What kind of a teacher is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? The kind that gets under your skin and stays there. The kind that teaches unlearning. The kind that tenderly, relentlessly leads you back to yourself again and again, until your childishness is purged and you begin to take responsibility for your own inner life.
Bhagwan is not really a teacher, though as far as wisdom and techniques are concerned, he gives all there is to be given. Bhagwan is not really a teacher, but a man of Being, a Master.
In San Francisco one 1974 afternoon I was reading the bulletin board at the Acme Cafe in Noe Valley. I wasn’t looking for a Master, but a girlfriend. I saw a notice in a feminine hand for a roommate, preferably male, to share a cottage. She turned out to be a sannyasin: a disciple of Bhagwan. She loaned me a book.
I had read all I could absorb of Wilhelm Reich, and was angry and scandalized that psychologists like Perls and Maslow had taken so much from Reich without admitting it, without going into that area of personal commitment that finally caused Reich to be persecuted and imprisoned by the U.S. government. I saw a failure in Reich — a failure to explore the possibility that once free of all conditioning, man can become divine. It was this knowledge that I knew I needed — and I saw no one alive om whom I felt I could learn it.
Then I read a book by this controversial Indian thinker Rajneesh. I was astonished. This man was putting all my deepest thoughts into words. He was also going far beyond what I’d thought of, into things I couldn’t grasp. And I knew the only way I could grasp them was somehow to be with him.
So I asked the woman who loaned me his book how to play his game. The answer: sannyas. Initiation. The ancient commitment of disciple to Master. The taking of a new name. The wearing of the mala, the string of 108 beads dating back at least as far as Krishna. The wearing of orange — the saffron robe.
I was surprised and delighted at my eager willingness to make this surrender. I was the most skeptical person I knew when it came to gurus and submission. And yet, I had arrived on my own at the conclusion that it was possible — in fact, that it was man’s destiny — to live without the ego. And in this Rajneesh I could feel that there was no ego, that all the conditioning had been dropped, that there was nothing left but pure space. To surrender to another ego would have been pointless. To surrender to an emptiness, a void, a person who has transcended personality — I knew that this would enrich me beyond my dreams.
So I bought many boxes of Rit Orange and Tintex Tiger Lily and turned my wardrobe to the color of the rising sun. I wrote Bhagwan, and he sent me my name. The local meditation center then gave me my mala.
About a year later, I left for India, thinking I’d stay with him a few months. Two years later, I returned to the States, where I remain, and where I’m now working to get back to him to stay. The community around him in India — this Buddhafield surrounding him — is an experimental environment for consciousness such as the world has never seen. Not to be there is becoming increasingly painful. A point is coming where it will simply be impossible for me to be anywhere else but in his community. And when that moment comes I’ll be gone.
To be with him was easy at first — a constant delight. Lately it has become more diffcult — to see that all my aspirations and plans are just form after form of ego; to see how short and seldom are the moments of surrender to what is: the moments that are the only times when I am truly creative, truly passionate, truly awake, truly alive.
Rajneesh is not for everyone. For those who have the nerve, for those who feel the love, he’s put out a call. He won’t be here forever. Perhaps not much longer. To escape from him is always tempting. Yet for me now, impossible. I love him; he’s got me now. How to forget? How to go back? At my worst times there is a tiny feeling in the heart — a tremble of gratitude beyond words, beyond mind, too big for the little self to feel. Bhagwan!
Chapel Hill, N.C.
from Call Me Swami: a work in progress
© 1979 A. Bodhisattva
Write about “teachers.” At first it seems simple. I am thinking about schoolteachers. Mrs. Allen, second grade, comes immediately to mind; she hated me. I hated her too, and I once wrote her a hate letter for which I was immediately sent home by the principal. I remember that missive word for word:
Hateful Mrs. Allen,
I hate you.
I was going to give you a
pencil but now I’m not.
Even after I offered to give her the pencil anyway, she hated me.
In thinking about Mrs. Allen, I soon lost track of schoolteachers. Recollections of other ego-blasting experiences of later years spun me off into spiritual teachers, and then into friends that know about writing and plants, and infants with their pinched scowls and smiling reveries, auto mechanics, history, music, The Sun.
I found a teacher in the October 13 issue of Saturday Review. Denis Donaghue, a man of letters, was reviewing Letters, by John Barth (Putnam, 772 pp., $ 16.95). His style tantalized with esoteric delicacies encoiled in wit and flamboyant punctuation. He wrote like Fred Astaire tap dancing.
Unlike Donaghue, Ambrose, one of the seven characters in Letters, is suffering from writer’s block — that surging frenzy of longings for immortality which so often accompanies sitting down at a typewriter to write. “Ambrose, a novelist, knows what he wants to write about, even knows what it means, but can’t get the words together. . . his writer’s cramp is congenital, an arthritis of diction and syntax.”
There are no cramps in Donaghue’s style, writing about writer’s block, and few enough in Barth’s to earn him a smiling pat on the back at the end of dokosan: “Escape velocity has been achieved. The spiral is unwinding. It is a beautiful sight.” But this not before an impeccable critique in which the professor tap dances in circles around those unwinding spirals.
The review is a masterpiece; you really must read it. Especially if you have aspirations to be a writer. “How (precisely) can History, which mostly feels like servitude, be transformed and felt as freedom? For a writer, there is only one answer: language. The malady of the quotidian may persist, its indifference complete, but the writer must write as if his instruments were endlessly capable . . . the mind must act as if it were adequate to its tasks.” Read it twice, or three times. Read it outloud to a friend. Maybe even read Letters, if you can afford it.
But most of all, write. Sit down on your writer’s block and write, making no excuses, holding nothing back. Just do it. Write about “teachers”. . . .
My prospective superintendent offered me a cigar as he lit his pipe. I said, “No thanks . . . ” He said, “Good, because we don’t allow our teachers to smoke at school.”
Going to a strange town. Knowing no one at all. A way to start, a chance to become anything within my capabilities. Wanting to be a good teacher, having worked hard at college. Worked hard at studying and at earning a living for our family. Many nights were spent rocking a crying baby while trying to figure out those damned Calculus problems. And no one to study with because I commuted thirty miles a day, and I was the only one in town taking Calculus.
Graduated with honors, but still didn’t know much about teaching — and realized it, but was determined to give it a good try. My prospective superintendent offered me a cigar as he lit his pipe. I said, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.” He said, “Good, because we don’t allow our teachers to smoke at school.” He offered me more money than I could have made by moving to another state, we left the hills of western North Carolina and moved to the flatlands of the East.
During the early sixties teaching was relatively easy. The students wanted (needed) to learn — had to have a good S.A.T. score in order to enter the college which their parents and peers expected them to attend. It was a pleasant surprise to find eager faces not only during class, but after school as well. Sputnik had made its mark.
I necessarily spent most nights and many weekends studying — trying to find solutions to problems as well as a way to get them across to the students. It took a few years and a lot of effort, but I did become a good teacher.
I learned that becoming a good teacher did not mean the end to monetary problems. I taught night classes to students who were earning twice as much as me during their first year out of high school. I took summer jobs which sometimes paid me as much a week as I made for two months of teaching. I stayed with what I liked, even though it led to domestic problems.
I remained a student (no matter how long I taught), which led to long and numerous conflicts with “the administration.” I became thoroughly disgusted with the mass of chicken-hearted teachers who continually bitched in the halls, teachers’ lounge, at poker games, as well as on the golf courses. Each had his own good reasons for being a good yes man when it was time to stand up and be counted.
All the while it seemed that the students were the only ones who really knew what school should be, but if they didn’t have a parent or a close friend on the school board, they just might as well direct their efforts toward some other worthwhile cause.
At first I felt that merely pointing out deficiencies to the higher-ups would be sufficient to bring about needed changes — but NO — OH NO! The thing that bothered me most was that my allegations were neither denied nor challenged, but the needed actions were never initiated. Right before I gave up I spent a couple of hours with the superintendent and the chairperson of the school board discussing a critical speech which I had made before a rather influential gathering. They both knew I spoke the truth, but I was chewed out because I had “started people talking about our schools.” Finally I had all I wanted, laughed, and walked out — leaving the superintendent and the board member arguing with one another. The board member did follow me out and gave me a final warning: “Don’t get arrested for driving drunk or on a morals charge or you’re gone.” I had the feeling that my job must indeed he very insecure.
As the Sixties progressed, so did I. This seemed to put an even larger gap between me and my contemporaries. I read extensively during those years — everything from Tolstoy to Playboy. I was actually having to answer the same critical questions that my students were struggling with — Viet Nam, drugs, violence vs. non-violence, etc. A time of growth is a time of growth for everyone — even those already fine standard deviations from the mean.
When I realized that I couldn’t reach the other teachers, Sunday school members, or neighbors, I finally quit wasting my time on people my age and really concentrated on the students. I’m glad to say that I felt much better about the students I taught than the teachers with whom I taught.
I stopped being the maverick at teachers meetings and started being rather quiet and removed from the repetitious nonsense that replayed each year. I suppose, in a way, I became what I had in previous years accused others of becoming — a teacher who no longer even dreamed of making school what it should be. But I did get to know many really fine young people who are now well on their way to fullfilling their dreams — using their own individual vehicles, and actually quite successful within the system.
After many years of successful teaching in one of the better school systems in eastern North Carolina, I was faced with some personal problems which were so depressing that the students actually kept things going for awhile. In spite of much criticism from many directions, I tried to hang in there for one more year. Little did my critics realize that the main event was going on in my head and heart, and not in their petty gossip sessions.
After eighteen years in that kind of town, I signed away the monetary accumulations of my lifetime and split for other places. After travelling throughout the U.S., I returned to the mountains of North Carolina (one of the nicest places in the entire world), and was fortunate enough to land another teaching job — a new system, new principals, new students with completely different backgrounds and attitudes. But they were glad to find a teacher who is still sincerely glad to be teaching. Occasionally I am rewarded with a phone call, book, or even a visit from one of my former students — letting me know that they are still enjoying thinking.
I KNEW I WANTED TO GO
But she had never heard of Creeley.
With another friend we went to hear him read.
Black Mountain is just down the road.
She remembered then the Olson lecture
we heard last winter in Illinois.
He keeps saying “Fuck”, which is grand.
She hates modern poetry. I mean it, she
hates it. Some idiot ruined her in
graduate school with T.S. Eliot, W.B.
W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas, so she says.
I said they aren’t necessarily modern
anymore. She said Oh I still don’t like
all its messiness. It doesn’t have any
structure, any wholeness, that certain
If once she made love with John Donne,
and I know she did many times more
than with me, then who knows
when she might roll over in bed,
whisper words in my ear,
and I’ll fall in love with
the voice in her that is his.
W. D. Timmerman
“Go to college and get your dearee so that you can be a teacher.”
“But, I don’t want to be a teacher.”
“A woman should always have a degree to fall back on.”
“But, I want to be an artist!”
“You can always study art after you get your degree.”
“But. . . .”
“Become a teacher” (or we will bitch and nag until your life seems like hell on earth).
This was a typical pre-women’s lib-anti-war-flower-power decree levied on many post World War II Baby Boom high school graduates by well-meaning parents. I really couldn’t blame them. Two products of the Depression who thought that money, security and happiness were synonymous could never handle a child who thought that the Protestant Work Ethic was a crock.
So, I taught. I never became a teacher, but I taught.
The first four years were difficult. I developed a barely audible mumble that I used when asked about my profession. My regard for teaching ranked somewhere between being able to recite the books of the Bible and vomiting in the aisle during my second grade Valentine’s Day party. But, I was so good!
I used my teaching job to teach myself. When I wanted to learn how to develop and print film, I read about it and taught what I read. By using borrowed or found materials we built a darkroom for sixty-seven cents. Filmmaking was another project that my classes stumbled through. With my books and some scavenging we could do anything, learning from our mistakes.
I received nothing but praise. The bad thing about praise is that at some point it becomes believable. “If I have been working with nothing and doing a great job, just think of what I could do if I actually had some equipment!” Generosity with praise does not always entend to money. The same people who were all for my projects before now considered them unnecessary frills. For five years I requisitioned the equipment and every year it was cut from my order. The sixth year I got the filmmaking equipment and the seventh a darkroom plus accessories. I had won.
But you can hit your head against a wall for just so long before you ask yourself, “What’s it going to be, the head or the wall?” They will never know what they lost when I chose the head.
There are many teachers and many subjects. But there is one teacher, and one subject, that is unique. The teacher is Guru Maharaj Ji, and the subject is his Knowledge. We have all had some experience of knowledge, of learning, of understanding. But the Knowledge revealed by Guru Maharaj Ji is nothing like the knowledge of the world.
What Guru Maharaj Ji reveals is an energy, the life force, or the soul, that is inside of you and inside of me and inside of everyone who is alive. And this revelation is called Knowledge.
The experience of this Knowledge gives you the realization that this is what all the scriptures are talking about. It is that experience which gives a person true joy, inner satisfaction and real peace. No matter what a person looks for, regardless of what someone thinks they need, it is within the experience of Knowledge that one’s deepest longings become satisfied, because it is the source from where all experiences come; within us.
Guru Maharaj Ji speaks very simply:
“There is one answer to all your questions. It is the answer and that is what I want you to have.
“I’m not saying I can answer your questions one by one like ‘how does a camera work?’ or ‘what is the composition of moon soil?’ But I can show you one thing; I can give you one answer. It is the only thing which is an answer; but you will never be able to ask the question that can lead you to this answer.
And that’s why it’s not called an answer; it’s called the Knowledge. And this Knowledge is the answer. The answer to every single question you have. Because after having that, no more questions exist.”
Guru Maharaj Ji reveals this Knowledge: it is inside of us, but it is he who reveals it. That is why he is called the Perfect Master.
Just as there is a master who can teach you physics, and one who can teach you math, Guru Maharaj Ji is the master who teaches that subject called perfectness. He has always been in this university called “Planet Earth.” He has always had a classroom and students who wanted to learn. He is not a new phenomenon.
He is that master who will answer the most important question, the only question, “Who am I?”
This master will not give you a textbook solution; he will not read to you out of someone or another’s writing — not even his own. He will give you the practical experience of the answer to your question. He will show you who you really are.
When I studied science in high school, the part I liked best was lab. It was one thing to read that water contained two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. It was quite another experience to watch the instructor run an electric current through water and gaze as two balloons filled with gas, one twice as fast as the other: H2O. Hearing about how water was composed of H2O was not quite as exciting as practically seeing it. Reading this article, or any article for that matter, on reality or true love, will not give you the experience of it, any more than writing “A big meal” on a piece of paper will fill your stomach when you are hungry. And that’s what makes Guru Maharaj Ji the master. He reveals the experience of that love, and guides a person so that that experience becomes constant with him 24 hours a day.
There are so many theories being offered today on life, truth, God, love and reality. But Guru Maharaj Ji is offering, to all who sincerely want it, that Knowledge which turns theory into practice.
“Guru Maharaj Ji is a guide. Guru Maharaj Ji is a master. He can teach you about what he knows. Teach you about the happiness we all want. About the perfection we all seek.” — Guru Maharaj Ji, January, 1979.