Synopses & Reviews
“A hilarious account of growing up in a commune.”--Irish Times
At the age of six, Tim Guest was taken by his mother to a commune modeled on the teachings of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who preached an eclectic doctrine of Eastern mysticism, chaotic therapy, and sexual freedom. Tim and his mother were given Sanskrit names, dressed entirely in orange, and encouraged to surrender themselves into their new family. While his mother worked tirelessly for the cause, Tim--or Yogesh, as he was now called--lived a life of well-meaning but woefully misguided neglect in various communes in Oregon, England, India, and Germany. When the movement finally collapsed amid allegations of mass poisonings, attempted murder, and tax evasion, Tim and his mother started a new life. In this poignant and funny memoir, Tim Guest chronicles his experience of being left alone on earth while his mother hunted heaven, and concludes with a heartening account of how they find each other again.
“[Tim Guests] wonderful account of a frankly ghastly childhood is hilarious and heartbreaking, and it says much for the resilience of the human spirit that he has grown up sound in mind and body without a trace of bitterness towards his mother.”--Daily Mail (London)
"A unique, eloquent, child's eye view of growing up in a commune and the price paid for a parent's search for bliss. A complex and superbly told tale of longing and repair. Guest is a fine writer at the beginning, I think, of a distinguished career."--John Lahr
“An extraordinary memoir.”--The Sunday Telegraph (London)
Tim Guest writes for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. He lives in London.
A Harvest Original
"London journalist Guest (the Guardian; the Daily Telegraph) shares the bittersweet story of his nomadic childhood as a member of the sannyasin, a group of people who swathed themselves in orange and lived in the various communes of the infamous Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In 1979, when Guest was six, he was brought into the group by his mother, a lapsed Catholic who 'surrendered herself to the world without a second thought,' moving to England, Germany, India and Oregon to work for the cause of Bhagwan's Eastern mysticism (which involved, among other things, engaging in sexual freedom and inhaling laughing gas). Guest played with the ragtag children of the hippie adults working in these ashrams, sometimes going for long periods of time without his mother's love or guidance. He systematically observes the daily lives of the sannyasin and their master, refusing to trash the devotees or their spiritual beliefs, instead targeting the manipulations of Bhagwan, whom he depicts as a power-mad holy man who taught restraint, poverty and obedience yet collected Rolls-Royces and told jokes 'cribbed from Playboy.' Guest forgives his neglectful mother as he records Bhagwan's fall from grace through American tax evasion, lawsuits and denials of admittance from country to country until his empire crumbled. Honest and vivid, this is an absorbing book about survival and good intentions gone awry. Agent, Denise Shannon. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
At the age of six, Tim Guest was taken by his mother to a commune modeled on the teachings of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The Bhagwan preached an eclectic doctrine of Eastern mysticism, chaotic therapy, and sexual freedom, and enjoyed inhaling laughing gas, preaching from a dentist's chair, and collecting Rolls Royces.
Tim and his mother were given Sanskrit names, dressed entirely in orange, and encouraged to surrender themselves into their new family. While his mother worked tirelessly for the cause, Tim-or Yogesh, as he was now called-lived a life of well-meaning but woefully misguided neglect in various communes in England, Oregon, India, and Germany.
In 1985 the movement collapsed amid allegations of mass poisonings, attempted murder, and tax evasion, and Yogesh was once again Tim. In this extraordinary memoir, Tim Guest chronicles the heartbreaking experience of being left alone on earth while his mother hunted heaven.
At the age of six, Tim Guest was taken by his mother to a commune modeled on the teachings of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In this extraordinary memoir, Guest chronicles the heartbreaking experience of being left alone on earth while his mother hunted heaven.
About the Author
Tim Guest writes for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. He lives in London.
Reading Group Guide
Q> Tim makes his feelings about Bhagwan and his organization clear, but why does he avoid saying directly that they are frauds, or exploring their motives and strategies of control? Does this restraint make the book better? Q> Why is Tim's mother attracted to the teachings of Bhagwan? How do her Catholic upbringing, her experience with psychotherapy, and her radical politics relate to her embrace of the sannyas? Q> Do any aspects of the sannyas lifestyle appeal to you? Why do you think so many educated, professional people were attracted to it? Q> Tim quotes a sannyas newspaper as asking, "Is it the stress of 20th century living that is fraying the fabric of family life? Or, is the nuclear family itself the root cause of our unbalanced, violent society?"  Based on Tim's experience, communal family life is clearly not preferable, but do conventional nuclear families have anything to learn from communal life? Is our culture (or our nature) fundamentally unsuited to non-nuclear family life? Q> What effect does the sexual openness of the communes have on the children? Are they more emotionally intimate and sexually experimental than children from normal families? Q> Why do you think history is not taught to children in the sannyas schools? Q> What role do toys, music, and other elements of popular, consumer culture play in Tim's life? How does his love for Legos, movies, and break dancing contrast with the insular culture of the commune? Does it help him to cope with commune life, or does it make it more difficult? Q> What is Bhagwan's attitude toward children? Why does he encourage the adults to have abortions or vasectomies? Q> What do you think of Bhagwan himself? Is he a complete charlatan? Does he believe his own teachings? Do you see any truth in them? Q> How and why does Bhagwan use the threat of nuclear war to separate the sannyasins from the rest of the world? How does his use of this kind of apocalyptic imagery compare to that of other religions or marginalized groups? Q> Another part of Bhagwan's apocalyptic rhetoric is his announcement that "AIDS will kill two thirds of the world population."  Why does he adopt the draconian rules limiting human contact, despite the fact that such contact has always been a cornerstone of the sannyas? Is he truly afraid of AIDS, or are the rules another means of asserting control over the lives of his followers? Q> Tim writes that in Oregon, under Sheela, "The Matriarchy operated differently from patriarchal authority. Instead of violence, they dished out 'emotional hits'; instead of prisons, there were pot-washing purgatories. They had ways to get you to do what they wanted."  How do the leaders get the sannyasins to do what they want at the various communes where Tim lives? How are the exercises and rules of sannyas set up to enhance individuals' loyalty to Bhagwan and the group, and to weaken all other attachments? Do you think this kind of manipulation is particularly female, as Tim implies? Why are most of the higher-ranking sannyasins women? Q> Why do the sannyasins take such a confrontational stance toward the authorities, particularly once they have moved to Oregon, by making inflammatory statements to the press, building a private armed force, etc.? Q> Discuss Tim's relationship with his father, John. Tim refers to "those summers with my father-stillness, separation, silence-everything the commune was not. . . . Each summer . . . we found we had a little less to talk about."  Why is John such a minor figure in the book? Fathers and sons often have difficult, distant relationships, especially when the mother and father are separated, but is this distance different? How? Q> How does the cult change over the course of Tim's life? He writes, "The Ashram had been constructed from care; the Ranch was built on guilt."  How and why does this shift occur?
Copyright © 2005 Harcourt, Inc.