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Interview with Veeten (Terence Stamp)

In a conversation with Veeten (formerly Terence Stamp), Maneesha asked him how he came to know of Osho.

Veeten: I've always felt a kind of unhappiness. I've always felt a sense of longing in me. That something was missing in my life. At first I thought if I were rich and famous, that emptiness would be filled, and so I filled that. I became successful and acquired a certain amount of money, but the emptiness was still there.
Then I thought perhaps it must be the fact I have never met a woman that I was really in love with. Then I met a woman with whom I really fell in love, and then in some way that space was filled. I was just so happy that I felt complete with her. I was just so certain of her. I just absolutely relied on her because I felt certain that she was the one thing in my life that wouldn′t change and wouldn′t desert me. And of course, she did!

Maneesha: Had you any sort of vaguely religious or anti-religious upbringing?

Veeten: Yes, I had the usual. I was a choirboy. I used to go to church five times a week, but I did it for the money as far as I can remember. I used to get paid to sing at weddings.
And I never believed in it, you know. I mean it didn′t make sense to me - the Bible and things like that. I felt sure that they had got it wrong in some way.

Maneesha: What lead you into becoming an actor?

Veeten: I don′t know. I always wanted to do that. I was born into a very poor family and in a very poor neighbourhood, and I always felt a bit out of place and very unhappy with my situation and the environment, so I invariably escaped into a world of cinema. I identified very much with the movies that I saw, then later on I realised that they were just movies, but the actors involved in them were the guys who were having a rather good time. So I had the feeling quite early on that I wanted to act.

Maneesha: I think you said on another occasion that you have been interested in Sufism?

Veeten: Well, after that disillusionment (of his love affair). As a result of that kind of anguish that one′s in, if the anguish is great enough, a way is open to you. And I just began to see things rather differently. About that time I just started running into a different kind of person with different interests. I was introduced to Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti simultaneously really.
I met Krishnamurti but I couldn′t really understand what he was talking about; it escaped me at the time. I realised that Gurdjieff had had Sufi training, So I started reading Sufism. As a result of that I gradually got to a point where I could understand what Krishnamurti was saying. I think from all the books I had read, he was the only guy who actually gave me something practical to work with. Something that worked in fact.

Maneesha: Nevertheless, he wasn′t fulfilling something because you weren′t drawn to him?

Veeten: Well, he doesn′t get involved with people on a personal level. I did understand what he was talking about, but I just found that it was impossible for me to do. It took me years to make the realisation that as he′s the only really heavy one I′ve met and he′s telling me that is what I have to do, that′s what I have to do. Maybe I′m just one of these guys who has to do it alone. Maybe it′s not my karma to be a disciple. Maybe I just have to work things out myself.
Full of longing and misgiving for a guru-disciple relationship, I just started doing that - trying to get myself together in the way Krishnamurti advocated.
In that state of affairs, I went to Ibiza, and a great friend of mine who had been a companion on the path, laid "Just Like That" (one of Osho′s books) on me in a very casual way so that I knew that he wanted me to read it. I read it, and the first chapter was about the classic relationship between the disciple and the guru! About the ability of the guru to teach but the inability of the disciple to learn.
That just made me incredibly tired (laughter). I mean it really fatigued me. I actually went to sleep in the middle of the morning. Then I thought "I′ll just finished the chapter" and I finished that chapter. To cut along story short, I did finish the book.
As Sufism was something I′d really studied and really knew about, this was like the definitive book on Sufism. I mean, it was written by the greatest Sufi master ever! When I read the flap, it said that he talks about different religions every month. I couldn′t really believe it! I couldn′t believe that this was just one of the little things he talked about!
So when I got back to London I started to try to find other of his material, and I came across "The Book of Secrets". I′m a technique freak - I mean I love them and I know hundreds. I′m totally fascinated by techniques - and here were five volumes of every technique known on earth. And I couldn′t believe it. It was like a feast. Like a huge trunk of the most exquisite toys - and so many techniques that I became really confused. I said, "I′ve actually got to see the guy now because he′s got to advise me; He′s got to tell me which is the one for me."
And he′s very wicked because he′s always talking about (Veeten says in "significant voice"), "My ship is ready to sail", and that freaked me out. I felt this fantastic sense of urgency that I had to get there very quickly before his ship sailed. And that did it really. I mean, I sailed here on "The Book of Secrets"!

Maneesha: Got him before he left?

Veeten: Yes! He got me before I left! And I have very strange things happen. People have told me, "You should have seen him when he was talking about Buddha because you really had the feeling that he became Buddha" So I was really waiting for the English talks that were coming. I wanted to see him become Kabir.
What′s really strange is that I see all the real masters that I′ve studied. I studied with this man, Ilayat Khan. He is a Sufi, a kind of enlightened Sufi, and I see his face in Osho′s face. There are moments when Osho is talking and I can see Ilayat Khan′s face. I′ve only seen photographs of the guy, but I see his face there.
And it′s really true. It′s becoming a reality for me. I really can′t explain it. It′s become a kind of reality that out of that vastness which I’ve only read about; I’m witness to him delving into that and coming up with everything. It′s no longer an abstract term. I mean, every day I′m here, I have proof of it.

Maneesha: What were your first impressions of the ashram?

Veeten: Well, I had a rather harrowing journey - like any long journey you take in India - so I was a bit exhausted. I paused outside the front of the gate and then I was questioned by  a kind of Indian CIA gangster type.

Maneesha: (wide-eyed) a non-sannyasin?

Veeten: No, a sannyasin. Don′t know what his name is. He′s like a big gangster. He said (in a Mafia-type voice), "Whatta ya want?" I said, "I′ve come to see Osho". He said, "Well, the lectures are only in Hindi this month." So I had the feeling he just wanted me to leave. I thought he was unusually aggressive. Then I thought to myself, "Well, maybe he′s just one of these people Osho has posted to turn away the frail hearted (laughter) as he couldn′t have been nastier.
As he wasn′t physically throwing me out, and I had promised to send a book of Osho′s to someone in the West, I felt, "Well, I′ll buy the book before I leave." So I went to the bookstore (by the gates of the ashram) and I bought the book that I wanted. I asked the woman in the bookshop if I could send the book from the ashram, and she said, "Yes. You go down there and there is the office, and you can speak to somebody in the office."
Feeling rather sheepish and eyeing up this Mafioso, I walked rather tentatively to the office (laughter) where I met the lovely Ghanda. That was the really nice thing that happened about the ashram - there was this beautiful girl, shining like the sun, being extremely kind and gentle.
So I said, "Well, listen. Can I talk to Osho?" She said, "Yes. No problem. Where are you staying?" She gave me a list of hotels and was just really nice and really charming. That was a very good impression that I had from her. Very pleasant.
Then I think the thing that surprised me about the ashram is that around any highly evolved soul there always seems to be created a kind of spiritual displaced persons camp. You get people who′ve tried everything and they just fasten onto a man that′s enlightened and live in his aura.
Of course there is that element here, but what is unusual about the people around Osho is that there are a lot of very intelligent people. It′s not just a lot of old ladies. There′s a lot of extraordinary people. I was really heartened by that.
I think the thing that′s different about this place is that the majority of people here just seem very interested in their own evolution, and they′re just using Osho. He′s just here to help them to attain - and that, to my way of thinking, is right and proper. Here one really gets the impression that Osho just wants you to get it together as quickly as possible and split because he′s got lots to do. And I like that. Its kind of business-like and practical. Well, it′s the only way to live really. Nobody else can live your life for you, no matter how great a soul he is. It′s something that you have to do yourself.

Maneesha: Did you find it chaotic?

Veeten: No, I didn′t find it chaotic. I find it extremely well organised and running very smoothly. I think as far as the organisation side of it goes, it is the best running place I′ve been to.
I think communes, they just don′t work. They just don′t work because people are all on personal trips and they′re all trying to love each other, but the fact is that people don′t love each other. So the thing is being run on the basis that people do love each other, and that′s not the fact; that′s not the reality - so it doesn′t work.
Here there is no effort to love one another. There is no kind of sentimentality. It′s like your here to learn to love yourself, and you′re just using everything and everybody in order to achieve that aim. And that′s very healthy because in a climate of constant self-questioning in fact things can work out very well.

Maneesha: So for you it′s very much everyone doing their own trip but there is no inter-connection?

Veeten: The interconnection is that everybody′s working on themselves, and in that climate there is a certain kind of relationship which is really different from when people are pretending to love each other. There′s no pretension that people love each other here. Maybe people do love each other, but it′s a by-product. The essential thing is that people are trying to love themselves; they′re trying to forgive themselves and trying to find out what they really are and trying to be content with that.
Now in that individual striving there is a certain collective ambience, but the collective ambience is just because the individual is striving. So fifty people striving, struggling with themselves, is a collective amount of people striving with themselves - which is a lot different from fifty people trying to love each other.
What′s different about this ashram is that the priority is right. The self-love comes first, the self-discovery comes first. I mean what you feel about the other isn′t important. That′s just bullshit. That′s just like Salvation Army. I mean everybody does that. So here one′s lancing one′s own boils so to speak.

Maneesha: Do you feel that what is happening here is going to have repercussions in the world. That Osho is going to be a force in the world?

Veeten: Yes. For years I′ve been able to see that the world could survive only if there was a revolution within the individual, and that no kind of outer rules or regulations is going to make any fundamental change. There has to be a kind of general feeling of neighbourliness that comes from within people.
Been in discussion with intellectual people in the West, it′s something that very few people seem to be able to grasp. They can′t give up the idea of being a do-gooder. They think it is better to be a do-gooder than a bad-doer. They just can′t see that they′ve got to give up do-gooding. They′ve got to see that the do-gooding is a postponement of getting themselves together.
For people who I′ve considered the pinnacles of society, it′s really a blind spot; they don′t see that. They can′t see that the world will change when they change themselves. It′s just something I can′t get across to people, and so I′m misunderstood. Just a freak. Immoral. What′s really impressive about Osho is that it is apparent that that is what he′s doing.
Apart from all the dimensions upon which he′s working and I am unaware of, the dimension that I am aware of is that he′s got this group of people here, and they are all convinced of that fact that the only thing that is really important is that they have to change, that they have to bring about a fundamental transmutation within themselves. And this ashram is designed solely for that.
It′s an accommodation, a space where everything is directed towards making transmutation happen. So it′s the only serious place in the world, really, looked at in those terms. If we can agree that yes, the only fundamental change that can happen is if the individual takes it upon himself to change - if we can except that as a fact - then this is the only place in the world where it′s been made possible for that happen.

Maneesha: Do you see any of it spreading over yet? From what people have got from themselves, do you see that it′s spreading? That they′ve come to love themselves. That they′re taking the responsibility for themselves? Do you see them helping other people without helping them?

Veeten: Yes. It takes a while to get close to people, and around just a few people in the ashram that I have come close to who′ve been around Osho for a while, there just seems to be a kind of sweetness, a kind of energy that′s really reliable to, without them being on a Salvation Army trip.
They′re not doing anything, they′re not going out of their way to straighten people out, but just in the way that they are living their lives, there′s a kind of an elegance about their self-sufficiency in a way that really reaches you without them really trying. That′s how I feel.
There′s just so many people around the ashram - they don′t speak to you, they don′t know you. They′re just getting on with what they′re doing. And it′s just really encouraging because they′re their own men. But it is mainly from the people who live in the ashram.

Maneesha: Do you see, have you felt, the ashram to be a sort of learning place, a device of Osho′s for your growth?

Veeten: Yes. I feel it′s wonderful. I think it′s like a kind of pressure cooker here. All the things that people in the West do - Alexander technique, tai chi, rolfing, encounter groups, enlightenment intensives - things like that, are here. I mean in the West you′re a real freak if you go and say, ′I′m going to do a vipassana meditation course. I′m going to sit for eight hours a day in a monastery.′ You′re a freak, that′s all. You′ve lost your marbles! There is no doubt about it. Your that and your out of the ordinary.
But here that ′that′ is normal. That is normal. And it seems to me that Osho has taken all the techniques that people are using all over the world in order to enlighten themselves. He′s brought all those possibilities here, overseen by him so that nothing goes wrong. Eventually I suppose, he will have actual tools with which every archetype can work upon himself.
It′s just continually recurring in my mind that really this is the place. Everything that one ever wanted to do, to study, one can study here. The actual people, the group leaders, may not be the best you can find, but they are representatives of Osho himself, so they are the best you can find. And that′s the bottom line really. So personally I feel extremely confident about all the groups I′m involved in, and the kind of courses that I hope to take in the future. It′s a fantastic place in which to work.

Maneesha: Will you say something about the intensive group that you did?

Veeten: The yin part of the intensive where you′re just listening without any kind of reaction whatsoever at that time gave me a fantastic sense of awareness - just being able to listen. During the intensive I thought, ′Wow, this is something really valuable that I′ve discovered here′, because I get the feeling that often in relationships with people in the world, I′m into the relationship in a kind of negative way. In other words I′m looking to get away from whoever it is by like talking my ear off, and I wind up feeling very exhausted.
During the intensive I thought, ′That′s a fantastic tool - if ever I feel that I′m being bored and I want to get away from this person, if I can just get into that totality of listening without identifying.′
Then from the other half, from the yang half, I got to a point where the constant questioning of ′Who am I?′ took me to a space of just a sensation of myself. I remember the meditative walks that we did during the break where I often had this feeling of a sensation of myself that seemed not disconnected from whatever I was looking at. It just seemed like a kind of outer and inner flow.
I went through a lot of changes really because it was hard for me - it was hard to stay in the room. I was just thinking all the time, ′well, I′ve done all this. What am I doing to get out of all this?′
Then there was a kind of over voice which was telling me to just stay. Then before going into encounter I thought, ′Well, it′s really nothing. It′s just rapping and I can wing it - I can wing that. My life′s like an encounter group - its not going to be anything new.′
I got very sick and very nervous just before the encounter group, and I thought, ′Well I must do this, and it is obviously more important than I thought.′ I went to be changed in the encounter group. That was really like the first taste of the work. It′s just breaking yourself, breaking yourself; just finding out really deeply, finding out what′s beneath that. I think it′s the first really serious confrontation I′ve ever had with myself because it′s so intense, it′s so long that you just have to face yourself.
It′s really amazing looking back on it. It′s a very amazing experience to have gone through and I can really understand why he put me in there and why he puts people in it when they first come to the ashram, because actually it′s a kind of levelling out device. In the encounter I had a kind of opening. I felt in some way that the centre where one feels emotions was just opened. Made more sensitive to everything. Although the intensity of feeling faded away, I do have the feeling that something lasting was gained.

Maneesha: Did you get the feeling that you were honest about how you were facing yourself, and how deep you′d go with it - how deep you′d go with your honesty?

Veeten: Yes. It became very clear to me if I wasn′t honest with myself, if I wasn′t straight with myself, I would be just fooling myself because I was there to confront myself. It was a kind of pre-arranged situation which was being put together in order that certain individuals could come face-to-face with themselves.
I really could have avoided it and I could have come out of it unaffected - but for what? I mean it would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face. It seemed really silly not to confront myself, so really all I had to do was to make sure that I just got into the encounter room on time every day, because once I was out of the encounter room, the fear that I experienced was pushing me not to go back into the room. But once I was in the room, I knew I was there to locate the fear when I felt it, and just to be honest with it and confront it. It really seemed to work with me. The more honest I was and the more straight I was with myself, the more I benefited.
The first day I was not putting a lot into it, because I was nervous and I didn′t really understand the depth of encounter. It was like another job, it was like another show that I was doing, but once I realised that I would get out of the encounter just as much as I put in, I started trying to work very seriously.
Then my personal difficulty was really consciously trying not to act, not to perform, because it′s like a second nature. It′s as if I′m not really conscious of it; I am just performing. I′m not really aware that I am unless I′m giving it my total attention.

Maneesha: How did you see the ashram after the encounter, and what do you think Osho′s doing here?

Veeten: I don′t know what he′s doing really. I just feel that there′s a big intelligence behind it - a very real big intelligence - but I can′t fathom the depth of it. Every day really is a revelation of dimensions of that intelligence - the way in which the ashram works, the way in which he is working with the people.
This morning in the lecture for example, I was standing behind that girl who is the leader of the vipassana group. Her parents had obviously arrived and they were there seeing Osho for the first time. I was identifying with them as being my parents. Seeing them in this strange situation I was seeing him for the first time. And he was really amazing because it seemed that he really devoted parts of the lecture to them, to them personally, telling them and explaining to them about their daughter who is here, and doing it in such an incredible way that they couldn′t have helped but to have had their minds blown.
A lot of things that throw me here in the ashram, just throw me momentarily; then almost immediately I see how classic they are - like the fact that one is living in the middle of a building site (the office is currently being rebuilt). And it′s all working. It′s just intended to keep throwing you back on yourself, throwing you back on yourself.
To me it′s just extraordinary because they′re things that I′ve read about Gurdjieff doing them. I′m familiar with them intellectually and when they are happening to me and I feel uncomfortable, then there′s the snap! And I can see the beauty of it. So for me just living in the ashram, looking out, it′s really like a pebble in the water. It′s just ripples and ripples and ripples. And the more I want to look, the more and more ripples I′m seeing. It′s just extraordinary.
And getting to know people, talking to people who′ve been with Osho a long-time is really beautiful because one really gets the impression that if you stay here, he′ll get you!
You feel you′ve got to stay, you′ve just got to do it. I′ve really known how hard that is because I′m experiencing an incredible nostalgia, and in my negative moments, pondering over my life before. It′s really hard to visualise my life here, but the thing that I′ve really decided is - and I′ve made a promise to myself - that I won′t move in a negative state. I′ll just live out the negative state and then I′ll decide to move - because I have this tremendously strong feeling that if you stay, he′ll get you.
Talking with older disciples who have been with him much longer, it′s wonderful to hear how he looks for them.
In a way what was so beautiful about the encounter group was that it was a kind of microcosm of how he is taking us through this trip, because here was this group of people that you were absolutely certain bore you no malice whatsoever, and they were a really kind and incredibly loving collection of people. And you knew that from the way you felt about others in the group, because when I was being at my most acid, I knew I was really trying to help them in some way. I wasn′t acting from a hateful kind of centre.
So I was really convinced that they were a very loving group, and yet at the same time when you were in the centre, when you were the centre of attention, there was this kind of torment, there was this kind of agony and fear that went on and the feeling of being oppressed by them. It was just like these dual aspects of oneself.
During the Darshan of the encounter, and the conflict of the days up until the day after the birthday (Osho′s birthday), I felt an absolute joy. I felt really a sense of non-separation from him. A sense of his perfume in a way, just permeating my life those days.
Then at a certain moment I started worrying about what my next test would be, what was my next hurdle, and as that worry started, the sense of presence just faded. Either it faded or I closed, but it just subsided. There I was back to normal - but not back to normal because of the loss. And I fell into that pit of wanting that blissful state to continue. In the wanting for it to continue was the ending of it really.
That′s where I was - in a kind of low because I felt something incredibly new - the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Then there was the out-breath and it took me unawares. It took a while for me to realise that it was just a trip that I was putting on myself, and that his presence was just there and available.

Maneesha: Have you been doing the meditations here?

Veeten: The two that I felt did something were the humming and the light (Gourishankar). They reached me in some way. Maybe the others clear you out or something. I can′t say that they′ve done nothing for me, because I′ve noticed that when I wake up my spirit seems rather low, and I′m assailed by negative possibilities about everything. If I don′t get up immediately, my mind starts banging.
And of course when one jumps out of bed, runs downstairs (he demonstrates some frenetic fire-briefing which is used in the morning meditation), there′s no time for anything! By the time you′ve staggered upstairs and had a shower, you′re feeling okay. So there′s that very positive side too.
I go to a lot of the dancing meditations and things like that, and I don′t believe I′m doing it, you know, because it′s so frivolous! And I get a lot out of them. I mean, I have to own up to this. (laughter) I get a great deal of life when I really freak out, and I feel really good when I come out.

Maneesha: Were you in the habit of meditating daily before you came here?

Veeten: Yes. It was a Krishnamurti meditation just following each idea through to the end. Eventually you get to the point where they don′t pop up any more and you′re quiet.

Maneesha: You′ve been doing tai chi too?

Veeten: Yes, I′ve been doing it for years.

Maneesha: And yoga?

Veeten: Yes. I was doing yoga because I wanted to get completely straight. I worked with a pupil of Iyengar to get myself symmetrical. I′ve been working with the same thing with Rolfing (in the ashram).

Maneesha: How is the Rolfing?

Veeten: The Rolfing is really working. It′s really good news. It′s a very good system and I really dig it.

Maneesha: Had you thought about taking sannyas before you met Osho?

Veeten: No, because it′s a big joke in the West, and especially in the circles I move in. They′re really scornful about it.

Maneesha: You mean film people?

Veeten: No, not film people. Just people that are interested in evolution, intellectual people.

Maneesha: How do you feel after taking sannyas?

Veeten: It felt absolutely right. During the night I had a kind of - what is for me - an experience of a phenomenon on the place where he had actually touched my forehead.
I woke up In the night, or I was aware of something during the night. I was aware of a feeling as though my head was being squeezed - this part (indicating the third eye).
It was such a strong sensation, although it was not a sensation that I′d felt before. It wasn′t like a headache or anything like that.
It was just a very strong sensation on the forehead, but the sensation was strong enough to take my attention so that I was just able to witness the thoughts going by. And as that was exactly what he had been talking about in the Darshan, it was very extraordinary - a very extraordinary experience.
When he spoke I understood everything intellectually, naturally. But this thing that happened during the night... I was actually experiencing it. I thought it was tremendously valuable, and although it′s not something that has continued or I have been able to do, it was a real kind of...
It seemed to me that I had taken sannyas because he impressed me intellectually, and it seemed that he had just let me know that (extends his hands out in front of him as if to express what words couldn′t convey)... It was really phenomenal for me, because as I say, I don′t experience phenomena.

Maneesha: What do you think your family′s reaction to your taking sannyas will be?

Veeten: Well, I think they just be depressed. They′ll probably think I′ve ′got religion′. They′re working-class people.

Maneesha: So you feel they will just think you have gone a little mad?

Veeten: Oh, but they all think that anyway. Ten years ago when I stopped eating meat and fish, my mother and father first thought I was going to die - to physically fall down and die. Then fifteen years ago I let my hair grow long and they just thought I was a homosexual.
I can′t really run my life too much concerned about what other people think. Inevitably you know, everybody just follows you anyway. It′s just that the first few years are difficult if you′re doing something that′s a bit unusual. My friends and family have been through so much with me, they′ll just think, ′What′s he into now?′ It′s what I am really not what I do.

Maneesha: Do you see Osho as a person or as an energy force, or something else again?

Veeten: On that few occasions that I′ve actually just talked to him one-to-one, there′s an incredible incorrigibleness, there′s just a kind of naughty side that′s absolutely devastating.
In the encounter Darshan when he was explaining to me that the last time he had seen me he had sent me on a wild goose chase. I knew and he knew, but he wanted to just make absolutely sure. He wanted to own up to me. And it′s just a kind of naughtiness that′s totally devastating.

Maneesha: Yes, it′s just a sheer joy when he does that. I feel very close to him when he is joking with us and I just melt when he laughs. He′s more solid at that time. I can feel more close to him because he′s sort of solid. There′s a bit more there to him.

Veeten: Yes. It is really heartening to see that, because one is in awe of him a lot - that′s the fact. When he′s talking and that feeling is coming up - one is just in awe - then suddenly he says something really funny, and you realise there is that side of him that is of the same material that we are made of.
It′s really fantastic that I′m here with him. I mean, it′s hard for me just to relax and accept it because I feel I′ve been on such a long road. It′s just taken such a long time, and I really can′t believe it.

(From Blessed Are the Ignorant, a Darshan Diary - Wednesday 8th. December 1976)

Read also:

Terence Stamp's (Veeten's) sannyas initiation