By Suma Varughese July 2001 Eleven years after he passed away, the rebel Osho’s popularity continues to grow. But what is his enduring contribution and what will be the fate of his legacy, with the Pune Commune trying to transcend him and some prominent followers breaking away? Osho in the marketplace Satish Nanda aka Swami Satish Satyarthi is one Osho lover who lives his master’s teachings. His personal life, his spiritual pursuits and his business are all one seamless whole. ”Spirituality does not fall off when you are at work or business,” he says. Nanda is as keen to take off for an Osho meditation camp as he is to organize one for his employees at Heritage in Delhi’s (India) upmarket South Extension market. Each item in his store, each display, even communication with his regular clients is stamped with his distinctive style—classy, meditative, understated, loving—which makes visitors to the emporium feel welcome and valued.Osho’s greatest contribution, believes Nanda, has been to make us realize that life is full of beauty, grace, splendor, height. Once you get acquainted with the truth, you can experience death lovingly. But we don’t live like this, which made Osho comment: ”I sell mirrors in the city of the blind.” In the next 50-100 years, Nanda is confident, the world will be full of Oshoites and Osho’s teachings will be followed in toto. This is because with technological advancement, living will progressively become mundane and monotonous, mere fiddling around with plastic buttons. This will prove to be suicidal for human race, and so, make way for a new era. Nanda doesn’t agree that the recent controversial developments at the Osho Commune in Pune will have much negative impact: ”There are many like me who have loved Osho, and feel connected to him. Wherever they are, Osho is.” He adds poetically: ”No matter how or where you slice a piece of misri (crystal sugar), what you get is still misri.” ”The western mind,” he continues, ”cannot comprehend the guru phenomenon. In India, for thousands of years, yogis have worked on themselves for salvation through the guru-shishya (master-disciple) tradition.” He is, of course, alluding to the rumored existence of a foreign cabal trying to control Osho’s legacy. He adds: ”who wants control? Those who are not powerful.” Osho’s work, Nanda points out, continues outside the Pune Commune too. There are communes in Dharamsala, Kathmandu, Piparia…Osho Dham has recently come up on 15 acres of land near Najafgarh in Delhi, India. Camps are held, sanyas initiation given as before. Nanda has just returned from a three-day camp at Pithoragarh in Uttaranchal, India that was led by Swami Narendra Bodhisattva and attended by 80-90 people,of whom 28 took sannyasdiksha, initiation And what a joyride that was! In his 59 odd years Osho Rajneesh packed in a lot of living and teaching. Born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain into a cloth merchant’s family in Jabalpur, India, in 1931, he claimed to have attained enlightenment at the age of 21. By 1964, Rajneesh was holding discourses and meditation camps all over the country. In 1966 he chucked his job as professor of philosophy at the University of Jabalpur. In 1970 he initiated his first disciples into sannyas(monkhood) and moved to a flat in Mumbai, India. The flow of disciples had become a flood by 1974. He had his first brush with notoriety when a series of lectures titled From Sex to Superconsciousness scandalized the Indian public and earned him the sobriquet ‘Sex Guru’. Soon, he established the Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Koregaon Park, an upmarket suburb of Pune, India. The ashram became a thriving center of New Age activity as his western disciples, many of them accomplished psychotherapists and artists, included many western therapies to the eastern meditation techniques created by Osho. One of Osho’s unique contributions, most agree, has been the creation of a whole menu of ‘active meditations’ oriented to the modern man who is far too restless to subside into meditation at the drop of a breath. These meditations are cathartic, involving vigorous action such as jumping up and down, dancing or shaking before relaxing into silence and stillness. With over a hundred therapies on tap, Westerners came in droves to what was touted as the largest personal growth center in the world. Time magazine estimated that between 1974 and 1978, 50,000 people had visited the Pune ashram. Notoriety continued to surround Rajneesh, thanks largely to his propagation of tantra as a way to the sublime. Tantra workshops required participants to strip and sniff at the armpits and genitals of a member of the opposite sex. Conscious sexual intercourse with the intention of moving beyond the hold of sex was also recommended and doubtless embraced enthusiastically. Pune residents were outraged by the uninhibited behavior of the sannyasins and petitioned for his removal. In 1981, Rajneesh and his ‘neo sannyasins‘ (monks or initiates) as they were referred to, left for the USA. There they set up acommune called Rajneeshpuram in a 64,000-acre ranch in Oregon. Soon, there was chaos as Rajneesh, by then called Bhagwan, went into silence, giving charge of the commune to his secretary, Ma Anand Sheela. Sheela, by all accounts, ran the commune like an autocrat. She wrote a book, Rajneeshism, in which she attempted to distil his teaching into a creed and even to establish a three-tier ecclesiastical hierarchy consisting of acharyas, arihantas and siddhas. In 1985, Sheela and her colleagues fled the USA, following which they were accused of attempted poisoning and embezzling $55 million. A month later Rajneesh was arrested by the US government on several charges including the arrangement of sham marriages among the sannyasins to subvert American immigration laws. He was asked to leave the country. Looking for a place to set up base, he approached and was rejected by 21 countries. Eventually, he returned to Pune. In 1989, he changed his name to ‘Osho’, which stands for ‘oceanic’. On January 19, 1990, Osho passed away, allegedly due to the radiation poisoning administered to him while in the US prison. Osho’s seen it all. Love, hate, trust, suspicion, fame, infamy, adoration, allegation. Rather than the tranquil middle road embraced by most sages, his life has been a rollercoaster ride of monumental proportions. As he remarked jauntily: ‘It has never happened in history that the whole world should be against one man.’ (Rajneesh: The Newspaper, 1986, 1:1, 9) Why? Why was he so controversial a figure? Why were opinions about him so sharply polarized? Was he a saint or was he a sinner? Osho does not fall into any easy category. Unlike a Ramana Maharshi or a Pandurang Shastri Athawale, he is not consistently good. Like Lord Krishna, whom he analyzes brilliantly, he defies labels. There can be no mistaking the profundity of his message, which is really classic Advaita, which holds that the creator and creation are one. ‘Dissolve yourself as a separate entity. Become part of the cosmic whole,’ he urges his followers. Or again: ‘Once you are established in your being, you are established in the whole because your being is part of the whole.’ There can also be no denying the depth of his understanding, or his eloquence. His books (collections of his talks) are testimony to his brilliant and fecund mind as he discourses with riveting insight on the whole range of masters from Jesus to Lao Tzu to the Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna, Shankaracharya. Yet there is an irrepressible streak in him, a mischievous imp, which often egged him to make statements that could lead to misunderstanding. From Sex to Superconsciousness is really a marvelous plea for the need to confront sex and all the feelings that it arouses rather than resorting to the centuries-old habit of repression—a valuable message in this post-Freudian age where we have seen the damage caused to the psyche by the suppression of natural instincts. Osho says in From Sex to Superconsciousness: ‘Sex is man’s most vibrant energy, but it should not be an end unto itself. Sex should lead man to his soul. The goal is from lust to light.’ However, in conveying this message he denounces religion and other spiritual masters for not doing so: ‘Sages and seers have degraded sex for thousands of years,’ he says at one point. Perhaps his penchant for putting people in the wrong was partially responsible for the negative reactions he drew. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to distinguish between the need to confront one’s attitude to sex and the decision to give way to it as he recommended. Tantra is a dangerous route, strictly for the strongest-minded, and it’s a moot point if it could ever lend itself to mass use. There is little doubt that much of the sexual action was misused, generating attendant emotional and mental disturbance. He was also given to grandiloquence. In the article The Narcissistic Guru, published in Osho Rajneesh and his Disciples (Motilal Banarsidass), Ronald O’ Clarke quotes him as saying: ‘Jesus can be found again easily… But to find a man like me—who has traveled thousands of ways, in thousands of lives, and has gathered the fragrance of millions of flowers like a honeybee—is difficult.’ Undoubtedly Osho was brash, given to dismissing all religions and masters, and maybe foolhardy in his zeal to take on the world. Yet, we cannot forget the number of people he has influenced for the better and the awareness he has created of the spirit in man. Says Arun Wakhlu, Managing Director of Pragati Learnin
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