Seeking salvation…. through sex, spirituality and smoke

There have been so many gurus and so many seekers in India and the world, through the decades, that it would take many books to write about them all. But the recent passing away of Vinod Khanna brought Osho Rajneesh back in the news and hence these musings.

Rajneesh was born Chandra Mohan Jain on 11 December 1931. He had an MA (with distinction) in Philosophy and was a professor in the subject till 1960 — which may be the source of so many of his sayings that sound a bit cliched nowadays. (“Keep the Hallmark Card”, as Todd says to Dirk in the madly fun Dirk Gently T.V. series )

osho quote

He resisted his parents’ pressure to get married and later said he became spiritually enlightened when he was 21 years old, in a mystical experience while sitting under a tree in the Bhanvartal garden in Jabalpur. Eventually taking on the name of Osho, he also advocated a more open attitude towards human sexuality and the media had labelled him the ‘sex guru’ . He was a vocal critic of Hindu religious orthodoxy. He said that what India needed to escape its backwardness was capitalism, science, modern technology and birth control.

I have read some of his books and some of his ideas were truly profound and ahead of his times but it seems to me that a lot of the other things he said and did were probably just for the fun of it ! Like his Ten Commandments which he made up because a disciple asked him.

Or the Rolls Royce collection in Oregon. When people asked him why he didn’t donate them to the poor, Osho replied, “Every religion in the world is taking care of the poor, why can’t they just let me take care of the rich?”

(Remember the savvy Guru from the rehab ashram in America’s Sweethearts ?? Guru: We have a saying, Edward: “Meck-a-leck-a-hala-vabeem-sala-beem”. Eddie: What does that mean? Guru: I don’t know what it means, it’s very old. )

I have not been to the Osho ashram in Pune but a few years ago I visited the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville in Pondicherry and returned feeling more creeped out that enlightened.

Sri Aurobindo was born in 1872 in Kolkata and started a “Go Home British” campaign there. After being imprisoned for a year by the British in 1908, he sought political asylum in the French colony of Pondicherry, and converted from a political figure to a leading spiritual guru.

The current situation is that the Ashram and Ville , both named after him, and each claiming to be the true spiritual heir, don’t talk to each other– so that’s an odd example to set its devotees/ followers in getting along.

Outside Auroville it is obvious that the neighbouring villages are getting swallowed up slowly by the vortex, since most of the huts have got the same kind of touristy/ hippie stuff you see everywhere in Goa/ Colaba etc. Flipflops, printed skirts, ganjees and the like. Most of the other huts have become food joints.

Wandering inside Auroville made me feel like I was visiting an angry cult that hated outsiders rather than a space for community living, harmony and peace. The staff was being unnecessarily rude to the tourists. The residents had huge attitude issues. And while they had apparently eschewed pukka roads and cars they were thrumming around on large motorbikes. Hmm. It seems there are others who have felt the same weirdness too.

The food places were full of grungy looking residents (mostly white) with kids in faded artsy clothes. The vegan food philosophy is fine but why do the tables have to be dirty and the service so poor?

The Mother’s dome looked like a spaceship from the outside (literally the Mothership !)

When a spiritual search tips over into a cult, it creeps me out. The Goodness Gracious Me irreverence is what is needed as a healthy antidote J

Well, I guess to each her own, but I have found very few places of worship that actually have a tranquil feel. During my recent visit to the Golden Temple I could sense the potential for that but again the crowds make it quite difficult to feel any peace when you are being jostled along the queue. ( more on the Amritsar trip in some later post! ) Luckily it rained that weekend giving us some amazing photo ops.

clouds and temple

Speaking of photo ops, Ramdev Baba who has single handedly turned yoga into a national phenomenon, posed for this incredible India Today cover which had Twitter going completely mad.


He has the last laugh though since he has founded the Patanjali Ayurved Limited which is currently the fastest growing FMCG company in India and is valued at ₹30 billion (US$470 million).

The company manufactures 444 products including 45 types of cosmetic products (is that either yoga or ayurved ??) and 30 types of food products( including instant atta noodles). They have recently announced the manufacture of not only traditional clothes such as kurta pajama but also popular western clothes such as jeans. If they had endorsed jeans a few years ago, a life could have been saved in Yogi-land.

Amidst patent wars on yoga asanas the Indian PM mobilized an International Yoga Day on 21st June.

yoga dayIt’s a different story that many government offices forced their employees, including teachers, researchers, managers and even the watchmen and maids to pose so that they could send photos of proof, and then the yoga mats were put away for the rest of the year. In a typical irony, it seems that the Made in India yoga day had Made in China yoga mats!!

Some of yoga mats disappeared soon after and were probably re-sold. I guess standing on your head does not really root out the corruption and jugaad from the Indian brain….

The types of yoga one can take up range from hatha yoga to Hot yoga, via kundalini, Iyengar and Bikram. In the US where people really embrace such new paths, an article even stirred up an interesting discussion by stating that they were all turning ‘Hindu’.

However, the latest craze which seems to have found the perfect combination seems to be Ganja Yoga.

They were probably inspired by the song Har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya……

zindagika saath

Smoke away your worldly worries ! Salvation is but a puff away….


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