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Osho Rajneesh

Osho Rajneesh




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Osho, born Chandra Mohan Jain (Hindi: चन्द्र मोहन जैन) (11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, calling himself Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh during the 1970s and 1980s and taking the name Osho in 1989, was an Indian mystic and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following. His syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, creativity and humour – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation. His teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought, and their popularity has increased markedly since his death.

Osho was a professor of philosophy and travelled throughout India in the 1960s as a public speaker. His views against socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and institutionalised religion were controversial. He also advocated a more open attitude towards sexuality, a stance that earned him the sobriquet "sex guru" in the Indian and later the international press. In 1970 he settled for a while in Mumbai. He began initiating disciples (known as neo-sannyasins) and took on the role of a spiritual teacher. In his discourses, he reinterpreted writings of religious traditions, mystics and philosophers from around the world. Moving to Pune in 1974, he established an ashram that attracted increasing numbers of Westerners. The ashram offered therapies derived from the Human Potential Movement to its Western audience and made news in India and abroad, chiefly because of its permissive climate and Osho's provocative lectures. By the end of the 1970s, there were mounting tensions with the Indian government and the surrounding society.

In 1981, Osho relocated to the United States and his followers established an intentional community, later known as Rajneeshpuram, in the state of Oregon. Within a year the leadership of the commune became embroiled in a conflict with local residents, primarily over land use, which was marked by hostility on both sides. Osho's large collection of Rolls-Royce motorcars was also notorious. The Oregon commune collapsed in 1985 and 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. Osho was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with immigration violations. He was deported from the United States in accordance with a plea bargain. Twenty-one countries denied him entry, causing Osho to travel the world before returning to Pune, where he died in 1990. His ashram is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort.

Teachings


Osho's teachings were delivered through his discourses. These were not presented in an academic setting, but were interspersed with jokes, and delivered with an oratory that many found spellbinding. The emphasis of his teaching was not static but changed over time: Osho revelled in paradox and contradiction, making his work difficult to summarise.

Osho spoke on all the major spiritual traditions, including Jainism, Hinduism, Hassidism, Tantrism, Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, the teachings of a variety of Eastern and Western mystics, and on sacred scriptures such as the Upanishads and the Guru Granth Sahib. His thought was rooted in Hindu advaita, which considers all reality as being of a single divine essence. In this worldview, the human experiences of separateness, duality and temporality are held to be a kind of dance or play of cosmic consciousness; everything within this playful existence is sacred, has absolute worth, and is an end in itself. Besides Eastern religious traditions, Osho also drew on a wide and eclectic range of Western influences in his teaching.

The influence of Heraclitus is traceable in Osho's view of the unity of opposites. The influence of Freud and Gurdjieff is traceable in Osho's view of man as a machine, condemned to the helpless acting out of unconscious, neurotic patterns. His vision of the "new man" who transcends the constraints of convention is reminiscent of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. His views on sexual liberation bear comparison to the thought of D. H. Lawrence. And while his contemporary Jiddu Krishnamurti did not approve of Osho, there are clear similarities between their respective teachings.

Ego and the mind

Osho taught that every human being is a potential Buddha, with the capacity for enlightenment. According to him, everyone is capable of experiencing unconditional love and of responding rather than reacting to life, but he suggested that a person's ego usually prevents them from enjoying this experience. The ego, in Osho's teaching, represents the social conditioning and constraints a person has accumulated since birth, creating false needs that are in conflict with the real self. The problem, he said, is how to bypass the ego so that man's innate being can flower; how to move from the periphery to the centre.

Osho views the mind first and foremost as a mechanism for survival, replicating behavioural strategies that have proved successful in the past. But the mind's appeal to the past, he says, deprives human beings of the ability to live authentically in the present. He argued that individuals are continually repressing their genuine emotions, shutting themselves off from joyful experiences that arise naturally when embracing the present moment: "The mind has no inherent capacity for joy. ... It only thinks about joy." The result, he said, is that people poison themselves with all manner of neuroses, jealousies and insecurities. In the case of sexual feelings, for example, Osho believed that repression only makes these feelings re-emerge in another guise, and that the end result was a society obsessed with sex. Instead of suppressing, he argued, people should trust and accept themselves unconditionally. This solution could not be intellectually understood, as the mind would only assimilate it as one more piece of information: instead, what was needed was meditation.

Meditation

According to Osho, meditation is not just a practice, but a state of awareness that can be maintained in every moment. He maintained that it is this total awareness that awakens the individual from sleep, and from mechanical responses to stimuli, conditioned by beliefs and expectations. Osho said he employed Western psychotherapy as a means of preparing for meditation – a way to become aware of one's mental and emotional hang-ups – and also introduced his own "Active Meditation" techniques, characterised by alternating stages of physical activity and silence. He suggested more than a hundred meditation techniques in total.

The most famous of these remains his first, known today as OSHO Dynamic Meditation. This method has been described as a kind of microcosm of Osho's outlook. The mediation is supposed to be performed with closed eyes (or blindfolded) and comprises five stages which are accompanied by music (except for stage 4). In the first, the person engages in ten minutes of rapid breathing through the nose. The second ten minutes are for catharsis: "Let whatever is happening happen. ... Laugh, shout, scream, jump, shake – whatever you feel to do, do it!" For the next ten minutes, the person has to jump up and down with their arms raised, shouting Hoo! each time they land on the flats of their feet. In the fourth, silent stage, the person is instructed to freeze, remaining completely motionless for fifteen minutes, and witnessing everything that is happening to them. The last stage of the meditation consists of fifteen minutes of dancing and celebration.

Osho also developed other active meditation techniques, like OSHO Kundalini Meditation and OSHO Nadabrahma Meditation, which are less animated, although they also include physical activity of one sort or another. His final formal technique is called OSHO Mystic Rose, comprising three hours of laughing every day for the first week, three hours of weeping each day for the second, with the third week for silent meditation. The result of these processes is said to be the experience of "witnessing", enabling the "jump into awareness". Osho believed such cathartic methods were necessary, since it was very difficult for people of today to just sit and be in meditation. Once the methods had provided a glimpse of meditation, people would be able to use other methods without difficulty.

Another key ingredient of his teaching was his own presence as a master: "A Master shares his being with you, not his philosophy. ... He never does anything to the disciple." He delighted in being paradoxical and 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." The initiation he offered his followers was another such device: "... if your being can communicate with me, it becomes a communion. ... It is the highest form of communication possible: a transmission without words. Our beings merge. This is possible only if you become a disciple." Ultimately though, as an explicitly "self-parodying" guru, Osho even deconstructed his own authority, declaring his teaching to be nothing more than a "game" or a joke. He emphasised that anything and everything could become an opportunity for meditation.

Renunciation and the "New Man"

Osho saw his sannyas as a totally new form of spiritual discipline, or one that had once existed but since been forgotten. He felt that the traditional Hindu sannyas had turned into a mere system of social renunciation and imitation. His neo-sannyas emphasised complete inner freedom and responsibility of the individual to himself, demanding no superficial behavioral changes, but a deeper, inner transformation. Desires were to be transcended, accepted and surpassed rather than denied. Once this inner flowering had taken place, even sex would be left behind.

Osho said that he was "the rich man's guru" and taught that material poverty was not a genuine spiritual value. He had himself photographed wearing sumptuous clothing and hand-made watches, and while in Oregon drove a different Rolls-Royce each day – his followers reportedly wanted to buy him 365 of them, one for each day of the year. Publicity shots of the Rolls-Royces (93 in the end) were sent to the press. As a conscious display, they may have reflected both his enjoyment of wealth and his desire to provoke American sensibilities, much as he had enjoyed offending Indian sensibilities earlier.

Osho hoped to create "a new man", combining the spirituality of Gautama Buddha with the zest for life embodied by Zorba the Greek in the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis: "He should be as accurate and objective as a scientist ... as sensitive, as full of heart, as a poet ... [and as] rooted deep down in his being as the mystic." This new man, "Zorba the Buddha", should reject neither science nor spirituality, but embrace them both. Osho believed humanity to be threatened with extinction due to over-population, impending nuclear holocaust, and diseases such as AIDS, and thought that many of society's ills could be remedied by scientific means. The new man would no longer be trapped in institutions such as family, marriage, political ideologies, or religions. In this respect, Osho is similar to other counter-culture gurus, and perhaps even certain postmodern and deconstructional thinkers. His term the "new man" applied to men and women equally, whose roles he saw as complementary; indeed, most of his movement's leadership positions were held by women.

Osho's "Ten Commandments"

In his early days as Acharya Rajneesh, a correspondent once asked Osho for his "Ten Commandments". In his letter of reply, Osho noted that it was a difficult matter, because he was against any kind of commandment, but "just for fun" agreed to set out the following:


1. Never obey anyone's command unless it is coming from within you also.
2. There is no God other than life itself.
3. Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.
4. Love is prayer.
5. To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
6. Life is now and here.
7. Live wakefully.
8. Do not swim – float.
9. Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
10. Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.



He underlined numbers 3, 7, 9 and 10. The ideas expressed in these Commandments have remained a constant leitmotif in his movement.