February 2016: This is the first of a series of posts to catch you up on my 2016 adventures in India. It’ll give you a sense of my vagabonding lifestyle and what you’re in store for with this blog!
Although I sketched out a plan for my India trip after completing South India (first half of trip), I derailed from the itinerary. South India’s beaches and greenery did not stand up to North India’s life of spirituality and Hindu religion (and my preferred cuisine!). In the North, I began a more intimate style of travel that involves more locals and less comfort-zone-backpacker communication. I fell ‘into the flow’ in North India and connected with a part of life – raw, natural village life – that I’ve never seen before… and I wholeheartedly enjoyed it in its entirety!
Beginning in Mumbai, I made my way down south (through Pune, Goa, Varkala, Munar, Vattakanal), I was on the hunt for an immersive local experience into Indian culture, yet I continually found myself surrounded by other Western backpackers. Upon noticing this trend, I began to distance myself from the backpacking crowd and started trying force these local experiences to happen… I repeatedly tried to befriend Indians in the hopes of getting invited to their home for dinner, a wedding, a poojah (ceremony), etc. Yet the more I tried, the further I felt from achieving this “goal”. I became frustrated and disappointed to the point where other backpackers would ask me:
“What was your favorite part of the trip so far?”
I would respond: “Visiting Osho’s ashram, where we practiced active meditations involving dancing, screaming, shaking, yelling gibberish, etc.” (I’ll give more color on this below).
Yet, my silent response from the heart was: “None of it, I’m not fulfilled by this trip so far.” It was a sad truth.
At this point, my itinerary said it was time to fly north from Vattakanal (a city above the clouds) to Varanasi. While waiting at the Vattakanal airport I proclaimed aloud (to myself):
“I give up, I accept that I’m not gunna to get invited to any Indian home for dinner, Indian wedding, or Indian anything on this trip. I’m not gunna try anymore. Maybe next time.” (double sad face)
Cut to the Osho Meditation Retreat:
Read to the end to see me robes in a white dress!
On my flight to India, the 60-year old Swiss gypsy sitting beside me learned that I was interested in meditation. He recommended I visit Osho ashram in Pune, India, for a wildly alternative experience of meditation. Mind you, I never heard of Osho (the ‘sex guru’) before speaking with the Swiss gypsy. At the end of this post, I include a scandalous and intriguing overview of Osho’s history!
The Swiss gypsy said that when he was part of the Osho community, the meditations were centered around the source of life energy – sex, and were often practiced nude. He informed me that in order to be accepted to visit the Osho ashram, you’re required to get an HIV test. However, he noted that the meditations are no longer performed naked, nor do they revolve around sex.
… I was intrigued.
To quell any worries, I’ll reiterate: There was zero nudity or sex involved in any of the meditations or in the center whatsoever when I visited.
I emailed home about the Osho ashram and their meditation style:
“The osho teachings encourage people to live life in the present, express whoever you feel you are, relax, and celebrate. The basis of the teaching is that the sex center is the source of life…”
Osho created an active meditation for the modern man, which involves a lot of aggressive shaking of the body, intense breathing, letting go (screaming, laughing, crying, singing, etc), jumping up and down loudly repeating the mantra “hoo”, humming, yelling in gibberish, babbling like a baby, and tons of dancing. The goal of all these actions was to help attain complete silence in the mind. It was a very different, but interesting approach to experience.
When you’re in the ashram everyone needs to be wearing a maroon gown, and then at night, you need to wear a white gown for the Evening Meeting of the White Robed Brotherhood… Yes it sounds like a cult, and it did feel cult-like.
Funny story- when I bought my white gown from a street vendor, he held the gown up to me and said that it would fit me. He gave me a super good deal, so I went ahead and bought it hastily.
On the first night when I put on the gown, I realized that it was a women’s gown… a fitted women’s gown! I didn’t exchange it for a male’s gown the next day for the following reasons:
If you ever wanted to see me in a gown, here you go.”
If you haven’t watched the Wild Wild Country docuseries on Netflix, get on that! It reveals the history of the controversial establishment of the Osho community in Oregon, USA, and the criminal acts orchestrated by its leaders to keep their community alive. I don’t follow television series, but I watched this docuseries religiously.
As a brief overview, Osho (the ‘sex guru’) was a world-renowned, exiled, Indian guru from the 1970’s. When Osho and his disciples (‘sannyasin’) were pushed out of India by the Indian government, they established a new community in Oregon, USA. Osho’s sannyasin were committing bio-terrorist acts in Oregon, such as spraying salad bars with salmonella. The crime was intentionally performed the eve before election day with the intent of interfering with Oregon residents voting against Osho-supporting politicians. The sannyasin even attempted murder to interfere with politics.
Osho was extradited from the USA in 1985, he abandoned his sannyasin and his 93 Rolls-Royce’s, and he lived in his private jet for 1 year as got kicked out of country after country in search of a new home. Eventually, he returned to India and died in 1990 at his ashram in Pune. Some sources say he died from overdose, rather than from natural causes.
South India was a fun backpacking experience, but North India is where the true magic happened. It’s fascinating how once you stop trying to force things to happen, everything somehow falls into place.
I’ll share my eye-opening adventures through North India in the following posts!