More on Osho
the mysterious case of the religion that wasn't

Osho left his body in 1990. What has happened 
with his movement/vision in that time? 

At first, things went amazingly smoothly, for such a group of fractious individual(ist)s. People showed up at their workplaces, and others volunteered to help where needed. And though Osho had said often and emphatically – but not entirely consistently – to be with a living master, many people continued to be initiated in sumptuous ceremonies, and few jumped ship.

Still, changes happen . . . It wasn't long before the "living master" contingent started drifting off, checking in from time to time with their old buddies still beavering away in Pune. They went to Papaji and others, and no small lot of them can now be found on my pages (and collected here), having "graduated," ie moved into the Master portion of the Master-And-Disciple (MAD) game. My colleague Devakrishna has a somewhat chaotic list and assessment of many of them, with links, on an old page archived at Fortune City, a forerunner to his massive OToons project. 

And "schisms." A four-member subgroup of the "Inner Circle," the 21-member org Osho had set up to provide managerial continuity, left within two years, possibly finding it difficult to maintain the IC's unanimity requirement. Their group survives, without its now deceased, said-to-be-enlightened leader Kaveesha, in Sedona. Because there was never a public feud, their relationship with "HQ" did not manifest the usual holy wars, but this began the movement away from "the centre," in the sense of one org directing everything.

In accordance with Osho's "Zorba the Buddha" approach to inner/outer wealth, more money than ever before started going into physical infrastructure. Land was bought and developed near the Pune commune's existing land as more seekers arrived. Simultaneously, to attract a wealthier class of seeker, its image as a "Club Meditation" was buffed . . . Swimming pools, fancy restaurants, "zennis" courts, jacuzzis sprang up, and gate and other charges rose to pay for it all.

By the mid-90s, the commune was a humming, thriving piece of work, with a number of huge black pyramids having been erected, on four times the land of a few years previously, and thousands more seekers making the campus bulge at the seams in the high season. The pièce de resistance was a 12-ha park developed on city waste land and managed by the commune on behalf of the city. It was a public relations bonanza, finally turning the commune into a respectable corporate citizen after years of frosty relations, not that the local citizenry had complained much about the millions of dollars from sannyasins fueling the local economy.

But some not entirely compatible tendencies were beginning to come to fruition and collision:


A tendency to religification, as official publications started to use capital "H" in the pronouns "Him" and "His," referring to Osho.

2) An acceleration of the "Club Med" program, commune as "Spiritual Resort."
3) A reliance on "Osho's Guidance," or "Og," not necessarily given in public, to justify any policy, even one contrary to previous Og.
4) A centralized control of Osho's legacy, epitomized in issues of © and ™.
5) An insistence on there being no "successor," or officially designated spiritual spokesperson for the lineage, nor for that matter a lineage at all.
6) A "concentration of power" in the Inner Circle, whereby original members who left were replaced by newer ones said to be less independent, who defer to the old ones "at the top."
7) An increased reliance on local "outside" low-wage labour to do unskilled work.

These tendencies had their shakedown period from '94 to '98, but effects from some of them were observable earlier. One effect was to accelerate the changeover, as a model of participation, from long-term "old-guard" workers to short-term resort clients.

A remarkable meeting in Jan '97 produced an announcement that more autonomy would be delegated to individuals and centers doing Osho's work, but this turned out to be short-lived. HQ kept a tight grip on the CD-ROM of Osho's words, and more diktats regarding "brand-name" issues were put out. More "freedom-loving" old guard drifted away.

Trends started to coalesce toward their current shape in 1998, when one of the remaining key members of the IC, Amrito, wrote What Is An Osho?. Though it never became an official doctrinal centerpiece, it set the tone for changes to come, firing the starter's gun for the de-religification of Osho. Cap H's began their downward journey, and Amrito argued persuasively for the end of the master-disciple game, before everyone was ready for it. 

Soon afterward Ma Neelam resigned. She had been seen widely as the last bastion of "heart" in the IC and the uproar around the world was substantial, as battle lines became drawn between devotee types and Admin. As a long-time high-profile Indian sannyasin, Neelam had good access to the Indian media, and of course since the top figures in Admin were westerners, the neo-colonial aspects of the changes were milked by those media. The IC fired back by taking out tacky paid ads in the same media attacking her. Jerry Springer had come to Pune.

As the devotee contingent lost more and more of its trappings, support and influence in Pune, it went elsewhere, and more and more of these elsewheres sprouted up, primarily around India and Nepal. This exacerbated the ethnic aspect of the conflict and has evolved into a considerable divide, as HQ continues to try to appeal more to western sensibilities. Cherchez l'argent?

Now what? [2004]

It is interesting to note that in the few places on the official website of his org that use the pronoun "his" at all, the caps are now gone. From the danger of pedestalizing him, it has swung to disappearing him, as in "The ultimate deconstructionist? A visionary who becomes the vision?" It is now "the Active Meditations" rather than h/His active meditations. And "the Osho proposal [sic] offers us the option of leading a natural, harmonious life."

Most signs and forms of devotional activity have been expunged, but aside from that, the commune, oops, resort, is thriving, continuing to offer a smorgasbord of worldly and spiritual activities. They are not trying to maintain a religion, and in fact it is to their credit that they have not become a stagnant organised religion. But what exactly besides a spiritual supermarket they are offering will have to be determined by the individual.

Osho's presence can of course still be felt, though fewer newcomers are said to be coming to him as a "full-service" master. But as a jumping-off place, Pune is still second to none. The seeker can get an intense introduction to the spiritual life, techniques, friends and connections, and then if really feeling the need for a teacher still in a physical body can find many hanging around Pune, which is a Guru Bazaar nonpareil along with its spinoff Goa, attracting even some, like John de Ruiter, who were never Osho's sannyasins.

Devotional types new and old can find their satisfaction either in small enclaves around the world or just about anywhere in the subcontinent, where Osho has spread most widely. Osho's brother and many other Indian sannyasins have declared enlightenment and many centers continue to offer an approach more like Osho set up just before his mahaparinirvana, with lots of his meditations, his words and pics, and some-to-many of the trappings. 

And a small update in 2008:

The polarization that was developing earlier is intensifying, with many "rebellious" sannyasins coming to resent Pune mgmt for:
1. Its total de-religification and narrowing of Osho to a small portion of the former "big tent."
2. Its centralization of control of distribution of Osho's words, including hassling those who distribute his words for free.
3. Its isolation and non-responsiveness, which is deemed to be destroying Osho's work rather than promoting it.

Further links:

1) Some Osho quotes about after the master's leaving the body
2) Links to Osho's declared enlightened sannyasins 
3) A survey of his massive output of books 
4) A peek at "successorship" politics

Above pages all part of Guru Ratings site.

Outside sites, not directly involved with the enlightened "successor" figures at the 2nd link:

Partisan:, Osho's "official org," run by the above-mentioned "marginalizers."
Osho World, the first major Indian-centered "rebel" site, with e-book versions of 240 English books and 75 Hindi books
Osho Tapoban, the major Osho Nepali site
Osho Nisarga, Neelam's site

Osho News, news of everything Osho, what sannyasins are up to
Satrakshita, biggest and most eclectic Osho links page on the net
Viha Connection, eclectic non-partisan publisher of sannyas news & sharings

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