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 either "The 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
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 teachings.
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
Fearing a 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. authorities, or 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 death.
At its peak, they 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 "sex
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 Royces, given 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 became disciples
themselves, including Osho's own parents.
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. Osho was 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