My love affair with Portugal started in 1986. It was the last country of Osho’s World Tour. I was one of three main cook’s in the house where he was staying together with a small group of people looking after him. Mukti cooked for Osho while I shared a separate kitchen and its responsibilities with Japanese Geeta. We cooked for the rest of the household which included Maneesha and Amrito, who stayed nonstop busy transcribing Osho’s recently given discourses from Uruguay. These would eventually become two lovely books: Beyond Psychology and Transmission of the Lamp. Shunyo took care of Osho’s laundry. Nirvano was his personal caretaker. Gayan and Arpito looked after his robes and shoes. Nivedano did the shopping and helped-out with practical things around the house. Rafia, too, although he also took photographs. Anando was secretary. And Cliff was the pilot and all-round trouble shooter (and fixer of all the things that caused trouble!).
The spacious house sat deep in a pine forest, high in the hills above the historic city, Sintra, a mere twenty kilometers from Lisbon. I had the afternoon-off one day. Rafia and I had agreed to meet after lunch and take a long walk. The month was August and it was hot. Smoke filled the air from all the wildfires burning in the surrounding countryside. Lately, I had been taking note of a strange sound I had never heard before that was coming from the forest. I realized it was from pinecones literally exploding from the heat.
Rafia and I headed up the dirt driveway. We quickly reached the paved road which ran along the ridge. We had no map. We were just following our intuition. Which direction for us didn’t matter. We just needed to walk and talk. People think, “Oh, it must have been so amazing to be close to Osho and living in his house.” I would be dishonest to deny this but in reality there was a certain tension in the atmosphere — not from Osho but from the uncertainty of his situation. None of us knew from one moment to the next if the police would suddenly come and ask him to leave as had happened in so many countries before. Definitely, the house was being watched. There was always an unmarked police car parked up the road with two men-in-black. Then there was the fact that his sannyasins couldn’t be with him. So many of my friends were scattered all over the world. And I knew there wasn’t a sannyasin alive who wouldn’t have died to be in my shoes. This was the source of a nagging pain, a tension, in my heart. It did not fully disappear until Osho returned to Pune and Commune’s Gateless Gates were open to receive the world and his people. Meanwhile, Hasyo, Yogi, and Jayesh stayed busy with politicians and real estate agents, trying to secure for Osho a more permanent residence and status. All of these things combined contributed the collective tension in the household, even if on the surface things might have looked calm and collected. But, there is nothing like a long walk and a chit-chat with a dear friend to moderate such kinds of stress and anxieties.
So we walked, Rafia and I, and as we did, our talk shifted into high-gear. Soon the pine forest gave way to an open vista of dry, rolling brown hills. Neither of us was familiar with the geography of Portugal. Google Map was still twenty years in the future. Not far in the distance we could see the sea which from our perspective looked tantalizingly close, so blue and sparkling, and seemed to be calling to us. It was an obvious choice when we reached a fork in the road: we took the way that made a single, straight-line down the hill to the water.
Fast forward to Portugal, Year 2013 and the Osho Heart Festival happening in Oeiras, a suburb of Lisbon on the Tagus River. I was on a lunch break, out having a walk when I had a déjà vu. I had a strong recognition of one of the traffic circles and signs on my way. Later that evening, I opened Google Map and saw that same straight line of road down from the Sintra Hills to the sea. It dawned on me, these were the same landmarks Rafia and I had passed twenty-eight years before on our walk. How amazing we had been so close, just a few kilometers from the current Osho festival venue!
Rafia and I eventually reached the sea and, what I know now, the small town of Estoril. Having skipped lunch back at the house, we were hungry. We found a small restaurant right on the water and if I remember correctly, had best grilled sardines of our lives (I know this will make my Portuguese friends smile). Bellies full, we filled our lungs one last time with the fresh sea air and began retracing our steps back up the hill. The problem was we had talked so much on the way down we hadn’t noticed how far we had come. As we grew more silent with every step, the sun and heat were relentless, and my awareness was drawn again and again to my feet. I was getting blisters.
Thirty kilometers later, we reached the house. I swear, when we jumped in the pool, we both sizzled and popped like those pine cones I had been hearing. I imagine our adventure was entered by the gods in The Akashic Records and it remains one of the epic walks of my life. Rafia and I still laugh and shake our heads about it when we meet. When I came out of the pool, Rafia was pointing to the house with his eyes and a nod of his head. There was Osho, standing on his balcony, relaxed in his white casual robe with one hand on his hip, and watching us. He was too far away to tell if he was chuckling. But I am quite sure he must have when Nirvano told him of our adventure later that evening.
As it happened, Osho eventually was asked to leave by the Portuguese government. It was the last straw in a long saga that had been unfolding since the end of Rajneespuram, the Oregon Commune. Neelam was traveling in Europe and Osho asked that she be called to come to Portugal immediately. He had decided to go back to India and she would accompany him. The rest of us would have to use our wits and follow on when, and however, we could manage. I guess all of us must have reached Mumbai within a month or so of him, but these were uncertain times. For everyone.
All of our household-in-the-pines, plus a support team and handful of friends who had been staying in Sintra, gathered in the spacious living room of the house. We would all be going with Osho and Neelam to the airport to see them off. A convoy of cars waited outside. I had my guitar ready with a makeshift strap I had put together with shoelaces. Suddenly, the door of his room flew open and there he was in full glory, a hurricane of energy and light: Osho in full celebration mode. I struggled to keep up with him. I scrubbed away on those six steel strings of my guitar with all the energy I could summon while Osho danced like a madman with each and everyone present. Tears flow even now as I type these words. Such was the energy of the moment. Rafia was always somewhere in the background taking what would turn out to be some of the most precious photos imaginable. Since the first time I met Osho, he seemed like a faraway star, a god, which from my side created a certain formal distance with him. But what was happening now felt so human, intimate, and touching; a special feeling that only happens when hearts overflow with unbounded joy.
Osho danced on. I knew the song I was singing was everyone’s song: not just the song of those here, but the song of all my friends and the sannyasins around the world who longed, but could not, be here today. The celebration moved outside the house with Osho. Suddenly, he spotted Rafia. I will always remember Rafia’s crazy dance, his cameras swinging wildly as he tried to control them in vain. When the sun wants to dance with you, all ideas about control fly out the window. Nirvano had been keeping a respectful distance, her delicate hands folded in namaste and her tears flowing. The celebration began reaching a crescendo as Osho neared the cars and she became overwhelmed. She took a few steps towards him and fell sobbing into his arms which seemed like great wings the way the folded around her. It was a touching moment not-of-this-world: Osho holding her with one arm while with the other orchestrating the celebration and keeping the energy high — and me alive! I will never know how I managed to find the right chords and strength to play on, but I did.
Earlier in the afternoon, Yogi had asked me if I would drive one of the cars to the airport and I agreed. He asked if I needed a map and I said no. I have always prided myself with my sense of direction. But … this time I got lost. I must have missed a sign or something. Quite quickly, I found myself and my precious cargo — Neelam, Arpita, and Gayan — lost in a confusing network of small roads of Lisbon city-center. I asked directions and luckily got us back on the highway and speeding in the direction of the airport. But my stress level was off the charts. I was fifteen minutes late from the appointed time Yogi said I needed to be there. When we walked into the terminal, Osho stood surrounded by the group and chatting with Nirvano. I felt terrible and irresponsible. Later afterwards when sharing with Rafia, he said, “Oh Mila, you should not feel bad. It was actually great you were late.” As it turned out, my being late had given Nirvano and Osho a little bit of extra time to say goodbye. Rafia said this was so important.
I could not have foreseen this scenario. I would never have consciously chosen to be late. But like so many things around Osho, the most unusual circumstances can become a valuable life-lesson. I was reminded of this once again in Darshan’s Family Constellation Training last week here in Oeiras. Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes for reasons not always obvious at the time. For me, it is not easy to see the positive side of certain life situations that come my way because of the lens I see myself through. Too often, Life throws me a curve ball and I feel bad and take it negatively. Getting lost when the Master has a flight to catch is just such a curveball. Because of the unexpected way things unfolded, I could have easily beaten myself up a lot (which I did for a while) and internalized a lot of unworthy feelings. But the experience became a lesson in Trust: What Is, is. How important it is to understand this! And to ACCEPT that things are the way they are for all the RIGHT reasons. Remembering this, I can be more loving and gentle with myself. Yes, I know there is responsibility for all one’s actions and Life choices, always. But the key is to not get too serious. Especially when things go in a direction I don’t expect or can control — which they have a tendency to do and will! My solution? Laugh, Breathe, Relax, and Roll with whatever situation, good or bad, Life presents me with.
Usually I don’t share Osho stories because it requires speaking about him in the past tense. But when I do tell a story, I always try to give it a context in the here and now because, after all, it is here and now where Osho is, timeless and eternal. Osho is another word for the energy of transformation. So whether it is August 1986 or August 2014, what is the difference as far as Osho is concerned? Osho is as much in my heart today as he was that hot Portugal afternoon when he came out of his room blazing like a hurricane.
And so it is, the mystery (and miracle) I find myself in Portugal today, here-now, still celebrating this Great Affair, a wild romance that makes my heart sing and dance. The Osho Heart Festival begins this Thursday, August 14, on the ever-flowing Tagus River where it reaches the Sea, and amazingly, just down the hill from Osho’s pine forest. I look forward to celebrating yet again the energy of transformation that makes this world a lotus paradise. Osho!