Meditation Madness: India

The resort offers weird new age meditations and exotic hippie therapies with bizarre names such as “A Day for the Inner Child”, “Primal Rebirth”, “Mystic Rose Training”, and “Opening to Self-Love.”

A tourist mentally prepares for the madness of the Osho International Meditation Resort

A tourist mentally prepares for the madness of the Osho International Meditation Resort

India is a land of religion, spirituality, and endless gods. From the wealthiest businessman to the poorest chai-wallah, everyone fancies themselves a spiritual philosopher. Even hardcore atheists are forced to have a good long think when in India. Bored of the Chinese winter and lacking spiritual sustenance, I decided to throw myself in at the deep-end. I flew to India and joined a cult.

But the Osho Ashram in Pune, just two hours from Mumbai is unlike any other cult. It brands itself the Osho International Meditation Resort and is more like an up-market health farm (it boasts basketball and tennis courts, saunas, jacuzzis and a beautiful lagoon-style pool) than an ascetic retreat.

The resort itself was the brainchild of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a bearded holy man popularly known as Osho who gained a huge following in the West. His teachings, wide and contradictory, could probably be best summed up as, “The world is a giant cosmic joke and there’s not much we can do about it, so stop worrying and do things you enjoy, like dancing and having sex.” It’s not an easy philosophy to argue with.

The resort offers weird new age meditations and exotic hippie therapies with bizarre names such as “A Day for the Inner Child”, “Primal Rebirth”, “Mystic Rose Training” and “Opening to Self-Love.” I am open enough with the latter, so I opted for “Transomatic Dialogue: Releasing your Hidden Buddha.”

The resort offers weird new age meditations and exotic hippie therapies with bizarre names such as “A Day for the Inner Child”, “Primal Rebirth”, “Mystic Rose Training”, and “Opening to Self-Love.”

Curious, I bought a five day pass, and to gain entry I was immediately asked to take an AIDS test. Apart from the dread of waiting to find out if I had AIDS (I didn’t), I couldn’t help thinking Osho must have been really, really into the whole sexual freedom vibe. The seediest places I have ever been give out free condoms at best.

Anyhow, I paid the entry fee and after a strange induction was asked to choose a meditation for the evening. I didn’t know whether to go for Kundalini to harness my feminine side, the Dynamic for energy, or AUM for spiritual catharsis. In the end I had a bash at the AUM meditation. Apparently, Osho designed this meditation to last five days, but thankfully our version had been condensed to four hours to explore six different emotional states, interspersed by 15 minutes of dancing to bad house music in between. What followed was one of the weirder things I have ever done.

For “hate,” I had to approach as many people as I could, stop and scream the most hateful remarks I could think of, all while dressed in a snazzy maroon robe. I was lame at this but recall a bearded Norwegian who looked like a giant, screaming that he wished he had ripped me out of my mother’s womb when I was a mere fetus (we later became friends).

After dancing off the hate, the love phase began. Here, you have to take your previous victims by the hand, look deep into their eyes and say, “Sorry about before.” Holding their gaze, you declare your newfound love and then have an amorous hug that lasts just long enough to become uncomfortable.

More disco dancing follows, then comes the laughter phase, which simply consists of everybody laughing uncontrollably. It’s difficult to start with, but once you begin to think about, as one does, what on earth you are doing, it comes naturally (ish).

Crying was the toughest phase (I felt more strange than sad). Anyhow, I was told to “fake it ‘til you make it,” so I writhed around in faux anguish. My confidence grew to the point where I shouted out, “Mother, I miss you!” I must have been doing a good job as one a moderator came around with tissues and rubbed my back to soothe me.

The final stage was the sexual phase, where they had decided it would be appropriate to play a CD of Barry White crooning to get us in the mood. We were encouraged to dance, feeling our inner sexual energy. The dancing was more awkward than sexy, but suddenly people started pairing off left, right and center; within 10 minutes, over half the group were manically petting on the sides of the dance floor. As countdown to desperation began, only three of us were left. A mad German woman, me trying to look hip, and an Indian guy who had spent the previous ten minutes dry humping every man and woman in sight. My pride kicked in; they had got their numbers wrong and there was no way I was going to be the only loser at the AUM meditation who failed to pull. I sidled up to Olga, but we had only been kissing 30 seconds when the sexual phase abruptly finished (as is so often the way).

Finally, we all held hands, the lights were turned out, a candle was lit and with a gentle collective chant of “Aum” we began to rebalance ourselves. Then the lights came on and we all milled around having tea and biscuits, idly chatting as if nothing had happened. Many were arm-in-arm with their newfound sweethearts but I studiously avoided Olga. Mind blown.

Category Escape