1931: Osho/Bhagwan was born as Mohan Chandra Rajneesh in Kuchwada on the Indian plains.
1953: Rajneesh experienced spiritual enlightenment under a tree in the Bhanvartal Garden, Jabalpur.
1958-1966: Rajneesh received an appointment and moved from Lecturer to Professor (1960) at Jabalpur University.
1966: Rajneesh resigned from Jabalpur University and assumes the title Acharya (Teacher), after his backers established an educational trust to support lectures and rural meditation camps.
1970: Rajneesh formally initiated his first disciples).
1971: Rajneesh first called himself Bhagwan (enlightened one) Shree Rajneesh.
1974: The Shree Rajneesh Ashram was established in Pune.
1977: The worldwide Rajneesh Movement peaked at approximately 25,000 active devotees. There were also residential centers and businesses in or near major Western European and American cities.
1981: July 10: Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneesh’s personal secretary, represented Rajneesh and purchased 64,229 Big Muddy Ranch in Central Oregon for $5.9 million USD and Bhagwan arrived six weeks later.
1981 (October): The Big Muddy was incorporated as Rajneeshpuram.
1981: Citing state land use laws, thousands of Friends of Oregon, a public interest group with considerable support from Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, filed a lawsuit against the incorporation.
1982: Rajneeshees settled in Antelope, the small town closest to Rajneeshpuram, which is eighteen miles away and they won the municipal elections, effectively taking over the town.
1983 (October): Oregon Attorney General David Frohnmayer issued an opinion and filed a lawsuit challenging the incorporation of Rajneeshpuram because of the violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and State.
1984 (July): Rajneesh began lecturing to a small group called the Chosen Few, breaking the silence and seclusion that began in
1984 (September): National media sent crews to cover over 2,000 homeless individuals, primarily men, who were recruited and bused into Rajneeshpuram. Devotees claimed that the Share-A-Home initiative demonstrated how people could be rehabilitated.
1984 (September): Rajneeshees initiated the single largest bioterrorist attack on US soil. Salmonella that was sprinkled over salad bars sickened over 750 individuals in the Wasco County seat, the Dalles. This was a test of a plan to poison local salad bars in order to incapacitate anti-Rajneesh voters in he November county election.
1984 (October 13): The Oregon Secretary of State instituted a special process to interview applicants for new voter registration in Wasco County. Rajneeshees boycott the county election and within a month less than 50 homeless individuals remained at Rajneeshpuram.
1985 (September 13): Sheela and members of her inner circle fled from Rajneeshpuram. The Mayor of Rajneeshpuram later became a federal witness.
1985 (September 16): Rajneesh publicly accused Sheela of attempted murders, masterminding the 1984 poisonings in the Dalles, mistreatment of devotees and bomb plots. He invited state and federal authorities to Rajneeshpuram investigate his charges.
1985 (October 28): The Federal District Court in Oregon ruled in favor of the State in the State of Oregon v. the City of Rajneeshpuram on the violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and State.
1985 (October 28): Rajneesh was arrested in Charlotte NC, while attempting to flee the USA.
1985 (November 2): Rajneesh pleaded no contest to two counts of immigration fraud and left the USA.
1985 (December 12): Rajneesh embarked on a “World Tour” with members of his inner circle, seeking to establish an Ashram in Western Europe, South America or North India.
1986: Sheela was extradited from Germany. She and her co-conspirator plead guilty to attempted murder, poisoning two county officials, setting fire to a county office, and establishing an elaborate wire-tapping network at the commune’s telephone system. She was sentenced to a twenty-four year Federal jail term and fined a total of $470,000.
1987 (January): Rajneesh negotiated with the Indian government and was allowed to reopen his old Ashram, after he agreed to limit number of full and part-time Ashram residents.
1988 (December 13): Sheela was released after two and a half years in Federal prison and immediately departed for Switzerland before the State of Oregon could order her arrested for additional crimes.
1989 (August): Rajneesh changed his name to Osho Rajneesh. In September he becomes simply Osho, meaning oceanic feeling or encompassing the world.
1990 (January 19): Osho died (left his body).
1999: Ma Yoga Neelam, Osho’s last personal secretary and other key devotees resigned and left the Ashram to lead meditation camps and found Oshodham, a small center thirty miles south of Delhi.
2009: The United States Trial and Trademark Copyright Board ruled that Osho organizations like Oshodam and its magazine Osho World may use the name “Osho” because it is generic like “Jesus.” The central Osho organization, Osho International Foundation, retained the rights to all copyrighted publications.
2014 (June): Swiss Federal Department of Internal Affairs removed all five current board members of the Osho International Foundation that is headquartered in Zurich for misappropriation of funds and fiscal irresponsibility after they redirected one half the assets in 2013.
2014: The Swiss Federal Department of Internal Affairs reinstated the five-member board.
2014: More than 200 small Osho meditation centers continue to function throughout the world. Over 1,500 books have been published in forty languages. The Pune Ashram and Oshodham continue to host visitors and offer meditations and workshops for personal and spiritual growth.
Rajneesh was born to a Jain family in Kuchawada, India, in 1931 and named Mohan Chandra Rajneesh. (Jainism is an independent South Indian faith that is closely related to Buddhism.) He earned an MA in philosophy from Saugar University and immediately took a job at Raipur Sanskrit College (Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya). His lectures about sexual freedom and his critiques of the Indian political system created so much controversy that Rajneesh transferred to Jabalpar university the next year, where he received a promotion to professor in 1960 (Carter 1990:39). When classes were not in session, he traveled through India lecturing about politics, sexuality, and spirituality.
Clients gave Rajneesh donations for individual consultations about their spiritual development and daily life. This was commonplace in India, where people seek guidance from learned or holy individuals in the same ways as Americans might consult a psychologist or pastoral counselor, and Rajneesh’s private practice was not unusual in itself (Mehta 1979). By 1964, a group of wealthy backers had set up an educational trust to support Rajneesh and his week -long rural meditation retreats. Like many professionals whose client base grows quickly, Rajneesh acquired a business manager around this time: an upper class, politically well-connected woman, Ma Yoga Laxmi, who was both his organizational chief and personal secretary.
Rajneesh resigned his post at the University of Jabalpur in 1966 because of controversies over his stance against the Janata Party and his advocacy of sexual freedom. He started to use the name Acharya Rajneesh, denoting his primary role as a spiritual teacher, supporing himself by lecturing, offering meditation camps, and counseling affluent clients, most of whom were Indian. Rajneesh also developed active meditation exercises facilitating individuals’ ability to observe their own physical, mental, and emotional processes (Osho [Rajneesh] 1983).
Word of mouth and occasional published references to his gifts brought some Westerners to the Mt. Abu meditation camps thatAcharya Rajneesh directed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1971, I am the Gate was the first of Rajneesh’s books to be published in English and this generated worldwide interest. As the Western Human Potential Movement grew, Americans, Australians, English and West Germans gathered at his airy Bombay apartment and rented flats nearby. A number of his devotees returned home to start meditation centers, restaurants and Rajneesh discos in Australia, Western Europe and the United States.
In 1971, Rajneesh exchanged the title of Acharya for the more expansive Bhagwan, signifying an enlightened or awakened one. For the first time, Rajneesh acknowledged that he had experienced the profound nothingness of true satori constituting enlightenment, almost twenty years earlier on March 21, 1953. More Americans and Western Europeans became devotees and an official, differentiated organizational structure emerged (Carter 1990: 69-70).
Rajneesh often gave Western devotees new names of revered Hindu gods and goddesses, signifying their psychological and spiritual rebirth. Around this time in Bombay, he also asked all of his followers to wear the saffron orange clothing that is associated with holy men in India. The names and clothes signifying instant holiness, coupled with Rajneesh’s freewheeling political and sexual philosophies, deeply offended the local population, while enchanting Westerners, who had begun to outnumber the Indians visiting Rajneesh. His reputation as a radical academic, his philosophy, and the hundreds of privileged Western devotees who flaunted Indian conventions all combined to generate tension with the surrounding community (Goldman 1999:22-23).
In 1974, Rajneesh relocated his headquarters to the Pune Ashram, 100 miles southeast of Bombay. With considerable backing from a Greek shiping heiress and additional financial support from longtime Indian devotees, Bhagwan moved to a six-acre enclave and acquired adjoining real estate in the elite suburb, Koreagon Park. Over the next five years, the Shree Rajneesh Ashram grew to include a meditation hall where the spiritual master could lecture to several thousand people, a smaller auditorium, facilities for a multitude of human potential therapy groups, a medical clinic, cottage industries, restaurants, shops, classrooms, and housing for devotees who lived year round at the Ashram (Milne 1987:23).
At this point, Rajneesh exchanged his white pants and tunics for long, flowing white robes that differentiated him from all his devotees who dressed in orange and later in a spectrum of reds, oranges and purples which he called sunrise colors. colors. He could no longer have regular daily contact with most devotees, but he was present everywhere in the Ashram through ubiquitous photographs and rumors of occasional, almost random encounters with rank and file devotees. In addition, the evening darshans where Rajneesh answered written questions provided a symbolic closeness, as did his habit of presenting important visitors and almost every departing long-term guest with gifts of small wooden boxes or pieces of his clothing.
At the movement’s peak around 1976, close to 30,000 Westerners visited the Shree Rajneesh Ashram yearly, and the worldwide movement included more than 25,000 committed devotees (Milne 1987:23; Carter 1990:59–60). After 1976, however, recruitment stagnated and many drifted away from the movement. Richard Price of Esalen Institute wrote an article in Time Magazine to denounce violence in the Rajneesh therapy groups (Anderson 1983:299–302).
The Indian government investigated allegations of Rajneesh-sanctioned prostitution, international drug trafficking, gold smuggling, money laundering, and tax evasion. He had to pay back taxes as his exempt status as a religious teacher was changed. In 1981, a Hindu fundamentalist tried and failed to assasinate the guru.
This escalatng controversy from 1976 to 1981 created an impetus for Rajneesh to relocate to the United States (Fitzgerald 1986: 300-05). Ma Anand Sheela, the widow of a welathy follower, supplanted his original private secretary and mediated between Rajneesh and the rest of his organization. In June, 1981, the founder and his inner circle flew to New Jersey, where Sheela had lived during college and the Ashram was shuttered, although a small crew of caretakers remained.
In July 1981, Rajneesh’s representatives purchased the six-square-mile Big Muddy Ranch in Central Oregon and started building
Rajneeshpuram. Most devotees who settled in at Rajneeshpuram were from the United States, although there were small contingents from Western Europe, Australia, and India. They envisioned a utopia of thousands of residents that was also a destination resort and pilgrimage center for spiritual tourists. Crews working around the clock constructed a huge meditation and lecture hall and a rustic open-air mall with restaurants, clothing boutiques, and a bookshop that sold hundreds of books and videotapes by and about Rajneesh. A small private airport, rows of greenhouses, and a sparkling artificial lake were also part of the landscape (Goldman 1999:31-36).
During his first three years in Oregon, Rajneesh retreated into private meditation and only communicated directly with a handful of personal staff members, delegating all organizational decisions and public relations to his secretary, Sheela. However, every afternoon Rajneesh slowly drove one of his many Rolls Royces down the hill from his compound, silently acknowledging lines of devotee s as they bowed and placed roses on the hood of his car.
In order to have a municipal power base in the closest incorporated town, Rajneeshees settled in Antelope, eighteen miles away from Rajneeshpuram. Devotees voted for local tax increases that drove retirees out of their homes in Antelope. In 1982, Rajneeshees dominated the municipal elections and renamed Antelope as City of Rajneesh. In some ways this was a bargaining chip, because as opposition grew throughoutthe state because of publicity about Antelope, the Rajneeshees made a futile secret offer to leave City of Rajneesh if the state make Rajneeshpuram a legal city .
Negative publicity and structured opposition from Thousand Friends of Oregon and others grew dramatically after each of Sheela’s vitriolic public pronouncements, especially following her rant on a nationally aired Nightline show. Millions of Americans heard her predict that in a hundred years, the state of Oregon would not exist, but the city of Rajneeshpuram would flourish.Rajneesheses challenged local customs with their unrestrained verbal attacks, explicit discussions of sexuality, and provacative clothing in sunrise hues (FitzGerald:248-49)). As Rajneesh’s spokesperson, Sheela viciously ridiculed Wasco County farmers, ranchers, and legislators as hicks and bigots because of their cultural insularity and their Judeo-Christian religious affiliations. In 1983, the small Hotel Rajneesh in Portland was bombed. Although there were no deaths or critical injuries the bombing provided justification for arming the Rajneeshpuram police force with semi-automatic guns and surveillance helicoptors. Many Oregonians believed that the bombing was simply a publicity ploy and an excuse to shutter an unprofitable enterprise, because they were unaware of the armed police force at Rancho Rajneesh.
The key opinion in 1983 came from neither Rajneeshees nor their critics. One man, Oregon Attorney General David Frohnmayer issued a legal opinion and filed a subsequent lawsuit that challenged the incorporation of Rajneeshpuram because of the violation of Constitutional separation of Church and State. The lawsuit shook Rajneeshuram and paved the way for its peaceful downfall.
In the face of the lawsuit, the Rajneeshees opened a broader electoral front in Wasco County. In September, 1984, worldwide media spotlighted Sheela’s efforts to recruit more than a thousand homeless men as new residents of Rajneeshpuram. Reporters correctly speculated about her desire to swell the pro-Rajneesh voting population and control the Wasco County elections. The strategy was designed to work in tandem with bioterrorism in restaurants and supermarkets throughout Wasco county, because Sheela wanted to make sure that sympathetic Rajneeshee voters would vastly outnumber opponents who would be too ill to go to the polls. The scheme failed because the state monitored voter registration and challenged the recent arrivals’ legal standing. The pro-Rajneesh candidates withdrew from the election and Sheela gave up her plan. Almost all of the 1,500 homeless visitors left Rajneeshpuram within months of their arrival. After the election debacle, Rajneesh’s physician, who later headed the Pune Meditation Resort and the official Osho movement for three decades, spoke with his guru about the futility of voter fraud and the damage created by seemingly endless confrontations with outsiders.
Shortly before the 1985 July Celebration, Rajneesh began to have greater contact with his followers and started to speak publicly once more, Sheela saw the writing on the wall and departed for West Germany a day before the guru denounced her in September 1985. She was soon extradited back to the United States, where she pled guilty to a number of charges and served twenty-nine months in a Federal minimum-security prison before she left the country in order to avoid pending criminal charges in the State of Oregon. She settled in Switzerland and later established two nursing homes for aged and emotionally disturbed clients.
Later that fall, the guru learned about coming Federal warrants for his own arrest and he secretly departed. Federal authorities intercepted him and his small entourage after they landed to refuel their Lear Jet in route to the Bahamas. Rajneesh left the United States less than two weeks after his arrest, filing no contest pleas to two counts of immigration fraud and paying fines and prosecution costs of $400,000). When he left the country, the Big Muddy was put up for sale , and a small skeleton crew of devotees turned out the lights in utopia. The Ranch subsequently became a Christian Youth camp operated by Young Life.
The Wasco County residents who lived in Antelope and the Dalles in the early 1980s vividly recall almost five years of conflict and victimization. Opponents were harrassed and threatened, and retired residents of Antelope lost their homes because the Rajneeshees voted for a steep increase on municipal property taxes. Some of the victims of the salmonella poisionings in the Dalles suffer from digestive disorders three decades later. Displaced homeless recruits bitterly recalled frostbite and other injuries that occurred when they were evicted from Rajneeshpuram in the midst of a freeze. Moreover, a number of state and local officials were harrassed and learned about murder attempts that caused them lasting emotional distress.
Hundreds of devotees also suffered. At Rajneeshpuram, a handful of wealthy Rajneeshees each lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that they had invested in a venture that was supposed to last forever. Rank and file workers suffered permanent injuries because of backbreaking labor on construction crews and twelve-hour days in the fields and greenhouses. Countless devotees were capriciously isolated in Rajneesh medical clinics or surreptitiously fed psychotropic drugs. And while Sheela tried to hold on to her power, Rajneesh’s personal physician was hospitalized for weeks in Bend because one of her cronies had injected him with poison while he was dancing during summer festivities.
Debates still rage within and outside the movement about who did what to whom and why. The recurring question is whether Bhagwan knew about the array of Sheela’s plots and criminal activities at Rancho Rajneesh. The guru’s decisive assertions that he knew nothing of Sheela’s misdeeds saved him from more extensive criminal prosecution and probably saved his movement as well.
After Rajneesh negotiated his plea, he traveled all over the world with a small group of wealthy devotees in order to find a place to create a new intentional community. He briefly resided on Cyprus and then bargained with the Indian government and paid some of his earlier fines in order to return to the old Pune/Poona Ashram. Devotees refurbished the buildings, the Zen gardens, the ponds and fountains. Rajneesh defined the Oregon sojourn as a brief learning experience and he further distanced himself from the debacle by changing his name to Osho Rajneesh and then only Osho.
Devotees usually trace the derivation of Osho to William James’s word “oceanic,” which implies dissolving into the whole of human existence , in other words, being at one with everything there is. They note that Osho also carries the meaning of “The Blessed One on Whom the Sky Showers Flowers.” Others write that Osho comes from the Japanese language, implying great gratitude and respect for one who expands consciousness (Jina 1993:53–54). Like almost everything else about Osho Rajneesh, his name itself created initial controversy. It could be interpreted broadly to mean a revered teacher of meditation (Jina 1993:54).
After Osho’s death early in 1990, governance of the Ashram and the worldwide organization fell to an inner circle of twenty-one devotees whom Osho had personally selected. However, at least seventeen of them had quit by 2012. Only three members of Osho’s inner circle in the Ashram are now in charge of the organization, two additional Board members govern the Ashram and the foundation that holds copyrights to Osho’s works. Osho’s dentist and his last personal secretary, resigned to become independent teachers or start other centers. The principal alternative center is Oshodham, thirty miles south of Delhi. It offers meditations and celebrations to visitors and that group publishes Osho World online, focusing on Osho and his legacies. In contrast, the formal organization and Pune Ashram emphasize Osho’s philosophy and strategies for personal growth.
After Osho died, there were three major areas of conflict among the committee of twenty-one leaders. First, three central members, Amrito (Osho’s personal physician) and two other men, Jayesh and Yoganenda, took control of Ashram finances and Osho’s literary copyrights through the Osho International Foundation. Second, the Movement increasingly focused on Osho’s ideas and gradually redesigned the Pune Ashram to eliminate iconography and monuments to Osho, including the Samadhi constructed to honor his memory. Third, they actively recruited affluent visitors and minimized the resort’s spiritual messages in favor of a focus on personal growth through active meditation. Dissenters accused the three leaders of “Bollywoodization” of Osho.
Some of these critics filed claims against the Osho Foundation International’s copyrights of Osho’s name, meditations and publications. The United States Trial and Trademark Copyright Board ruled that Osho organizations like Oshodam and its magazine Osho World may use the name “Osho” because it is generic like “Jesus.” The central Osho organization, Osho International Foundation, retained the rights to copyrighted publications.
In 2014, the three principals of Osho International Foundation that is now headquartered in Zurich claimed to have found a will that gave them full financial control of the organization. However, independent Swiss experts claimed that it was forged, and it paved the way for a full investigation. In June of 2014, the Federal Supervisory Board, an office of the Swiss Department of External Affairs, removed all of the current members of the board of Osho Foundation International, froze their Swiss accounts, and appointed an independent group of overseers to review the foundation. The Supervisory Board found that the three key members of the old inner circle had syphoned off half of the Foundation’s funds during the past year. There has been ongoing litigation, and once again the Osho Movement was embroiled in controversies. However, several months later, the Supervisory Board accepted an appeal and reinstated the Board.
Despite the controversies and litigation, the twenty-first century Osho Meditation Resort still throbs with music, newly developed meditations, and a multiversity that offers varied courses and personal growth groups. The Osho Movement has continued as a loose group of clients who visit the Pune Ashram or Oshodham, read Osho’s books, and meditate together and alone. The Ashram still attracts affluent tourists who seek personal growth through music, dance, and meditations. However, the most dedicated core of the movement, several hundred devotees who had centered their lives around Osho and his teachings, may have shifted their allegiances to Oshodham.
Since 1974 in Pune, almost every word Osho uttered has been faithfully recorded and published in various forms. He was fond of
asserting that there were 108 beads on the malas that his devotees wore and there were likewise 108 paths toward enlightenment. In over 115 books, which are transcriptions of his lectures, initiation talks, and pithy sayings, almost every major religious and philosophical tradition received Osho’s attention. He lectured about Buddhism, Christianity, Hassidism, Sufism, The Upanishads, and Yoga as well as Marx, Freud, and Henry Ford.
Spiritual seekers did not always understand these complicated traditions, but they appreciated how they had come together in a tasty spiritual stew flavored throughout with Zen Buddhism. Osho asserted that the many internal contradictions and paradoxes in his philosophy were essential to spiritual development and the seekers could choose to accept or reject any part of them.
In the 1970s and 1980s devotees accepted Rajneesh as their ultimate master. After Osho died, the emphasis became commitment to meditation with less emphasis o n an explicit master/disciple relationship, although the study of Osho’s philosophies remained important. Despite changes, elaborations, and advocacy of individual choice, the two most important themes in Osho’s philosophy remain surprisingly clear and consistent. They were (1) surrender of individual ego and (2) integration of the individual’s material and spiritual selves (Osho [Rajneesh] 1983).
Osho’s ten commandments, which he outlined during the time that he was still called Acharya Rajneesh, have continued to ground the contemporary movement centered in bothh the Pune Ashram and Oshodham (Osho 2002 ). True to form, Rajneesh observed that he objected to commandments of any sort, but then he went ahead (Italicized numbers 3, 7, 9, and 10 were underlined in the original.):
1. Never obey anyone’s command unless it is coming from within you also.
2. There is no God other than life itself.
3. Truth is within you: do not search for it elsewhere.
4. Love is prayer.
5. To become nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
6. Life is now and here.
7. Live wakefully.
8. Do not swim—float.
9. Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
10. Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.
However, while all of these commandments have been foundational for more than forty years, there has always been considerable latitude for individuals to construct their own meanings of this foundational guidance. And increasingly, these vague prescriptions dovetail with other spiritual leaders’ doctrines and practices.
Osho returned again and again to his vision of a new man who synthesized the worldly and the godly. His ideal was “Zorba the Buddha,” a consummate being combining the spiritual focus of the Indian mystic with the life-embracing traits of the materialistic Westerner. Zen, Tantra tradition, and the Prosperity Gospel’s messages came together in Rajneesh’s vision:
A new human being is needed on earth, a new human being who accepts both, who is scientific and mystic. Who is all for matter and all for spirit. Only then will we be able to create humanity, which is rich on both sides. I teach you the richness of body, richness of soul, richness of this world and that world. To me that is true religiousness (Osho [Rajneesh] 1983 :14).
The diverse Osho Movement is a canopy that shelters varied spiritual approaches. There is no single set of rituals. Meditations, however, remain at the center of the practice in every sector of the Movement. Devotees who are exclusively committed to following Osho meditate daily and attend collective celebrations, but others either try them out during a visit to the Meditation Resort or Oshodham or sporadically engage in group practice at local centers. Some casual followers simply perform the meditations alone with guidance from the Osho Meditation Resort’s webpages.
Osho developed four active meditations that are foundational to other newer meditations. They are Dynamic Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Nadabrama Meditation, and Nataraj Meditation. He introduced Dynamic Meditation at his early meditation camps and it remains the central meditation. These descriptions offer a sample of Osho’s approach to personal and spiritual growth:
Dynamic Meditation has three stages:
First Stage (10 minutes)
Breathing chaotically through the nose, let breathing be intense, deep, fast, without rhythm, with no pattern – and concentrating always on the exhalation. The breath should move deeply into the lungs. Do this as fast and as hard as you possibly can until you literally become the breathing. Use your natural body movements to help you to build up your energy.
Second Stage (10 minutes)
EXPLODE! … Let go of everything that needs to be thrown out. Follow your body. Give your body freedom to express whatever is there. Go totally mad. Scream, shout, cry, jump, kick, shake, dance, sing, laugh; throw yourself around. Never allow your mind to interfere with what is happening. Consciously go mad. Be total.
Third Stage (10 minutes)
With arms raised high above your head, jump up and down shouting the mantra, “Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” as deeply as possible. Each time you land, on the flats of your feet, let the sound hammer deep into the sex center. Give all you have.
Fourth Stage: 15 minutes
STOP! Freeze wherever you are, in whatever position you find yourself. Don’t arrange the body in any way. A cough, a movement, anything, will dissipate the energy flow and the effort will be lost. Be a witness to everything that is happening to you.
Fifth Stage: 15 minutes
Celebrate! With music and dance express whatsoever is there.
There are no current dress codes for devotees except at the Pune Meditation Resort, Oshodham, and during meditations at some local centers. Maroon robes that may be purchased onsite are required during the day at the Meditation Resort. White robes must be worn for the evening meditation. Only maroon swimwear is permitted in the Resort pools.
In 1970, when he publicly initiated his first disciples in Bombay, Rajneesh formally became the leader of a new religious movement that was attracting both Indian nationals and Western Europeans.
The movement grew dramatically in the early 1970s, after Rajneesh’s books were available through major English-language publishers. As the movement expanded, a differentiated organizational structure developed. Ma Yoga Laxmi, Rajneesh’s secretary, tried to run political interference with the Indian government while developing a differentiated organizational structure that scheduled appointments, workshops and housing arrangements.
In 1974, Rajneesh and his organization moved to the new Rajneesh Ashram in a luxurious suburb of Poona/Pune. Rajneesh focused on communicating doctrine and spiritual practice, occupying a compound at the Ashram that also housed his personal physician, his seamstress, and his personal assistant/lover. His secretary oversaw day-to-day operations at the Ashram, with the assistance of a growing staff.
There were departments for maintenance, food services, public relations, health care, legal services and publications. Rajneesh spoke daily, but personal and spiritual growth involved encounter groups and workshops led by several key “Rajneesh therapists.” As the Ashram and worldwide movement grew, Laxmi delegated more power to Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman), who eventually supplanted her.
The worldwide network of Rajneesh centers, cafes, and discos was loosely connected to the central organization at the Ashram. However, once Sheela took charge of all organizational matters, she required greater and greater contributions from local centers and shut down those that were least profitable. After the move to Oregon in fall 1981, there was even more centralization. Sheela did away with most of the personal growth workshops, and devotees accepted her edicts that hard work for the community was the best road to personal and spiritual growth. She also closed most Rajneesh centers throughout the world, although some changed their names and became independent entities.
At Rajneeshpuram, Rajneesh went into silent meditation and virtual seclusion, except for his ritual afternoon drives in one of his many Rolls Royces. He symbolized the movement, but Ma Anand Sheela and her inner circle of a half a dozen women called “Moms” and a handful of other devotees controlled almost everything until Rajneesh began speaking with a small group in the summer of 1984. After the poisonings in the Dalles and the failed strategy to bring in new voters for the November 1984 elections, the movement faced mounting legal difficulties, rapidly rising debt and declining membership. Sheela and her entourage began to lose their power and they left Rajneeshpuram the day before Rajneesh publicly denounced them in September of 1985.
After Rajneesh settled his legal difficulties in the U.S. and finally moved back o the old Ashram, he became increasingly frail, suffering from heart problems and diabetes. Everyday operations and communication fell to Amrito, his personal physician. Rajneesh selected a group of twenty-one devotees to become an inner circle and take over movement leadership after he died. Most of the power was with Amrito and two or three of his colleagues, however. They established a more differentiated organizational structure and set up corporations in New York and Zurich to publish and distribute Osho/Rajneesh’s work.
Because of copyright lawsuits and various schismatic groups, there may be other leadership transitions in the near future. The official Osho/Rajneesh Movement is still headquartered at the Pune Ashram, but most of its revenues are derived from publications. The Movement itself is very loosely coupled and its focus is on Osho’s books and maintaining the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune.
Very few alternative religions have successfully survived their founders’ deaths, changed public perceptions, and added to their global influence. The largest of these, the Church of the Latter-day Saints, adapted to tensions with its host societies, moved toward the social and religious mainstream, and became an influential institutionalized religion throughout the world (Stark 1996). However, few other small, marginalized movements have survived and succeeded as visible cultural influences that introduce spiritual innovations in global contexts. Despite its small size, the Osho Movement and the sects within it continue to have a broad influence, particularly through Osho’s books and the worldwide visibility of the Meditation Resort.
Neither early controversies nor internal tensions have diminished the Osho Movement’s worldwide status. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has visited the Osho Meditation Resort as have a number of contemporary celebrities, but nothing illustrates the movement’s contemporary cultural influence more than edgy pop idol Lady Gaga’s 2011 endorsement:
Oh yes Osho! I read a lot of Osho’s books and I have been reading a lot about [Osho’s views on] rebellion, which is my favorite so far. And how creativity is the greatest form of rebellion in life. It’s important to stand up for what you believe in and to fight for equality. Equality is one of the most important things in my life—social, political, economic equality—these are all things I fight for in my country as a citizen. So I read Osho because not only do I love his work and what he writes about, but I guess I am kind of an Indian hippie! (Bhushan 2011 ).
Lady Gaga’s infatuation typifies the ways that twenty-first century spiritual seekers relate to Osho through books, videos, web applications, and visits to the Meditation Resort in Pune or Oshodham. Somewhat surprisingly, neither Zuckerberg’s visit nor Gaga’s comments were met with criticisms by the news media. The Osho organization that is based in Pune has mainstreamed Osho and his message by defining the Oregon debacle as a minor misstep. The Movement’s early history has been successfully transformed and Osho/Rajneesh is now widely viewed as a compelling spiritual teacher rather than a dangerous charismatic leader.
Schisms within the Movement reflect sectarian disputes about what is the “true” word. Oshodham explicitly honors Osho/Rajneesh and also emphasizes his earlier teachings, while the leaders at the Osho International Foundation have wholeheartedly marketed Osho’s philosophies rather than his embodied self. The long-term issue is whether the Osho Movement can sustain its widespread general appeal through the efforts of a few core followers.
In the medium term, there are ongoing international copyright disputes about what entities control publications of Osho’s works and meditations. And sectarian battles about Osho’s “true” legacy. The Rajneesh/Osho Movement continues to be a hothouse for the constant tensions, just as Acharya Rajneesh predicted it would be more than four decades ago.
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2 January 2015