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Gachchhamis - a Witness Account

The first time I heard the Gachchhamis was in Pune 1, I believe winter or early spring 1981. I seem to remember singing them a few times in Pune. Then when we were at the castle in NJ, it wasn't so very often, but sometimes.
We didn't do them summer 1981 at the boston center nor at the washington dc center that I remember.
After Fall 1981, we did them every morning at the NYC center until I left in dec 81 or Jan 82.
When I got to the ranch in spring 1982, they were commonly done before work/worship started. Sometimes we faced east, sometimes towards Osho's house, sometimes towards Osho's picture if there was one and that happened to be the most convenient direction. I was working in Mahavira department (heavy equipment) and RBG/ChuangTzu construction at the time.
It felt to me a good way to start and end the day, or the work when one worked late. It put a period to the day. I never felt that the gachchhamis were worship, but served as reminder.
As far as religion goes, in the US religions are accorded much legal freedom from burdensome regulations. Therefore, I always felt that the Rajneeshism-movement was a cover for "wanting to not have to follow the rules", and I was willing to go along with the game. And it was a good joke, too! After all, Osho had talked a lot about "religiousness" versus "religion" and it was a good joke to have to be the "religionless religion".
I did daily gachchhamis for years after the ranch. From time to time I still do.
Another sannyasin has spoken of the feeling of losing freedom, and this is very true: The centers, the discos all over the world had to fall in line, and send money to the ranch. The ranch ate money at an alarming rate, far above what was coming in from the Annual World Celebrations, and the need never seemed to abate. This was a big source of tension among department heads, particulary because heavy construction costs big bucks.
I can only speak definitively for me, but I believe that many people felt that we needed to make the ranch so big and complete that it could never be destroyed.
So, I'd like to give a view of this. Mostly for my own enjoyment: I often write things out so that I know what I think.
When I got to the ranch in early 82, I was friendly with Sheela, Susheela, Patipada among others. My father (Sw. Paramo, italian) had the gift of making friends with everyone and had become close to Sheela, Mukta and others in Pune. When they came to the US in 1981, they came often to his and my mother's house in NY. I also knew Sheela & co. from the castle.
Oregon was a real shock to Sheela, at least as much as she was to Oregon. She was prepared to be strong, but not to be ignored. As the summer wore on, and permits for the festival were not forthcoming, she got shriller and tenser, and so did the rest of the ranch house crew.
But the commune grew. Boy did it grow! And the stress got worse, you could see it in her face. And as, the second year came and went, changes were made, and Sheela became more distant. And then Rajneeshism, and Sheela in priestesses robes in public, because of course that's what religious people wear.

In another webpage it was pointed out:
In the course of time Sheela had started to dress like a priestess and had taken steps to turn the sannyas movement into a formal religion, called Rajneeshism, in order for it to be acceptable to the American government. In the US constitution freedom of religion is a basic right and in the conflict between the Rajneeshpuram management and the governments of state and country, abolishment of a religion would have meant an anti-constitutional act.

And if you have a religion, you have to have rituals, and the gachchhamis were the most visible form. So, was this at Sheela's instigation? Or just a natural outgrowth of having a religion? Also, all this tweaked the shit out of lots of people in Oregon, who were convinced that we were a bunch of hippies who just wanted to do whatever we wanted to, and to hell with everyone else. They were right, neh?
As time went on, things got tougher for the ranch out in The Real World, and more intense inside. Sheela's job got harder, and many, many sanyassins said they supported her, but looked askance at the antics and in-your-faceness.
Sheela was asked repeatedly about being overly confrontational, and each time put it back on Osho. Sheela became a different person, addicted to pain-killers some said. Well, I could believe it. It never looked like she was enjoying herself. By the time of the Dalles incident, I no longer saw her except at the casino. She looked like Jayapal (an older swami who was an ex-arbitrageur, gone prematurely old from stress).
Ah, well, it's over now. I spent years trying to "come to grips" with what happened, my part in it, what I could have/should have done, etc., etc. At the end, what is left in my heart is what a sannyasin once mentioned, the flowering and beauty of Rajneeshpuram, and the people in it. And always, Osho.