Trigger warning: what you are about to read contains no references to super sex, super consciousness, or super-ego, and minimal references to who or what was responsible for the demise of a much-discussed commune in central Oregon. However – there are frequent references to obscure concepts like ‘waking up’ and ‘growing up’…….. And also some discussion about ‘cleaning up’ and ‘showing up’. What’s more – and the ghost of a dear departed American sannyasin-prankster may well be smiling – we will try to keep in mind that oft–forgotten attitude – ‘lighten up’.
Many readers will be familiar with these terms. Others may not. Yet I think the ideas behind such slogans can be extremely helpful to those who have an interest in or impetus towards spiritual exploration.
Why am I writing about this? The raging debate following the release of the documentary Wild Wild Country is a major prompt. The legacy of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – later known as Osho - is at stake. Many people have posted quotations from Osho to support their opinions. Others have taken the view that no matter what their Master said or did, his presence in their lives was a huge positive and they have no regrets. Across the orange divide, some folk have debunked or devalued the experience or expressed their chagrin they were foolish enough to get involved in the first place. And a growing number of correspondents have tried to bring the conversation back to the present and ponder what, if anything, has been learnt?
My broad interest lies in the last-mentioned category. What follows will be an attempt to evaluate Osho’s teachings in so far as they apply to me personally and (gasp, gasp!) how they have been received by others with whom I share this common (and complicated) past. Let it be said at the outset my glasses are anything but rose-coloured. While I have no regrets having been part of a somewhat spectacular shindig, I believe there were key elements lacking in what was communicated or encouraged by the guru himself and these had a lot to do with Osho’s own background and preferences.
When we are attracted to a spiritual teacher our primary focus is usually upon some form of ‘awakening ‘or ‘enlightenment’. This is the carrot the teacher dangles in front of us. We might glean this initially from the teacher’s words or writings and it can be confirmed when we are physically present with the teacher. Something ineffable draws us like moths to the flame. A mysterious transmission of which we may have a ‘felt sense’ (to misappropriate Eugene Gendlin’s phrase). A resonance with both the teacher and his or her message, and simultaneously a kind of disappearance into a deep silence in which time and space are absent. Broadly speaking, we are being urged to ‘wake up’ to the true nature of Reality.
Now, while those of you who have been on a spiritual search may not take issue with that last sentence, there are many folk for whom the expression ‘the true nature of Reality’ will be at best woolly metaphysics and at worst completely meaningless. (Most of us have friends and relations who fall into that category.) It’s not my intention here to delve into this subject but simply to acknowledge that the promise of awakening or enlightenment is a promise of transformation – a transformation generally highlighted by an individual recognising on a deep level that he or she is not merely a separate body-mind organism but exists as formless consciousness, outside of time and space. Part of the role of the teacher is to guide students towards that goal and offer techniques (of which meditation practices are normally front and centre) designed to make those students more ‘enlightenment–prone’.
This focus on the ‘waking up’ is not accidental. It is the bedrock of the great wisdom traditions, going back thousands of years. ‘Reality’ is not simply what we humans apprehend with our senses or think about with our minds, but is composed of various levels – from matter to body to mind to soul and to spirit. In the evolutionary process, we can evolve within and from each of these dimensions - and if we are lucky, through some kind of divine grace, we will awaken to our true nature. This worldview was dubbed ‘the perennial philosophy’ by Aldous Huxley who noted the many similarities between religious and philosophical traditions spread across different epochs and cultures. Perhaps Socrates sums it up best: ‘Know thyself’.
‘The Good’ - Rajneesh Ashram – Poona 1974-1981
Osho, who states he became enlightened when he was twenty-one, left an academic career in philosophy to become a spiritual teacher. By the time he took up residence in the Poona ashram in 1974 he had numerous Indian and Western disciples. He had also developed and refined a range of radical meditation practices, of which Dynamic Meditation was the most prominent.
Within the ashram, these practices were supplemented with therapeutic or quasi-therapeutic group work (along with individual sessions). Many of the group leaders had honed their skills in personal growth centres such as Esalen in California. Complementing the therapeutic work, ashram attendees could be allocated meditation-style groups such as Vipassana and self-enquiry groups such as Enlightenment Intensive.
This smorgasbord was designed to cover all spiritual and psychological bases. Osho had the insight to recognise that Western disciples, in particular, were not steeped in a culture where meditation was given prominence. To expose them prematurely to contemplative practices could be counter-productive. As a first step, they needed to be shaken out of their ego-centred, individually-oriented conditioning. Hence the therapeutic focus.
I think the general consensus among those of us who spent time in what is described as ‘Poona One’ is that we benefited immensely. I certainly did. Prior to arriving in the ashram I’d done some yoga and psychodrama as well as therapeutic and self-enquiry groups at the sannyasin centre on the outskirts of Perth. But it was in Poona – with groups like Encounter, Tantra and Awareness – that I was shaken loose from my moorings. It was as if one was put through a crash program in psychology, bodywork and energy experiences. A program that was confronting, exhilarating, frightening yet ultimately liberating. In a very short time I learnt more about myself than I had in the previous thirty years.
For most of us, group work had a short life span and only formed part of our Poona story. Those who stayed for longer periods usually worked in the ashram. Our day began with an Osho discourse. Here we would sit in silence for an hour and a half. This was no ordinary silence. In an auditorium containing a thousand or so individuals a deep peace descended. It was as if we shared a common vibration. In Osho’s presence a hidden transmission seemed to be taking place. One felt enriched and whole; emptied and energised.
At the end of our working day, we might sing and dance at Music Group. This moving, pulsating, free-flowing expression came as a perfect finale after a period of focusing on our particular jobs. And then, intermittently, we could attend an evening darshan – which meant sitting in the presence of Osho as well as communicating with him directly at short range. Later, the introduction of ‘energy darshans’ added another dimension to the raft of experiences available to the disciple.
I cannot overstate the importance of this period. It was not simply the sexual feast that outside commentators tended to focus upon – although the opportunity (and necessity) to explore sexuality and relationship attachments was integral to the teaching. As a diverse collection of folk from many countries – most of us relatively affluent and certainly fortunate in our circumstances – we gelled together within an open-hearted community. It is no exaggeration to say it felt like a homecoming.
Of course there were downsides. Those of us who had children were not always as attentive as we should have been to their well-being. Recent stories from the children themselves confirm this and they also have exposed a shadow side that did not necessarily augur well for their future development. There were also those not suited to the in-your-face nature of some of the group work and they became psychological casualties. And, convinced we had found the path to the truth, many of us neglected family and friends in our countries of origin. Unsurprisingly, our spiritual arrogance created a gulf.
In summary, I surmise that most who dived into that well would claim the Poona experience changed them irrevocably – and changed them for the better.
Poona – The Warning Signs
In those days I think the vast majority of disciples who lived in or around the ashram had no doubt Osho ran the show and knew what was needed for us individually and collectively. We accepted that he saw beyond what we could see. If anything felt amiss or questionable we reassured ourselves (or were swiftly told) this was a ‘device’ – a test Osho had put in front of us. If we felt inclined to argue the toss, this was our ego getting in the way. We were not ‘surrendered’.
It is worth spending a moment or two talking about ‘surrender’. Like virtually every idea or concept in spiritual circles, this notion is frequently misconstrued. To some people it might be reduced to a mere ‘do as you’re told’. You follow willingly, assuming you are responding to an unseen or higher purpose – even though that purpose appears obscure or absurd. (One thinks of Gurdjieff’s students being asked to dig a huge hole and in the next breath being instructed to fill it in. A seemingly meaningless exercise and a waste of energy – yet providing those students with an opportunity to look at whatever resistance or mind-commentary arose.) Around Osho, the bogey of ‘resistance’ was often bandied about, particularly in the workplace. Men – ruled in the main by ashram women – were particularly susceptible to that pernicious label.
But how one responded or reacted to apparently bizarre instructions is crucial. Satya Bharti (Jill Franklin) in her book Death Comes Dancing offers an explanation:
‘Surrendering to a situation, surrendering to existence, doesn’t mean you just stop functioning. It may mean surrendering to the conflicts that arise, surrendering to your own power trip, your own resentments, your own ugliness. Surrender doesn’t mean avoidance. Sometimes it may mean confrontation. Surrendering to what’s inside of you so you can get rid of it.’
I would add one caveat to Satya’s comments. It is relatively easy, particularly in a spiritual community, to assume someone else knows best. After all, you are there to learn and potentially transform. You place your trust in the hands of your guru and those appointed to carry out their work. But, I would argue, it is fatal if this trust becomes unquestioning and unconditional. Your inner authority will be compromised and, if this becomes a pattern, so will your connection with your guru. We will return to this subject when talking about the Oregon commune.
In the initial incarnation of the Poona ashram, some disciples experienced situations, received directions or knew about matters that stuck in their craw. Rumours swirled that the ashram heavyweights turned a blind eye to drug smuggling and prostitution by sannyasins who donated money as a result. A purported sexual assault upon a sannyasin woman and a fire in a warehouse containing Osho’s books seemed suspicious, to say the least. We – the disciples – tended to shrug off these rumours. In the broad scheme of things, such activities, if they were true, seemed relatively innocuous and any overtones of criminality or unethical behaviour were subsumed to the greater good. The same was true for sham marriages and the ashram playing fast and loose with its charitable status (in order to avoid significant tax on its earnings).
Meanwhile, relations with the Indian authorities and the populace at large grew worse. Osho stirred things up by criticising the Hindu religion and political and religious figures, including Mahatma Gandhi. There was a certain truth in his observations, however intemperately expressed. We listened, laughed, and applauded his jokes and his jibes.
I’m not sure many of us, even if we had known the full extent of the mischievous goings-on, would have protested. We were in a mystery school, as it was called. Our spiritual growth was of paramount importance and we were sure Osho kept his hand on the tiller. If it was all right with him, then it was all right with us. In a very real sense we were co-creating the conditions that took abhorrent behaviour to extreme levels in Oregon.
Rajneeshpuram – ‘The Ranch’ 1981-1985
Early in 1981, Osho went into silence. We were told he had reached the final stage in his work and would not be speaking in public again. This came as a huge shock. We were addicted to the morning discourse and could not easily contemplate an eternally silent Master.
Word got out the withdrawal was a result of Osho badly hurting his back. He remained immobile in his room for a month before sitting with his disciples in silent satsang. Unbeknown to almost everybody, a major, unthinkable move was afoot. In the middle of that year Osho left for America, ostensibly for back treatment. We then came to learn that a new commune would be established in central Oregon.
Much has been written and shown about the rise and demise of Rajneeshpuram. It will probably become a textbook case in the annals of spiritual literature. Certainly it is already in that bracket for those who dismiss all new religious endeavours as intrinsically cultic. My purpose here is not to cover well-worn ground. Rather it is to examine whether and how Osho’s teachings were enhanced or diminished in the commune phase that followed his departure from India.
I arrived at the Ranch in September 1981, after a couple of weeks at the castle in New Jersey. Conditions were primitive. As winter approached I recall us eating outside, dressed in thick jumpsuits, and trying to catch our mugs of beer as they slid on a layer of ice that formed on the plastic tabletops. Somewhat different to the laid-back canteen in Poona!
No morning discourse, no evening darshan, no music group, no sitting on the ashram wall waiting for a date. Work, work, work. I loved it! For months, if not years, we had been fed the dream of the ‘new commune’. Here it was – 126 square miles of sagebrush and juniper and rocky outcrops, scoured creek beds and splendid isolation. We – less than a hundred of us at that time – took it all in, alternating between excitement and apprehension. This was our new reality. If we were to have a new commune, we had to build it ourselves.
That, of course, is what happened. Those of us who lived and worked there became justifiably proud of our achievement. One thing the WWC documentary has brought home to others who were not there is the scale of the project. Various people have commented that, although they had read about the Ranch, they had no clear idea of the physical dimensions and the amount of work carried out.
Yes, I loved those early days. Never much of a meditator, I had no need for quiet times. Work, eat, love, sleep, felt like a pretty fulfilling cycle. And to see trailer homes installed, roads built, a new dining hall, a factory churning out A-frames, and other evidence of progress, brought a great feeling of satisfaction.
But I was just a rough Australian. Many more sensitive souls found the emphasis on physical work overwhelming. They badly missed the quiet, reflective times of the Poona ashram. The extremes of climate in the high desert of central Oregon were a test. Stinking hot summers and freezing cold winters. And our Master still in silence. We were debarred from asking questions and sitting in his presence. A daily drive-by when he would sit smiling behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce seemed small compensation. This ‘absence’ affected all of us – but some much more than others.
In truth, we were building a house of cards. As the months and years turned over this became more and more obvious. Our cavalier attitude towards land-use regulations and immigration law was never going to cut the mustard with the regulatory authorities. Exemplified by Sheela, our disdainful and aggressive attitude towards those who did not share our vision was a failed public-relations exercise when a more conciliatory approach may have reaped a better dividend. The abrupt departure of old friends perplexed us, as did their subsequent demonisation. The sudden appearance of thousands of homeless people, recruited to vote rather than for their interest in spiritual investigation, shocked and jarred. And, slowly, slowly, an undercurrent of concern, bewilderment, and fear took hold.
What did most of us do? Though some folk saw the writing on the wall and left, the vast majority clung to the hope this experiment would work. We had invested our lives and not many had a fallback position. Open discussion was impossible. Instead of the trust and joy that permeated our time in Poona, we tended to share confidences only with close and trusted friends. Even this was risky. If word got back up the chain of command, you would cop the dreaded negativity label and told to shape up or ship out.
The ironies are palpable. Here we were, in a so-called spiritual community, seeking transformation and with the expectation that, on a mass scale, this would have a positive impact on the world at large. Yet the atmosphere had become poisoned; our operative state had morphed from openness and sharing to a kind of gritty confusion.
Was this Osho’s intention? Was it part of a grand plan – to build a castle in the air in our minds and hearts – only to actively facilitate its demise or stand by and allow it to evaporate? To obliterate any idea it was up to him to lead us to the Promised Land? To self-amputate ‘the finger pointing to the moon’ and leave us to discover our own way?
Who knows? And does it matter?
I guess one way to approach this conundrum is to look across the wide spectrum of sannyasins who participated. How have we all scrubbed up, down the years?
Here, I am again obliged to forsake the royal ‘we’ and speak only for myself. My exposure to Osho re-aligned my life. Had I not stumbled upon this strange path, my gut feeling is I may have ended up a relatively affluent yet thoroughly disillusioned lawyer - in all probability, a divorced cynic with a drinking problem. As a young bloke I wanted to change the world – but didn’t have a clue I might be better looking in the mirror. Having ‘taken sannyas’ and embraced the psycho-spiritual rollercoaster, my seven years in the commune opened me to experiences and insights which would not have occurred had I stayed in ‘normal society’. This is my source of gratitude. Yet, as I imagine with almost everyone who participated, by the time Rajneeshpuram imploded, we had a truckload of unfinished business.
During the last thirty-three years, I have had to do a lot of growing up in a spiritual and psychological sense. A panorama of teachers and teachings, along with various writings on psychology, philosophy, religious traditions and spiritual issues have helped immensely. And in the realm of relationship, my intimate partner, my children, together with friends and family have provided – and continue to provide – countless opportunities to see whether my inner clarity stacks up against my outer behaviour.
Everyone, as Rick Archer likes to say on Buddha At The Gas Pump, is a work in progress. And that, day by day, moment to moment, seems undeniably perfect.
Earlier, I wondered whether it was Osho’s intention to leave ‘his people’ to find their own way. Certainly it can be implied from things he said – not dissimilar admonitions to those from other teachers across a range of traditions. Ultimately it is up to the disciple to emerge from the chrysalis. In our case, we had the cocoon of the commune offering us some protection from the vicissitudes of the regular world. But it was into that world we were flung. Were we adequately prepared?
Each of you who were there will answer in your own fashion. Many, I know, floundered as I did. Even if some of us were primed to get on with our lives away from the Master, other devotees had to deal with confusion, betrayal, disappointment – a veritable flood of emotions - and pass through some sort of dark night of the soul which almost seems to be a rite of passage around charismatic leaders.
Now that nearly three decades have elapsed since Osho’s death, it’s possible to step back and attempt to evaluate what kind of legacy he has left. This can never be a purely objective or detached inquiry, and we will each have our inclinations and prejudices. Nonetheless, there are a number of observations worth pondering.
1. How many of us could claim to be ‘the new man’ or ‘the new woman’, if we use the criteria of awakening or enlightenment? I certainly can’t. And if we can make such a claim, would we attribute our transformation to Osho’s work or to something or someone else?
2. Even if some kind of transformation does take place with a student or disciple, it may go unsupported or unacknowledged by the teacher. Around Osho, we used to joke that he seemed happy to have a devoted audience but heaven help anyone who declared themselves enlightened and beyond the need of further teaching. This potential anomaly came home to me some years ago when I interviewed Andrew Cohen. He had written that ‘the teacher’s living example only becomes superfluous when and if the student equals or surpasses the teacher’s attainment’. I asked him whether his own students might leave because they’ve got to that point or because they can’t stand the heat in the kitchen. He replied it was the latter – exclusively. Since then, Cohen has abdicated his teaching role, following pressure from his students who had been pointing out to him that his own behaviour did not match his fine words.
3. What purpose does the Osho International Meditation Resort in Poona serve? For those who run the show, the answer would surely be positive. Thousands of people from across the globe attend each year, to participate in meditation and other activities. They have been inspired to check it out or to return and clearly regard it as an opportunity to advance their spiritual growth. (Well, perhaps some of them are there for other reasons.) Conversely, it could be said, the main organisation that supports Osho’s legacy is a kind of closed shop, immune from self-examination and any critique of their departed Master. In this way it resembles an established religion where criticism of the founder is strictly off the table. I am not privy to the intrigues and machinations that have taken place within and around the Rajneesh organisations since Osho’s death. Disputes have raged over the exclusivity of trademarks, an allegedly forged Will and the commercialisation carried out in Osho’s name. As was the case when Osho was alive, court cases have become the norm rather than the exception. This fractious, dispute-oriented, and often righteous residue can be seen as another instance where early harmony has dissipated into hard and fast positional attitudes. Osho’s legacy, at least in so far as it applies to the various power groups, seems to have little to do with caring and sharing.
4. Do Osho’s recorded talks, appearing in videos, books and translated into many languages, contain all the spiritual answers one needs? There is no way I can judge that. But I do know lots of people have sought out practices and teachings that have either augmented, polished, or extended whatever it was they learnt around Osho.
5. If we gaze back with fresh eyes, what do we make of Osho’s penchant for elaborate dress, Rolex watches, and Rolls-Royces? Did he need more than 90 expensive vehicles to make a point about American values, as is sometimes argued? I don’t think Savita, the commune accountant, would be quite so charitable. After all, she had to find the money and was known to roll her eyes whenever a new demand came in. Meanwhile, our burgeoning volunteer workforce was hardly overfed! Could an alternative explanation be that Osho liked these baubles for their intrinsic value and display? Was there something lacking in his own childhood or culture that left him susceptible to ostentatious acquisition?
6. Did Osho’s use of Valium and laughing gas compromise his judgement and his message? I would like to see something appear in print from his former dentist and doctor. Both have written laudatory accounts of their time with Osho but to my knowledge neither has disclosed detailed information about Osho’s habits or possible dependency on substances. Others who had personal access have provided observations and their disclosures are important enough to warrant a detailed response from those entrusted with their Master’s physical care.
7. Did Osho have sufficient understanding about relationships? In Poona, he orchestrated people hooking up with one another and people splitting up with each other. Even though this created, at times, painful situations most of us saw this as a valid function – designed to reveal our attachments, possessiveness, jealousy and co -dependence. Personally, however, I came away with a big issue around commitment and, despite the commune years of sexual experimentation, a fear of missing out on some as-yet-unexplored delicacy. Spiritual work invariably led me to a dead end and it was not until I was cornered into psychological investigation that a few pennies began to drop. And I suspect, in the aftermath of the commune, I was no orphan in this regard.
8. Continuing the psychological theme, mapmakers such as Ken Wilber have drawn from developmental research and, through this prism, looked at states of consciousness, and levels and lines of development. Some states of consciousness are normal, available daily to all of us – waking, dreaming, deep sleep – while others are ‘non-normal’ or ‘altered’. These can range from drug-induced or near-death experiences to meditative states to direct spiritual realisations which differ in intensity, duration, and significance. Wilber makes the point that ‘a persons’ overall development follows no linear sequence whatsoever’. They may have undergone altered states of consciousness or had peak experiences but this can happen at any stage of their development. (Reports abound of people having ‘oneness’ experiences when still quite young.) But a maturation process is needed – a kind of ‘growing up’ – where any spiritual awakening is integrated with other important developmental lines or streams, such as cognitive, affective, moral, interpersonal, and artistic. A person can be highly developed in a spiritual sense – even enlightened – but less so in other aspects. Hence the proliferation of issues around sex, money and power. A potent example, when we look at spiritual teachers, is the moral/ethical line. Often, this seems to take a back seat around charismatic teachers, particularly those who seem to embrace what has been termed ‘crazy wisdom’. In my mind, Osho falls fairly and squarely in that bracket. His vision contained much of ‘crash or crash through’. Leaving aside how much he knew or didn’t know; how much he instigated or tolerated, we can still conclude that ethical behaviour was not high on his agenda. And the fact he attracted a rich harvest from the rebellious folds of the 60s and 70s was a marriage made in heaven. We were busy overturning the conventions and values of our parents and societies, and ethical behaviour may not have topped our bucket list either.
As far as I recall, Osho did not put any emphasis on developmental states or stages. He may not have had enough information. Researchers like Piaget were well-known but it was not until the 1990s that Wilber began synthesising the findings of Susan Cook-Greuter, Robert Kegan, Clare Graves, Carol Gilligan and others – and mapping trends and similarities in human spiritual and psychological growth patterns. Wilber concludes it is no big deal to wake up – we can do so at any stage of development – but the growing up part takes spiritual intelligence which boils down to cognitive understanding and a discerning exploration in order for us to integrate any awakening or spiritual experience we might have. He adds: ‘the practices that led to waking up are not the same as those needed for growing up.’
9, Flowing from the above markers, did Osho’s understandings, attitudes and behaviours denigrate from his impact or legacy? One way to look at this is to view him as a leader. Certainly, he wasn’t running a profit-oriented business or a people-centred NGO. His spiritual role was markedly different and yet he stood at the head of the hierarchy - a position that afforded him considerable power. He chose his secretary and set the policy tone. Even if he was not across the fine detail, his input was considerable and I think it is wishful thinking to believe otherwise. However, it is unlikely there will ever be any consensus about the effects of his choices. Individual sannyasins will weigh up the costs and benefits and come to their own conclusions. Recently I watched an interview in which a former disciple was asked about his association with Franklin Jones (Adi Da). He basically said that the fifteen years he spent with this teacher were invaluable and irreplaceable, despite the fact that he recognised behavioural flaws and, eventually, his inability to influence his teacher to act differently. I can speculate about Osho and proclaim that had his pronouncements been more inclusive and less about his chosen people versus the rest of humanity, not only would he have been better understood and appreciated but also more effective – both then and now. But as soon as I make a judgement of this nature, somebody quite rightly will ask: how the hell do I know?
Enough for Today?
While breakfasting recently with friends – all of whom had a sannyasin past – I asked them how they would describe Osho’s legacy. Some threw up their hands or fled from the table. One person commented to the effect her spiritual enquiry began with Osho and this underpinned her ongoing journey into self-discovery. Another said the lessons learnt stood him in good stead for acting with greater discernment. A third enthused that the greatest reward was the depth of our friendships – which came out that morning as the volume rose while eight of us with different memories, anecdotes, and perspectives laughed and talked over each other for a couple of hours, before breaking into couples and retiring to the sanctity of our respective homes.
The comment about the discernment resonated strongly with me. Mariana Caplan’s book Eyes Wide Open is worth reading and re-reading. The subtitle is cultivating discernment on the spiritual path. Over the years Caplan interviewed over one hundred spiritual teachers who considered themselves enlightened. She found that though there was some general agreement about the nature of the ‘non-dual experience’, there were ‘clear differences in the level and calibre of their teachings in terms of both their psychological and spiritual maturity.’ So it is up to students to exercise clear judgement and develop their own inner guidance. Caplan concludes – as many of us have done – that ‘growing up is a fundamental task of spiritual discernment and means that we take full responsibility for our existence here on earth.’
Taking responsibility means cleaning up our act. Yeah? Easy to say; harder to do. In a way, this means applying our awareness to corners where shadows still lurk – and seeking support and feedback from trusted friends, trained professionals and/or spiritual teachers. None of these developmental steps – from waking up onwards - seem to involve any endpoint and perhaps that’s the leela – the play of existence. While we are in these bodies we can continue to evolve in the many ways that are open to us. I find that exciting and at the same time enormously challenging. Only the other evening, we were watching integral thinker, Terry Patten, being interviewed. He argued, forcefully and passionately, that waking up and growing up must be complemented by ‘showing up’. By this he meant we need to get involved in worldly issues and not turn away, no matter how tempting it might be. As many commentators have remarked, our future on this planet is at stake. We, particularly those among us who are relatively affluent and consider ourselves committed and aware, are impelled to find ways, great or small, to give back what our fortunate lives have given us. In this respect we can all be leaders and instigators of change. This, I believe, is our ultimate spiritual challenge.
I know I keep banging on about behaviour. Some folk argue you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. This doesn’t wash with me. Our actions and intentions affect the quality of the omelette. But how do we find our way? Duane Elgin in The Promise Ahead puts it quite beautifully:
‘A form of natural ethics accompanies our intuitive connection with the living universe. When we are truly centred in the life current flowing through us, we tend to act in ways that promote the well-being and harmony of the whole. Our connection with the Mother Universe provides us with a sort of moral tuning fork that makes it possible for individuals to come into collective alignment. An underlying field of consciousness weaves humanity together, making it possible for us to understand intuitively what is healthy and what is not; what works and what doesn’t.’
Elgin, also the author of Voluntary Simplicity, is both realistic and optimistic about our collective futures. He too urges we grow up – in order that humanity at large mature from a teenage state into adulthood. And for this to happen, each of us must participate.
It is in this realm of influencing others there is scope for Osho’s legacy to be rejuvenated. If I am right in assuming that most of us who went through those tumultuous years would not have exchanged it for all the tea in China, then there is really no excuse for us hiding under our bushels. In deepening our own friendships and embracing multiple perspectives, we may be able to resurrect and embellish the heart-melting connectivity that was a hallmark of our early commune days. This time round, however, we are invited to act from our maturity and the wisdom that hopefully the years have brought. Then, perhaps, our children and grandchildren will be able to look back at us with pride and gratitude.