Homage to my friend and soul-brother, Amitabh Robert Birnbaum


My beloved friend Amitabh,

This morning, waking up in Switzerland to begin guiding people on a 3-day encounter with death, came the news of your final breath in California just a few hours earlier. I have travelled with you, heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul these past days, knowing you were on your way. It is night time now, and throughout the day your spirit has silently wafted like an occasional light breeze stroking my imagination with your warm love as I work. It is a long time since we led a group together. Now, as you dissolve into the universal, I sense your presence. A few years ago, we joked half-seriously about leading one more group together. We were going to call it, “Before we all die!” Now you did! But in so much light and with such immaculate timing that here you are, leading this Universal Experience with me.

How I love you! I was so looking forward to seeing you one more time in November. It wasn’t to be, but Mradu, your lovely wife, gave us our sacred moment on the phone a couple of days ago and it lives in me now for ever.

You were always likely to go before me, just age-wise, and it is fitting. In the years that we worked and played, explored and meditated together, you seemed to me often a little ahead of me – in your experience, your compassion, sometimes your understanding of people and situations. I learned precious lessons from you. When we lived in Osho’s* ashram in Poona in the 70’s then at Geetam, the ashram in California’s Mojave desert while the Rajneesh city was being built in Oregon, you were really my big brother. You were there for me in moments when I needed someone to understand me, to give me a shoulder to lean or cry on, or a few words to break through my ego trips.

We were a great duo when we led groups together, a REAL adventure for the people who dared to sit in the circle with us, you one end me the other, shooting down egos and loving people out of their fears and darkness into the open light of being: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” someone dubbed us. I remember the group on the ranch that was being high-jacked by a bunch of young Australians doing their “No worries, mate” numbers. After a few hours of their hyper-casual disregard for anything that really touched them you came up with one of your delightful loving swipes, “You know, the trouble with you Aussies is that you accept yourselves long before you should.”

I wish I could remember all the pearls of our friendship and the gems of transforming wisdom that you dropped in so many people’s laps. But it is only the words I have forgotten. Your gravel voice, your humor, your soft incisiveness, your love, your fairness, your earthy integrity, and your lovely spirit-drenched soul – they all remain alive in me. You always knew that you belong to the infinite. That was where we secretly hung out together while we played cowboys with the group participants, waiting for them to drop their trips and join us in the mystic celebration of being really here now. And when Osho excommunicated us for being…… what? Ah, yes, for BEING – we just kept on being. That was, after all, what we learned through our years of being with him. That was his blessing to us and our love for him, no matter the nonsense that we wanted nothing to do with.

In these more recent years we have not seen much of each other, but on the few occasions when we have been able to spend a few days together, it has all been here again like it was only yesterday. We got older – you so much that you slipped off your mortal coil – but that only made our sharing sweeter and wiser. Now, until I also cross the Great Divide, I’ll just listen from time to time for your gravelly whisper on the breeze. And go on hanging out with you in our usual place. Bon voyage my friend!

* To us in those years he was “Bhagwan”.