November 21, 2012

Rajneesh recollections: Visits to Rajneeshpuram and a strange encounter

Osho Rajneesh Drive-by in Rajneeshpuram
Osho Rajneesh Drive-by in Rajneeshpuram
The other night I was watching a show on the Rajneeshees, a group of folks that infiltrated northern Central Oregon in search of communal living and oneness with their spiritual leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known more simply as Osho. Anyone living in Oregon at the time, in the early 1980s, remembers him and his band of followers who wore various shades of red and a necklace bearing Bhagwan's picture.

A tent city at Rajneeshpuram,
A tent city at Rajneeshpuram, "The Ranch's First Festival Year 1982" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, I was working at a company that had dealings with the Rajneeshees. The company sold them goods as they started to erect a small town out of the Big Muddy Ranch; a commune they would call Rajneeshpuram. So, out of curiosity, my boss and I took a trip to the Rajneeshpuram during its early stages.

I remember it being a hustling and bustling kind of place, something like an ant farm. Folks who had left their prior lives behind, including many who were highly educated, were now driving heavy machinery or working at the end of a hoe or shovel. I realized then it would take some industrious people to turn this desolate canyon bottom into a thriving, mostly self-sufficient community.
Air Rajneesh Convair 240
Air Rajneesh Convair 240 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A few years later we returned to Rajneeshpuram to see what they had accomplished. I was actually quite impressed. On the canyon bottom, a significant reservoir had been constructing, holding back a large volume of water for irrigating crops. Several buildings had been constructed. The community had a fire department, post office, police, restaurants, malls, townhouses, an airstrip, a bus system and a sewage reclamation plant.

Later, Baghwan's followers spread into other communities. Frequently, I would see them in the town I lived in at the time – Oregon City. As time passed, the perception of this clan, wherever they lived, grew more and more negative. In the eyes of many Oregonians, Rajneeshees had transformed from a curiosity into a nemesis.

Osho („Rajneesh“ Chandra Mohan Jain)
About that time, I was living with Chicklets and his brother Smiley. I don't remember why, but we were looking to move out of our apartment into another place. We answered an ad in the paper looking for someone to rent the upstairs area of a large home.
We arrived at the home one evening and were given a tour of the upstairs area by a man who seemed quite interested in having the three of us live there. After about ten minutes, I began to look more closely at what the man was wearing. His attire, namely his pants and shirt, did not look that out of the ordinary, although his pants, being dark shade of purplish red did seem a little over the edge. But what the heck, I was a child of the 60s. I had grown accustomed to people in strange getups.

What really grabbed my attention was the appearance of some lumpy something underneath the dude's shirt. As I looked closer, I could tell it was one of those necklaces I had seen Rajneeshees wearing. I suddenly realized we were dealing with a Rajneeshee!

Earlier, we had told the man how much we liked the place. When we told him we wanted to discuss whether to rent the place in private, he walked downstairs to his living quarters. Even after informing Smiley and Chicklets who we were dealing with, I think there was still a little bit of us that wanted to rent the place. But, we decided against it.

So, we walked down the stairs to the man's living quarters. He was sitting at a table with paperwork spread out, obviously thinking we would rent the place. Behind him, hung up on his fireplace, was a 3'x3' portrait of the Baghwan himself.

We informed the man that we would not be renting the house. He shook his head and asked, "How come every time I go to sign the paperwork on this house people suddenly don't want to rent it?"

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