Walking the Path

After 21 extraordinary years with Osho in his commune in Pune, India, experiencing his mind blowing vision of celebration and meditation, I rather recently discovered The Path of Love, a beautiful 7 day process that has the potential to change your life. I was facing the biggest loss ever and was at a tough and dark place inside as I joined for the first time. I desperately needed help and I found it there in the most miraculous and magical ways. Since then I have supported that process and staffed a number of times all over the world and I am forever grateful to everyone involved in the POL .

The Path of Love has grown and evolved and is constantly offering new retreats and trainings, the latest one being “Walking the Path”, an advanced 4 days process for anyone who has already done the basic one.

Since I first read this tittle I have been inquiring inside as what it means for me to “walk the path”.

Today I am in the kitchen in the beautiful community where I live with very dear friends. There is no Guru here, and on the door is a sign that reads “Centre for Conscious Living”.  Many people here have participated and staffed the POL and are excited to join the new “Walking the Path” soon. I can hear a friend in the living room explain to a newcomer that to her going to staff POL is like taking a vitamin shot, and it feels so good!

I feel grateful to be here and in a good place inside, but I am also burning with some intense issues; commune life is very intense and challenging, and I am constantly confronted and stretched.

This morning I notice that I would love some support. I also notice that reaching out isn’t as easy as I wish it was, that retreating is an obvious option, that looking for confrontation would feel safer and more confortable, that I could instead go for a walk or keep cleaning the house or move this energy that is building inside in other ways. I could engage in small talks, I could even have a glass of wine or lie in the hammock with a book…the list seems endless.

Yesterday already I had mentioned to my friend here that I am facing something I need help with and would love his support. He was busy and unavailable then, but I took it personally and felt he was not here for me when I needed him; I felt hurt, pissed, disappointed…blablabla…

If groups have always helped me in some ways and have usually been intense and juicy rides, walking the path is obviously now, here, in this kitchen, facing this very situation and confronting the volcano boiling inside this body mind organism.

How am I going to deal with all of this? How much Seeing can be allowed? How much Intelligence can shine through? How much space can be created? What is the next move, if any?

I want it here, now, every moment and forever.

I want this very breath to be my path, and I want it to be an ongoing lightning setting my being on fire. I want those words right now to carry my heart’s deepest longing; I want my passion to shine here, wild and unhindered.

As I grow older I have little space for compromise; I want it all and I want it now, and I would rather be alone than in relationships where I don’t feel met at my deepest core.

Walking the path is being fully present with whatever is happening, inside and outside; it is being fully open and ready to take real risks; the risk to be seen as I am, in all my glories and in all my imperfections, in my sweetest expressions as well as my ugliest and darkest ones; the risk to speak up, or the risk to keep my mouth shut for 24 hours before I open it again; the risk to be seen and take my space or the risk to instead take a deeper breath and give space to others.

Being alive is an art I keep fine tuning; allowing the creative fire to burn through and shine and take me to unexpected places is an ongoing challenge.

Real is what turns me on. Real is what brings my heart and sex on fire. Real is my passion and the love of my life.

There is no walk and there is no path.

 

the moment I knew that I would take Sannyas

On January 19th 1993 I entered the Osho Commune in Pune for the very first time. I had been in India since 5 years already, studying at R. Tagore’s University in West Bengal and then travelling around with my backpack and my long dreadlocks in search of the divine. I was a hard-core hippy then and I had never heard of Osho.

One day, on the banks of the marble rocks near Jabalpur, I met an Osho Sannyasin. He took me on a boat under the full moon and seduced me to go to Pune and check it out. I felt finished with India and was reluctant to have any new experiences in this country, but somehow I changed the ticket and went to Pune for 5 days.

Those days I was having recurrent flashbacks and scary out-of-body experiences. I always felt very alone in that.

The commune was in the middle of a huge carnival celebrating Osho’s death, and the place was throbbing when I entered the gateless gate. That night the Buddha Hall was packed as I sat there in the middle of thousands of people for my first meeting of the Osho white robe brotherhood.

There was a juicy band and great dancing. Just before sitting down I suddenly felt myself expand and fill the whole space. I became bigger than the space. I started to feel fear, again. It was another one of those scary experiences that I always tried to suppress and overpower. My heartbeat became faster, I wanted to leave, go for a walk, do something. Just then everyone sat down and a pin drop silence descended. I was still out of my body, fighting what was happening, having flashbacks of those days not so long ago when I was in coma and paralysed in Delhi.

 

As I looked around wondering how I could possibly leave the hall, Osho’s voice came “Close your eyes, be here, feel your body, just go in, and in and in and in”

In that moment, I let go for maybe the first time in my life; I surrendered, dived into His words, and let Him guide me and hold my hand.

When I opened my eyes again, I was back in my body, fear was gone, and love was all around.

Osho was now my master, I would take Sannyas, and the 5 days in Pune would turn into 2 decades.

Those hallucinations never came back.

 

 

 

an overland journey from Calcutta to Berlin, 1989

1- Pakistan. The little village of Sust in northern Pakistan is the very last stop before the Khunjerab pass that stands gigantic at almost 4700 meters in the high Karakoram Mountains. It is also the entry point into China. This is the land of the last snow leopards. In less than 40 miles a bird could be in India, Afghanistan or Tajikistan. For me Xinjiang, in the Far East region of China is the aim. The pass is closed most of the year, lying under heavy snow at sub-zero temperatures, and on May 1st it officially opens. I am in Sust since a few days, sleeping on the floor in the kitchen around the open fire with at least a dozen others. This is a check post point and life is tough. It is cold, smoky, food is scarce. We are a handful of westerners, a few colourful people from Tajikistan and some traders from the nearby regions. We are all on our way to Kashgar.

An old bus with tinted windows is stationed there by the still frozen river; it will drive us to the Chinese border as soon as the road is clear. Every morning since a few days we inquire desperately as when we are going to move; and today is April 30th already. But the weather forecast doesn’t look good, the pass is apparently out of reach and so we must wait.

The next morning a couple of traders from Urumqi are engaging with the bus driver in a heated discussion. Impatience is in the air. They want to leave today!

What happened then I never knew, but I suspect that some baksheesh was paid and so the bus was suddenly ready to go.          

We all got in and off we were.

The ride is one of the most spectacular I have ever experienced. I was used to sit on the roof of buses during my journey north in Pakistan, and it was an intense yet delightful place to be during the peak of the March heatwave; but here there was no chance. It was dry and cold, snow was covering everything around and we were slowly moving above the 4000 meters line.

After a couple hours the bus suddenly stopped and we were all told to get out.

That was it!  The road was actually no more accessible, and in fact we should never have left in the first place. Snow was getting thicker and we had no choice but walk the last bit!

How long was the last bit we had absolutely no idea.

And so on May 1st 1989, I wrapped myself with all the clothes I had and covered my head with a yellow Shiva scarf. Of course I was a hippy and the idea of sunscreen or sunglasses or a hat had never even occurred to me. I put my pack on my back and up we walked. We were less than 20 people, from such different places, on such different trips, but here we were, moving step by step, up and up and up. I remember an English man who was travelling with his Hong Kong girlfriend. She seemed so exhausted and unhappy and she had 2 suitcases! He was a big guy and I still see him carrying that luggage on his head leading the way while his girl was threatening to just stop and sit on the snow. I remember an older lady from some remote village in Tajikistan; she had come to Pakistan for some medical treatment and was now on her way back home through those high mountains. Two men were taking turns to help her up. It was totally surreal and I felt in a movie from a different time. The air was getting painfully thin, the sun was bright and blinding, but the nature and the high pics all around were so absolutely breath-taking.

I cannot remember how long we walked. It was one step at a time, one breath, another step, and another breath…

This very moment was all there was. How we got here was a mysterious unfolding that only the divine could possibly make sense of. I recall the feeling of being completely one with life and the magic it is made of. I recall that sense of being in the hands of something infinitely bigger than my little self. I recall the awe in my heart in front of so much beauty. As the amount of oxygen was diminishing with every step so was the holding of the mind; everything became lighter and a strange sense of emptiness was pervading the air. Life was being lived, fully and dangerously. In that moment there was no thought about tomorrow and the feeling that I could die here and then was an obvious possibility; and yet in that moment I felt more alive than ever, more present than ever and in touch with something that clearly would never die.

We finally all made it to the top and crossed over to China. By foot. On the snow. At 4733 meters above sea level!

The long overnight trip to Kashgar was excruciating. I was snow-blind.

 

2- Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 1989

After 4 days and nights in a train from Urumqi I arrived in Beijing. I had left Calcutta 3 months before and was travelling overland. I had spent days on the roof of local buses up along the Indus River in Pakistan under the scorching April heat, had hang out in the most extraordinary Hunza region of Kashmir, crossed the Khunjerab pass by foot at almost 5000 meters, then entered China and the oasis town of Kashgar where I recovered from snow blindness in a welcoming Uyghur family.

The sun was rising as I walked out of the station.

During this last month in Western China the only news we had was from the English edition of the “people’s voice”, a daily newspaper that we often got a week after it was published, and as I remember all was really good and happy in this great country.

Stepping out of the train already something felt odd. I soon found out that there were no buses or subway, basically no traffic, demonstrating students everywhere, and that the huge 6 lanes streets were jammed with … bicycles! I can’t remember how it happened and it does sound surreal today, but I got a bicycle here and then, sat on it with my pack on my back and off I was through the streets of Beijing looking for the cheapest guest house!

The cheapest Guest House I found was a 5 star hotel. On the top floor and overlooking Beijing with breath-taking views, was a restaurant under renovation, and there we could sleep on the red sofas and keep our luggage on the thick carpet between the tables. “We” included a few dodgy Polish business men and a bunch of hippies on the same trail as I was. We were all ultimately going to be on one of the Trans-Siberian trains that were running twice a week between Beijing and Moscow.

The tension in Beijing during that time, the energy on the streets, and the creativity people were showing was just something so outrageous and that I have never experienced again. After about a week, I moved out of the restaurant and joined a group of students in one of their buses stationed in a corner of the great Tiananmen Square, where I was anyway spending most of my time.

We all hang out together, ate noodle soups, drank tea, and at night we all were working under a kerosene lamp at the back of the bus where I would be translating pamphlets into English, French and German.

After so many weeks travelling on my own I had found a family. We were smoking lots of Pollen and everything and every breath was out of this world. I actually had little idea what this student revolution was all about, but I loved hanging out with those guys my age, I loved driving my bicycle for hours without holding the handle and get lost in this mind-blowing city, I loved the buzz, I loved the madness and I loved being high.

I had no idea at the time that those very days in this particular square were going to be carved in history forever. Even more unthinkable that it would be carved with so much blood, the blood of those I had shared such precious moments with.

As far as I was concerned and as far I understood there was no sign that something bad was going to happen any time soon; in fact it sounded that the movement was picking up, that more and more were getting involved, that the government was going to fall and that victory was coming soon. The energy was rocketing, it was just unbelievable.

I could easily have stayed an extra week, but on Wednesday May 31st 1989 I found for 30 dollars a trans-Siberian ticket on the black market and left that very evening. The trip to Moscow would take 9 days.

Only upon reaching Russia a week later did a newspaper find its way to the train. I remember staring at the picture on the front page. Tiananmen Square filled with tanks and corpses. In shock and denial I was mumbling “where are all the people, where are my friends?”

Some survived, some were jailed, some were killed.

Those weeks of freedom on the pavement of Tiananmen Square were an extraordinary time in history. A time that may never happen again. A time that impacted me in more ways than I understand, that changed the course of my life, and for which I am forever grateful.

I dedicate this chapter to those who lost their life standing up for their freedom.

 

 

3- Siberia. We are now at the very end of May 1989 and my Tran Siberian Express is approaching Irkutsk by the Baikal Sea. I have unknowingly left Tiananmen Square in Beijing 48 hours before the army would march in and kill thousands. Before boarding the train I had followed my intuition and spent my last 100 Dollars on the very best jeans I could find. They were bad by any western standard but they did look like jeans and I was told that somehow I would get good money for them in Siberia. I had about 30 of them stacked in yellowish wrapping cloth.

We were now about halfway to Moscow and I was starting to wonder how I would sell those jeans. I had hardly any money to eat, and I would need to spend a night or two in Moscow and buy another ticket to Berlin.

Just then, a bunch of local business men entered the train. It seemed that they were ready to buy anything that looked vaguely western. The first one who approached me got the deal- He took my jeans and left me with a stack a 100 rouble notes which filled my little backpack. I was not sure how much it was and I was fine with finding out later. From then on the restaurant compartment changed configuration; the straight tourists were now watching their cash while all the hippies just asked for the very best.  Caviar at every meal and smuggled Chinese Champagne replaced the goulash soup. I was obviously rich, but in less than a week my short visa for the Soviet Union would expire; I would need to be out and those roubles would be worthless once I crossed the iron curtain. We had a few more days before reaching Moscow and another miracle would need to happen before then.

I was sharing the compartment with 3 other young guys from England. We had a great time. I was only 23 then but was still the older one and I was enjoying this role. I was rolling the joints, paying for all the meals; I had so many stories to tell and I knew it all. When the train slowly stopped in the huge Novosibirsk station I clearly understood that it was at least a 20 minutes stop, and I ordered us all “let’s explore the station and come back with ice creams”. And off we were, out of the compartment, and up the stairs. What happened then I never knew, because those 3 friends I never met again.

I lost them in the crowd, panicked, and finally just made it back to our train. I am still sure that less than 10 minutes had passed but the train started to move as I just got in. I looked around and certainly my 3 friends were not back. I got hold of the manager and explained in my best Russian what had happened; he run to the front of the train, talked to the conductor, and came back in. The train had to leave.

He and I went back to my compartment to look through my friends stuff and make an inventory! Their passports were here and their bags were full. They had walked out for a few minutes just wearing a jacket in search of ice creams. And now they were left behind in the middle of Siberia without passeports.

I was now alone in the compartment and I invited the conductor for a glass of champagne. We had such a wonderful time! He hardly spoke English and my Russian was rather poor, but we managed as I recall, to have deep talks on philosophy, religion and the meaning of life.

I ordered more bottles of champagne and plates of caviar.

We slowly were approaching Moscow, and although I was generous with my cash, my backpack was still full of it.

The second miracle happened in the middle of the night, as I was sleeping alone in my compartment. Another kind of business men had entered the train and those had dollars. Again the first one who knocked on my door got the deal. He gave me 3000 dollars and took all my roubles. This time I was rich and it felt real !

Early morning dream in Koregaon Park, Pune

Yes, I am back in Koregaon park. I did spend 21 years of my life here, until 2 years ago I got banned from entering Osho’s garden for having reposted on my FB wall an article about the faked Osho Will that the management didn’t like.

Following that event, I went through the shock wave, and then the anger, the pain…

Certainly a lot got processed, much water went through the Ganges since, and in many ways it feels like a story of a past life.

And yet, something still was bugging my heart, something incomplete, something I can never really put a finger on.

Being back in Pune brings up a weird mixture of feelings.

Running through the silent night comes J. His hair is long and unbrushed; he is wearing an old maroon robe. I can feel him climb the stairs, look at the little Osho picture on the door and knock hastily.

I get up and open the door.

“Hi Nirav. I want to apologize for banning you. I was out of my mind. I listened to Osho again recently. He talked about Freedom being the ultimate value; He talked about the creative mind and the rebellious spirit. No! It was not right. Osho would never have approved. Please forgive me, and come back anytime.”

“Wao! Thank you, man, I really appreciate your coming here personally. Please sit down. I’ll make us a coffee.”

“Sorry, I have to go. I still have over 3000 people to visit.”

And off he was again through the night.

The first birds started chirping in the trees outside, the first sunrays made their way through the curtains, my Beloved was still sleeping next to me. Rarely do I remember dreams, but this felt more than a dream. I sat there for a few minutes, in this gap between what had just happened in my heart and my mind trying to figure out if it was real or not.

I went for an early morning walk through the still beautiful lanes of Koregaon Park, enjoying a lightness I had not experienced in a long time.

It was a dream. And it was real. And given the choice, I would dismiss the dream and remember whatever felt real.

Maybe this short trip back to Pune had hidden treasures that I would never have suspected. Maybe  the real treasure was the remembering of a simple dream.

Pune, March 16th 2017

Nirav

The rising of the Full Moon over Arunachala

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As the Full Moon is about to rise, half a million people are arriving in Tiruvannamalai; they will walk around Arunachala all night, stopping at every temple. Most of them will be barefoot, in silence, and in deep communion with the Mountain and the Moon.

It is a unique gathering that takes place every single month; an auspicious time when the energy of Arunachala gets multiplied.

I usually like my space and avoid crowds and noise, but this is something that always blows my mind. I love to see all those people walking together, yet alone. I love the incessant movement that spreads thick over 14 km, while Arunachala stands still and majestic under the Full Moon. I love the energy of devotion that is just unescapable in the midst of hundreds of thousands of devotees. I love feeling home and at ease, high and connected, in touch with the stillness of my heart and the mystery of life. I love to smell the divine and sense the depth of the unknowable in so many eyes. I love all those contrasts. I love watching those old men in orange, some of them with only one leg, struggling to make it around, but obviously more contented and at peace than most human Beings. I love seeing those women dressed in a festival of colours, walking with such grace and dignity. I love looking into the crowd and see individuals, everyone so unique, everyone such an indescribable miracle, everyone such a different story. And YET consciousness is so obviously all there is, shining through all and everyone and everything.

Sometimes I walk alone, sometimes with friends, and mostly it is in silence. The walk can take just 3 hours, but it often takes double that, especially when I stop at every chai shop to gaze at the full moon and at the incredible happening all around.

We all share what we are made of.

Arunachala standing still and majestic under the rising Full Moon is an expression of that.

Pradakshina is the meditative act of walking around Arunachala. It is an act of worship. It is a meeting with God.

Tomorrow I will walk around the mountain in the midst of thousands and thousands of people.

Where else do so many Human Beings gather together in peace and meditation, walking in silence around a sacred hill, in search for Oneness, ready to give up their little “me” at the feet of something far greater and far more real?

I feel blessed. Have a beautiful day.

Tiruvannamalai -part 1

For years Tiruvannamalai sounded to me like everything I dislike; dirty, crowded, traditional, full of temples, rituals, beggars, no fun, bad food… No one had ever been able to give me an answer that would turn me on enough to come here.

I had heard that not visiting Tiruvannamalai had been my Master Osho’s only regret in life, and when one day I was offered a house here I came for a month to check it out!

Since then I keep coming back, I keep missing the place unlike any other when I am away, and every time the same magic reveals itself, and the same mystery enters my every breath.     

Arunachala is the mountain responsible for everything that happens here. The huge Shiva temple in the city of Tiruvannamalai at the feet of the mountain, Ramana Maharshi and countless others spending their life and attaining Samadhi here, the millions of seekers who come here for a day or a lifetime… Nothing of this would exist without this mountain.

I have a long and rich history on the spiritual path and in self inquiry. I spent over 20 years meditating every day, from Osho’s active meditation techniques to 21 days Vipassana retreats to simply sitting for weeks in complete silence and isolation.

When I first arrived here, I went to the Ramana Ashram and found the meditation room adjacent to the main temple.

I just came from what was then Osho’s Commune in Pune and I was used to perfectly maintained, beautiful and spotless spaces. The Osho Auditorium where we were meditating was always perfectly air conditioned, smell free, without a fallen hair on the marble floor. The silence was always to be respected and even when hundreds of people would sit there together, the slightest cough would be enough to see you escorted out.

As I entered the meditation room, I spotted an empty cushion and sat on it in front of a picture of Ramana. In the middle of the room a dog was sitting; people were coming and going; some were sitting with eyes closed, others were moving around and someone was reading a book; the window to the temple was open and singing was happening on the other side; the fans were on, a clock on the wall was ticking, and the door was constantly opening and closing.

I closed my eyes. I opened them. I looked around. I looked inside. I felt the wind and the activity around. I could hear all those noises outside.

In spite of me, in spite of the sounds, in spite of the movements, I was drawn inward. I was being engulfed by something far greater than anything or anyone around, and my eyes were widening inside; a feeling of melting and letting go was taking me; there was a clear sense of Oneness, a clear vanishing of the Ego, a vast sense of Emptiness.

As I walked out an hour later I knew that my life was never to be the same again.

I made my way to the nearest chai shop by the side of a busy street, and grabbed the last half broken plastic chair. It was just before sunset and traffic was intense, exhaust fumes filled the air, rubbish was all around, and some beggars looked rather scary. I ordered my chai with half the normal amount of sugar.

I still recall that first day in Tiru a few years ago, sipping my tea in complete amazement. What the fuck was that!? How could I feel here closer to myself than I had ever felt before? How could my meditation be deeper here drinking a cup of tea on a dirty crowded side-walk than in the most modern meditation hall?

As I sat there, watching Indian life go by and slowly drinking my tea, I noticed how my mind had become so much quieter; my jaw was dropping, the sense of time was dissipating, concerns about past or future were appearing as rather vague memories; the present moment was shining and taking all the space.

The sun was slowly setting and I had just spent my first few hours in Tiruvannamalai…

Many more days and months would follow… and part 2 is coming soon…

In the fire of Arunachala- my latest encounter

17-jan

A few months ago I had been riding a beautiful and smooth wave for a while. Life was easy and generous. Not much drama or frustration, and I could feel myself sinking deeper inside. Maybe that was it. Maybe I was at last letting go. Each time I would contemplate on life or death I would find no fear nearby. Maybe I was finally at peace.

I went to Tiruvanamalai at the feet of the sacred mountain Arunachala, where I love to spend a few months every year. I soon started to get quite sick, and after about 3 weeks of severe headaches, high fevers and chills I one morning decided to go to the local hospital and give my blood. I ordered it checked for Malaria, Typhoid and Dengue fever, hoping they would find me positive for one of those and treat me.

The next morning when I went to collect the result I was pulled aside. The 2 doctors looked concerned. I was testing positive for everything!  Yes I could be cured and yes they could help me. I had however to stay here as my platelet count was well within the danger zone. I was given the choice to either go to a high end Hospital in the big City of Chennai 5 hours ride from here, or get hospitalized here and then. The risk of internal bleeding was high and going home on my own was no option.

From that moment onward, death had me by the neck and never let go of it for another week. It was a constant 24/7 connection. The overdose of Chloroquine they gave me in order to treat the malaria gave me petrifying hallucinations. I started to lose my eyesight. Death was once again knocking, checking where I was REALLY at, and scaring the shit out of me. Not only was I facing the possibility of dying here, but I was clearly going to go mad first. I spent those first two nights wide awake, terrified, convinced that those drugs were destroying my brain.

In my experience Arunachala acts like a mirror and will expose and burn whatever bullshit and illusions are still there.

I ended up healing completely, and the experience of those days and the weeks that followed is still with me today.

Those days were not only scary and on the edge. I was living completely moment to moment, breath after breath. In magical and strange ways really I was once again in touch with the divine. The biggest shock was probably to face the fact that death was still scaring me to the core. How could the only certainty in this fleeting life be such a terrifying prospect? How free was I really if a mild taste of death was still affecting my wellbeing and inner peace? So many questions got hold of my deepest beliefs and left me in state of inner chaos.

I am not sure if it burned to ashes, but the spiritual ego definitely suffered a major blow.  This experience connected me in the rawest way possible with my vulnerability as a human Being and brought precious humility into my heart. Although I would not wish that experience to anyone or to myself again, I feel deeply grateful for the disguised gift that it was.