Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Indian mystic
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Osho pronunciation,(11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), born Chandra Mohan Jain, and also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh pronunciation, during the 1970s and 1980s and as Osho from 1989, was an Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following. A professor of philosophy, he travelled throughout India in the 1960s as a public speaker.
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  • 1990
    Age 58
    Writing in the Seattle Post Intelligencer in January 1990, American author Tom Robbins stated that based on his readings of Osho's books, he was convinced Osho was the 20th century's "greatest spiritual teacher."
    More Details Hide Details Robbins, while stressing that he was not a disciple, further stated that he had "read enough vicious propaganda and slanted reports to suspect that he was one of the most maligned figures in history." Osho's commentary on the Sikh scripture known as Japuji was hailed as the best available by Giani Zail Singh, the former President of India. In 2011, author Farrukh Dhondy reported that film star Kabir Bedi was a fan of Osho, and viewed Osho's works as "the most sublime interpretations of Indian philosophy that he had come across". Dhondy himself viewed Osho as "the cleverest intellectual confidence trickster that India has produced. His output of the 'interpretation' of Indian texts is specifically slanted towards a generation of disillusioned westerners who wanted (and perhaps still want) to 'have their cake, eat it' and claim at the same time that cake-eating is the highest virtue according to ancient-fused-with-scientific wisdom."
    Osho died on 19 January 1990, aged 58, reportedly of heart failure.
    More Details Hide Details His ashes were placed in his newly built bedroom in Lao Tzu House at the Poona ashram. The epitaph reads, "OSHO. Never Born, Never Died. Only Visited this Planet Earth between 11 Dec 1931 – 19 Jan 1990." Osho's teachings, delivered through his discourses, were not presented in an academic setting, but interspersed with jokes and delivered with a rhetoric that many found spellbinding. The emphasis was not static but changed over time: Osho revelled in paradox and contradiction, making his work difficult to summarise. He delighted in engaging in behaviour that seemed entirely at odds with traditional images of enlightened individuals; his early lectures in particular were famous for their humour and their refusal to take anything seriously. All such behaviour, however capricious and difficult to accept, was explained as "a technique for transformation" to push people "beyond the mind."
  • 1989
    Age 57
    He delivered his last public discourse in April 1989, from then on simply sitting in silence with his followers.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly before his death, Osho suggested that one or more audience members at evening meetings (now referred to as the White Robe Brotherhood) were subjecting him to some form of evil magic. A search for the perpetrators was undertaken, but none could be found.
    In late December, he said he no longer wished to be referred to as "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh", and in February 1989 took the name "Osho Rajneesh", shortened to "Osho" in September.
    More Details Hide Details He also requested that all trademarks previously branded with RAJNEESH be rebranded internationally to OSHO. His health continued to weaken.
  • 1988
    Age 56
    From early 1988, Osho's discourses focused exclusively on Zen.
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  • 1987
    Age 55
    In November 1987, Osho expressed his belief that his deteriorating health (nausea, fatigue, pain in extremities and lack of resistance to infection) was due to poisoning by the U.S. authorities while in prison.
    More Details Hide Details His doctors and former attorney, Philip J. Toelkes (Swami Prem Niren), hypothesised radiation and thallium in a deliberately irradiated mattress, since his symptoms were concentrated on the right side of his body, but presented no hard evidence. U.S. attorney Charles H. Hunter described this as "complete fiction", while others suggested exposure to HIV or chronic diabetes and stress.
    In January 1987, Osho returned to the ashram in Poona, where he held evening discourses each day, except when interrupted by intermittent ill health.
    More Details Hide Details Publishing and therapy resumed and the ashram underwent expansion, now as a "Multiversity" where therapy was to function as a bridge to meditation. Osho devised new "meditation therapy" methods such as the "Mystic Rose" and began to lead meditations in his discourses after a gap of more than ten years. His western disciples formed no large communes, mostly preferring ordinary independent living. Red/orange dress and the mala were largely abandoned, having been optional since 1985. The wearing of maroon robes—only while on ashram premises—was reintroduced in summer 1989, along with white robes worn for evening meditation and black robes for group-leaders.
  • 1986
    Age 54
    Refuelling in Gander and in Madrid, Osho returned to Bombay, India, on 30 July 1986.
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  • 1985
    Age 53
    Following his exit from the U.S., Osho returned to India, landing in Delhi on 17 November 1985.
    More Details Hide Details He was given a hero's welcome by his Indian disciples and denounced the United States, saying the world must "put the monster America in its place" and that "Either America must be hushed up or America will be the end of the world." He then stayed for six weeks in Himachal Pradesh. When non-Indians in his party had their visas revoked, he moved on to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then, a few weeks later, to Crete. Arrested after a few days by the KYP, he flew to Geneva, then to Stockholm and to Heathrow, but was in each case refused entry. Next Canada refused landing permission, so his plane returned to Shannon airport, Ireland, to refuel. There he was allowed to stay for two weeks, at a hotel in Limerick, on condition that he did not go out or give talks. He had been granted a Uruguayan identity card, one-year provisional residency and a possibility of permanent residency, so the party set out, stopping at Madrid, where the plane was surrounded by the Guardia Civil. He was allowed to spend one night at Dakar, then continued to Recife and Montevideo. In Uruguay, the group moved to a house at Punta del Este where Osho began speaking publicly until 19 June, after which he was "invited to leave" for no official reason. A two-week visa was arranged for Jamaica but on arrival in Kingston police gave the group 12 hours to leave.
    On 28 October 1985, Osho and a small number of sannyasins accompanying him were arrested aboard a rented Learjet at a North Carolina airstrip; according to federal authorities the group was en route to Bermuda to avoid prosecution. $58,000 in cash, 35 watches and bracelets worth $1 million were found on the aircraft.
    More Details Hide Details Osho had by all accounts been informed neither of the impending arrest nor the reason for the journey. Osho's imprisonment and transfer across the country became a public spectacle—he was displayed in chains, held first in North Carolina, then Oklahoma and finally in Portland. Officials took the full ten days legally available to transfer him from North Carolina to Portland for arraignment. After initially pleading "not guilty" to all charges and being released on bail Osho, on the advice of his lawyers, entered an "Alford plea"—a type of guilty plea through which a suspect does not admit guilt, but does concede there is enough evidence to convict him—to one count of having a concealed intent to remain permanently in the U.S. at the time of his original visa application in 1981 and one count of having conspired to have sannyasins enter into sham marriages to acquire U.S. residency. Under the deal his lawyers made with the U.S. Attorney's office he was given a 10-year suspended sentence, five years' probation and a $400,000 penalty in fines and prosecution costs and agreed to leave the United States, not returning for at least five years without the permission of the United States Attorney General.
    On 23 October 1985, a federal grand jury issued a thirty-five-count indictment charging Osho and several other disciples with conspiracy to evade immigration laws.
    More Details Hide Details The indictment was returned in camera, but word was leaked to Osho's lawyer. Negotiations to allow Osho to surrender to authorities in Portland if a warrant were issued failed. Rumours of a National Guard takeover and a planned violent arrest of Osho led to tension and fears of shooting. On the strength of Sheela's tape recordings, authorities later stated the belief that there had been a plan that sannyasin women and children would have been asked to create a human shield had authorities attempted to arrest Osho at the commune.
    On 30 September 1985, Osho denied that he was a religious teacher.
    More Details Hide Details His disciples burned 5,000 copies of Book of Rajneeshism, a 78-page compilation of his teachings that 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 Sheela, whose robes were also "added to the bonfire". 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. Nevertheless Gordon (1987) reports that Charles Turner, David Frohnmayer and other law enforcement officials, who had surveyed affidavits never released publicly and who listened to hundreds of hours of tape recordings, insinuated to him that Osho was guilty of more crimes than those for which he was eventually prosecuted. Frohnmayer asserted that Osho's philosophy was not "disapproving of poisoning" and that he felt he and Sheela had been "genuinely evil".
    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.
    More Details Hide Details He was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with immigration violations. Osho was deported from the United States in accordance with a plea bargain.
  • 1984
    Age 52
    He accused them of having committed a number of serious crimes, most of these dating back to 1984, and invited the authorities to investigate.
    More Details Hide Details 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 to impact the county elections. While his allegations were initially greeted with scepticism 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.
    Several months later, on 30 October 1984, he ended his period of public silence, announcing that it was time to "speak his own truths," and in July 1985 he resumed daily public discourses against Sheela's wishes, according to statements he made to the press.
    More Details Hide Details 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."
    Osho had coached Sheela in using media coverage to her advantage and during his period of public silence he privately stated that when Sheela spoke, she was speaking on his behalf. He had also supported her when disputes about her behaviour arose within the commune leadership, but in spring 1984, as tension amongst the inner circle peaked, a private meeting was convened with Sheela and his personal house staff.
    More Details Hide Details According to the testimony of Swami Devageet (Charles Harvey Newman) she was admonished in front of the others, with Osho declaring that his house, and not hers, was the centre of the commune. He is also said to have warned that anyone close to him would inevitably become a target for Sheela.
    In March 1984, Sheela announced that Osho had predicted the death of two-thirds of humanity from AIDS.
    More Details Hide Details Sannyasins were required to wear rubber gloves and condoms if they had sex, and to refrain from kissing, measures widely represented in the press as an extreme overreaction since condoms were not usually recommended for AIDS prevention at that stage. During his residence in Rajneeshpuram, Osho also dictated three books under the influence of nitrous oxide administered to him by his private dentist: Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Notes of a Madman and Books I Have Loved. Sheela later stated 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.
  • 1981
    Age 49
    Commune administrators tried to resolve Osho's own difficulty in this respect by declaring him the head of a religion, "Rajneeshism": in November 1981 Osho applied for residence as a religious worker, which was refused on the grounds that he could not lead a religion while unwell and in silence.
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    In 1981, Osho gave Sheela limited power of attorney and removed the limits the following year.
    More Details Hide Details In 1983, Sheela announced that he would henceforth speak only with her. He would later state that she kept him in ignorance. Many sannyasins expressed doubts about whether Sheela properly represented Osho and many dissidents left Rajneeshpuram in protest at its autocratic leadership. Resident sannyasins without U.S. citizenship experienced visa difficulties that some tried to overcome by marriages of convenience.
    He had been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc in spring 1981 and treated by several doctors, including James Cyriax, a St. Thomas' Hospital musculoskeletal physician and expert in epidural injections flown in from London.
    More Details Hide Details 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". A public statement by Sheela indicated 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. Despite the stated serious nature of the situation Osho never sought outside medical treatment during his time in the United States, leading the Immigration and Naturalization Service to believe that he had a preconceived intent to remain there. Osho would later plead guilty to immigration fraud, including making false statements on his initial visa application. On 13 June 1981, Sheela's husband Swami Prem Chinmaya (Marc Harris Silverman) bought, for US$5.75 million, a ranch, previously known as "The Big Muddy Ranch" and located across two Oregon counties (Wasco and Jefferson). It was renamed "Rancho Rajneesh" and Osho moved there on 29 August. Initial local community reactions ranged from hostility to tolerance, depending on distance from the ranch. Within a year a series of legal battles ensued, principally over land use. In May 1982 the residents of Rancho Rajneesh voted to incorporate it as the city of Rajneeshpuram. Conflict with local residents became increasingly bitter and, over the following years, the commune was subject to constant, coordinated pressure from various coalitions.
    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 with music and readings from spiritual works such as Khalil Gibran's The Prophet or the Isha Upanishad—replaced discourses.
    More Details Hide Details Around the same time, Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) replaced Ma Yoga Laxmi as Osho's secretary. In 1981, the increased tensions around the Poona ashram, along with criticism of its activities and threatened punitive action by the Indian authorities, provided an impetus for the ashram to relocate to the United States. 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. On 1 June, he travelled to the United States on a tourist visa, ostensibly for medical purposes, and spent several months at a Rajneeshee retreat center located at Kip's Castle in Montclair, New Jersey.
    By 1981, Osho's ashram hosted 30,000 visitors per year.
    More Details Hide Details Daily discourse audiences were by then predominantly European and American. Many observers noted that Osho's lecture style changed in the late seventies, becoming less focused intellectually and featuring an increasing number of ethnic or dirty jokes intended to shock or amuse his audience.
  • 1980
    Age 48
    In May 1980, during one of Osho's discourses, an attempt on his life was made by Vilas Tupe, a young Hindu fundamentalist.
    More Details Hide Details Tupe claims that he undertook the attack, because he believed Osho to be an agent of the CIA.
    Conflicts with various Indian religious leaders aggravated the situation—by 1980 the ashram had become so controversial that Indira Gandhi, despite a previous association between Osho and the Indian Congress Party dating back to the sixties, was unwilling to intercede for it after her return to power.
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  • 1974
    Age 42
    Osho taught at the Poona ashram from 1974 to 1981.
    More Details Hide Details The two adjoining houses and of land became the nucleus of an ashram, and the property is still the heart of the present-day Osho International Meditation Resort. It allowed the regular audio recording and, later, video recording and printing of his discourses for worldwide distribution, enabling him to reach far larger audiences. The number of Western visitors increased sharply. The ashram soon featured an arts-and-crafts centre producing clothes, jewellery, ceramics and organic cosmetics and hosted performances of theatre, music and mime. From 1975, after the arrival of several therapists from the Human Potential Movement, the ashram began to complement meditations with a growing number of therapy groups, which became a major source of income for the ashram. The Poona ashram was by all accounts an exciting and intense place to be, with an emotionally charged, madhouse-carnival atmosphere. The day began at 6:00 a.m. with Dynamic Meditation. From 8:00 a.m., Osho gave a 60- to 90-minute spontaneous lecture in the ashram's "Buddha Hall" auditorium, commenting on religious writings or answering questions from 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". In evening darshans, Osho conversed with individual disciples or visitors and initiated disciples ("gave sannyas"). Sannyasins came for darshan when departing or returning or when they had anything they wanted to discuss.
    The humid climate of Bombay proved detrimental to Osho's health: he developed diabetes, asthma and numerous allergies. In 1974, on the 21st anniversary of his experience in Jabalpur, he moved to a property in Koregaon Park, Poona, purchased with the help of Ma Yoga Mukta (Catherine Venizelos), a Greek shipping heiress.
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  • 1971
    Age 39
    In 1971, he adopted the title "Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh".
    More Details Hide Details Shree is a polite form of address roughly equivalent to the English "Sir"; Bhagwan means "blessed one", used in Indian traditions as a term of respect for a human being in whom the divine is no longer hidden but apparent.
  • 1970
    Age 38
    In December 1970, he moved to the Woodlands Apartments in Bombay, where he gave lectures and received visitors, among them his first Western visitors.
    More Details Hide Details He now travelled rarely, no longer speaking at open public meetings.
    On 26 September 1970, he initiated his first group of disciples or neo-sannyasins.
    More Details Hide Details Becoming a disciple meant 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 encouraged to follow a celebratory rather than ascetic lifestyle. He himself was not to be worshipped but regarded as a catalytic agent, "a sun encouraging the flower to open". He had by then acquired a secretary Laxmi Thakarsi Kuruwa, 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.
    At a public meditation event in spring 1970, Osho presented his Dynamic Meditation method for the first time.
    More Details Hide Details He left Jabalpur for Bombay at the end of June.
  • 1969
    Age 37
    When in 1969 he was invited to speak at the Second World Hindu Conference, despite the misgivings of some Hindu leaders, he used the occasion to raise controversy again, claiming that "any religion which considers life meaningless and full of misery, and teaches the hatred of life, is not a true religion.
    More Details Hide Details Religion is an art that shows how to enjoy life." He characterised priests as being motivated by self-interest, provoking the shankaracharya of Puri, who tried in vain to have his lecture stopped.
  • 1968
    Age 36
    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 and became known as the "sex guru" in the Indian press.
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  • 1966
    Age 34
    After a controversial speaking tour in 1966, he resigned from his teaching post at the request of the university.
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  • 1964
    Age 32
    Osho had said as early as 1964 that "the third and last war is now on the way" and frequently spoke of the need to create a "new humanity" to avoid global suicide.
    More Details Hide Details This now became the basis for a new exclusivism, and 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", increased the sense of urgency in building the Oregon commune.
  • 1962
    Age 30
    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).
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  • 1958
    Age 26
    From 1958, he taught philosophy as a lecturer at Jabalpur University, being promoted to professor in 1960.
    More Details Hide Details A popular lecturer, 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 under the name Acharya Rajneesh (Acharya means teacher or professor; Rajneesh was a nickname he had acquired in childhood), giving lectures critical of socialism and Gandhi. He said socialism would only socialise poverty, and he described Gandhi as a masochist reactionary who worshipped poverty. What India needed to escape its backwardness was 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, but also gained him 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—and his practice grew rapidly.
  • 1955
    Age 23
    Having completed his B.A. in philosophy at D. N. Jain College in 1955, he joined the University of Sagar, where in 1957 he earned his M.A. in philosophy (with distinction).
    More Details Hide Details He immediately secured a teaching post at Raipur Sanskrit college, but the Vice Chancellor soon asked him to seek a transfer as he considered him a danger to his students' morality, character and religion.
  • 1953
    Age 21
    Osho later said he became spiritually enlightened on 21 March 1953, when he was 21 years old, in a mystical experience while sitting under a tree in the Bhanvartal garden in Jabalpur.
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  • 1951
    Age 19
    He began speaking in public at the annual Sarva Dharma Sammelan (Meeting of all faiths) held at Jabalpur, organised by the Taranpanthi Jain community into which he was born, and participated there from 1951 to 1968.
    More Details Hide Details He resisted his parents' pressure to get married.
    In 1951, aged nineteen, Osho began his studies at Hitkarini College in Jabalpur.
    More Details Hide Details Asked to leave after conflicts with an instructor, he transferred to D. N. Jain College, also in Jabalpur. Having proved himself to be disruptively argumentative, 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 local newspaper.
  • 1931
    Born on December 11, 1931.
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