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Osho and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

If you go to Google Images and enter “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” and “Acharya Rajneesh” there is a good chance you will find an old photograph, taken in September 1969. It shows the two mystics sitting together on an outdoor sofa, discussing meditation, before a gathering of Western and Indian seekers in Pahalgam, Kashmir. The photo was taken by an American disciple of the Maharishi, Susan Shumsky, and appears in her book, “Maharishi & Me”. It was the first, last and only time the two spiritual mystics met. It was also the first time that Osho addressed a Western audience and the first time he spoke publicly and at length in English. “Acharya”, by the way, is a respectful Hindi term indicating a spiritual teacher, and this was how Osho was known in the sixties. By this time, the Maharishi was an international figure, almost a household name, thanks to his endorsement by the Beatles pop group. Acharya Rajneesh, on the other hand, was virtually unknown outside India. His controversial book, From Sex to Superconsciousness, published in 1968, compiled from a series of his discourses about sex and delivered in Mumbai the same year, had made him notorious in India, but it wasn’t widely known in the West. In September 1969, the Maharishi had been conducting a meditation camp in Pahalgam for Transcendental Meditation enthusiasts. When some of them learned that Acharya Rajneesh was also in town, they invited him to a joint discussion with the Maharishi – after obtaining the Maharishi’s permission, naturally. I have listened to an audio recording of their debate and could feel how the Westerners soon became frustrated and irritated with the Acharya, because all Osho would say, in a dozen different ways, was that no technique could help people attain to enlightenment. This was the opposite of the Maharishi’s teaching, and although the two mystics sat side by side in an apparently friendly manner, they were poles apart. The Maharishi described TM as a technique that takes the mind from the surface to subtler levels of the human psyche and eventually into a state of pure, transcendental consciousness. The technique itself, as many people know, is basically a practice of continuous verbal repetition, uttering certain sacred sounds, rather like repeating a mantra. Acharya Rajneesh disagreed with the Maharishi. “There is no validity to this whatsoever. How can you have a technique to go somewhere that is everywhere? If it’s already everywhere, where is there to go? Why would you need a technique to go there?” When asked to state his own position, Osho told the crowd: “There is nothing like my position, because to have a position is to be untrue. I have no position, I am totally negative. There is no possibility of there being any path.” This didn’t go over too well with the Western audience and Osho must have realised he couldn’t reach people this way. Or, perhaps, he already knew the impact his attitude would have on the Maharishi’s followers, and was happy to attack their beliefs. Either way, soon afterwards, a remarkable shift happened. Within a year, Osho was developing his own meditation techniques, including Dynamic Meditation. Two years after that, he was offering initiation into “neo-sannyas” – his own version of discipleship – and also started giving discourses in English as well as Hindi, speaking on a wide variety of spiritual disciplines. The transformation worked. The acharya who had once declared that his approach to truth was “totally negative” had morphed himself into a helpful spiritual mystic, offering all kinds of meditation methods and presenting a “pathless path” to inner awakening. Immediately, seekers started coming to him, both from India and abroad. “Surrender to me and I will transform you,” he declared to those who listened. “You can ride my wave,” he assured one spiritual seeker, after initiating her into sannyas. “I am the gate!” he told the new arrivals. The Rajneesh movement was under way. Excerpted from Subhuti’s book: India’s Misfit Mystic.


Article written on July 20, 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing.

Moon Landing

The newspapers and television channels are full of it: fifty years ago today, the first man stepped onto the surface of the Moon. As we all know, on 20 July 1969, when American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Landing Module, he said it was “one small step for man.” Then, of course, he also hailed it as “one giant leap for mankind.” Watching the 50th anniversary celebrations, I am struck by a collective tendency to overlook the greatest achievement of those moon voyages. It had nothing to do with landing on the moon. It had everything to do with the planet on which we live. And it was an accident. In fact, by the time the Apollo 11 spacecraft sent the Lunar Module flying down towards the Moon’s surface, the most significant moment had already happened. Six months before the landing, in December 1968, another Apollo spacecraft carrying three American astronauts became the first manned spaceship to travel to the Moon and return to Earth. On reaching the Moon, the craft went into orbit and flew around the dark side. Then, as the craft re-emerged, the astronauts watched their first “Earthrise” as their home planet rose up over the horizon. It was such a stunning sight that astronaut Bill Anders immediately grabbed his camera and started clicking. When the pictures on his camera film were brought back to Earth, developed and printed, they caught us by surprise and touched our hearts. For the first time, we were able to look at this beautiful orb on which we live. For the first time, we were confronted with the wonder of a living, breathing biosphere, floating in a vast and infinite ocean of darkness. There had been pictures taken earlier, from spacecraft orbiting the Earth, but those were too close to show the whole planet. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. Looking back at ourselves was an unintended spinoff from the American space program. The drive behind NASA’s mission to reach the Moon had nothing to do with such noble, cosmic visions. It was born out of human conflict: a legacy from World War II and the subsequent Cold War that reflected America’s deep fear of the Soviet Union. At the end of the war with Germany, Werner von Braun, the scientist who had developed Germany’s military V2 rocket, could have been prosecuted as a war criminal. Instead, he was spirited away to the United States, where, with hundreds of other newly-imported German scientists, he was put to work developing ballistic missiles, all pointing at the Soviet Union. The world’s leading powers had realized that rockets were the future, especially in terms of delivering nuclear weapons swiftly, accurately and devastatingly. But America’s politicians were in for a shock. In October 1957, tiny bleeping signals from “Sputnik” announced that the Russians had developed a rocket which could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and put a satellite into orbit around the planet. One year later, the Soviets sent up another rocket with a dog inside. Her name was Laika. She died within hours, but proved that a living being could survive launch pressures and exist in space conditions. Four years after that, in April 1961, came the biggest shock of all: Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel in space and orbit the Earth. The reality hit America’s leaders hard: they were losing the space race, losing international prestige and possibly losing a space-based weapons race as well. Perhaps, too, on a deeper level, they felt there was something humiliating, even immoral, about a bunch of godless communists getting the jump on their all-American blend of capitalism and Christianity. Newly-elected president John F Kennedy resolved to reverse the trend. In May 1961, just one month after Gagarin’s flight, Kennedy addressed the US Congress, proposing that the US "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The American people weren’t so sure. According to polls taken after Kennedy’s speech, nearly 60 percent of the public were opposed to it, because of the enormous expense involved. But it happened anyway, due largely to the spectre of Soviet supremacy in space. So, this was the political backdrop against which Apollo 8 had flown toward the Moon. The total focus of NASA’s mission was on beating the Russians, getting there, landing there and bringing astronauts safely home. Nobody at NASA had even considered what it might mean, having reached the goal, to look back at Planet Earth. Anyway, this particular mission, Apollo 8, had been given the task of circling the moon, observing its geography and identifying suitable sites for a future landing. So, the astronauts needed a high-resolution camera to take detailed pictures of the moon’s surface. But when Bill Anders saw the Earth coming up over the moon’s horizon, he didn’t hesitate. This was the “photo opportunity” of a lifetime – maybe of all time. Fortunately, his camera was equally good at taking pictures of his home planet, a quarter of a million miles away, as it was snapping the rocky terrain below. More photos came, of course, the following year, after the landing itself, when the astronauts could photograph the Earth from the moon’s surface. And so they gave us a gift: For the first time, we were able to look upon ourselves and our home from afar, and feel a new kind of love and respect for our planet. Of course, human nature being what it is, the outward drive to “conquer space” continues: Now there’s talk of creating sustainable human colonies on the moon and perhaps even on Mars. No doubt, some interesting discoveries will be made. But for me, space exploration has already achieved its greatest triumph, because nothing is likely to compare with the impact of those first photos of Earth. The “giant leap for mankind” wasn’t Neil Armstrong’s boot touching the lifeless surface of the moon, nor the promise of further exploration. It was the unexpected vision of our beautiful home and its uniqueness as the only known planet in the cosmos that supports life. It was, and is, the implied understanding that we need to appreciate this planet of ours and take good care of it.



Harry Potter and Tibetan Buddhism

Hermione was sitting cross-legged in the lotus position, with her eyes closed, mindfully watching her breath, when her mobile went off. In unison, the other 200 meditators sitting in the hall opened their eyes and peered in her direction. Their faces, which, seconds earlier, had been serene and Buddha-like, now frowned in disapproval. The sacred silence of this week-long retreat, high in the Himalayas, just outside Dharamshala, had been violated on the very last day. "Oh shit!" exclaimed Hermione, springing to her feet and running from the hall with a mixture of embarrassment and alarm. Really, it wasn't her fault. Like everyone else, she'd turned off her mobile as the meditation retreat began. But the secret red channel was always open and its catchy ring tone – ‘Black Magic’ by the British girl group Little Mix – meant only one thing: Harry Potter was hitting the panic button. The boy was in trouble. "Yes Harry, what is it?" snapped Hermione, as she stood on the balcony outside the meditation hall of this Tibetan monastery. The view in front of her was magnificent: rolling forested hills rising up to the majesty of Himalayan snow-capped peaks. But all Hermione could think about was how her irritating friend had just wrecked her inner peace. "It's Voldemort, the Dark Lord is back!" Harry’s voice shouted in her ear, obviously in distress. "That's not possible, you vaporised him, you must be hallucinating," scoffed Hermione, unwilling to believe the bad news. "Have you been drinking vodka-laced magic potions in Hogwart's chemistry lab?" "Don't be mad at me, Hermione," pleaded Harry. "Yes, I zapped Voldemort, but all I can tell you is, he’s back, he’s here, and he’s coming for me.” “Where’s Ron?” she asked, inquiring after the third member of their trusted circle. “In Mexico, doing an ayahuasca retreat,” Harry replied. “I need you, Hermione. I won’t make it without your help!” “Okay, I’m coming,” she sighed. “Hold the combat until I get there.” Hermione’s shoulders slumped in a premonition of defeat. Maybe this time the challenge was too great. Maybe this time the forces of darkness would win. She left the monastery and tried to book a taxi to the airport, but an untimely snowstorm had blocked the road and so she spent the rest of the day wandering the narrow, crowded streets of Dharamshala. On a whim, she entered a small, badly lit, antique shop, stuffed to the ceiling with ancient looking Tibetan artefacts. “So, my dear, you want to save your little friend?” The voice came out of the darkness at the back of the shop and a startled Hermione watched as an old woman shuffled slowly forward into the light. She had a dark, wrinkled, weather-beaten face that bore witness to a long, hard life on the wind-swept plains of Tibet. It was a face that had seen everything, knew everything. Hermione nodded dumbly, somehow accepting that this ancient crone could see what was spinning in her mind. “But the Dark Lord died,” insisted Hermione. “I saw it. I was there. How is it possible he can be back?” The old woman smiled. “Ask your friend Harry. If anyone is to blame, it is he.” “What? How?” The young magician was astonished. “He wants to be a hero, does he not?” asked the crone. “Well, think, my dear, how can you have a hero without a villain? How can you play the good guy without fighting the bad guy? It’s Harry’s lust for greater glory that has brought Voldemort back.” Hermione shook her head in bewilderment. “I don’t get it,” she mumbled. “Because you’re trapped in duality, my dear,” came the reply. The old woman leaned forward and gently pressed her thumb against Hermione’s third eye, in the middle of her forehead. “Look into my eyes, child,” she commanded. Hermione did so and, in a split-second, found herself transported into a vast, silent, empty space. Her own body seemed to have disappeared entirely. “Allow the silence to dissolve your thoughts,” said the old woman’s soothing voice. Hermione had no choice. She was already drowning. The glimpses of inner peace she had been enjoying in her meditation retreat were nothing compared to this. Silence washed through her like an ocean wave, sweeping away all her troubles, all her doubts and fears, leaving behind a profound sense of stillness and peace. “Good men and bad men, what are they really?” murmured the old woman. “Mere actors in a play, as fleeting as a dream. In this vast universe, the only conflict you’ll ever find lies solely within the mind of man.” The voice faded and a long silence ensued. “Good, now come back,” said the woman, rather brusquely. Hermione opened her eyes and found herself once again in the shop. “Even the Buddha was moved by the desire to help others, and so I will help you to help your friend,” said the old hag, grinning mischievously, then added mysteriously, “Just don’t expect any gratitude for it.” She reached behind her, her gnarled hands rummaging through a pile of junk, and eventually pulled out a life-size face mask of a gruesome-looking Tibetan demon. “Come now, child, take this and go at once to Hogwarts,” she told Hermione, wiping layers of dust off the mask with the long sleeves of her cardigan. “Your friend Harry is going to challenge Voldemort to another duel. When they come face to face, put on this mask and summon the demon…” “Demon, what demon?” cried Hermione, not liking the direction in which events seemed to be heading. “Hush child. I’ve no time for questions,” tut-tutted the old woman, but then hesitated, changed her mind, and gave Hermione a little lecture. “A long time ago, in my beloved Tibet, our monks could develop such focused mental discipline that they could turn thoughts into things. That’s how the ferocious beings you see in all our tanka paintings were born.” “Nobody can do it now,” she added. “Ha! These modern monks of ours! All they want to do is take selfies with Western tourists and post them on Instagram.” She paused. “But some objects retain vestiges of those old powers…” She finished dusting the demonic looking mask, and thrust it into Hermione’s arms. . “Now go! The road is open. Hurry, or you will miss your plane.” Hermione rushed out of the shop, hailed a taxi and just made it to the local airport in time to fly to Delhi. After a long, crowded and uncomfortable flight with Jet Airways – the ticket was cheap but the food was indigestible and the toilets indescribable - she finally arrived at London Heathrow. She ran into trouble at immigration, trying to explain why she was carrying a ferocious-looking mask. “What’s it for?” queried the UK Border Agent, dubiously eyeing the snarling, sneering face. Hermione’s naivety rescued her. “I’m…er…trying to save the world from a great darkness,” she replied, honestly. The Border Agent shook his head, smiled and handed the passport back to this lovely young nutcase. “In that case, good luck and welcome home, madam,” he said, with more than a trace of irony, and waved her through. Hermione then surprised a number of Heathrow travellers by rushing head-first into an anonymous-looking brick wall, which was really the entrance to Terminal 13, where she caught a magic broomstick flight to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Shortly afterwards, she alighted on a hillside, just beyond the school walls. Sure enough, there was Harry, standing outside the school’s main gate, like a cowboy at high noon, waiting and watching as a shadowy figure slowly approached. She knew it was the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Suddenly, the reality of the impending battle hit her hard and Hermione felt weak and stupid. She was just a mere girl. How could she influence the outcome of the greatest magical combat of all time? Then she remembered the old Tibetan woman’s calm sense of authority and this helped her gather courage. As the dualists faced each other and raised their wands for combat, she slipped on the Tibetan mask. Instantly, she felt the rushing, oncoming presence of an awesome power. For a second, she shrank from it, fearing it as an evil force, but then, weary of struggle, she dropped all resistance, gave up her will, and abandoned herself entirely to the demon deity. Afterwards, pupils watching from the windows of Hogwarts reported that, out of nowhere, a huge and terrifying Tibetan deity filled the entire hillside behind the duelling ground, its massive bulk reaching upwards until its horns touched the clouds, its body surrounded by red and orange flames, shooting out dazzling rainbows of psychedelic colours. “It was a living tanka painting,” commented one student, who’d seen pictures of these supernatural creatures in Tibetan art. Within the force itself, Hermione felt herself disintegrating into pure light, melting into a vast power that was, she understood, the source and origin of all things. As she relaxed, she became ecstatic, forgetting the critical situation in front of her. Indeed, she would have lost herself entirely, had not a sharply insistent voice, which she dimly recognized as the old woman’s, prodded her into action: “Look down, child, look down!” She looked down, saw the impending duel and understood the power she possessed to intervene, but realized she could no longer choose between the two adversaries. She saw them as the two manifestations of the same energy, two extremes of one polarity, two sides of a single coin. Yet still, Hermione knew she must act and so, bringing her right arm down from the clouds, she pointed her fingers earthwards and sent a tremendous thunderbolt of lightning into the ground between Harry and Voldemort. Both men were blasted off their feet and simultaneously Hermione found herself back in her physical form, standing on the battleground, her body trembling and shaking. The demon had vanished. She waited, unable to move. All her strength had gone. Harry was the first to get up. He staggered groggily to his feet, then heard Voldemort groan. Seeing his enemy lying on the ground, he snatched up his fallen wand and was about to hurl the death curse at the defenceless Dark Lord. “Harry, don’t do it,” said Hermione, her voice a ghostly whisper, sounding strange even to herself. Harry paused and looked at her, puzzled. “Are you mad?” he cried. “For years I’ve waited for this moment and now you want to deny me final victory?” He raised his wand again, but Hermione moved in front of him, blocking his way. “Don’t you see?” she said, “We are prisoners locked inside a childish game that keeps the whole world in ignorance.” She walked over to where Voldemort lay on the ground, sat down beside him, and gently stroked his head with her hand. The Dark Lord groaned again, rolled onto his back and, opening his eyes, stared blankly at Hermione. “Who are you?” he asked, a dazed expression on his face. “That’s not important,” replied Hermione. “The real question is: who are you? Are you really content to be stereotyped as the personification of evil, or do you want to be a free and conscious being?” Somehow, her words gripped Voldemort. Slowly, the Dark Lord sat up, but then, seeing Harry standing a few meters away, he instinctively lunged for his wand. Hermione reached out and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. The gentleness of her touch made him hesitate. Unbidden, the words of Sosan, the great Zen patriarch, flowed through Hermione’s mind and out into the world. “When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised,” she told the Dark Lord. “If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinion for or against. The struggle of what one likes and dislikes is the disease of the mind.” Voldemort slowly put down his wand. “There is strange magic in your words,” he whispered. Hermione smiled and shook her head. “Magic is just another form of mankind’s age-old hunger for power,” said explained. “The desire to be extraordinary is a very ordinary desire – everybody has it. To be ordinary is really extraordinary. And remember, the only miraculous thing in existence is to find out who you really are.” Then Hermione closed her eyes and sat silently. Voldemort did the same. Harry, watching the scene with dumbfounded amazement, felt a surge of resentment towards Hermione. As the good guy, he’d always believed it to be his destiny to rid the world of evil, personified by the man before him. Without this titanic struggle, who was he? Just an ordinary British teenager with face pimples. “It’s okay, Harry, the old woman said you wouldn’t be grateful to me,” murmured Hermione, opening her eyes and smiling at her friend. “Now come and sit with us.” Harry shrugged and brushed aside his doubts, intrigued by the profound change in his young friend. And so they sat together, the three of them, allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by an inner silence that washed away all thoughts of good and bad, conflict and struggle, victory and defeat. In this sublime state of consciousness, they knew they were one.



Osho on the Big Bang Theory

Listening to Osho’s discourses, you can’t help noticing that the mystic’s understanding of science varies wildly, from pinpoint accuracy to extravagant imagination. Often, Osho doesn’t seem to mind if he is talking fact or fiction, reminding those who are listening not to pay too much attention to his words, but to focus on the meditative silence and stillness behind them. That’s fine, but once in a while his words prove astonishingly prophetic and just now a statement by Sir Roger Penrose, a Nobel Prize winner for Physics, shows that Osho may be profoundly right. Let me back up a bit and explain: In 1979, when I was living and working at the Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Pune, I asked Osho a question in his discourse series “The Book of Wisdom.” I’d just read a Time Magazine article claiming that religion and science were brought together by the “Big Bang Theory,” which asserted that the universe came into being 15 billion years ago in a vast fireball explosion. Time’s journalists argued that this sounded like the Old Testament story of the universe beginning in a single act of creation, ordained and triggered by God Almighty himself. I asked Osho “What is wrong with this theory?” He replied, “Subhuti, the first thing to remember is, for three hundred years religion has been losing its territory continuously…” He explained that, at first, religion tried to destroy science, for example, by persecuting Galileo when he proved the Earth went around the Sun, instead of vice versa. But now that science has grown to dominate the objective world, religion eagerly jumps on any scientific theory that seems to support its superstitions – such as the Big Bang and the Act of Creation. Osho continued, “Why do I say that there was no beginning? Subhuti, it is so simple. Even if you believe in the Big Bang Theory, there must have been something that exploded. “Do you think nothing exploded? If there was something, x, y, z – any name, I am not much interested in such nonsense things, whatsoever it was that exploded – if something was there before the explosion then the explosion is not the beginning. “It may be “a beginning” but it is not “the beginning.” Osho went on, “Something was always there – whether it exploded or whether it grew slowly, in one day or in six days, or in one single moment, doesn't matter. “There must have been something before it, because only something can come out of something. Even if you say there was nothing, and it came out of nothing, then your nothing is full of something, it is not really nothing. “Hence I say there has never been any beginning and there will never be any end. “Maybe a beginning, maybe many beginnings and maybe many ends, but never the first and never the last. “We are always in the middle. Existence is not a creation but a creativity. It is not that it begins one day and ends one day. It goes on and on; it is an ongoing process.” Osho’s view of the universe has been upheld by Sir Roger Penrose, the 89-year-old Nobel laureate who won the honour in 1988 for proving that black holes exist. Now, in a recent scientific journal, Sir Roger has asserted that an earlier universe existed before the Big Bang and can still be observed today. He explained that black holes leak radiation and eventually completely decay, but at such a slow pace they last longer than the age of our current universe. He said that “dead” black holes from earlier universes are observable now. “The Big Bang was not the beginning,” he explained. “There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future. “We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon.” Sir Roger’s work is supported by a theory initiated by his colleague, the late Professor Stephen Hawking, who first theorised that black holes leak radiation and eventually disappear.




When Judgement Day arrived in Denmark it was remarkable for the fact that it conformed to most people’s ideas about how such an event should happen – at least, in the beginning. One sunny afternoon in August, out of a blue sky, white puffy clouds suddenly mushroomed into tall, majestic towers, like pillars reaching high into the sky. The sun shone rays of golden light through the gaps between these pillars and then angels appeared and began to blow on trumpets. At the same time, an angelic face with blue eyes, blond hair and pale complexion appeared on all media outlets, including televisions, mobiles and laptops, announcing that Judgement Day had arrived, that it would take some time and that everyone should carry on as usual until it was completed. Of course, with such an unusual event, nobody really carried on as before. All work stopped, coffee shops and beaches were packed. Christians looked smug, atheists looked worried, and people of other religions complained that it was unfair to include them in the process. Angels floated benignly around the country, most notably along the streets of Copenhagen, calming people and assuring them that the judging procedure would be explained in due course. After three days, when things had settled down, an angelic face again appeared on all media outlets, saying that the Danish people would be judged by ‘other beings’ and details would be announced the following Sunday, by the Danish Prime Minister. Naturally, an intense curiosity developed as to the identity of these ‘other beings’. Chat shows and social media were overflowing with speculation, ranging from dolphins to aliens to angels. People even started to be nicer to their dogs and cats, in case it turned out that their own pets were the chosen ones. Soon enough, Sunday came around, and a big crowd gathered in City Hall Square, where the announcement was to take place. At noon, the Prime Minister arrived and stood on a platform that had been specially erected for the occasion. As she stood waiting, the clouds above the city parted and an angel slowly descended on a golden beam of light, holding a large white envelope. Alighting gently on the platform, the angel offered the envelope to the Prime Minster. She took it, opened it, pulled out the sheet of paper from inside and read what was written there. As she turned towards the microphone, millions of Danish people watching on television could see that her hands were shaking and her face had suddenly drained of colour. Hardly able to speak, she leaned close to the microphone and with trembling lips, whispered to the waiting nation, “It’s the pigs.” A shockwave of silence rippled out across the nation, and then farmers in the Danish countryside suddenly heard a strange sound coming from their animal sheds. Going to investigate, they were astonished at a remarkable sight. The pigs were laughing. Even in the slaughterhouses, the pigs were laughing. The End (Note: for those who do not know, there are 5.4 million people in Denmark and 24 million pigs. The pigs are farmed intensively, usually indoors, rarely seeing daylight, with an average density of 2,000 pigs per farm. One new slaughterhouse, completed in 2004 near Horsens, kills approximately 100,000 pigs per week).




When Prince Charles visited India for the first time in 1980, he met his cousin, Prince Welf of Hannover, who was the great-grandson of the last German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Five years earlier, Welf had become a sannyasin, adopting the new name Vimalkirti, and was living at the Pune ashram with his wife and daughter. All three visited Charles during the prince’s stay in Mumbai, and the British prince got a shock when they arrived at his hotel room dressed in blazing orange robes. When Vimalkirti talked about his life with Osho (then 'Bhagwan') Charles said his cousin had "a stroke of luck" in finding a man on whose advice he could always rely. But Charles made it clear that he could not follow in his cousin's footsteps because "I want to be king." He did, however, ask a question to Osho, communicated to the mystic by Vimalkirti when he returned to Pune. I can't remember the question, but I do remember the answer Osho sent back to Charles: "England will never understand you." This proved true enough, because for many years Charles got a very rough ride from the British press over his interest in such matters as alternative medicine, environmental protection, organic agriculture, and other subjects that were unconventional in those days. Vimalkirti died about a year after their meeting, from a hereditary weakness that ran in his family, causing a fatal brain aneurysm. Meanwhile, Charles, 42 years later, has finally succeeded in becoming the king he always wanted to be.




I was born into a nation of tea drinkers. Growing up in an average, middle-class, British family, tea was the standard drink to wake up with in the morning and also to have in the afternoon, around four or five o'clock. But, as far as I can recall, there was nothing like a brand called "English Breakfast Tea." There was Lyon's, Tetley's, PG Tips, Twinings, Co-op and, for those who had a television with the new commercial channel, called ITV, there were advertisements showing cheerful young men and women waving tea cups and singing "Yoo-hoo! Typhoo!" In the beginning, there wasn't even a teabag to be seen. Tea was sold loose, in the form of ground up, blackened leaves, stuffed into a packet, imported from India and blended in the UK. When the packet was taken home and opened, its contents would be emptied into a tin, usually ornately-decorated with some exotic Chinese or Indian scene, and then stored in the kitchen. A large, family-sized teapot would be warmed with hot water, which was then poured away, and spoonfuls of tea would be added to the pot, usually to the ratio of one per person…and an extra one for the pot. For those among us who may be mathematically challenged, this would mean, for example, five spoonfuls for a family of four. Boiling water would then be poured over the tea and the brew allowed to steep, usually for four or five minutes, before serving. A quaint English habit, which by now may well be extinct, was to add milk to the cup before pouring in the tea. This was a fine art, since even a drop too much or too little milk could ruin the whole tea experience. As an added bonus, some thoughtful hosts might pour the tea from the pot through a small sieve to prevent tea leaves from entering one's cup. Variations of this elegant ritual were still alive when I was a boy, but alas, the arrival of the lowly, mundane, but wonderfully convenient tea bag has all but killed it. The teabag, predictably enough, was an American invention. At the beginning of the 20th century, a mail order merchant was sending out free samples of tea to his customers in small silk sachets. The sachets were meant to be cut and the tea poured out, but some of his customers innocently assumed the bag should be dropped directly into a cup of hot water. When they complained that the tea didn’t seep out of the silk sachet into the hot water, the trader immediately saw their point, understood the potential market and sent out his tea in porous, gauze bags instead. Presto! The teabag was born. But it took more than fifty years to reach the UK, where traditional tea drinkers steadfastly resisted such new-fangled inventions. It wasn't until 1953 that Tetley started selling teabags and ten years later only three percent of English tea drinkers had switched to the new format. But you cannot hold back high-tech progress for long and now, today, that figure is over 96 percent. Tea bags are usually square in shape, but can be circular and even, in some cases, tetrahedral. I’m told there are enthusiastic collectors of decorative tea bags around the world, with clubs, societies and catalogues. As for coffee, I don't think I even registered that there was such a drink until I was in my teens and then it was only in the form of Nescafe instant granules and that well known brand’s frequent TV commercials. The idea of sitting down to a cappuccino in some fashionable cafe was so alien to me that I might as well have imagined sitting down with a bunch of gauchos (cowboys) on the prairies of Argentina, sipping freshly-brewed yerba mate through a straw. When I left the UK in 1976 and started living in India, at Osho's ashram in Pune, there was no coffee. Come to think of it, there wasn't any tea, either, in the British sense. No, there was only one universal drink: chai. Chai, for those few who may not know, consists of fine, black, powdery tea granules, boiled vigorously in a 50:50 ratio of water and milk, plus cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and, of course, a massive dose of white sugar. As I recall, we drank chai for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and also in between, during "chai breaks" which occurred mid-morning and, as I recall, mid-afternoon. It is with some sense of pride that I recall my short career in the ashram kitchen as "chai wallah," for a few weeks in the autumn of 1977. Rising early, I enjoyed boiling up huge quantities of dark brown liquid in large aluminium pots, heated by roaring kerosene burners. It was fun. It was like alchemy, to get the ingredients right. Coffee wasn’t available in the ashram, but after a short walk, one could arrive at the notorious Café Bund, where, according to one old friend, “the coffee was so bad, even the flies wouldn’t land in it.” One could also make a rickshaw pilgrimage to MG Road, to The Poona Coffee House, although this emporium was sought after more for its South Indian cuisine – idli sambar, onion uttapam, masala dosa – than for its beverages. However, the fact that the place focused on Southern cuisine was significant, because coffee was being grown in Southern India on a large scale, where, so it was rumoured, people drank more coffee than chai. But still, in those days, inside the ashram or out of it, there was no sign of "English Breakfast Tea." I first noticed this novel brand about 20 years later, during the Nineties, while shopping at "Green Grocer," on North Main Road, close to the ashram, which was the only local store supplying a variety of Western-style goods. Scouting around Green Grocer, I think it was a red Twinings packet that first caught my eye, announcing "English Breakfast Tea." It puzzled me, because there was nothing like that on the shop shelves in England. Seen from a reverse perspective, it was a bit like the story of Indian curry: The UK is full of curry houses, but when you come to India itself, curry isn't on the menu in any restaurant. Why? Because every dish, from Navratan Korma to Palak Paneer, is a kind of curry, using subtle and not-so-subtle blends of spices. Even if you ask for "not spicy, please" and the waiter nods his head smilingly, you're guaranteed to get a burning mouthful. It's generic. And it's the same with English Breakfast Tea. At home, there were dozens of brands that could qualify under such a blanket term. It was only out here, in the world, that it made sense. But the idea has caught on and now, at almost any airport in the world, at any cafe, in any store, you will see packets of English Breakfast Tea. Even, to my astonishment, in English supermarkets! And I have since learned that its origins are quite ancient. Again, America seems to have been responsible. Apparently, a nineteenth-century New York trader offered it as a popular blend to his customers, although other historians claim it was Queen Victoria who discovered it in, of all places, Scotland. Whatever the history, it's easy to see the brand's appeal internationally: tea is so closely associated with the English character, it makes a good sales pitch. And you know what? I rather like this blend. Time for a cup?



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From left to right: The 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, The Dalai Lama with Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the two Karmapas meet in France for the first time, Trinley Thaye Dorje with his wife and son

There is a sweet story that I’ve heard about the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who is the 38-year-old head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. He was flying from Dharamshala to New Delhi when a Western tourist, who happened to be sitting next to him on the plane, asked, "Well, is it fun, being the Karmapa?" The studious young man, dressed in the robes of a Tibetan monk, gave a sigh and replied "I used to think so, but increasingly it has become more of a burden." Just how much of a burden was revealed in a candid speech, given in the United States a few years back, when Ogyen Trinley admitted that he felt depressed by his responsibilities, lacked the skills of his previous incarnations, felt incapable of dealing with politics, and was happy to take a break from his duties in India by staying in the US for several months. He also said he was an ordinary man who needed the help and support of other Tibetan Buddhist leaders and appealed for unity among the various factions of the Karma Kagyu sect. To me, there was something very touching about the sincere and humble way in which Ogyen Trinley shared his troubles and the burden he felt. Following on from his speech, Ogyen Trinley surprised everyone by meeting his rival, Trinley Thaye Dorje, who also claimed to be the 17th incarnation of the Karmapa. They met on neutral territory, at a location in France, and issued a joint statement expressing their mutual desire to heal the rift in the Karma Kagyu sect. Significantly, their meeting occurred after the death of Sharmapa Rinpoche, the man who had created the split in 1994. A little background may be required: Ogyen Trinley was born in Tibet in 1985. At the age of seven, he was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 17 th incarnation of the Karmapa lineage. He was also recognized by the Chinese government. That same year, he was enthroned in the traditional seat of the Karmapa’s sect in Tibet. But at the age of fourteen, he escaped to India and set up his headquarters close to the Dalai Lama, in a monastery just outside Dharamshala. However, trouble was already brewing, because, traditionally, the job of finding and confirming the new Karmapa has been given to the Sharmapa Rinpoche, the second oldest lineage in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. By jumping in and recognizing Ogyen Trinley, the Dalai Lama had ignored the Sharmapa and stepped on the man’s spiritual toes – so to speak. And the 14 th Sharmapa, a Tibetan monk called Mipham Chokyi Lodro, was not the kind of man to take such an insult lying down. He refused to recognize Ogyen Trinley and two years later announced he had found the real Karmapa, a young man called Trinley Thaye Dorje. Thus, the theological split between the two rival camps began. More controversy followed as the Sharmapa’s thirst for revenge continued. He had close links with the Indian intelligence services and conspired with them to stage a raid on Ogyen Trinley’s monastery, seizing large amounts of cash and accusing him of spying for the Chinese. Although eventually cleared of all charges, it was a brutal shock for Ogyen Trinley, who since then has spent most of his time with his supporters in the United States. It was not until the vengeful Sharmapa died in 2014 that the two rival Karmapas felt ready to meet and make their declaration of unity. Other controversies also haunt Ogyen Trinley. He has been named in a paternity suit as the father of an American woman’s child, which he has not denied, and also as having sexual relations with two other women. His rival, Trinley Thaye Dorje, was more open about his love life: he broke with tradition by marrying his childhood sweetheart, a woman from Bhutan. So, where does this leave us, in terms of the Karmapa’s reincarnation? Because after all, with so many lifetimes as a spiritual leader, one would expect the man who holds this office to be mature, emanating wisdom and light, whereas neither of these two young men seem to radiate any form of enlightened consciousness. To me, this is not surprising and it’s worth understanding why. Let us go back in time, before these two fellows incarnated, to their predecessor, the 16th incarnation of the Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorje, who was born in Tibet in 1925 and escaped to India at the age of 26. He established his new headquarters at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, in 1959. Ranjung Rigpe was universally recognized as a “living buddha” and demonstrated many spiritual qualities. For example, he gained a formidable reputation for spotting reincarnated lamas and monks, reminding them of their previous lives. He travelled widely in the West, offering "Black Crown" ceremonies in major cities, including London, where I participated in one of them and, along with several hundred other people, received his blessing. The man’s impact was undeniable. His energy was huge, his presence powerful, and his smile was radiant and genuine, as if seeing the world as a huge and wonderful joke. Unfortunately, Ranjung Rigpe had a relatively short life, dying of cancer in the United States at the age of 57, in 1981. In hospital, he astonished his medical doctors by smiling and being undisturbed while in considerable pain, and his heart – in accordance with Tibetan traditions about enlightened beings – remained warm for three days after his death, while the rest of his body was cold. The point I wish to make here is that the sixteenth Karmapa seems to have lived and died as an enlightened being. This is not just my opinion, but that of many. In other words, his spiritual journey, passing through many incarnations, had been completed. When speaking about enlightenment, Osho has said on several occasions that it is not possible to take another birth after this ultimate event. The expanded consciousness of an enlightened being cannot confine itself any longer to the human form. On other occasions, less frequently, Osho has suggested that it might be possible, but that it would be very unlikely and immensely difficult for such an incarnation to take place. My own feeling, having met the 16 th Karmapa and having watched video interviews with his successors, Ogyen Trinley and Trinley Thaye, is that neither of these young men even come close to embodying the radiance, bliss and power that emanated from the 16th incarnation. Ogyen Trinley strikes me as sincere and well-intentioned, but not an enlightened being, while his rival, Trinley Thaye, exhibits an even less impressive level of consciousness. So, it is clear to me, if not to them, that this long lineage of reincarnation has come to an end. The pilgrimage of the individual being known as the Karmapa is over. His consciousness, like that of Osho, has dissolved into the Absolute. This offers a simple and practical way out of a difficult situation that is only likely to become more complicated as the years go by. For example, the Chinese, who recognized Ogyen Trinley as the 17th incarnation before he escaped from Tibet, will certainly want the 18th to be reincarnated within their own territory, while the two rival clans based in India will also be eager to find their own candidates, to protect their own interests. It's going to be a real circus, with as many of three or four candidates all claiming to be the 18th Karmapa. As I see it, the best course for both of these young men would be to recognize that the 16th incarnation, Ranjung Rigpe, died as an enlightened being and that the individual spiritual journey of the Karmapa has been completed. The two men can agree to joint stewardship of his legacy, continuing to lead the Karma Kagyu sect together during their lifetimes. After they have died, the Karma Kagyu sect can conduct an ordinary election to choose their next leader. Of course, there will always be rivalry between various factions, since politics is as prevalent in organized religions as anywhere else, but at least the main division will have been healed. I sense that one of the people who would be most relieved by such a solution would be Ogyen Trinley himself. Sometimes, watching his videos, I get the feeling he would like nothing better than to throw off his formal robes, slip on a pair of jeans and t-shirt, and wander casually with a couple of close friends along a beach in Hawaii. He evokes a great deal of sympathy in me, since he did not choose his destiny and, by his own admission, has had a rough and lonely time. One story, which he tells about his own childhood, is significant: When he was informed he was the Karmapa, at the age of seven, he was delighted, thinking he’d be given more toys and have more friends to play with. Alas, to his great disappointment, this was not the case. Instead, he found himself isolated from other children, surrounded by adult monks and subjected to serious studies. For him, it was a disappointing start to a lifelong role he never sought, and apparently has never really enjoyed. By the way, just as an aside, as many people know, the 87-year-old Dalai Lama caused controversy recently by hugging and kissing a young male student, then asking him to suck his tongue, at a public ceremony in Dharamshala. Whether it was a playful moment, a Tibetan cultural gesture of affection, or something less innocent, has been hotly debated. Such awkward incidents in the Dalai Lama’s life are rare. All in all, he seems to have behaved the way a traditional, celibate, Buddhist monk is expected to behave. For me, this revered Tibetan leader committed a much more serious mistake, decades earlier, and it had nothing to do with hugging and kissing. It occurred in May, 1995, when he prematurely announced his recognition of the 11 th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is a key figure in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, and in past centuries has been instrumental in finding new incarnations of the Dalai Lama. But the two lamas have not always been friends. Indeed, back in the 1940s, when the 10 th Panchen Lama felt the supporters of the Dalai Lama were trying to strip him and his followers of power, he actually led an army against him, but failed and died in exile in China. In the spring of 1995, the Chinese were arranging their own method of choosing the 11th Panchen Lama, acknowledging six candidates, including the one identified by the Dalai Lama. However, after the Dalai Lama made his announcement, they kidnapped the boy, he disappeared, and he has never been seen since. The Chinese then chose their own candidate, by lottery, using the so-called “golden urn” method of selection, but this fellow – essentially a political appointee – has been widely rejected by Buddhists in Tibet and abroad. And the Dalai Lama’s mistake? He should have known the Chinese would resent his interference and kept his mouth shut. If he had waited, they might have chosen his candidate anyway in the lottery. If they had not, he could have waited until the ceremony was over, then smuggled the real incarnation out of Tibet, before publicly recognizing him. In other words, the Dalai Lama is a nice guy, with a spiritual charisma, but not blessed with a great deal of worldly wisdom, having unintentionally brought mayhem and confusion to the selection of both the Karmapa and the Panchen Lama. That is one more reason why this antiquated tradition of finding reincarnations should be brought to an end. And the Dalai Lama is the right man to do it. He can start by declaring an end to his own lineage, instructing, on his death, the Karma Kagyu sect to select their next leader by election, not reincarnation. Let’s give the final words to Ogyen Trinley, who, in confessing his sense of inadequacy, in his speech in 2018, added, “I don’t have any reasons or any basis to say that I’m the reincarnation of any great lama. “Since I’m an ordinary person, I have to put in incredible effort… But, no matter how much effort I make, it’s never enough,” he said. He expressed that many people believe that being the Karmapa is “some incredible thing.” “For me, that hasn’t happened,” he admitted.

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