Article by Ric Dolphin
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Jayesh (pl. send Update!)
Rajneesh's mission, he told his disciples, first at the University of
Jabalpur in India where he was a lecturer in philosophy in the early 1960s,
later at the ashram he built in Poona, and, most famously, at the utopian town
of Rajneeshpuram near Antelope, Oregon, U.S.A., was to facilitate the creation
of the Superman. This necessitated lots of sex - group encounters, dynamic
meditations, primal therapies full of joyful, cathartic, and howling sex - but
in the end there would be created a sexfree, enlightened, ego-less being who
could blend into the ocean of universal love "like a raindrop."
Some may remember how, in the mid-1980s, Rajneeshpuram became something less than. an ocean of universal love, how it roiled as an armed camp of warring egos, and how the U.S. authorities essentially shut the place down.
When word reached Rajneesh in October of 1985 that federal agents were about to arrest him on charges of immigration fraud, two Lear jets were chartered and he headed with a group of followers to Bermuda. They were arrested when they stopped to change planes in North Carolina. Rajneesh, charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and thirty-five felony counts, pleaded guilty to two immigration-related charges. He received a ten-year suspended sentence and a $400,000 fine and agreed to leave the U.S. O'Byrne was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. In April, 1986, he failed to appear in court and forfeited $25,000 (U.S.) bail. The complaint was later dismissed.
In the newspaper and television pictures of the time, the expensively robed Rajneesh was shown in handcuffs with a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed man nearby. In Edmonton, Mr. Justice Michael Brien O'Byrne of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench was watching the news with his wife, Eileen.
"That's Michael!" said Eileen,
"That's not Michael," grunted the judge.
"Id know the head that I gave birth to anywhere."
I heard of O'Byrne from a friend of mine in Edmonton last year. With suitable
dramatic tension, Harv relayed the long, strange tale of Rajneesh, then paused,
took a pull on his Scotch, looked me in the eye, and announced, "Well,
Michael is the new Bhagwan!"
So began the search for the forty-eight-year-old Edmontonian that has brought me to Poona. Rajneesh moved back to his old commune here in 1987, changed his name to "Osho" (a sobriquet chosen for its homonymic -elationship to "Ocean"), and died at fifty-eight in January of 1990, the event eliciting a small "Milestones" entry in Time. That should have been that: another in a series of Me Generation messiahs debunked and forgotten. But no-one had been counting on Michael O'Byrne.
O'Byrne is nobodys Bhagwan. Like most people on the commune he has taken "sannyas" (initiation) and been given a "sannyasin" name-his being Swami Anand Jayesh, which, translated from the Sanskrit, means, roughly, "the happy master who has achieved victory in controlling his senses." But he serves the very businesslike function of chairman of the board - although here it's not called a board, but the "Inner Circle." In this position he heads the organization, now reborn as Osho Commune International. "Michael," reported an ex-girlfriend who stays in touch, "is the main mucky-muck."
On the enlarged site of Rajneesh's commune in Poona, a city of 2.5-million, 192 kilometres southeast of Bombay, the obsessively secretive, Marlboro-smoking O'Byrne has nurtured a phoenix. Aided by a team of middle-aged and mostly Western professionals, O'Byrne has built Osho Commune International into a multimillion-dollar organization. Poona 11, as the commune is known, isn't exactly what we think of as a commune. It looks like an Arizona resort, and even has a swimming pool and fitness facilities. Still, the thrust is enlightenment, Rajneesh style, which involves all sorts of meditations and therapies and New Age stuff at the "Multiversity"- Craniosacral Balancing, Primal Deconditioning, Psychic Massage - most of it for sale at very Western prices.
During the November-to-March peak season, there are as many as 8,000 people on a given day at Poona II. They're German and American and Japanese and they pay anywhere from forty dollars for a ninety-minute session to $5,000 for a three-month training course. The Multiversity's per diem has been estimated at $80,000 by the London Independent, although the commune denies it. But if you believe the commune's official annual attendance figure of 100,000, and the average-money-spent-on-commune sum of $1,300, the annual revenue taken in can be estimated at anywhere from $50-milliop_ to in excess of $100-million. Most of this seems to be gravy. The upkeep of the mortgage-free commune, I am told, is taken care of by the gate proceeds - eighty cents a day for Indians, $1.60 for non-Indians - and no-one is paid except for the Indian labourers. (Indian labour costs about a dollar a day.)
The commune itself is the worldwide spiritual headquarters for Osho Commune International. There are 563 Osho Centers in sixty-four countries - including one in Vancouver and two in Montreal. The Osho Centers are autonomous and self-supporting. They pay Osho Commune International for the books (650 titles produced and translated into forty-two languages on site in Poona) and other materials such as audio tapes (3,000 hours in English, 3,000 hours in Hindi). The books and audio tapes, as well as 1,700 hours of video tapes, are also sold through various distributors around the world, including in the emerging markets of Russia and China.
In 1995, ten years after the collapse of the American utopia, Osho crept back in to open up a U.S. subsidiary of its publishing and video division in Phoenix, Arizona, aided by Michael O'Byrne's longtime friend and colleague, Eli Shtabsky, a meticulous corporations lawyer, formerly of Edmonton.
The company also runs a London art gallery in a building owned by the Economist in the pricey Pall Mall area. I stopped there on my way through and spoke to its manager, Thomas Grace (Swami Vimal), a soft-spoken veteran of Oregon. The gallery had perhaps six pieces of art, a selection of Osho books, and no customers. I asked why the place was so quiet. Grace said that the premises were kept to provide "a presence in the West which is a nice place to go." He claimed not to know much about O'Byrne, smiling slightly and calling him "a man of mystery."
A family less likely to produce the keeper of the Rajneesh flame one cannot
imagine. Likened by one of them to the Kennedys, the O'Byrnes are Irish Catholic,
good-looking, affluent, and led by a strong patriarch, Michael Brien O'Byrne,
who was appointed a judge in the Supreme Court of Alberta in 1967, at forty-two
the youngest Supreme Court judge in the country. He and his wife, Eileen, a
small and vivacious Maritimer, had ten beautiful children and threw marvellous
parties in their Edmonton house on the edge of the river valley from which the
family could watch a skyline that in the 1960s was growing bigger daily.
Mr. Justice O'Byrne was of the muscular, pragmatic school when it came to raising his children. Chores were assigned, minor corporal punishment was administered, church was mandatory, and the boys, when they reached puberty, were sent to tough private schools. One son describes Dad as a "taskmaster," another as "a lion."
Every bit as handsome - some say more so - as his eminent father was Michael William O'Byrne. The second child and first son, Mike inherited his father's self-confidence, but apparently not his father's industriousness. Classmates from the Notre Dame Catholic school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, the tough, spartan institution where "Obee" spent a couple of his high-school years, remember him as charming but indolent. His former teenage friend Doug Ross describes him as "the classic bright young man who didn't have an academic bent."
Michael chose to study commerce at the U. of A., a decision perhaps influenced by his admiration for the O'Byrnes' neighbour, property developer Jim Martin. Martin was among the forty or fifty high-fliers of the 1970s in Edmonton, men who dined at The Steak Loft, drove Cadillac Eldorados, and specialized in the flip: the acquisition and quick turnover of real estate for large profit. Martin's wife, Shelagh, remembers how Michael, Jr., "begged" her husband to take him on. After Michael married Joanne Fallow, a pretty fine-arts student, Martin finally relented.
Harry Warhaft, an acquaintance of Martin's who was an associate in a small development company, was asked to help train O'Byrne. The twenty-one-year old was a quick learner, Warhaft recalls, and very bright, personable, and charming.
Later O'Byrne went to work directly for Martin, who was enjoying great success developing what was then a hot concept: the condominium. Before long O'Byrne was wearing a Rolex, cutting his own deals, and throwing big parties in the swanky apartment he and Joanne shared in one of the high-rises hod helped develop. "Michael floated whichever way was the most fun, you know," recalls Gus Harvey, a developer who grew up in the same circles as O'Byrne. "But he was sharper than your average guy. He thought in large numbers, had a good nose for the real-estate market, and was hooked up with Jim Martin - and that guy was a genius."
Martin died suddenly in 1974 at the age of forty of an aneurysm. Some say it's more than coincidental that shortly afterwards, O'Byrne started to take an interest in Arica therapy. Like Rajneeshism, Arica combined Eastern mysticism and California psychology and sought to destroy the ego, leaving only bliss. This process occurred in cathartic group sessions in which participants would unload their memories of traumatic events, then often go out and have sex with one another. "There was lots of sex," says one former Arica adherent, though others steadfastly deny there was any sex at all.
George Hall, who worked at the Arica centre in New York frequented by O'Byrne, says that Arica was designed for those who were "sick and tired of themselves." He remembers Michael O'Byrne, who once wrote a cheque to prevent a programme from failing, as charming, self-confident, and not at all sick of himself. "Iie may have just been a good of boy having a ball:'
Even after Joanne divorced O'Byrne in 1977 on grounds of adultery- receiving a settlement of $10,000 - they continued to attend Arica sessions together. Also attending was O'Byrne's new business partner, a young lawyer called Eli Shtabsky. Shtabsky is remembered by Hall as having the gravitas of a Talmudic scholar. "He looked like he was wearing a shirt and a tie even when he wasn't." A details man to the core, Shtabsky counterweighed the deal-maker O'Byrne. Together through the 1970s and into the 1980s, they made money, first in Edmonton, then in Phoenix, where O'Byrne moved in 1981 when the Edmonton economy started collapsing.
Harry Warhaft claims it was he who happened upon O'Byrne's next big deal, the Palm Springs property: 1,200 acres of lush farmland in the Palm Desert, at that time just starting to blossom into a winter resort. Warhaft says he went and researched the property, finding it to be for sale. It was adjacent to land owned by PGA West, who were then assembling a parcel on which to build a championship golf course and a condominium development. "I knew it was going to be big time," he says.
Not having the wherewithal to option the land himself, Warhaft asked his realtor friend Darryl Trueman if he knew of anyone capable of buying the land and paying the finder's fee. The realtor suggested Michael O'Byrne.
O'Byrne was by then living with Felicia French, who had a small inheritance, on a 275-acre walnut farm and cattle ranch her family owned near Hollister, California. They shared an interest in horses, and O'Byrne's apparent spirituality fascinated the woman six years his junior. In their three years together, French remembers, O'Byrne practised breathing exercises in the morning to "unlock the inner energy sources:' But real-estate development - for Michael a "very creative thing," says French - still preoccupied him, especially the PGA deal. "If that worked, it was going to be the last one for a while." The end of the deal and the end of the relationship occurred around die same time. "He told me," says French, "that he was at a place where he was seeking. I remember he said, `I'm looking for a teacher for my heart - I've done a lot of work on my physical centre.' He felt he needed to work on his heart centre:' French went to Ibiza to nurse her own heart. There she happened upon some books by Rajneesh and decided to go to the Oregon ranch to be with the living master. She became a sannyasin.
O'Byrne stayed in touch, and one day in December, 1984, came to visit her. His younger, twin brothers had shown up earlier. One stayed a week, realizing, as he put it, that he was not looking for a guru. Michael and D'Arcy stayed on.
D'Arcy O'Byrne was a rising corporations lawyer with Albertas biggest firm, Milner Steer, doing insolvency work for the Royal Bank- a busy field in the post-boors Edmonton of 1985. His girlfriend, Marie Onerheim, the daughter of a Red Deer surgeon, was an accountant with Coopers & Lybrand. In early 1985 she and D'Arcy quit their jobs, jumped into her Mazda, RX-7, and drove to Rajneeshpuram, where they rented an on-site A-Frame cottage. Like so many who came to Rajneeshpuram, both were affluent, successful, thirryish, agnostic, and sick with spiritual emptiness.
Onerheim now says it was "karma' that brought the two of them together, that they had been married servants in a medieval incarnation, that D'Arcy had been unfaithful, that she had turned him in for stealing, that he'd died in jail, and that their reincarnated relationship came about to give her a chance to make amends. Onerheim is currently a tax consultant in San Francisco and does some channelling on weekends.
D'Arcy, who quickly immersed himself in the therapies offered, later recalled, "On the third night I woke up at about three in the morning and felt a very wonderful feeling in my body that I recognized but had forgotten. It was tears. It was the beginning of an awakening for me!... The discoveries were just .... h was as though he [Osho] was saying everything Id ever thought about, but had never crystallized." In no time D'Arry was assisting in the therapy sessions himself.
Meanwhile the fall of Rajneeshpuram was well under way. Rajneesh's right-hand woman, a former waitress from India called Ma Anand Sheela, had taken over the show. Described by Penthouse as possessing "a demeanor about as `spiritual' as your average Chicago commodities broker and with a mouth that makes Joan Rivers sound like a wallflower," Sheela formed a company of pink-robed, Uzi-toting, mostly female soldiers who hatched plots to kill state and federal officials, and waged secret war on the fundamentalist cowboys in the neighbouring counties.
The locals despised the 5,000 arrogant, chanting, licentious, red- and
orange-clad yuppies who had turned a 126-square-mile piece of over-ranched
near-desert into a self-sustaining vegetarian oasis. Financed largely through
the donations of sannyasins, Raj neeshpuram had a hotel, a disco, a casino, a
bus service, a landing strip for the five-plane airline Air Rajneesh, and
ninety-three Rolls Royces given to Rajneesh by his wealthier devotees.
Neighbouring ranchers referred to the interlopers as "red vermin," and
talked, perhaps jokingly, of targeting them in hunting season. Meanwhile, Sheela
and her little army brought in btuloads of derelicts to sway the vote in local
elections and went about poisoning salad bars in local restaurants with
salmonella (hundreds were sickened, none died).
By then Michael O'Byrne was rising through the ranks of those still loyal to Rajneesh - but wasn't saying much about the goingson to D'Arcy and Marie. Says she, "He was always into this power thing and played his cards close to his chest - even with his brothers. He mightve been another Donald Trump, but that wasn't his path." O'Byrnes path in the spring and summer of 1985 led into the company of the "Hollywood Group." These rich Beverly Hills heirs, heiresses, and movie-connected F)ik, some -if whom had been recruited by Sheela bait had since split from her, now gathered in a protective circle about their beleaguered Bhagwan. Onerheim says that none had much in the way of business abilities, and this vacuum was filled by O'Byrne.
O'Byrne, whod initially worked in the fields of Rajneeshpuram, lived in the same hotel as John Wyninegar, a lesser Hollywood member, formerly an executive with Calvin Mein. Wyninegar remembers O'Byrne as "a very nice-looking and charming young man, obviously very wealthy." Whether O'Byrne was as wealthy as most sannasins believed him to have been when he came to Oregon is uncertain. On March 2, 1987, an Alberta court issued a default judgment against O'Byrne for non-payment of a series of Bank of Montreal demand loans totalling $1,318,069.96. By the time the banks lawyers and private eyes had traced him to Oregon, O'Byrne could not be found, and the debt - like so many Edmonton debts then - became de:elict. A member of the bank's special SWAT team had concluded in his report, "I believe prompt personal service upon the Defendant, Michael W O'Byrne, is impractical. . . '
Wyninegar says he helped bring O'Byrne to the attention of one of the prominent Hollywood members - Francoise Ruddy, a striking woman of about fifty who was one of the larger financial contributors to Rajneeshpuram anal genuinely devoted to Rajneesh. Hasya, as she was called, had taken Sheelds place as his assistant. Hasya and O'Byrne became lovers. O'Byrne soon gained regular audience with Rajneesh. Watching through a Valium- and nitrous-oxide-induced daze as his utopia collapsed around him, Rajneesh is said to have been unhappy with what he saw as the sheep-like acquiescence of his latest followers. Jaye.,n, the smooth Canadian deal-maker, presented some hope.
"It is said that Jayesh was one of the few people that said `no' to Bhagwan," remembers Sunny Massad (Ma Prem Sunshine), one-time chief of public relations for the commune. "He told him to let others handle the money and the politics." When, in September, 1985, Rajneesh appointed a new group of leaders to supplant Sheela and her gang, O'Byrne took on the position of trustee with the Rajneesh Financial Services Trust.
After RajneesHs ejection from the States, the ranch was sold to pay creditors. Rajneesh, with a group of stalwart followers that included O'Byrne, travelled by Lear Jet and stayed in posh villas in a vain search for a new home. How they funded themselves is unknown. They may have used personal money. (Records kept at Companies House in London show Rajneesh Services International to have had a balance of £647,339 on September 30, 1985.) Twenty-one countries refused them admission.
Eventually Rajneesh returned to the old ashram in Poona something he had vowed never to do. O'Byme became his chief lieutenant and was there to take over the reins when the master died - or "left his body," as the official phraseology has it, on the evening of January 19, 1990. Dr. George Meredith (Swami Am-rito), the British-educated GP who was Rajneesh's personal physician, delivered the news to the gathered multitude. The moment is captured in the Osho video "I Leave You My Dream." With a gracious, compassionate manner that heretics attribute to drink, Meredith has been Osho Commune International's main spokesman through most of Poona 11, and he delivered the elegy with quite lovely tears.
"In death he was just as you'd expect: incredible .... And when I started crying he said, `No,that's not the way.' "
In the video O'Byrnel Jayesh, white-robed, can be seen in the background. He is the chief pallbearer carrying Rajneesh's bier to the River Mutha, where the body is transferred to a raft, covered in sandalwood, and ignited to a mounting soundtrack of Pink Floydish guitars. This rare glimpse of the mystery man shows the fine cheekbones unmarked by tears. O'Byrne, directing the other pallbearers, looks like someone doing a job, cool and dissociated from the sea of laughing and crying sannyasins that are the backdrop.
Recalling his master's final moments, Meredith intones, "He looked into Jayesh's eyes and he said, `I leave you my dream.' "
Leaving my auto-rickshaw driver at the gate of the commune, I enter the
"Welcome Center" for my screening. This involves having my Polaroid
taken for adhesion to the gate pass, my blood tested for AIDS (Rajneesh was
paranoid about the disease), my motives for coming gently queried, and my
signature applied to a waiver promising not to bring in drugs or take any
photographs. I then go into a co-ed changeroom and put on the maroon robe (which
can be purchased for four dollars on the street, or ten dollars in the "nonprofit"
Osho boutique) and participate in an orientation session, where there are some
more gentle queries and the showing of the corporate video.
Rajneesh has become almost respectable in his native land. A month before I arrived, a collection of Indias top philosophy professors had gathered for a symposium on his teachings. One of his books was number two on the Indian best-seller list. And his works now have their own section in the parliamentary library in New Delhi.
In talking to sannyasins before leaving Canada, I had been told that upon entry into the commune I would be soaked in the collectively generated meditative energy that Rajneesh called the "Buddhafield." Perhaps my reason for coming has precluded such an experience. However, entering the commune, after spending even a few days in the real India, it feels as if one has returned to the calm, hygienic West without the trouble of an eight-hour flight. There are no hustlers, no smells of urine or excrement, the attendants are pleasant and speak good English, the washrooms are clean, and there is no need for bickering over the price of things - one simply buys an Osho currency card at the gate.
Expanded through the years, the commune now occupies thirty-two acres. Its buildings, each named for a venerable master - the Buddha Toilet is my favourite - include some of the refurbished mansions built by the British Raj, now painted matte black to accentuate the greenery. There are. modern structures, including a trio of black-marble pyramids that contain offices, classrooms, and the air-conditioned quarters of the thirty or so sannyasins who live on site. Visitors stay in hotels or apartments in the surrounding area.) There are some large, open tent-like constructions built of tubular steel and fibreglass, housing vegetarian cafeterias and meeting areas. The largest is Gautama the Buddha Auditorium, a giant, steel-cable-supported tent with mosquito-screen walls and a white-marble floor.
It is here that one can join in the large-scale meditations, from the early-morning spiritual-aerobic work-out (Dynamic Meditation) to the Osho White Robe Brotherhood, the nightly big-screen showing of Osho discourses. In between there is a schedule of other meditations (Rajneesh identified more than 100 types), that changes each day. I looked in on something called the Heart Dance, where a grizzled and bearded troubadour with a guitar was leading a swaying group and singing, "My heart sings as my day begins/ and I fall in love with myself again."
The grounds are beautifully landscaped, filled with tropical trees, and punctuated with waterfalls, ponds, Buddhas, and Zen gardens. Peacocks and swans roam alongside the maroon-robed sannyasins. If it wasrA for their garb and the big, soft-focus photographs of a kindly Rajneesh that pepper the premises, we could be in Palm Springs. A large, black-painted swimming pool, "zennis" courts, and work-out facilities complete the effect. They are known, with the kind of insouciant irony practised around here, as "Club Meditation."
As I rest in the "smoking temple" after my orientation session, I am approached by a large, spectacled man of about fifty, with a cascading grey beard and a German accent, who introduces himself as Deva Srajano ("the divine creative one"). I will encounter lots of Germans during my visit - thirty-five per cent of all sannyasins are of this nationality- but few as jolly as Srajano, who is with the press office and is, I learn, to be my escort.
Srajano, who spends the six months he isn't in Poona driving a cab in Stuttgart, is charming in his obfuscation. He refuses to give his legal name- "just an ordinary sort of Cherman name." My requests to speak with Michael and D'Arcy O'Byrne will be passed on, he says off-handedly. Meanwhile, perhaps I would like to take part in some of the commune's activities. "Who knows," says Srajano, slapping my knee, "maybe you'll finish up doing some other sort of story."
I spend the afternoon in the bakery-where Srajano also works - helping him fix some vegetarian pizzas and "cheese moons" for a sannyasin graduation ceremony. A younger and grumpier German, a Berliner with a blond ponytail and a navy tattoo, assists, occasionally cursing the Indian help, and later leaving us to conduct some sort of healing-therapy session at the Multiversity.
The veggie pizzas and cheese moons ready, Srajano and I wheel them through the grounds on a stainless-steel trolley to Meera House, where the graduates are gathering. I deliver a tray into the room where a couple of dozen mostly young nascent sannyasins, a good portion of them Oriental, are hugging and smiling like participants in a sensitivity Olympics. As I'm weaving my way out, a voice hisses, "Excuse me! Vere you invited to zis party?"
A coolly beautiful woman in her early thirties has my arm and is burning me with icy grey eyes. When I explain my function, she softens. She takes one of my fingers and starts gently pulling it as if expecting milk.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't know vot you vere doing here," she purrs, pupils dilating, nipples rising under the thin cotton of her robe, and I believe I start to feel just a twinge in the old Buddhafield.
Next morning I'm at the commune at 6 a.m. to participate in the notorious Dynamic Meditation. The monsoon rains are drumming on the fibreglass roof of Gautama the Buddha Auditorium and a couple of hundred barefoot, swaying sannyasins are scattered about the marble floor in the damp, blue morning light. A single spotlight shines on the photograph of Rajneesh up on the platform. Presently some recorded drum music is played and a German man with a black smock and a microphone bids us begin our meditation. Everyone starts breathing fast and irregularly through their noses and dancing, free form, with themselves.
The meditation lasts for about an hour and goes through several stages, including ten minutes of raising one's arms in the air, jumping up and down, and yelling "Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" It's an ex-, haustir:g business and I notice Srajano, up near the front in pale blue ankle socks, is not quite up to it.
The final phase is more free-form dancing, after which everyone sullenly leaves the hall. There has been no sex, no nudity, and no apparent ecstasies. I detect little movement from my chakras, but I do feel as if I've had a good work-out. Srajano intercepts me outside the hall and we go to the press office, where I shower and change into a fresh robe for our visit to Osho's mausoleum. Of course it isn't called a mausoleum, and when I later tell another press officer that it reminds me of one, she says, "That could just be your conditioning:'
Officially it's called Osho's samadhi, a Hindi word that means both an enlightened state of consciousness and a shrine. The samadhi is contained in the house where Rajneesh lived before his death. The interior has been done over in white Italian marble and the house is air conditioned to the point of cryogenics. In what appears to be a living room is the orthopaedically friendly dentist chair where the sciatic Rajneesh once sat, as well as the pristine, champagne-coloured Rolls Royce Silver Spur II with tinted windows that, Srajano implies, was given to the master by Jayesh.
"Jayesh, as we know, is not a poor man."
The samadhi itself is a white, circular room, windows looking out on greenery, its high ceiling crowned with an Oshaped chandelier in the style of a Hyatt hotel. The door is closed and about two dozen of us, sitting cross-legged on dove-grey mats, spend the next hour in silent, respectful meditation. The focal point of the room is a marble platform in which Rajneesh's ashes are interred and on which the inevitable photo stands. According to legend, this was the platform for the guru's bed in the bedroom from which he instructed his followers to build the samadhi. There is no documentation of this request. Certain Indian heretics accuse the Poona priests of erecting the shrine simply as a draw for the paying guests. Rajneesh often said - and this is well documented -that he wanted no such memorials. On the way out of the samadhi I meet Yog Joy, fifty-eight, a Punjabi photographer taking shots of the commune. He's shaking his head. "This is totally against his wishes."
A lovely Indian flack called Shruti is carefully guiding Joy around the commune. Srajano and I join them for coffee in the cafeteria, where groups of sannyasins suck on mangoes, hug and stroke each other, and relate their latest self-realizations. As Joy, who has the gentle twinkle of reality about him, answers all of my questions thoughtfully, the press officers grow uncomfortable.
"This is not an important story" interrupts Srajano. Offering my notebook, I tell him if he wants to do the article, maybe he should. He backs down, and sulks. Joy tries to mollify him with talk about journalists just doing their job. But I will not be bothered by Srajano again. "That man," says Joy, after Srajano has left us, "he hasn't let go of his ego enough."
Later, Keerti, the Indian head of the press office, tells me I would have more chance of seeing "the pope" than getting an interview with Michael O'Byrne. D'Arcy O'Byrne - Swami Anand Yogendra - has, however, agreed to see me. And so on my fourth day at the commune, I visit him in a cool, white office with low, black furniture.
It is quickly obvious why D'Arcy has been offered up. With a robe and shaved head, this O'Byrne seems the very model of the modern Zen master, complete with laptop and electronic daytimer. He's calm, relaxed, and composed, an omniscient smile never far from his lips.
"I do many things here," he says. "I'm a director of the healing arts and I'm also director of the school for centring -the Zen martial arts." He also sits on the Inner Circle with Swami Mike, but questions about the workings of that mysterious body are among his deflections.
"How do these plants grow?" he asks, not quite calling me Grasshopper. "These things aren't important to me. What I'm interested in is that the plants are growing."
After the collapse of Rajneeshpuram, D'Arcy and Marie went to Vancouver, where Onerheim supported them for a year working at Coopers & Lybrand. After the Poona commune was reestablished, the couple returned to the fold. At that time, D'Arcy allows, his brother was "working very closely with Hasya." From D'Arcy's vague reports, and those of others, it can be gleaned that Jayesh and Hasya acted as a sort of diplomatic front line, wining and dining Indian government officials, smoothing over visa difficulties for Western sannyasins, and touring the globe to raise cash and repair Rajneesh's tattered reputation.
By now, D'Arcy was aligned with the more pragmatic faction of the government-in-waiting that included his brother, Dr. Meredith, and a beautiful Englishwoman, formerly a London lawyer, known as Ma Deva Anando. She had joined Rajneesh in 1976 and was blessed with a sharp legal mind that had been put to use in the legal department at Rajneeshpuram. Anando became Rajneesh',~ personal secretary the year before he died. His "caretaker," another Englishwoman called Christine Woolf (Ma Yoga Vivek), had died that same year. Woolf had been among the lovers of Michael O'Byrne. He had split with Hasya in 1987. "Jayesh didrit need her power," says Onerheim, who left Poona after RajneesH's death. "He has and always has had his own personal power."
Before his death, Rajneesh had said, "We are not a cult, Christianity is a cult, Mohammedism is a cult, Hinduism is a cult. You have to understand my idea about a cult. When the master is alive it is a religion. When the master is dead it is only a corpse. And that corpse becomes the cult. With Jesus, Christianity was a religion. With Jesus gone it is just a dead weight over humanity."
Within the twenty-one-member Inner Circle, the two factions - the mystical and the pragmatic - squabbled over the corpse. The former, led by members of the Hollywood group, including Hasya, argued that Rajneesh had wanted more channelling and crystals - items that Anando, in an unguarded moment, described to me as "nonsense." (She quickly checked herself and said, "I shouldn't say that; that's too judgmental.")
The pragmatic faction, quarterbacked by Michael O'Byrne, official receiver of Rajneesh's dream, insisted Rajneesh had specified the "Club Meditation" style of spiritual resort where sannyasins could come for a week or six months, buy some therapies, do some meditation, recharge their spiritual batteries, and play a little non-competitive tennis. Anando, now fifty, who in the official version of Rajneesh's will was designated as his "medium" after death, supported the O'Byrne faction's position. She, after all, was Rajneesh's secretary and note-taker before he died.
The disagreements continued through the early 1990s and by 1994 most of the Hollywood Group had left Poona. The Inner Circle has been repopulated with sannyasins aligned with Michael O'Byrne, including D'Arcy, who became a member in 1994. D'Arcy offers few insights into the politics of the group. He downplays any rifts -"just a transition that happens every three or four years"- and describes the higher workings of the ruling body as an osmotic affair, "management by organism," he calls it, smiling a blissful smile.
"There's not this central authority here," he says. "Osho said if you have a central authority, you'll have a church." Describing the decision by the Inner Council to start a new centre in London, he explains, "Someone said, `Let's give it some energy.' Someone else said, `Hey, that's a great idea!"'
Nor will D'Arcy say much about his brother -"You'll have to ask Jayesh about Jayesh." He disputes the several reports I've heard about Jayesh's lack of spiritual seriousness, saying just because someone is worldly doesn't mean he's not a "seeker." Seeking is what D'Arcy seems most interested in talking about.
He shows me his room in the black pyramid. As per Osho's tastes, it's both austere and deluxe: white-marble floors, a bed on an octagonal marble dais, a stereo, some Eastern music and Sting tapes, and an attached bathroom with a photo of 0sho alongside the toothbrush cup. There is neither clutter nor decoration.
"What I learned from Osho is really just about happiness," he's saying, as the rains splash silently on the greenery outside the blued window. "Going to the Himalayas or Nepal looking for truth is ridiculous. After you arrive here and you've been here for a while you stop looking.
"The Western mind is always looking for security, looking for it in a house, a wife - and then, when we get that, looking for a better house and another wife. It's futility. We spend most of our lives making things more and more secure. Osho talks of taking risks!"
The voice, which through the years has lost all traces of an accent, is calming and mildly hypnotic. And there is of course much logic and value in what he is saying - as there is logic and value at the core of all the religions from which Rajneesh borrowed. But I have a living to make. I try to get some information out of D'Arcy on the handling of the finances. The speculation back in Edmonton was that Michael O'Byrne had stumbled onto the moneymaking deal of a lifetime. The view is shared by a number of Indian critics. One of them is Prakesh Suraj Manchanda, sixty-seven, a wealthy courier-company owner whose large Bombay house the then penniless Rajneesh stayed in for five months after his return to India. Manchanda, a sannyasin whose outspokenness has resulted in banishment from the commune, calls Osho Commune International a "money-making machine."
"There has been strong talk about these people from time to time," Karl Mehra, managing editor of Blitz, a muckraking Bombay tabloid, told me, "but none of them had any corroborative evidence. Every time we investigated we carne up against a blank wall. In the end we just gave up."
Osho officials, unwilling to open their books or provide any specific inform4ion on cash flow, say that all profits are put into trust for the benefit of the commune. Dr. Meredith, currently O'Byrne's second-in-command, told the Independent, "The ashram is, in effect, a charitable fund. What you see is what you get. I am prepared to state categorically that no-one is dipping his hand in the till. The lessons of Oregon have been learnt."
D'Arcy O'Byrne is of little more help.
"The workings of the Inner Circle are to be kept confidential," he says. "These are Osho's guidelines."
But why all the secrecy, I ask? Wouldn't it be better for all involved if the commune's finances were transparent?
At this, D'Arcy gets as close to becoming annoyed as I will see him get.
"Why. should we open our books? Do you think if you went and asked the Roman Catholic Church to open their books, they'd do it for you? This is all confidential stuff."
But why? Isn't this a nonprofit corporation? Why would Osho want its workings kept hidden?
"I have no idea."
I didn't of course ever meet the mysterious Michael O'Byrne. D'Arcy had said
his brother was staying in Bombay's five-star Oberoi Hotel. Maybe I'd see him
when I went back through Bombay on the weekend, I said. "Maybe you
will," he answered. But when I arrive at the Oberoi I am told that
"Mr. Michael O'Byrne has just checked out."
He is well known around the hotel. Staff say he spends five days a week there in a $400-a-night room overlooking the Arabian Sea. The barman, graciously accepting my gift of an American twenty-dollar bill, allows that he knows O'Byrne, that O'Byrne drinks Black Label regularly with friends, that he always leaves a big tip, and that he is "charming."
On my last night in India I visit Vinod Khanna, formerly the most famous movie star in India, twenty-year veteran sannyasin, one-time intimate of Rajneesh, and still a regular at the Poona commune. He has me up to his big, white-carpeted Malabar Hill apartment, fills us with Black Label, reminisces about the glory days of Oregon, and, at around 2 a.m., recalls how Jayesh used to come over for dinner to try and interest him in real-estate deals, including an assemblage of farmland outside booming Poona.
Khanna, who through drinks and puffs on Benson & Hedges sings the praises of Rajneesh and exhorts me to try meditation, has little time for Jayesh.
"He's not a meditator. He used to come over for dinner and he'd say, `Osho said this, Osho said that,' and I'd say, Jayesh, don't bullshit me. Osho never said that, ever.' I knew Osho better than anyone."
Still, Khanna professes not to be bothered by O'Byrne's ascendancy. "It doesn't matter who is running the show," he says, regarding me with the warm, crinkled eyes that have stared from a million gaudy movie posters and now peer blearily through trendy oval frames. "There are people worldwide who have been enlightened by Osho's teachings. Jayesh is incidental; he's just there for his organizational skills. Oshds words are in the books. And the words will always be there."
Michael O'Byrne reportedly has not revisited his homeland since the days
before Oregon. Mr. Justice O'Byrne and Eileen now live in a condo on the Inner
Harbour of Victoria, and will not talk to die press. According to D'Arcy - who
occasionally visits - and according to friends of the family, the judge is
generally not effusive on the subject of his sannyasin sons, but seems to have
developed a resilience to the idea.
Doug Foote, a friend of the O'Byrne boys who now lives near Victoria and practises something he calls "psycho calisthenics," occasionally visits the parents' home. He remembers recently asking the judge about the kids. "None are on welfare, none are in jail," came the reply. On die topic of his number-one son, the judge was equally concise, although ever so slightly proud. "You know," he said, "Michael is the chairman of the board over there."
CopyRights belong to the Author Ric Dolphin and the Magazin