unconditioning in Pune

German Bakery, PuneA rifle points toward the entrance to Osho International. Its stock is aged, worn smooth from much handling. A rifle just like the other points outward from the entrance to Osho International. The metal is aged also, and for some reason the lean muzzle reminded me of the broad snout of my dog. A black helmet rests on top of the wall of sacks, in both stations, perhaps to be worn after the shooting has begun. Some officers sit out and about the bunker of sacks and chat and read the papers, in the usual manner of maistries overseeing a single mason.

Across the street from the entrance the German Bakery was still closed and its front was hid behind shamiana screens. There was no evidence of repairs going on in the three days I walked before it, last week. Nothing about it suggested the tragedy that blew out fifteen lives; the black had been cleaned out.


The lady at the Welcome Center had the face of Hollywood’s Latino actresses—only, she wasn’t as tall. She asked me if I’ve read Osho. “A couple,” I said, “but his books haven’t catchy titles that you can remember.” She laughed the laughter of disagreement: “All Osho’s books have catchy titles.” I had waited a half-hour for them to open, having arrived at eight-thirty, and had spent the time watching the inmates. Some were astonishingly beautiful, both the Indians and the foreigners; some were so cheerful they didn’t seem to need this campus to expend their good nature; a few were morose; and many seemed like they belonged nowhere but here, serene as they were, walking slowly, deliberately. All wore maroon robes, except the help who wore the uniforms of their jobs.

It would have been absolutely silent, if not for the birds, and the cousin of the cicada, and the soulful, incessant grinding of a machine in the heart of the building before the white-marble Buddha who sat smiling before a curving, leaf-filled pond.

A powerfully built Australian and a slender white man, both tall, were our unlikely gurus for the initiation. The first rites were to remove our conditioning: dancing to various styles of music including the Ramlila; screaming gibberish; jumping and exclaiming hu on each landing; collapsing in a heap after having stirred the kundalini—that is how it went. Each was called a meditation, and none required an asana: “Take is easy; be comfortable.” I could achieve neither in the half-day, and discomfort rose to a shrill in the mind—whereas I had arrived thinking that if I liked it I’d stay on, even for a week, maybe.

I ate a quick meal in their clean restaurant, a health-food kind of lunch, changed in the locker room which had no curtain, and hurried out. Back in the hotel, I relaxed a long time over a single cup of coffee before getting ready to check out and leave for the airport. Now, I’m writing this at home in Bangalore just after watching a video on relaxation and awareness, the talk delivered by him who was never born and who never died, Osho himself, and I’m thinking maybe I should go back to Pune sometime, and make a renewed effort at those meditations.