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Rajneesh

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"Osho" redirects here. For the title of a Zen priest, see Osh. For other uses, see Osho
(disambiguation) and Rajneesh (disambiguation).

Rajneesh (Osho)

Born

Chandra Mohan Jain


11 December 1931
Kuchwada, Bhopal State, British Raj
(now Madhya Pradesh, India)

Died

9 January 1990 (aged 58)


Pune, Maharashtra, India

Nationality

Indian

Education

University of Sagar

Known for

Spirituality, Mysticism

Notable

Over 600 books, several thousand audio and video

work(s)

discourses

Movement

Jivan Jagriti Andolan; Neo-sannyas

Chandra Mohan Jain (11 December 1931 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya
Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh ( pronunciation (helpinfo)) during
the 1970s and 1980s, and as Osho ( pronunciation (helpinfo);) from 1989, was an
Indian mystic, guru and spiritual teacher. His international following has continued beyond his death.
A professor of philosophy, he travelled throughout India during the 1960s as a public speaker. His
outspoken criticism of politicians and the political mind, Mahatma Gandhi and
institutionalised religion made him controversial. He advocated a more open attitude

towards sexuality, a stance which earned him the sobriquet of "sex guru" in the Indian and (later)
international press.[1] In 1970 Rajneesh settled for a time in Bombay, initiating disciples (known
as neo-sannyasins) and assuming the role of spiritual teacher. In his discourses he reinterpreted the
writings of religious traditions, mystics and philosophers from around the world. Moving to Pune in
1974, he established an ashram which attracted a growing number of Westerners. The ashram
offered therapies derived from the Human Potential Movement to its Western audience and made
news in India and abroad because of its permissive climate and Rajneesh's provocative lectures. By
the late 1970s, tensions were mounting with the Indian government and the surrounding society.
In mid-1981, Rajneesh relocated to the United States, where his followers established an intentional
community (later known as Rajneeshpuram) near Antelope, Oregon south of The Dalles, Oregon.
Almost immediately, the commune's leadership became embroiled in conflicts with local residents
(primarily over land use), which were marked by hostility on both sides. The large number of RollsRoyce cars purchased for Rajneesh's use by his followers also attracted criticism. The Oregon
commune collapsed in 1985 when Rajneesh revealed that the commune leadership had committed
a number of serious crimes, including a bioterror attack (food contamination) on the citizens of The
Dalles.[2] He was arrested shortly afterwards, and charged with immigration violations. Rajneesh
was deported from the United States in accordance with a plea bargain.[3][4][5] Twenty-one countries
denied him entry, causing Rajneesh to travel the world before returning to Pune, where he died in
1990.
Rajneesh's ashram in Pune is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort.
His syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration,
courage, creativity and humour: qualities which he viewed as suppressed by adherence to static
belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation[citation needed]. Rajneesh's teachings have had a
notable influence on Western spirituality, as well as New Age thought.[6][7] Their popularity has
increased since his death.[8][9]
Contents
[hide]

1 Childhood and adolescence: 19311950


2 University years and public speaking: 19511970
3 Bombay: 19701974
4 Pune ashram: 19741981
5 U.S. years: 19811985
6 1984 bioterror attack
7 Travels and return to Pune: 19851990
8 Teachings
o 8.1 Ego and the mind
o 8.2 Meditation
o 8.3 Sannyas
o 8.4 Renunciation and the "new man"
o 8.5 The "ten commandments"
o 8.6 Euthanasia and Eugenics
o 8.7 Jewish "guilt", the Holocaust and the gas chambers' "holy smoke"
o 8.8 Homosexuality as perversion; segregation and relocation of homosexuals
o 8.9 Legacy
9 Criticism
o 9.1 By religious scholars
o 9.2 As charismatic leader
o 9.3 As philosopher and orator

o 9.4 Films about Rajneesh


10 Selected works
11 See also
12 Notes
13 Citations
14 Bibliography
o 14.1 References
o 14.2 Further reading
15 External links

Childhood and adolescence: 19311950[edit]


Rajneesh was born Chandra Mohan Jain (the eldest of eleven children of a cloth merchant and his
wife) at his maternal grandparents' house in Kuchwada, a small Indian village in the Raisen
district of Madhya Pradesh State.[10][11][12] His parents, Babulal and Saraswati Jain (Taranpanthi Jains),
let him live with his maternal grandparents until he was seven years old.[13] By Rajneesh's account,
this was a major influence on his development; his grandmother gave him unbridled freedom and
imposed no education on him.[14]When he was seven his grandfather died, and Chandra went
to Gadarwara to live with his parents.[10][15] Rajneesh was profoundly affected by his grandfather's
death and the death of his childhood girlfriend (his cousin Shashi) from typhoid when he was 15. His
preoccupation with death lasted through much of his youth.[15][16] He was a gifted though rebellious
school student, and acquired a reputation as a formidable debater.[17] Rajneesh became an antitheist, was interested in hypnosis, and was briefly associated withsocialism.

University years and public speaking: 19511970[edit]


In 1951, aged nineteen, Rajneesh began his studies at Hitkarini College in Jabalpur.[18] Asked to
leave after conflicts with an instructor, he transferred to D. N. Jain College in Jabalpur.[19] Disruptively
argumentative, he was not required to attend classes at D. N. Jain College (except for
examinations); he used his free time to work as an assistant editor for a local newspaper.[20] He
began speaking in public at the annual Sarva Dharma Sammelan (meeting of all faiths) at Jabalpur,
organised by the Teranpanthi Jain community into which he was born. He participated there from
1951 to 1968.[21] He resisted parental pressure to marry.[22] Rajneesh later said he became spiritually
enlightened on 21 March 1953, at age 21, in a mystical experience while sitting under a tree in the
Bhanvartal Garden in Jabalpur.[23]
After completing his B.A. in philosophy at D. N. Jain College in 1955, he joined the University of
Sagar, where in 1957 he earned his M.A. with distinction in philosophy.[24] He secured a teaching
post at Raipur Sanskrit College; however, the vice-chancellor soon asked him to seek a transfer
since he considered him a danger to his students' morality, character and religion.[25]
Beginning in 1958 he lectured in philosophy at Jabalpur University, and was promoted to professor
in 1960.[25] A popular lecturer, he was acknowledged by his peers as an exceptionally intelligent man
who had overcome the deficiencies of a small-town education.[26]
Concurrent with his university job, Rajneesh traveled throughout India under the name Acharya
Rajneesh (Acharya means teacher, or professor; Rajneesh was a nickname he acquired in
childhood), presenting lectures critical of socialism and Gandhi.[17][25][27] He said socialism would only
socialise poverty, and described Gandhi as a masochistreactionary who worshipped
poverty.[17][27] What India needed to prosper were capitalism, science, technology and birth
control.[17] He criticised orthodox Indian religions as dead, filled with empty ritual and oppressing their
followers with fears of damnation and promises of blessings.[17][27] Such statements made him
controversial, but gained him a loyal following which included wealthy merchants and
businessmen.[17][28] They arranged individual consultations about their spiritual development and daily

life in return for donations (a common arrangement in India), and his practice grew rapidly.[28] In
1962, he began to lead three- to ten-day meditation camps; the first meditation centres (Jivan Jagruti
Kendra) emerged around his teaching, then known as the Life Awakening Movement (Jivan Jagruti
Andolan).[29] After a controversial speaking tour in 1966, he resigned from his teaching post.
After calling for a greater acceptance of sex in a 1968 lecture series (later published as From Sex to
Superconsciousness), Rajneesh was dubbed "the sex guru" by the Indian press. His talks
scandalised Hindu leaders.[30][1]
When invited (despite the misgivings of some Hindu leaders) to speak at the Second World Hindu
Conference in 1969, he said that "any religion which considers life meaningless and full of misery,
and teaches the hatred of life, is not a true religion. Religion is an art that shows how to enjoy
life".[30][31] He characterised priests as being motivated by self-interest, provoking
the shankaracharya of Puri to attempt (in vain) to have his lecture stopped.[31]

Bombay: 19701974[edit]

Rajneesh's birthday celebration at his Mumbai residence on 11 December 1972

At a public meditation event in spring 1970, Rajneesh presented his Dynamic Meditation method for
the first time.[32] He left Jabalpur for Mumbai at the end of June.[33] On 26 September 1970, he
initiated his first group of disciples (or neo-sannyasins).[34] Becoming a disciple meant assuming a
new name and wearing the traditional orange dress of ascetic Hindu holy men, as well as
a mala (beaded necklace) holding a locket with his picture.[35] However, his sannyasins were
encouraged to follow a celebratory (rather than ascetic) lifestyle.[36] He was not to be worshipped but
seen as a catalytic agent, "a sun encouraging the flower to open".[36]
Rajneesh had acquired a secretary, Laxmi Thakarsi Kuruwa, who (as his first disciple) had taken the
name Ma Yoga Laxmi.[17] Laxmi was the daughter of one of his early followers, a wealthy Jain who
had been a key supporter of the Congress Party during the struggle for Indian independence, and
who had close ties to Gandhi, Nehru and Morarji Desai.[17] Laxmi raised the money which enabled
Rajneesh to stop traveling and settle down.[17] In December 1970 he moved to the Woodlands
Apartments in Mumbai, where he gave lectures and received visitors (among them his first
Westerners).[33] He traveled rarely, no longer speaking at open public meetings.[33]
In 1971, he adopted the title "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh".[35] Shree is a polite form of address,
roughly equivalent to the English "sir";Bhagwan means "Blessed One", used in Indian tradition as a
term of respect for a human being in whom the divine is apparent.[37][38]

Pune ashram: 19741981[edit]


The humid Bombay weather was detrimental to Rajneesh's health; he
developed diabetes, asthma and a number of allergies.[35] In 1974, on the 21st anniversary of his
experience in Jabalpur, he moved to a property in Koregaon Park, Pune, which was purchased with

the help of Ma Yoga Mukta (Catherine Venizelos, a Greek shipping heiress).[39][40] Rajneesh taught at
the Pune ashram from 1974 to 1981. The two adjoining houses and 6 acres (2.4 ha) of land became
the center of what is now the Osho International Meditation Resort. It facilitated audio and (later)
video recording and printing of his discourses for worldwide distribution, enabling him to reach a
larger audience. The number of Western visitors increased.[41] The ashram soon featured an artsand-crafts centre, which produced clothes, jewellery, ceramics and organic cosmetics and hosted
theatre, music and mime performances.[41] In 1975, after the arrival of therapists from the Human
Potential Movement, the ashram began to complement its meditations with group therapy[42][43] (which
became a major source of income).[44][45]
The Pune ashram was an intense place with a charged, carnival atmosphere.[41][46][47] The day began
at 6:00 am, with Dynamic Meditation.[48][49] At 8:00 am Rajneesh gave a 60- to 90-minute lecture in
the ashram's Buddha Hall auditorium, commenting on religious writings or answering questions from
visitors and disciples.[41][49] Until 1981, lecture series in Hindi alternated with series
in English.[50] During the day, meditation and therapy took place; their intensity was ascribed to the
energy of Rajneesh's "buddhafield".[46] In evening darshans, Rajneesh conversed with individual
disciples and visitors, and initiated disciples (sannyas).[41][49] Sannyasins came for darshan when
leaving, returning, or when they had anything they wanted to discuss.[41]
To decide which therapies to participate in, visitors consulted Rajneesh or made selections
according to their own preferences.[51] Some early therapy groups in the ashram (including
an encounter group) were experimental, allowing physical aggression and sexual encounters
between participants.[52][53] Conflicting reports of injuries sustained in encounter-group sessions began
to appear in the press.[54][55][56]
Dick Price, a prominent Human Potential Movement therapist and co-founder of the Esalen Institute,
found that the groups encouraged participants to "be violent" rather than "play at being violent" (the
norm in U.S. encounter groups); he criticised them for making "the worst mistakes of some
inexperienced Esalen group leaders".[57] Price is alleged to have left the Pune ashram with a broken
arm, after eight hours locked in a room with participants armed with wooden weapons.[57] Bernard
Gunther (Price's Esalen colleague) fared better in Pune and wrote a book, Dying for Enlightenment,
with photographs and descriptions of the meditation and therapy groups.[57] Violence in the therapy
groups ended in January 1979, when the ashram issued a press release saying that violence "had
fulfilled its function within the overall context of the ashram as an evolving spiritual commune".[58]
Sannyasins who "graduated" from months of meditation and therapy could apply to work in the
ashram, in an environment that was consciously modelled on the community led by George
Gurdjieff in 1930s France.[59] Features copied from Gurdjieff were hard, unpaid work and supervisors
chosen for their abrasive personalities, both designed to provoke opportunities for self-observation
and transcendence.[59] Many disciples stayed for years.[59] In addition to the controversy surrounding
the therapies, allegations of drug use amongst sannyasins began to mar the ashram's
image;[60] some Western sannyasins financed extended stays in India with prostitution and drugrunning.[61][62] Several later said that while Rajneesh was not directly involved, they discussed their
plans with him in darshan and he approved.[63]
By the late 1970s the Pune ashram had become too small, and Rajneesh asked that somewhere
larger be found.[64] Sannyasins throughout India began looking for properties; those found included
one in the province of Kutch in Gujarat and two more in India's mountainous north.[64] The plan to
move was never implemented, since mounting tensions between the ashram and the Janata
Party government of Morarji Desai resulted in an impasse.[64] Land-use approval was denied, and the
government stopped issuing visas to foreign visitors who indicated the ashram as their chief
destination.[64][65] Desai's government also retroactively cancelled the tax-exempt status of the
ashram, resulting in a tax claim estimated at $5 million.[66] Conflicts with other Indian religious leaders
aggravated the situation.

By 1980 the ashram was so controversial that Indira Gandhi, despite an association between
Rajneesh and the Indian Congress Party dating to the 1960s, was unwilling to intercede after her
return to power.[66] In May 1980 an assassination attempt was made during one of Rajneesh's
discourses by Vilas Tupe, a young Hindufundamentalist.[64][67][68] Tupe claims that he attacked
Rajneesh because he believed him to be a CIA agent.[68]
By 1981, Rajneesh's ashram hosted 30,000 visitors per year,[60] and daily discourse audiences were
predominantly European and American.[69][70] Many observers noted that Rajneesh's lecture style
changed during the late 1970s, becoming less focused intellectually and featuring an increasing
number of ethnic or dirty jokes intended to shock (or amuse) his audience.[64] On 10 April 1981,
having discoursed daily for nearly 15 years, Rajneesh entered a three-and-a-half-year period of selfimposed public silence; satsangssilent sitting, with music and readings from spiritual works such
as Khalil Gibran's The Prophet or the Isha Upanishadreplaced discourses.[71][72] Around the same
time, Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) replaced Ma Yoga Laxmi as Rajneesh's secretary.[73]

U.S. years: 19811985[edit]


Further information: Rajneeshpuram
In 1981, increased tension in the Pune ashram, criticism of its activities, and threatened punitive
action by Indian authorities resulted in Sheela and Rajneesh deciding to move the operation to
the United States.[74][75][76] According to Susan J. Palmer, the move "appears to have been a unilateral
decision on the part of Sheela."[77] Gordon notes that Sheela and Osho discussed establishing a
commune in the U.S. in late 1980,[73] although he did not travel there until June 1, 1981.
Osho travelled to the United States on a tourist visa (ostensibly for medical reasons), and spent
several months at a Rajneeshee retreat center at Kip's Castle in Montclair, New Jersey.[78][79] He had
recently been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc and treated by several doctors, including James
Cyriax (a St. Thomas' Hospital musculoskeletal physician and expert on epidural injections, who was
flown in from London).[73][80][81] Osho's previous secretary, Laxmi, told Frances FitzGerald that "she
had failed to find a property in India adequate to [Osho's] needs, and thus, when the medical
emergency came, the initiative had passed to Sheela".[81] A public statement by Sheela indicated that
Rajneesh was in grave danger if he remained in India, but would receive appropriate medical
treatment in the U.S. if he required surgery.[73][80][82] Despite the allegedly serious nature of his
condition, Rajneesh never sought outside medical treatment during his time in the United States,
leading the Immigration and Naturalization Service to believe that he had a preconceived intention to
remain there.[81] Rajneesh in 1984 pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, including making false
statements on his initial visa application.[nb 1][nb 2][nb 3]
On 13 June 1981 Sheela's husband, Swami Prem Chinmaya (Marc Harris Silverman), bought the
Big Muddy Ranch, a 64,229-acre (25,990 ha) ranch near Antelope, Oregon, for $5.75 million. The
ranch spanned two Oregon counties: (Wasco and Jefferson).[83] The ranch was renamed "Rancho
Rajneesh", and Osho moved there on 29 August.[84] Initial local reaction ranged from tolerance to
hostility, varying with the resident's proximity to the ranch.[85] Within a year a series of legal battles
had begun, primarily over land use.[86]In May 1982, the residents of Rancho Rajneesh voted to
incorporate it as the city of Rajneeshpuram.[86] Conflict with neighbours became increasingly bitter,
and over the following years, the commune was subject to pressure from a number of
groups.[86][87] The commune leaders' stance was uncompromising, confrontational and impatient; their
behaviour was intimidating, and repeated changes in the commune's stated plans were seen as
attempts at deception.[88] In 1984, the commune imported thousands of homeless people from U.S.
cities in an unsuccessful attempt to register them to vote in an upcoming county election. When this
was challenged, the people were released in surrounding towns for Oregon State to return them to
their home cities at state expense.[89][90]

Osho greeted by sannyasins on one of his daily "drive-bys" in Rajneeshpuram. Circa 1982.

From April 1981 to November 1984, Osho was "in silence", not speaking publicly or giving
discourses. During that time, videos of his discourses were played to audiences instead.[78] His time
was largely spent in seclusion; he communicated only with a few key disciples, including Ma Anand
Sheela and his caretaker girlfriend Ma Yoga Vivek (Christine Woolf).[78] Osho lived in a trailer next to
a covered swimming pool and other amenities. He saw most of the residents as they stood by the
side of the road during his slow, daily drives.[91] Rajneesh was notorious for the many RollsRoyces bought for his use, eventually totalling 93 vehicles;[92][93] this made him the largest single
owner of Rolls-Royces in the world at that time.[94] His followers planned to expand his collection to
365: a Rolls-Royce for every day of the year.[94]
In 1981, Osho gave Sheela his limited power of attorney, removing the limits the following year.[95] In
1983, Sheela announced that he would henceforth speak only with her;[96] Osho later said that she
kept him in ignorance.[95] Many sannyasins expressed doubts about whether Sheela properly
represented Osho, and many dissidents left Rajneeshpuram in protest of its autocratic leadership.[97]
The many resident sannyasins without U.S. citizenship experienced visa difficulties, which some
tried to overcome by marriages of convenience.[98] Commune administrators tried to resolve Osho's
own immigration issues by declaring him the head of a religion, Rajneeshism.[91] In November 1981,
Osho applied for resident status as a religious worker, but his application was refused on the
grounds that he could not lead a religion while unwell and in silence.[91][99]This decision was later
overturned due to procedural violations; permission for Osho to stay as a religious leader was
granted in 1984.[91][100]
During the Oregon years, Osho emphasized his prediction that the world might be destroyed by
nuclear war (or other disaster) during the 1990s.[101] He said as early as 1964 that "the third and last
war is now on the way", frequently speaking about the need to create a "new humanity" to avoid
global suicide.[102] This now became the basis for a newexclusivism. A 1983 article in the Rajneesh
Foundation newsletter announcing that "Rajneeshism is creating a Noah's Ark of consciousness ... I
say to you that except this there is no other way" increased the sense of urgency to build the Oregon
commune.[102] In March 1984, Sheela announced that Rajneesh predicted the death of two-thirds of
humanity from AIDS.[102][103] Sannyasins were required to wear rubber gloves and condoms if they had
sex, and to refrain from kissingmeasures represented in the press as an overreaction, since
condoms were not commonly recommended for AIDS prevention at that time.[104][105]
During his time in Rajneeshpuram, Osho dictated three books under the influence of nitrous
oxide administered by his dentist: Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Notes of a Madman and Books I
Have Loved.[106] Sheela later said that Osho took sixty milligrams of Valium each day and was
addicted to nitrous oxide,[107][108][109] but he denied these allegations when questioned by
journalists.[107][110]

After the Rajneeshiis' efforts to incorporate and develop the ranch as a new city were unsuccessful,
the Rajneeshiis' attempted to take over the tiny city of Antelope, Oregon(2010 population 45). On
September 18, 1984, Antelope's charter was amended by a vote of 57 to 22 to change the name of
the city to Rajneesh.[111] In November, Rajneesh, who had originally pleaded innocent to charges of
immigration fraud, changed his plea to guilty and was allowed to leave the United States under the
terms of a plea bargain.[112]
On November 6, 1985, the remaining residents, both original and Rajneeshee, voted 34 to 0 to
restore the original name, which was never changed by the Postal Service but had been changed
and was subsequently restored by the United States Board on Geographic Names.[113]
The ranch, 18 miles (29 km) from Antelope,[114] is now owned by Young Life and has been converted
into a camp known as "Washington Family Ranch."[115]

1984 bioterror attack[edit]


Further information: 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack
Osho coached Sheela in using media coverage to her advantage; during his period of public silence,
he said privately that Sheela spoke on his behalf.[116] He supported her in disputes about her
behaviour with the commune leadership, but in spring 1984 (as tension amongst the inner circle
peaked) a private meeting was convened with Sheela and his house staff.[116] According to testimony
from Swami Devageet (Charles Harvey Newman),[117] she was admonished before the others. Osho
declared that his housenot herswas the centre of the commune.[116] He is also said to have
warned that anyone close to him would be a target for Sheela.[116]
On 30 October 1984, Osho ended his period of public silence, announcing that it was time to "speak
his own truths."[118][119] In July 1985 he resumed daily public discourses (against Sheela's wishes,
according to statements he made to the press).[120] On 16 September 1985, two days after Sheela
and her management team had left the commune for Europe, Osho held a press conference in
which he described Sheela and her associates a "gang of fascists".[2] He accused them of a number
of serious crimes (most dating back to 1984), and invited authorities to investigate.[2]
The alleged crimes (which Osho said were committed without his knowledge or consent) included
the attempted murder of his physician, poisonings of public officials, wiretappingand bugging in the
commune and his home, and a bioterror attack on citizens of The Dalles, Oregon (using salmonella)
to influence county elections.[2] While his allegations were initially greeted with scepticism by outside
observers,[121] subsequent investigation by U.S. authorities confirmed the accusations. Sheela and
several associates pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.[122] On 30 September
1985, Osho denied that he was a religious teacher;[123] his disciples burned 5,000 copies of the Book
of Rajneeshism, a 78-page compilation of his teachings which defined Rajneeshism as "a
religionless religion".[123][124] He said he ordered the book-burning to rid th