Osho or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (11 Dec. 1931 – 19 Jan. 1990) was born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain. He was also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards. He called himself Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh during the 1970s and 1980s and took the name Osho in 1989.
His syncretic teachings emphasize the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, creativity and humour – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialization. He had international following and the popularity of his teachings has increased markedly since his death.
Osho was a professor of philosophy and held controversial views against socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and institutionalized religion. He earned the sobriquet “sex guru” in the Indian and the international press due to his advocacy of a more open attitude towards sexuality. In his discourses, he reinterpreted writings of religious traditions, mystics and philosophers from around the world. He established an ashram in Pune in 1974 which attracted a number of Westerners. The ashram made news in India and abroad, chiefly because of its permissive climate and Osho’s provocative lectures. His ashram is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort.
Osho’s teachings were chiefly delivered through his discourses, which were not presented in an academic setting, but were interspersed with jokes, and delivered with a spellbinding oratory. His work is difficult to summaries as he reveled in paradox and contradiction. Moreover, emphasis of his teaching was not static and changed over time. No major spiritual tradition remained untouched by Osho, who spoke on Jainism, Hinduism, Hassidism, Tantrism, Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, and on sacred scriptures such as the Upanishads and the Guru Granth Sahib.
He spoke on the teachings of a variety of Eastern and Western mystics and also drew on a wide and eclectic range of Western influences in his teaching. The Western influences can be observed in his view of the unity of opposites, of man as a machine, condemned to the helpless acting out of unconscious, neurotic patterns, his vision of the “new man” who transcends the constraints of convention, views on sexual liberation, etc. However, his worldview was rooted in Hindu advaita, which considers all reality as being of a single divine essence.
Regarding ego and the mind, Osho taught that every human being is a potential Buddha, with the capacity for enlightenment. According to him, every person is capable of experiencing unconditional love and of responding rather than reacting to life. He added that it is a person’s ego that usually prevents him from enjoying this experience. The ego, in Osho’s teaching, represents the social conditioning and constraints a person has accumulated since birth, creating false needs that are in conflict with the real self. The problem, he said, is how to bypass the ego so that man’s innate being can flower and he can move from the periphery to the centre.
For Osho, the mind is the first and foremost mechanism for survival. It replicates behavioral strategies that have proved successful in the past. Due to the mind’s appeal to the past, it deprives human beings of the ability to live authentically in the present. He argued that individuals are continually repressing their genuine emotions, shutting themselves off from joyful experiences that arise naturally when embracing the present moment: According to him, the mind has no inherent capacity for joy, only it can think about joy. Osho believed that instead of suppressing, people should trust and accept themselves unconditionally. He argued that this solution could not be intellectually understood, as the mind would only assimilate it as one more piece of information.
Osho laid great stress on meditation. For him, meditation is not just a practice, but a state of awareness that can be maintained in every moment. Besides introducing his own “Active Meditation” techniques, characterized by alternating stages of physical activity and silence, Osho suggested more than a hundred meditation techniques in total. The most famous of these remains his first, known today as OSHO Dynamic Meditation—a method described as a kind of microcosm of Osho’s outlook. This mediation is supposed to be performed with closed eyes (or blindfolded) and comprises five stages which are accompanied by music (except for stage 4).
Osho also developed other active meditation techniques, like OSHO Kundalini Meditation and OSHO Nadabrahma Meditation, which are less animated, although they also include physical activity of one sort or another. His final formal technique called OSHO Mystic Rose comprises three hours of laughing every day for the first week, three hours of weeping each day for the second, with the third week for silent meditation.
Osho believed such cathartic methods were necessary, since it was very difficult for people of today to just sit and be in meditation. Once the methods had provided a glimpse of meditation, people would be able to use other methods without difficulty.
Another important aspect of Osho’s teachings was renunciation and the “new man”. He saw his sannyas as a totally new form of spiritual discipline, different from the traditional Hindu sannyas that had turned into a mere system of social renunciation and imitation. His neo-sannyas emphasized complete inner freedom and responsibility of the individual to himself. It demanded no superficial behavioral changes, but a deeper, inner transformation. According to him, desires were to be transcended, accepted and surpassed rather than denied. Once this inner flowering had taken place, even sex would be left behind.
Osho was “the rich man’s guru” and taught that material poverty was not a genuine spiritual value. He had himself photographed wearing sumptuous clothing and hand-made watches, and while in Oregon drove a different Rolls-Royce each day. Actually, Osho hoped to create “a new man”, who should be as accurate and objective as a scientist, should be as sensitive, as full of heart, as a poet, and be as rooted deep down in his being as the mystic.
This new man should embrace both science and spirituality. Osho believed that many of society’s ills that are a threat to human existence like over-population, impending nuclear holocaust, and diseases such as AIDS, could be remedied by scientific means. The new man would be free of institutions such as family, marriage, political ideologies, or religions. His term the “new man” applied to men and women equally, whose roles he saw as complementary.