How I came to write Encounters with an Inexplicable Man: Stories of Osho as Told by his People
It is said that an ancient Zen master told his people: If you meet the Buddha on the way, kill him!
Did anyone wield a knife? Or attack him in the dark with a bare bodkin? No. The Buddha died a quiet death, with all his disciples around him, many weeping, some praying, others sitting in deep silence with closed eyes, taking the energy inside, as meditators are wont to do.
So the Zen master meant the metaphorical buddha. OK with that. But what did it mean?
We heard that Osho had passed on as we were all gathered in his Buddha Hall waiting for his evening meeting. I remember it distinctly. I was near the front, close to the podium entrance, and I noticed how, on a cold night, a friend had arrived to sit close by on the marble floor without her cushion. I was in the act of freeing up my own spare cushion to pass on to her when I noticed more and more people come through our entrance without cushions…
Something was different. Something was wrong.
Fear gripped my belly.
Osho had ‘left his body’ just an hour or two before. We, residents in his commune who had been kept in the dark about the severity of his illness, had had no warning. The news came as a bolt from the night. No sooner had it arrived than we were invited to celebrate, and the band, ever present at the evening gatherings, started up in trembling full volume. Now, about two thousand of his white-robed people sat in their meditation seats in a stupor and began to wave their arms or sing or cry, or stayed stock still, going inside with the energy.
My shock was so deep it was almost impossible to move. Osho had reminded us again and again and again that one day he would be going, and that when he did we should celebrate. But to my shame, I became catatonic. Celebration had taken off like a bolting horse, leaving me helplessly standing at the barn door. There weren’t even tears. There was just a hard mass of dread and sorrow congealed in my being without a whiff of joy anywhere. My master was gone. The bird of paradise had flown. The beloved was no more.
Even the sannyasin who delivered the news wept.
The empty way
Now started the journey of ‘killing him on the way’.
What does it mean to kill the buddha on the way?
The way is buddha-less, it is other-less, it is a solo interior journey we must all travel, whether we do it now or delay it for a hundred more lifetimes. The buddha took us by the hand up the mountain and showed us the landscape, the vistas, the panorama of hills and mountains rolling towards the skyline, the bending rivers, the flowers, forests and shrubs and steep, slippery, dangerous boulders…
And now we must make the journey we began with him without him. And if by chance we meet him, kill him!
Kill him because our attachment to him is too great; our unbridled love could lead to dangerous adulation and, ultimately, idolisation. When the finger points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger. The finger-buddha stands in the way of The Way. Kill him!
When Oscar Wilde wrote: For each man kills the thing he loves…he must have been talking about love’s dream of the ‘thing’, the other – as if by too close scrutiny we slowly pare away the other’s virtues and are left with just the flaws.
But love for a spiritual master is the one love that isn’t a dream. It is fearfully, horribly, divinely real. Real, because, rather than inspiring fantasies, it points directly at the lover’s own authenticity and shatters all fantasies. And because it shatters fantasies but remains unshattered itself, it is much harder to relinquish.
How I killed Osho
My own painful way of murdering my master was to give him a slow death…
A friend of mine had told me that while travelling through the country and abroad he met people who frequently asked him to tell stories of what it was like to sit at the feet of an enlightened buddha such as Osho, but that he found himself unable to reply. He himself had not sat at Osho’s physical feet. And the few of his friends who had were not articulate about it.
Love gags you. In the face of love you become speechless. Only poetry or music can do the job – and then….does it do the job people were asking for?
Why don’t you collect some stories and publish them in a small book? he suggested. He knew I had both sat at Osho’s feet for years, and been interviewing people for years. But what he didn’t know was that several of those early interviews still sat unpublished on my computer. I could collect a few more and the job would be quickly done! I thought.
How little I knew.
Who makes themselves important?
When I put out the call for personal encounters with Osho, many, many people came. They came with their little stories, some directly related to their one-to-one contact with Osho-the-man, many more about how they had found him through his books and how he had dramatically changed their lives.
Some people exaggerated. Others even fabricated. But I’d been close to Osho long enough, and done sufficient inner searches, to discriminate. Not all stories survived my scrutiny.
But those that did were beautiful. Many were deeply touching, some were comical, shocking and absurd, some slight but witty. Most had a tale to tell and a lesson to teach.
I collected those that resonated until I found I had two volumes’ worth of material. I then had to cut them all back, and I chose to keep just the bare bones of people’s actual interactions with the master. Less about them, more about him.
Look at the moon!
Rather than fill the book with sentimental, heart-filled texts about my master and his scary compassion – the kind of devotional writing that so many years before we had been encouraged to do – I chose my slow death in simple, unemotional prose, showing who Osho-the-man was, what he said and what he did. Revealing in contradictory bite-sized chunks – or so I hoped – the many ways his ordinariness both upended and confirmed our own expectations of a spiritual master, a ‘man of God’.
Let the master show. Or fail to show.
Let the reader feel and understand. Or not feel and not understand. It was all part of the leela.
And so, by letting him live in me so powerfully during the time of writing – he was so rich, my heart so full, my eyes frequently overflowing – I remembered to kill him at every breath and return again and again to my own private, solitary, inner source, reminding myself all the time that, although I am writing about the finger, I must keep looking at the moon.