54 Interviews with Westerners
on their search for spiritual fulfilment in India

Compiled, Edited and Mainly Photographed by
Malcolm Tillis

  1. Vijayananda
  2. Melita Maschman
  3. Brahmachari Gadadhar
  4. Bill Eilers
  5. Simonetta
  6. Swami Jnanananda
  7. Bill Aitken
  8. Bramacharini Atmananda
  9. Jamie Smith
  10. Martha Smith
  11. Radheshwari
  12. Omkara Das Adhikary
  13. Gopi Jai Krishna
  14. Ellen Schector
  15. Paul Ivan Hogguer
  16. Giorgio Bonazzoli
  17. Anil Bhai
  18. Russell Balfour-Clarke
  19. Norma Sastri
  20. John Clarke
  21. Peter Hoffman
  22. Dhruva
  23. Maggi Lidchi
  24. Sz. Regeni
  25. Baruni
  26. Michael Zelnick
  27. David and Sally
  28. Wilhelmina van Vliet
  29. Norman C. Dowsett
  30. Father Bede Griffiths
  31. Matthew and
    Joan Greenblatt
  32. Lucy Cornelssen
  33. Doris Williamson
  34. Lucia Osborne
  35. David Godman
  36. Hamsa Johannus de Reade
  37. Sir
  38. Joachim Peters and
    Uli Steckenreuter
  39. Richard Willis
  40. Chitrakara das Adhikary
  41. Aviva Keller
  42. Ma Prem Leela
  43. Swami Prem Pramod
  44. Ma Amanda Vandana
  45. Swami Anand Bodhisattva
  46. Swami Nadama
  47. Sister Arati
  48. Francis Reck
  49. H.H. Giriraja Swami
  50. Jean Dunn
  51. Raymond and
    Maree Steiner
  52. Bhikshu Ngawang Samten
  53. Ani Tenzin Palmo
  54. Kate Christie



Swami Anand Bodhisattva

Shree Bhagwan Rajneesh Ashram

15th February 1981

Click for a printable view


New Lives - Malcolm Tillis

I have asked Leela if I could Interview a musician. She has introduced me to one who had a distinguished European career and who abandoned it while still at its height.

He is also laughing but very quietly for it is in his nature to show restraint. Before we start we discuss music-making in the West, and many names of my own former collegues come up. Two musicians talking music are like two devotees mooning over their respective gurus.

Music-talk can continue later, we will have the other music now.



Interview 45

We have a great bond in common: we were both professional orchestral musicians. So could you tell me about your background and what made you renounce that life for one in this Ashram?
I was given physical birth as Bas de Jong in Holland in 1942 — but it is perhaps a long story. Let me say my father was a music teacher in Leyden. When I was 15 I went to the High School of Music to study clarinet; after only two years I was already employed by the Radio Chamber Orchestra of Holland. There are five Dutch Radio Orchestras, and as I was so young I played in them all — a fantastic sort of education. You play waltzes in one orchestra and big symphonies in another. Everything was easy as I suppose I was a natural talent. My father was not so happy that I also went into music. He said: In times of need the first thing people throw out from their house is the music teacher. But anyway, I stayed for fourteen years as a member of the Radio Orchestra. Then followed five years as principal clarinet of the Rotterdam Symphony Orchestra. This was an easier life — one week we played, one week we were off.

Is it not the second orchestra in Holland?
In reputation, yes. The Concertgebow of course has a longer tradition but Rotterdam manages to pour more money into its orchestra, so in a way it attracts better players. Now my father was a member of the Theosophical Society for fifty years: he went to the meetings on his cycle. We as children got a Theosophical education: it appealed to me. I know all the twenty-five Alice Bailey books, but it didn’t change anything with me. Why? Well, one of my big problems was constant stage fright whenever I had to play in public. Sometimes I could not handle it.

With all your experience you still suffered?
I suffered so terribly that I had to cancel concerts. You see, in Holland when you get to the top you are in constant demand — there are always invitations to play, more than you can manage. I tried to get rid of this problem by doing the Alexander Technique for two years. I tried meditation and yoga, but I could not find a way. Yet at times there were moments when I found playing in public so easy — but most of the time the mind came in: there was fear, worry. Now I know it was all the ego.

This would happen playing solos or in the orchestra?
A lot of musicians have this problem: it is worst playing solos, of course, but even when you are in the orchestra and you are exposed, that fear is there. You must know many musicians who have tremendous talent and yet can never perform in public really well. They swallow pills, do everything but there is only one answer: that is what you learn from the East.

That is why Menuhin took to yoga I suppose?
Exactly. His teacher lives here in Poona — Swami Iyengar. On the one hand I wanted to solve my problem, but I began to realize it could only be done by putting more attention into my spiritual life.

How did you hear about Bhagwan Rajneesh?
Two years ago my girlfriend got books and tapes of Bhagwan; she let me have them, and a month later instead of going to Switzerland for winter sports, we came here to Poona. After four days she took sannyas, and after two weeks I did. It was difficult for me at first through my big wooden head of Theosophical knowledge. But I did some group therapies and they showed me where I stood — it was an eye-opener. Then at a lecture I heard a lady who had been here three months ask Bhagwan: Others come and take sannyas after the first day here — what is wrong with me? He went deep into it and I could see my own problem. He said: People have always told you what to do and you have never taken a risk on your own shoulders — in this way you can always say if it goes wrong: You said this, you said that; it is all your fault.

And then I thought: Hey, that is really what I do — I don’t want to take any risks with my life. So then I took sannyas to experience what it is and make a connection on my own with this guru. I had never taken risks even with my playing — there were the usual repertoire pieces, the chamber music, some solo playing in France and Germany, some T.V. appearances in England. O.K… to be a professional clarinet player for the rest of my life would not satisfy me. On the surface it is a nice life, but something deep down asks for attention. Here I came to know without doubt it was the spiritual attention.

How did this confrontation affect your life?
As a sannyasin I am more fulfilled than I was as a musician. I did everything you can do as a clarinet player. Bhagwan says: The ultimate luxury is to drop that luxury and enter spiritual life. So that is why I am here; that is why I decided not to go back.

But are you still playing? You haven’t dropped music?
I had to finish off my engagements but I was back after a short while and now I will not go back. I actually asked the director of my orchestra for six months leave. He said: I will have to think about it. Then I thought: No. I am going to decide what to do with my own life — I shall go if he wants it or not! I didn’t wait for his answer. I wrote a letter saying Bye-bye — I’m off to India. You were asking about my playing here. There was no classical music going on so they asked me to form a group. We actually now have the first experiment of meditation and music. When meditation starts, the mind stops: you are free of fear, free of tension, free of what people think and say about your performance. Then all your creativity can flow out through your instrument. Music and meditation is the solution for me and not to show off my technique, my personality to the outside world. The ego goes, you are free to really play.

So then you must have also lost your stage fright?
When I play in public here I am amazed to find it very much less. No tensions come up. I have let go; the music happens on its own. So yes, music is much easier for me. Bhagwan has explained like this: When music is there surrounding you, overwhelming you, flooding you, your meditation starts growing in you — when meditation and music meet, world and God meet, matter and consciousness meet.

My clarinet was my line to the outside world; but that line now functions without frustrations because of the meditation. So you rightly called this my new life… yes, yes, it is the biggest adventure because look what I have found in the East: I could never in my twenty years playing find it in the West. I went back to see my colleagues, but I saw them now with strange eyes. They are so tied to things I have been able to drop. One tries to help them, but you cannot sell sannyas.

What sort of concerts have you played in India since taking sannyas?
I have played in Bombay and Delhi as soloist with symphonic orchestras. I was dressed in my robes and wore my mala — it was the first time a Rajneesh sannyasin played classical music in India: I was not playing for myself but for my Ashram. That was a big change for me, and of course I appeared under my new name. Once you drop the ambitions about your career you also drop all the worries that go with it. I have played the Mozart Clarinet Concerto at least twenty times, and when I played it here it was more relaxed, more joyful. I was happy that this kind of new approach works.

How did you form the chamber music group?
Some friends came from Holland for the first time — now they too have left their beautiful places in orchestras. We are now ten, what you might call, ex-professional sannyasin musicians. We experience a totally different quality when we play together: we are more honest towards each other. We cannot do such things as try to impress the audience by suddenly playing certain passages quicker — you know, to show off our technique. We don’t have to do anything like this: there is no ego concern, no pressing, no struggling.

Apart from playing and practicing, do you do any other work in the Ashram?
Oh, yes. We do not want to say: I am an artist, I cannot peel the potatoes or clean the kitchen, I have to be careful of my holy fingers. That is a mind trip. We are given work to help run the Ashram, so we do it. It’s actually refreshing to do ordinary jobs. But to experience music under the guidance of a master’s influence has to be experienced — we can’t talk about its effect. If joy in playing is blocked, then life is misery. After our day’s work we usually play together for about two hours: it’s a let-go. Music is a big part of the Ashram.

When you took sannyas did Bhagwan give you any special advise?
When he gave me my name he had a beautiful story which I couldn’t understand so well then. It was a sort of personal guidance. My music is so important it is hard to even think of ever dropping it; but he said: the ultimate experience has nothing to do with being a station master or a professional musician because if you cling to your profession you cannot experience the Ultimate… it will come in between. He saw my problem, and only recently did I come to understand what he was hinting at. I have to get rid of the past — if I have to drop my profession, well, we shall see what happens at the time, right?
Well, I think I have spoken quite enough. Would you not like to hear some music? I have some outstanding recordings of Rostropovitch…


Rostropovitch is the living poet of the cello and I could listen to him all night, but I must leave him and Bodhisattva; I have promised to take an Interview from a Sister back at the Christa Ashram.

The Sister speaks with much clarity about her austere life and vocation, but I know somehow she has not done herself justice. Tomorrow I hope another of the Sisters will speak about their mission, but also explain how they came to be here in of all places the city, the very stronghold of reactionary spiritual teachings. We will have to see what happens then.

In the morning I am on my way for the last of the Rajneesh Interviews: it is also my last day in Poona. I am now feeling I should start moving north, homewards: I need rest to digest this constant excitement and rich diet. There will be a few days in Bombay, then back home via Delhi and Dehra Dun.



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© Malcolm Tillis 2006