Who is the richest person in Pune
Visiting the Osho Resort in India: Cashram instead of Ashram
The pop guru Osho has long been dead, but his empire lives on. Spirituality or all commerce? A week in the Indian Eso temple.
People in orange: The Bhagwan disciples in the 1980s looked friendly, aloof, but happy Photo: imago / Dieter Bauer
The motor rickshaw chugs me through the upscale residential area, I get out in front of a high black wall. It is only interrupted by a security gate. I put my backpack on the assembly line. A mixture of fascination and alarm sounds in me when I enter the Osho International Meditation Resort, OIMR for short, in Pune. What comes next: deeper immersion in myself - or in a sect?
When I was in my early twenties I lived in Cologne, which was the European center of the Rajneesh movement even then. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who later called himself Osho and died on January 19, 1990, was the most influential and controversial guru in popular culture.
An Indian intellectual with Westerners - especially young women - at their feet. They gave up their names, thought patterns and relationships for him: Celebration, sex and self-awareness as a new form of spirituality. Critics irritated the 93 Rolls-Royces in which Osho appeared in front of his cheering disciples: a blender, a seducer. But also a radical awakening.
With the exception of disco nights in Cologne's “Zorba the Buddha”, I kept my distance from the orange-clad sannyasins, as the Bhagwan disciples called themselves, who seemed friendly and aloof, but also happy and successful. I had no sense of any kind of veneration of saints and uniformity. But I devoured the bestseller “Completely relaxed in the here and now” from star-Reporter Jörg Andrees Elten, who researched in Pune in 1977 (which was called Poona until the previous year) and stayed forever. Do I secretly wish to be gripped by the same high 40 years later?
The times have changed. I want to experience the legacy of the provocative mystic on site. “Life begins where fear ends,” is one of his thousands of quotes. Osho wrote alternative history and his lectures have been immortalized in hundreds of books. In India he is posthumously recognized as a spiritual greatness; Celebrities from Nena to Kourtney Kardashian are fans.
Many of the established offers of self-awareness in the west - from ecstatic dance to the "conscious sexuality" of neo-tantra - have their origins in the former ashram in Koregaon Park, located in the lively city of Pune, a good three hours' drive southeast of Mumbai. Thousands of people used to live here temporarily, a third of them Germans. I've signed up for a week's “Living in” program.
Day one: rigor
It seems empty and calm. All around me, just smooth, cool black. Water trickles down one of the marble walls, tall trees provide shade. Nowhere is a photo of the "whitebeard with the deep eyes" (The mirror) to see. But all the more wine red: All the people - including many Indians who only pay half the entrance fee - wear uniformly colored robes. I have to buy them in the resort shop, including a white robe for the evening.
There are coupons for food and a safety pass. The formalities are tedious. At least the compulsory AIDS test has been abolished because it is discriminated against in India. However, the lecture that only male Indian visitors get at the entrance is allowed: Women in the resort are not fair game.
In front of the “Multiversity” faculty there are screens on which I click through the courses on offer: rebirth, self-love, family constellations, astrology - an esoteric supermarket. “Mystic Rose” lasts for 21 days. The first week just laugh, the second cry, the third keep silent. Hours later, we newbies have all the introductions behind us and know: You are not allowed to cough or sneeze in the meditation hall, otherwise you will be kicked out. There is strict hygiene everywhere. Photography is not allowed.
My sterile single room in the guest house looks more like a rehab clinic. Because of "sex cult": So far I haven't seen a single hug, let alone holding hands, in all the leaked sterility. There are no hammocks or sunbathing areas. Not even at the pool, for which I buy burgundy swimwear and have to pay extra every time. "Cashram" instead of Ashram - only laundry is free.
The sauna in the sparkling clean fitness center is separate for men and women. If the revealing image of the past attracts the many Indian men, they will be disappointed. Tantra courses, which have become rare, are also not open to them.
At 6.40 p.m., less than a minute later, I have to arrive at the auditorium for the “Evening Meeting” in white clothes - or else wait in the room during the time. The list of rules keeps getting longer. Warehouse fever threatens.
As in a science fiction film, one white nightgown figure after the other floats up the stone stairs to the gigantic pyramid-shaped auditorium in the semi-darkness. We are scanned beforehand. In 2010 there was a fatal bomb attack right around the corner at the “German Bakery”.
Inside, the Zen temple is cool and dim - a UFO that has swallowed us Earthlings. It gets even more surreal. The dance music stops abruptly several times. Then everyone throws their arms up and shouts “Osho!” The master appears on the screen and holds one of his press-ready lectures for 40 minutes, with a strong accent. Something sticks: “If you force it, you won't enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you don't have to force it. ”Could be my motto for this week.
Osho ends with a few jokes, as always. The whole hall cackles. Except for one who is evicted for coughing. The lanky bouncer has a snow-white mane and is unmistakably Amrito, bourgeois Dr. John Andrews, Osho's former personal physician. The bearded Brit, he is over 70, is something like the gray eminence in the small state.
Second day: trance
In the morning at six o'clock “dynamic meditation” in the hall: in 15-minute intervals puff, hop, yell cathartically, freeze and finally dance. Wine-red blindfolds are available in the shop. This is followed by yoga in the open air, in long robes. As a subversive act, I take a dip in the pool - without paying extra.
The place for "tennis" (tennis combined with meditation) is orphaned, the large dining hall is closed. In the small self-service restaurant, a mini glass of wine costs around seven euros, so abstinence is easy.
This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.
The old party spirit is missing, explains a graying Swiss sannyasin with a tooth gap and shaggy hair in the smoking area. It is simply no longer the same, no commune, but well-oiled commerce. He used to cook and garden here with others, now he is responsible for maintaining the website in the air-conditioned office and hopes that he will meet friends from the old days again over Christmas. Work without pay - even though the OIMR is part of a multi-million dollar empire? He shrugs his shoulders, grins and rolls another one. Questioning does not work.
The first of the therapies that I have good in the “Living in” program sounds harmless: “Breathing”. I follow the therapist - black Zen suit, white sash - down into the catacombs: a windowless basement room, padded as a padded cell. Briefly, pictures from the earlier "Encounter" groups collapse on me. In these highly explosive courses, the participants confronted each other and let off steam, up to and including broken bones and orgies. What have these walls already seen?
For the next lesson you will see me breathing myself in a trance while lying on the floor and then screaming as the therapist presses acupressure points on my body to release emotional blocks. It's brutal, but it works. Freshly tortured, I then wander through the garden, marveling at red dragonflies and a peacock. The holiday complex in Absurdistan, which I secretly christened “Animal Farm”, has suddenly become a nicer place - and I am more redeemed. Go then!
With the peace it is then again in the evening in the auditorium. Because it's cool, I put on a light gray silk dress under the white robe. Not subtle enough. A guard taps me on the shoulder: I should get rid of my undergarment in front of the door. The gray would be distracting. At least he doesn't hit me with a stick, as is common in a real Zen monastery.
Third day: evil
I run into another rebel. A young Englishman with a Brilli plug in his nose who wanted to register for Freudian Primal Therapy is not allowed to take part because his father is of Indian descent. "Osho said that it would take three generations before the cultural conditioning of Indians and Asians is gone." The disappointed man first goes dancing a round to let off steam. Actually he wanted to stay another week. Better Goa now.
Before lunch, a DJ plays outdoors every day. If you have a choice, celebrate instead of meditating, Osho said. We flinch to Modern Talking and Bollywood Pop in the "Buddha Grove". It's starting to become fun. Nobody appears fanatic here, rather searching and gentle.
In front of me a little man in a fisherman's hat is turning in a circle, ecstatic like a dervish. The technique is called "Sufi Whirling" and is offered as meditation in the afternoon. Count me in. Within five minutes, I whirl myself into an ecstatic high. I felt drowsy within 15 minutes. Then really bad. After half an hour I almost collapse. My first severe nausea in India does not come from eating, but from meditating.
I do without the evening program.
Fourth day: betrayal
In my next session I will learn how to shake to get rid of old trauma - one of the many effective body therapies that sannyasins offer. Maybe I'll get closer to the demigod than in the bookstore.
There is a note in my room: I should come to the “Living in” office. Have I been caught swimming in secret? Do I have to exchange my yellow daypack for a wine red one? False alarm: A Japanese woman - a volunteer like most of the others here - just wants to give me an overview of the courses on offer with quotes from Osho.
I want silence and go to the classic "Sitting Meditation" in Osho's former residence, the Lao Tzu House. It's half a museum, half a mausoleum. In the entrance, where we have to put on white socks, is a cream-colored Rolls-Royce from the legendary fleet. Then it goes through the master's former library with works from Carlos Castaneda to Carl Jung.
In the next room his dentist's treatment chair stands in front of mirrored walls. The actual sanctuary is a temple hall with gold decoration and white marble floor. Pomp and magic of a bygone era - including a mirrored platform under which Osho's ashes lie. Above it the inscription: “Never Born, Never Died. Only Visited this Planet Earth ”.
Osho died at the age of only 58 - allegedly of a creeping poison administered in a US prison. "Heart attack" was written on the death certificate. He was cremated in a hurry and left no final record. A forged will emerged 23 years later. Last year an Indian journalist uncovered the contradictions surrounding the mysterious death of the spiritual leader, suggesting murder or euthanasia. I order “Who killed Osho?” On the Internet and feel like a traitor when I run into Amrito, the personal physician, shortly afterwards. The book suspects him too.
Day five: profit
Osho only spent one night in this palace room, tells me the tai chi teacher Raj, 64, whose previous life as a Canadian lawyer was D’Arcy O’Byrne. He also believes in the poisoning theory. We are sitting in front of the multiversity with coffee. Raj - bald head, broad figure, Buddha smile - belongs to the Inner Circle of the Osho Empire and pulls the strings with Amrito in Pune.
His team and the OIF, the Osho International Foundation in Switzerland, have just won a year-long trademark litigation before the European Court of Justice. The Osho brand is now invulnerable, from every meditation on YouTube to the boxes of paper tissues in the padded cells. This has led to rifts - divided sannyasin factions from Europe to Delhi who feel that the management in Pune has ousted them. They accuse the OIF of being profitable and dictatorial. The keepers of the Grail, on the other hand, see themselves as purists who keep Osho's work pure.
Does Raj miss the old days? “No,” he laughs, “not a bit!” Osho no longer wanted an ashram because it was the birthplace of religions. “From the outside it looks like a cult. But when you get in here, it's the anti-cult. There is no guru. ”The community attempt had failed, hence the resort now. "That was only Osho's vision."
During Osho's lifetime - or as Raj and his ilk call it: “when Osho was in his body” - around a hundred thousand of his books were sold a year. Now there are 3.5 million. Hollywood hipsters have been spotted with Osho books under their arms. “The youngsters are not interested in what happened in 1984”.
Osho - at that time still Bhagwan - had fled with his followers from Pune to Oregon and founded their own city there in the desert, Rajneeshpuram. Tensions with local residents culminated in a murder plot in 1984, behind which Osho's former secretary Ma Anand Sheela was. Osho was arrested for visa violation in the United States and later returned to Pune by private jet.
Raj's tone becomes sharper. I am the only one here who is asking such questions about the past. He quotes Osho: “I'll show you the moon - but you'd better look at my finger!” We are interrupted when Raj greets an elegant older lady with huge glasses, sun hat and jewelry - “one of the richest women in Brazil!” She disappears towards a luxury private apartment. You can rent it for life, with a whirlpool in the bedroom.
Sixth day: inspiration
On Friday evening “sannyas are taken” - the baptism ceremony for those who have newly professed Osho. You can now choose your Indian name yourself. The newcomers sit on cushions in the middle of the dance floor. The house band plays sweet songs, a light organ wafts, Osho speaks from the band, then there is dancing.
A nice woman from Hamburg next to me shakes her head at the procedure: it is just a copy of the past. But she still comes to Pune every year with enthusiasm - “to celebrate life, to go inside and to be inspired again and again by Osho become". She sees the moon. I guess just my finger.
Seventh day: joke
In dynamic meditation, I no longer scream out pent-up anger in the morning, but become childishly silly. The last session I get is a "bliss massage" from head to toe, after which I almost float. I've got used to my clothes for a long time, but not yet to paying for the pool.
At lunchtime I dance again in the sun. In the evening I don't skip this time, instead I just yell my name instead of “Osho!”. Either the whitebeard's lewd jokes get better or just my mood - in any case I laugh more.
Eighth day: relaxation
Check out. My resort pass expires at nine in the morning. Three minutes later I only got through the security gate again with difficulty because I forgot my yoga mat on the other side. Strict looks in parting. I'm looking forward to a hammock. Finally relax - in the new wine-red bikini.
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