A Challenge to Be Yourself

Interview with Veeresh by Chandrika

Communal Living

Veeresh, you are the founder of the Osho Humaniversity, a residential community that has existed for 31 years on the North Sea Coast in the Netherlands. You describe your community as a School for Masters and your mission statement is ‘Working with People for a Better World’.

You are a specialist in communal living and working together. You made Osho’s vision of communal therapy a reality. In 1976 Osho said to you:

Sooner or later, a further step into group therapy will happen – communal therapy. No particular therapy is going on but therapy is going on […] Things are going on in the community…it is an on-going group. And then you will see miracles happen! Excerpted from Blessed Are the Ignorant, Osho

Osho said that first you have to love yourself before you are able to love others? Can you explain this?

In my experience of working with people, I see that the core of all problems is pain. For those with relationship issues, business people, therapist trainees, and so forth, the common denominator beyond all symptoms is always the same – people are holding on to their pain and defending it. The amount of pain they have is equal to the amount of love they need.

In our therapist training we spend about four years convincing trainees that they’re lovable. The basic message we tell them is, “If you want to work with people, you have to love yourself. Only then can you help others to let go of their pain and realize that they are lovable.”

I didn’t have an ideal history growing up. At the age of 14 my parents were not together, I was living in two different homes at once and had no idea that I was suffering inside. My life was one big maneuver to avoid pain. I had learnt how to survive on the streets, and the code of the streets is to never expose yourself. I needed a commune and therapists to trust. I had to learn to expose myself, show my feelings and then reach out to another. I had to hear people tell me, “You’re okay, and no matter what you’ve done you can change it.”

Is loving yourself something that you learn?

The three basic emotional survival needs are: First you need to receive love, like a baby, who can’t give yet. The need to give back is the second one. If the baby has been given the right amount of love from his parents, later on he wants to give it back. This process of receiving and your parents allowing you to return love goes back and forth. The third need is when being lovable comes in: “I want to look, share, and see what’s going on in the world.” For this it is necessary that the parents allow the child to stand on his own feet and make mistakes.

In my commune people are going through these three steps: receiving love, being able to give love and realizing “I am lovable.”

Some people who come here say they are missing something; they are stuck in the receiving part and need love, approval, acknowledgement and support.

Other people are distrustful; they’re afraid to give because they’ve been so humiliated that they end up rejecting authority. They might think, “Even though I’ve paid for this group, I’m not so sure if you guys are doing it correctly.” These are the ones who have tried to give back but their parents said, “You have to do it my way!” It is important to get them to realize that it’s alright to give in the way they can, they are not going to be punished, and just the way they are is good enough.

Every now and then we get an adult who says, I don’t have any problems, I just want to expand myself and see how I can improve my life. Their motivation would be to meet this special guy called Veeresh who doesn’t let you slip and slide around the place, experience something and leave again. These people are ready to be challenged and find out who they really are, where they are going and why.

Why do we need other people to change?

Other people reflect you like a mirror. If one person points out something to you, you can deny it once. If many people keep confronting you with it, at some point you have to look at yourself and do something about it.

In the beginning the society around you gives you a sense of identity. There is an anthropological study from Germany of a girl who got pregnant. Her farmer parents were very upset and put the baby in a chicken pen to hide it. Somebody discovered this child walking around like a chicken, with the whole front of his face one big lump. He was banging his nose on the ground to eat. He thought he was a chicken; he had no one else to identify with.

A commune that is based on awareness and love gives a real sense of identity and belonging, which helps everyone to find out who they are. People start to look inside and understand that “I am lovable, I am a good person. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but now I can change.” That’s the beauty of the commune. It helps you to attain to your own self-love. Supported, the person has enough strength to say, “I am going to do what makes me happy in life.”

A commune is a common unity. It is as strong as its weakest member. It is a challenge, because there are so many different mirrors in which you can see yourself. Others make it obvious what you may be hiding. They also see your beauty and encourage you in all your facets. You are challenged to be authentic.

What are the difficulties in living communally?

Communes can get stuck in a particular way of doing things. They need to keep looking for new ways to improve themselves, or they get rigid and no other style, technique or approach fits. Not many communes will allow diverse energies to come in. Osho says the first quality of a sannyasin is to be open to new experiences. I keep that as a guideline for what we are doing here. I think that’s one of our secrets – I’m always into expanding our approach, giving space for self- discovery, and integrating what works best. I see a commune must be evolutionary.

In our commune when there are conflicts we become aware of them, share honestly with each other and focus on solutions. When you say, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” you’re looking for conflicts. When everyone is involved in finding solutions, it brings the whole thing to a higher level. In that way, you build up your commune and make it successful.

It sounds very simple but that to me is the essence. The honesty, the trust, the friendship, the sense that everyone is responsible for everyone else makes us unique. We are all working for a common purpose. Beyond anybody’s title, what counts is the friendship we have with each other. That is the heart of our commune.

I am unique as a leader with all my life experiences, and I think I have done my job well in that I encourage everyone around me to be themselves. I don’t want anyone to be a copy of me. I encourage every member of the staff to pursue what they are interested in and to develop that area so that the whole commune can benefit from it. That makes us rich.

Which form of living together do you prefer: one to one, commune, family, family in a commune, man-woman together or friends?

I prefer a commune which includes all of these. My concept is that it should be a place where people are born, die and everything in-between; the full range of life, of humanity.

I like listening to a friend of mine called Ior Bock who claims to have the story of mankind from the beginning passed down to him through his ancestors. There was an original commune which lived together in three circles. The central one had fire, where men and women would meet. In one circle all the men lived, and in the other all the women. Children up to the age of seven lived with the women, and afterwards boys would go to live with the men. All men were the fathers and all women the mothers of all the children.

Our society today demands, that marriage and relationships should be monogamous. It is not fair to expect one person to fulfill all your sexual and social needs. Trying to fulfill a concept laid down by society just doesn’t work. Each individual has to search, experiment and explore for themselves.

In my commune, if you’re into experimenting I encourage you. If it is in your heart to have a solid relationship, go for it. But do it because you have decided to, not because you are supposed to.

As far as the Tan-Jus, our teenagers are concerned, I would like that they ask themselves, “How do I want to relate?” and look for a solution instead of blaming their parents for not having a happy marriage.

Is there anything you would like to add?

When people come to our commune I encourage them to explore who they are and love themselves. Then when they go home, they are ready to share their love with others and spread it all over the world.