Rajneesh, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and eventually as Osho, was an Indian saint, mystic, and the creator of the Rajneesh movement. He was born Chandra Mohan Jain on December 11, 1931, and he passed away on January 19, 1990. He was regarded as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic teacher throughout his lifetime. He disapproved of organised religions. Rajneesh emphasised the value of virtues like as freedom of thinking, mindfulness, meditation, love, joy, courage, creativity, and humour, which he believed were inhibited by following rigid religious doctrines, social conventions, and dogmas.
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Rajneesh gained notoriety as an outspoken opponent of Mahatma Gandhi, the orthodoxy of mainstream faiths, and mainstream political beliefs during his public speaking tours in India in the 1960s. Rajneesh spent time in Mumbai in 1970 initiation “neo-sannyasis,” his devotees. He developed his spiritual teachings during this time and made lengthy comments in talks on the works of various religious systems, mystics, bhakti poets, and philosophers. Rajneesh moved to Pune in 1974, when an ashram was built and a number of therapies were provided to a burgeoning Western clientele using techniques first created by the Human Potential Movement. By the late 1970s, the conflict between the movement and Morarji Desai’s Janata Party government had slowed the ashram’s development and resulted in a $5 million back tax bill. Rajneesh moved to Rajneeshpuram, a location in Wasco County, Oregon, when the Rajneesh movement’s focus shifted back to activities in the United States in 1981. The movement encountered opposition from county people and the state government almost immediately, and its growth was hampered by a series of legal disputes over the ashram’s construction and ongoing development.
Rajneesh claimed that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters were to blame for a string of serious crimes committed by his followers in 1985, including a Salmonella-based attack on a large number of people’s food and a botched attempt to assassinate US attorney Charles H. Turner. As part of an Alford plea agreement, he was later removed from the country. Twenty-one nations refused to let him enter after his deportation. In 1986, he eventually travelled back to Mumbai, India. He returned to Pune in January 1987 and restarted his ashram before passing away there in 1990 after spending six months living in a disciple’s home where he continued giving lectures. The recognised Osho International Foundation (formerly Rajneesh International Foundation) oversees Rajneesh’s ashram, now recognized as OSHO International Meditation Resort, and all related intellectual property. Western New Age thought has been influenced by Rajneesh’s teachings, and between the time of his passing and 2005, their acceptance is said to have grown.
Life of Osho
Childhood and Adolescence (1931 to 1950)
Chandra Mohan Jain, the eldest of a textile merchant’s 11 children, gave birth to Rajneesh in the home of his maternal grandparents in Kuchwada, a small village in the Raisen District of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. He was raised by his maternal grandparents up till the age of eight by his parents, Taranpanthi Jains Babulal and Saraswati Jain. Rajneesh claims that this had a significant impact on his growth because his grandmother offered him the greatest amount of freedom, allowing him to grow up carefree without any obligations or limitations. When he was seven years old, his grandfather passed away, and he moved in with his parents in Gadarwara. Rajneesh’s fascination with death persisted throughout much of his childhood and youth as a result of the significant impact that the passing of his grandfather had on him as well as the subsequent passing of his boyhood buddy Shashi from typhoid when he was 15 years old. He was a talented and disobedient student during his school years who had a reputation as a fierce debater. Rajneesh developed a critical attitude toward conventional religion and developed a keen interest in a variety of techniques for enlarging awareness, such as breath control, yoga asanas, meditation, fasting, the occult, and hypnosis. Vasant Joshi claims that Rajneesh began reading widely at a young age and that although participating in sports as a young child, reading was his main passion.
He was labelled a communist and threatened with expulsion from school after expressing interest in the works of Marx and Engels. Joshi claims that with the aid of friends, he established a modest library that was primarily filled with communist literature. Rajneesh also organised a group of young people who routinely talked communist ideas and their aversion to religion, according to his uncle Amritlal. In a later interview, Rajneesh said, “I have been interested in communism from my very childhood…communist literature-perhaps there is no book that is missing from my library. I have signed and dated each book before 1950. Small details are so vivid before me, because that was my first entry into the intellectual world. First I was deeply interested in communism, but finding that it is a corpse I became interested in anarchism – that was also a Russian phenomenon – Prince Kropotkin, Bakunin, Leo Tolstoy. All three were anarchists: no state, no government in the world”.
He briefly got linked with socialism as well as the Indian National Army and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, two organisations that support Indian nationalism. His involvement in the organisations, nevertheless, was brief because he was unable to conform to any external system, doctrine, or discipline.
University Years and Public Speaker (1951 to 1970)
Rajneesh started his education at Jabalpur’s Hitkarini College when he was 19 years old, in 1951. He transferred to D. N. Jain College, also in Jabalpur, after being asked to leave due to disagreements with a professor. He was only needed to attend college classes at D. N. Jain College for exams because he had established himself to be a disruptively contentious student. Instead, he spent his free time working as an assistant editor at a nearby newspaper for a few months. He made his first public speech at the Sarva Dharma Sammelan (Meeting of All Faiths) held annually in Jabalpur and participated there from 1951 to 1968. This event was organised by the Taranpanthi Jain community, into which he was born. He defied his parents’ requests that he be married. Rajneesh later said that he had a mystical experience on March 21, 1953, when he was 21 years old, while sitting under a tree in the Bhanvartal garden in Jabalpur, which led to his spiritual enlightenment. In 1957, he received his MA in philosophy from the University of Sagar after completing his BA in philosophy there in 1955. (with distinction). He was hired as a teacher at Raipur Sanskrit College right away, but the vice-chancellor soon requested that he seek a transfer because he viewed him as a threat to the morals, integrity, and religion of his pupils. He began lecturing in philosophy at Jabalpur University in 1958 and was given the title of professor in 1960.
He was a well-liked lecturer, and his contemporaries regarded him as an unusually clever man who had transcended the limitations of his early small-town schooling. In addition to working at the university, he lectured against socialism, Gandhi, and institutional religions while travelling around India under the moniker Acharya Rajneesh (Acharya means teacher or professor; Rajneesh was a nickname he had picked up as a boy). He travelled so frequently that he would struggle to fall asleep in a regular bed since he was accustomed to hearing the swaying of railway train berths while he slept. Rajneesh claimed in a speech from 1969 that socialism is the final outcome of capitalism and that it is capitalism, not revolution, that leads to socialism. Rajneesh remarked that he thought socialism in India was inevitable but that in fifty, sixty, or seventy years, India should concentrate its efforts on generating riches first. He asserted that socialism would merely socialise poverty, and he labelled Gandhi a masochist reactionary who adored material deprivation. Capitalism, science, contemporary technology, and birth control were what India required to escape its backwardness. Even though he did not see capitalism and socialism as diametrically opposed ideologies, he thought it was terrible for any nation to discuss socialism without first developing a capitalist economy. He criticised traditional Indian religions, calling them dead, devoid of meaning, and oppressive to adherents through threats of damnation and promises of rewards.
His outspoken views helped him develop a devoted following, which included several affluent businesspeople and merchants. In exchange for gifts and as his practise grew, these people asked him for private sessions about improving their daily lives and advancing their spirituality. He started leading 3- to 10-day meditation retreats in 1962, and the Life Awakening Movement, then known as the first meditation centres (Jivan Jagruti Kendra), began to grow around his teaching (Jivan Jagruti Andolan). At the university’s request, he left his teaching position following a contentious speaking tour in 1966.
Despite the reservations of some Hindu leaders, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Second World Hindu Conference in 1969. When he did, his remarks once again sparked debate when he said, “Any religion that promotes hatred of life and believes that it is meaningless and full of suffering is not a true religion. The art of religion teaches people how to enjoy life “. He compared how women and members of the shudra lower caste were treated to how animals were treated. He accused brahmins of being driven by self-interest, which incensed the Shankaracharya of Puri, who unsuccessfully attempted to interrupt his talk.
Mumbai (1971 to 1974)
Rajneesh originally introduced his Dynamic Meditation technique during a public meditation event in the beginning of 1970. When practising dynamic meditation, participants breathed very quickly while dancing and enjoying music. He travelled to Mumbai from Jabalpur at the end of June. He initiated his first set of followers, or neo-sannyasins, on September 26, 1970. Taking on a new name and donning the traditional saffron garb of ascetic Hindu holy men, which included a mala (beaded necklace) and a pendant with his image, were supposedly requirements for becoming a student. His sannyasins were urged to lead joyous lives as opposed to ascetic ones, nevertheless. He was to be viewed as a catalyst, “a sun encouraging the flower to open“, rather than as something to be adored. By that time, he had hired a secretary named Laxmi Thakarsi Kuruwa, who had adopted the name Ma Yoga Laxmi as his first pupil. Laxmi was the daughter of a wealthy Jain who was one of his first devotees and had strong relations to Gandhi, Nehru, and Morarji Desai. She had also been an important ally of the Indian National Congress during the fight for Indian independence. She gathered the funds necessary for Rajneesh to put an end to his travels and have a family. He relocated to Mumbai’s Woodlands Apartments in December 1970, where he delivered lectures and entertained guests, including his first Westerners. He never longer spoke at open meetings and travelled little lately. He assumed the name “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh” in 1971.
In later years, Rajneesh said of the update from Acharya to Bhagwan, “I enjoyed the phrase. At least for a few years,” I stated. “Then we can drop it“.
“I have chosen it for a specific purpose and it has been serving well, because people who used to come to gather knowledge, they stopped. The day I called myself Bhagwan, they stopped. It was too much for them, it was too much for their egos, someone calling himself Bhagwan…It hurts the ego. Now I`ve changed my function absolutely. I started working on a different level, in a different dimension. Now I give you being,not knowledge. I was an acharya and they were students; they were learning. Now I am no more a teacher and you are not here as students. I am here to impart being. I am here to make you awaken. I am not here to give knowledge, I am going to give you knowing- and that is a totally different dimension.”
“Calling myself Bhagwan was simply symbolic – that now I have taken a different dimension to work. And it has been tremendously useful. All the wrong people automatically disappeared and a totally different quality of people started arriving. It worked well. It sorted out well, only those who are ready to dissolve with me, remained. All others escaped. They created space around me. Otherwise, they were crowding too much, and it was very difficult for the real seekers to come closer to me. The crowd disappeared. The word Bhagwan functioned like an atomic explosion. It did well. I am happy that I chose it.”
Shree is a formal form of salutation roughly similar to the English “Sir”; Bhagwan means “blessed one,” and is a term of reverence in Indian culture for a human being in whom the divine is no longer concealed but visible. In Hinduism, it can also represent a deity or an avatar. Bhagwan signifies the abstract notion of a universal God to Hindus who really are spiritual and devout but do not revere a specific god in many areas of India and South Asia. He later reinterpreted the definition of Bhagwan when he changed his name.
Pune Ashram (1974 to 1981)
Rajneesh’s health suffered as a result of Mumbai’s humid climate: he developed diabetes, asthma, and numerous allergies. On the 21st anniversary of his experience in Jabalpur, he relocated to Koregaon Park, Pune, with the assistance of Ma Yoga Mukta (Catherine Venizelos), a Greek shipping heiress. From 1974 through 1981, Rajneesh spoke at the Pune ashram. The 2adjacent houses and 6 acres (2.4 ha) of the ground became the foundation of an ashram, and the location is still the heart of the OSHO International Meditation Resort today. It enabled him to reach significantly bigger audiences via frequent audio recording and, later, video recording and printing of his speeches for worldwide distribution. The number of Western visitors has surged dramatically.
The ashram eventually included an arts-and-crafts centre that produced clothing, jewellery, ceramics, and organic cosmetics, as well as hosted theatre, music, and mime events. After several therapists from the Human Potential Movement arrived in 1975, the ashram began to supplement meditations with a rising number of group therapy sessions, which became a major source of money for the ashram. Visitors chose which therapies to participate in by consulting Rajneesh or choosing based on their own interests. Some of the ashram’s early treatment groups, such as the encounter group, were experimental, enabling participants to engage in physical aggressiveness as well as sexual relations. In the news, conflicting stories of injuries that occurred during Encounter group meetings began to emerge.
Travels and Return to Pune (1985 to 1990)
Rajneesh returned to India after leaving the United States, landing in Delhi on November 17, 1985. His Indian devotees greeted him as a hero and attacked the United States, stating that the world must “put the beast America in its place” and that “either America must be hushed up or America will be the end of the world.” He then resided in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, for six weeks. Rajneesh stated in Manali that he was interested in purchasing an atoll in the South Pacific that Marlon Brando was trying to sell for use as a prospective new commune site. The installation of houseboats and Japanese-style floating gardens, according to Rajneesh, could significantly expand the island’s size. The island was visited by Sannyasins, but it was judged unsuitable because they discovered the area was susceptible to hurricanes. Whenever non-Indians in his group had their visas cancelled, he travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then to Crete a few weeks later. After being apprehended by the Greek National Intelligence Service (KYP), he went to Geneva, Stockholm, and London, but was denied admission in each case. After Canada denied him landing permission, he returned to Shannon Airport in Ireland to refuel. He was given permission to stay at a Limerick hotel for two weeks on the provision that he not go out or give speeches.
He’d been given an Uruguayan identity card, a one-year provisional residency permit, and the prospect of permanent residency, so the group set out, stopping in Madrid, where the plane was ringed by the Guardia Civil. He was allowed to stay in Dakar for one night before continuing on to Recife and Montevideo. In Uruguay, the group relocated to a residence in Punta del Este, where Rajneesh began openly lecturing until June 19, when he was “asked to leave” for no apparent reason. A two week visa had been negotiated for Jamaica, but when the group arrived in Kingston, authorities gave them 12 hours to depart. Rajneesh returned to Bombay, India, on July 30, 1986, after refuelling at Gander and Madrid. Osho returned to the ashram in Pune in January 1987, where he conducted evening discourses every day, save when interrupted by occasional illness. Publishing and treatment were resumed, and the ashram was expanded as a “Multiversity,” with therapy serving as a bridge to meditation. After a ten-year hiatus, Rajneesh developed new “meditation therapy” approaches such as the “Mystic Rose” and began leading meditations in his lectures. His western adherents did not organise big communes, preferring to live as individuals. The red/orange dress and mala, which had been optional since 1985, were mainly abandoned. Maroon garments were restored in the summer of 1989, together with white robes worn for evening meditation and black robes worn outside the ashram.
Life in Pune Ashram
Sannyasins who had “graduated” from months of meditation and treatment may apply to work in the ashram, which was deliberately modelled after the community founded by the Russian mystic Gurdjieff in France in the 1930s. Hard, unpaid labour and supervisors chosen for their harsh personalities were key Gurdjieff elements added, both aimed to generate opportunities for self-observation and transcendence. Many disciples choose to remain for many years. Aside from the controversies surrounding the therapies, rumours of drug usage among sannyasin began to tarnish the ashram’s reputation. Some Western sannyasins were accused of funding their extended stays in India through prostitution and drug trafficking. A few persons later claimed that, while Rajneesh was not personally involved, such plans and activities were discussed with him in darshan and he gave his blessing.
By the late 1970s, the Pune ashram was too small to accommodate the rapid development, and Rajneesh requested that a larger location be located. Sannyasins from all across India began seeking properties; among those discovered were one in Gujarat’s Kutch area and two more in India’s mountainous north. The ideas were never implemented because rising tensions between the ashram and Morarji Desai’s Janata Party administration resulted in a deadlock. The government denied land-use approval and, more importantly, ceased providing visas to international visitors who named the ashram as their primary destination. Furthermore, Desai’s administration revoked the ashram’s tax-exempt status with retroactive effect, resulting in a $5 million lawsuit. Dispute with various Indian religious leaders exacerbated the situation; by 1980, the ashram had grown so contentious that Indira Gandhi, despite Rajneesh’s previous association with the Indian Congress Party dating back to the 1960s, was unwilling to intervene on its behalf after her return to power. Vilas Tupe, a young Hindu extremist, attempted to assassinate Rajneesh during one of his speeches in May 1980. Tupe alleges he carried out the attack because he thought Rajneesh was a CIA operative.
Rajneesh’s ashram had 30,000 visitors each year by 1981. The daily conversation audience was primarily European and American at the time. Many observers observed that Rajneesh’s lecture style shifted in the late 1970s, becoming less intellectually focused and including an increasing amount of ethnic or obscene jokes meant to shock or entertain his audience. Rajneesh entered a three-and-a-half-year period of self-imposed public silence on 10 April 1981, after having discoursed daily for over 15 years, and satsangs — silent meditation with melody and recitation from religious works like Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet or even the Isha Upanishad — replaced talks. Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) took over as Rajneesh’s secretary about the same period.
Death of Osho
Osho passed away on 19, 1990, at the age of 58, in the ashram in Pune, India. The official reason of death was heart failure, but his commune stated that he died because “life in the body had become a torment” following an alleged poisoning in US prisons. His ashes were scattered in his freshly constructed bedroom at the ashram in Pune, Lao Tzu House. According to the epitaph, “Never was born and never died This planet Earth was only visited between December 11, 1931, and January 19, 1990”.
Sheela’s husband, John Shelfer, inked a purchase contract for a property in Oregon for USD 5.75 million on June 13, 1981, and just a few days later assigned the land to the US foundation. The ranch, originally known as “The Big Muddy Ranch,” was 64,229 acres in size and spread across two counties (Wasco and Jefferson). On August 29, it was christened “Rancho Rajneesh,” and Rajneesh relocated there. The initial attitudes of the local people ranged from hatred to tolerance, based on the distance from the ranch. According to the press and another study, the development was met almost immediately with fierce local, state, and federal resistance from the government, press, and citizens. Within months, a slew of court squabbles erupted, primarily over land usage. Within a year of their arrival, Rajneesh and his followers were entangled in a series of legal fights with their neighbours, the main one involving land use. The commune leadership was unyielding and irritable when dealing with the locals. They were very adamant about having their demands realised, and they acted in an implicitly threatening and directly aggressive manner. Whatever their genuine intentions were, the continuous changes in their stated objectives appeared to many to be deliberate deception.
Rancho Rajneesh inhabitants voted in May 1982 to incorporate it as Rajneeshpuram. The confrontation with local people escalated, with increasingly fierce hatred on both sides, and the commune was subjected to continual and concerted pressures from various coalitions of Oregonian residents over the next years. 1000 Friends of Oregon quickly began and subsequently prosecuted multiple legal and administrative actions over the next six years to nullify the incorporation and force the removal of buildings and improvements. 1000 Friends publicly demanded that the city be “dismantled”. According to a 1000 Friends attorney, if 1000 Friends prevailed, the Foundation would be “forced to dismantle its sewer system and pull down many of the structures”. On one occasion, the commune imported a huge number of homeless people from numerous US cities in an unsuccessful attempt to influence the results of an election, prior to actually releasing them into surrounding communities and leaving some to the Oregon state to return to their home towns at the state’s expense. To fight the Ranch development, local people founded Citizens for Constitutional Cities in March 1982. An initiative petition was submitted that would direct the governor to “contain, control, and remove” the threat of an “alien cult” invasion.
Rajneesh stayed behind the scenes during the various court challenges, having retired from a public face role during what commune leadership referred to as a period of “quiet.” During this period, which lasted until November 1984, films of Rajneesh’s speeches were shown to commune audiences in place of him speaking publicly. He supposedly spent most of his time alone and corresponded with only a few essential disciples, notably Ma Anand Sheela and his caretaker partner Ma Yoga Vivek (Christine Woolf). He resided in a trailer near a covered pool and other facilities. He did not preach at this time and instead connected with followers through a Rolls Royce ‘drive-by’ ceremony. He also received national attention for acquiring a sizable collection of Rolls-Royce automobiles, eventually totalling 93 vehicles. He granted Sheela limited power of attorney in 1981, removing any remaining restrictions the following year. Sheela declared in 1983 that he would only converse with her from then on. He then claimed that she kept him in the dark. Many sannyasins questioned if Sheela represented Rajneesh properly, and many dissidents fled Rajneeshpuram in protest of its dictatorial leadership. Resident sannyasins without US citizenship faced immigration issues, which some attempted to overcome through marriages of convenience. Commune officials attempted to handle Rajneesh’s own dilemma in this regard by proclaiming him the head of a religion known as “Rajneeshism”.
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1984 Bioterror Attack
Sheela had received coaching from Rajneesh on how to make the most of media attention, and during his period of silence in front of the public, he claimed in private that Sheela spoke on his behalf. A secret meeting was called with Sheela and his personal home staff in the early months of 1984 when tension among the inner circle surged. He had previously supported her when disagreements over her behaviour surfaced within the communal leadership. Rajneesh reprimanded her during a meeting, saying that his house, not hers, was the centre of the commune, according to the testimony of Rajneesh’s dentist, Swami Devageet (Charles Harvey Newman). Rajneesh allegedly forewarned Devageet that Sheela’s resentment towards anyone close to him would make them a target. He broke his public silence a few months later, on 30 October 1984, declaring that it was time to “tell his own facts.” On December 19, Rajneesh was questioned about whether the organisation was required for a religion to endure. Those present when Rajneesh gave the speech recall him saying, “I will not leave you under a fascist regime“. Swami Devageet, Rajneesh’s dentist, said that this statement appeared to be clearly directed at Sheela or to be directly opposed to the current organisational structure. The management informed sannyasins the following day that the recordings of the discourse had been permanently damaged by technological issues and were not available, even though they are typically in charge of editing and transcribing the discourses into books.
Sheela transcribed the speech after hearing more and more rumours that she had censored it, and The Rajneesh Times published it. All references to Sheela as Hitler in a red outfit, as described by Ma Prem Sangeet, and Rajneeshpuram as a fascist state had been removed. With the exception of the three months between April and July 1985, Rajneesh spoke practically every day. On September 16, a few days after Sheela and her whole management team had abruptly left the commune for Europe, Rajneesh conducted a news conference in which he referred to Sheela and her friends as a “band of fascists”. He had resumed daily public speeches in July. He accused them of committing significant offences, the majority of which date back to 1984, and invited the authorities to investigate. He claimed that the alleged crimes, which were carried out without his understanding or consent, included the attempted assassination of his personal doctor, the poisoning of government officials in Oregon, bugging the commune and his home, and a potentially fatal bioterror attack that rendered 751 residents of The Dalles ill with Salmonella in order to influence county elections. Although his claims were first met with scepticism by outside observers, a subsequent investigation by American authorities supported these claims and led to Sheela and a number of her lieutenants’ convictions. On September 30, 1985, Rajneesh refuted the claim that he was a spiritual leader.
Five thousand copies of the book Rajneeshism: An Introduction to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and His Religion were destroyed by his followers. His teachings were collected in a 78-page book called “Rajneeshism”, which was described as “a religionless religion”. He claimed he gave the order to burn the books in order to purge the cult of Sheela’s influence, adding that her garments were also “added to the blaze.” The attack on the salmonella outbreak is regarded as the country’s first known case of chemical or biological terrorism. Rajneesh said that until Sheela and her “gang” left and sannyasins came forward to notify him, he was oblivious of the crimes done by the Rajneeshpuram leadership since he was in silence and isolation, meeting only with Sheela. Sheela was allegedly utilised as a convenient scapegoat, according to several observers. Others have cited the fact that despite Sheela bugging Rajneesh’s apartment and giving the American authorities access to her tapes as part of her own plea deal, there has never been any proof that Rajneesh was involved in her crimes.
Teachings of Osho
Osho’s teachings conveyed through his talks, were intermingled with jokes rather than in an academic context. The emphasis shifted throughout time: Rajneesh revelled in paradox and contradiction, making his work difficult, to sum up. He revelled in behaving in ways that seemed diametrically opposed to typical conceptions of educated men; his early lectures, in particular, were legendary for their wit and refusal to take anything seriously. All such behaviour, however erratic and difficult to understand, was justified as a “transformation strategy” to push people “beyond the consciousness”. He lectured on major spiritual traditions such as Jainism, Hinduism, Hassidism, Tantrism, Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, and Buddhism, as well as Eastern and Western mystics and sacred texts such as the Upanishads and the Guru Granth Sahib. Lewis F. Carter, a sociologist, considered his theories as founded in Hindu Advaita, which holds that human experiences of separateness, dualism, and temporality are a form of cosmic consciousness dance or play in which everything is sacred, has perfect worth, and is an end in itself. While his contemporary Jiddu Krishnamurti did not agree with Rajneesh, there are striking parallels between their beliefs.
Osho also drew on a variety of Western concepts. His conviction in the oneness of opposites is reminiscent of Heraclitus, but his image of man as a machine doomed to the helpless performance of unconscious, neurotic patterns is reminiscent of Sigmund Freud and George Gurdjieff. His vision of the “new man” transcending custom is evocative of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil; his support for sexual emancipation is evocative of D. H. Lawrence, and his “dynamic” meditations are reminiscent of Wilhelm Reich.
Ego and Mind
Each human being, as per Osho, is a Buddha having the potential for awakening, capable of unconditional love and of responding instead of reacting to life, however, the ego usually hinders this by identifying with social conditioning and creating false needs and conflicts, as well as an illusory sense of identity that is nothing more than a barrier of dreams. Otherwise, man’s inherent existence might blossom as he moves from the perimeter to the centre. Rajneesh saw the mind first and foremost as a survival device, duplicating effective behavioural techniques.
However, he claims that the mind’s appeal to the past deprives humans of the ability to live authentically in the present, causing them to suppress genuine emotions and close themselves off to joyful experiences that arise naturally when embracing the present moment: “The mind has no inherent capacity for joy. … It only thinks about joy“. As a result, people poison themselves with various neuroses, signs of jealousy, and insecurities. He contended that psychological repression, which is frequently encouraged by religious leaders, causes suppressed feelings to resurface in a different form, and that sexual suppression resulted in cultures obsessed with sex. Instead of repressing, people should fully trust and accept themselves. This could not be understood logically because the mind could only integrate it as another piece of information: meditation was required.
Rajneesh presented meditation as a level of consciousness to be maintained at all times, a total awareness that awakens the individual from the sleep of mechanical reflexes conditioned by beliefs and expectations. In the preparatory stages of meditation, he used Western psychotherapy to establish awareness of mental and emotional patterns. He proposed almost a hundred meditation techniques in all. His “active meditation” approaches are distinguished by stages of physical activity that lead to silence. The most well-known of these is Dynamic MeditationTM, which has been regarded as a microcosm of his philosophy. It consists of five steps, four of which are accompanied by music and are performed with closed or blindfolded eyes. First, the meditator practises rapid breathing via the nose for ten minutes. The next ten minutes are dedicated to catharsis: “Allow whatever happens to happen. Laugh, scream, bounce, shake — do whatever makes you happy! “. After that, for 10 minutes, jump up and down with arms lifted, exclaiming Hoo! each time one lands on the balls of one’s feet. At the fourth, silent stage, the meditator entirely stops moving and remains immobile for fifteen minutes, observing all that is happening. The meditation concludes with fifteen minutes of dancing and rejoicing. Other active meditation techniques established by Rajneesh include the Kundalini “shaking” meditation and the Nadabrahma “humming” meditation, which is less lively but also entails physical action.
He also used to conduct Gibberish meetings in which pupils were asked to simply blabber nonsensical sounds, which he claims clears the mind of junk and relaxes it. His subsequent “meditative therapies” need sessions over several days, with OSHO Mystic Rose requiring three hours of laughter every day for a week, three hours of weeping every day for a second week, and 3 hours of quiet contemplation for a third week. These “witnessing” processes allow for a “leap into awareness”.
Another important factor was his physical presence as a master: “A Master shares his being with you, not his philosophy… He never does anything to the disciple.” Another such mechanism was the initiation he provided: “… It becomes a communion if your being can communicate with mine… It is the highest type of interaction plausible: communication without words. Our spirits unite. This is only feasible if you become a disciple”. Rajneesh, as an expressly “self-parodying” guru, eventually destroyed his own authority, revealing his teachings to be nothing but a “game” or a joke. He stressed that anything and everything could be turned into a meditation opportunity.
Rajneesh regarded his “neo-sannyas” as either a completely new form of spiritual discipline or one that had existed but had since been forgotten. He believed that ancient Hindu sannyas had devolved into a system of social renunciation and imitation. He stressed complete inner freedom and personal responsibility, rather than requiring superficial behavioural adjustments, but rather a deeper, interior transformation. Rather than being denied, desires were to be acknowledged and exceeded. Desires for sex would be left behind once this inner flowering had occurred. Rajneesh claimed to be “the rich man’s guru,” claiming that material poverty does not have any spiritual meaning. He was pictured wearing magnificent attire and hand-made timepieces, and when in Oregon, he apparently drove a different Rolls-Royce every day – his supporters reportedly desired to purchase him 365 of them, one for each day of the year. The press was handed publicity photos of the Rolls-Royces. They could have reflected both his support for money and his desire to insult American sensibilities, just as he had previously loved offending Indian sensibilities. Rajneesh aspired to create a “new man” who combined Gautama Buddha’s mysticism with Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek’s enthusiasm for life: “He should be as accurate and objective as a scientist… as sensitive, as full of heart, as a poet… rooted deep down in his being as the mystic”.
His term “new man” referred to both males and women, whose duties he considered as complementary; indeed, women held the majority of leadership posts in his movement. This new guy, “Zorba the Buddha,” should embrace both science and spirituality. Rajneesh believed that humanity was on the verge of destruction owing to overpopulation, an impending nuclear war, and diseases like AIDS and that many of society’s faults could be addressed by scientific means. The new man would be free of institutions like family, marriage, political views, and faiths. In this regard, Rajneesh is comparable to other counter-culture gurus, as well as possibly certain postmodern and deconstructionist intellectuals. He described the new man as “is not necessarily the better man. He will be livelier. He will be more joyous. He will be more alert. But who knows whether he will be better or not? As far as politicians are concerned, he will not be better, because he will not be a better soldier. He will not be ready to be a soldier at all. He will not be competitive, and the whole competitive economy will collapse“.
Heart to Heart Communion
In April 1981, Rajneesh sent a message stating that he had reached the pinnacle of his work and would now only communicate through the quiet. Rajneesh ceased speaking publicly on May 1, 1981, and entered a period of “silent heart to heart communication.” Rajneesh remarked in the first speech he gave after breaking his three-year public silence on 30 October 1984, that he had gone into silence in part to deter people who were simply academically following him.
“First, my silence was not because I have said everything. My silence was because I wanted to drop those people who were hanging around my words. I wanted people who can be with me even if I am silent. I sorted out all those people without any trouble. They simply dropped out. Three years was enough time. And when I saw all those people – and they were not many, but they were hanging around my words. I don’t want people to just believe in my words; I want people to live my silence. In these three years it was a great time to be silent with my people, and to see their courage and their love in remaining with a man who perhaps may never speak again. I wanted people who can be with me even if I am silent.“ – OSHO The Luminous Rebel. India: Wisdom Tree
Osho’s Ten Commandments
A correspondent once asked him for his “Ten Commandments” when he was still Acharya Rajneesh. Rajneesh responded that it was a tricky problem because he was opposed to any form of a commandment, but “just for fun,” he stated the following:
|Osho (Osho’s Ten Commandments)
|Never obey anyone’s command unless it is coming from within you also.
|There is no God other than life itself.
|Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.
|Love is prayer.
|To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
|Life is now and here.
|Do not swim – float.
|Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
|Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.
He highlighted the numbers 3, 7, 9, and 10. These commandments’ themes have become constant leitmotifs in his movement.
Legacy of Osho
While Rajneesh’s teachings were not well received in his own nation during his lifetime, there has been a shift in public perception in India following his death. In 1991, an Indian newspaper named Rajneesh, alongside giants like Gautama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, as one of the 10 people who had most influenced India’s fate; in Rajneesh’s case, by “liberating the minds of future generations from the shackles of religiosity and conformism.” Rajneesh has received more praise in his home country since his death than he did while living. Tanweer Alam, a journalist for The Indian Express, remarked, “The late Rajneesh was a fine interpreter of social absurdities that destroyed human happiness”. At a celebration celebrating the 75th anniversary of Rajneesh’s birth in 2006, Indian musician Wasifuddin Dagar stated that Rajneesh’s teachings are “more relevant in the current milieu than they have ever been.” As of January 2008, there were 60 Rajneesh centres in Nepal, with about 45,000 initiated disciples. Rajneesh’s whole body of work is housed in the National Parliament Library in New Delhi. Vinod Khanna, a Bollywood actor and former Minister of State for External Affairs, was Rajneesh’s gardener in Rajneeshpuram in the 1980s. Rajneesh is recognised for writing over 650 books that represent his thoughts on all aspects of human existence. Almost all of them are transcriptions of his audio speeches.
Many Bollywood celebrities, like Parveen Babi, were known to adhere to Rajneesh’s worldview. His novels are published in over 60 languages from over 200 publishing houses and have reached the best-seller lists in Italy and South Korea. Rajneesh is still well-known and widely written in the field of meditation, and his work also contains social and political comments. Rajneesh’s movement has entrenched itself in the market of new religions after nearly two decades of dispute and a decade of conciliation. His followers have reframed important components of his teaching in order to make it appear less contentious to outsiders. North American and Western European societies have met them halfway, becoming increasingly accepting of spiritual issues such as yoga and meditation. The Osho International Foundation (OIF) offers stress management workshops to corporate clients such as IBM and BMW, and its yearly revenue in the United States is estimated to be between $15 and $45 million. In Italy, a satirical Facebook group titled Le più belle frasi di Osho was founded in 2016 and quickly topped a million followers, becoming a cultural sensation in the country, with posts being reproduced by national dailies and featured on television.
Rajneesh’s Pune ashram has been renamed the OSHO International Meditation Resort. It bills itself as the “Esalen of the East,” teaching a wide range of spiritual approaches from various traditions and marketing itself as a spiritual oasis, a “holy space” for discovering oneself and harmonising the demands of body and mind in a beautiful resort setting. Politicians and media figures, according to press accounts, have been among the notable visitors. In 2011, the Department of Philosophy at Mankunwarbai College for Women in Jabalpur hosted a national seminar on Rajneesh’s teachings. The seminar, sponsored by the University Grants Commission’s Bhopal office, centred on Rajneesh’s “Zorba the Buddha” teaching, attempting to integrate spirituality with a materialist and objective perspective. As of 2013, all visitors arriving at the resort were obliged to be tested for HIV/AIDS at the Welcome Center.
Rajneesh is widely regarded as one of the most divisive spiritual gurus to emerge from India in the twentieth century. His philosophy of sexual, emotional, spiritual, and institutional liberty, along with his enjoyment of provoking offence, ensured that his existence was surrounded by controversy. Rajneesh became renowned
in the United States as the “Rolls-Royce guru”. He mocked traditional notions of nationality, publicly showed contempt for politicians, and made fun of religious leaders, who found his hubris intolerable. His ideas on sex, marriage, family, and relationships ran against to established beliefs and sparked outrage and criticism around the world. His movement was frequently regarded as a cult. Rajneesh was perceived to live “in ostentation and insulting opulence,” but his followers, the majority of whom had cut links with outside friends and family and donated all or most of their money and goods to the commune, were said to be living at a “subsistence level”.
Appraisal as Charismatic Leader
Rajneesh’s charisma has been mentioned by several commentators. Anthony Storr noted in his comparison of Rajneesh to Gurdjieff that Rajneesh was “Many of those who met him for the very first time felt that their most inner thoughts were quickly understood, that they were embraced and unreservedly welcomed rather than judged,” he said. Rajneesh appeared to exude energy and unlock dormant potential in everyone who came into contact with him “. Many sannyasins have reported that they “fell in love with Rajneesh” after hearing him speak. Susan J. Palmer stated that even his detractors acknowledged the impact of his presence. After a gaze from Rajneesh’s passing Rolls-Royce, James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist and researcher, recalls abruptly finding himself giggling like a child, hugging strangers, and crying tears of appreciation. After hearing Rajneesh in person, Frances FitzGerald decided that he was a remarkable presenter, and expressed surprise at his talent as a comic, which she had not realised from reading his books, as well as the hypnotic aspect of his presentations, which had a deep influence on his audience.
Hugh Milne (Swami Shivamurti), a former devotee who worked very closely with Osho as the leader of the Poona Ashram Guard and also as his private bodyguard between 1973 and 1982, observed that their first meeting left him with the impression that far more than sayings had passed among them: “There is no invasion of privacy, no alarm, but it is as if his soul is slowly slipping inside mine, and in a split second transferring vital information“. Milne noted another aspect of Rajneesh’s persuasive abilities when he said he was “a brilliant manipulator of the unquestioning disciple“. In dismissing all reasoned laws and institutions and asserting to undermine all hierarchical power, Rajneesh coincided with Weber’s pure charismatic type, though Urban claimed that the commitment to total freedom innate in this resulted in a bureaucratic system and organisational control within larger collectives. Rajneesh may have had a narcissistic personality, according to some scholars.
In his paper “The Narcissistic Guru: A Profile of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh”, Ronald O. Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Oregon State University, stated that Osho displayed all the common characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder, like a grandiose feeling of self-importance and uniqueness; a preoccupation with fantasies of limitless success; a desire for constant attention or admiration; a set of characteristic responses to harms to his self-esteem; disturbances in interpersonal relationships; a preoccupation with self grooming along with frequent resorting to prevarication or blatant lying; and a lack of empathy. He proposed that Rajneesh suffered from a profound absence of parental discipline since he was raised in the care of indulgent grandparents, drawing on Rajneesh’s memoir Glimpses of a Golden Childhood. He came to the conclusion that Rajneesh’s claim to be a Buddha was a delusion brought on by his narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterised by ego-inflation rather than egolessness.
Films about Osho
|The first documentary film about Rajneesh was made by David M. Knipe. Program 13 of Exploring the Religions of South Asia, “A Contemporary Guru: Rajneesh”.
|The second documentary on Rajneesh called Bhagwan, The Movie was made in 1978 by American filmmaker Robert Hillmann.
|In 1978 the German film maker Wolfgang Dobrowolny (Sw Veet Artho) visited the Ashram in Poona and created a unique documentary about Rajneesh, his Sannyasins and the ashram, titled Ashram in Poona: Bhagwans Experiment.
|In 1981, the BBC broadcast an episode in the documentary series The World About Us titled The God that Fled, made by British American journalist Christopher Hitchens.
|1985 (3 November)
|CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired a segment about the Bhagwan in Oregon.
|In the mid-eighties Jeremiah Films produced a film Fear is the Master.
|Another documentary, named Rajneesh: Spiritual Terrorist, was made by Australian film maker Cynthia Connop in the late 1980s for ABC TV/Learning Channel.
|UK documentary series called Scandal produced an episode entitled, “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh: The Man Who Was God”.
|Forensic Files Season 7 Episode 8 takes a look in to how forensics was used to determine the cause of the Bio-Attack in 1984.
|A Swiss documentary, titled Guru – Bhagwan, His Secretary & His Bodyguard, was released in 2010.
|Oregon Public Broadcasting produced the documentary titled Rajneeshpuram which aired on 19 November 2012.
|Rebellious Flower, an Indian-made biographical movie of Rajneesh’s early life, based upon his own recollections and those of those who knew him, was released. It was written and produced by Jagdish Bharti and directed by Krishan Hooda, with Prince Shah and Shashank Singh playing the title role.
|Wild Wild Country, a Netflix documentary series on Rajneesh, focusing on Rajneeshpuram and the controversies surrounding it.
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