The AUM Marathon
Interview with Veeresh by Dharmaraj and Navajata, for the Osho Times International
The original AUM was a five-day marathon group that started here in Pune. How did this two and a half hour structure evolve from that?
We realized that not everybody had five days to do an AUM Marathon and we wanted to condense the process so that more people could experience it. We reduced it first to 18 hours and then even more to six hours. We thought it could not go any smaller than that, and then we made it into two and a half hours, that seemed more practical for working people. I remember we thought at the time we had lost the whole AUM idea by condensing it, but in fact, it’s not true.
What would you say are the essential things that you would like the participants to get from doing the AUM?
As stated in our AUM leaders’ training manual, I cannot state it any more precisely than what is recorded here:
The Humaniversity AUM Meditation is a social process to help you discover who you are by exploring the full range of your emotions. It will help you transform stress into creativity and well-being. The goal is to make friends with yourself and others.
How do you see the AUM contributing to the individual participant?
Well, I see over the years that all meditations end up making you aware, and through your own awareness you can decide to change your behavior. The AUM is such a powerful tool for individuals, I have seen this happen so many times. People walk in and they are afraid and they learn to release their emotions and they just lighten up inside. I realized that this is what meditation is, people are stressed and isolated and suddenly they have a chance to release all that conflict and inner stress and transformation happens. I love to see this change.
You have been leading the AUM all over the world and you have often spoken about it as an opportunity to create peace and understanding on an international level. Can you say something about how you see this?
My friends ask me if it’s true that I’m going to Israel and I say ‘yes, I’m going to Israel’, because I want the Israelis to change. The Israelis have the power, they have the political power, they have the military power. And I know that the people who have the power are the ones that can effectively create change. I was thinking of working with the Palestinians but they are not ready, they’re not open for me to go in and say “I want to teach you how to express your emotions”, whereas the Israelis have this power. When I was in Israel, I told people of my frustration about what a beautiful country it is and how come people can’t live side by side and develop the country together. I told the Israelis ‘you have the power. You have to assume the responsibility that comes with this power, and create change.’ I have a friend called Chinchin, he was in the AUM. He is minister for future generations of Israel and I told him again, in front of everybody, that it is not enough for me that he looks out for the future generations of the Israelis. It has to be for everyone concerned, like the Bedouins, the Arabs, the Catholic Arabs, the Muslim Arabs.
Everybody has to be included in the future generations, so I see it as a really political thing what I am trying to do there, trying to bring people together and create peace. In Israel I saw them screaming and crying and I could see maybe one day it’s possible
I could get the Israelis and the Palestinians together in a football stadium and they could scream their lungs out and hug each other. I remember jokingly saying that I have a vision, one day that we could all get together in a big stadium and do the AUM. I expect the first stage to last for three months, and they were all laughing, and the second stage to last for at least a month and a half, and during the rest of the stages we could manage to come together again. They understood, because I was only talking to the people that are advanced enough, who are thinking enough, who want to meditate and come together and find alternative ways. Two days later there was this giant bombing just close to Eilat. Then I realized what I was doing there, I am trying to create peace in a war zone.
If I had the power, I would go to the United Nations and force everyone do the AUM. Everybody, and it would be the greatest contribution I think I could make, because the UN has the power, the UN can get them all to get their complexes out the way and start working for peace together, supporting each other.
Are there differences in the way people in different countries do the AUM, for instance how is it in Italy compared with Israel? And Brazil compared with Germany? Are there ways in which it is the same everywhere?
Well, once people have had a proper introduction you can stand outside the room and listen to all the stages and it’s very difficult to tell which country is involved, the language of emotions is pretty universal. If people are angry they are angry and it’s really impossible to tell if they are Italians screaming or Israelis. Now you see different attitudes like the Italians are always very enthusiastic and they say yes, we want to do it, and then when they have to do it they find it difficult, but then they catch on. The Israelis want to understand everything first. They will not do anything unless you explain it all to them. The Israelis like to lounge and observe and understand everything and then they will take part.
Brazilians are like the Italians, they are all very enthusiastic and jumping up and down and doing a lot of samba and then when it comes down to it everyone gets very scared and they say: ‘Wait a second, I’m not sure I want do this’. But when you push some more they go for it.
The Germans are very stiff and really impatient, if you are five minutes late for the AUM to begin. They have this rigid mentality but once they get started, they follow the instructions totally and it works for them. So, everyone has their particular approach, but emotionally it is the same.
Last year each time you lead the AUM in the Osho Auditorium there were about three hundred participants. How do you manage that? What do you like to say about these Mega-AUMs?
Well, the AUM is a social meditation in which you use the other as a way of looking at who you are, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people, not just sit there and talk to yourself on a wall, or look at your footsteps. At the end of the AUM you can socialize. I think it’s a great socialization, connection, dating process. People go to the AUM because they want to meet people.
I manage these large AUMs with my staff and a great explanation, as thorough as possible. I explain to people the purpose of the AUM and the rules to make it a successful experience for everyone. However, the main thing is the staff, I need a trained staff so that if newcomers are stuck the staff are alert to guide them and keep control of the overall process because three hundred people screaming ‘I hate you’ can be a volatile situation. I have not had any bad experiences, where people just lose control. Three hundred people is nice, we had that in Israel, with a small staff.
Is there anything else you would like to say about the AUM, or about doing the AUM in Pune?
When Osho first told me he wanted me to do the AUM workshop, I was so discouraged. I thought I would have to have a group chanting AUM for 48-hours or something like that. Then he told me I could do it the way I wanted to do it and that it wasn’t necessarily chanting. I thought: ‘Oh good’.
Today the Humaniversity AUM Meditation is happening all over the world and I figure it is my greatest contribution to Osho’s work. I am always so happy to hear that the AUM is being done in new countries. I see it as a real change agent.
And about doing the AUM in Pune?
For going to the Resort in Pune is like going to Mecca and hanging out with my brothers and sisters. I love working with sannyasins, I feel like they are my family, so going to Pune is like going home for me. It is my big turn-on at the end of the year.
How does the AUM meditation differ from other meditations?
Most meditations from what I know are not social meditations where you use the other person to see yourself. Usually you are not involved with another person. In the AUM it is the opposite, you use the other person. For example, if you focus on a mandala and you concentrate on the mandala and everything disappears around you and you are just left with this one centre, it is supposed to show you your centre.
Well, with the AUM you are doing this with another person instead of a mandala and the other person is the focal point. Each time you look around there is another focal point, someone new, and all these different viewpoints are references for who you are, so that makes it much more exciting for me than walking on a beach by yourself looking at your footsteps or sitting facing a wall.
We live in a social society, so the AUM for me is interacting, the market place, how to function in the world. The Humaniversity AUM Meditation has its roots in the encounter school. For me encounter is one of the most useful tools that you can apply outside of the meditation room. You can leave the AUM and you will be able to say ‘I like this and I don’t like this’, or ‘I want this and I don’t want this’. You can apply what you learn in the AUM in many situations back home. Other meditations seem to all be self-indulgent and looking in deeply inside. The social processes of the AUM are what I like, this increases change by using the other.
Is it therapy or is it fun?
It is both. It is fun if you are not emotionally stressed and you use it as a release, and if you are emotionally stressed it is therapeutic, it’s healing.
Why is the AUM meditation important to you personally?
It was my gift to Osho for everything I had received from him. He had given me so much that I wanted to give him something back. Therefore, I ask all AUM meditation leaders to remember Osho at the beginning of each meditation by reading the AUM reminder.
The AUM Reminder
In 1975 Osho gave Veeresh the AUM Marathon. Over the years, Veeresh created the Humaniversity AUM Meditation as a gift to Osho.
As your AUM Meditation leader, I will take responsibility to guide you through this social process of Awareness, Understanding and Meditation.
I recognize the Buddha in me, I recognize the Buddha in you, I recognize the Buddha in Osho.