Present in Poona

the Osho Commune in 1996

by Ma Vimal Suvarna

he only way to convey to you what Poona is like these days is to share with you my own experience there. When I left Vancouver my stomach was in knots. I was so excited and yet underneath there was fear of the unknown. I had been to Poona before but I knew this journey would be different.

When I stepped off the plane in Poona airport I felt like kissing the ground. I was so happy to be returning to the Buddhafield. I remembered all of my friends that I had not seen for five years. I remembered how blissful and high I had been sitting in Buddha Hall each night dressed in a fresh white robe, dancing while Osho stood on the podium stirring us into a frenzy of celebration. I remembered the sweet fragrance in the air while we sat in silence with the master, tasting the ecstasy! the blissfulness! I remembered how much fun I had had cleaning group rooms and guarding at the front and back gates. As I entered the Welcome Centre, I fully expected to experience the same Poona I had left five years before.

I was stunned and disillusioned by what I found when I came back to reality. I felt the edges of my fantasy Poona beginning to crumble. I didn't recognize a single face. I knew no one. I was alone in a familiar yet strangely unfamiliar place.

I remained in my disillusionment for several days. It was so uncomfortable and I felt lonely and miserable. As I sat in White Robe each night it became increasingly clear to me that I would have to let go of the old Poona in order to experience and become part of the present Poona. I would have to "be here now!" I can see now that "presence" was the central theme of my stay there. I needed to enter the present moment in order to arrive.

Nowhere was the importance of being present more evident than in the Counsellor Training Course I was taking. In one session I began to indulge in misery and worry about my relationship back in Canada when suddenly I realized that this had nothing to do with here and now. My partner was not here with me in the present moment.

As part of the training we took part in a Zen retreat: four days of sitting in Zazen meditation (eyes open in silence, facing a wall), eating together, working together, slowly walking together. Every moment mattered, every detail of every movement mattered. During the meals each of us took turns serving and cleaning up. On the second day I chose to serve the spoons. I picked up the tray and walked to the "Zen Master" and held it in front of him thinking I was quite aware. He grabbed the tray and turned it so abruptly that spoons began to slide to one side. I was shocked and suddenly realized that the spoons had been facing the wrong way. Initially I judged myself for my unawareness. Suddenly I stopped and the entire energy of my experience changed. I became aware of the smallest detail of every movement that I made. The pain I had felt in my back while sitting lessened. The chatter in my mind calmed and I began to feel joy arising in my being.

It became clear to me that the more I worried about the past and future, the more I suffered. The more present I was, the more joyful, open and full of love I became. Of course this is all old news to those of us who have listened to Osho reminding us again and again that the mind is misery, right? But if you're anything like me, you need a reminder once in a while.

Every night at 7 pm, the Meeting of the White Robe Brotherhood took place in Buddha Hall. Musicians played and we danced in preparation for silent sitting. Each night we sat and remembered the nothingness, the stillness inside. And every night afterwards we would all forget as we rushed to be first in line in the cafeteria for dinner. Some nights I could feel my impatience and the blood rising to my face as yet another person pushed in front of me. One night a woman came rushing up to a man at my table and grabbed a chappati off his plate, yelling, "You stole my chapatti!!!" And so it went...each night at 7 pm we would all go back to Buddha Hall to try to remember all over again.

In l989 I wrote a letter to Osho about a beautiful experience I'd had during meditation and received this reply:

"Just a few hints for your own inner journey:
"The first thing is, 24 hours remember that what you find in your meditations, you will forget again and again.
"But the gaps of forgetfulness will become lesser and the length of remembering will become longer.
"By and by the gaps of forgetting will disappear.
"And there comes a time when you are a whole circle of remembrance...24 hours, even in your sleep you know you are a buddha."

So if you ask me, "What is Poona like these days?" I'd have to answer that it depends on whether or not you are really present there.

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