Oshobob – The Osho-Namaste Connection

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.

The author of this piece, "Oshobob", is a Chinese scholar with a deep interest in Osho and Chan / Zen. At one time he had a huge site with hundreds of pages exploring many aspects of these themes. That site has disappeared but some pages have been preserved. The page below is one of them, a sort of afterthought relating to another page which explored the origin of the word "osho", his own take on What is an Osho?. It was written in 2007.

Namaste ... What is an Osho?
Namaste and beyond ... the continuing search for Osho

The greeting of the hands pressed together was originally developed in India, and is called namaste. It means "I bow down to you." There is another word in Sanskrit, anjali, which identifies the same greeting between people, and it means "divine offering." Combining them, the ever prevalent exchange widely practiced in the East many times is translated as "I bow down to the divine in you."

In China, this greeting of palms held together, used historically mainly by Buddhists, is called hezhang -- the characters are shown below. 

Interestingly enough, the name for the Chinese Zen masters is heshang.  This is pronounced almost the same as the name for the folded hands greeting -- hezhang -- but they are two different characters.  The connection here is obvious.  It is a very good example of how the Chinese create and play with their language.  You can see the character zhang (palm) is a "sound-meaning" combo -- the top part of the character is the same as the "shang" in heshang, compressed. This is the sound component. The bottom part is the ideogram for hand in Chinese -- shou. This is the meaning part.

The Japanese use the same characters for both words -- but pronounce them differently.  Hezhang becomes "gassho" in Japanese (for the hand together greeting -- namaste).  And Heshang becomes Osho -- at least in the Zen and Pure Land Buddhist Sects of Japan.  In the Tendai Sect it is pronounced "Kasho", and in the Shingon Sect (derived from Tibetan Buddhism) it is pronounced "Washo."

A little confusing maybe?  Sure...welcome to the Far East.

It looks like the derivation of the word Osho may come more from the original word for the palms together greeting than from the usually accepted derivation of upadhyaya (or even, acharya), both Indian words for "teachers".  Very possibly all the words were created nearly simultaneously, maybe on parallel tracks.

He-shang revisited