By Aalif Surti May 2005 An intensive meditation camp conducted by Swami Chaitanya Bharti gave the participants an opportunity to live in 40 days of silence, excavating themselves through meditation, laughter, dancing and tears. Consciousness is such a mystery,’ my brother Gyandev said to me at the beach on the last night. ‘When you sit here, relaxed, unfocused, it contains the entire horizon and your own body within it. But in a hundredth of a second, if there is a thought of fear or desire, it can narrow down to a speck.’ Far away on the right, the twinkling lights of Diu city gleamed along the coast. Our own lives in distant cities seemed farther still. We had only been here for 40 days, but there was no bridge left that connected that world with this. A silent humming joy within had floated through the days filled with meditation, dancing, celebration and music. And yet when we closed our eyes, there was nothing left of that either. How did we reach a place so far removed from our marketplaces and railway stations, and offices that it was not even on the map? How did we have the courage to drop our entire lives to spend 40 days in Diu with a man who promised us only ‘nothingness’? We must be, as he had called us affectionately in the opening ceremony: ‘crackpots’. The opening ceremony took place on 11 December, 2004. The sheer diversity of the participants was mind-boggling. Little did they know that in a few weeks they would all belong to each other more than they ever did to their own families. Gurudev himself is difficult to capture in words. He was one of Osho’s earliest disciples who was later appointed by Osho to conduct meditation camps on his behalf. In September 1990, a series of incidents occurred to him at the end of which ‘he’ disappeared. He hesitates to talk about this incident and to anyone who asks if he is enlightened, he would just say, ‘I am what I am’. Some misunderstandings led him to exit the Inner Circle of the Osho commune. In the decade that followed, Gurudev continued to conduct meditation camps throughout India. Today, at 62, there is no trace of his past in him. He is neither proud of it, nor regretful. An overflowing joy and mischief radiates from him whenever he speaks, sometimes conveyed just in a little sideways glance and upturned corner of his lips. Almost uneducated, he can amaze with his eloquence and oratory. And even more powerful than his words is his silence. Phase I: Preparing for silenceOverlooking the ocean, facing the sunrise, was our ‘meditation hall’, actually a large cloth tent with a thatched roof. On the wall towards the ocean was a large photo of Osho laughing, below which Gurudev sat during his talks. The coir flooring started showing signs of life as the camp progressed with little shoots of grass coming through the weave. And there were flies. If you were a visitor from Mars, you would hear one of two sounds coming from the meditation hall: loud laughter or an astonishing diversity of music: Baul folk songs, Sufi qawwalis, Hindu mantras, shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita, kirtans, bhajans, fusion and pure Indian classical artistes all floated through this meditation hall at different times of the day. The first 10 days were devoted to chit-shuddhi or cleaning the psyche. We had come from our worldly lives with such pressing emotional issues and burning problems that quietening them was the first requirement before we could grasp the subtleties of consciousness. A time-bound regimen of active meditations beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 8:30 p.m. was observed. Gurudev’s teaching is a synthesis of Osho and Nisargadatta Maharaj, a fusion of Sufi devotion and advaita, a strange paradox. On one path the guru is ultimately considered God himself, in the other, ultimately neither the guru nor the disciple exist! On one path, everything is God’s will, on the other, nothing has ever happened! Gurudev stirs the mixture with a whole lot of laughter and makes even arcane words like ‘absolute consciousness’ palatable for us who may think it is a brand of vodka. His laughter mantra is ‘Ho Jaaye!’ and the many loving and mischievous nuances with which he says it evokes laughter from even the most serious soul. Gurudev reminds us in his talks, ‘Forget everything else, constantly remember your sense of Presence. I call it am-ness, being-ness. Try to identify not with the body but with the sense of Presence.’ Slowly, meditation began to deepen even in those who had never attempted it before the previous week. A few days into the camp, first-timer Aditi wrote to Gurudev: Dear Gurudev,The experience of not feeling the body (during meditation) has begun happening often. The initial excitement has now turned to worry as even when I come out of meditation there is a failure to know what to do to move my hands and legs! Although I am looking down at my body, I cannot recollect what to do to move my limbs! Phase II: Living in silenceContrary to popular belief, no talking, no gesturing, no eye contact for 21 days was actually the easy part. Remaining passive with all that was happening within oneself was tough. Gurudev gave us only two ‘commandments’ for the 40 days: One, remain passive and unfocused. Two, don’t be serious. Initially, boredom and restlessness surfaced strongly. Gurudev had discontinued his talks in silence, but after four days, he spoke in response to the following letter: Beloved Gurudev,Whole day, sitting in my room either I am thinking continuously or falling asleep. I am not speaking outside but inside everything is the same. Am I missing something? Those who were spared the boredom were grappling with intense feelings of sexuality, anger, fear, sadness, guilt and other ‘furniture’ as Gurudev jokingly called it: ‘All your life you have been dumping your unwanted stuff into the basement of your house. Now when you go within you have to encounter this furniture. But don’t start fighting with it. Just allow it to come. Treat it like a guest- maybe it is an uninvited guest! So just be with it. Remain passive. It will be going in its own time.’ Other traumas awaited those who were encountering the depths of silence. Bhola, the young jeweler from Delhi, had been meditating regularly for many years with Gurudev. But this camp clearly held something else in store for him. For the silence, he opted to stay in complete isolation in his room, but a few days into the silence he wrote a letter to Gurudev: Beloved Gurudev,Today, after White Robe Meditation I went and sat silently in my room. After that when I went to change my clothes for dinner, while standing in front of the mirror I saw after 10-15 seconds that my reflection was not in the mirror. I thought that this is my imagination but this happened a second time too. Now I am very scared. Please send someone to my room to stay with me or advise me on what I should do. Gurudev first made light of his fear. He joked with all of us that maybe the reflection had gone to meet his girlfriend or maybe the mirror was off-duty. Then he added, almost as an afterthought so as not to boost his ego, that what had happened was very valuable, a rare glimpse into his real nature, which was beyond the body. In the final week of silence, Gurudev began Mystic Rose: laughing for forty minutes, crying for forty minutes and then sitting silently for forty minutes. The depth and painfulness of the inner surgery increased. And there were some casualties too. One evening, Gurudev read out a hurriedly scrawled note written by a young actress: Beloved Gurudev,I feel absolutely torn and broken… Things are surfacing and I cannot believe what I see. Find it so difficult to disidentify… Please kill me.In reply, once again Gurudev reminded us that whatever we could see was not us: ‘If you can see something, it simply means you are not it. You can say at the most that it is yours, but not that it is ‘you’. You are separate from it. If I see a flower, does it mean that I am the flower? So just remain passive and remember that whatever is happening on the inner screen is also not you. The movie is changing all the time, the screen remains constant. That screen which never changes is the real you.’ Another young girl was dealing with the abrupt end of a romantic relationship. She wrote one night: Beloved Gurudev,It’s amazing how much anger and hurt this little body holds. Gurudev, why is it so difficult to forgive? I understand that it is only a thought that causes me pain. And that it will only take one thought in one moment to let it all go, but forgiveness does not happen. Where do I go wrong? What do I fail to see? Gurudev answered her beautifully and advised her not to condemn the anger, just to be with it. ‘Forgiveness will happen one day,’ he said, ‘don’t try to do it, otherwise it will be fake. Just be with your anger as long as it takes. And you are doing beautifully. I am watching you. Don’t worry. I love you.’ There seemed to be tears glimmering in his eyes as he spoke. Every night, at the end of the final meditation, he would keep reminding us of Krishna’s lines from the Bhagavad Gita:Jo hua, accha hua,Jo ho raha hai, accha ho raha hai,Jo hoga woh bhi accha hi hoga. Clichéd as they may seem, in that vast, looming spectre of complete silence and emotional turmoil, they proved a life-saver. It became clear as days passed that there were 36 meditation camps happening simultaneously. Each one was experiencing their own hills and valleys through the forty days. Someone was learning how to let go of a loved one, another was learning how to live with love; someone was seeing his ego for the first time, someone was erasing the final shadows
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