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 Nadamo

Shree Bhagwan Rajneesh Ashram

16th February 1981

Click for a printable view


New Lives - Malcolm Tillis

As I enter the press office I can hear Nadamo talking excitedly, mischievously teasing someone, bubbling over with laughter. His laughter is of the hearty infectious type. I can’t help thinking however musical and warming is the sound of laughter, it is not usually associated with Ashrams.

Westerners especially are often over-serious in Ashrams: spiritual life is no laughing matter to them. Indians in Ashrams, on the other hand, are far more natural: they at least smile, the smile of acceptance, patience — they know about the law of karma: they know they have more than one life to reach their goal, something we from the West need time to understand.

Anyway, here is Nadamo flashing his lovely teeth. Innocent laughter does have a curative quality…



Interview 46

I was born in Santiago, Chile. My father is a diplomat, so I have travelled round the world since childhood. He was the Chilean Ambassador to India, so for three or four years I wandered through India also. Then I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, so I worked in theatre and a little bit in the cinema in Italy. Then a friend of mine — a well-known Italian actress, came to this Ashram, so I decided to come to see her, to see what she was doing. When I was here for only three days I took the first plane out as I didn’t like it at all — I could never see myself with a mala and this orange bull-shit. But something happened because six months later I finished everything in the West and came to live here.

How old were you then and how long ago was it?
I am 36 — it was a year and a half ago. I went through the usual therapy groups and a little bit of holy meditation. From the beginning they put me in the front reception to receive new-comers. Then a beautiful time started. I have to help them and tell them where to go and what to do. Basically nothing has changed — I was living in Greece — and because I have lived in so many countries I have met many of my friends here in this Ashram. That is really amazing. It seems to attract people who have lived in the Mediteranean as artists and writers — you know, you look as if I have seen you before somewhere. Did you ever live on the island of Ibiza?

I lived there seven years.
Oh, my God! Do you see what I mean?

What is it that attracted you to Bhagwan? Can you say?
My relationship to him is through my work. I can relate to him because of his tremendous power of experience. I don’t see him personally so much but of course I am able to attend his lectures every day. I like very much the way he sees people. He is so realistic. We usually think of Christ as a beautiful person; one day Bhagwan started describing what Christ really looked like. He said Christ was a hunch-back and rather tiny… it is the way he breaks down all our pre-conceived ideas about everything. That was one of the ways I became attracted to him. He says very naughty things about the Pope -- very naughty. You have to be flexible to survive here because Bhagwan talks about everything with much — what shall I say? — force, authority: the very next day he may tell you equally forcibly the opposite. You never get bored.

But how has this changed your life?
You see, what gives me juice everyday is Bhagwan teaching us that we should accept ourselves as we are and let ourselves go. That has liberated me from… well, I grew up in a family where the social level was very important, my father being an Ambassador and my mother, whom you will remember, a successful painter in Spain. So I grew up with all sorts of ideas of who I am until I came here, and they just don’t care. You start living a natural life, but nothing has changed basically. Nothing except that now I recognize myself more than before. I have left off many things because they don’t help my growth. I used to read about what is going on all over the world, now it makes me laugh.

Do you keep in touch with your family?
I love my family, and they love it that I am here. For the first time we agree about something. When I wanted to become a sannyasin they loved what I wanted to do for the first time. That has made many things complete in my life. I am detached from them, but I love them also.

Everyone here appears to be bubbling over with smiles, but in such a close community are there no difficulties?
Not really. I find it the most easy place in the world. If you devote yourself to your work there is no way you can get any problems. If you are hung up on relationships it can become a little hard. But then Bhagwan says: You are on your own, you are to relate to people, but you are always alone.

In such a free atmosphere when relationships can change so easily, so quickly, are there never any moments of heart-break?
Maybe for a short period, but then you understand… it’s fun to be free, to do what you want.

So everyone must live with that understanding I suppose?

How long do you have to be here before you can ask to become a member of the community?
It’s up to you. It depends on how open you are to what is happening. Like when I came back, after a day I felt that I was an Ashramite all my life. Now I feel as if I have been here thousands of years. And as I told you, I met friends that I hadn’t seen perhaps for ten years here doing the same thing as me.

You must meet practically all new-comers to this Ashram. What sort of advice do you give them?
I usually say: Don’t have any expectations… Don’t have any pre-conceived mind-pictures… Try and flow with what you find going on here… Don’t get heavy. The other day an American comes and says like he has a degree in I-don’t-know-what, he will work but wants to get paid… I just said: Before you can work here you have to pay us — the therapies aren’t free, you know: we all have to pay. And he got furious and yelled: What does Bhagwan do with all the money? I yelled back: He buys Rolls-Royces, and why not? You have to be open to the Ashram experience. The same day an Italian came to the reception: He opened a bag, gave me $ 3,000 and said: I surrender to him. And that was so incredible — an innocent man.

You must have a fund of incidents like that.
Some time ago a guy came saying he had an appointment with Bhagwan. I asked how the appointment was made: he wasn’t very clear, so I took him in to see the secretary, Aroop. She also asked him how the appointment was made. He said: From my head to his head. So she said: The same way you did it, cancel it! Finished. Out. A lot of funny people are coming — Bhagwan has said more and more mentally disturbed people will come. The Ashram attracts a lot of cuckoos.

But perhaps that’s part of the image created over the years.
Perhaps. Some people come very closed yet they want to do certain things, a lot to do with sex usually — tantric experience. That happens quite often.

They come to the reception for that?
They come to me thinking I can arrange a tantric experience. But after a while they drop all these ideas. Once they do a couple of groups they know there is nothing like that. Some times I see people come very serious with a lot of serious ideas: then after a month they come and hug me and thank me because I helped them when they arrived. Then there are others who have been told by the group leaders to open themselves to whoever they love. So since I am the first person they encounter in the Ashram, they come back to me and say: Listen, I love you! Of course, everyday I have at least four or five who come up to me and tell me they hate me, I am a piece of shit. They also get this reaction sometimes through the groups.

What do you consider Bhagwan’s special quality?
He touches your heart. About a year and a half ago Bhagwan was not allowed to come out for his lectures as there were some cases of chicken-pox. Finally when he came out he just sat silently with us in the hall — he was supposed to speak on Buddha. This went on three or four days; he just sat there in silence with us — he was giving the real Buddha message: silence. It was extraordinary — two hours every day, everyone in silence. Then when he finally spoke he just addressed us: My beloved bodhisattvas… we all gasped, it was too much. We nearly passed out. That’s what he does with us all the time.

One sannyasin not long ago went back to the West. He decided to become a master himself: he took off his mala and started wearing white. But after some time he wrote to Bhagwan asking if he could come back. Bhagwan said: Of course, you have been always with me. Then Bhagwan told everyone here that we must celebrate his return as nothing had changed and we must be more loving towards him. At these moments you really think you understand a bit of what Bhagwan is.


So many ghosts — half-forgotten from my past life — are catching up with me on this tour. Nadamo gives me news of so many I knew when I lived in Spain twenty years ago. And here comes an old Dutch friend I knew well but haven’t seen for nearly fifteen years. He is in shades of smokey ginger which look perfect with his greying hair; he looks younger than ever. He was the most successful boutique owner in Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol, but now he tells me he has retired to his farm in the Andalucian hills and comes here to visit his guru, Bhagwan Rajnesh, every year. Yes — once we have tasted the bitterness of worldly success, what else is left but to withdraw from the transient material pleasures it buys.

These five Interviews I come away with were given in an Ashram about to be changed forever. A few weeks after my visit, Bhagwan Rajneesh suddenly went into silence which he kept for 3 years, and which must have been incomprehensible to his followers all over the world as every word, sigh or grunt he uttered for the past 7 years had been recorded, transcribed and issued in book form and on video. The announcement of his silence was explained as: “The ultimate phase of his teachings.”

This was followed 4 months later by an even greater dramatic change: his abandonment of Poona to relocate in America where a thriving self-sufficient 64,000-acre commune was set up by his international followers in the State of Oregon. It rapidly expanded to well over one thousand residents. They built houses, hotels, a hospital. They grew their own food. They created their own bus and taxi services, an airport, fire station, and formed a private police force.

The Rajneesh unorthodox teachings, however, and his life-style with his collection of nearly 100 Rolls Royces, were not appreciated by the Oregon authorities. Nor was the pushy style of his over-enthusiastic lady-lieutenants. Bitter splits developed within the commune’s management: it fuelled the drama. Accusations and counter-accusations of poisoning (on a grand scale), atempted murder and embezzlement led to the arrest of Rajneesh.

The American dream was over. He was deported and prevented from entering over 20 other countries including Britain. Eventually Rajneesh returned to this comparatively modest Ashram here in Poona where he had started. He dropped his Bhagwan title for the simpler Osho, and flourished anew. But at the age of 58 in 1990 -- a mere 9 years after these Interviews were taken and 2 years after his flight from the USA -- he died of a heart attack.



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© Malcolm Tillis 2006