Phil Pascua, The DePauw, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana: I decided to join a cult – but I assure you that I still speak to family and friends, attend work daily and militantly discourage the practice of Dianetics.
Though I made the impulsive decision on a bored Saturday morning rickshaw ride around Pune, I had always been interested in visiting the Osho International Meditation Resort. Founded by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian mystic known as Osho, the meditation camp has earned a worldwide reputation as the free-spirited sex commune for those trying to awaken their true spiritual nature.
I have a membership to the resort – complete with identity card, maroon robe and empty wallet – and let me tell you, it is not a sex commune for free-spirited individuals; it is a Disneyland for rich American, European, Japanese and Indian tourists experiencing mid-life crises. I was certain the common thread linking every other member was a nice pension plan, a Porsche and the desire to reinvent oneself before it was too late. After meditation sequences filled with exhaustive laughing, dancing, screaming and the complete disbanding of social inhibitions, you could sit silently in a giant, metallic, overly air-conditioned pyramid – or you could sit by the pool and contemplate your life’s misdirection. As ridiculous as the activities may sound, sitting among hundreds of upper-class societal renegades from the class of ’75 made me evaluate my situation and realize its absurdity.
I had known about Osho and his meditation resort for years and admired his philosophy on spirituality – concepts like the importance of awareness, the dissolution of social conditionings and the practice of meditation in order to attain a higher state of consciousness have always resonated with me. However, I hadn’t known about the resort’s restrictive entrance fees and policies. Club initiation fees for internationals included a down payment of 1500 rupees (approximately $30), another payment of 1500 rupees for the required meditation attire and robes, daily activity fees of 700 rupees, and the daily cost of food at 200 rupees. Even though locals enjoyed a reduced fare, you could easily count the number of local Indians on one hand. In addition to this, the resort requires a negative HIV test result for entrance – something a freethinking individualist wouldn’t condone even if it were a sex joint. The resort perturbed me more than it had enlightened me.