How did you come to India, to Osho?
I had studied French and European literature at University, but my first sort of sensitising process was through novels. That was where I began exploring the inner world. When a girlfriend came back from California with the book ‘Tantra, Spirituality and Sex’, I remember taking the book around with me on London buses, and for a long time I was not able to put it down. I had no idea about enlightenment. I wasn’t connected with India at all. it was the first time for me that Osho had introduced this concept of enlightenment and related it to Jesus. I came from a Christian background, and I thought Jesus was a one-off. I thought, okay, it happened two thousand years ago, but as far as I knew, it never happened again, and bad luck to everyone else. Osho was the first person who not only said that Jesus was in this state of enlightenment, but also described this living history that had happened in the East over the centuries, of people on their spiritual search and the eventual outcome if you were lucky, of enlightenment. When I was at school and read about Jesus’ persecution, I remember saying to myself then – If I had been there I would have recognized him. Now two thousand years later, two thirds of the world is worshipping this guy, but how come they missed him when he was alive? So when I read these words of Osho I understood the context of spiritual seeking and enlightenment. I was freaked out that Osho was going to die before I got there and I wouldn’t be able to fulfill this promise I had made inside myself, that if ever I was in that opportunity, I would be able to see it. I wouldn’t miss it. And it all started like that….
What is your background as a filmmaker and how did that carry on into your sannyas life? I did a one-year film course in London in ’73 and then went to the United States. I spent 2 years in the United States working with all sorts of small feature films, documentaries and advertising. I then came back to London and started my own company making music videos, advertisements, commercial and industrial films. And then at the end of ’78, I came to Poona, India – I came in the second wave. Osho left Bombay on March 21st 1974 and moved to Poona. It was a very intense place. Everyone had given up something to be there. Osho represented a possibility that other social, therapeutic, political movements had manifestly failed to deliver. A lot of the people who came in the 70’s were people who had been involved in the political, social, student movements in the late 60’s in Europe; where Paris was within one day of being taken over by students, and there was a real sense of “Wow, we could change this planet through politics, through social change” And then the Governments got together, and they clamped down and arrested all the leaders. So by the beginning of the 70’s you had a lot of people asking, “What was that about?” We finally thought we were going to create heaven on earth, and suddenly everyone’s arrested and it’s worse than before. I was at University during those years, so when you came through that and suddenly you met Osho, he was there saying – “You were right. It is possible but you were just going about it in the wrong way. Forget about the outside. Go in.” That was the message that I got from it – “Turn your focus around. Use the same energy. Come here. I know how to do it.” People came from all walks of life. When you collected everyone’s story and how they arrived around Osho, it would be an Encyclopedia. I had been training as a therapist in those days, so I was hot to do all the tough groups. The Encounter Group was something where you took your life in your own hands, with no holds barred. As it turned out that when I got there Osho gave me ‘Centering’ which was a normal group that started people off. He also gave me ‘Rebalancing’ and ‘Vipassana’ and I was rather disappointed because I wanted to get in the middle of it and get into the real cathartic, emotional groups and he sent me to do meditation, which I found to be the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. I returned to London to close my film business and then came back. When I was there I wrote him a question, and I said, “Look I’m training to be a therapist but I also make films. Please, can you guide me; can you tell me where I should go?” And I got the answer back from him – “If you like therapy, fine. But film would be very useful.” So I took that as a ‘Drop the therapy, and continue with films’ There was a guy from New Zealand called Hasyo, and he had a very basic piece of video equipment with which he filmed a few of Osho’s discourses in 78-79, which had Osho with a green beard because the camera wasn’t very good.! Then in 1980, Sheela, brought the first decent video equipment that we had and then we started getting into a regular program of filming ‘Discourse’ until the last English discourse, which was on March 10th 1981, and the series was called “The Goose is Out”. Osho then basically decided to stop speaking and then we filmed one month of silent Satsangs in Poona. Later when he came back to India, I was still involved with making films. I made “The Manifesto’ and “I leave you my dream”
A special moment with Osho?
When Osho left the body in Jan ‘90, Anando called me in right away to bring the cameras into his room. I was in there alone with him; I don’t know how long it was. I had a suspicion it was a practical joke as he looked so alive. I was filming and going very close with the camera. I thought at any moment he might suddenly go ‘Boo’ and I’d have a heart attack, because of all the Zen stories! He really didn’t look dead, his neck was totally loose, his skin was perfect, and he looked like he always looked, just sleeping. When he left the body, the most touching thing, the deepest that I got that night when we took him down to the Ghats and burned his body, was – “The guy just set everyone free.” I felt at that moment the utter ordinariness that he always insisted he had, that he was, when he was alive. It was so difficult to see; because of his charisma, because of his wisdom, because of his robes, his image. In that moment of death, I saw it. And for me, that ordinariness was there in a way that I could understand, and feel. Also just to see him go out so beautifully. I felt such tremendous gratitude for the way he organized his own departure, and how that left me, as a sannyasin. feeling a tremendous freedom. And I think that was probably the highest moment for me. Only when he was gone could I feel the truth of what he had said before. That here was this guy, just like us.
You have been spending a lot of time in the Himalayas…
For the last 9 years I’ve lived in India, and been to the Himalayas to do fairly long retreats. When you were all meditating, I was filming, and so the one thing I felt I had to go into more deeply was formal meditation. Although filming Osho had its own meditative aspect and was a beautiful experience, where you disappeared in that space. I didn’t want to die without having gone into what he so strongly recommended. I no longer wanted to go off into a beautiful space when I closed my eyes; and then come back to my daily life. I wanted to integrate it; as something spontaneous, alive. And then over a period of time the whole sort of spiritual seeking just stopped. Now I just move with the weather. I don’t have a home. The beauty of these last few years is that everything has become so much more portable. You can carry a whole film studio on an aircraft as hand luggage. I work on projects that have something that grabs me. I don’t make many films. I work sporadically and live a very simple life. Nature itself for me is spiritual. I lived near Manali for 5 years continuously, and Manali is the entrance-way to the travel regions of Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh. The beauty of it is when you cross the range, is you enter into a totally different culture – the Tibetan Buddhist culture. I’m not much into Tibetan Buddhism, but I like the art, I like the images. I find the people are very open; the way they live together is very organic, very harmonious. Their architecture, their agriculture, the whole spirit of the place has a beauty about it which is similar to Tibet. That’s why people call it ‘Little Tibet’.
How did the movie – ‘Riding High’ happen?
Dipesh and Ash, friends of mine, had always wanted to go to Ladakh because they had this idea to do bike tours in the Himalayas. And so in 2002, we decided to make the trip and do the initial filming of the trip. My motivation was that I just love the nature up there, I think its one of the most beautiful places I know on the planet and I wanted to have the footage in my archive. Ai, who runs the Spiritual Film Festival in Goa, had seen the promotional version, and wanted to show it for the festival, but I wasn’t happy, it didn’t have enough cohesion, enough of a documentary feel about it. So this year in Goa, Ash and me, we took the material from the different trips and re-edited it into the movie, ‘Riding High’ which was then screened at the film festival in Goa. …tremendous gratitude to Osho and the Commune for allowing me to pursue something that I was interested in, to pursue it around a subject matter that touched my heart. I don’t regret one millisecond of it. The journey with Osho was intense but I like intensity…