Growing up in Osho's World

a unique path to adulthood

excerpts from an interview with Sw Prem Sharno

took sannyas when I was nine years old. I thought my name was cool – Prem Sharno, meaning Surrender to Love. But people still call me Alexis. And somehow I feel – Alexis is as big a part of me as Sharno is. I have no preference whatsoever. If somebody wants to call me Sharno, wonderful; I feel great. If somebody wants to call me Alexis I feel great about that too. So it helps to diversify my life really, to be called by different names.

When I was 10, 11, 12 years old I went to various public schools in orange, wearing a mala. It was not a fun experience. It went all the way from being called a sissy for wearing a necklace to jello in your gloves, eggs in your boots in the middle of winter. I was a black sheep for years.

My father had been a Jesuit priest until he was 25 years old. He was very severe and fanatical in those days. So basically he switched from being a monk as a Jesuit to being a monk as a sannyasin. It was pretty harsh. Once I'd taken sannyas, as far as he was concerned, there was no way I was not going to wear the mala with Osho's picture on it. He insisted that I had made a commitment. He wasn't going to buy me anything but red clothes. So I had no choice.

As long as I was inside the sannyasin communities, being a child with sannyasins was fun. You were very free – there was not much restriction. The dances and celebrations were wonderful. But as soon as you went outside you were targeted right away because you were different.

I was living in the Montreal commune when I hit puberty. One thing that was really amazing within the whole sannyasin community was that I could explore my sexuality totally. At that time everything was really OK as long as both individuals were into it. Never mind the age, never mind whatever, as long as the people themselves were OK with it. I think a lot of people had judgments but had to drop them, because of that kind of collective understanding.

When I was 14, I was initiated sexually by a woman much older than me. She asked me about my sexual life and I told her no, I never actually had had intercourse, and she offered me her hand and said, well, if you're interested in knowing what it is, you can come with me. And it was like – right on! So I jumped in the bed with her and it was wonderful. I explored and she showed me tons of things.

And I didn't even have to tell my mother. That night when I came home she gave me a hug. Then she looks at me and says, "It's awakening down there," pointing at my genitals. And I'm like: uh oh! How could she possibly know? She looks at me with this little squint in her eyes and says, "You had sex!"

I couldn't believe it. So I told her.

I told her how uncomfortable I felt because obviously society says it's not OK and she said no, it's great. I remember the words she used. She said in several aboriginal tribes when puberty comes and it's time to become a man, an older woman in the village will initiate the young man sexually and show him the ways.

When she put it that way it was great. After that when I arrived in bed with a woman it wasn't – fear; what to do? We could actually go straight to pleasure and have fun. I could let myself explore because of the openness in the commune. That was a thing that was very very positive. I don't think I ever had hang-ups sexually in any way. I don't know if it comes from that but now most women really trust me.

My life as a sannyasin kid was self-taught. That's one thing that up to this day I'm a bit reproachful of. I didn't have a mentor, somebody who was there for me. There were several people, but it was so confusing, with so many different messages. I didn't have a role model. In those days I didn't know how to put on a mask to protect myself from the outside world. You could look at me and see if I was happy, if I was unhappy, if I was sad, if I was depressed.

When I was 15, I went to Ko Hsuan, a small sannyasin school in England where I got a big hit in the face. It was the most hellish time of my entire life. There were eight of us in a room between the ages of 13 and 17. One day I came back to the room and all the kids were sitting on their beds looking at me. I looked out and there was my bed in the field with all my stuff. Like, literally: we don't want you here.

I had a pattern of demanding attention because I didn't get enough when I was younger and that made people want to push me away. I think the kids at Ko Hsuan picked up on it quick and put it in my face big time. It made me look at why I wasn't wanted and obviously it was because I was demanding too much. It was so obvious at that point that I said – no more. I finally saw it and realized what it was. I knew I didn't want that anymore in my life. So I made a conscious decision and it was over.

I've been the victim for so many years that I really can't stand people who are victims. Because I know that it's not saying, "Oh poor you," that's going to change something. If something's going to change something, it's probably going to be saying, "You're a fucking leech, get out of my face." It's rough, but hey! That's how I saw it. That's how I finally saw it.

When I was 16, I decided I wanted to be totally independent from my parents. I wanted to see what was out there in the world, doing my own thing, making my own money, relying on my own strength, my own self-confidence. For a few years I didn't have much contact with sannyasins. I spent a long time proving that I could be hard and put masks on. Then lately I came back in touch with myself, with my emotions.

I find that people in sannyasin communities are more comfortable with their sexuality. Outside people give each other a hug and their pelvics are ten feet away from each other. They're so afraid of their sexuality that they don't want it to touch anything. It blows me away. You look at North America and all these suits for sexual harassment and I think it's ridiculous. It's a bunch of repressed people together. Because if you're comfortable with your sexuality you won't touch somebody who doesn't feel like being touched.

My connection with Osho is very impersonal. I'm not living for Osho; I never did. I live for myself. I do think he was enlightened. And I'm grateful for his understanding. Wow, somebody who's managed to put into words what everybody asks themselves about all the time in life, what everybody seeks – wow, he's found it! Great! I'm sure other people have found it too but Osho happens to be one man who's been able to share it.

For me meditation, as Osho puts it, is no-mind. When you can actually stop time, stop yourself thinking. The only time I can attain such states is through something that's very total physically – sex, tree planting, dancing. I cannot just sit to meditate. Meditation only happens through doing for me. There's an exhaustion that comes where I can just be empty.

[This interview inspired another, in the second Osho Pulse, about mothering in the context of sannyas]

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