The story of Osho—master, mystic, madman…
“Trying to define Osho is like trying to imprison a rainbow or catch a cloud that’s floating through your room.
Like sand, he slips through your fingers: like a sparkling drops of dew, his magic vanishes with the rising sun of definition.
Samuel Johnson, in his Preface to Shakespeare, says that Shakespeare is not a pretty garden, but a great forest, a forest that is wild and wonderful.
So is Osho. And it is his wildness that is his greatest flavor. A trip with Osho is no picnic for socialites or fingernail-clicking namby-pambies. Osho’s sweep is as vast, as majestic, as diverse, as unpredictable as life itself…”
Life is full of opportunity but the individual who is able to successfully exploit these openings is the one who watches, predicts, recognizes and has the balls to step through the door. So what if you’re a failed academic in his mid 30’s, bereft of university, slugging in out on the lecture circuit in 1966 when you happen to notice that Indian born gurus are all the rage among the Gora? Well the correct answer if you are Mohan Chandra is that you find a way to work that shit.
Like any savvy opportunist Chandra knew that great rewards came with great challenges, and this was an all in hand. He knew that he needed to walk it and talk it, look and act the part. Chandra spent the rest of the decade as a sort of itinerant preacher, traveling around India in a small beat up car crafting his image and message. He grew the requisite beard, dressed in striking white robes, and mastered the outward appearance of calm grace and wise serenity. A booklet on his behalf described him as seeking to abolish poverty, to make humans more god-like and to show that religion was within rather than outside of people.
By 1971 Chandra really upped his game by assuming the presumptuous title of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a moniker many in India believed only should apply to God. He also carried a mature doctrine handcrafted for the free-love generation based on an ancient Tantrist tradition that united sexuality and spiritual enlightenment. He advised there was nothing immoral about having sex with whomever, wherever. He told those who listened that they should be natural, discover themselves and follow their feelings. His adherents were known as “sannyasins” following the practice of "human potential psychotherapy". They established their ashram outside of Bombay and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh became the ‘sex guru’. The white folks, especially white women of means, ate it up.
By 1975 the sannyasins grown in number and had moved to Pune. Bhagwan Rajneesh attracted followers from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Japan and the United States. Men and women of the professional classes or from moneyed families. The women however far outnumbered the men, their noted sexual aggressiveness leaving many men feeling overwhelmed. Bhagwan Rajneesh assumed a higher profile by riding around in a white Rolls Royce, he was becoming famous and this carried with it it’s own set of challenges.
Traditional Hindus saw the sannyasins as a shameful mockery of Hinduism. Rampant outbreaks of gonorrhea and scabies, rumors of drug deals and a very real brothel run by some of the women out of the Taj Mahal hotel hardly helped their image. The ashram was firebombed and the Indian government revoked their tax exempt status, calling in a back tax debt of around $5 million. The Enlightened One decided now was the time to take their message to the world. In 1981 Bhagwan Rajneesh, along with a select core group of disciples snuck out of India on their way to the United States, leaving the carnage behind them…and the main body of his followers holding the bag.
Rajneesh arrived at Big Muddy Ranch in eastern Oregon on August 29, 1981 and in no time flat put the law to work for him. Locals were told he intended to run a small farm and religious commune with no more than 50 workers. At first they seemed bemused by the scene but before they knew what hit them the colony was hosting a 170 people and voting itself into incorporation as Rajneeshpuram, using little known laws to their advantage. The protests came but Rajneesh and the sannyasins were on a tear and the cared not for the legality of their actions. The converts went to work building new structures, establishing their own city council and granting themselves building permits. They voted to annex 119 acres of adjacent land and went into overdrive establishing new outposts in Laguna Beach, CA, England, Germany and Switzerland. By the next year there were 600 residents of Rajneeshpuram a with an estimated 20,000 adherents worldwide. Rajneeshpuram itself which boasted an airport with a 3,200 hundred foot runway and a million dollar airplane. Tens of millions flowed into their coffers stashed away safely in Swiss accounts and Rajneesh roamed his new country in what was now a fleet of white Rolls Royce automobiles.
Despite the fact that by 1983 Bhagwan Rajneesh was worth an estimated $30+million, the commune started to suffer from a serious lack of money and as can be expected relationships with the locals were far from ideal. On July 29 1983 the sannyasin owned Hotel Rajnessh in Portland was bombed. Rajneeshpuram quickly became some akin to a police state. Private security forces monitored the compound with two helicopter reconnaissance teams, automatic weapons and riot gear. All visitors were searched and had their photos taken. Everyone had to wear identification bracelets and were checked against a master list. The environment was tense to say the least.
In an effort to encourage new membership the sannyasins’ implemented their “Share a Home” program, inviting the homeless from all over Oregon to stay for free. By October 1983 2000 homeless had arrived further alarming country residents who saw this as a sudden influx of criminals, drunks, buns and undesirable derelicts. Rajneesh hoped to persuade the newcomers to fulfill residency requirements and therefore stack the vote in a further takeover of the county board. Apocryphal reports claimed that the homeless were drugged, subject to to brainwashing, threats and intimidation if they didn’t register to vote.
The final showdown between Rajneeshpuram and the county at large came over the course of 1985. During the election of that fall Oregon found that half of the recently transplanted voters left the state after ballots were cast. It turns out that after the election was over they were driven by the sannyasin’s to the border and dumped off. In June of that year The Oregonian launched a 20 part investigative series on the group claiming evidence of extensive wiretapping, weapons stockpiling, voter fraud and two biological warfare laboratories. In September the greatest outbreak of salmonella poisoning in the United States known up to that time occurred in The Dalles, Oregon. Around 750 people were sickened by the cities tainted water supply and the event was traced back to Rajneeshpuram.
To deflect culpability, Rajneesh publicly accused his most trusted lieutenant, Ma Anand Sheela of engineering the salmonella outbreak and of poisoning The Dalles water system. He also claimed she conspired to murder his doctor, his dentist, his girlfriend, and the county district attorney. He claimed Sheela mismanaged the colony’s finances. Rajneesh tried to blame everything that went wrong on Sheela but there was no preventing the chickens from coming home to roost.
Sheela and about a dozen others fled to a hideout in Germany. Rajneesh attempted to escape on a chartered Lear jet but federal agents stopped him and sent him back to Portland for trial. In the end he had to swallow a 10 year suspended sentence, $400,000 in fines and expulsion from the country. Sheela was picked up in Germany and sentenced to spend twenty years in federal prison for burglary, arson of the Wasco County planning office, racketeering, immigration fraud, wiretapping, and causing the salmonella outbreak.
Rajneesh tried to locate to some other country, but now his reputation was such that no country other than his homeland, India, would allow him to stay. He returned to India, where he paid the taxes that he was supposed to pay in 1981. Rajneesh stayed in the wisdom business, holding forth as a guru and guiding his audiences in meditation. He had claimed that humanity’s inner world would change the outer world. But the outer world had its effect upon Rajneesh. He dropped his title of Bhagwan and is reported by followers to have said "Enough is enough; the joke is over."
- 01-White Lung // Like Dad
- 02 -Steve Moore // Infinite Resignation
- 03-Battles Featuring Gary Numan // My Machines
- 04-Three Trapped Tigers // Ulnastricter
- 05-Further // Phase Out
- 06-Harold Grosskopf // Transcendental Overdrive
- 07-That Fucking Tank // Mr Blood
- 08-Umber // Spark Mountain
- 09-Jesu // Broken Home
In 1990, at the age of 58 he died of heart failure. His teachings live on, taking the name Osho, a new name given to Rajneesh and associated with oceanic experience, a movement that remained concerned with both sexual liberty and spirituality