Good Reading : April 2009
behind the book ashram in India. I sat on the floor on a crowded patio, my eyes riveted on the door through which he would enter. And then it opened. He walked slowly through it, almost floating, as though his feet did not touch the ground. His long grey beard wafted in the gentle breeze created by his forward movement. His liquid eyes shone and he smiled faintly. He approached the chair, and sat down, an apparition in white. In the flesh he was even more beautiful and majestic than I had imagined him to be. I pressed my hands, still joined in greeting, to my lips and cried silent tears of joy. Every day for a month I sat in his presence and listened to him speak and every day I fell more and more in love with him. He was like a really loving god. He knew so much about so many things and he had invented crazy cathartic meditations where you could really let your hair down and cry and shout and do all the things you wouldn’t normally do. One day at a personal audience with him, as I was about to return home to Australia, Bhagwan invited me to bring my children and come and live there close to him. With single- minded determination and ignoring all advice to the contrary, we disposed of our belongings, said goodbye to family and friends, and moved to India. It was a step that was to profoundly influence my life and those of my family. I was a devout and committed disciple. I listened to the discourse Bhagwan gave every morning and then worked in the ashram all day, at first cleaning toilets and later in the group booking office, selling the many therapy groups and individual sessions offered by children went to live in a large hut built for ashram children. We spent years in this way before Bhagwan moved to the United States and I followed him there. It was a dramatic change from Photos from top: Jane, husband and children at the ashram in Pune, India in 1979; Jane and her son Peter, waiting for Bhagwan in America in the early 1980s; With her American lawyer Phil at the airport in Portland, Oregan, on 31 January 2006, the day she was allowed to return to her home in Germany. APRIL 2009 i goodreading 25 the ashram. People came from all over the world to hear Bhagwan speak and to participate in the meditations and therapy groups. I lived a quiet, secluded, even pious, life. Family life had no place in Bhagwan’s ashram and eventually I separated from my husband and our the quiet, ordered existence of life in a modest ashram in Pune suburbia. In America, Bhagwan moved onto a 126-square mile ranch in the middle of central Oregon and had his people begin building a city there. Pretty soon Bhagwan changed too, along with everything else. He didn’t give discourses any more and began wearing extravagant robes and collecting Rolls Royces and driving them around the neighbourhood. I continued to serve him to the best of my ability. My work was my meditation and I was proud to be part of his dynamic, visionary undertaking. At first I answered telephones, until becoming an assistant office manager. But as time went on, what had begun as a utopian dream metamorphosed into a nightmare of madness. Desperate to preserve the dream, my devotion became more and more distorted until the day came when I was ready to kill to save my master, and in attempting to do so I shattered what I was so madly determined to protect. And then the real journey began. It would take 21 years to complete, the last 21 years. I wrote Breaking the Spell to tell the story of my spiritual dream that ended in a prison cell. It is the story of my journey back into my past to try to make sense of what happened, and of coming to terms with what I discovered there. Breaking the Spell by Jane Stork is published by Macmillan, $34.99.