Monday, August 29, 2011
We are sharing with you the special edition of Rama Prem’s newsletter, August 2011.
Swami Anand Ashubodha
December 31, 1950 – August 23, 2011 6:05 PM
How is it that I know the time of Ashubodha’s death?
Well, there’s a story there.
Many years ago, Ashu asked my opinion about something. He wanted to move into one of two new areas: fast cars or fast women. Since–at the time–the only car that I had ever owned was a Volkswagen Beetle, I wasn’t terribly helpful in the car department. But fast women? I had been into them for many years, and I could highly recommend them.
Ashu, however–as was his wont–chose the path less-traveled. On the night of September 20, 2000, he and his fast car had an accident on an autobahn (no speed limit) outside Munich–where he had been living and working for some years. There were no other cars involved; Ashu’s car spun out on a slick portion of road, and crashed. The speed was great enough to crumple his car; he had to be cut out by the fire brigade.
He spent days in surgery, and in a coma. He spent nine months in the hospital. He came out paralyzed from the chest down, and confined to a wheelchair. It was how he was to live for his remaining years. And he made the most and best of them. He was able to maintain a very pleasant apartment on the outskirts of Munich. He required 24-hour-a-day care, and it was his job–and his alone–to manage/schedule that care. It was very difficult to do this; he needed someone with him at all times–not being able to do anything for himself. He had to find someone for every hour of every day; he had to manage days off, vacations (every care-giver wanted a summer vacation), illness… And this he did for ten years.
When Sneh and I visited with him two years ago, he told us that he would never go into a “home” or other institution. His experience of them, after the accident, left no doubt in his mind about what he wanted–and what he didn’t want. He recounted to us, in detail, the way people were treated in such institutions. If only some of what he told us was true, it was a horror story. He made it clear that–should the time come when he could no longer schedule full-time care-givers–he would choose suicide.
We got a telephone call from Ashu a couple of months ago. It began with, “I’ve made a decision.” He was doing the enormous amount of paperwork needed to be a client of an “assisted-suicide” facility in Switzerland. It is legal there, but its very legality makes jumping hurdles and through hoops necessary. On top of that, he was an American, living in Germany.
For almost all of the time since that conversation, this has been a closely guarded secret; Germany, to say the least, frowns upon suicide–assisted or otherwise. It was very important that people in the health professions not know of this. Had they found out, he would have been confined to an institution, drugged, and lived out his life under those conditions. That represented all that he wished to avoid–no matter what.
And his condition had worsened. He now had “bed-sores”, and was in constant pain. It was time “to be freed of this ailing body. It’s time to hang up my coat and return it to the physical world.” With his inability to schedule care-givers for the entire month of August, the date of his suicide was set for August 23rd. Sneh and I traveled to Munich ten days earlier, and spent two days with him. We had a wonderful time. He was really alive (again). If he had had a step, there would have been a spring back in it. We laughed, joked, spoke of “serious” and important matters; none of it mattered. He had made a decision–the right decision–and was enjoying it and his last days.
His BIG passion was pottery. In Pune Two, he started the pottery studio; he was its Mom. He loved it; he did beautiful work. Graceful pieces that put a smile on a bookshelf or dining room table. Two-piece works that had a lid that fit perfectly on the base.
A few days before our visit (yes, only days before his departure!), he had arranged that the last of his work from before his accident get glazed (his own unique glazes) and fired. They arrived while we were with him.
He was fully alive, present; living in the moment. He had his care-giver make lunch for us, which included noodles without any sauce–which I left on my plate, uneaten. He apologized profusely, and I, of course, said, “Hey man, not to worry.” (In my mind, I’m going, “Jesus, Ashu, you’ll be dead in a few days; don’t sweat the small stuff . It’s only noodles, for Christ’s sake. In the grand/cosmic scheme of things, it won’t amount to a hill of beans.”)
But he was fully alive, present; living in the moment. And noodles were happening in the moment. I suspect that being Jewish had something to do with it, but–hey–what do I know? It was a bit difficult to leave, and we all knew it. We stood at the door, trying to leave, while Ashu told jokes in order to keep us there.
We knew that the next time that we would see him would be the last: August 23rd, outside Zurich, Switzerland.
On the Ranch, Ashu had the job of garbage-truck driver. Being Jewish, his parents never felt that this was the chosen profession for their boy. A doctor, a lawyer? Yes. But a garbage-truck driver?
My mother visited me once and asked while I was picking up some trash if there was anything that I was learning that was preparing me to make a living outside the commune, as I guess mothers will. I answered that I’d become able to enjoy any work I was doing, no matter what it was, and that’s the truth.
From a message sent not long ago to high school friends:
Through meditation, I’ve found a space within myself where my happiness, for lack of a better word, or “feeling of well-being” doesn’t depend on what happens on the outside… (The hospitalization) was the most difficult time of my life, and I easily could’ve gone insane–lost in completely–if I hadn’t been able to relax, breathe and stay centered and enjoy the moment.
A message sent to friends on August 19th:
beloveds, this is going to be much shorter than i had planned it to be, because time is running short. as you must know I had a car accident almost eleven years ago that left me paralyzed from the chest down and in a wheelchair. I’ve been keeping things going here successfully all these years at great effort, and now my health has taken a turn for the worse. there is so much pain and I’ve become so weak, that I’ve decided to be freed of this ailing body on tuesday, august 23rd. I’ll make the transition at the dignitas apartment in switzerland at 4 pm local time. it’s time to hang up my coat and return it to the physical world. i’ve been dancing so close to the edge these past months, risking being placed in a hospital, where I’d probably end up drugged and on life support until I expire. living wills (patientenverfügungen) are not respected here. I’d rather go in a relaxed and joyous way, as osho says.
from the moment I got everything arranged with the loving, beautiful people at dignitas, so much light has entered my life. I’ve found a way out, and as my lovers around me know, my humor and lovingness have broken through the surface again as nothing stands in the way from me jumping out of the frying pan and into the holy fire. what a relief. the lightness has returned, and I can enjoy life again.
carina, my partner, sneh and ramaprem, miten, garimo and swiss ma viramano will all be there to give me a good send-off . (the lengths I have to go to to get my friends all together in one place!) I don’t feel as though i’m really going anywhere, that nothing dies, and I feel we’ll continue to be together, you and i. I’ve been so blessed to have spent so many years in osho’s physical presence, and to have learned to still be feeling his presence.
this will not change. you too, remain in my heart and that will continue to be. I go in love and gratefulness.
i’m joyfully jumping into the holy fire, and choosing to do so among some who have a healthy attitude towards death and dying.
nothing more to say.
swami anand ashubodha
It was very much an A-list group that was present: Carina (his partner); Garimo; Viramano; Miten; Sneh and I. Ashu wanted it small, intimate.
We arrived hours “in advance”, in order to spend some quality time with Ashu.
Well, there wasn’t much that we didn’t do: we took care of some last-minute business (he distributed Osho marble to each of us; I got his computer’s hard disk that I was lusting after…); we laughed a lot; we cried; we sang a lot of songs; we played children’s games; we played adult games; we had rehearsals for the Big Moment; we had Big Moments for rehearsals.
And, we impressed the hell out of the people at the facility. They told us that they never had a departure like ours. Tell me about it!
Ashu finally tired, and it was…time.
We took him from his wheelchair, and placed him in bed. We made him comfortable, and exchanged some last words. With us sitting around him, we listened to a question-and-answer from The Razor’s Edge.
At the conclusion of the discourse, Ashubodha called for the medicine that would quickly put him to sleep and eventually stop his heart. He looked joyful, years younger, and at peace. With total trust, in serenity, with dignity, with bravery that made me weep – he took the drug.
As he lay there, watching his breath, we sang softly songs that have carried us high and higher for many years. Perhaps “Fly High” was the last he heard.
His being took on a lightness; he was finally free.
And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round in the circle game.
Perhaps Ashubodha is no longer a captive of the circle game.
I hope so.
Where you have come from and where you are going is the same place. – Osho
(There are, perhaps, events in my account that did not actually happen. No matter.
They should have.)
You can contact Rama Prem at ramaprem.rp (at) gmail.com and visit him at: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramaprem.rp