Without exception, all the journalists who listen to Osho’s discourses note his ‘erudition and extraordinary range of subjects’.
Marcel Meier, Panorama Magazine, Netherlands, October 13, 1978: ‘He [Osho] sits there in a great open hall for two hours every morning and talks from memory to about 2000 people. His subjects cover Zen Buddhism, the Bible, Sufism, Hinduism, the theories of Freud, Jung and Adler, present day nuclear physics, classical philosophers and Eastern masters’. See more from Marcel’s article below.
Ronald Conway, The Weekend Australian, February 14-15, 1981:’His range of reference, mood and approach can be dazzling. He seems to have absorbed the essential message of every Eastern spiritual master and of most Western philosophers and psychologists as well’. Conway adds that Osho is one of the most extraordinary people he has ever met.
Report to the Oregon Committee for Human Rights, September 27, 1983: ‘He has an amazing acquaintance with Eastern philosophy, Western intellectual tradition and psychology’ (Ronald Clarke, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Oregon ).
Claudio Lamparelli, Techniche della Meditazione Orientate (Techniques of Eastern Meditation): ‘[Osho] reveals a brilliant mind … an exceptional talent as a speaker, a broad cultural background and the charisma of an ancient Eastern sage. His books, transcribed from his discourses, are the most captivating works on meditation one can find’.
John R. Fry, Frying Pan Magazine USA, June 1983: ‘He is not an ordinary guru. He is brilliantly educated; he speaks fluent English; he is conversant with the full sweep of Eastern religious tradition; he is also acquainted with Western and Eastern psycho-therapeutics; moreover he is an outrageous wit.’
The Washington Post: ‘He was a guru unencumbered by tradition, an enlightened master who could quote Heidegger, and Sartre, and who furthermore believed in technology, capitalism and sex …’
Penguin Books: ‘Osho is one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the second half of the 20th century and many thousands of people – of all ages, from all countries and all spiritual backgrounds – have been inspired by the simplicity and directness of his teachings.’
Dei Zeit, Germany: ‘He quotes Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira, Lao Tzu, Sufis and old Zen masters with stupendous memory, interpreting them with a freshness and directness as if they were speaking today, as if they wore jeans’.
K. M. Talgeri , The Patriot, New Delhi, August 6, 1981: ‘From his discourses you see him as a Tantric, a Sufi, a Hassid, a Christian mystic, a Zen and a Yogi. His teachings (if that is the right word) contain the best of all the ancient systems of mysticism.’
Bernard Levin, The Times, London, April 8,9,10, 1980. Levin visits the Ashram several times in 1980 as part of an extensive trip throughout the East to draw a spiritual map (Osho is given the highest rating). He wrote 3 articles about Osho. These extracts are quite long, but definitely worth the read!
‘The scene is a huge makeshift auditorium, roughly oval in shape, a marquee with a flat stone floor; it is open all round but has a simple roof of matting and corrugated iron, supported on slim, crude, wooden pillars. On the floor some 1500 people are sitting; the frailer among them (including me) have thin cushions. They all face a raised marble platform set midway along one side of the hall; on it there stands a plain swivel chair (it looks a good deal more comfortable than my bit of the floor, cushion and all); a microphone on a stand projects over the chair’s arm. The time is a quarter to eight in the morning. We are in Poona.‘The first surprise is the color; almost literally every person in the place is wearing orange. There is a very wide variety of garments but the color, though the shade varies from almost yellow to almost red, is common to all. The second surprise is that there is total silence throughout this orange sea; over a loudspeaker there comes an appeal against coughing, but the plea is unnecessary, for the silence is unbroken, and deeper than the “Bayreuth hush” itself. Accompanying the silence is stillness; the orange sea is frozen, row upon row of graven images.
‘The silence is broken by the crunch of a car’s wheels and the accompanying purr of an expensive engine. As it approaches, I experience a third surprise; mine is the only head that turns.
‘An orange-clad attendant, on the watch for this moment, moves forward to open the car door; out of it there steps, with unhurried graceful movements, a figure dressed in a white robe, beneath which his feet are clad in simple white sandals. He walks slowly into the hall, his hands together in the traditional Indian greeting, and mounts the steps to the marble platform. He stands in front of the chair and turns through 180 degrees, extending the silent greeting to the whole hall; it is returned by the orange audience. He is tall, though not exceptionally so, bald on top but with long hair hanging down behind, and luxuriantly gray-bearded. He smiles, and sits down in the chair. An attendant steps forward and hands him a small folder. He puts it on his lap, opens it, takes a slip of paper from it, and speaks for an hour and three-quarters without pause, hesitation, repetition or notes.
‘… Although I can convey something of his technique as a speaker, and of course quote his words, the astonishing effect it has – an effect which seems to bathe the hearer in a refulgent glow of wisdom and love – is something which is easier to experience than to describe.
‘His voice is low, smooth and exceptionally beautiful; his English is surprisingly idiomatic and syntactically almost, though not quite, perfect. His gestures are hypnotically graceful and eloquent; he has extraordinary long fingers, and he uses his hands, particularly the left, in an endless variety of expressive forms.
‘What he says is couched in language of great power and fluency; he is one of the most remarkable orators I have ever heard, though there is no hint of demagogy in his style, and no oratory or pedagogic feeling about the content of what he says. He uses quotations and references very freely (these seem to be written down, as are some of the jokes, but they constitute the only notes he uses); in the three discourses I heard, on three consecutive days, he quoted Bertrand Russell, William James, Norbert Wiener, e e cummings, Nietzsche, Whitman, and others. Some of his references seem dubious: was Freud phobic about looking into others’ eyes; did Jung have a phobic fear of death and fall psycho-somatically ill every time he tried to set out on a long-desired visit to Egypt “to see the mummies”? Is there a suicide-rate among psychiatrists twice as high as among the rest of the populations? Is the average time an American spends in one dwelling three years, and is the average length of American marriages the same?
‘Se non e vero … Rajneesh is not trying to purvey information but a truth that bypasses conscious thought and all that belongs to it, just as the most important activities of human beings bypass the mind. I filled pages with notes of his words, but I am vividly aware that quotation can offer only a string of apercus, divorced from the context (itself meticulously constructed and shaped, despite the absence of notes) of passion and conviction in which they are set. Nevertheless: ‘We are called escapists, but if your house is on fire and you escape, nobody calls you an escapist.’
‘A man who is split can never be a master of himself.’
‘I have never seen humanity; I have only seen human beings.’ ‘People love humanity and kill human beings.’
‘Just as illness is infectious, so is health.’
‘How can you love others if you do not love yourself!’
‘If you go to hell willingly, you will be happy there; if you are forced into paradise you will hate it.’
‘The person you become dependent upon also becomes dependent on you; slavery is always mutual.’
‘The politician who climbs the ladder until he gets to the topmost rung looks foolish because climbing is the only skill he has, and there is nowhere further to climb; he is like the dog that runs barking after every car and looks foolish when it overtakes one.’
‘A person who is not open lives in a grave.’
‘As I say, such statements, stripped bare, cannot convey the effect of an [Osho] discourse. (These, incidentally, are all published verbatim, involving an output of some fifty volumes a year, and they are also recorded in cassette-recording form.) And apart from the effect and persuasiveness of his words, and – an even greater force – the torrent of love-imbued energy that is released into the surrounding atmosphere as he speaks, there is, and remains with me, the profound meaning of what he was saying.
‘At the end of the discourse (he invariably signs off with the words “Enough for today”), he leaves in the same showman style that marks his entry. I watched the crowd after he had gone, and to do so was in itself profoundly instructive. Many remained seated as they had been while he was speaking, continuing to meditate silently on what they had heard. Some came up to the marble platform from which he had spoken, and prostrated themselves across it, clearly seeking to absorb some of the energy that he had expended, and that could indeed be thought of as forming a pool in which the seekers could soak themselves. Some couples embraced, remaining wrapped for minutes on end; nobody paid them any attention, let alone exhibited embarrassment, and this was something I was to see throughout the day at the ashram.
It is not difficult to see an explanation: [Osho]’s teaching is, at bottom, of love, and the air is full of it. The love to which he points is not, of course, the body’s rapture, but it is hardly surprising that for some the route lies along that path. It is no doubt this fact, together with [Osho]’s argument that we have to work through our impulses before we can transcend them (since they will take their revenge if we attempt the impossible task of suppressing them altogether) and the various encounter groups that operate in the ashram, that the gossipers outside have in mind when they circulate their stories of dark deeds.
‘… As I moved out with the rest of the audience, I embarked on an experiment that I had tried a few weeks before, in London – to be precise, in Selfridges. On that earlier occasion, I had passed among the shopping crowds, consciously examining every face I saw, seeking to discover how many of them showed that the individual in question was possessed of that wholeness, that serenity that issues in happiness, and that denotes one who has mastered the external circumstances of life by first understanding the master within. I gazed into a couple of hundred faces, and then could gaze no more, so universal was the withered misery I saw, the tension of unresolved conflict, the emptiness and loss, the pain of separation, guilt and fear.
‘Now, among the hundreds into whose faces I looked as we emerged from Buddha Hall, I could see hardly a single one that resembled those in London. These faces were not lost or even resigned; they were not the faces of men and women who had laid their burdens on another; they were not the faces of those who had given up the struggle and chosen to ignore a world they could not face; almost without exception, these faces were alive, expressive, contemplative, serene, interested, eager. In a word: innocent.’
Bernard Levin is no pushover. Yet he, and many other hard-bitten professional journalists who come with the deep scepticism of their trade, leave with reports like this.
Dutch journalist Marcel Meier describes how the process happens: ‘I still had my prejudices for the first few days. I didn’t see much in religious sects, my community feelings went no further than Consumers’ Association and I could live without gurus. I had seen too many wandering Europeans in India who had allowed themselves to be initiated into the mysteries, for the price of several hundred dollars. The deeper meanings of these escaped me, except for the not-so-mysterious fact that the follower grew poorer while the guru grew richer.
‘I didn’t really believe that there were still true masters. And if they did indeed exist, they wouldn’t display themselves so obviously as [Osho]. I did find him puzzling, for everything I had heard and read about him had gone straight to my heart. I also found the atmosphere in the ashram a bit overwhelming. I saw lots of people embracing, crying, dancing, and I wasn’t so physically open myself.
‘… It is difficult to describe my first sight of him as he entered with hands folded in the traditional namaste greeting. You could say I was directly hypnotized. Tears came to my eyes quite spontaneously. I was confused because something was happening to me over which I had no control and that seldom has happened to me.
‘The English lectures literally shattered me. He didn’t proclaim any revolutionary novelties, yet he did bring me into contact with things which had been slumbering inside me – a sort of unnerving recognition. The most important thing was that I was immediately convinced that there sat someone, on his white chair, who was speaking from his own experience. My prejudices disappeared’. (Panorama Magazine, October 13, 1978)
In Vogue Magazine UK, September 15, 1977, Jean Lyell reports a similar experience: ‘I have just visited this remarkable ashram to see for myself. Brought up in the firm faith of the Scots Church I had many questions to ask, many reservations to overcome; but, having listened for twelve days to [Osho]’s incomparable discourses, all uncertainties have now vanished … To me everything he said in his philosophy of life had the unmistakable ring of truth: a new experience.’
Alan Atkinson, The Advertiser Saturday Review,August 1, 1981: ‘One of the most astonishing aspects of the [Osho] phenomenon was the psychotherapy groups set up by him with top psychologists and psychotherapists from all over the world. The groups, for the purpose of “clearing the mind”, used the widest range of “consciousness-expanding” techniques taught in both the West and East.’
Re Nudo Magazine, Italy, July 1978: ‘Today for the thousands of Western therapists – Reichian or Jungian, followers of the humanistic psychology, American, English, German, friends and colleagues of Rogers, Laing, Janov – Poona has become more a reality than a symbol: it is the greatest center of psychoanalytic therapy in the world. Every month in Poona, or to be more precise at the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Ashram, 40 or 50 encounter groups are held. And that means that in 1977, 10,000 people have gone through them. The group leaders, all Westerners, number about 50 and work full time in the ashram … What impressed me most during my first visit was that all these therapists – well-known, the avant-garde in their own countries – had left their professions and their riches to work in the ashram where they receive two meals a day, a bed, a free-pass for [Osho’s] discourses and nothing else.’
Bernard Levin, The London Times, April 8, 1980: ‘The wide range of consciousness-expanding therapeutic techniques practiced there (they include Massage, Reflexology, Alexander technique, Acupuncture, Rolling, Postural Integration, Hypnosis, Counseling, Rebirthing, Dynamic Meditation and many others) are of the greatest value for the growth towards wholeness of those who shop at this amazing spiritual supermarket.’
Ronald Conway, The Weekend Australian, February 14-15, 1981: ‘The many active techniques taught there have nothing to do with contemplating either egos or navels. A Dutch psychiatrist told me that many of his visiting conferees believed that the ashram now contained possibly the finest group psychotherapy center in the world. Many of the center’s leaders have been trained in New York, London, Munich and California. Many are fully qualified physicians or psychologists hidden beneath the relative anonymity of their sannyas (Sanskrit) names. [Osho] was admitted even by professionally trained Western skeptics to be one of the most brilliant natural psychologists and therapeutic innovators.’
Marcel Meier, Panorama Magazine, October 13, 1978: ‘It is difficult to describe exactly what happened in these groups. Broadly, we often had tough confrontations with aspects of ourselves which had not been touched upon before. I did things which I had never dreamed of doing before in my everyday life. Sometimes I approached an insight into hell, sometimes it was seventh heaven. Sometimes I saw people undergoing great changes. The therapists must be among the most able in the world. They are themselves sannyasins, which among other things, means that they give their service for nothing. About 20 different methods, including gestalt, encounter therapy, bio-energy, screaming and hypnosis therapy, psychodrama, Eastern techniques such as Zen meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Buddhist and Hindi meditation techniques, are used to make the participant aware of the reality of everything except his ego, his personality. The group therapy made the strongest impression. In psychological circles, Poona has become known as the most important “growth center” in the world.’
The meditation techniques referred to were developed by Osho specifically for the stresses of modern life. They were adapted from ancient practices of many different schools of mysticism.
Andreas Uhlig, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Switzerland, July 18-19, 1981: ‘In those meditations the ashram truly brings about a change of consciousness’. Uhlig, who visited the ashram in May of 1981 with a group of diplomats from Delhi, attributes the difference he observes between sannyasins and others, to Osho’s ‘psychology of the buddha’, the therapy groups and the meditations. He concludes, ‘In [Osho]’s precinct there is really something exceptional happening: individuals are being liberated, that is, deconditioned from all restrictions and social constraints.’
Maurice Roy, Chatelaine Magazine, Canada, January, 1981: ‘The ashram in Poona actually appears as one of the most audacious and fruitful attempts of mixing thousand-year-old Eastern traditions with modern Western techniques … It is, at the same time a meditation center, a place for celebration and a vast laboratory where new techniques for the exploration of consciousness are devised.’
The Advertiser Saturday Review, August 1, 1981: ‘The Ashram is ‘a highly energetic and joyful placewith days full of music, dancing and singing, as well as a wide variety of skilled arts and craftswork’.
The Weekend Australian, February 14-15, 1981: ‘There were in the ashram twenty-three doctors, a fair number of dentists, plumbers, painters, mechanics of all kinds, carpenters , printers, interior decorators, chefs, bookbinders, tailors, and even soap-makers. The ashram had its own fully staffed hospital, workshops, canteen, post-office and general store. Its facilities were spotless in a country where dirt and infection are endemic.’
The Daily, India, June 6, 1981: ‘The sannyasins were some of the most brilliant people from all over the world. There were members from the Royal Dramatic Academy, leading figures from the world of art, cinema and music, and even some technologists from the highly sophisticated West. The Rajneesh group had class, whatever people from Poona may say. They brought glitter, glamour and grace to this town in their own kinky way. The Rajneesh Ashram had some of the best talent under one roof any institution could boast of. The Rajneesh Theater groups brought some of the best dramatic arts to the Bombay stage. Their musical members had a better grasp of modern Western music, especially jazz and blues. Among some of the more creative arts, the Rajneesh Ashram had some of the best horticulturists and hydroponic experts. Soaps and other toiletry articles were being made too, at the ashram workshops.’
The Times, London, April 10, 1980: ‘The workshops are extensive and impressive; these are no fumbling amateurs messing about with batik and linocuts, but serious craftsmen turning out furniture, metal-ware, silver inlaying, screen-printing and the like, of high quality. But the point is that almost all of them started without any skill at these trades. The further point is that they are all obviously happy in their work. I have heard the sannyasins’ temporary sojourn at the ashram (many come for a month or so at a time, often using their annual leave for the purpose) described as a holiday; if so, it is a holiday with remarkable therapeutic qualities, for I met no one who did not testify to the gains the experience had brought, and none who lacked the visible sign of such gains’.