My neighbour Vikas told me today that he lay on his bed for a whole year assuming he was going to die.The bomb had exploded in the café at 6pm and, according to a friend of ours who had been sitting opposite him at the same table,the woman sitting next to Vikas had melted before his eyes.
Vikas remembers nothing of that. All he knew was that he’d been drinking a chai, perched on a bench shoulder to shoulder with a spirited Italian woman, who died instantly.
He did not. He felt he could have and he might have, but in that moment, though he got as close as you can get, he did not die. He recalls only the sense that this was it – the end has come.
The explosion was so big it burst both his ear drums and he was 90% deaf for many months afterwards. Shrapnel had splattered every surface of his right side and buried itself deep. His face was fully burned.
No sign of injury
Almost none of this is evident now. Looking at him nine years later, as we talk across another table at another of my local cafes, Vikas is a whole specimen of human being. The German Bakery café where the bomb exploded is long gone. It reincarnatedthreeyears later as a totally different beast, and I don’t know that any of us locals ever went back.
Vikas doesn’t even limp. Not a shred of stitching or burn mark is visible on the (fully clothed) body of a man whose leg snapped in two and whose abdomen was struck by a blow that decimated his organs.
He tells me that in that split second when he floated into the hereafter in an effulgence of awe and bliss, one word entered his mind: God.
Yes, goddammit, God!
In his native Hindi it was the word ‘bhagwan’, nothing to do with the spiritual master now known as Osho. To him it signified the supreme reality; the higher intelligence that is the source of all, as he was taught as a child. God.
The God word
Would ‘God’ have come to me who’d had an atheistic childhood? Probably not.
It came to Vikas. He had been raised a Hindu, complete with pujas and prayers, the burning of incense and the ringing of bells. He had read the Rig Veda as a young man and understood the powerful yet elusive truths of the Bhagavad Gita. But as a beloved of Osho, he had long eschewed that form of god and embraced Osho’s more nuanced notion – in simple terms, a combination of existencefor the whole and godlinessfor the experience – these being no more than words struggling to describe the ineffable something for which, in English at least, there isno word.
Yet, nonetheless, as he was in the process of vanishing from this world, in that moment of absolute helplessness, there was the sense that there’s no going back from this.And that single word: God.
Who else do we know who, on his deathbed, reverted to the deeply engrained, enduring comforts of childhood convictions after having idealised the blending of all beliefs…? I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi.
In his hope for promoting brotherliness among all the disparate feuding sections of Indian communal society, I have heard that Gandhi tried to embrace all religions while adhering to none in particular. But it is said that at the point of dying, Gandhi reverted to his childhood religion and [allegedly] called out to the Hindu god Ram.
Vikas said that in the panic that followed the explosion, while he was immobilised on the ground, his neighbour at his other shoulder, desperate to get out, trod on his chest. And in that moment when the foot landed on the vast wound that had opened up there, the bliss departed, ‘God’ went pouf, and he was back in his tangled body in excruciating pain.
And then he passed out.
After 20 days in ICU, Vikas limped out of hospital, he and his Zimmer frame, and, against doctors’ orders, went directly to the Sai Baba ashram in Shirdi, where he made an appeal with an intensity he had never felt before. He wanted as little to do with doctors as he could get away with. Instead, he told me, he commanded, as an adult son might to an aging father, in fact he ordered Shirdi Sai Baba to take care of him – to cure him ‘naturally’!
After that he forgot about this spiritual undertaking, went home and lay on his bed for a year and did little but pray to be released from his now badly disabled body and from his fear of death, which haunted him continuously. He wanted to die but was terrified of dying.
Back and forth from the hospital, two years and 15 operations later, it was time to treat his hearing. He had only 10% left, he told me, and the ENT consultant at Ruby Hall Clinic, after several close examinations, had told him that both his eardrums were permanently lost.
No eardrums. No sounds. He was well-nigh deaf.
They planned to replace them with synthetic eardrums, and as he was lying on the operating table with the ENT consultant, an 85-year-old master surgeon, standing at his assistant’s shoulder monitoring his every move, they made the first insertion of the speculum prior to introducing the new drum.
He heard the assistant’s voice close to his cheek:
“Do you want to replace this?” he asked. And Vikas turned to look. To everyone’s amazement, up there on the screen there appeared a complete eardrum with a mere crack down the middle, a minor fracture.
The consultant surgeon stepped back in shock. The theatre nurse turned to stare. The assistant grinned under his mask and pulled away.
“If you wait long enough,” the doctor told him, “with the right treatment, this eardrum will heal itself.”
And Vikas – already so well-healed he could move freely by then – hopped off the table, his trust in God or Allah or existence fully in place.
As far as he was concerned Shirdi Sai Baba had performed a miracle. The eardrum, several months before diagnosed as gone forever, had suddenly reappeared. And the miracle of this unaccountable recovery was a direct result of the command he’d made to the famed spiritual teacher.
Me, the sceptic
Listening to Vikas, with my sceptical mind intact, I doubted his story. I assumed there had been a major error in the reports and in whatever means they had used to examine him.
“No. It was a miracle,” said Vikas, whispering the word in case anyone at the tables nearby thought he was bonkers. “Just one of many in my healing process,” he assured me. (And yes, his full story reveals several more.)
When I enquired further, I was told that it was not only the octogenarian consultant who had examined him on the long road to that operating theatre finale. Including the current operating assistant doctor, there had been three ear specialists in all. Each of them had agreed that the MRIs and the CAT scans revealed non-existent ear drums, and Vikas himself had been able to observe this when it was pointed out to him on the scans.
The miracle of life
I confess that apart from the miracle of life itself, I don’t believe in miracles. As far as nature and evolution are concerned, there can be no doubt that the extraordinary confluence of events, elements and natural disasters that kick-started life on earth are truly miraculous. But those who would attribute this to the hand of an almighty – and thus a series of miracles – are just kidding themselves. To me, it is merely billions of fortuitous coincidences.
So when Vikas assures me that miracles had healed his body – all recounted in his steadfast, easy-going way – a person like me has to listen.
See a man whose body was blasted to bits only eight years before and who took a year just to get out of bed, now showing barely any evidence of a scar or burn mark… You do have to wonder. Even my godson, who was out on the road at the time when the bomb blast hit him – and therefore much further away – retains minor scars as evidence.
So although I say I don’t believe in miracles, the trouble is, I do. Because, against all logic, I know they can happen…
And there’s a period in Osho’s life when he, too, was into performing the odd miracle here and there, presumably wherever he thought it genuinely worthwhile… And sometimes just to be cheeky.
How do I know this…?
I have been a collector of stories about Osho for two decades now and this peculiar form of karmic intervention has cropped up in numerous people’s tales…
I could relate some of them and make your jaw drop, but I won’t, at least not now, not here. But you can read one or two in my latest book. But I do want to say something about them.
Osho and mystical healing
While Shirdi Sai Baba may or may not be responsible for Vikas’s healing, Osho made his personal position on healing people’s bodies fairly clear.
My own understanding of it was that from his viewpoint, healing the body, especially in a world of sophisticated medical technology and burgeoning new pharmaceuticals, was really a waste of his energy. If you start healing bodies, you become – as I believe the now-discredited Brazilian healer John of God had become – no more than an instant-cure clinic with a queue two miles long.
Osho was very practical and little concerned about ultra-fitness or stupendously whole bodies. He himself had all kinds of allergies and a very delicate constitution – they required a lot of protective measures to keep him from becoming ill. His position on health, as far as I could pick up from my many years listening to him answer people’s problems, was down to earth: eat sensibly – neither too much nor too little; stay well – but avoid over-preoccupation with a healthy life agenda; and make use of modern medicine wherever it can help.
His interest was not in our physical wellbeing so much as our spiritual wellbeing.
He had serious work to do in this domain. Not all of his people were old souls by any means. He had to jump-start most of us on the long road to meditative consciousness, we who for lives together had been lolling about in a nether world of attachment and identification.
As I see it, for Osho, bodies come and bodies go. But consciousness is eternal.
I’m under the impression that Vikas appreciates this more than most.