By Suma Varughese
Meet swami Akhil Saraswati and ma Anand Divya, disciples of Osho, enlightened mystics and teachers of meditation
I first met Swami Akhil Saraswati and Ma Anand Divya when a friend invited me to a satsang. Sitting among a group of well-heeled women, they emanated a pleasing vibe, clad in matching orange robes, open, informal and friendly. The next day, I went to interview them in a ground floor apartment in a Mumbai suburb, which boasted of a view so spectacular, one could go into meditation simply looking at it. The vista began with a beautiful lawn and ended in the Arabian Sea, spread out like a huge bedspread across the horizon. They were in matching violet robes that day.
I had never actually met a couple teaching (and dressing) in tandem, but the arrangement seems to work remarkably well. Swami Akhilesh (as he is called) does most of the talking, which he does well – articulate and speaking in low modulated tones – while Divya ma sits silently in meditation. She looks young and vibrant, he has a mane of long grizzled hair – yet she is older by a few years.
Disciples of Osho, they moved to the commune soon after finishing school, which is where they met. They have been teaching for the last three years under the banner of Meditation Unlimited. I spent a day at one of their courses, which began with an hour of rigorous yoga and pranayama, followed by a discourse. While I could have dispensed with the discourse, the humming meditation that followed was powerful.
affirm that they are enlightened mystics and one can see nothing to dispute that. In three years they have gathered a growing coterie of aspiring mystics and it is quite likely that we will hear more from them.
How and when did you move to Osho’s commune?
Sw Akhilesh: I was searching even as a kid. In the second or third standard, I saw a book of Osho’s. Just seeing his picture made me understand that he was my master. From then on, my whole focus was on how to get to Osho. I was 17 when I reached the ashram. Initially, I went there for a month, although there was a lot of opposition from my family. But once I came, I saw no reason to go back. My mother, who was my sole attachment, had died a year ago.
Was Osho there then?
This was in 1984. Osho was at the time in the US. But we would get deliveries of his discourses by video the very next day. For a long time, I did not meet Osho. I never missed him, although there was a deep longing for his presence. But it did not feel like a secondhand discipleship. Finally, he came to Mumbai. It was there that I first saw him in person.
What memories do you have of Osho?
So many. Standing outside his room, which overlooked a huge almond tree, while guarding it. Sitting there amidst total stillness. So many opportunities to just greet him. He would come for the discourse in the car to the Buddha groove. You knew that he was seeing from inside the car. Sometimes he would roll down the glass and say hello and just one look. It gave me so much. Whatever I am today, is out of his presence. There is a lot I learnt from my fellow travellers too. Issues, ego trips, and at the same time, so much friendliness. We struggled to drop the ego, hug the person and everything seemed gone. In Osho’s presence, I learnt, who am I? This grace that he radiates is not something out of the world. This is possible for you also to attain. This is what he gave us. That he is not higher than us in any way, and that we are not lower in any way. The amount of love and respect he gave to his disciples. We talk about shraddha towards the master, but I got shraddha from the master, where you feel you can attain the peacefulness and serenity from within.
The time came when we could feel his presence even when he was not there.
But before that, there was the experience of the dark night of the soul, when we felt abandoned, orphaned…
When was this?
After he left his body. I have placed pieces of wood on his graceful, beautiful body for the cremation. At that time, there was not a tiny bit of sadness. But it began to happen later. You miss the physical presence of the master. Divya Ma and I felt abandoned.
When was this?
In ’91,’92. I was still very young – 21, 22. Divya Ma is physically older than me.Divya Ma on her movement to the ashram: Sansar was all available to me. Till I was 19, I lived in the forest. My father had a job of supplying mine’s resources to the railway. Nature supported me a lot. My father and Osho grew up together. They studied together and I have known Osho since I have known myself. After I finished school, I asked Osho if I could join the commune and he agreed.
Do you have any regrets about never having stayed outside the commune?
In fact, I feel I am the most blessed person on earth. The rest of my family is very wealthy. But I see them and see myself. They are still struggling for everything. Whereas I am free. Once you leave yourself in the hands of Existence and the grace of the master, there is peace.
Osho had his fair share of controversy. He certainly courted it also. There were reports of sexual license. How did you cope with it?
Sw Akhilesh: Osho was not against … he said, you experiment with life, with the world, but if you follow his teaching, he said, the best is, if you are just aware. Where you do not have to suppress, but be free of all desires. But if you cannot, then you have to go through certain experiences, but remember, the essence is to be like the lotus. Even if he advocated indulgence, it was because indulgence was better than suppression. A person who is indulging will one day come out of it. But someone who is suppressing his sexuality – their mind is full of those desires and it will be difficult to come out of it.
His essence was, do out of awareness and the light of awareness will show you your path.
So did his disciples misuse his teachings?
I feel this was ignorance on the part of the disciples. What master says is coming from a different level and we understand it from our limited minds. Even today, I meet my gurubhais who say, but Osho talked about freedom so we are doing all this or Osho talked about being in the moment. Ninety nine per cent of the people feel that living in the moment is, “Go, party.”
wrong with it, if you are aware. If you are slowly moving along the path of meditation. Something has to drop. And everything that is unnecessary, unconscious, will drop. Osho’s work has been to create awareness. That is why he did not preach morality. Morality is like giving directions to a blind person, move to the right or left. But when we have eyes, it is better to work on the eyes so that they open up and we know for ourselves, where is the pit or where the path.
Because Osho did not preach morality, many people felt it was a licence to fall below rather than rise above.
What was your dark night of the soul like?
There was a deep longing. Wondering, now what? The master is not there in the body. What do you do? How will your journey progress? Are you going to die unconscious? No matter how fulfilled your life, once you are on the path, nothing else will satisfy you.
It hit us that the peaks that we experienced in his physical presence, were much less. We were helpless, not knowing which direction to take. We went to other teachers, some real, some fake, but each taught us something and ultimately we realized that it is we who have to take charge and must start to meditate. We started reading Osho’s books, especially his early books, looking to see if we had missed something. Osho begins with purification of the mind, body, heart and moving beyond it. We started implementing each of his suggestions and techniques. Today, this composes our first programme. Osho said, you need to go beyond the layers. The body, mind and heart are not you. We teach it as antaraang sadhana and bairang sadhana.
When we did this, we realized how much we were missing. We witnessed one thing, but we were unaware of everything else. And meditation is about subjective awareness. What we really need to look for is the one who is seeking. Who am I? Who is aware of the body, of the thoughts? We usually remain at the level of objective awareness. The deeper we go, even the body is at the periphery and so are thoughts, emotions. And as you move away to what you are not, you come closer to what you really are. Because whatever you can experience is not you. Even thought – it is subtle, it is still a form. Even in deeper meditation, there is separation. And slowly there comes a time when this separation dissolves. You start melting into the ocean.
Once you leave yourself in the hands of Existence and the master, there is peace. Ma Ananda Divya
Divya Ma was the first one to have the experience of the merger of the Divine, and I guess it is because hers is the purer heart. When it comes to spirituality, women experience things sooner than men do.
Once you reach there, is it permanent?
There is no going back. You can stay there or you grow. We don’t call it an enlightenment experience because it is not stagnant. It is not as if you reach a particular place and your journey is over. We call it an enlightening experience. So many mysteries keep on unfolding everyday. There is so much vastness that your mind can never comprehend. When the Divine flute plays through you, it brings something from the unknowable to this domain – many pointers, milestones.
When did you get your experience?
The fact that she realized it, gave me confidence. Maybe I would also find it… It happened to me a year later. Hers happened on November 3, 2002, and mine on December 16, 2003. We were both together at the bottom of Mount Girnar. I felt uneasy. She put her hand on my head and told me that the process had begun. I was driving, going from Girnar to Rajkot. We were listening to Osho talking on spirituality when it happened. It was such a barren route. It had to happen to me there because I was such a sceptic, so focused on logic. To see the magnificence of that barren landscape was the biggest proof of my experience. Then slowly, all the changes followed like a shadow. You are not searching in the usual way. There is a deep, deep acceptance of what is. No more struggle or fight. No more your will. Only His will. Life is just a flow. You experience a deep let-go.
Is that when the teaching began?
We had started the teaching before. In fact, we had gone to Girnar for a programme. People wanted guidance and eventually the teaching became deeper. We do a lot of practical meditations taken from the Vigyan Bhairava Tantra, which deals with Lord Shiva’s teachings to Parvati. We teach from many other paths, like Zen, tantra, karma yoga.
What is different about your programmes?
We are trying to deal with the essence, without the preparation, by this I mean practices like japa or mantra, which are preparations. These preparations help take care of your body and mind but the real disease is that you do not know who you are.
Do people experience samadhi with you?
We are teaching only samadhi.
Do they last?
They get a glimpse of the truth. Many of our beginners get a glimpse of the states we teach in our advanced modules. We cannot claim we are doing it. It will continue to happen even if we are no longer there. This teaching is no one’s property. People come to us because we speak today’s language. We can speak of the past as encrypted coding. We find we relate well to non-believers who are searching. We give them experiences, so the answers are theirs, not ours.
What is your relationship with the Osho people today?
We are fellow travelers but we are not allowed to go into the Buddha hall. We don’t seek their permission to teach. No mystic needs another’s permission. At the same time, I believe they are doing very valuable work by bringing Osho’s words and books to the notice of the world.
What is your relationship with each other like?
When you start to meditate, constantly something new is happening in your inner space. It is so nourishing that you are not looking for some other kind of fulfillment. And when you come out of meditation, you are ready to give more, because meditation has nourished you. Usually, we are always asking and not getting, because everyone is asking.
Is this true of your own relationship?
There is an entirely different connection today. We feel very fortunate to have found this connection. People in all relationships should learn meditation so their relationships can grow. Meditation is not about renouncing relationships, but about being so fulfilled that you can nurture them.
Our relationship is really like a computer-related game, where you keep moving from one level to another. In every relationship, as one level ends, people don’t know how to move on to another. So then, they play the same game with different computers. If you keep moving to the next level, you don’t even know how much is hidden there. And ultimately in the other also, you find the same Divine. Jean Paul Sartre said, the other is hell. On a deep level, what he is saying is, as long as you see the other as the other, it is hell. The day you no longer see the other as the other… when the other ceases to exist – when there is one Divinity flowing through everything – this heaven cannot be taken away from you any more.
Tell me more about your relationship.
You are in such deep synchronicity that you are hungry at the same time, you want to go to the loo at the same time, and everything comes into such rhythm, such a flow. Sometimes, when I am at a session, I talk something unrelated to the topic but arising out of the flow and when I come back to the room, she might be in meditation or reading Osho, and she will say, I had this glimpse, we need to do something like this – the same thing would come to her and to me. We don’t even wonder about it any more.
You are blessed
Even hankering to be with someone is rooted in separation. When the separation disappears, you do not hanker anymore. You place no condition that the particular relationship should last, or be in a particular way, but you are so much more loving than you could ever be, because you are not loving another – you are loving yourself.
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