Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)

Osho, born Chandra Mohan Jain (Hindi: चन्द्र मोहन जैन) (11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, calling himself Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh during the 1970s and 1980s and taking the name Osho in 1989, was an Indian mystic and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following. His syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, creativity and humour – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation. His teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought, and their popularity has increased markedly since his death.

Osho was a professor of philosophy and travelled throughout India in the 1960s as a public speaker. His views against socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and institutionalised religion were controversial. He also advocated a more open attitude towards sexuality, a stance that earned him the sobriquet "sex guru" in the Indian and later the international press.In 1970 he settled for a while in Mumbai. He began initiating disciples (known as neo-sannyasins) and took on the role of a spiritual teacher. In his discourses, he reinterpreted writings of religious traditions, mystics and philosophers from around the world. Moving to Pune in 1974, he established an ashram that attracted increasing numbers of Westerners. The ashram offered therapies derived from the Human Potential Movement to its Western audience and made news in India and abroad, chiefly because of its permissive climate and Osho's provocative lectures. By the end of the 1970s, there were mounting tensions with the Indian government and the surrounding society.

In 1981, Osho relocated to the United States and his followers established an intentional community, later known as Rajneeshpuram, in the state of Oregon. Within a year the leadership of the commune became embroiled in a conflict with local residents, primarily over land use, which was marked by hostility on both sides. Osho's large collection of Rolls-Royce motorcars was also notorious. The Oregon commune collapsed in 1985 when Osho revealed that the commune leadership had committed a number of serious crimes, including a bioterror attack (food contamination) on the citizens of The Dalles. Osho was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with immigration violations. He was deported from the United States in accordance with a plea bargain.Twenty-one countries denied him entry, causing Osho to travel the world before returning to Pune, where he died in 1990. His ashram is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort.

Childhood and adolescence: 1931–1950

Osho was born Chandra Mohan Jain (Hindi: चन्द्र मोहन जैन) at his maternal grandparents' house in Kuchwada,a small village in the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh state in India,s the eldest of eleven children of a cloth merchant.His parents, who were Taranpanthi Jains, let him live with his maternal grandparents until he was seven years old.By Osho's own account, this was a major influence on his development, because his grandmother gave him the utmost freedom, leaving him carefree without an imposed education or restrictions.

At seven years old, his grandfather, whom he adored, died, and he went to Gadarwara to live with his parents.He was profoundly affected by his grandfather's death, and again by the death of his childhood sweetheart and cousin Shashi from typhoid when he was 15, leading to an extraordinary preoccupation with death that lasted throughout much of his childhood and youth.In his school years, he was a rebellious, but gifted student, and acquired a reputation as a formidable debater.As a youth, Osho became an atheist; he took an interest in hypnosis and was briefly associated with socialism and two Indian independence movements: the Indian National Army and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

University years and public speaker: 1951–1970

In 1951, aged nineteen, Osho began his studies at Hitkarini College in Jabalpur.[After acute conflicts with an instructor, the principal asked him to leave the college, and he transferred to D. N. Jain College, also in Jabalpur.Having proved himself to be disruptively argumentative in Hitkarini College, he was not required to attend college classes in D. N. Jain College except for examinations, and used his free time to work for a few months as an assistant editor at a newspaper. He also began speaking in public, initially at the annual Sarva Dharma Sammelan held at Jabalpur, organised by the Taranpanthi Jain community into which he was born, participating there from 1951 to 1968.[He resisted his parents' pressure to get married.Osho later said he became spiritually enlightened on 21 March 1953, when he was 21 years old.He said he dropped all effort and hope.After what he describes as an intense seven-day process he says he went out at night to the Bhanvartal garden in Jabalpur, where he sat under a tree:

The moment I entered the garden everything became luminous, it was all over the place – the benediction, the blessedness. I could see the trees for the first time – their green, their life, their very sap running. The whole garden was asleep, the trees were asleep. But I could see the whole garden alive, even the small grass leaves were so beautiful. I looked around. One tree was tremendously luminous – the maulshree tree. It attracted me, it pulled me towards itself. I had not chosen it, God himself has chosen it. I went to the tree, I sat under the tree. As I sat there things started settling. The whole universe became a benediction.

He completed his B.A. in philosophy at D. N. Jain College in 1955 and joined the University of Sagar, where he earned his M.A. in philosophy in 1957 (with distinction).[He immediately secured a teaching post at Raipur Sanskrit college, but soon became controversial enough for the Vice Chancellor to ask him to seek a transfer, as he considered him a danger to his students' morality, character and religion. From 1958, he taught philosophy as a lecturer at Jabalpur University, being promoted to professor in 1960.A popular lecturer with a "golden tongue" in Hindi, he was acknowledged by his peers as an exceptionally intelligent man who had been able to overcome the deficiencies of his early small-town education.

In parallel to his university job, he travelled throughout India, giving lectures critical of socialism and Gandhi, under the name Acharya Rajneesh (Acharya means teacher or professor; Rajneesh was a nickname he had acquired in childhood).Socialism, he said, was a dead loss that would only socialise poverty.Gandhi was a masochist and reactionary who worshipped poverty.To escape its backwardness, Osho said, India needed capitalism, science, modern technology and birth control. He criticised orthodox Indian religions as dead, filled with empty ritual, oppressing their followers with fears of damnation and the promise of blessings.Such statements made him controversial: they shocked and repelled many, but attracted others. He gained a loyal following that included a number of wealthy merchants and businessmen.These sought individual consultations from him about their spiritual development and daily life, in return for donations – a commonplace arrangement in India, where people seek guidance from learned or holy individuals the way people elsewhere might consult a psychologist or counsellor.The rapid growth of his practice was somewhat out of the ordinary, suggesting that he had an uncommon talent as a spiritual therapist.From 1962, he began to lead 3- to 10-day meditation camps, and the first meditation centres (Jivan Jagruti Kendra) started to emerge around his teaching, then known as the Life Awakening Movement (Jivan Jagruti Andolan).After a speaking tour in 1966, he resigned from his teaching post.

In a 1968 lecture series, later published under the title From Sex to Superconsciousness, he scandalised Hindu leaders by calling for freer acceptance of sex.His advocacy of sexual freedom caused public disapproval in India, and he became known as the "sex guru" in the press.[When he was invited in 1969 – despite the misgivings of some Hindu leaders – to speak at the Second World Hindu Conference, he used the occasion to raise controversy again.[In his speech, 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."He characterised priests as being motivated by self-interest, incensing the shankaracharya of Puri, who tried in vain to have his lecture stopped.

Mumbai: 1970–1974

At a public meditation event in spring 1970 Osho presented his Dynamic Meditation method for the first time.At the end of June 1970, Osho left Jabalpur for Mumbai.On September 26, 1970 he initiated his first group of disciples or sannyasins at an outdoor meditation camp, one of the large gatherings where he lectured and guided group meditations.His concept of neo-sannyas entailed assuming a new name and wearing the traditional orange dress of ascetic Hindu holy men, including a mala (beaded necklace) carrying a locket with his picture.However, his sannyasins were expected to follow a celebratory, rather than ascetic lifestyle.They would be free, creatively responding to the present situation, as comfortable with being loving as with being alone.He himself was not to be worshipped, but was rather like a catalytic agent, "a sun encouraging the flower to open, but in a very delicate way".

He had by then acquired a secretary, who as his first disciple had taken the name Ma Yoga Laxmi.Laxmi was the daughter of one of his early followers, a wealthy Jain who had been a key supporter of the National Congress Party during the struggle for Indian independence, with close ties to Gandhi, Nehru and Morarji Desai.She raised the money that enabled Osho to stop his travels and settle down.In December 1970, Osho thus moved to Woodlands Apartments in Mumbai, where he gave lectures and received visitors, among them the first Western visitors. He now travelled very rarely, and stopped speaking at open public meetings.In 1971, he adopted the title Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.Shree means Sir or Mister; the Sanskrit title Bhagwan means "blessed one", indicating a human being in whom the divine is no longer hidden, but apparent.

Ashram in Pune: 1974–1981

The hot, humid climate of Mumbai appeared to have proved detrimental to Osho's health; he had developed diabetes, asthma and numerous allergies.So, in 1974, on the 21st anniversary of his enlightenment,he and his group moved from the Mumbai apartment to a property in Koregaon Park, Pune, which was purchased with the help of Catherine Venizelos (Ma Yoga Mukta), a Greek shipping heiress.Osho taught at the Pune ashram from 1974 to 1981. The two adjoining houses and 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land became the nucleus of an ashram, and those two buildings are still at the heart of the present-day Osho International Meditation Resort. This space allowed for the regular audio recording of his discourses and, later, video recording and printing for worldwide distribution, which enabled him to reach far larger audiences internationally. The number of Western visitors increased sharply, leading to constant expansion.The ashram soon featured an arts-and-crafts centre that turned out clothing, jewellery, ceramics and organic cosmetics and put on performances of theatre, music and mime.Following the arrival of several therapists from the Human Potential Movement in the early seventies,the ashram began from 1975 to complement its meditation offerings with a growing number of therapy groups.These became a major source of income for the ashram.

The Pune ashram was, by all accounts, an exciting and intense place to be, with an emotionally charged, madhouse-carnival atmosphere.A typical day in the ashram began at 6:00 a.m. with Dynamic Meditation.At 8:00 a.m., Osho gave a 60 to 90-minute spontaneous lecture in the ashram's "Buddha Hall" auditorium, either commenting on literature from a religious tradition, or answering questions sent in by visitors and disciples.Until 1981, lecture series held in Hindi alternated with series held in English.During the day, various meditations and therapies took place, whose intensity was ascribed to the spiritual energy of Osho's "buddhafield".Evenings were for darshans, where Osho engaged in personal conversation with small numbers of individual disciples or visitors and gave sannyas.Sannyasins came for darshan when departing or returning to the ashram, or if they had an issue that they wanted to discuss with Osho.

To decide which therapies to participate in, visitors either consulted Osho or made selections according to their own preferences.Some of the early therapy groups in the ashram, such as the Encounter group, were experimental and very controversial, allowing a degree of physical violence as well as sexual encounters between participants.Conflicting reports of injuries sustained in Encounter group sessions began to appear in the press.Richard Price, at the time a prominent Human Potential Movement therapist and co-founder of the Esalen institute, found that Osho's version encouraged participants to be violent rather than play at being violent (the norm in Encounter groups conducted in the United States), and he criticised the therapies for featuring "... the worst mistakes of some inexperienced Esalen group leaders".Price is alleged to have exited the Pune ashram with a broken arm following a period of eight hours locked in a room with participants who were armed with wooden weapons.Bernard Gunther, his Esalen colleague, fared better in Pune and wrote a book, Dying for Enlightenment, featuring photographs and lyrical descriptions celebrating the flavour of the meditations and therapy groups.

Violence in the therapy groups eventually ended in January 1979, when the ashram issued a press release stating that violence "had fulfilled its function within the overall context of the ashram as an evolving spiritual commune."Besides the controversy around the therapies, allegations of drug use amongst sannyasins began to mar the ashram's image.Some Western sannyasins were financing their extended stays in India through prostitution and drug running.A few of them later said that, while Osho was not directly involved, they discussed such plans and activities with him in darshan, and he gave his blessing.

By the latter half of the 1970s it had become clear that the property in Pune was too small to contain the rapid growth of the ashram and Osho asked that somewhere larger be found.Sannyasins from around India started looking for property that could be purchased and used for a larger ashram and alternatives were found, including one in Gujarat, in the province of Kutch, and two more in India's mountainous north.Plans for a large utopian commune in India were never implemented, as mounting tensions between the ashram and the conservative Hindu government led by Morarji Desai resulted in an impasse.Land use approval was denied and, more important, the government stopped issuing visas to foreign visitors who indicated the ashram as their main destination in India.In addition, Desai's government cancelled the tax-exempt status of the ashram, resulting in a claim of current and back taxes estimated at $5 million.[71] Conflicts with various Indian religious leaders added to the situation – by 1980, the ashram had become so controversial that Indira Gandhi, despite a previous association between Osho and the National Congress Party dating back to his early speeches made in the sixties, was unwilling to intercede for it after her return to power.During one of Osho's discourses in May 1980, an attempt on his life was made by a young Hindu fundamentalist.

By 1981, Osho's ashram hosted 30,000 visitors per year.In stark contrast to the period up to 1970, when his following was overwhelmingly Indian, daily discourse audiences were at this time composed predominantly of Europeans and Americans.Many observers noted that Osho's lecture style changed in the late seventies, becoming intellectually less focused and featuring an increasing number of jokes intended to shock or amuse his audience.On 10 April 1981, having discoursed daily for nearly 15 years, Osho entered a three-and-a-half-year period of self-imposed public silence, and satsangs – silent sitting and music, with readings from spiritual works such as Khalil Gibran's The Prophet or the Isha Upanishad – took the place of his discourses.Around the same time, Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) replaced Ma Yoga Laxmi as Osho's secretary

Move to America: 1981

In 1981, mounting tension around the Pune ashram, increasing criticism of its activities and threatened punitive action by the Indian authorities provided an impetus for the ashram to relocate its operations to America.On 1 June, Osho travelled to the United States on a tourist visa, ostensibly for medical purposes, and spent several months at Kip's Castle in Montclair, New Jersey.He had been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc in spring 1981 and had been treated by several doctors, including James Cyriax, a St. Thomas' Hospital musculoskeletal physician and expert in epidural injections, who was flown in from London.[Sheela stated in public that Osho was in grave danger if he remained in India but would receive appropriate medical treatment in America if he were to require surgery.

According to Susan J. Palmer, the move to the United States "appears to have been a unilateral decision on the part of Sheela."Gordon (1987) notes that Sheela and Osho had discussed the idea of establishing a new commune in the U.S. in late 1980, although he did not agree to travel there until May 1981.Osho's previous secretary, Laxmi, reported to 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."Osho never sought outside medical treatment during his time in America, leading the Immigration and Naturalization Service to believe that he had a preconceived intent to remain there.Osho later pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, including making false statements on his initial visa application.

Oregon commune: 1981–1985

On 13 June 1981, Sheela's husband bought, for US$5.75 million, a 64,229-acre (260 km2) ranch located across two Oregon counties (Wasco and Jefferson), previously known as "The Big Muddy Ranch".[86] The following month, work began on setting up the so-called Rancho Rajneesh commune; Osho moved there on 29 August.The initial reactions of the host community ranged from hostility to tolerance, depending on the observer's distance from the ranch.Within a year of arriving, Osho's followers had become embroiled in a series of legal battles with their neighbours, the principal conflict relating to land use.In May 1982, the residents of Rancho Rajneesh voted to incorporate the city of Rajneeshpuram on the ranch.The conflict with local residents escalated, with increasingly bitter hostility on both sides, and over the following years, the commune was subject to constant and coordinated pressures from various coalitions of Oregon residents.For its own part, the commune leadership took an uncompromising and confrontational stance and behaved impatiently with locals.Its behaviour was implicitly threatening, and the repeated changes in the commune's stated plans looked like conscious deception, whether they were or not.Osho resided at Rajneeshpuram, living in a purpose-built trailer complex with an indoor swimming pool and other amenities. He did not lecture and only saw the majority of his followers on his daily drive-bys, when he would slowly drive past the long line of sannyasins waiting for him by the side of the road.In this period, he gained notoriety for the large number of Rolls-Royce luxury cars that his followers bought for his use, eventually numbering 93 vehicles.

As part of his withdrawal from public life, Osho had given Ma Anand Sheela limited power of attorney in 1981, and removed the limits in 1982.In 1983, Sheela announced that he would henceforth speak only with her.He would later claim that she kept him in ignorance.Many sannyasins expressed doubts about whether Sheela truly represented Osho.An increasing number of dissidents left Rajneeshpuram, citing disagreements with Sheela's autocratic leadership style.

Sannyasins who were not U.S. citizens found themselves in visa difficulties, which many tried to overcome by entering into marriages of convenience with American followers.Osho himself had similar problems, which the commune tried to solve by declaring him the head of a religion called "Rajneeshism".In November 1981, Osho applied for permission to reside in the country as a religious worker.The application was refused on the grounds that he could not be leading a religion if he was unwell, and in a state of silence.But the decision was later withdrawn, due to procedural violations.The application for leave to stay as a religious leader was finally granted three years later, in 1984.

The Oregon years saw an increased emphasis on Osho's prediction that the conventional world would destroy itself by nuclear war or other disasters sometime in the 1990s.Osho had said as early as 1964 that "the third and last war is now on the way", and had commented in the intervening years on the need to create a "new humanity" to avoid global suicide.By the early 1980s, this had become the basis for a new exclusivism, with 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".These warnings contributed to an increased sense of urgency in getting the Oregon commune established.In March 1984, Sheela announced that Osho had predicted the death of two-thirds of humanity from AIDS.As a precaution, sannyasins were required to wear rubber gloves and condoms while making love and to refrain from kissing.The measures were widely seen as an extreme overreaction; AIDS was not considered a heterosexual disease at the time, and the use of condoms was not yet widely recommended for AIDS prevention.

Osho ended his period of public silence on 30 October 1984, having announced that it was time for him to "speak his own truths."In July 1985, he resumed his daily public discourses in the commune's 2-acre (8,100 m2) meditation hall. According to statements he made to the press, he did so against Sheela's wishes. On 16 September 1985, a few days after Sheela and her entire management team had suddenly left the commune for Europe, Osho held a press conference in which he labelled Sheela and her associates a "gang of fascists."[He accused them of having committed a number of serious crimes, most of these dating back to 1984, and invited the authorities to investigate.The alleged crimes, which he stated had been committed without his knowledge or consent, included the attempted murder of his personal physician, poisonings of public officials, wiretapping and bugging within the commune and within his own home, and a bioterror attack on the citizens of The Dalles, Oregon, using salmonella.While his allegations were initially greeted with skepticism by outside observers,the subsequent investigation by the U.S. authorities confirmed these accusations and resulted in the conviction of Sheela and several of her lieutenants.

The salmonella attack was noted as the first confirmed instance of chemical or biological terrorism to have occurred in the United States.Osho stated that because he was in silence and isolation, meeting only with Sheela, he was unaware of the crimes committed by the Rajneeshpuram leadership until Sheela and her "gang" left and sannyasins came forward to inform him.A number of commentators have stated that in their view Sheela was being used as a convenient scapegoat.Others have pointed to the fact that although Sheela had bugged Osho's living quarters and made her tapes available to the U.S. authorities as part of her own plea bargain, no evidence has ever come to light that Osho had any part in her crimes.

Even though there was not enough evidence to bring charges against Osho, Gordon (1987) reports that Charles Turner, David Frohnmayer and other law enforcement officials who had surveyed affidavits that were never released publicly, and who had listened to the hundreds of hours of tape recordings that were retrieved from the ranch, insinuated to him that Osho was guilty of more crimes than those he was eventually prosecuted for.Frohnmayer asserted that Osho's philosophy was not "disapproving of poisoning", and that he felt he and Sheela had been "genuinely evil".
During his residence in Rajneeshpuram, Osho dictated three books while undergoing dental treatment under the influence of nitrous oxide (laughing gas): Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Notes of a Madman, and Books I Have Loved.Following her departure from Rajneeshpuram, Sheela stated in media interviews that Osho took sixty milligrams of Valium each day and was addicted to nitrous oxide.Osho denied these charges when questioned about them by journalists.

Rajneesh had applied for U.S. permanent residency as a religious teacher but on 30 September 1985 he denied that he was a religious teacher.On the same day, his disciples set fire to 5,000 copies of "Book of Rajneeshism", a 78-page compilation of his teachings where Rajneesh had defined Rajneeshism as "a religionless religion".He said he ordered the book-burning to rid the sect of the last traces of the influence of Ma Anand Sheela, his formal personal secretary. Sheela's robes were also "added to the bonfire.

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