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When people talk to me about psychic powers, which admittedly does not happen very often, I am always reminded of a bizarre moment that happened to me at Rancho Rajneesh in Oregon, many years ago. I was working as a truck driver and it was dinner time, so I parked my vehicle for the night and made my way to Magdalena Cafeteria, more than ready to eat my evening vegetarian meal. Two women came and sat next to me and one I recognized as Waduda. A few years earlier, in the ashram in Pune, I had interviewed her when she and her partner, Wadud, arrived from the United States and were initiated into sannyas by Osho. Talking with her, I came to know they were both fascinated by the mysterious world of psychic powers and esoteric experiences, which to me, at the time, seemed way too “airy-fairy” and out of place in Pune. In contrast, the ashram’s group department had a reputation for intensely cathartic work, with lots of screaming and shouting, emphasizing emotional, sexual and energy release. I was, however, impressed when I learned she and Wadud had helped Native Americans during the Wounded Knee incident in South Dakota, in1973, when a group of about 200 Oglala Sioux defied the US government in a stand-off lasting 71 days. For the next few years, I didn't see much of Waduda, except to note she had become part of our community and in the early 1980s she shifted, like the rest of us, from our jungle-like ashram in India to a huge cattle ranch in Central Oregon. We had to leave our flowing orange robes behind and instead donned jeans and cowboy boots. On the day of our encounter, I had taken my meal from Magdalena’s buffet-style line of pots and was sitting at one of the long, white-topped tables in the dining area. Waduda came and sat on the bench beside me. We were wearing similar casual working gear, in keeping with the work-oriented atmosphere of the Oregon Ranch. We didn't say hello. She was busy talking with a female friend and I was busy eating. I had a vague idea they were gossiping about something, but didn't pay much attention. At a certain point, however, Waduda must have decided that what she was about to say was confidential, because she lowered her voice and leaned forward to whisper across the table to her friend. The moment she lowered her voice, I became interested and wanted to listen, too. Nothing very unusual in that, one might think. After all, we are all interested in juicy gossip, especially when we’re not supposed to hear it. I was careful not to look in her direction, nor to interrupt my eating, so that she wouldn't guess I was eavesdropping on her conversation. But, at that very moment, with no volition of my own, I became aware that I was growing a giant ear on my left side, where Waduda was seated. It was an extraordinary experience. Of course, on a physical level, there was no such ear. It remained the size it had always been. But energetically, it had become enormous, like a giant listening device. Equally extraordinary was Waduda's reaction. She stopped talking to her friend, turned to her right and looked at me, or, rather, she looked at the massive ear that was somehow hovering in the air between us. She didn't say anything. I was embarrassed, but also said nothing. What could I say? "Please excuse my giant ear"? It didn't make sense. I was in denial of the phenomenon, even to myself. I went on eating and she tactfully changed the subject with her friend. The giant ear shrank and disappeared as quickly as it had come. Much water went down the Ganges, Osho was deported from America, the Ranch disintegrated and there came a time when we all found ourselves back in the Pune ashram. This was the moment when Osho chose to open his door to all kinds of new therapies and growth methods, including a whole range of esoteric and psychic work – energy reading, aura cleaning, psychic surgery and so on. At around the same time, the ashram's group department was divided into specialized schools and the esoteric work was given to the School of Mysticism. Needless to say, Wadud and Waduda were part of it and they asked me to help them write a training manual for a course in which they would be teaching Esoteric Science. At first, I was reluctant. "I know nothing about the esoteric world," I told them. Waduda smiled and nodded. "That's what I thought, too, until you grew that giant ear in Magdalena Canteen!" I laughed. "Okay, you got me!" I replied and promptly agreed to help them write the book. As part of the deal, they invited me to participate in the training and I agreed, not really expecting to experience anything unusual. But I was pleasantly surprised to pass through a whole range of fascinating phenomena, including being able to give accurate heart-readings, diving into a black and bottomless well of energy in my hara centre, and watching with detachment as I effortlessly grew an erection during a naked partner exercise, when a female participant shone a strong red light on my sex centre. It became obvious to me, as Waduda already knew, that I had some psychic abilities, some kind of talent to explore the esoteric world. Inevitably, I was forced to abandon my arrogant attitude of dismissing psychic phenomena. I became more sensitive to subtle feelings, both in myself and in others. I learned to listen to my intuition and my hunches. This was particularly useful when giving Tarot Card readings, which was something I really enjoyed. This reminds me of a mind-blowing incident that happened in the late Nineties in Pune. At the time, there was a lot of enthusiasm for a group process called “The Path of Love” which was purportedly very intense and also highly secret. In social conversation, I dismissed it as a fashion, but the truth was, I was scared to participate in this week-long workshop. Still, it was hard to ignore the attraction I felt towards this new process, so I hit upon a ruse to decide the issue. I went back to my room, took out my Osho Zen Tarot deck and spread all 78 cards face down on a small table, where I also put a photo of Osho, looking directly at me. “Okay, Osho,” I said to him. “You have one chance to make me join The Path of Love: if I pull the Master card.” The Master card is just one card out of a whole deck. It is a simple portrait of Osho, painted by Deva Padma, with a full moon shining above his head. The back of the card is no different from the other 77 cards. So, I figured the odds were stacked heavily in favour of not having to do the group. Without hesitating, I reached into the fan-shaped spread of cards and pulled one out, flipped it over and let it fall on the table. It was, of course, the Master Card. With a message like that, all hesitation evaporated. I signed up for the next Path of Love group and had an amazing time. But the story doesn’t end there. A few years later, I found myself in Saint Petersburg, leading a couple of groups at the Osho Centre, and staying with two friends, Ravi and Anando. Over a bottle of wine, I gave them Tarot card readings and afterwards I left the cards fanned out across the table, face down. For some reason, I felt like telling the story of my challenge to Osho prior to doing The Path of Love, and as I came to the climax, I said to them “And I pulled the Master Card.” By way of illustration, I reached out and pulled a single card from the fanned deck, and then flipped it over. To my astonishment, it was the Master Card…again! I wasn’t trying to pull it. I didn’t think for a moment it would happen. Really, if anything, I was just showing how casually I had pulled the card from the deck on the previous occasion. But there it was, looking up at us. We sat in silence, all three of us, awed by what had just transpired. Over the years, I have come to know that the Tarot is a mysterious creature. Even an experienced reader like myself can be surprised by what it shows us. For example, at a “multiversity fair” in Pune one year, I was giving quick, ten-minute readings to a line of waiting customers, when an old Japanese man came and sat in front of me, with his young, female Japanese interpreter. He looked ancient, with a wrinkled face and long white beard, like an old hermit emerging from a cave after years of retreat from the world. “He wants to know about his past lives,” explained the interpreter. “I’m sorry, please tell him, I don’t do past life readings with Tarot cards,” I replied. “I only reveal what is happening now, in this moment.” She spoke for some time with old man. “No, no, he wants to know about his past lives,” she insisted. “I’m sorry, I don’t do past life readings…” This went on for some time, because at that stage in my reading career I really didn’t think past life readings were part of my repertoire. Eventually, the message got through. “Okay, he says to just give him a reading,” said the interpreter. I spread the cards, he picked five, I arranged them in a diamond shape and then turned them over. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so clear. So obvious. “This is about your past lives,” I said to him. I don’t remember the cards, but I remember their message to this old man. “You have pursued the path of solitude to the very end,” I told him. “There is nothing more for you to learn that way. Now you need to learn by inter-acting with ordinary people on a daily basis. You need to re-embrace the world. That is your path now.” And I apologized to him for initially refusing to give him a past-life reading. One more anecdote: there came a moment, after the millennium, when I got fed up with Tarot Cards. I felt I had become too dependent on them for guiding myself and offering guidance to others. “Enough is enough,” I said to myself, and slowly and deliberately ripped all my Tarot Cards in half, then put them in a plastic bag, and, on my way to the back gate of the resort, tossed them in a large metal dumpster. On my way back from lunch, I was in for a surprise. Some beggar must have been rummaging through the dumpster, looking for something useful to sell, and he must have pulled out my little bag of torn cards. How do I know? Because, from the dumpster, all the way back to the gate of the compound where I was living, there was a long, colourful trail of half cards. This beggar must have been looking at them, each in turn, then tossing them away, by the side of the road. The trail ended precisely at my gate. It was a message: I wasn’t done with Tarot Cards. I went back to the resort and bought myself a new deck. It is still with me, today. Historical note: Waduda later changed her name to Leela and continued teaching and sharing her wisdom for many years. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2017.


Tarot Cards: The Untold Stories

Subhuti talks about three women who designed cards for three of the most popular Tarot decks. Padma has now created three Tarot decks: The Osho Zen deck, The Tao Oracle, and The Sacred She.

A Brief History of Tarot Cards

Subhuti traces the evolution of the Tarot from its earliest origins, as the world's first printed playing cards, in China, across the globe to Europe, where they developed into a form of divination..

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