Reflections on a Passage to India in 2001

Friends,
I am back from my passage to India, during which I returned to the meditation campus often cited in my books after a hiatus of 10.5 years. Along with a number of other bulletins I will send you in the coming weeks to catch you up on our portentful times, I will also insert a few reflections about my journey East. There is much to share. While staying at the Osho commune and enjoying its unique melting pot of spiritual individualists, it felt to me as if I had packed six years of living in a mere six weeks.

Day one of the six week journey began with a fire in the sky! I had a personal sampling of those frenetic, heavenly images many prophets forecasted for the dawning of a new millennium and the end of our present age. Doomsayers and utopians alike have foreseen great fires of cosmic light as portents of a new age or an end of the world. More objective seers of science tell us that such plasma fires are not from the blazing breath of some Shaivic, destruction-engendering dragon. They are the ejecta of solar flares blazing at their maximum intensity during the climax of the sun’s regular 11 year solar cycle. Those scientists who are into more fringey astrophysics might read the fusion entrails of the sun’s flaming portents as a sign of the grand solar flare one only sees every 500 years. They might find something in common with the subjective prophets who believe human and natural history go through violent permutations in 500 year cycles. Thus the millennium changing underneath one of the heaven’s longest lasting solar maximum discharges could color the skies as a warning sign of things to come.

Whatever these “signs” in the skies may entail, I can say this: I saw them in their full glory dancing in the skies at 35,000 feet.

On the late afternoon of 31 January, I was in a jet plane packed with Seattle’s finest evac paramedic crews and other passengers on the first leg of our passage to India — taking a polar route from Seattle to Amsterdam. The paramedics, who you could easily pick out from the rest because of their Seattle Fire Department T-shirts, where on their way to Gujarat to help the survivors of India’s worst earthquake disaster in 50 years. Twenty minutes after take off if you looked out the window you could see Canada’s snow covered plains traversed by long purple shadows rolling beneath our wings to the Southwest. Our accelerating speed made an already short winter’s day rapidly retreat to the West. In the gathering darkness, the BBC news played on the tattered curtain screen of economy class a faint, projector-light starved image of the devastation in Gujarat.

I will never forget that image. For as far as the eye could see the helicopter pilot’s cameraman filmed what looked like a vast, gray field of rock piles stretching for miles into the horizon. The rubble used to be the city of Bhuj. That unlucky place had been near the epicenter of the quake. All I could see standing were the trees. It was as if someone had planted them years ago in the world’s largest abandoned rock quarry.

You have been told that 19,000 people died in the Gujarat quake. That number is absurdly low. I discovered this hard truth first when speaking with one of the paramedics from Seattle and had it later after talking with my many friends from Gujarat state while staying in India. The paramedic had assisted in pulling survivors from other great quakes in Mexico, and recently back in August 1999 after the great Turkish quake. He said the actual death count is often ten times higher than the official estimate because they cannot adequately retrieve the dead from the mountains of rubble their poorly constructed homes and flats have become. Indeed, one Indian cabinet minister that very day had had a fit of honesty and caused quite a row by publically admitting that the death toll in Gurjarat more than likely exceeded 100,000.

Many a prophecy watcher would say that such apocalyptic quakes come when 500-year cycles of history die and are reborn in a new millennium. The travails of a new era express themselves in fires of many kinds both cosmic and subtle. They burn in the skies or boil in the magma of Mother Earth. They smolder in the hearts of anguished human beings living on an overstressed and overcrowded greenhouse of a world.

Once the BBC report faded into electronic snow, and the darkness of night quickened in our jet, thoughts of the “quickening” and quakes fell like autumn leaves from the tree of my mind. After all, I was on a vacation from prophecy. I began practicing one of my favorite meditations — one created by the mystic responsible for founding the meditation campus waiting at the end of my passage to India. You can call it a “Meditation for Jet-Setters.” Here is how Osho explained its creation and steps from the book Meditation: The First and Last Freedom:

“You cannot find a better situation to meditate than while flying at a high altitude. The higher the altitude, the easier is the meditation. Hence, for centuries, meditators have been moving to the Himalayas to find a high altitude.

“When the gravitation is less and the earth is very far away, many pulls of the earth are far away. You are far away from the corrupted society that man has built. You are surrounded by clouds and the stars and the moon and the sun and the vast space….So do one thing: start feeling one with that vastness, and do it in three steps.

“The first step is: for a few minutes just think that you are becoming bigger…you are filling the whole plane.

“Then the second step: start feeling that you are becoming even bigger, bigger than the plane, in fact the plane is now inside you.

“And the third step: feel that you have expanded into the whole sky. Now these clouds that are moving, and the moon and the stars — they are moving in you: you are huge, unlimited.

“This feeling will become your meditation, and you will feel completely relaxed and non-tense.”

After an hour passed, I opened my eyes and looked out of the plane window at the canopy of stars that had just a moment ago dwelt inside me during the relaxing meditation.

Then I saw the pulsing lights. First they were indistinct, then as bright in their glowing greens and iceberg blues as those which had spread themselves around the optic nerves of my closed and meditating eyes moments before.

For the next five hours the jet flew along its polar route over Alberta, Hudson Bay, Greenland, and Iceland, dazzled by the most sustained and fantastic northern lights show I ever experienced. We were flying virtually underneath a blanket of dancing, spectral baleen-toothlike forms snaking about the heavens in some astral square dance. Great beams traversed the sky and at times it appeared as if an invisible finger of a God drew glowworm strokes and squiggles across the heavens

The ghosts of solar plasmas passing over us brought tears to my eyes. I felt grateful (or should I say “great and full?”) to be alive and so lucky to see such a once-in-a-lifetime light show. I huddled under my blanket and watched for many hours. I was apparently the only one in the plane who was watching. I even told the stewardesses to have the captain announce the spectral circus maximums parading outside our windows on both sides of the jet, but there was no interest. It seems that most of us die long before our bodies do. Thank the godliness within that I am still alive, and can still cry for joy, like a child, when faced with one of existence’s cosmic dances.

John Hogue
(15 April 2001)

More about Osho.

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