Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Osho: A fresh breeze

“Why is so much sex needed? Because you are tense, sex becomes a release. Your tensions are released through it — you feel relaxed, you can go to sleep; if you repress it, you remain tense. And if you repress sex — the only release, the only possibility of release — what will happen? You will go mad. Where will you release your tensions then?” – Sex to Super-consciousness, by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as Osho) a twentieth century Indian mystic.

These words made Osho notorious. When religious leaders from all faiths were condemning ‘Sex’ and advised strict discipline, Osho stood up to declare that, the fault does not lie in sex but in our perception, and rather, preoccupation towards it. He stated that repression of Sex is not a healthy option. This revolutionary view was like a breath of fresh air and won him many disciples. But in a self-professed conservative society like India his book ‘From Sex to super-consciousness’ was a scandal.

Osho was also the most misunderstood man of his time. His philosophy is not limited to sex. For him sex, if properly understood can be a liberating experience. He emphasized the importance of creativity, awareness, meditation, love and most importantly, the celebration of the existence itself. His famous quote “do not fall in love, rise in it” reflects his ideology. He criticized any attempt to stifle the natural growth of a being, because of social and religious traditions.

He was a prolific orator. His discourses, given over a period of time, are published as his works. In these discourses, he re-interpreted all the major religious and spiritual traditions of the world. He usually went against the traditional interpretations, and many times he subjected Gods and Prophets to critical evaluation. During the last phase of his life he concentrated more on Zen Buddhism, about which he declared, “God is dead- Now Zen is the only living Truth.”

Osho taught that every human has a potential to become a Buddha. Every person is also capable of unconditional love, his ego usually does not allow him to acknowledge and enjoy this experience. To encourage the removal of this undesirable Ego, and to attain Buddha-hood, he devised new ways of meditation which encouraged catharsis in the practitioner. Many of his disciples swear by these methods.

When most of the religious leaders form India were criticizing the material pursuit of the industrialized nations and preached renunciation as an essential condition for spiritual deliverance, Osho said that material success is not an hindrance for attaining Buddha-hood, to explain this he borrowed the concept of Zorba the Greek, and put forth the theory of Zorba the Buddha, merging the western ideas with the eastern. The western new age thought is influenced by this concept.

The notion that material success is not inimical to the spiritual development, encouraged many westerners to flock around Osho, as his Neo-Sannyasins. By 1981 itself, Osho’s Pune ashram hosted 30,000 visitors per year. His popularity was rapidly increasing. At the peak of his popularity, Osho’s Oregon, USA ashram boasted a fleet of 93 Rolls-Royce cars and private jets.

But this indulgence with the wealth, as well as controversies, proved to be Osho’s undoing. Along with gaining followers he, alienated many people. Osho and his followers were accused of grave charges like drug abuse and prostitution (Even today his Pune ashram is viewed with a mix of aversion and suspicion by the local populace). He was arrested and deported from America, and was denied permission even to set foot upon their land, by most of the liberal countries.

Last days of this great man were confined to the Pune ashram. His doctors suspected that, his deteriorating health was a result of poisoning by radiation and thallium, when he was in prison in America. His death on 19th Jan 1990 was attributed to the heart failure. Osho was much demonized while he was alive but after his death, his philosophy started gaining greater popularity and acceptance.

“Osho”, which means a high ranking Buddhist monk in Japanese, is a title adopted by Chandra Mohan Jain at the fag end of his life. He was also affectionately called as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh by his followers. Born in to a Jain family of Taranpanthi sect, in Kuchwada, Madhya Pradesh, on 11 Dec 1931, he was the eldest of 11 children. Osho’s childhood is relatively less known, much of what is known, comes from his own discourses. He lived with his Maternal Grand mother. During this time he witnessed two tragedies, deaths of his grand father when he was seven, whom he adored, and later when he was fifteen, of his childhood sweet heart and cousin Shashi. These two deaths lead him to be preoccupied by the thought of death throughout his life.

Osho was a self-taught man, even as he went to college and studied logic, he refused to accept the laid down text book knowledge, resulting in frequent arguments with professors. Because of this notoriety he was allowed to write exams without attending the classes. Osho utilized free time by reading large number of books. It was during this period, Osho’s thought process crystallized, leading him to interpret various religious and philosophical texts in his own peculiar way. He claimed that, he got spiritually enlightened on 21March 1953, when he was 21, and remained unmarried.

One of the strengths of Osho was his analytical abilities. He would deliberately provoke people. With his radical reinterpretation, he would shock the people out of their complacency. People who understood this usually appreciated him, but who could not understand the same started hating him. Unfortunately the later make the majority. His failure in procuring land for a bigger ashram, as Pune ashram was proving congested, was a result of this bad image.

Zen masters of Japan also relied on provoking people to come to the realization. But they never spoon fed their pupil. Osho by way of excessive intellectualization deprived the opportunity of self realization to his students. This was evident when his students were repeatedly involved in controversies, ranging from drug abuse, to Bio-terror attack on the citizens of The Dallas, Oregon using salmonella bacteria.

Going by the depth and range of his teachings along with his unique re-interpretation of existing religious texts, it is impossible to deny that Osho realized some of the profound truths in his life. He is also the most profound thinker of his age, whose influence can be felt even after his death. But allowing some of the close disciples to gain a free hand, in the organization and running of his ashram, proved detrimental to his reputation. Particularly the conduct of the ashram in Oregon, USA, and later arrest of Osho damaged his reputation to such an extant, that 21 countries have not only just denied him the visa, but did not allow him even the permission to enter their land. No modern day religious teacher was humiliated and feared in such a way. On the contrary Indian thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthy, his contemporary and who was not controversial, was given permission to continue his religious work in USA, and was offered permanent citizenship there.

The opulent manner, in which he lived, also did not go well with his reputation. The image of 93 Rolls-Royce cars lined up in Oregon, earned him a nick name of ‘Rolls-Royce guru’ in America. In his later days, particularly after coming back to India, Osho primarily talked on Zen Buddhism, but he violated the very teachings he so often preached, the ‘Middle Path’, avoiding of extremes, by these opulent indulgences.

Controversies not with standing, Osho’s impact on the society can not be under estimated. He produced some of the seminal works and popularized ideas like, ‘Here and now’, ‘Power of Unconscious’ etc. the fact that during his life time Osho was harassed by the governments all over world does not diminish his stature as a profound thinker. A person no less than Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has said that, ‘Osho will long be remembered as a great philosopher – saint and mystic of twentieth century.’ During last election campaign, leader of BJP Mr. L.K. Advani, in an interview given to a national TV, said that he is reading an Osho’s book when ever he gets a time between his election campaigns. This shows that Osho is no more an untouchable. This is also attested by an influential Indian news paper, which counted Osho, along with Buddha and Gandhi, as one of the ten people who changed the destiny of India.

It is a classic case of hating a teacher but loving his teachings. But it also shows that Osho was far ahead of his times, that his teachings will be better understood in an Ideal enlightened society, than in a society that is fragmented, and embittered in its own contradictions and conflicts. Osho’s legacy has a profound effect on the human thought process.