WiaO Deconstruction Main Page

The communiqué / thought-piece "What is an Osho?" (WiaO) was distributed to all Osho centers and possibly also as a press release in 1998. As it heralded big changes in certain policies for the group managing Osho's legacy in Pune, it can be considered an important document. It will thus be good to examine it closely for inconsistencies and distortions. Briefly, the changes it laid the groundwork for were: one, making "official" their version of the story of Osho's name change and two, drastically reducing the size of Osho's "big tent", which included all types of people and what might be called "seeking modes".

Because many of its distortions, including some very important ones, are subtle and involve questions of experience, perception, assumptions, image and "spin" rather than straightforward factual matters, deconstructing it is presented in multiple parts. The central hub is this Main Page, covering the simpler, more purely factual distortions, and addressing the more complex and subtle matters only in broad outline, so as to present as much as possible a compact and readable "big picture". Secondary pages will focus on particular aspects in much greater detail and scope, as well as some more minor points for the sake of thoroughness. Links to those other pages can be found in the text as applicable and in the Links section below. In this page, relevant text of the original appears for reference below in the left column, with commentary in context in the right column.

Contents / Topics
(section heads below are not in the original)
Osho's Name Change
Leaving His body
Needing a Master
Evolution over the Years
"Safe Game of Disciple"
The Sacred Walkman
"Primary School"

What Is an Osho?
 Osho's Name Change
[Text refers to the confusion Osho caused by his announcement that he was dropping the name Bhagwan, that "the joke has gone on long enough". See also here for more on that.]

Then he announced that he had become host to the spirit of Gautama the Buddha, only to announce a couple of days later that they just couldn’t get on because Buddha didn’t like his Jacuzzi.... Couldn’t he take anything seriously!

And finally he announced he was dropping all his names, he would be nameless. The publications department responsible for publishing Osho’s books, already close to apoplexy trying to redesign the book covers with every name change, finally gave up.

After lots of complaints from people who desperately wanted him to have at least some name, he agreed to Osho, from a word created by William James, "oceanic." But only if we all agreed. Now what was going on? Was he pulling our legs again? Was he just helping us see the mind's endless need for labels? Who could tell?

By then his name had been removed from everything. Later he would say that Osho is not even his name, just a healing sound.
The central issue in this segment is the bogus derivation of "Osho" from William James' word, "oceanic". Osho's new name actually comes from the Japanese Zen tradition, where it was a respectful and loving term used by disciples to address their masters. In discourses on Zen masters in Jan and Feb 1989,1 Osho sings the praises of this usage repeatedly, while an Apr 1 1989 Rajneesh Times2 announcement of the change of his name to Osho, as "derived from ancient Japanese" made it as official as it gets. Similar Japanese Zen explanations were printed in many of his books published in 19893 signed by his secretary Ma Prem Hasya. See What's in a Name? for a complete look at how the story of Osho's new name was changed.

This William James version (WJV) of his name's origin first appeared in Feb 1990, very soon after Osho left his body (nb not before!) It was slipped for a while into the flap text and publisher's info pages of books, but only once was there a public message about this directly from mgmt -- and in bizarre circumstances --
before this much higher-profile tract in 1998, What could possibly be so important in 1998 as to warrant this widely distributed and highly visible statement? (And risky too, given the bogus history it asserts in a now much higher profile way.) Why now?

The answer is trademark. Now trademark matters were coming to a head. Sannyasins, who had been encouraged by Osho to feel their connection with him as personal and individual, not mediated by any priesthood or organization, were being asked to accept that "Osho" was being trademarked by the Pune org, now not even legally based in Pune but in Zürich. "Letters of Understanding" were sent to Osho centers around the world for center leaders to sign, acknowledging Osho International Foundation as the sole authority regarding the use of Osho's name. Giving a higher profile to the WJV was a key part of that campaign, as the Japanese origin name would have been much harder to trademark, especially given its more generic usage, akin to "Reverend", in modern Japan.4

The claim that "Later he would say that Osho is not even his name, just a healing sound" would appear to be another fabrication. It is nowhere to be found in his public words. Its function is considered below and in more depth in Healing Sound.
 Leaving His Body

[And] he would soon leave his body. Talk about gaps! On his last day, his heart was beating irregularly and obviously failing and he clearly needed a pacemaker. This would almost certainly have assured his being perfectly able to continue. With a gentle, smiling wave of his hand, he dismissed the idea, "Existence has its own timing," he responded, as if deciding to spend a weekend in the country.

With the pacemaker story, we have yet another alteration of documented history. It does not fit at all with the statement given in Buddha Hall the day after Osho left his body. Back then, Amrito reported in a number of ways that Osho was in tremendous pain: "By the night of the 18th, the pain in His legs was so severe that He was not able even to come stand on the podium and be with us. Over that night [ ... ] every movement of the body was obviously agonizing." And "He said that He had kept His pain to Himself, but 'living in this body has become a hell'." See also here for more on the pacemaker story.

Even the medical assessment has changed. Back then it was, "
I asked Him if we could call in the cardiologists and prepare for cardiac resuscitation", a much bigger deal than simply a pacemaker. With all that pain, Osho was far from "perfectly able to continue". The whole text of that statement is at Amrito's Statement, Jan 20 1990. Video versions of that address have been removed from the net because of copyright claims by OIF. 
 Needing a Master
Could it really be that sitting listening to Osho talking was enough? Didn’t we still need a master? [my emphasis]
[Osho talks] about how he couldn’t sleep the night before he initiated his first disciple.
The day I started initiating, my only fear was, "Will I be able to someday change my followers into my friends?" The night before, I could not sleep. Again and again I thought, "How am I going to manage it? A follower is not supposed to be a friend." I said to myself that night in Kulu-Manali in the Himalayas, "Don’t be serious. You can manage anything, although you don’t know the A-B-C of managerial science."
And much later, Osho returns to this same theme, with another fascinating talk where he clearly states that 2,500 years after Buddha, the master disciple relationship will be "irrelevant." He then goes on to say, "It is exactly twenty-five centuries after Buddha’s death.... Don’t let me down."

So where does that leave us? It seems pretty clear that he gave sannyas to people because that was our expectation at the time, and as part of that process he accepted all our projections that here at last was someone who would tell us what to do. [my emphasis]
Whoa! Here we lurch in a different direction from the previous agenda. A series of Osho quotes makes the point that he was using his words to lead his listeners into silence effortlessly. Fine as far as it goes, but given the bogus history asserted above, we have to be somewhat suspicious of the rest of it and where it might be going, which is to, "... didn't we still need a master?" Now there is no logical connection whatsoever joining Osho's effortless silence to the question of whether sannyasins still need a master. The magical word "enough" in the bolded text on the left is all there is, and it cannot bridge the gap.

To their credit, the Pune org has avoided the excesses of organized religion: priests, a pile of dogma, supernaturalizing the founder5, and so on. But, perhaps because they had already moved the org in certain ways to simplify and streamline operations, they have now come to a pass where there is no longer room for the vast diversity of modes that flourished while Osho was in his body. One of the casualties in the streamlining will now unfortunately have to be reverence for the master, deemed too akin to worship. Reverence, love, these "heart" matters, are just too messy and chaotic to fit in with the neat, trim, "Zen" approach favoured by mgmt.

With the other sentence in bold on the left, mgmt has made a breathtaking leap to invalidate the whole master-disciple process, rendering it irrelevant and meaningless not only in the present, but in the past as well -- invalidating not only sannyasins but Osho himself. Osho's sannyas was his vision, his choice. Orange and the mala came from him. Day after day, night after night, he explained his whole purpose was to wake us up out of our sleep and out of our minds. To suggest that he gave us sannyas in response to our minds' expectations and projections is simply ludicrous, itself a projection. He declared many times that he could shower his abundance on us but only our gesture of taking sannyas could establish the necessary relationship6. Giving sannyas originated from him, not those with "expectations". This bolded sentence, indeed this whole tract, reflects a profound ambivalence about being a disciple.

The energy darshans of Pune One had nothing whatsoever to do with telling anybody what to do or accepting anyone's projections. They were about transforming energy from the inside out, transforming the whole sannyas community, not just individuals. In these moments, individuality disappeared. Now in one loaded sentence this whole precious history is erased. Poof! This and the first bolded sentence are looked at in more detail and at length in
Needing a Master.
 Evolution over the Years
Perhaps the most important thing to see is the process. When the first people arrived, Osho would sit every night and answer questions on everything and anything – from God to girl-friend and boy-friend problems. Then slowly he withdrew from that. And eventually stopped answering questions at all, even in his public talks. While initially he never missed a daily talk, year in year out, he slowly brought us to a point when we never knew if he would be well enough to come at all. Then he would come in silence for only a few minutes a day, and then on the day before he left the body he managed that the whole process happened perfectly without his physical presence. One thing is clear, he wanted nobody to be in any way dependent on him or on anybody else, which would be against his fundamental insistence on freedom.

Now some people see Osho as a "disembodied master." But that doesn’t seem to fit at all. Is it likely that someone who insisted so often that his work is "completely discontinuous with the past" would spend thirty-five years preparing for a Jesus re-run?
The "process" presented of the evolution of Osho's way of being with sannyasins is far from accurate. First, its orientation seems to be primarily Western, as if "the first people" were those who came to him in the nightly darshans in Pune One. As if the ten years before that of Osho's meditation camps and criss-crossing India tirelessly addressing huge crowds about the whole range of the spiritual journey were  of no significance. And there is yet another factual error: Osho did not stop answering questions. In his very last series of talks, published as The Zen Manifesto, he answers two or three questions from sannyasins in each discourse.

The linking in the second paragraph of "disembodied master" with "Jesus re-run" lacks both logic and relevance. No one who feels Osho in hir heart and meditation will conceive of this deeply experienced relationship as a Jesus re-run in any way, shape or form. This glib phrase is purely rhetorical, its only purpose to ridicule and marginalize seekers who are not of mgmt's preferred type. And it is another indication that mgmt is aiming this message pretty much at Westerners. It is quite likely in fact that mgmt would prefer not to engage with Indian sannyasins much at all in this tract, as they will have a much deeper cultural and historical understanding of the master-disciple relationship.

Osho quotes can be found in abundance to support the continuance of a master-disciple relationship after his leaving the body, for example, "I cannot make a categorical statement about what you are to do when I am gone. For those who have contacted me I will never be gone and for those who have not contacted me I am already gone."7

Even Amrito says, in
his Jan 20 1990 address in Buddha Hall: "It feels that His whole life has been a preparation for the moment when His people can sit in silence and feel His presence without His having to do the work of carrying His body [...] Two nights ago [...] we ALL sat together in silent communion without His physical presence. It's already gone 7 o'clock. He will be waiting for us now, for that to happen again". This is about a disembodied Osho.

Mgmt's approach may be appropriate for newcomers having difficulties in connecting with a master no longer in the body, but not for those who already have Osho in their hearts. Perhaps the tract is laying on the pseudo- and half-truths extra thick here because by taking this step, mgmt is overriding very clear guidelines given by Osho for managing his legacy that strictly limited their purview to temporal affairs8. In no way should they be interfering in such basic spiritual matters as the master-disciple relationship.
 "Safe Game of Disciple"
And part of this struggle to try and define "Osho" has been about dealing with the gap. No Master, no physical presence, just a healing sound...? Perhaps Osho is more a quality, a taste, a flavor, a way of seeing things, a door inwards.... Naturally for those who still want somebody to tell them what to do, who still want to play the Master/disciple game of old, this won’t do. So the rush is on to find someone, anyone – even if disembodied – with whom to play the safe game of disciple.
Much of the content of this tract is difficult to nail down, with many features not straightforward concepts but rhetorical devices. In this one small paragraph, it is especially so, eg repeating "somebody to tell them what to do", as if this shallow view is all there is to the master-disciple relationship, and as if repeating it will make it more true. And the "struggle to try and define 'Osho'"? This tract has been trying to define "Osho" in several places, not least with bogus history. More on that at Defining Osho.

Throw-away phrases like "safe game of disciple" do not illuminate but provide only spin. Those who have been around the block with Osho know that this game is anything but safe. Osho is dismantling egos and throwing device after device at us to cajole, drag or explode us out of our safe places, our minds. Sanity, identity and status in the world, all are at stake. Not for nothing does Osho refer to the master and disciple game by its acronym, MAD. Thus, "safe" as used here is a judgmental word, and, we must presume, intentionally inflammatory and divisive, driving a wedge between those who will continue to trust mgmt and those who will be alienated. That this phrase "safe game" is meant to operate in an ulterior way can be seen when placed alongside mgmt's preferred Sony Walkman approach below, which is as safe as it gets. The double standard flies high and "the rush is on" indeed, to invalidate those who still feel a heart connection with the master.

Mgmt had the option of creating a document that distinguished between new people and those who are already Osho's disciples. Such a distinction would be well worth making since mgmt might legitimately want to avoid foisting a master-disciple relationship on new people while not interfering in what might be called the heart-choices of existing sannyasins. But this distinction has not been made, and instead of such straightforward integrity, we have the safe game of rhetoric: indirect buzz-words, and everyone thrown into one bucket. Much more on this in Safe Game of Disciple.
 The Sacred Walkman
Perhaps that is exactly the point. His work is the gap. His work is to deconstruct all the games of the past, all the attempts to put the responsibility onto others: God, masters, gurus, teachers, therapists...whatever. And leave us with nothing but ourselves.

And could it be that if the sound of his talking can provide a space for millions of people to experience alertness with no effort, he has undercut all the old need to join some group, to go to the Himalayas, to sit at someone’s feet. That all any of us would need is a Sony Walkman? Now that would be totally discontinuous!
Deconstructing all the games of the past is certainly one of the most important things Osho has done, and in masterful fashion, but it is not all. "Perhaps" listening to a Sony Walkman after you've deconstructed all the games of the past is something some will like, but to take this approach as a one-size-fits-all is to reduce Osho's big tent of misfits, drunkards and lovers into a narrow, sterile monoculture. Such a reduction is surely unworthy of Osho and the purveyors of such narrowness unworthy to be in charge of maintaining his legacy, if for no other reason than this settling on just one of his thousand flavours, calling it the only authentic one and slapping a Trademark on their package, so that not only are those who think, feel and operate differently ridiculed, they are taken to court if they use Osho's name (in vain).
With "put the responsibility
onto others: God, masters, gurus ...", we encounter once again the pervasive invalidation of the master-disciple process, as if being a disciple can be reduced to that. In this context, the ostensibly innocent phrase "and leave us with nothing but ourselves" becomes very tricky. Yes, Osho speaks a lot about freedom and tells us to become independent of everyone, including him. But the deepest freedom he points us to is freedom from oneself. Osho brings us to the abyss. Mgmt's language is calculated to appeal to a superficial Western-style self-reliance, only skating on the surface of Osho's message. The price for mass-marketing Osho seems to be dumbing him down. More about all this in Nothing but Ourselves
 "Primary School"
So perhaps Osho’s work has been an opportunity to experience the history of what used to be called religion in "fast-forward," like a rapid journey from primary school to University. In those few short years he took us through the master/disciple process, surrender, the path of love and the path of meditation, the glories of past masters, feelings over thinking.... And then deconstructed the lot leaving us with only ourselves and an opportunity to experience the ecstasy of silence -- "the empty heart." As one of his book titles puts it, "Turn On, Tune In and Drop the Lot."

Leaving everything we need to become self-sufficient meditators, including that "healing sound." We only have to arrange the Sony Walkman. But of course, if anyone fancies a spell at primary school, there are plenty to choose from.
The phrase "healing sound" appears no less than five times in this thought-piece. While there are hints as to what is intended with it the first time, it is used in a different way with every iteration, with meanings that ... well, it sort of means whatever the authors would like it to mean, while the reader supplies hir own meaning. There is every possibility that this soothing repetitive phrase which transcends all meaning is being used as the written equivalent of a gentle soporific, perhaps even a hypnotic incantation.

Finally we have this condescending "primary school" insinuation, which sums up mgmt's attitude fairly succinctly. More than just demeaning those moving in different ways, this smug phrase provides an excuse to marginalize them and a rationale for a "self-sufficient" elite who "know" and are therefore entitled to act / manage in ways that exceed the mandate of strictly practical affairs Osho specified for them.

Time and again, when Osho talked to people leaving Pune to go back to the West, Osho would tell them to "help my people there". Mgmt's invalidation of Osho's splendid diversity, by imposing their view on Osho's other disciples as the only legitimate view, is far from helping. It is a schism-maker, and of a kind unusual in the history of religions. Most schisms have happened out of the initiatives of those not in the ruling org, an organized splitting off. Here the initiative has come from "the top", an organized driving away, one might say. But on the other hand, they
can be said to have deconstructed themselves and might in a way be paradoxically of great service, helping seekers everywhere to become more independent from them. And in that might lie great blessings.

We who were with Osho in the body and who still cherish him in our hearts know where he is guiding us. We can preserve and strengthen his vast legacy even if those whom he left in charge refuse to do so. We are still here. It is up to us.


After a careful reading of WiaO, it seems pretty clear that those in charge of presenting and spreading Osho's legacy believe that we don't need a master any more and are working hard to sell that point of view as the only valid one. What's your take on that? What do you think? How do you feel? What do you see?


Please note that the "Nothing but Ourselves" theme below is undeveloped and will be coming slowly. And "Important Teachings" is only partially developed. Some historical source documents are available via the main Links page.
Particular themes mentioned above:
Healing Sound
Needing a Master
"Disembodied Master"
"Safe Game of Disciple"
"Nothing but Ourselves"

"Primary School"
Doubt / Trust "Progression"
(not mentioned above but a lengthy particular theme with its own page)

Other more general themes:
Defining Osho
Important Teachings
Minor Matters
Loose Ends
Dumbing Osho Down (Intro)


  1. Finally, on February 27, 1989, we made it “official” with 20,000 hands raised in the air. On behalf of Our Beloved Master’s two million disciples and friends around the world, we have decided to call Him “Osho Rajneesh.”
    "Osho" is derived from ancient Japanese.
    O means "with great respect, love and gratitude" as well as "synchronicity" and "harmony."
    SHO means "multi-dimensional expansion of consciousness" and "existence showering from all directions."
    Fittingly enough, "Osho" was first used by Eka, the disciple who became Bodhidharma’s successor, to address his master Bodhidharma.
  2. For example: "Osho is a very beautiful word. It should be added to every language. Just the sound is beautiful in the first place: Osho. It shows respect, it shows love, it shows gratitude", from Jan 30 1989. Complete relevant text of Osho's words about "Osho" during the Jan-Feb 1989 period can be found at From Bhagwan to Osho.
  3. A message similar to that of Rajneesh Times, #1 above, referring to the Feb 27 meeting, O, Sho and Eka, and signed by Ma Prem Hasya, President, Rajneesh Foundation International, printed in the flap text of The Miracle and at least nine other books of that era.
  4. For more on this, see the article on the Japanese usage in Wikipedia
  5. A visitor has suggested that OIF's having Osho everywhere as a depersonalized OSHOTM is a "modern" way of supernaturalizing, and  quite analogous to a religious stance. This depersonalization denies the ordinary naturalness that Osho himself emphasized. And it would not be a stretch to compare it to the way the capitalist "free"-market economy has got "God on its side" as the God-given culmination of the natural world order.
  6. For example: "That's the meaning of sannyas: a simple gesture on your part that you are available -- nothing else. Just a simple gesture that you are no more resisting me, that you will not fight with me; that you are not going to waste the time in fighting; that you drop all defense measures. That is the meaning of sannyas -- that you are getting ready for satsang, that now I can shower on you and you will be ready to receive. It simply shows a receptivity." -- from The Search, ch 6
  7. from Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1
  8. From the Feb 1 1990 supplement to Osho Times International: On April 6 1989, Osho gave instructions for the setting up of a committee to be called "The Inner Circle." The aim of the committee, he said, was to reach unanimous decisions about the continued functioning and expansion of the commune and his work ... He also said that the committee is not to be involved in spiritual considerations, but should look to the mundane work, the practical problems of the commune: "The Inner Circle" is not a club to discuss philosophy. It is a pragmatic and practical way to decide things.