On Osho ?
There have been many readers of this blog who wanted me to write about Osho.
In the beginning when he was alive,I was influenced by the media to be very much prejudiced against him. Later, after reading him, I developed an avid fascination- almost akin to a fan’s wide-eyed wonder; now, after years of reading- and perhaps after visiting his ashram/resort (whatever those in-charge-now call it), I am re-examining my admiration, not merely because i did not like the resort that is run in his name.
I would like to place on record here that my friend and fellow-psychiatrist Dr.J.Bhoomikumar, was the one who made me understand my prejudice and overcome the same by making me read one of the early books by Rajneesh- and the first book i read was ‘Nirvana- the last nightmare’- this is for those many who have constantly asked me how i got onto him!
If there is one person I have to name who introduced me to many ideas and authors, it is OSHO. I am indebted to him for making me read more, learn more and at times even think more on a variety of topics. When I think of him now, after reading nearly 120 books by him, I am still amazed. I cannot but admire the intelligence of the man. As I begin to write these lines, a few words inevitably crop up in my mind- prejudice, honesty, brilliance, deterioration, dilution….. Let me use just these key words to record my impression (in 2009) on the great man.
For those who are new to Osho, whom I always have preferred to call Rajneesh, a hint on his works. In the beginning he was known as Acharya Rajneesh. He was absolutely brilliant, intense and with a special fire that can only be kindled by a passion for search. The works that he produced in that period were phenomenal. And, then he became Bhagwan Rajneesh. This was the time when he began to make things easier for those who sought. Though he had been talking of Zen, Tao, Upanishads earlier, all works authored under the name Bhagwan, were easy for people to relate and understand. The books that came under the authorship of Bhagwan Rajneesh will serve for many more generations as introductory texts to the world of the world that is supposed to be within. Those books can make you yearn for more knowledge or information. Those books are capable of lingering in your mind atleast a few days after closing them. It was as Bhagwan that he reached his heights in popularity. It was this name that prompted him to create the slogan-“jesus saves, bhagwan spends“. It was as bhagwan that he was considered a failure for the first time (refer the book-‘bhagwan: the god that failed’ written by one of his disenchanted disciples). As controversies and cases piled up against him, he wanted to be called Osho, for some strange reason that he never disclosed. The name that still stands today was his final title, self-designed as always. The books authored by Osho are in comparison to his earlier works, rather dilute, and deliberate. It is unfortunate that a new reader would not be able to distinguish these different periods from the book covers. His ‘ashram’ now publishes and reprints everything under the name Osho. To help a new reader, I would suggest reading Krishna (written as Bhagwan) and War and Peace (written as Acharya). One of the books to check in comparison would be Socrates-poisoned again (authored as Osho). This would give anyone an idea of his metamorphosis in expression.
The two books I would recommend to a new reader are-1. The Messiah (on Khalil Gibran’s Prophet) and 2.Nirvana, the last nightmare (on Zen). Vignyan bhairav tantra, called by Rajneesh as the secret of secrets, is an invaluable treatise on the art of meditation. Or if you choose to read, go by topics- Sufism, Bauls,Christianity, Upanishads, Tantra,Zen, Tao,literary mystics.. The list is vast. One has to be cautious nowadays because the current publishers rename, change name and sometimes edit and compile old books with new titles.
From what I have written above, it must be obvious that I have a respectful fascination for this person. The topics by their number and the vastness in range always leave an onlooker astounded. A closer look however, gives rise to certain questions and discomfort.
Though his intelligence is beyond dispute, his integrity has always been a subject of discussion.But then, with his quick wit, he had always been able to silence, atleast temporarily, the questioning skeptics. I am willing to overlook his hoarding of cars and flamboyance of attire and attitude, but I cannot help wondering whether his claims of earlier incarnations were mystical in nature, or with the market in the mind. That he had been contradicting himself in his books is a fact that he had acknowledged with his customary élan. The contradictions between his professed wisdom and his lifestyle are just too glaring to be overshadowed by his self-profused glow of quasi-divinity.
I could be prejudiced now too, as I was in the beginning. Then, I was influenced by the media, now I am possibly influenced by the way those guys run his institution. This perhaps is the right time to record my experience and observations of the ‘place’ in Pune.
Despite being one of the early few in Tamilnadu who kept talking on and urging others to read Rajneesh, despite the fact that I had personally known some of his disciples/followers who had been with him during his lifetime and at the helm of affairs after his death, despite repeated invitations in the early 1990s, I had desisted visiting his ashram. Perhaps I had a subconscious fear that I may break my own little fancy doll. It was only in December 2008 I stepped into his institution, as an average Indian and a common man.The experience made me numb.
There is a preferential treatment. There is a transparent sale tag in all the introductions. There is falseness in the initiation into meditation, and there is an unmistakable arrogance in the attitude. I had gone the first day, and gone through all the compulsory (though unnecessary in my opinion) routines- which included watching a video which was trying to teach how and how not to blow one’s nose! By the time the compulsory introduction was over, it was lunch time. Then we had to eat, browse the store, and walk around getting the feel of the place in which a great man lived. Since it was evening we decided to come back the next day.All those hours spent there did not tell us one little thing- that the next morning things would be different! On arriving at the reception the second morning, we (around twenty people) were told that there were no daily passes (tickets) and we had to buy a ticket for the next five days or so. this decision had been taken the previous night when all those who wanted to visit again were sleeping or praying for a second darshan! As I had work to do and also had booked my return flight the next day I (like many other Indians there) wanted them to consider that I may be allowed to just buy a single day pass – the reply was, “let me see your ticket”. Shamelessly, I asked whether showing that ticket would entitle a single day entry, and the answer was, ” can’t tell, we will see..” That was it. I did not feel like talking to them. It was their place, their show. They can sell daily or season tickets. they can make, break or change thier rules.They can charge you for even using their toilets if they want, but the price of visiting the place again was self-respect. It was not the extra few hundred rupees that were going to be paid, it was the attitude that made me wince. I could not afford to part with my most valued asset, my self-respect. Does this mean Rajneesh is bad? How can he be responsible for what his current followers do? Well, I can say Rajneesh being good or bad cannot be decided by how badly his current gang behaves, but these are the guys who are supposed to show him to the new world, and going by what he had implied in one of his grandiose declarations that he is eternal, and his spirit is eternal, his spirit is certainly not managing the institution well.
Just because I had a bad experience in the place, I am not going to decry or denounce his intellectual contribution to the literature in that genre. I reiterate that my respect for the many wonderful things that I had learnt from this brilliant teacher, remains undiluted. It, however, is just respect for a teacher, not surrender to a master.
Rajneesh still can be useful for the new generation. They can get introduced to many concepts and ideologies through his books. He can be (as is happening currently) a vital source for newer guru-performers. His books can make wonderful reference material for any aspiring guru to speak, as though with authority. He has listed and elaborated more than a hundred meditation techniques- enough to tempt and create another hundred aspiring gurus. there are bound to be many who would like to say that he is their ultimate guru. (i am reminded of a conversation i had with Jayakanthan on guru, in which he admonished me for calling him ‘one’ of my gurus; he then advised me to not declare any living person as my guru since they may, before dying, leave me shame-faced. Maybe one cannot rush to call even a dead teacher a guru!)
A teacher is necessary. A master is optional, however attractive the option be, it is an option- a desire not a need. i find a lot of youngsters swayed by the marketing-media-blitz, ‘saying’ they want a master.if they believe in god, may that god forbid an entrapment. no one can be your master if you master your desires.
i tell those who come to me these things that need to be told to me, often- (and this is what i learnt from him)
- When you know thyself, there is no ‘thy’ self; is or can there be another, without your wish/permission ?
- Read to know, to get acquainted, to learn- but never surrender to the author.
- and above all, be yourself, forever. in a societal obligation, you may lie- but be aware of the lie. tomorrow, your mirror should not spit at you.
I acknowledge with gratitude his contribution to my growth- in the intellectual arena, but, if I were to seek or traverse the mystic path of spiritual enlightenment, he is not the master- for me. He is not a sour grape. He is a grape that had served its part in the digested wine.
oh! show goes on! what if some fans have moved away!!
*for those who would like a psychiatrist’s perspective of Rajneesh, I recommend the book ‘Feet of Clay’ by Anthony Storr.