I wrote my first celebration song during a lunch break at the Ranch while sitting on the back porch of my trailer home under the hot, Oregon summer sun. I was happier than I had ever been in my life. These words flowed from my contented heart like water from a spring:
This life our celebration
Of the joy we’ve come to know
My love for you, Bhagwan
I’m not really into music for the sake of music. In fact, I have never really considered myself a musician as such. During the ten years I lived in the Commune, I loved all the work I did there. Each job had its own flavor and mirrored me in a different way. I was in the Commune to grow and discover myself, not necessarily to become a great musician.
Looking back, music feels no more special than any other job I ever did: whether sweeping the path outside Lao Tzu Gate, cleaning the public toilets, cooking, or operating a backhoe. Some may not have been the most glamorous jobs, but being near Osho had a way of transforming even the most mundane task into something miraculous.
In the Ranch era, we had a nightclub in Portland, Oregon called Zorba the Buddha where I played in a band every weekend for a year-and-a-half. It was a unique opportunity to explore the performance aspect of music and being a musician in a worldly sense; also a time when I burned through many of my ambitions and trips around music.
When Rajneeshpuram finished, I moved to Los Angeles and flexed my Ranch-learned skills as a bulldozer operator, leveling one hilltop after another in the Simi Valley. One day out of the blue, I received a phone call from Uruguay (of all places.I had to look at a map to see where it was!) and was invited to join Osho’s World Tour.
When I arrived in Uruguay, Osho was speaking twice a day in an intimate setting of about 20 people. It was like a dream-come-true to be with him in this context, listening to his words, drinking his silence. After four years in the Oregon desert, I felt like I had arrived at an oasis – in the ultimate sense! The thing I had longed for during those unrelenting hours of work at the Ranch was now a reality. My heart was screaming to tell all my friends and fellow travelers – come! – but Osho’s presence in Uruguay needed to be kept secret because of the sensitive political issues involved. It was the hardest secret I ever had to keep.
Living in Osho’s house was an absolute delight. I could have lived like that for eternity – happily enjoying the discourses twice a day; my small job of keeping the downstairs of the house clean; the occasional tennis game or walk on the beach. Osho’s message to us was relax, enjoy, and do just enough work needed to keep things functioning smoothly. Wow!
One day Nivedano, Osho’s beloved drummer, showed up at the door, not only looking for his master but his girlfriend as well – Gyan, Osho’s seamstress. He was welcomed and quickly became a part of the household. Before long though, in his inimitable style, he began trying to organize some musical instruments for us to play on for the discourses. Something inside me said, “Oh no! The silence with Osho is just too precious. It has been so beautiful up to now. Why should we disturb it?” But Nivedano persisted, and before I knew it I was in a car speeding toward the nearby town to look for music shops.
Meanwhile, Osho had been inquiring from Vivek, his caretaker, whether I had brought a guitar with me. On hearing I hadn’t, he said it would be better if I got one; otherwise, I would make trouble by chasing the women and this would not be good for my health. Such a practical master!
After a whole day of running from shop to shop, I eventually found a guitar and Nivedano found his drum. That same evening, we played and sang as Osho walked in for the discourse. The way he danced with us, smiling and swinging his hips as only he knew how, created a strong contrast to the silent evenings we had been having up to then. As our singing and his dancing reached crescendo after crescendo, it began to dawn on me: The silence Osho speaks of is not the silence of a graveyard. It is a living silence. It is the silence of life – a life full of laughter, songs, dance, and all the ecstasies of the heart. This was big insight for me at the time and one I have never forgotten since.
I love to sing. Singing is one of the most beautiful mediums I know for expressing the language of the heart. Singing celebrates the festive dimension of life. When a man sings from his own sources of joy, he plugs into the very center of existence, the place from where the whole universe is singing its song. Words feel inadequate the closer one comes to this space. As a poet, a musician, I know very well Van Morrison’s ‘inarticulate speech of the heart’. Finding words to express something so vast, so inexplicable, so much bigger than oneself is a great challenge. Maybe that’s why when I am able to express and share something of my innermost being, I experience such tremendous fulfillment, a divine contentment.
It is said that in the life of a disciple, the master’s death is his last, and perhaps greatest, gift to his people. When the experience contained in the master is suddenly released from the body, it spreads all over existence. If a disciple is there and is sensitive to it, he will know intuitively what is happening in the master: He will feel it immediately. The moment Osho died, or left-the-body as they say in the East, I realized he was never a person, a body, a form as such, but just a pure presence, a consciousness, an emptiness.
This insight is particularly relevant to me now. Songs I once sang and directed to this flower of a man, I now sing and address to the whole universe: the sky, the mountains, the ocean, the trees, the stars. Not that I am singing to anyone in particular. In reality, I never was. I simply didn’t have the awareness to understand. I must have listened to Osho a million times say “Look! The chair is empty.” Yet from my point of view, seeing his beautiful form sitting there in front of me, seeing all that radiance with my own eyes – well, to my ears he might as well of been speaking in riddles because an enlightened consciousness shining through a body has to be one of the most beautiful things in life to behold. But an enlightened master is a koan, a divine paradox, and presents every disciple with the ultimate dilemma: How to let go?
Other events have helped crystalize my understanding of Osho in the context of my life and music. In 1989, Osho was still known to the world and his people as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. During a remarkable series of discourses No Mind: Flowers of Eternity, Osho dropped his name and said that he had now become one with the vast ocean of existence and his old name was no more relevant, that if people needed to address him they could do so as Osho. He went on to explain how William James (a Western mystic) originally coined the word ‘osho’ when looking for a way to define the oceanic experience of enlightened consciousness. Also, in the Zen tradition, disciples use the word ‘osho’ as term of respect for the master. Although it has been some years since he left his body, I still use the word Osho when referring to him. But have also come to think of Osho more like a quality of meditation. In my understanding, enlightened consciousness has no particular name or form. Osho is to me meditation at its most refined.
When speaking about what transpires when I sing, words can be a little poor. Whether one sings Osho, Bhagwan, Beloved, Kabir, Jesus, God, or one’s girlfriend’s name is not the point. These days, the lyrics are even more absurd: ‘baby, baby’ seems to be the mantra of modern music. I don’t let myself get too serious about words in music. They are just something to play with. Music shouldn’t be a serious thing. The important thing as far as I’m concerned is: Who is singing? Who are you? And what is your quality of meditation?
After my events sometimes I’ll hear someone say: “Oh, I could really feel Osho tonight.” Perhaps they are feeling a mysterious thing that happens when they are being total in their energy, absorbed in their dance, their egos dissolved in singing and celebration. I call this phenomenon ‘Osho’ and it seems to happen when people’s energy goes really high, like an energetic boiling point, and they drop from their mind to the heart. From the heart, it is just a very short step to one’s being. Someone familiar with meditation will recognize this space in themselves. It is most-certainly an experience beyond words, but if one has to use a word for it, one could call it ‘Osho’.
New people sometimes ask me what was it like to be with Osho when he was in-the-body. Actually, I believe if you know the fragrance of your inner world, you know as much about Osho as anyone ever has or did. Osho is a timeless phenomenon. I’m speaking about Osho, not the man, but Osho as a refined quality of meditation. For example, in this moment now, if I close my eyes what I’m experiencing inside myself is qualitatively the same as what I experienced my very first time in Osho’s presence. Before I met Osho, I wasn’t aware I had a silent world inside me. I grew up in a western culture with no idea about meditation. Hence, I had no context for my first inner experiences around Osho. But, a master is a mirror for one’s inner world. Now I can see it was something that was there inside me all along. But I first had to develop a sensitivity to it, an awareness of it. This is why I meditate. It reminds me of who I am. And in this crazy world we live in, this is something very easy to forget. Straying too far from it, one is bound to suffer life and miss out on its many blessings.
If I see my inner being like an instrument, meditation helps keep the strings in tune. If I have learned anything from my years of playing music in Osho’s presence, it is how to disappear when I play. Music simply provides an excuse to disappear. There is no greater ecstasy as far as I am concerned. I think people get high when I play – not because of the words I sing or my musical expertise – but because of what is happening inside me when I’m playing, the space I go into when I’m singing, the ecstasy I experience when I close my eyes in meditation and sing from my center. The vibrations of meditation are highly contagious.
These days I rarely give concerts. What I love most are my weekend events. I travel with a band, a group of musicians who know the language of music and silence. We create music which supports meditation and the people doing it. The music keeps things fun and non-serious, and helps people dive deep inside themselves. It gives them courage to explore and be nourished by the spiritual dimension of their being. In this sense, music becomes a springboard for something bigger, something very mysterious, which happens in people when they meditate. If you ask me, music in the context of meditation is the real soul food.
I’ve had people ask if I see myself as some sort of missionary or vehicle. I just laugh. I have no interest in changing anyone or converting anybody to my way of seeing things; nor am I interested in pushing any political or spiritual agenda. I am not a missionary. I simply play music and meditate because I love to. I love to sing. I love to dance. I love to be around joyous people who know the value of meditation in their life. And I have discovered a simple truth: The more I share my songs, my music, and myself with others, the more I have of it. It’s the economy of the inner world: The more you give, whether it is love or whatever you have to share, the more riches you discover you have within. In this respect, my life feels abundant, full of love and more blessings than I can count. Existence has showered me with its greatest gift: An awareness of myself. And that’s something worth singing about.