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
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
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 It is an important historical document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
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
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
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
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.
He then went on:
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
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.
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.
Could it really be that sitting listening to Osho talking was enough?
Didn’t we still need a master?
I love to see you silent. I love to see
you laugh. I love to see you
But in all these activities, the
fundamental remains meditation.
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
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
Perhaps that is exactly the point. His work is the gap. His
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