What is an Osho?

The article below, written by Sw Prem Amrito, was distributed to Osho centers and possibly as a press release, likely in 1998 as per the copyright date. It purports to offer a view, buttressed by plenty of Osho quotes, that will enable the reader to move away from dependence on Osho's physical presence, even on his non-physical presence. As far as it goes, it is performing a potentially valuable service in "guiding" sannyasins to become more free.

But the very question, "What is an Osho?" entails considering the origins of Osho's name, exactly the matter explored at length in Sannyas Wiki's article
What's in a Name?. And here Amrito provides some "history" of Osho's change of name that conflicts directly with records of the time, such as the Rajneesh Times' editorial of Apr 1 1989, reproduced in full at From Bhagwan to Osho : Publications table. Because of this demonstrably bogus history, the article's agenda (both overt and covert) and its facts must be considered suspect, however laudable any of its particular points might be. So a long, hard and deep look at every aspect of it is presented at WiaO Deconstruction.

The article, sourced from the Internet Archive, has been reproduced as faithfully as possible, with all original formatting preserved, including underlines and italics. Typos have been corrected which likely had arisen from an imperfect OCR process. The only other change has been to inset Osho's words to distinguish them from Amrito's words as much as possible. He had inset some of them but not all.

This article is copyrighted. It is presented under the "Fair Use" exception to the United States copyright laws, as a part of legitimate research into the course of sannyas history. It is an important historical document that holds no apparent commercial value for Osho International.

What Is an Osho?

By: Prem Amrito MD

One newly arrived visitor to the welcome center of the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune, India will always be remembered for his innocent comment, "I don’t even know what an Osho is."

I could imagine Osho agreeing, with that particular twinkle in his eye, that he also doesn’t know.

For all of us, it is still an intriguing question. When you read what he says about biographies, about how he has no biography, how the East has never been into biographies, that one’s biography ceases with enlightenment, one cringes at any attempt to create one. It feels like an attempt to force the meaning of "Osho" into some conventional historical box.

I remember the confusion he caused, and probably still causes, by his first announcement that he was dropping the name Bhagwan, that "the joke has gone on long enough."

No matter how many times he would explain that his use of "Bhagwan" was in the Jaina context of "the blessed one," no matter how many times he would say not only was he not a god, there were no gods, he still pressed the buttons of many in the Hindu majority in India. This name is also translated as "God" in their context. But then, who listens?

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. Of course we had heard him say many times that he was really just an absence, that it was our presence that was important not his, that his chair had always been empty.... But now, faced with a little concrete test of our understanding of this, he really threw us in the gap.

And if that weren’t enough, 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.

He was clear that the work was going perfectly well, everything was fine. So, like it or not, I just had to get used the idea that if he clearly felt the work didn’t need his body any more, then it didn’t, no matter what my mind said on the subject.

I am one of those people who likes to understand things, a typical male, I guess, so I was really involved with what all this meant.

The other thing that I am endlessly reminded of is his phrase that he is "completely discontinuous with the past." So what is an Osho? becomes a real koan.

I remember his talking about how the occasional enlightened person like Buddha and Mahavira hadn’t really managed to change humanity, that something different was needed.

Then there was his whole proposal of going "beyond enlightenment," where instead of enlightenment being this big deal which happened to "special" people, it was just ordinary. Or rather, not that it was extra-ordinary that some people became enlightened, but extra-ordinary that the rest of us were not!
If the new mind can prevail then life can become an enlightening process. And enlightenment will not be something rare, that it happens once in a while to somebody very special; it will become a very ordinary human experience, that only once in a while some really idiotic person misses.
So how on earth could that happen with no-"body" to be the guide? Then I remembered another fascinating talk where he had described how Zen had been the greatest effort in meditation to date but had failed, and why.
That’s what Zen teachers have been telling their disciples: "Be silent, but don’t make any effort." Now, you are putting the person into such a difficult fix: Don’t make any effort and be silent.... If he makes any effort he is wrong – and there is no way to be silent without making any effort. If it were possible to be silent without any effort there would have been no need of any master; there would have been no need of teaching meditation. People would have become silent without any effort.

I have gone as deep into Zen efforts as possible. They have been working for almost fourteen centuries, since Bodhidharma. They are one of the greatest groups in the world, totally devoted to a single thing, and that is meditation. There is no other experiment anywhere which has been done for so long a time continuously. But still there are not many Zen masters.

Yes, there are more masters in the stream of Zen than in any other stream in the world, but still they are very few compared to the people who have been working. I have been searching out what was the basic mistake – and this is the basic mistake: those Zen masters told them the right thing, but not in the right way. 1 am making you aware of silences without any effort on your part. My speaking is for the first time being used as a strategy to create silence in you.
He then went on:
Just in a moment, when I become silent, you become silent.... What remains is just a pure awaiting. You are not making any effort; neither am I making any effort. I enjoy to talk. It is not an effort.

I love to see you silent. I love to see you laugh. I love to see you dance.

But in all these activities, the fundamental remains meditation.

Could it really be that sitting listening to Osho talking was enough? Didn’t we still need a master?

And then I remembered him talking 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.

There is another key in a talk I remember Osho giving about Krishnamurti, and the mistake he made in starting with doubt. That his listeners always remained in the "doubt" mode, while Osho began with trust, and then could easily introduce "doubt" later, which, when based on trust, has a very different quality. And when Osho starts on doubt, he really lets you have it. He happily doubts everything: God, religion, beliefs, all our conditionings, all our programming... including all our ideas about "what an Osho is."

A top New York copyright lawyer who was surveying Osho’s work, at one point looks up and says, somewhat amazed by her own discovery, "He is the ultimate deconstructionist."

And of course it was all there from the beginning, if we could see it. At one point I remember him comparing himself with a window frame, an opportunity to see the stars. And so often he would remind us to look at the moon, to look where his finger was pointing but not to cling to the finger.

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?

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.

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!

Of course, I have heard some people say this cannot be right, because when you sit listening to these talks, you are sitting with "him," so clearly there remains an "other." But I wonder about that. After all, Osho’s most revolutionary introductory meditation is Dynamic Meditation. And when we do that, aren’t we totally alone in that process? The accompanying music doesn’t create the "other," even though Osho was closely involved with the creation of this music It is just a healing sound if you like. And he has always been clear that once we have learned to listen silently, that same emptiness is with us wherever we go, no matter what we are listening to.

And for today’s contemporary people, what could be easier than to listen to that healing sound in the car or train on the way to work, or quietly at home in the evening. It sure beats sitting on the floor trying to get your ankle up behind your ear, or counting rice for thirty years. And funnier too.

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.

Osho International Foundation 1998