Traveling to India is always a pilgrimage. I also experience it as a calling, something one’s Soul responds to when it’s the right time. As it happened, I responded to this call once again and reached Goa on a balmy night February 21st last month.
It is hard to say why India is considered a spiritual country. On one level, it has plenty of poverty and a host of Third World problems. And to the Western way of doing things, it is almost laughingly dysfunctional. I love the story Osho tells, whereupon reaching the train station and happy to see the train was on time, the stationmaster commented “Indeed, it is on-time, but precisely 24 hours late!” This fact about India can either be maddening or endearing, depending on one’s degree of enlightenment. And yet, aside from all my teasing and India’s perceived faults, how many of us have not gotten off a plane in India and not felt that familiar sense of coming home?
For so many young Westerners, India came on the collective radar with The Beatles. Songs like George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You”, and the band’s journey to Rishikesh, were partly responsible for a huge movement East for my generation. A professor friend of mine, Satya Vedant, shared with me that his comparative religion course in Berkeley he taught in the late 60’s was standing-room only. All young people were intrigued and wanted to know about India it seemed. I was also curious and bitten by the wanderlust bug, which prompted me to drop out of university with a semester to go (much to my father’s chagrin) and buy a oneway ticket to Bombay.
People are always asking me how I met Osho. Aside from the crazy notion to follow my Soul’s calling, meeting Osho was what I call a “divine accident”. How can it be otherwise? That after reaching Bombay — and four maddening days of not knowing why in God’s name I had taken such drastic action that landed me in the middle of such unfamilar chaos — I decided to visit the hill station of Pune? Who knows where I would be today had I not responded to the travel brochure I found lying in the local YMCA where I was staying, that used such flowery, descriptive language assuring me I was on my way to a place resembling Switzerland? Oh, what a shock it was reaching the Pune train station at 12 noon, seeing such mayhem before my eyes on the station platform! It seems funny now in retrospect (hilarious in fact), but unknown to me at the time, I was indeed coming Home.
Another accident (if there are such things) was meeting a crazy, good-natured English guy on a stretch of north Goa beach one month later. Mind you, in 1976 there was none of the tourism in Goa there is now. So meeting someone out of the blue on those endlessly, long deserted beaches was something of a rarity. Eventually, he and I would travel back to Pune and take sannyas: he going up first and receiving the name from Osho — “Marpa” — followed by me, receiving the name, “Milarepa”. If you know something of Tibetan Buddhism history, Marpa was Milarepa’s master. Life is so wonderfully strange, isn’t it?
Another thing about India: It has something with Time. Time just feels different there compared to the West. One delightful morning in Goa last month, I found myself walking on the same sandy beach I did in 1976 marveling at the fact nothing has changed much in all these years, at least on the surface — the sun, the sea, the beach — all still the same. In fact, were it not for the zillions of new beach huts and tourists, it could have been just yesterday I was here. And yet, what a journey it has been all these thirty-nine years since my first visit.
Once Osho penned the question, “Beloved Osho, Why am I a philosopher”, and signed my name to it. So before I stray too much down a philosophical path with this update, let me just say that the intention of this post is not so much to elaborate on the nature of Time, nor reminisce on all the water down the Ganges, but basically to connect a few dots of experience and bring focus to the Now. Let it be said that one purpose for visiting India last month was to celebrate my 62nd birthday there. And as dreams have a way of coming true, Goa was just the right place and the right time for this. I also had a band event in the north starting March 1st. Which brings me now to the second part of my story.
Travels after Goa took me north and eventually to Dharamsala and Osho Nisarga for the five-day meditation event called “Heart To Heart”. I rendezvoused with the musicians in Delhi to travel by van. How amazing: that Dharamsala is just little over an hour’s flight from Delhi, but it took us all of fourteen hours to reach Dharamsala with our luggage and instruments. Chalk it up to all the chai and dhaba stops along the way which added to the length of our journey and made it more an adventure than anything else.
The last time I was in Nisaraga was a year before it was finished. What a wonderful paradise it has flowered as. The five days of event went so fast, so deep, and so incredibly high. Of the many delights were morning satsangs, the dance meditations, the ecstatic Evening Meetings, Heart Dance, the outdoor fire-party on Night Four which included many lovely performances from the guests along with some great dj’ing by Rahi. The event finished on a high note with a touching Sannyas Celebration. Neelam and her dedicated kitchen staff saw to it that we all had the most wonderful, nourishing food imaginable. And I can’t describe the view of the mountains those clear, early mornings. The Himalayas: so close, always beckoning.
I want to especially thank the musicians, Chandira and Ashik, traveled so far to play; and also Vatayan who lifted our hearts to the sky with his drums. Also special thanks to Rahi who helped manifest a miracle with the equipment and our technical needs. And to Neelam, Priya, Deep, Prakash, Tathagat, and everyone of the Osho Nisarga team — a heartfelt namaste and thank you for everything.
India, my love says it all and more. I am already looking forward to next time.