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Getting older and sannyas

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I was just visiting the Osho News website, and I noticed —not for the first time— that everyone is getting old. These are all Osho sannyasins, so people who were at the forefront of the spiritual search in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and who were mostly in their twenties and thirties back then, and who are now in their sixties, seventies and eighties.

They have a section on the website called ‘journeys’ where the stories are told of the last days of people who have recently left the body, but also sections on books and cds that people have made, recent festivals (mostly attended by old people) and artwork exhibitions by sannyasin artists. It’s still a pretty diverse community.

But I find it interesting that so few of them ended up having children, and so the movement of Osho followers is gradually aging… I was there as a kid, and I remember well what the commune was like. I’m now 51 and most of these people were of my parents generation, so some 25 years older.

From an Osho discourse…

You have said much lately about inner silence and emptiness. After two years as your disciple, much of the time, particularly during the meditations at the ashram, my mind seems more than ever to be out of control and working like a computer gone mad. I try to be a witness to the whole absurdity, but the monster goes on and on!

Let the monster go on and on and don’t you be worried. The very worry is the problem, not the monster.

The whole world is going on and on: rivers go on flowing, clouds go on moving in the sky, birds go on chattering in the trees. Just why are you so against only the mind? Let it also go on and on – you be unconcerned.

Witnessing is not an effort. When you are unconcerned the witness arises. Be indifferent to the mind; in the climate of indifference the witness arises. The very idea that you have to stop it is wrong, that you have to still it is wrong, that you have to do something about this constant ongoing process is wrong. You are not required to do anything. If you do anything it won’t help – it will help the trouble, not you. That’s why when you meditate you feel the mind going more mad; when you don’t meditate it is not so mad. When you are meditating you are too concerned with the mind, trying your hardest to make it still. Who are you? And why should you be worried about the mind? What is wrong with it? Allow the thoughts, let them move like clouds.

When you are indifferent, suddenly you are watching. With nothing left to do, what will you do? You can only watch, you can only witness – and in witnessing mind stops. Not that you can stop it. Nobody has ever been able to stop the mind, because the stopper is also part of the mind. The idea of meditation is part of the mind too – the idea that if you become silent you will attain to the ultimate is also of the mind. So don’t be stupid! The mind cannot silence the mind. Who is asking this question, you or the mind?

You are not aware of yourself at all; it’s the mind playing tricks. The only thing that can be done, and which is possible, is to be indifferent and let the mind go. When you are indifferent suddenly a distance arises between you and the mind. You still listen to it because it is knocking continuously at your doors, but now you are indifferent. Now, inside, you are not worried whether it goes on or stops, you don’t choose. You say to the mind, “If you want to go on, you go on; if you want to stop, you can stop. It is none of my concern.” This unconcern is needed. In this climate of unconcern and indifference the witness arises. Suddenly you see that the mind never belonged to you; it is a computer, it is a mechanism. You are absolutely separate from it.

Drop all efforts to still it and just remain passive, looking at whatsoever is going on. Don’t give direction to the mind; don’t say, “Be like this.” Don’t be a guide to the mind and don’t be a controller. The whole existence is going on, nothing disturbs you – why only this mind, a small computer, a small mechanism? Enjoy it if you can. If you cannot, then be indifferent. And then suddenly one day you find that something which was fast asleep within you is awakening; a new energy is coming up in you – a distance from the mind. And then by and by the mind goes on – far away, far away, far away. Then still it goes on chattering but you know that somewhere far away, near a star it is chattering; you cannot even make sense out of it, what it is saying. And this distance goes on and on and on, and one day suddenly you cannot find where the mind has gone.

This silence is qualitatively different from a silence that you can practice. The real silence comes spontaneously, it is not something to be practiced. If you practice it you can create a false silence also. The mind is so tricky, it can give you a false notion of silence – and that too will belong to the mind. So don’t try hard to still it. Rather, stand aside, by the side of the road, and let the traffic pass. Just watch it, just look at it, with eyes of unconcern, indifference, and the thing that you have been desiring will happen – but not through desire. Because desire will not allow you to be indifferent. Buddha has used a word upeksha; the word means ‘absolute indifference’. And he says that you can never become meditative unless you have attained to upeksha, to indifference. That is the very soil. In that soil the seeds of meditation sprout – and there is no other way.

Osho, Tao: The Three Treasures, Vol 1, Ch 8, Q 1


  • Interesting. I've had an interest in such groups for many years.

    Where was/is the commune you speak of?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I was at the Osho commune in Oregon, where the sannyasins built a whole city called Rajneeshpuram. You may have heard of it through the Netflix docu Wild, Wild Country. It collapsed when Osho left in 1986.

    But I was also at an Osho commune in the Netherlands called the Stad Rajneesh, it was in a lovely forested location in the middle of the country.

    I was a teenager at the time, between 10 and 14 years old.

  • Interesting. I had known about Rajneeshpuram for a while and then saw WWC.

    That whole scene didn't end very well, did it? Sheela and that bioterror stuff? Wow! I was involved with a fringe Christian outfit in the 70s that was a bit extreme, but nothing like what Sheela and her minions were up to.

    That must have really been something to grow up around.

  • IdleChaterIdleChater USA Veteran
    edited September 2023

    IN spite of negative crap that sometimes goes on in spiritual movements, there always seem to be those who could see and follow the truth as they found it. Some left. Some stayed. Always the way it seems.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited September 2023

    @IdleChater said:
    That whole scene didn't end very well, did it? Sheela and that bioterror stuff? Wow! I was involved with a fringe Christian outfit in the 70s that was a bit extreme, but nothing like what Sheela and her minions were up to.

    That must have really been something to grow up around.

    Well most sannyasins on the ground didn’t know any of the stuff Sheela and her gang were up to, even years later for me some of what was in Wild, Wild Country was a surprise. You just went to the Osho lectures in the evening in Buddha Hall and heard what you could from the grapevine.

    After Osho left the whole commune got a bit shaky. People left in dribs and drabs. In the end when it was time to go, my father had some money deposited on the sannyas bank which couldn’t be withdrawn and got a little silver automobile in trade, and we left, me, him and his German girlfriend, on the snowy roads first to California from Oregon, and then later diagonally across the United States to Boston.

    That was some trip in the winter of 1985/1986, we had everything we owned in a few suitcases in the trunk and we went via the beaches of California to Palm Springs, to the petrified forest, to the Grand Canyon and St Louis towards New York and Boston. Got to see a lot of the States, quite a few different motels too.

    We only learnt later of the whole World Tour, how Osho left the States by private plane and due to pressure from the US state department they were refused entry into a whole series of countries, even being refused such common courtesies as being allowed to sleep in the airport lounge while the plane was being refuelled. He stayed for a few months in Uruguay, but in the end the US threatened to withdraw a whole series of development loans and they had to leave again. Finally Osho returned to India.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I was 7 when Osho initiated me as a sannyasin… of course I didn’t really know what it meant, that the sannyasin was traditionally the fourth and last stage of Hindu life, the point at which an elder householder would renounce his possessions and go to the forest to be a recluse.

    Of course Osho sannyasins were different, they danced and celebrated life, and were clad in red rather than the Hindu orange. Still it must have been strange for many Indians to see me being referred to as a ‘Swami’ by other sannyasins at just seven years old.

    I returned to the Osho ashram in Pune for the last time in 1997, it was an interesting time when I was there with my dad and we had a little apartment in a concrete building near the burning ghats where the cremations were done. I can still recall the scents of India, the river and the evenings…

    “Look at the sky: spring comes and the whole atmosphere is filled with birds singing, and then flowers and the fragrance. And then comes the fall, and then comes summer. Then comes the rain – and everything goes on changing, changing, changing. And it all happens in the sky, but nothing tinges it. It remains deeply distant; everywhere present, and distant; nearest to everything and farthest away.

    A sannyasin is just like the sky: he lives in the world – hunger comes, and satiety; summer comes, and winter; good days, bad days; good moods, very elated, ecstatic, euphoric; bad moods, depressed, in the valley, dark, burdened – everything comes and goes and he remains a watcher. He simply looks, and he knows everything will go, many things will come and go. He is no more identified with anything.

    Non-identification is sannyas, and sannyas is the greatest flowering, the greatest blooming that is possible.”

    Osho, ‘Tantra: The Supreme Understanding’

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    You don’t accept, you don’t reject. There is nothing to do in fact. You are not asked to do anything. You are simply asked to be loose and natural; be yourself and let things happen. The whole world is going on without you: the rivers go to the sea, the stars move, the sun rises in the morning, the seasons follow each other, the trees grow and bloom and disappear, and the whole is going without you – can’t you leave yourself loose and natural and move with the whole? This is sannyas for me.

    Osho, ‘Tantra: The Supreme Understanding’

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