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Autumn

Tarr Steps

1998. October. Autumn in the UK. A beautiful season, one of my favourites in my adopted home. Leaves slowly turning to golds, burnished coppers, browns and flaming reds. A layer of fallen leaves on the ground as I mulched them during my walks in the woods. Squirrels ferreting about for nuts, warm dappled sunshine or cold chilly winds blowing my hat away. 

An Osho Oasis

A group of us had got together to create a 24-carat Osho Buddhafield in a remote corner in the Southwest of the country. A space where a few like-minded souls could live together, create a centre where people from all over the world could come and be drenched in an Osho energy, experience first hand Osho’s meditations or participate in communal living.

And what a blast it was! Not always easy but a very rewarding experience.

Enjoying the summer sun – aeons ago!

As we moved in, the few neighbours that were there looked on suspiciously. We were the ‘Orange people’ even though Osho had long before asked us to cease wearing orange clothes, the followers of the ‘Sex-Guru’ or part of a ‘sex cult’. We were investigated on some pretext or the other, we were denied permissions on flimsy grounds and looked on sometimes with curiosity, often with fear and suspicion.

I’m sure Osho would have chuckled. He always loved publicity! And the more the merrier. He never did care whether the publicity was positive or negative! And indeed with Wild Wild Country and now Wild Wild Guru – the latest book out by Subhuti, I am sure he would be chuckling away happily.

The neighbours wondered if there would be sex orgies perpetuated by the myth of Osho labelled a Sex Guru. All night raves, fuelled by the tantric meditations and drug-induced group sex that was supposed to be the norm being followers of Osho! Little did they know.

Work, meditation and celebration were the mantras we lived by. 

Over the years things changed. We were a quiet lot, just went about our work, organising workshops and events for people to participate in. Though we also had large Osho festivals four times a year. We invited locals to see what we were doing – renovating vast, derelict institutional buildings. Some local councillors even commented on the ‘special smell’ one of the rooms emanated, feeling how calming and serene the spaces were!

Reluctantly, the neighbours got used to us. And the ‘sex cult’ moved on a few years ago. 

Recently Croydon Hall was back in the news. “Sex Club applies to extend alcohol license” – screamed a headline in the local newspaper. National press came by with long lenses to report on the goings on at this out-of-the-way beautiful venue. It has once more changed hands and the new owners are running it as a “sophisticated swingers’ club”. 

Sex and Swingers

The handful of neighbours are once more up in arms! Croydon Hall again has sex orgies and parties going on till the wee hours of the morning or so they claim – which is true by the way! The peace and quiet will be disturbed, the animals of Exmoor will be traumatised, as one lady so famously had said many years previously, so she had to speak up for them!

This set me thinking about our attitude to sex – the basis on which we are given life. All the Eastern scriptures say sex energy is life energy. Energy is one and the same – whether it is expressed through the sexual act, through working, painting or meditation. Every activity comes from the same source. Osho has even dedicated an entire discourse series originally in Hindi called From Sex to Superconsciousness [now renamed Sex Matters] – arguably one of his best-selling titles.

In there he talks of how the same energy can be expressed through sex as through meditation. At the physiological level it is sexual and at the esoteric level it becomes meditation.

However in my experience, the mind divides it as base energy and sublime. The mind creates the division of dirty and divine, inferior and superior.

How did this come about, I asked myself? Religion and priests come to mind. 

The monk and the prostitute

I heard this beautiful anecdote just this morning. It is said to have occurred in Buddha’s life. An adept is wandering about begging for alms when he comes upon a prostitute’s house. There is a major storm brewing and she asks him to stay the night. He replies that he needs to ask his master and if his master confirms the he could stay, then he would return.

She looked disappointed.

But the adept was true to his word. In a full assembly, he stood up and related this incident to the Buddha. Buddha gave him permission. He said, “Of course you can stay. Stay for at least four months and then come back.”

The entire assembly began to feel uncomfortable. Murmurings of “How did Buddha give him permission? The monks are meant to be celibate, not even to look at  a woman and now Buddha was giving this young monk his blessings to go and live with a prostitute! That is unheard of!” But of course they could not express their thoughts openly.

Four months later

The young adept bowed before his master and went on his way. He returned to the prostitute’s house and began living with her. There were rumours circulating that there was singing and dancing late into the night, that she was feeding him with her very own hands and even that they were now sharing a bed! Aghast, some of the bolder disciples went to speak to the Buddha about it. Buddha just smiled benevolently and carried on as if nothing had happened.

Four months later, the monk returned dutifully with the prostitute in tow. Before anything was said, the woman rushed to Buddha and prostrated herself at his feet, saying, “Oh master! Please initiate me. I am so touched by the monk you sent to my house. I tried every trick I had in my books but his meditation was undisturbed. I am eternally grateful to you for sending him so I could come and surrender myself to you. So I could also be initiated onto the path of meditation.”

This little anecdote conveys so many things. What we see is not always what we think or imagine it to be. It is our minds that create scenarios that consume us with indignation, loathing, judgment and filth! And also what I learn from this anecdote is that the enlightened eye can see much farther and beyond than what an unconscious eye – my little unconscious mind – can ever hope to see and understand.

Going back to the ‘sex club’, impudently I thought of calling the new owners and say, “Why don’t you invite all the locals and show them around and give them free life passes for all your swingers’ events? That way they will feel included and then they too can join in the fun!”

So what do you think? What does this say about our attitudes to sex? What is it that makes us so prudish and judgmental? Can we live and let live as human beings – giving everyone the freedom to choose a lifestyle that suits them?

Comments below please!

2 Comments

  • Avatar Savita says:

    Fascinating tale of Croydon Hall. Thanks, Shruti.

    The fear of sex is similar to our fear of deep meditation. We are afraid of being overwhelmed by something we cannot control. So all those who object to a ‘sex cult’ – whatever that means! – are afraid of their own largely repressed sexual feelings.
    (The psychologist has spoken! Ha!)

    You omitted to mention that your Croydon Hall neighbours were really quite far away and unlikely to ever hear even the music generated by jovial dancers, let alone any gasps and sighs.

    Am I not right about that?

    Whenever anyone talks about Osho’s Oregon commune, the one covered in the Netflix series Wild Wild Country you mention, I always feel it’s important to point out that the commune was out in the wild, 35 miles from the nearest ‘village’.
    It really points to the fact that all that neighbours’ disturbance was in their heads – at least at the start when no one had raised their voice at anyone.

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