I know I’m a fresher when it comes to the New Age. But I try to keep an open mind. During last month’s stay at Kopan Monastery I thought I grasped the idea of meditation. Is it not meant to be a peaceful period of contemplation and focussed concentration? When did ‘intentionally go mad’ become part of the process? The mandatory maroon gowns are similar in colour to the saffron robes worn by Buddhist monks but this is where the similarities end. During Osho meditation, depending on the type you choose, you could hum, shake, jump, flail, dance, scream or shout. Does this craziness tend not to deter most people? Apparently, not. The Osho International Meditation Resort is one of India’s main tourist attractions enticing over 200,000 guests per year. Still searching for more meaning in my life, this seemed like a suitable detour in advance of our beachside destination in Goa.
A fortnight prior to my visit I had just completed Osho’s book Joy: The Happiness That Comes from Within. Sections of the book are longwinded, rambling, and repetitive; a hallmark of all great spiritual teachers! However there were ideas and phrases that manipulated how you traditionally thought: ‘only a joyless person needs entertainment,’ and ‘you are being taught everything, but you are not being taught to be yourself.’ As a society we have placed restrictions on the individual, on ourselves, and in striving to conform we ultimately remain joyless.
Only a joyless person needs entertainment
We all want joy in our lives and Osho, who died over twenty-five years ago yet is still revered as a revolutionary, spiritual teacher, advises that we are all capable of this although we need to incorporate some form of meditation into our lives to achieve this. He didn’t believe in the ascetic lifestyle but in celebrating life and its many pleasures; a philosophy that earnt him the title of ‘Rolls-Royce guru’. With meditation we are able to break the societal constrictions we impose on ourselves and open our mind to the possibility of enlightenment and endless joy.
My arms flail then I jump up and down. I shadow-box. I scream and shout. Long guttural roars. I hunch over and yell towards the floor. My anger is subsiding; I am losing momentum. It has barely been one minute and I’m running out of steam. This is only a practice run. In the full length version this stage, ‘explode,’ lasts for ten minutes. ‘How do I maintain my anger?’ I ask Raja who is leading the ‘Welcome Meeting’. ‘Do you have an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife?’ he asks. Seeing my slow, pensive nod, Raja continues, ‘Think about her!’ This form of ground breaking meditation is one Osho introduced in April 1970: ‘Dynamic Meditation’.
Osho believed that an emotional release was necessary ‘since it was difficult for modern people to just sit and enter meditation.’ Other meditation methods, with more exotic names like ‘Kundalini’ and ‘Nadabrahma,’ can conjure a similar cathartic effect. During the welcome meeting demonstration videos are shown of Dynamic and Kundalini Meditation and of the ‘Evening White Robe Brotherhood Meeting’. Each video is followed by class participation of each stage.
It was difficult for modern people to just sit and enter meditation
Typically each meditation lasts an hour however the evening meeting is closer to two hours. As we rehearsed the evening meeting I began to feel like we had joined a cult. Our arms were raised and we chanted out Osho’s name to the sound of each drum beat then sat silently as we listened to Osho’s hypnotic voice. In the early eighties many feared Osho’s movement as a cult. And from the surface it is cult-like: in white, flowing gowns we enter a black pyramid, chant the leader’s name on cue and follow an ordered script. In reflection I recall my days attending Catholic mass. How does it differ? Here they miss out on the wafer and wine!
For the evening meeting your maroon robe is exchanged for a white robe. Osho stated that being ‘dressed in one colour intensifies the energy’. As are many of the daytime meditations, the evening meeting, is held in the main meditation hall of Osho Auditorium: the nine-storey black pyramid. A relatively new addition which opened in 2002 is a realisation of Osho’s last wish. He had a fascination with pyramids as he believed they had potential to deepen meditation and prolong life. Within this closed, air-conditioned, meditation hall you can feel the coldness of the dark-green marble floor and hear with crisp clarity. In the low season the 5000 capacity auditorium, as it did today, will seem empty.
The ashram itself was established in 1974, exactly where it stands today, in Pune, Koregaon Park. To enter you require to register and pass a mandatory HIV/AIDS blood test. Rumours have suggested that local men come to the ashram seeking sex; consensual sex is not forbidden. Osho had quite a liberal view on sex encouraging a permissive climate; a view that dubbed him the ‘sex guru’ and his resort tainted with the stigma of a ‘sex cult’. However Osho claimed he had the foresight to see that AIDS would become an epidemic and stated ‘No gurus or no AIDS’ shall enter into his resort. What I witnessed were people free to experiment in an open minded environment: free to experiment with meditation, not sex.
To enter you require to register and pass a mandatory HIV/AIDS blood test
Exhausted from the physical outburst I longed-for the stillness and silence. The calmness is intensified. You feel and hear your pounding heartbeat; with time it slows down. Your sweat beads, collects and with momentum snakes down your body eventually evaporating. In the darkness your mind races, initially self-conscious, but with the cathartic release your thoughts tire and calm quickly. Unlike traditional meditation you gain control of your mind and focus easier. In today’s market shouting and screaming are used by motivational speakers and stress practitioners. Arrhythmic, chaotic breathing is used in yoga. Osho’s meditation methods incorporate beneficial techniques that are familiar to us. Being fully engaged and embracing the process maximises your feeling of well-being.
The silence ends and we need to celebrate: expressed through dance. I hear Bob Sinclar’s Love Generation and I’m drawn in. I sway, then my arms involuntary raise, and wave side to side. I spring off the floor repetitively. I do the running man: more of a jog on the spot. I’m infamous for my dad dancing but with eyes closed I dance uninhibitedly. Jean Claude Van Damme’s Kickboxer dance comes to mind. I try to ‘shake it off’. I embrace the dance stage with child-like enthusiasm and finish the meditation in a liberated, euphoric state of mind.
At the hotel I remove and reluctantly dispose of my maroon gown. I had only scratched the surface of what was on offer at the Osho International Meditation Resort. What I found were people passionately and willingly believing in the teachings of a deceased guru: more of a religion than a cult. They were free to practise and experiment with Osho developed meditation techniques; untraditional yet revolutionary. This resort may not fit everyone’s tastes but it is worth exploring with an open mind. By embracing the process, I’ve learnt meditation using cathartic methods and have noticed immediate benefits. With stress levels decreased I’m happier overall. It’s not enlightenment but it is a step closer.
~ Jesse Gerwien
Footnotes: Refer to post ‘Get Thee To A Monastery’
Pune (Poona), India
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Stayed: The O Hotel Pune, North Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra 411001, India (http://pune.ohotelsindia.com/). Total cost for 1 night, 2 people: Rs. 3,900. Within 500m of the Welcome Center and main entrance of the Osho International Meditation Resort. Infamous for their Sunday rooftop pool party and across the road from the German Bakery. There is accommodation within the meditation resort, Osho Guesthouse, however costs can be up to Rs. 8,600 per night for a double room. Several low cost hotels are within walking distance of the resort.
Welcome Center: require to register prior to the ‘Welcome Meeting’ at 9:30 A.M. Registration cost Rs. 1,400 and includes the mandatory blood test. In addition a daily entry charge requires to be paid. I was charged Rs. 1,560 entry. Suggest arriving at 9:00 A.M. to register if on same day as Welcome Meeting. Vouchers are used on site for all purchases including food, robes, swimwear, gifts etc., and can be bought at the Welcome Center. Only whole voucher sheets that are unused are refunded.
Dress code: during the day a maroon robe is required. At night for the evening meeting a white robe is required. To use the Basho pool (for recreation or swimming meditation) you require maroon swimwear. Robes on site retail for Rs. 750. Second-hand robes from nearby street stalls can be purchased for approximately Rs. 300 and it is possible to negotiate a return price.
Welcome Meeting: The meeting commences at 9:30 A.M. at the Osho Plaza. You will watch a demonstration video on Dynamic and Kundalini Meditation, onsite etiquette, and the Evening Meeting. This will be followed by a practise of each meditation method and an evening meeting rehearsal. The meeting will end on completion of the onsite tour approximately around midday. For the rest of the afternoon you are free to explore the grounds and participate in full meditation sessions.
Recommended Agenda: If you have the time I recommend a minimum of two full days with an overnight stay. This will allow you to participate in the Welcome Meeting, the Evening Meeting and take in several daily meditations including the dynamic meditation session the following morning.
Reducing Costs: The resort is commercial in nature and onsite costs can be inflated when compared to typical local prices. Bottles of water on site sell for Rs. 55. Bring your own water bottle and you can refill it at the numerous fountains within the grounds. Bring your own padlock to use onsite lockers. The German Bakery provides a cheaper, external alternative to Zorba the Buddha Bistro and other onsite restaurants.
German Bakery, 292, Road No. 1, North Main Road, Ragvilas Society, Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra 411001, India. Food suits the travelling clientele that frequent this restaurant including omelettes, variety of hearty sandwiches and of course cake.
More information on the Osho International Meditation Resort can be found on the resort webpage: http://www.osho.com/visit