Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A View of "Wild Wild Country"

Watching the Netflix series about Rajneeshpuram, Wild Wild Country, has brought up many feelings in me. I skipped some of the boring stuff (Sheela’s lengthy justifications, for example) and looked mainly for the original footage of the commune life. 

Upon closing the last chapter, I whispered to myself, “My beloved Commune, I love you.”

By “commune” I mean all the friends present there. We were thousands, I didn’t know everyone personally, but we crossed each other’s path every day on these dusty or muddy roads, in the yellow buses, in the cafeteria, or on the building sites.
And there was a complicity just in the silent exchange of glances, a flavor of peace, kindness and humor.

Many comments about this Netflix series that I read or saw on the Internet come from outsiders and fail to grasp what was really happening on a deeper level in this commune.

Fortunately, Sunshine and Niren’s interviews give the listener a glimpse of that flavor, even if only through their intelligent and light-hearted comments.

So I would like to share a few things that I, a resident of Rajneeshpuram, experienced during these four years in the Oregonian sagebrush desert.

That might provide the two directors with some insight about the invisible story behind the factual events and possibly for them to open further that most profound inner chapter that we all lived.

I called Sheela’s office from France in 1982 and said I was a veterinary surgeon, ready to come help. Luckily for me, they needed one for the dairy barn and the Hereford herd grazing the barren land. 

So I landed there in early winter, and met some of the toughest, freezing 4 am getups of my life, setting up everyday the milking parlor with my friend Manas, or roaming the land in search of newborn calves, which we dipped into warm baths to save them from freezing.

Soon enough I got a halftime job in the construction department, helping erect 90 townhouses and a hotel. That opened my horizon!

First thing, it was not a men-only crew. We had beautiful blonde American and German women wearing tool belts and steel-soled shoes. And they were bloody good at sheet-rocking the two-by-four structures. This mix was light and fun.

I learnt carpentry and sheetrock quite fast. It was indeed amazing how this hive of young men and women barreled through these construction projects in such a festive way. 
Some of that you can see in the Netflix footage. But what you don’t see is the awareness, the inner witnessing meditation practiced by the builders.

We were having fun andwe were present with each gesture, just like the Zen monks a few centuries ago. Inner awareness like them but also lightness and tenderness with each other, the hallmark of Osho’s transmission. 

I eventually became a coordinator for a small crew of ten workers, skirting the townhouses against floor frost. 

As it happened, Sheela wanted the hotel done very fast. We were on a “crunch” as they called it.

The crew coordinators organized an evening of laying sheetrock panels with good music. I was both honored to be invited by the experienced lads and at the same time curious about the combination.
At 9 pm I entered the vast indoor site and put on my tool belt and my screw gun. The atmosphere was light, and it was a nice change not to have to explain tasks to others or to control the building process for the crew.
I could simply throw myself into the pleasure of physical exercise. In silence, enjoying the music and our skill, we picked up large 8-foot panels and swung them into place in one graceful movement.
It was indeed a dance and an exercise in awareness at the same time. It had to be methodical and precise like any construction job, but there was a grace and a joy in our movements, quite a rare event among men.
Zen and the art of laying sheetrock, if I had to name it. Awareness in the purest Zen form, witnessing our bodies skillfully moving about the site in coordinated ways. Just like a Gurdjieff dance performance.
Precisely Gurdjieff had talked about the three layers of energy available to man, the vast majority of us knowing ever only the very first layer.

After a 9-hour regular working day, and half way into that special evening, I suddenly entered another layer, riding a fresh and powerful wave of energy, witnessing with great surprise how I was now tapping into that unknown reservoir.
Retrospectively I understood that the combination of putting my 100 percent power, my 100 percent awareness into the physical experience, coupled with a sense of lightness, the juicy music, and the humor of the lads, brought forth this incredible experience.

Years later, when my family in France objected that I had worked for free, I smiled at my younger brother who had visited me in Rajneeshpuram. He knew I had been paid tenfold in a currency that is indescribable.

The Netflix series failed to relate those experiences. We explored and discovered absolute treasures through this inner search. And let me tell you: tThis was the reason we were there. Not for Sheela, not for sex, not for the prowess of building a town, not for the worship of a guru…

We were there to imbibe a very beautiful and mysterious atmosphere, the Buddhafield of a true Master, and possibly to blossom into unique flowers of silence and bliss. 

The rest was superficial.

Swami Anand Shakta