Media Accounts of Rancho Rajneesh, USA 1981- 1985
John Fry, Frying Pan Magazine, June 1983: ‘Everywhere we looked there were new buildings going up, big D-9 Cat tractors widening roads, trucks, cranes , a gravel-crusher, concrete mixers, compressed air-drilling machines for blasting, new jeeps, great double thirty-foot trailers, dozens of clever little A-frames, and the beginnings of a tent city, half the size of Brooklyn it looked like, where fifteen thousand people will be accommodated this July when Rajneeshees come from all over the world for the Second Annual World Celebration.
‘Later we saw the other dam, the dairy, the methane generator under construction, the chicken yard with its clever anti-predator measures, the cafeteria with big water-heated solar panels and a full-swing bakery, the truck garden which produced $80,000 worth of vegetables last year and will maybe double that figure this year, the plant nursery and such. And we saw these marvels in the same spirit of astonishment. Just by standing still and not looking around it was obvious these people had sunk $20-$30 million in the place already and had only begun. If we had looked around and seen their computers, and what they had on the drawing boards, the figure would be doubled … Not only is there a lot of sheer brilliant talent being exercised all the time at Rajneesh communal efforts, there is also a lot of money.’
POL Magazine, Australia quotes one of the ranch founders: ‘The work we’re doing here is a united effort to create a beautiful oasis, material and spiritual.’ The article goes on to report, ‘Within two years [Osho’s] disciples transformed the ranch into a multi-dimensional farming community, building roads, prefabricated homes, storage buildings, electricity and water supplies, sewage disposal systems, a dairy unit, and using the latest farm machinery. A herd of Holstein cows provides the community with milk, butter, cheese and yogurt. The commune’s six-acre chicken farm provides eggs for the community, the hens fed with recycled waste food from the dining rooms. Much of the ranch’s rangeland was suited to sheep and cattle, but massive overgrazing during the past 50 years destroyed the soil, grasses, waterways, and wildlife. One of the first projects was a rangeland reclamation program to stop erosion, slow down the run-off rainwater and encourage grasses back to the barren hills. The commune quickly developed a 50-acre truck farm, which now grows almost all their vegetables and began a dry-land program on the ranch’s uplands that yields wheat, barley, oats, rye and legumes. They also keep bees for honey and even boast a vineyard.’
POL quotes the city’s mayor as saying: ‘The city’s development will remain in harmony with nature, illustrating that it is possible for people to live in a beneficial co-existence with the ecology on which we all depend for our well-being. As [Osho] once put it: “Ecology means thinking about the whole, the interdependent cycle of things in existence . Everything depends on everything else: nothing is absolutely independent or can be. We are parts, very small parts, cogs in a wheel. Somebody had to know about the whole wheel.” But this vision of ecology doesn’t decry modern technology – “The way to regain the balance of nature is not by renouncing technology,” he said. “It’s not by becoming hippies – no, not at all. The way to regain the balance of nature is through superior technology, higher technology. I am all for science. The outer world can be transformed totally. We can bring an even better ecological balance than nature itself. Man is nature’s highest peak; it’s through man that nature can resettle its own problems.”‘
POL also notes that ‘[Osho] also makes a sharp distinction between the communal lifestyle embraced by his disciples and the communism of Karl Marx. [Osho]’s vision doesn’t fit the traditional spiritual teaching of Indian holy men. He doesn’t preach renunciation, celibacy , discipline or asceticism. His message is that the meditator must learn to live in the midst of the world and all its materialism, learning the art of non-attachment. “Meditation in the marketplace” is how his disciples describe his approach to meditation.
‘The new city of Rajneeshpuram is an ideal place to put this approach into practice. It offers residents and visitors several gourmet vegetarian restaurants, including Oriental and Mexican food and Italian pizzas, plus a nightclub, lounge and disco complex which allows gambling . There’s also a boutique, bookstore, post office, city hall, fire station, peace force and a newly-completed shopping mall which features a jewelry store , beauty salon, deli, cinema, pharmacy and liquor store.
‘Here, also, is the Rajneesh International Meditation University offering short and extended courses in meditation , spiritual therapy, and inner growth. A health spa with jacuzzi, sauna and gym is scheduled to open soon, while recreation facilities offer hiking, canoeing, rafting. swimming , sailing, and wind-surfing.’
The Eugene Register-Guard, Oregon, November 25, 1984, documents some statistics about the ranch, showing that it ‘represents a $110 million investment. The city’s infrastructure includes a 90-foot high earthen dam and 35-acre reservoir, an electric power substation and underground utilities, sewer and water systems, an elaborate solid waste recycling system, a paved airport, 35 miles of roads, parks, and a lake reserved for skinny-dipping, several housing complexes and a 100-bus transit system said to be the fourth largest in Oregon.’
The Eugene Register-Guard also documented some statistics about the ranch and the sannyasins who were living there. It reported that they ‘tend to be, according to demographic studies conducted last year by University of Oregon professors, young (average age 34), married (74 per cent), childless (75 per cent), white (91 per cent), and highly educated (64 per cent were university graduates, 36 per cent had post-graduate degrees). Most were generally “religious” before becoming sannyasins. Nearly 85 per cent had some prior religious affiliation (30 per cent Protestant, 27 per cent Roman Catholic and 20 per cent Jewish).’
John Fry, Frying Pan magazine, ‘The sannyasins are supremely self-possessed, confident, relaxed and happy people. Moreover they are all, as far as I know, bright and competent. None of these dreary losers, dopers, lazy bums, drop-outs, misfits, and dreary-eyed malcontents you can always find in, well, communes. Hell, no. This is all cream, with no dregs. And not a hippy in the whole bunch.’
Ted Shay, Professor of Political Science at Willamette University, Oregon, summed it up in 1983: ‘[Osho] has attracted to his teachings some of the best educated minds of Western Europe and the US.’
The Atlantic Monthly, 1985: ‘The sannyasins have added a 47-room first-class hotel, a medical clinic, a school, a newspaper, and forty businesses. They have also planted more than one million trees around the city’.
Suddeutsche Zeitung (German daily national), November 4, 1985: ‘The sannyasins do everything to make the most of the soil, and even their critics acknowledge this with praise. They have built irrigation systems allowing for maximum use of recycled water. They use natural sewage treatment plants and recycle 70 per cent of the waste. They have created a paradise for environmentalists.’
Oregon columnist Kirk Braun prophesied: ‘It is possible that somewhere down the line, environmentalists will look upon Rajneeshpuram as a model for living in harmony with the environment.’
Howard Sattler, West Australian Sunday Times, July 28, 1985: ‘Deep in the dusty mountain range country made famous by John Wayne’s cowboy movie, Rooster Cogburn, they labor as few of us would believe and even fewer would tolerate. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week, they’re at it – turning near desert into an oasis which is a credit to human endeavor. In four years, they’ve turned valleys on their 310 sq. km. Rancho Rajneesh from dead brown to flourishing green. They run the healthiest herd of dairy cattle in the district , produce scores of vegetable varieties to feed up to 15,000 people at a time, and from a new vineyard, they are on the brink of standing their first bottle of home-made wine. [Osho]’s people have their own travel agency, the fourth largest bus fleet in the State of Oregon, and a four-aircraft airline. They produce a weekly newspaper and have a heavily armed “peace force” to protect citizens.’