Spiritual Communities: Hare Krishna & Osho
Let’s talk spiritual communities.
We are very thankful to chat to Ajita dasa (Director of New Govardhana) and Mutribo, friend of Osho. We learn about these two different spiritual paths and what life is like within each community.
Who is your spiritual teacher/guru?
Ajita: Devotees of Krishna have two types of spiritual teachers. The first is the initiating guru. He is the one who officially initiates the disciple and gives him a name and instructions after the disciple is ready to honor the vows necessary for spiritual progress. The other is called an instructing guru. He or they (can be many) are in the same line of teaching and may instruct and guide disciples of other initiating gurus. They may or may not be officially gurus but are sufficiently realised to instruct and guide.
Mutribo: Well, I have had a few of them. Currently I have none. There has been basically two who had a direct help in my life. The first one was Osho and the last one was Ramesh Balsekar.
What led you to your spiritual path?
Ajita: Asking questions about life after death, reincarnation, karma, the purpose of life and after reading the Bhagavad Gita, which answered all those questions and more, my spiritual path began.
Mutribo: Basically, what happened was I was in my mid 20s and an ex-girlfriend of mine returned from California with a book and she said I think you might like this and the book was Tantric Spirituality by Osho. At that point I was involved in the therapeutic world and was training to be a therapist in London. I really didn’t know anything about enlightenment or spirituality, so I read this book. I thought Jesus was a one off. When I was at private school, I was 10 or 11, I remember in Divinity Class trying to figure out why people wanted to crucify Jesus and now 2 billion people think he the best thing since sliced bread. I kind of made a promise to myself that if I’d been there I would have recognised him and not gone against him. Somehow when I read the book by Osho, I realised a modern-day equivalent of Jesus was alive and I wanted to know more.
The teachings of your faith?
Ajita: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (God). We are His servants and we have a perfect relationship with Him. This relationship needs to be revived. The process of Krishna Consciousness is the means and the end aiming at re-establishing this long lost relationship.
Mutribo: Osho was trying to create what he termed the new man and the new man was going to be a combination of rich on the outside and rich on the inside. Osho’s essential message was the individual is where it is at.
We would love to know more about living within an ashram/community, the daily life – the benefits and the struggles.
Ajita: Living in an ashram is meant for those who are serious about understanding the difference between the body and the soul, who God is and our connection with Krishna (God). It offers facilities to make rapid progress in yoga (to reconnect with Krishna). The ashram or community is broader than the immediate boundary of the Hare Krishna farm. It also includes all those practioners in the surrounding areas who practice mostly from their home and also visit the temple regularly. The connection is established by service and personal development through spiritual practices such as chanting Hare Krishna on beads, in kirtan and regularly studying the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. The daily life is rise around 4am, shower and attend the temple program until 8:30am, after which everyone is engaged in various activities suitable to their capacity and inclination. The benefits are various: good association, community living, greater service opportunities, sharing realisations with other like-minded people, being part of a greater body of people wanting to present Krishna to others. Just as someone who wants to make money may want to reside near the stock market, similarly one who desires to make spiritual progress wants to reside near or in an ashram. The struggles are dealing with people who don’t understand the above and try to live a cushy life at the expense of those who sacrifice for a greater cause. And sometimes cultural differences which can be reconcilied by understanding we are not the body but a spirit soul who is a servant of Krishna. Struggles may arise if one has difficulties applying this concept in dealing with others.
Mutribo: Basically, this particular commune, and I use that word specifically to try and convey the difference between a community – which can be a lot of people from different situations – and a commune, where essentially everyone is there for the same reason. If you spoke to different Sannyasins you would find a zillion individual stories. Essentially the purpose of being there, I can’t say this was absolutely true for everyone. The reason I was there was to try and figure this thing out called enlightenment. Initial Poona (Poona 1), which went from 1974 to 1981, anyone could show up at the Ashram gate. When you arrived you needed some way to pay for your food and get a place to live. But slowly if you started working you would be given a food pass
The ashram or community is broader than the immediate boundary of the Hare Krishna farm.
– Ajita dasa
I was there was to try and figure this thing out called enlightenment.
so your food would be provided and then again after a certain amount of time you would then be given accommodation. Poona 2 (the Ranch) which went until 1985 was totally different because of the politics and legality of and visas etc. I was among the first group of Sannyasins who arrived there even before Osho got there. But it progressively got more difficult to enter the Ranch and they set up programs where people could come and work for three months and then leave. But I was a resident.
How long have you been disciplined to your beliefs?
Ajita: 35 years.
Mutribo: I followed Osho from 1978 until 1992.
Have you ever questioned your religion or beliefs?
Ajita: There are different levels of self-realisation. At the beginning, one questions a lot, but the process of Krishna consciousness is so powerful that quickly all doubts and misgivings gradually disappear for those who are eager to hear about and serve Krishna. And within a few years one becomes steady due to actual realisation of the philosophy.
Mutribo: No, never. The only questioning that happened for me was towards the end of the Ranch. The people running it had become quite paranoid. Looking at it as much as I can from their point of view I can understand why. They were facing tremendous pressure, but a lot of it was from their own making. The Ranch is still the single largest bugging operation in America. We kept a lot of humour about it, but all of us knew that it was becoming paranoid. This is the way I see it. What Osho was trying to do was to radically change humanity, so essentially what he was dealing with was a minimum of 2,000 years of conditioning. You can’t really take any prisoners with that kind of project. It is like if you really want to give it your best shot, you have to go for it and essentially that was the thing that Osho opened up. Now were there casualties? Absolutely, but if you ask me personally how I feel about my participation in it, it was the greatest gift of my life without any question and the reason for that essentially in the commune I got to live a huge range of human experiences over a very short period of time.
Has following your religious path led you to find your true identity?
Ajita: Any civilized human being will inquire about the nature of the self, God and their relationship. Dogs and cats don’t have a system for such inquiry. That inquiry is called religion or a way to re-connect (yoga) with the Supreme. So any religious system which satisfies those inquiries is a proper religion and will reveal one’s true identity.
Mutribo: I know some people manage to get there without a teacher – as I say I had two but I also had others who had a lot more influence throughs books and stuff in my case. It was invaluable. Jesus that was it for me. I didn’t know anything about Sufis or Zen Buddhism or anything until Osho opened up. He said I am basically reviving all these traditions and bringing them back into the 20th century and you take your pick of whatever resonates with you.
Does your religion follow a story of creation?
Ajita: Srimad Bhagavatam describes the story of creation in great detail. There are 10 subject matters in the Srimad Bhagavatam and one of them deals with creation.
Mutribo: Osho would have subscribed to the latest scientific theories like the Big Bang, vis-a vis creation but he didn’t speak much about it.
How does your spiritual path help you live your life in the modern world?
Ajita: Real help is to save the drowning man, not just his coat or shirt. Similarly, Krishna Consciousness is food for the soul which is drowning in an ocean of sorrows due to ignorance of its actual position, falsely thinking “I am the body”. Based on this misconception the modern or ancient world creates unnecessary activities, desires with its concomitants results placing the conditioned soul in great distress. Any help, other than information about one’s self, the soul, God and their relationship, is fruitless due to its temporary nature. Real help is about the permanent, that is the soul. So yes it is of great help.
Mutribo: It doesn’t really have anything to do with a modern or an ancient world – it is about being at peace with yourself. So whatever is around you once that state is there.
Originally published in Paradiso Issue 2
Visit the Hare Krishna Farm (every sunday) for Sunday Feast
525 Tyalgum Road
Watch the Wild Wild Country, released on Netflix March 16, for some interesting insights on Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the Ranch.