In defence of Osho

Comment by ‘Jack Shiva’:

Dear James Schwartz,

I read your essay “The Horse`s Mouth” and wrote a few comments about some of the passages.

“It so happens that the Osho people, in spite of the fact that most of them spent long periods in India, had virtually no knowledge of Vedic spiritual culture even though they paraded around in red clothing…much to the consternation of the locals…and called themselves ‘neo-sanyassis’ which translates as ‘new renunciates.’ Renunciation is a tried and true Vedic spiritual idea but in this case it is not clear what was actually being renounced.”

Osho had a different concept of sannyas, in which the renounciation would be of the ego , and not the world as in traditional sannyas. Although this kind of rebalancing of the worldy and spiritual lives has been quite a common theme with many gurus of the last century.

When Osho initiated his first disciples in 1970, he gave this talk at the end of a meditation camp in Mt Abu:

“To me, sannyas does not mean renunciation; it means a journey to joy bliss. To me, sannyas is not any kind of negation; it is a positive attainment. But up to now, the world over, sannyas has been seen in a very negative sense, in the sense of giving up, of renouncing. I, for one, see sannyas as something positive and affirmative, something to be achieved, to be treasured.

“It is true that when someone carrying base stones as his treasure comes upon a set of precious stones, he immediately drops the baser ones from his hands. He drops the baser stones only to make room for the newfound precious stones. It is not renunciation. It is just as you throw away the sweepings from your house to keep it neat and clean. And you don’t call it renunciation, do you?

“You call it renunciation when you give up something you value, and you maintain an account of your renunciations. So far, sannyas has been seen in terms of such a reckoning of all that you give up – be it family or money or whatever.

“I look at sannyas from an entirely different angle, the angle of positive achievement. Undoubtedly there is a fundamental difference between the two view, points. If sannyas, as I see it, is an acquisition, an achievement, then it cannot mean opposition to life, breaking away from life. In fact, sannyas is an attainment of the highest in life; it is life’s finest fulfillment.

“And if sannyas is a fulfillment, it cannot be sad and somber, it should be a thing of festivity and joy.

“Then sannyas cannot be a shrinking of life; rather, it should mean a life that is ever expanding and deepening, a life abundant. Up to now we have called him a sannyasin who withdraws from the world, from everything, who breaks away from life and encloses himself in a cocoon. I, however, call him a sannyasin who does not run away from the world, who is not shrunken and enclosed, who relates with everything, who is open and expansive.

“Sannyas has other implications too. A sannyas that withdraws from life turns into a bondage, into a prison; it cannot be freedom. And a sannyas that negates freedom is really not sannyas. Freedom, ultimate freedom is the very soul of sannyas. For me, sannyas has no limitations, no inhibitions, no rules and regulations. For me, sannyas does not accept any imposition, any regimentation, any discipline. For me, sannyas is the flowering of man’s ultimate freedom, rooted in his intelligence, his wisdom.

“I call him a sannyasin who has the courage to live In utter freedom, and who accepts no bondage, no organization, no discipline whatsoever. This freedom, however, does not mean license; it does not mean that a sannyasin becomes licentious. The truth is that it is always a man in bondage, a slave, who turns licentious. One who is independent and free can never be licentious; there is no way for him to be so.

“That is how I am going to separate the sannyas of the future from the sannyas of the past. And I think that the institution of sannyas, as it has been up to now, is on its deathbed; it is as good as dead. It has no future whatsoever. But sannyas in its essence, has to be preserved. It is such a precious attainment of mankind that we cannot afford to lose it. Sannyas is that rarest of flowers that blooms once in a great while. But it is likely that it will wither away for want of proper caring.

“And it will certainly die if it remains tied to its old patterns.

“Therefore, sannyas has to be invested with a new meaning, a new concept. Sannyas has to live; it is the most profound, the most precious treasure that mankind has. But how to save it, preserve it, is the question. I would like to share with you my vision on this score.

“I want to unite the sannyasin with the world. I want sannyasins who work on farms and in factories, in offices and shops right in the marketplace. I don’t want sannyasins who escape from the world; I don’t want them to be renegades from life. I want them to live as sannyasins in the very thick of the world, to live with the crowd amid its din and bustle. Sannyas will have verve and vitality if the sannyasin remains a sannyasin in the very thick of the world.

“In the past, if a woman wanted to be a sannyasin, she had to leave her husband, her children, her family; she had to run away from the life of the world. If a man wanted to take sannyas he had to leave his wife, his children, his family, his whole world, and escape to a monastery Or a cave in the mountains. For me, such a sannyas has no meaning whatsoever. I hold that after taking sannyas, a man or woman should not run away from the world, but should remain where he or she is and let sannyas flower right there.

“You can ask how someone will manage his sannyas living in the world. What will he do as a husband, as a father, as a shopkeeper, as a master, as a servant? As a sannyasin how will he manage his thousand and one relationships in the world? – because life is a web of relationships.

“In the past he just ran away from the world, where he was called upon to shoulder any number of responsibilities, and this escape made everything so easy and convenient for him. Sitting in a cave or a monastery, he had no responsibilities. no worries; he led a secluded and shrunken life.

“What kind of a sannyas will it be which is not required to renounce anything? Will sannyas without renunciation mean anything?

“Recently an actor came to visit me. He is a new entrant into the film world. He asked for my autograph with a message for him. So I wrote in his book: ‘Act as if it is real life and live as if it is acting.’

“To me, the sannyasin is one who lives life like an actor. If someone wants to blossom in sannyas living in the thick of the world, he should cease to be a doer and become an actor, become a witness.

“He should live in the thick of life, play his role, and at the same time be a witness to it, but in no way should he be deeply involved in his role, be attached to it, He should cross the river in a way that his feet remain untouched by the water. It is, however, difficult to cross a river without letting the water touch your feet, but it is quite possible to live in the world without getting involved in it, without being tied to it.”

Krishna – the man and His philosophy “Sannyas is of the Highest”

“It is not surprising that they knew virtually nothing about Vedic culture because Rajneesh was not a Hindu and seemed to have had a certain contempt for the great spiritual tradition that surrounded him. His role models, who he was not above criticizing, were Christ and the Buddha.

Osho was not a Hindu, that is true, but was raised in the Jaina tradition which is much more similar to Buddhism.

You state that his role models were Christ and the Buddha, I would agree that the Buddha was a role model, but Osho was more influenced by the works of Georges Gurgdieff , as well as masters like Lao Tzu, and the Zen masters.

“Papaji, on the other hand, was a died in the wool Hindu from a family of Krishna devotees. His contribution to the spiritual education of this group was two-fold. He introduced them to Ramana Maharshi who he claimed was his guru…thus giving himself a golden, nay platimum, credential. And he introduced them to the word ‘advaita’ which means non-duality. Hence, the ‘advaita’ movement.”

Actually most sannyasins would have already been familiar with Ramana Maharshi, as Osho mentioned him many times, he is present in almost every Osho book.

Osho did not talk about Advaita that much, (although he did speak a whole series of lectures on Advaita Vedanta, as well as Adi Shankara, another master he mentioned a lot in his talks).

He did however, often speak on Oneness and non-duality and the existential experience of the Self, in more esoteric talks he also spoke on the different stages of enlightenment and the seven bodies.


16 thoughts on “In defence of Osho

  1. Just wanted to note that James’ last name is Swartz, not Schwartz. I have nothing whatsoever to add with respect to Osho. 🙂


  2. Yeah , I just happened across James` piece here and thought I would make a couple of comments.
    I was actually initially introduced to Ramana Maharshi through reading Osho`s books, and later visited his small ashram in Tiruvannamalai.

    I remember Osho talking about Ramana Maharshi`s method of enquiry of “Who am I?” in his excellent talk on the sutras and meditation techniques of Vigyan Bharaiva Tantra, which was published as five volumes, “The book of the secrets”.

  3. “I have met thousands of J. Krishnamurti people—because anybody who has been interested in Krishnamurti sooner or later is bound to find his way towards me, because where Krishnamurti leaves them, I can take their hand and lead them into the innermost shrine of truth. You can say my connection with Krishnamurti is that Krishnamurti has prepared the ground for me. He has prepared people intellectually for me; now it is my work to take those people deeper than intellect, to the heart; and deeper than the heart, to the being.” OSHO

    Osho was diagnosed in absentia by a psychiatrist as a narcissist. Doubtless he has had (one way or another) great influence in 20th-21st Cent. spiritual seekers.

    I wrote the following three years ago in private correspondence (my own opinions come at the end):

    On OSHO, someone wrote: “This is no b.s. new-agey stuff; it is the essence of great spiritual writing.”… “… the most original thinker that India has produced: the most erudite, the most lucid, and the greatest innovator”… “pure and charismatic figure, rejecting all rational (sic) laws and institutions, proclaiming his subversion in front of any hierarchical authority. On the other hand, Bob Mullan, sociologist: “Without doubt he is an eclectic usurper of truths, and half truths, of the great traditions. Frequently also suave, flawed, false, and extremely contradictory….. sharp commercial instinct in marketing strategy, to which he knew how to adapt his teachings so as to satisfy the changing wishes of his audience… his potpourri of doctrines from several religions was most damaging, because Osho wasn’t a mere amateur philosopher”.

    To that I added my opinion: ‘Favorable opinions seem to have predominated concerning this guru (or pseudo-guru). Obviously, whatever he said or wrote that was (intrinsically) true cannot be questioned, but whatever came from him (in my opinion) has to be taken with a grain, or two, of salt.’

    • “Osho was diagnosed in absentia by a psychiatrist as a narcissist. Doubtless he has had (one way or another) great influence in 20th-21st Cent. spiritual seekers.”

      Please tell, me , which `psychiatrist`, diagnosed Osho as a narcissist, and I presume you mean someone who has made this diagnosis without actually meeting Osho?

      As far as Osho`s comment on J Krishnamuti is concerned, I think he is probably right.
      Yes, the statement does sound bigheaded, but Osho did have a positive transformational effect of the lives of thousands of people, as well as being an excellent teacher of meditation, and going into the different techniques in depth.
      J Krishnamurti simply did not have this wide impact.

      People who have met both masters say that they both had a similar powerfull energetic presence, that was able to induce a spontaneous state of meditation in those who came close to them.

      But as far as Osho`s authenticity is concerned, there is no doubt this is an authentic, the real deal. Many , many people had powerfull experiences whilst meeting Osho one to one, not just out of body experiences but many had satori , or just from a touch on the third eye from Osho .

      Osho made it clear that his words, were not the point, just a distraction for the mind.
      The real point was the connection with the energetic presence that came through him.
      His disciples continue to feel his energetic presence today.

      A good defense?

      • No, not a good defense, sorry. What you describe has nothing to do with Self Knowledge. Osho had a full-on case of enlightenment sickness, similar to that of Franklin Jones, whose followers say precisely the same things about him. They both claimed to have “transcended” all other previous masters, that they were special avatars or Divine incarnations, etc. None of this has anything to do with Advaita.

        As to the diagnosis of NPD, it was Ronald O. Clarke, in Chapter 4 of Osho Rajaneesh and His Disciples: Some Western Perceptions, edited by Harry Aveling. It’s available on Google Books. Interesting read, too. 🙂


        • Charles,

          Franklin Jones,or Adi Da Samraj, is not really comparable to Osho in my book.
          I have no experience of Adi Da, but I gather that he had some idea that he was a direct incarnation of God,or an Avatar, and he thought that he was the World Teacher.

          I think he was completely delusional in that respect.
          He was not born enlightened, according to his own bio, so cannot be an avatar who is said to born fully aware.

          Secondly, he thought that he was the great world teacher, and apparently when it became apparent to him that this was not going to happen, apparently he had a mini breakdown.
          Obviously Adi Da is no such world teacher.

          Osho was very different to this, he never claimed to be any avatar, prophet, saviour, and always insisted that he was just an ordinary man.
          In fact,when his movement was at his height, at Rajneeshpuram,he made a great effort to come down from any pedestal where his followers had placed him, and when he started speaking again he made it very clear that he was deliberately contradicting himself, so that his sannyasins would never be able to agree with everything he said and would have to find their own light.

          Thirdly, with regards to Adi Da , there is another big difference, Adi Da had many claims of sexual abuse from women, and there were multiple court cases.

          Osho never had any complaints or claims of sexual abuse from any women.

          • Jack,

            “Osho was very different to this, he never claimed to be any avatar, prophet, saviour, and always insisted that he was just an ordinary man.”

            Sorry, I disagree. You should read the chapter excerpt on Google Books that I previously pointed you to. There are direct quotes by Osho saying things like: “I myself have come to where you cannot go any higher … a moment of spiritual growth which is untranscendable.” In Rajneesh: The Newpaper, 1986, 1:7, 10, he states that he has progressed “beyond” enlightenment, that he has transcended the “untranscendable,” and made discoveries that make him “a milestone in the history of man’s growth and consciousness.” There is also the claim by one of Osho’s followers that he was the coming of Maitreya, the Buddha awaited by millions, a claim that was accepted and acknowledged by Osho.

            While I certainly respect your reverence and admiration for this spiritual teacher, I have to point out that you’re probably not going to get much support for Osho here on a blog dedicated to traditional Advaita. For example, this notion of “fifth, sixth, or seventh bodies,” has nothing at all to do with Advaita. Can you trace any references to that teaching in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Brahma Sutras?

            Best Regards,

            • Hi, Charles,
              The prophecy that was give that Buddha was using Osho’s body

              as a vechile ctually did not come from one of osho’s disciples, it came from a famous Japanese seeress, Katue Ishida.

              She did become a disciple, but that was after she had made the prophesy and visited Osho in Poomwa:


              With Advaita Vedanta, thew whole point of this way of teaahing is to use the mime , to take one out of the mind imwto non-duality.

              So, it is not usefull to talk in terms of levels.

              However, Nisargaddatta Maharaj does talk about Nirvan, or what I take to be his description of Nirvana, in “I am that”.

              He says at one point, something like, “Beyond this, there is the great nothingness”

              Osho wanted his disciples not to stop with enlightenment, and always docouraged them tn keep moving, that were deepeer and deepeq realisations.

              That is the meaning of the “Beyond enlightenment ”
              series of talks which he gave hn Bombay in 1986.

              Because sannyasins did become nlightened.

              Purnanand Bharati is a good example of an enlightened sannyasin who Osho encouragedto keep going after his initial realisation, and who now has a small ashram in India.

  4. “Osho made it clear that his words, were not the point, just a distraction for the mind. The real point was the connection with the energetic presence that came through him.”

    If this is the case, then my opinion of Osho has just dropped from medium high to zero! I receive periodic emails from an organization purporting to ‘transfer enlightenment’. This is NOT POSSIBLE. The value of any teacher is in his or her ability to convey, through their words, the knowledge that dispels Self-ignorance. It may well be that some people posess a powerful ‘presence’ and the consequent ability to inspire others to be alert and pay attention to them. But this has nothing to do with enlightenment. Nor have ‘powerful experiences’.

    • Dennis,

      ” then my opinion of Osho has just dropped from medium high to zero! I receive periodic emails from an organization purporting to ‘transfer enlightenment’. This is NOT POSSIBLE.”

      I don`t know Dennis, which organisation is sending you emails purporting to transfer enlightenment.
      Sounds like nonsense to me, no organisation can do this.

      As far as enlightened ones are concerned, the “transmission” certainly can be imparted without words.

      It is an energy transmission, that takes place beyond the mind.
      You are familiar with the Advaita tradition, in which Masters or teachers use the words, to open the mind of the seeker and reveal the Oneness and non-duality that lies behind the mind.

      This oneness is the Self.

      But the Self, can also be transmitted directly from Master to disciple. It is an energetic transmission.
      There are many people giving satsang who are not fully enlightened. They may be living on the edge of the fifth body, or the Self, or moving in and out of this state.
      It can be confusing if a seeker has had a large opening of Oneness and Self , sometimes these openings can last for years, genuine transformation does happen, but seekers are often fooled into thinking that they have attained enlightenment, when actually they have had a big, a small satori, a glimpse of the Self.

      This happened to many people who went to Pappaji , he was giving many people glimpses skilfully using his words to help these breakthroughs.
      But it was also Pappaji`s energetic presence that was helpful for this.
      Many people who went to pappaji(Poonjaji) , did have powerfull satoris or openings, sometimes that lasted for years, and they went away thinking that they had found it, that they were home, for example Andrew Cohen.

      They lacked the clarity to see that the ego was still present.
      The advaita tradition is only one tradition, there are other traditions based mainly around meditation, for example Zen, where the essence is silent sitting in the presence of a master.

      The other point here, is that full enlightenment does not always happen right away.
      Often there is a gradual development , or unfolding of deeper realisations.
      The Self, or experience of Oneness, is the fifth body.
      The Sixth body, or merger with Paratmatman is a much deeper explosion.
      The seventh body is the non-being, the void which cannot be communicated.

      I have sat with several satsang wallas, with some degree of Self realisation, but none of them had the energetic presence of Osho.

      “It is 1979. I am called forward for energy darshan. Osho
      asks me to sit with my back towards His knees. The
      chaotic live music begins. He places his fingers on my
      third-eye center on the forehead, and pulls my body
      backward very forcibly onto His lap. Usually, I carry
      shame, guilt, self-loathing, and other such mind trips,
      which puts up big barriers to receiving Osho fully and
      completely. To my egoic mind, He is God, pure and
      simple, and I am an ordinary and screwed-up human
      being. The very thought of lying in His lap is the
      antithesis of my self-deprecating belief-system.
      On this occasion, His gesture catches me so much by
      surprise that I simply find myself surrendering and letting
      go. His lap is scented with His special perfume,
      which obliterates the mind. I fall forever into an abyss
      of pure darkness, which expands ad infinitum into
      universal essence. The pillow of His lap is soft clouds of
      pure love. I am dying, or being born into an eternity of
      love. There is no up or down, knowing or not knowing.
      All is one, undivided, whole.
      The Buddhists say: “Gate Gate, Para Sam Gate, Gate
      Svaha…” Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone forever… I
      have no desire, motivation, or capability of coming back
      once the darshan is complete. My body is prone, unable
      to move without the mind to propel it. Someone, perhaps
      my beloved Yatri, picks me up and carries me
      somewhere cool and feather light, maybe it is the marble
      floor. I am flying or floating, and don’t know the
      way back into physical form. The experience transcends
      what we call ecstasy, as it has no emotional content. It
      is profound, uncaused peace. Perhaps we can call this
      bliss, or Samadhi. It has no beginning or ending; it is
      that which is eternally true.
      Eventually, slowly, my mind comes back. Finding
      itself dethroned, it has to make do with becoming the
      humble servant of the eternal dimension of reality. A
      definitive shift has taken place. The fulfillment, which
      I have been seeking for many lives, now runs as an
      underground river within my being, which I can dip
      in and out of any moment. Gratitude fills my heart to
      overflowing, and with it, a new pearl is formed on my
      mala of life.
      When I bow down to touch His feet, they are as big as
      the Universe. This moment is all encompassing.
      Thank you, Osho.”

      (Ma Anand Sarita)

      • “But the Self, can also be transmitted directly from Master to disciple.”

        Jack, since you are posting to a site specifically related to Advaita, you presumably at least accept the ‘bottom line’ of Advaita, namely that reality is non-dual. This means that you are ALREADY the Self. The problem can only be that you do not yet know this. What a teacher does is to convey this knowledge in such a way that you finally realize the truth of it. Nothing else changes.

        The manner in which this knowledge is conveyed is irrelevant. This is why Zen, Taoism etc. can also succeed. In the end, all of the teaching also has to be discarded because it is necessarily dualistic and therefore not umtimately ‘real’ or ‘true’.

        Traditional Advaita has proven its efficacy as a teaching methodology over thousands of years. By all means question it until you understand – this is manana and part of the process – but don’t bother listening to those who purport to be Advaitins yet talk about ‘ sixth’ and ‘seventh’ bodies and the like or claim that enlightenment can be an ‘energy transmission’.

        Best wishes,

        • I hear you, Dennis, and I do not have such experience of the sixth or seventh bodies .
          I do have some experience of the fifth.
          But believe in this map of the three stages of samadhi, or enlightenment, as many mystics and enlightened yogi’s, including Patajali ,have talked about their progression through these states.

          Osho talks about the non-duality between the master and the diciptle here:

          “When Master and disciple meet there is no Master, no disciple. There are not two; the duality is no longer there. Again one exists in its total loneliness, in its total aloneness. Two cannot meet, but if the two disappear then there exists that moment.
          It is difficult, what to call it. If I call it a moment of meeting, you will misunderstand, because all meeting presupposes the existence of two. If I don’t call it a meeting then it will be impossible for me to call it anything else. This is the trouble with language. But you can understand: if you listen to me sympathetically — and there is no other way to listen — if you are in deep sympathy with me, not trying to discuss a problem with me but rather trying to feel my difficulty in expressing that which cannot be expressed, a deep sympathy, that’s what trust is, then you can understand. Then words won’t betray, then they don’t become a hindrance. Then they can become pointers, then they can have a certain significance — not meaning, significance — because you can have a glimpse through them.
          You know they are gross, all words are gross, language is gross — silence is subtle — but if you understand sympathetically, in deep trust, in deep faith, then words also carry something of the quality of silence.
          Listen to me: two cannot meet — that is impossible; and, two can meet, but then the quality of twoness has disappeared. When I say a meeting being to being, I mean now there is neither the lover nor the beloved… they are lost, disappeared, something else as a oneness has penetrated into their beings. In that deep silence love exists, not lovers.
          When a disciple and Master are together, if the disciple is ready to be lost…. Because the Master is that who is lost already, who is an emptiness. If the disciple is also ready to float with the emptiness of the Master — with no demand, with no desire, because they won’t allow you to disappear; with no doubt, no uncertainty — if the disciple is ready to become part of this emptiness, the emptiness surrounds both. It becomes encompassing. In the cloud of that emptiness both are lost: that is the meeting between being to being. It is a meeting, in a sense, the greatest meeting; it is not a meeting at all because there are not two to meet.”

          • Patanjali was not an Advaitin; he was the promulgator of Yoga, which is a dualistic philosophy.

            Good though some of Osho’s teaching was, he does tend to utilize many traditions, including Christianity, Zen and Taoism to name just three. If you want to discuss the teaching of Advaita (to which this site is devoted), you do have to be very careful to differentiate!

  5. A few weeks back there was a 9-part controversial documentary on Osho and their bizarre experiment in Oregon state, USA, presented on Netflix with the title “Wild Wild Country.”

    It gives some idea of the Rajneesh approach to spirituality – the strengths and pitfalls. Perhaps he is one who boldly (rather very boldly) tried the erotic route to spiritual freedom and failed miserably. Sex, is a very exciting, deeply absorbing tool towards building a dedicated and focused drive, but it’s very addictive, can easily take the seeker into wild uncontrolled alleys far removed from Non-dual realization and get him/her stuck in some misguided avenues. Of course, Sitara, if she happens to see this comment, will strongly disagree with me.

    However, we have to admit the charm and magnetism of Rajneesh to have been able to mobilize so many well-educated and trained youth who unquestioningly followed his diktat that resulted in something that reminds one of the war-time Manhattan project at Rajneeshpuram. Expressing in the words of Ma Sarita, “We took a desert and we completely transformed it in only five years and turned it into an oasis. People were working 16-hour days but always singing, dancing, hugging, laughing, and having love affairs. It was a very vibrant and alive place and very joyful.”

    I guess, it were the times and forever ebullient rebellious youth of the 70s and 80s that facilitated the affair and Rajneesh filled the vacuum of the day for that population by clever manipulation.


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