The Osho movement

Doctrines Like Krishnamurti, Osho was against all doctrine and belief. Nevertheless, some clear themes emerge in his teaching, which is collected in hundreds of books, audio- and videotapes. He taught that the aim of spiritual development was enlightenment. One precondition was to become free of all socialization, through a comprehensive programme of traditional and new meditations, and a range of therapies drawn from the Human Potential Movement. He was also a Tantric master, teaching a life-affirmative path on which the body and sexuality are to be enjoyed and celebrated. His teaching was syncretic, drawing on the mystical traditions of all the world's religions as well as many modern mystics, and integrating Eastern and Western techniques.

History Osho (1931-1990) was born in Madhya Pradesh, India, as Rajneesh Chandra Mohan. He became a professor of philosophy at Jabalpur University, and resigned in 1966 to become a spiritual teacher in his own right, initiating his disciples as 'sannyasins'. In the 1970s he started attracting Westerners, and changed his name to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He founded an ashram at Poona, which attracted thousands of seekers from all over the world, becoming the fastest growing and most fashionable NRM of the time. In 1981 he moved his community to Oregon, USA. Rajneeshpuram became famous partly on account of Osho's fleet of 93 Rolls Royces. In 1985 the commune was disbanded after Osho was arrested and charged with a number of crimes including immigration offences. He was discharged but deported, returning to Poona where the movement flourished until his death, and still continues.
Osho is now recognized as a major influence on contemporary spirituality, particularly in his innovative integration of Eastern meditation with Western psychotherapy and his holistic, body-positive approach.

Symbols In some respects the Osho movement may be seen as Hindu-based, though Osho was from a Jain family. The ritual of sannyas was changed from its origins as the fourth stage of life for Hindu men, involving renunciation, to an initiation into discipleship that was open to all ages and both genders. It involved four conditions: a name change; wearing orange robes; wearing a mala with a locket of Osho's picture around the neck; doing at least one daily meditation. The first three conditions were later dropped. The most important ceremony was the evening darshan, but this was changed from the traditional Hindu style to an 'energy darshan' involving loud music, flashing lights, and the use of female 'mediums' to intensify the transmission of energy. At the end of his life the meeting between master and disciple was called the Brotherhood of the White Rose, and still continues but now in front of a video of earlier ceremonies.

Adherents Numbers have fluctuated widely, official estimates varying between 250,000 and one million during the 1970s and 1980s. It seems more likely that at its height in the late 1970s there were around 30,000 members, over half in India, and most of the rest in Europe and America, of whom around 10% were core members. Present numbers are probably around 15-20,000 with a growing membership in Asia (Puttick 1994).

Main centres
 Osho Commune International, 17 Koregaon Park, Poona 411001, India. 24 St James's St, London SW1A 1HA, UK.
Osho Viha Meditation Center, PO Box 352, Mill Valley, CA 94942, USA.