know how to explain this. I feel that the change was a kind of opening, literally a breaking through to my feeling heart. As if this part of my heart (perhaps my entire heart) was amplified, intensified, and vaster than it’s ever been, and Love poured out and filled me in a new way.
Bhagwan said to me at the time that I would be leading groups, but I pretended that I didn’t know what He was saying because the thought terrified me. And before the first group I ever was to lead, I spent the first half hour in the bathroom in total terror, shitting out as much as I could. (I took over Bio-Energetics from Prageet because he broke a rib in the morning in a fight with one of the participants.)
I had a chance to say no to taking on that group, but I could not have lived with myself, wondering what would have happened. I could not back down, just because of my fear.
And I think because of the enormity of my fear and the fact that I had no idea what I would do, once I got in there, my mind went totally bananas, and I experienced a kind of mini-satori, certainly a state of total no-mind, through most of that workshop, which lasted three days. I will never forget that workshop. I cannot. It is like forever remembering your first love.
That state, I have never experienced like that since, nor all the various beautiful people who were in that group, or what happened to them, over those three days.
Just to give you a sampling, all there was, was space and spaciousness. I remember things like, if something came into my mind, it just arrived; calmly, it was there; I would say it or do it, and it triggered an enormous, immediate response, from wherever that response needed to come. If I looked at someone, they instantly went into some state or catharsis of some sort. I remember the thought coming… “Why did I ever worry about what to do or what lies ahead?” As soon as there is a need to know or do something, it is here. So simple. So calm.
Two of the participants stand out, even today, 30 years later. There was Irish Ma Deva Chintana who had just left the Catholic Convent after being a nun for 25 years in Australia. This was her first group ever. There was a Russian guy living in Paris, Swami Prem Anand, or Anand Prem. Those two are huge, wonderful stories in themselves.
Living in Poona was like living in the Garden of the Child. It was the most glorious time, even though it was often challenging to the core. I lived with Ultimate Love, with The Master, and for the first time in my life, I expanded beyond myself and my world and opened my heart. Bhagwan was the ultimate being, the ultimate point. Using His words, but not in reference to Himself… He was the goal and the way.
It was in Poona that I became a religious person. In a spiritual sense, of course. It was in Poona that the world became my world, so I wouldn’t do anything to spoil it or dirty it; otherwise, I’d clean it up. I no longer threw candy wrappers or anything else on the road when I returned to the West, as this is my road. And I still feel this way today. The world is mine, as it is everyone’s, and so it is my job to take care of it.
When Bhagwan left the Ranch in Oregon in 1985 for parts unknown to us then, I stood there for a while with the crowd watching Him go, not believing that He was coming back as we had been told. Suddenly I felt so angry, and I didn’t know why, but it was very deep within me: a sense of betrayal. And I walked away down the runway in the opposite direction before His plane took off.
I stayed at the Ranch until January 1986, when I came to Hawaii, where I lived with sannyasins for one year and then set out on my own.
I realized that it’s time for me now to take what I’ve learned and fully apply it to my own cognizance and authority, and become the master inside me. At that point, I killed the master as I met him on the road (as suggested) and accepted my full responsibility to grow in the way He had been leading me all this time. To find myself and run with her. To emulate consciousness, compassion, intelligence, humour, and whatever else was possible, to continue on the journey to enlightenment.
I think it was shortly after that that Bhagwan became Osho, and so the separation, in a way, was complete. I never really related to the Osho energy; I never made the shift to Osho, so I refer to Bhagwan all the way through, as this was the one with whom I was related. Osho was another new level of being with whom I never connected.
How grateful I am and will always be to Bhagwan for my life as it is and for all that He has offered. And there comes a moment when we all have to leave the boat on the shore, as He so aptly put it, and walk on our own feet. That is what I have been doing ever since, in gratitude and with such love for Him.
I have often wondered who He really was, apart from the Master on the Platform, saying He wanted us to be friends, not disciples, yet remaining on the platform.
“Good! This will be your name. Ma Prem Tao.
Prem means love and tao means the ultimate law – the ultimate law of love. And that is the only law: all else is just arbitrary, all else is utilitarian. Only love is non-utilitarian. All else exists for us. It is only love for which we exist. Love is the end, the ‘summum bonum’. Once we start falling into love energy we start growing. The more we are resisting love energy, inhibiting it, we remain stuck.
And tao is the Chinese word but the best yet used for the ultimate. Christians use ‘god’ but that has been so much misused: it has fallen into wrong hands and all associations have gone wrong.
The Indians have used ‘dharma’, but that too has become dirty. ‘Tao’ remains one of the purest words ever used for the ultimate because ‘tao’ has no meaning so nobody can corrupt it. When a word has a meaning it can be corrupted. Tao is just a sound: it does not say anything; it simply indicates. It does not say; it shows.
And the basic thing in tao is to go with the whole – never to go against it, never to push the river and never to try to go up-current. Mm? – that’s what ego is.
Whenever we are pushing, trying to prove something, trying to get something, trying to fight for something, trying to struggle, whenever there is some kind of will, we are against tao. Tao is will-lessness: just going with the current wherever it is going, moving with the river….
And this you are going to become, mm? Will it be easy to pronounce?”
(Osho suggests some groups to the new sannyasin who participated in a lot of therapy groups in the West and who was co-Director of a Growth Centre in London. She says: “I have this idea about therapy – I don’t want therapy… but I’ll do them.”)
“Mm mm, it is not therapy, because you are not a patient and it is not therapy. The word is ugly…but this is a necessary evil with language: whatsoever word we use it is never true to the fact.
Now, therapy is ugly. It presupposes that somebody is abnormal, ill, diseased, that somebody is not in the right shape, that somebody is a case, somebody is mental or something. It presupposes a division between the patient and the doctor. It is one of the dualities, as there are other dualities, and naturally the doctor is the knower, he is the authority, he is in the know, so he manipulates the patient, he dominates the patient, he oppresses the patient. In the name of helping him he exploits the patient.
So you are right – the word is not very good but any word…. And because the human mind lives in dualities, it immediately creates that class: the dominator and the dominated, the oppressor and the oppressed; it always creates that classification. It has nothing to do with words; it is the mind. It always makes one the master and another the slave, and then the whole nonsense goes on persisting. Names change, labels change, but the same thing continues.
To me, the reality of therapy is love. It is not that the therapist is the knower, no, and it is not that the patient is ill. All that is the case is that the therapist, or whatsoever name we call him, is able to become available to the energy of the whole; he has learned that art. Through his availability he helps the other, whom we call the patient, to become available to that healing energy. The therapist is just a door, and he is as much helped as the patient…sometimes even more!
My own observation is that the therapist grows faster than the patient. And if he understands this too – that therapy is a function of love, that you simply become a bridge, a vehicle, between the healed and the real healer, god….
And if the ego does not arise, then you can use any word; ‘therapist’ will do as well as any other word.
The therapist is nothing but a person who is more in tune, just a little bit ahead of others. He can pull you up; just seeing him ahead you can gather courage. He is not the leader, he is just the friend and once you understand that, you can help many people.
And I can see that you have the energy to become a healer; you can become a therapist. You can create great friendship around you; you can vibrate people with friendship.
So just participate in two, three groups, mm? And forget all that you know about groups.
The capacity to remain able to learn is one of the greatest blessings. Once it is crippled you start dying, you stop growing. So in these groups just be a participant with no past and move as deeply as possible. You will be surprised. Something new is bound to happen out of it.”
Osho, The Further Shore, Ch 4
From the book, Past the Point of No Return by Ma Anand Bhagawati