Spiritual paths and ethical systems
Osho, formerly known as
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Early History of the Movement:
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh(1931-1990) was born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan in Kuchwara, a town in
central India. Various sources state that "Bhagwan" means
Blessed One" or "God" and that
"Shree" means "Master". At the end of his
life, he changed his name to Osho.
His parents' religion was Jainism. However, Osho
never subscribed to any religious faith during his lifetime. He received
"samadhi" (enlightenment in which his soul became one with the universe) on
1953-MAR-21 at the age of 21. Rajneesh obtained a masters degree in philosophy from the
University of Saugar. He taught philosophy at the University of Jabalpur for nine years
and concurrently worked as a religious leader. In 1966, he left his teaching post and gave
his full attention to teaching his sannyasins (disciples) while pursuing a speaking career. He
had an apartment in Bombay where he often met individuals and small groups,
where acting as spiritual teacher, guide and friend. Most of his Sannyasins came from
Europe and India in the early years.
In 1974, Osho moved from Bombay southward to Pune, India. Some anti-cult
groups have claimed that this decision was made because of local opposition from the public
in Bombay. In reality, it was to establish an ashram (place of teaching) which
would provide larger and more comfortable facilities for his disciples. The
ashram consisted of two adjoining properties covering six acres in an affluent
suburb of Pune called Koregaon Park. Some estimate as many as 50,000 Westerners spent time seeking
enlightenment there with the guru. In 1979, he saw his movement as the route to the preservation
of the human race. He said:
"If we cannot create the 'new man' in the coming 20 years,
then humanity has no future. The holocaust of a global suicide can only be avoided if a
new kind of man can be created."
He taught a syncretistic spiritual
path that combined
elements from Hinduism, Jainism, Zen
Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, ancient
Greek philosophy, many other religious and philosophic traditions, humanistic psychology,
new forms of therapy and meditation, etc.
In 1980, he was the victim of a knife attack by a Hindu fundamentalist during
his morning discourse. Because of police incompetence, the charges against the
terrorist were dropped.
In 1981 he left India reluctantly because of health problems. He went
to the United States in order to obtain advanced treatment. There have
been rumors of income tax evasion, and insurance fraud; it is not known
whether these have any validity. The group settled on the 65,000 acre "Big
Muddy Ranch" near Antelope, Oregon, which his sannyasins had bought for
six million dollars.
The ranch was renamed Rajneeshpuram
("City of Rajneesh"). This "small,
desolate valley twelve miles from Antelope, Oregon was transformed into a
thriving town of 3,000 residents, with a 4,500 foot paved airstrip, a 44
acre reservoir, an 88,000 square foot meeting hall..."8
Many of the local folks were intolerant of the new group in their
midst, because of religious and cultural differences. One manifestation of
this intolerance was the town's denial of building permits to the
followers of Rajneesh. Some buildings were erected on the ranch without planning board
approval. When officials attempted to stop the construction, their office was firebombed
by unknown person(s). When the local city council repeatedly refused to issue
permits for their businesses, some sannyasins elected themselves to the
city council. The town of Antelope was renamed City of Rajneesh.
Top aides of Osho were charged with a number of crimes, including the
attempted murder of Osho's personal physician. There
were stories of a hit list. Some fled the country for Switzerland where they had
control over the group's bank accounts. Two were eventually convicted of conspiracy to murder
local lawyer Charles Turner in an
attempt to prevent closure of the ranch.
In 1983, Osho's secretary Sheela Silverman predicted on behalf of Osho that there would be massive destruction on earth,
between 1984 and 1999. This would include both natural disasters and man-made
catastrophes. Floods larger than any since Noah, extreme earthquakes, very destructive
volcano eruptions, nuclear wars etc. would be experienced. Tokyo, New York, San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Bombay were all expected to disappear. There is doubt that these
predictions actually came from Osho; they are not representative of his other
A number of
sources have reported that spiritual devotees of Rajneesh had spread salmonella
on a local restaurant's salad bar in order to reduce voter turnout on a measure
that would have restricted the group's activities. Allegedly, 751 people were
affected by the bacteria. 9,10
raid of the type that later happened in Waco, several of Osho's disciples
arranged for him to be flown to Charlotte for safety. In North Carolina, he ran afoul of US immigration law. He allegedly arranged a number
of phony marriages between some of his Indian followers and American citizens so that the
former could obtain clearance to stay in the country. He was also charged with lying on
his immigration papers. He entered an "Alford Plea," commonly called a
no-contest plea. His lawyers suggested that he do this because of concerns over
his health and safety if he had to spend more time in prison. He was given a suspended
sentence on condition that he leave the country.
He returned to Pune, India in
1987, where his
health began to fail. Here, he abandoned the name of Rajneesh and adopted "Osho".
Some sources explain that the name was derived from the expression "oceanic experience" by William James;
others say that it was derived from an ancient Japanese word for master. He
died in Pune in 1990. Various rumors spread that he had been poisoned with
thallium by the CIA, had been exposed to damaging doses of radiation by the U.S.
had heart failure. It is obvious that he did not experience thallium poisoning,
because he died with a full beard, and only male-pattern baldness on the top of
his head. A person suffering from thallium poisoning suffers a dramatic loss of
hair with a week of exposure. 6 His death certificate lists heart failure as the cause of his
At its peak, the movement had about 200,000 members and 600 centers around the world. They were
targeted by many anti-cult groups as an evil, mind control cult. One
source, in a masterful stroke of religious disinformation, claimed that
"Bhagwan" means "Master of the Vagina." He has been called the
Beliefs and Practices
Osho developed new forms of active meditation. The best known is Dynamic
Meditation which often starts with strenuous physical activity
followed by silence and celebration. These were
expected to lead the individual to overcome repression, lower their personal inhibitions,
develop a "state of emptiness", and attain enlightenment. The person then
would have "no past, no future, no attachment, no mind, no ego, no self."
Prior to 1985, the disciples wore red robes, and a necklace of 108 beads which had an attached picture of
Rajneesh. Osho assigned a new name to each of the disciples. Men were given the title
"Swami"; women were called "Ma". Although most members lived a frugal,
simple lifestyle, Rajneesh himself lived in luxury. His collection 27 Rolls
to him by his followers, was well known. (Some sources say he had as many as 100 cars).
Anti-cult groups claimed that he urged his disciples to sever their
connection to their families of origin. It is true that he felt that the
institution of the family was out of date and that it should be replaced
with alternative forms of community and ways of caring for children.
However, he actually encouraged individual disciples to make peace with
their families. Many of the latter became disciples themselves, including Osho's own
He taught a form of Monism, that God was in everything and everyone. There is no
division between "God" and "not-God". People, even at their worse, are
divine. He recognized Jesus Christ as having attained enlightenment, and believed that he
survived his crucifixion and moved to India where he died at the age of 112.
noted for reading very offensive jokes; some were anti-Semitic; others were anti-Roman Catholicism;
others insulted just about every ethnic and religious group in the world. He
explained that the purpose of these jokes was to shock people and to encourage
them to examine their identification with and attachment to their ethnic or
religious beliefs. His contention was that national, religious, gender and
racial divisions are destructive.
Osho repeatedly stated that he would not appoint a successor to replace him
after his death. He viewed each disciple as his successor. However, before his
death, he appointed an inner circle of 21 individuals to look after the
functioning of the meditation resort at Pune and handle administrative affairs
relating to his work.
They now operate about 20 meditation centers worldwide. Rajneesh's main influence now is
through his voluminous writings; they are read by many New Agers as well as followers of
Osho Commune International® administers the center in Pune,
India. Since it was founded, it has been expanded from 6 to 32 acres.
The group has a Global Connections department that provides information
about centers and activities worldwide. Osho International in New York,
NY, administers the rights to Osho's works.
Some of Osho's aides who were imprisoned because of crimes committed in Oregon were released from prison in mid-1998 and deported to
About the registration symbol ®:
The Osho International Foundation (OIF) has registered the word Osho®
in order topromote of certain products. The registration
was challenged before the US Patent and Trademark Board of Appeals. Those opposing the OIF allegedly claim that the name cannot be a trademark, and that the OIF
committed fraud in its application.
According to Osho Friends International, the United States Patent and
Trademark Office (USPTO) cancelled the trademarks of Osho on 2009-JUL-31.
Amazon.com's online bookstore lists the following books on Osho :
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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Osho: The science of meditation is at: http://osho.com
- Friends of Osho has a website at: http://www.sannyas.net/
They have a list of Sannyasins, Osho information centers, etc. at: http://oz.sannyas.net/
- The Humaniversity, founded in 1978 as the Rajneesh Therapy
Institute, has a home
page at: http://www.humaniversity.com/
- Friends of Osho have a biography of Osho at: http://earth.path.net/
- Osho Vision: A lifestyle of meditation and celebration at: http://www.meditate-celebrate.com
- Christopher Calder, "Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh, and the Lost Truth," at:
- A list of places to stay among followers of Osho worldwide is at: http://ucsu.colorado.edu/
- "A higher plain: The Rajneesh Ranch revisited," at:
- Article in the New York Times, 1998-MAR-11, Page A21. Mentioned in "Food
Poisoning and Biological Warfare," Newsparks, 1998-MAR-16, at:
- Rachel Graham, "The Saffron Swami," Willamette Week, at:
- Osho Rajneesh, is a particularly beautiful website, which
covers a wide range of topics. See:
- Osho RebelliousSpirit.com is a comprehensive website for
Osho sannyasins and persons
interested in meditation techniques created by the mystic
- Opzijnbest, a website from the Netherlands, contains dozens
of links to Osho sites. See:
- "Update on Trademarks of Osho in USA," Osho Friends International, at:
|Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult by Mather & Nichols,
(Zondervan, 1993), P. 35-37. Read reviews or
order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store|
|J.S. Gordon, The Golden Guru", Stephen Green Press, Lexington MA (1987)|
|Walter Martin, "The Kingdom of the Cults", Bethany House, Minneapolis,
MN (1985), P. 353-361|
|Osho: "Autobiography of a spiritually incorrect mystic,"
St. Martin's Press, (2000) Review/order this
|Osho: "Meditation: The first and last freedom," ST,
Martin's Press, (1997). Review/order this
|Osho: "Courage: The joy of living dangerously,"
Griffin, (1999). Review/order this
book This is one of a new series of books in the series "Insights
for a new way of living." |
Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2008-DEC-12
Hyperlinks checked: 2002-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson