The Legal Structure of
the Osho Movement
page is part
of the historical background relating to "What Is an
Osho?", a slick, sannyas-paradigm-shifting policy paper written by
and circulated in 1998. A deconstruction of Amrito's paper is presented
on this site, introduced here. A
large subset of the background addresses various aspects of OIF's
right to control Osho's legacy, particularly regarding the legal muscle
copyright and trademark. This page covers the (lack of) legal structure
in Osho's communes. It is sourced from Osho
Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
What is the legal structure of the Osho movement?
is my follower. Nobody is going to be my successor. Each sannyasin is
my representative. When I am dead, you all—individually—will have to
represent me to the world. There is not going to be any pope. There is
not going to be any shankaracharya. Each sannyasin, in his own
capacity, has to represent me.
This has never happened—but it is going to happen! You are all my
When I am dead, that simply means I have left this body and entered all
the bodies of my people.
will be within you.
I will be part of you.
~ from From Death to Deathlessness, Ch 25
The simple answer to the question about the organization of the Osho
movement is that there is no legal structure. Osho has always been
adamant that all sannyasins and all centers are completely independent.
The people around Osho have been a “movement” or group only in the
sense that we all love Him and are personally and spiritually connected
to Him. The connection has always been directly between Osho and
individuals. Sannyasins and other lovers of Osho have always been a
group of individuals engaged in their own individual understanding of
religiousness. There has never been any legal connection, organization,
or authority over others involved.
meditation centers, communes and institutes are independent and
are not legally or financially connected.
Individuals or groups of individuals have to set up centers,
institutes, and so on to spread Osho's work. They have formed their own
organizations and structures as they chose, No one from outside their
groups has ever had a legal right to control them. While Osho was in
the body He gave suggestions and answered questions, but never
exercised any form of legal control over any Centres.
want my people to be individuals living in freedom. If they love me it
is out of their freedom, not out of fear, not out of desire, not out of
some longing for achievement. The old disciple was surrendering himself
because he wanted to be enlightened. The master was being used as a
means. I don't allow myself to be used as a means. That is ugly.
~ from The Invitation, ch 19
In order for OIF Zürich to own a trademark for the exclusive use of
Osho now, it has to pretend that what Osho said is not true. It has to
try to create an illusion of control of all people doing Osho’s work, a
centralized organization, a hierarchy that controls those on a lower
level. In effect, OIF Zürich has to claim all the essential qualities
of a religion, the qualities that made the idea of religion so
abhorrent to Osho.
Osho distinguishes between religion and religiousness. For Him a
religion is all the things a trademark holder in this situation would
have to be: an organization, hierarchy, dictator of correctness and
purity, interpreter of religious teachings, and so on. A trademark
holder of “Osho” by the very definition of a trademark as a guarantee
of “quality” would have to be exactly the kind of hierarchy Osho
repeatedly asked that we never create around His work.
am against the whole idea of hierarchy. And that's my vision of a new
commune. In the new commune there is going to be nobody higher and
nobody lower. In this ashram, there
is nobody higher, nobody lower.
~ from The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha,
Vol-3, ch 6
My commune is an organism rather than an organization.
We are intelligent people:
There is no need for anybody else to tell you what to do, how to do.
Your intelligence is your responsibility.
Nobody is going to force any responsibility on you. But I know why the
question arises -- because you have been trained from your very
~ from From Misery to Enlightenment, Ch 29
I am fighting against any kind of institutionalization, organization. I
want a totally different thing. I call it organism, not organization.
~ from The Last Testament, Vol 2, Ch 19
One of the groups that Osho criticized the most harshly is priests.
Priests presume to stand in a hierarchy above others; they interpret
Truth for others; they decide what spiritual approach or teaching is
correct or pure. If OIF Zürich really were a trademark holder, the
board of OIF Zürich would function exactly as priests, evaluating the
activity of the centers, the goods and services produced. They would
decide if the goods and services matched their ideas about the purity
of Osho’s vision.
For example, if OIF Zürich , were to voice its opinion that only
meditation, not devotional practices, are consistent with Osho’s
teachings. If OIF Zürich really were the trademark holder for Osho and
the centers really were its licensees, then OIF Zürich could prohibit
any center from using any devotional techniques or even from using
Osho’s quotes on devotion.
If OIF Zürich really were the trademark holder it could decide what
celebrations the centers could hold and how the celebrations have to be
conducted. For example, they could forbid any celebrations of Osho the
person, such as Osho’s birthday, Never Born Never Died day, and so on.
It could forbid the use of Osho photos in centers or during
celebrations and dictate the kind of music that could be used.
For those of you who are saying to yourselves right now, “But they (OIF
Zürich) would never do that. I trust them,” keep in mind, first, that
OIF Zürich claims to already be doing this. The second thing to
consider is that we are all mortal, but trademarks last forever, as
long as they are used. Any of us might die at any minute. All the
current members of the OIF Zürich Board will be gone or getting past it
in the next 10–30 years, so this isn’t about individuals. This is about
structures, the structures that will continue into the future long
beyond our lifetimes. Do we want to support the creation of a structure
of control through trademarks that is essentially a religion, even if
it isn’t called that? Do we want to help impose a control on Osho’s
work He specifically asked us never to impose?
Osho was always aware of the dangers to individuals and the dangers to
Truth posed by organizations, hierarchies, religions, priesthoods,
arbiters of purity. Advocates of trademarks claim that trademarks would
protect Osho’s work, but the opposite is true. Nothing presents such a
risk to Osho’s work as centralized control. Osho, in His wisdom, was
well aware of this and consistently spoke against control.
If Osho’s teachings are subject to centralized control now, they will
be subject to that control when the people who actually knew Him are
all dead. If the teachings are subject to control they can be edited,
interpreted, changed, or completely suppressed and destroyed. Whoever
took control as the trademark holder could wipe Osho out as an
inconvenient teller of Truth. Is it any wonder Osho always spoke so
strongly against this kind of centralization?
One of the (many) great things about Osho’s work is that He never
taught just one technique, one approach, one way. His teachings have
always been an umbrella of essential truth that can encompass all kinds
of approaches and techniques that appeal to a wide variety of
individuals. The centers Osho asked people to found were never
homogenized versions of McMeditation franchises. The centers Osho asked
people to found arose from the hearts of individuals. They had the
spirit and flavor of individuals and local groups of individuals. They
were varied and alive. They reflected the variety in Osho’s whole
approach. Osho spoke of a caravanserai, and you could hear the music
and see the colorful clothes and joyful dancing people in His
description. This is a caravanserai of individuality, and individuality
can never be franchised.
Common sense tells us that this flavor of individuality can only be
preserved if the centers that wish to remain as free and independent as
Osho asked them to be. And Osho’s work can only be safe in future
generations if it lives up to its essential nature: a wildfire of truth
burning out of the control of the ego/mind.
am not telling you to be missionaries, I want you to be the mission.
Missionaries have only carried borrowed knowledge. I want you to be the
mission in the sense that you will be spreading your own experience.
You will be radiating your own buddhahood. A wildfire has to be created
around the globe, of consciousness.
This is the only hope for humanity, the only hope for the universe, to
this small planet so alive, so beautiful, so lovely."
~ from The Buddha: The Emptiness of the Heart, Ch 3
Will some people misrepresent and distort Osho’s teachings? Well, sure.
That’s going to happen no matter what we do. There’s no way to prevent
it. It’s the nature of the human mind to define and revise. Quite a few
people think OIF Zürich is already doing this by publishing all kinds
of compilations of Osho’s discourses. Shortly before He left His body
Osho specifically asked that no more compilations be done, but they
continue to appear.
Osho’s solution to misrepresentation and distortion was to archive His
original material; to make sure that original archives of books,
electronic files, and audio/video recordings are available in the
future. Osho was well aware that there are great disputes about what
Buddha really said, what Jesus really said, and so on. He wanted to be
the first Master to provide archives so that people can always go back
to the original to check on authenticity.
If there is centralized control of Osho’s work, this archived material
could end up in a locked archive like the Vatican’s, if it survived at
all. If Osho’s work burns as a wildfire of truth through the hearts of
individuals (and the Internet), there will always be archives available
to those who want to know, because individual renegades will make sure
archives are available. The best protection for Osho’s work is to keep
it free and uncontrollable. OIF Zürich can create archives, and so can
others. We can all work together to set up archives, while making sure
no one has the power to destroy them.
Osho repeatedly pointed out that His work was not His, but simply
truth. No control of the people doing work in His name was necessary or
desired. In fact, control was to be avoided at all costs. All centers
were to be free of outside control forever.
Even with His copyrights, Osho was easy. Yes, people quoted Him out of
context, but He said the truth of his teachings would shine through for
those ready to hear it.
Osho was not afraid of the future. He didn’t seek the constriction of
control and power over others out of fear. Osho said it has never
happened that individuals were all successors to a Master, but that it
will happen this time. Will we make it happen? This is our choice: to
allow the space for centers and individuals who choose to follow Osho’s
guidance and remain independent, or to try and force control of Osho’s
work on His people against their wishes. Some people, including those
in OIF Zürich , seem to think that Osho’s idea of thousands of
successors is a stupid idea, that an organization with centralized
control and the OIF Zürich board (or president of the board) as the de
facto successor to Osho is a much better one. Some of us trust that
Osho knew what He was talking about.
OIF seems to feel that all that Osho said about not wanting an
organization, hierarchy, control of centers was untrue. Apparently,
Osho was just joking, or maybe lying to His people. OIF Zürich claims
that it and other foundations have strictly controlled all of Osho’s
work and the activities of the centers for many years. Not only that,
according to OIF, Osho knew about and approved of that control:
Prior to the death of Osho, OIF Zürich was controlling the content of
…sessions, workshops, retreats, seminars, groups, courses and trainings
in the teachings of Osho…
Osho looked on favorably and did not object as OIF Zürich made “open
and notorious use” of OSHO marks in the U.S. and elsewhere in the
world, demonstrating that Osho himself recognized that OIF Zürich is
the legal owner of the Osho marks.
(Applicant/Respondent Osho International Foundation’s Motion for
Does OIF Zürich have any competent evidence that Osho knew or approved
of this? No. How could they? The story of control is fictional; it
never really happened. Contrary of OIF Zürich’s assertions, an Osho
Times article shows that Osho actually asked all the centers to use
Osho in their center names in 1989. This indicates that Osho knew that
He, not OIF Zürich , was deciding how the name Osho was to be used. By
asking all the centers to use Osho at the same time and not assigning
rights in the name to anyone, Osho made it clear that He did not want
Osho to be a trademark controlled by only one legal entity. If the name
was used by all the centers in the world simultaneously, it could never
be a trademark for any one person or entity.
The articles listed below describe the legal associations among various
groups and individual as they really were and are and what OIF claims
they were and are in its revised version of reality. Anyone dealing
with OIF Zürich needs to be aware of OIF Zürich’s claims and what’s
wrong with those claims. Some people, particularly some new to Osho,
have been misled into thinking that someone has actual legal authority
over the way centers and individuals choose to do Osho’s work. The
following articles demonstrate why that isn’t true unless the centers
choose to give them that control.
Again, because this issue raises strong feelings and gives rise to
conflict, there’s no reason for anyone to take Osho Friends word for
this. Get all the information and legal documents, consult your own
legal advisor, read Osho, and then decide what to do. The wrong
decision can have devastating legal effects on your center or your
business; so please, be aware.