Ashwin Bharti, founder of Zorba the Buddha.

Ashwin Bharti, founder of Zorba the Buddha.

The thing that strikes one about Ashwin Bharti is his unusual mane and the beard that he keeps fiddling with, while chatting. But this is not the first time I’m meeting this eccentric, Osho Sannyasi. I met him close to a decade ago while flirting with the idea of spirituality. At that time, he was the Director of Global Arts Village.

Much has changed over time. Global Arts Village has been reincarnated into Zorba the Buddha and the space has become more of a spiritual hub than an artist’s retreat. My life has come  a full circle to exactly where I was a decade ago- lost and disillusioned. So I flirt again with the idea of spirituality and I find myself in the company of mad men (Osho-for mad men only).

Over the years, Ashwin hasn’t changed. He’s still somber, insightful, celebratory, lost and totally mad, all at the same time- akin a Zorba the Buddha.

 How does a 19 year old decide to turn into an Osho Sannyasi?

I got introduced to Osho through my aunt, when I was 17 years old. During the summer vacations she would take her daughter to Pune and she invited me to go with her. I went there and immediately took sannyas, meaning initiation as a disciple. Whenever I would hear Osho speak I would feel like he’s the one. Maybe it’s a connection from a past life.

Did you live at the Ashram?

No, I never lived at the Ashram. After taking sanyaas I was more interested in society and in becoming rich and famous. In our sanyaas we don’t have to renounce anything. This kind of sannyas includes the celebration of life and the world. Osho says that if you meditate for an hour a day, slowly unnecessary things will start melting away. You’ll start to drop them and that’s what happened.

Zorba the Buddha, was initially a space for artists called the Global Arts Village. I remember being granted a residency from here. How come you changed it to Zorba the Buddha, which is obviously a namesake of Osho’s book?

My interest for creativity and arts was very dominant. When we named the space Global arts village we became about art. That was not the vision, the vision was to get happiness and bliss in our lives. The name has a great significance, which I realized only later. That’s why we changed the name to Zorba the Buddha- where creativity meets consciousness. Our focus these days is towards bringing happiness, bliss to our lives. We now use art as a form of therapy, as a form of release and understanding. Yes! the name comes from Osho, it is a termed coined by him. Zorba was a character from a film called Zorba the Greek. He was a man who enjoyed life to the fullest. Buddha of course was a spiritual guru. But neither celebration nor meditation is complete without the other. That’s why Osho coined this term.


Ashwin Bharti, in his classic pose.

So would you consider this to be a kind of Osho Ashram?

It is a place, which is inspired by Osho’s vision. But I can’t really call it his ashram. It’s like a hub, an epicenter of consciousness. There are people who belong to various fields who are attracted to this place. Like you- you as an artist come from the path of beauty- from the Sundaram category. Then people who belong to the way of Shivam- for example ngo’s, are also visitors here.

Do you think you’re anywhere close to being enlightened?

First of all, I’ve never been enlightened so I don’t know how far I’ve reached. But there is no magic pill- no quick answer to enlightenment. If I become enlightened that’s great but I don’t think it will happen in this lifetime.

You have spiritual teachers visiting from all over the world. From teachings about Sufism, to Tantra to talks on Kabir etc, you are surrounded by beautiful, inspiring, positive words. What happens when a person like you feels low and disillusioned? Do you ever feel like all of this is futile in some way?

We are one of the largest centres in the country and one of the largest centres in the world. We create more than 200 workshops in a year and there’s so much operational work that goes on behind the scenes. I find it challenging but my whole life is about serving people. It’s all very challenging, sometimes.

That’s why I ask, what is your personal mantra for handling the stress?

I do Osho’s Dynamic Maditation and Naad Brahma. These keep me sane.