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.


3 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.’

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