Pune as World HQ

This page is part of the historical background relating to "What Is an Osho?", a slick, sannyas-paradigm-shifting policy paper written by Amrito 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 claimed right to control Osho's legacy, particularly regarding the legal muscle of copyright and trademark. This page looks at OIF's claims regarding controlling Osho's legacy via controlling Pune. It is sourced from Osho Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal Main Page.

Osho sometimes spoke about His world headquarters, and made it clear that headquarters was His secretariat:

The world headquarters will simply function so that you can have a connection with me. Otherwise you don’t have any place to whom to ask where I am, what is happening to me. The world headquarters is not in any way a power over any sannyasin, over any other sannyas centers, ashramas, communes. It has nothing to do with that. It is my secretariat. ~ from The Last Testament, Vol. 5, ch 12

The world headquarters for Osho’s work operated wherever Osho and His secretaries were. At one point it was in Bombay (now Mumbai), then in Pune, then in Oregon, then in various places on the World Tour, then in Mumbai again, and then back to Pune, where Osho left His body.

Osho had several secretaries through the years including Laxmi, Sheela, Hasya, Neelam, and Anando. Osho had several secretaries at one time to avoid abuse of power. The offices of these women were called secretariats in the British style, and the secretaries had staffs that helped them with the work of communicating with thousands of people around the world. The secretaries and their staffs were volunteers who donated their work out of their love for Osho.

At the time of the name change Osho had three secretaries:

Hasya: His international secretary who communicated on Osho’s behalf with centers and individuals around the world outside of India.
Neelam: His secretary for India, who communicated on Osho’s behalf with centers and individuals in India.
Anando: His legal secretary, who dealt with legal and business matters.

When Osho was in different places, Osho centers, trusts, and foundations provided living space for Him and some of the people around Him and office space and support for the activities of the secretariats. Osho had no direct legal connection with any of these entities except one, which we’ll discuss in a moment. Osho never set up any hierarchy or transferred any legal rights over His work to any of these entities.

Osho did have a connection with the first trust that was set up in India to spread His teachings. It was called Jivan Jagruti Kendra (later Rajneesh Foundation [RF]) and Osho was named an advisor for life at the time the trust was created in 1969. Osho may have given RF a conditional publishing license for a few of His books in 1978, but no original document has been produced to authenticate this.

Osho connected with His people in two major ways. He gave names to centers, ashrams, institutes, therapies, and so on, and He answered questions sent to Him and gave suggestions to people. In the early days in Mumbai (Bombay) and Pune Osho made this contact partly through his then secretary, Ma Yoga Laxmi, and her assistants, and partly in personal meetings with His sannyasins. At those meetings He sometimes gave out name certificates to people He had asked to open centers around the world. When He became ill late in Pune I, He stopped meeting regularly with people and carried on contact with sannyasins almost entirely through His secretaries. His secretaries prepared and gave out name certificates to centers on Osho’s behalf. During the World Tour from 1985 to 1987 Osho’s secretaries kept people informed where Osho was and how He was doing.

At the time Osho left the body any intellectual property rights He might have owned had never been transferred to anyone else. When someone leaves the body they no longer have the legal power to own anything. Osho’s secretaries had acted as His agents during His life, and when He left the body any authority His secretaries might have had through Him ended. His last secretaries continued to work as volunteers for several years explaining Osho’s wishes to people, but they had no special authority any longer. Osho had dissolved into His people, dissolved into His varied and far-flung successors. After a few years Osho’s secretaries all left Pune to move on with their lives and there was no longer any headquarters in the sense that Osho spoke of it, though the Osho center in Pune continued to function.

The role of Pune

Some people have tried to lead others to believe that the ashram/commune/resort in Pune is some kind of headquarters or a "mother church," but there is no legal basis for this idea. There never was a legal headquarters of Osho’s work at any time. Osho Himself was the spiritual center of the movement. When He left His body He, in His own words, dissolved into His people. In other words, there was no longer any spiritual center, but a group of individuals spread around the globe who were all equal successors to Osho.

Pune is a place where many different legal entities (at least 10) operate. These legal entities are independent and are not legally connected with foreign corporations like OIF, Zürich. (India has strict laws about charitable trusts and foreign corporations.)

Around 1988 Osho asked that an office of volunteers be set up in Pune that would be called Global Connections (GC). In those pre-Internet days these volunteers were to gather and provide information about people involved in Osho’s work anywhere in the world. If someone was getting transferred to Singapore for a job, for example, and wanted to know if there was an Osho center there, he or she could ask GC. GC would tell the person what centers were in Singapore, where they were, and what activities they had.

GC was provided an office and office equipment by the group of legal entities that worked together at that time to support the programs in Pune. Several different legal entities were involved, but GC was never legally associated with any one of them. GC was always just a group of volunteers. It has never been a legal entity.

GC compiled a list of centers, and over the years, particularly after Vatayana got involved, GC started to set conditions for centers being included in its list. For example, if the center didn’t offer a regular meditation schedule it had to list itself as an information center or GC wouldn’t put it on GC’s list. As the Internet grew the GC list became meaningless, since many centers put up websites and several websites listed various meditation centers around the world. GC was no longer needed as a list keeper.

After Osho’s secretaries left Pune GC also took over the job of sending out gifts of name certificates for new centers. Before He left the body Osho asked that all new Osho centers simply be called Osho Meditation Centers, without any other name, like Viha, Miasto, or Rabia. Osho knew He would no longer be there to give centers names and He never assigned or gave that job to anyone to do on their own, though His secretaries had sometimes done it on His behalf during His life. Before He left the body He ended the tradition of giving special names to centers. After He left the body people in Pune continued the tradition—which was nothing more than a tradition—of giving out name papers to people who opened new centers. Those name papers were for Osho Meditation Center or the newer designation, Osho Information Center.

In the US trademark trial GC claimed, for the first time, that what it was really doing by sending out name certificates and compiling information about centers was legally controlling the centers on behalf of OIF, Zürich. This was news to everyone in the sannyas community.

If you look closely at the evidence in the US trademark case you will see that the entities in Pune don’t claim to have authority over anyone outside of India. Vatayana from GC claims that she is an agent of OIF in Switzerland and that she controls centers outside of India under the authority of OIF, Zürich, not through any authority in Pune.

On the other hand, OIF in Zürich admits that it does not claim to own the trademark for Osho in India. OIF in India, a completely separate Indian trust, has applied to register trademarks for Osho in India. In order to legitimately register trademarks for Osho in India, OIF, India would have to own the trademarks in India by completely controlling all the uses of Osho in India since Osho changed His name in 1989. This would be a bit challenging, since OIF, India wasn’t created until 1991 and centers in India began using Osho independently when Osho changed His name in 1989.

It’s important that OIF, Zürich doesn’t claim to control the centers in India and doesn’t claim that any entity located in Pune has authority to control Osho centers outside of India. This can be confusing, because OIF, Zürich’s agent, Vatayana, operates out of Pune, so some people have gotten the mistaken idea that she is claiming to exercise some authority of "Pune," or some legal entity located in Pune.

So what is the role of Pune in OIF, Zürich’s claim to own trademarks for Osho in the US, Canada, Australia, and the EU?

We are the world (of Osho)

OIF, Zürich basically tries to make itself out to be the controller of all things related to Osho, including all the activities that are carried out by various legal entities based in Pune. OIF has claimed that it now controls all the activities in Pune and around the world.

Originally OIF, Zürich admitted that Osho worked directly with the centers, made decisions about His publishing, changed His name to Osho, and asked centers and individuals connected to His work to use Osho too. Then it became apparent that if this was true (as it certainly was), OIF, Zürich didn’t own any trademarks. So OIF changed its story midstream in the US trademark case and began to argue instead that OIF, not Osho, was controlling everything and that OIF directed centers to "rebrand" to Osho in 1989. OIF then denied that it had ever claimed Osho directed His own work and the use of His name.

Pramod (Klaus Steeg) testified under penalty of perjury that Hasya, Osho’s International Secretary, was not representing Osho, but was an agent of OIF, Zürich (or sometimes of RF), so that when Osho gave names to centers through Hasya, it was actually OIF, Zürich /RF licensing and taking control of the centers. Pramod also claimed that people around Osho were told that Osho was directing things, but this was a lie, and OIF/RF was really in charge.

Pramod claims all of this, though he admits that OIF, Zürich has never operated in India and that no legal entity in India (such as RF) has ever transferred any trademark interest to OIF. Hasya always presented herself as a volunteer who was acting as a personal secretary to Osho, and there is no competent testimony or documentation to disprove that. Pramod [Steeg], OIF’s only witness on this, was not even in Pune at the time of the name change and has no personal knowledge about Hasya’s relationship with Osho.

If Hasya was not an agent of OIF, Zürich and neither Osho nor any legal entity in India ever assigned trademark rights to OIF, Zürich (and OIF admits they didn’t), then Hasya’s activities have nothing to do with OIF, Zürich.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the hypothesis that Hasya was the agent of OIF, Zürich, instead of Osho, in 1989 and earlier, there’s no evidence that OIF owned any legal rights that gave it the power to license the centers through Hasya. OIF keeps trying to do things in a backward way, to bootstrap itself into a position to claim what it doesn’t actually own. OIF claims to have taken control of the centers secretly, by telling the centers that they were getting name papers from Osho himself. OIF claims that this underhanded trick would give it the legal right to control the centers, but, fortunately, that’s not how it works.

OIF would have to acquire ownership of the legal right to control the names of centers before it could issue any licenses. Once OIF had that legal right, it might be able to license names to the centers. But OIF had no basis for owning center names in the time period of Pune II (1987–1990). Osho never transferred any legal rights to OIF and no other legal entity ever transferred any rights in center names to OIF. OIF never ran a center itself. Therefore, OIF had no conceivable claim to legal ownership of centers’ names and no legal rights to license centers during Pune II.

I can lease you my neighbor’s car, but since I don’t own the car, the lease means nothing at all. There’s no evidence of any licenses to centers in Pune II, but even if there had been, OIF would have to have owned the car before it could have leased it. Osho never claimed to be using His name as a trademark or transferred any rights in His name to anyone else. He gave names to centers that included His own personal name through His secretaries, without any legal restrictions. Given that situation, no one else could have had the right to license those centers to use His name. OIF had nothing to license to centers in Pune II or at any time since.

But wasn’t Pune an organization?

In the US trademark case OIF, Zürich argued that it wasn’t true that Osho was against organization, because there was an organization in Pune. Osho did point out that centers need some kind of organization and rules to run from day to day. The bigger the center the more rules needed, so He favored small centers:

I don’t want very organized communes, for the simple reason that whenever you become very organized you start losing something for which you had started to organize in the first place. Other things become more important. For example, in Poona there was a totally different quality. People were coming from all over the world. They had small centers. There was no centralized domination over the centers; all the centers were free to do whatsoever they wanted to do. To me it was far more beautiful.
~ from Light on the Path, Ch 3

Osho was talking directly about His own activities in Pune where He was located at the time. His point was that He had the right to direct the center where He was working in the way He saw fit, just as people around the world were entitled to direct the centers where they lived and worked as they saw fit. Osho completely honored the independence of the other centers and never tried to control them. He, quite reasonably, wanted sannyasins to give Him equal respect and not try to tell Him how to run the center were He was working.

The key point is that though Osho recognized the legal necessity of having charitable trusts and nonprofit foundations with tax-free status, He never authorized any legal control of one entity over another. In fact, He strongly opposed the idea.

Osho left the basic legal structure and day-to-day organization of various centers to the people involved. He never asked to see their by-laws or other organizational documents or told them how to operate. Some centers were small gatherings in people’s houses and some were legal entities with their own organizations, residences, and businesses. Osho was clear there should never be any entity or organization that had legal control over those running other centers.

I would like all the communes that want to continue to be autonomous: not dependent on any central world headquarters; related, but not dependent; related just because they are sannyasins. The world headquarters is their headquarters. It is not somebody else dominating them and making them do things whether they like it or not.
~ from Light on the Path, ch 28

Throughout its claim to own all trademarks related to Osho’s teachings OIF, Zürich has tried to confuse itself with other entities in order to appear to be the all-controlling trademark holder for Osho. The following articles show these claims are not based on either law or fact.