Trouble in Pune
Koregaon Park is a very exclusive enclave in a conservative university city. The homes in this tree-filled area were all on acre blocks and were mostly the summer mansions of former maharajas, complete with elephant stables and large servant quarters. When the Ashram was established there in 1974, the inhabitants of Pune were mostly wealthy businessmen and retired army officers and government officials.
Osho’s sannyasins had acquired four adjacent properties in the middle of this enclave to create the Ashram. And many more properties in the area were rented by sannyasins to create mini communes.
These new arrivals pouring in from the West had just come out of the liberal and sexual revolution of the sixties. And Osho was teaching them to be free of the limitations of society and religion. They hugged freely and, horror of horrors, even kissed each other in the streets. They wore skimpy hippy-looking clothing, and played musical instruments. At the time, Indian women were clothed from head to toe, and even in the movies the actors never kissed.
The conservative residents of Koregaon Park were outraged at the ‘invasion’ of these seemingly moral-less foreigners. And just as powerful, privileged inhabitants of elite enclaves all over the world always do, they conducted a strong political and media-based resistance against the ‘invaders’.
The Ashram was harassed and investigated by both the local and national governments. Rumours were turned into fact in outrageous stories in the local press. Fortunately Osho had admirers in the government, including Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, and other powerful people who supported him anonymously.
However, when Indira Gandhi was ousted from power and replaced by Moraji Desai, whom Osho attacked relentlessly, it was clear the situation was becoming more difficult.
‘Not for [Osho] a time-honored, patient turning of the other cheek. While he can speak of divine and earthly love in ways which would melt the heart, he can also slash at politicians, orthodox churches, theologians and admired public figures with a reckless ferocity which can alarm even his most devoted hearers. [Osho] has been both praised and defended on the floor of the Indian Parliament. The press of West Germany is humming with controversy about him, since Germans now make up the largest national contingent in the ashram.’ (Ronald Conway, The Weekend Australian, February 14-15, 1981)
Conway quoted one Indian follower of Osho as saying: ‘Because he can see so much further than anyone else, [Osho] knows he will be misunderstood no matter what he says. So he talks about our absurd and dangerous world precisely as he sees it, like it or lump it. He simply attempts to cancel out all the old religious categories and he’s merciless toward the slightest hint of hypocrisy or quibbling pompousness.’
Among other things, Osho was merciless about society’s double standard for sex, and his ‘audacious’ observation that sexual repression resulted in sexual obsession outraged the conservative Indian press. It was probably the first time those three letters of the alphabet had appeared next to each other on their pages. Overcoming their distaste for the subject, Indian journalists coined the phrase ‘Sex Guru’, and proceeded to churn out appropriately sordid stories.
Ironically, as Ronald Clarke says, Osho’s goal was actually ‘to guide his followers to redirect their sexual energy toward spiritual fulfillment, toward transcendence of sex’ (Report to the Oregon Committee for Human Rights, September 27, 1983). In fact, of the over 600 published books by Osho, only one has ‘sex’ in the title – From Sex To Superconsciousness. Yet the designation ‘Sex Guru’ persists to this day.
Most of the rumours which still follow him – flogged relentlessly by the yellow press – originate from the seventies. And most of them had no foundation in truth. But it was easier, and more palatable to conservative readers (and sold more copies), to print sensational stories than to try to explain the phenomenon that was happening. Only the professionals attempted it.
Bernard Levin reported ( April 1980): ‘There are the usual tales of dark doings, with hints of sexual impropriety, that such movements invariably attract; there are equally inevitable allegations of drug use, no doubt because long hair among young people (the overwhelming majority of [Osho’s] followers are young) is always associated, in popular mythology, with drugs. And of course, these allegations have been picked up, embellished and printed in the West. Yet even a brief visit to the [Osho] headquarters is sufficient to dispel such beliefs. The gossip conveys more about the gossipers than about the subject of the gossip – as indeed is commonly the case – and in this instance it conveys something of very considerable significance.’
Levin goes on to explain, ‘The hostility this remarkable teacher has attracted is not surprising. For Rajneesh is, beyond any doubt, a deeply disturbing influence. At the end of the path that leads towards the discourse auditorium (which is called Buddha Hall) there is a sign reading Shoes and minds to be left here. The shoes present no problem; but every instinct of Man revolts, screaming, against the second provision. And yet it does not require years of meditation to recognize that all the most forceful achievements and influences that affect human beings bypass the mind altogether to have their effect; art, faith, sleep, joy, death, hate, laughter, fear – none of these can be understood in terms of the mind, nor are the workings of any of them understood by the mind. And, of course, there is one more such area in human beings that does not depend on the mind for its existence, and cannot look to the mind for an explanation: love.
“That is the business of Rajneesh, as it was the business of Christ, and Buddha and Lao Tzu and all the other Enlightened Masters who have borne witness through the centuries to the same two principles: that love is the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, and that everything we need to be, we already are, wish to be and ought to be, we already are. Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Or, as Rajneesh puts it: ‘My message is: Drop the mind and you will become available to God. Become innocent and you will be bridged with God. Drop this idea that you are somebody special. Be ordinary and you will become extraordinary. Be true to your inner being and all religions are fulfilled. And when you don’t have a mind, then you have a heart. When you are not in the mind only then your heart starts pulsating, then you have love. No-mind means love. Love is my message.’ Or as he puts it more succinctly: ‘Everybody is born perfect with the signature of God: imperfection is a learnt thing.”‘