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[Rajneesh] stated that he himself had attained [Enlightenment] at the age of twenty-one.... [H]e went on to declare that ... there was only one Enlightened Master at any particular time, and that he was the one (Milne, 1986).
The Rajneesh Bible ... was really “the first and last religion” (Gordon, 1987).

BHAGWAN SHREE RAJNEESH, BORN in 1931, achieved his first satori/samadhi at age fourteen. Prior to embarking on a world mission which was to secure his place as one of the world’s most infamous guru-figures, he served as a philosophy professor at central India’s Jabalpur University in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

In 1974, he founded his first ashram in Poona (Pune), southeast of Bombay.

Rajneesh’s followers have reportedly included the Japanese composer Kitaro, and the former Françoise Ruddy. She earlier, along with her then-husband Albert, had produced The Godfather (Fitzgerald, 1986). They and Bhagwan Rajneesh’s other disciples followed teachings which were a combination of “rascal”/“crazy wisdom” behavior, tantric sexual practices, and often-violent (i.e., to the point of reported broken bones) Western human potential movement (cf. Fritz Perls, etc.) encounter groups.

Being renowned as the “Guru of the Vagina,” Rajneesh was, of course, said to be sleeping with a selection of his female disciples, particularly via “special darshans” granted to them in the movement’s foundling/fondling years. Vivek, one of the earliest and closest of those, was claimed to be the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene (Milne, 1986).

Sometimes [Bhagwan] would ask attractive women to strip off in front of him and lie naked while he peered at them intently. Then, after satisfying himself, he would ask them to get dressed again. He also had couples make love in front of him, a definite case of voyeurism....
In the later years, in Poona, many sexual experiments were tried. Bhagwan told one woman how to overcome her phobia of rats: she should indulge in oral sex.... In another tantric session at Poona, the male participants had to eat a ripe mango from between their female partners’ legs. The mangoes were very popular with everyone (Milne, 1986).

In the midst of that revelry, vasectomies were “suggested” for the ashram men—a quarter of whom complied.

In 1976, the homophobic (as per Andrew Harvey [2000] and Storr [1996]) Rajneesh made it known that he was going to be selecting twelve female “mediums” from the ashram for nightly, restricted-group “energy darshans.” The purpose of those was to be the transferring of his energy through them to the community, and to the world at large.

As to the characteristics which Bhagwan was looking for in his mediums, he soon explained:

[O]nly women with large breasts could hope for the honor. “I have been tortured by small-breasted women for many lives together,” he announced to a startled audience, “and I will not do it in this life!” (Milne, 1986).

At least one of those twelve Buddhalicious Babes was reportedly instructed not to wear panties to the nightly “energy transferring” sessions.

Rajneesh has said at some time that underwear interferes with the passage of energy (Gordon, 1987).
Former mediums claimed to have had sexual contact with Bhagwan for the purpose of “stimulating our lower chakras” ... and for “orchestrating our energies” (Palmer and Sharma, 1993).
He would manipulate my genitals, masturbate me, but it was also as if he was rewiring my circuits (in Gordon, 1987).
* * *
There were few legal ways in which a Westerner could earn money [to stay at the Poona ashram], and before long many of the girls turned to prostitution....
The other main way of making money in those days was to mount a drug run (Milne, 1986).

For the same financial reasons,

a large number of strippers working from London’s SoHo to San Francisco’s North Beach were sannyasins (Strelley, 1987).

In Rajneesh’s parlance, sannyasis/sannyasins were simply initiated disciples, not seasoned monks as the term would be taken to refer to in other traditions.

By the late 1970s and early ’80s, this particular “inner city path to spiritual enlightenment” was beginning to have some predictable reported side-effects:

Three British sannyasins ... were arrested on smuggling charges in Paris in 1979. The most ambitious known smuggling attempt was made in 1979 when fifty kilograms of marijuana were packed into the frame and furnishings of a hippie-style bus traveling from [Poona] to Europe. About twenty disciples had invested in the deal and another twenty had worked on the bus. The contraband, however, was discovered in Yugoslavia, and three sannyasins were put in jail for a year (Mangalwadi, 1992).
One sannyasi murdered another in one of the hut villages about a mile from the ashram, and another was found dead with multiple stab wounds beneath the nearby Mulla-Matha bridge (Milne, 1986).

In the midst of those difficulties, seeking to expand his work and desiring to escape a reported $4 million in unpaid income taxes, Rajneesh quietly left India for the United States in 1981, arriving via a 747 jet in New Jersey.

Pausing at the top of the departure stairs as he exited the plane, the sage expansively proclaimed:

I am the Messiah America has been waiting for (in Milne, 1986).

And this was when the real problems began.

Rajneesh first settled in at the Montclair castle in New Jersey, and then founded an ashram (“Rajneeshpuram”) in eastern Oregon, purchasing the 120-square-mile Big Muddy ranch in Wasco County there. (That ranch had formerly been the barren filming location of several John Wayne westerns.) His eventual goal was to establish a million-population city in that region.

So as to not unnecessarily alarm their conservative neighbors, the proselytizing materials available from the ashram were screened and re-evaluated. Consequently, “The Fuck Tape”—consisting of Rajneesh “extolling and describing at length the forty different possible uses of the word ‘fuck’” (Milne, 1986)—was recast as “a discourse in which Bhagwan makes jokes about human relationships.”

Rajneesh went on to assemble the world’s largest private collection of Rolls-Royces—ninety-three in total. The combination of Bhagwan’s public silence, increasing isolation from his surrounding ashram community, and large Rolls-Royce collection, soon manifested as the new phenomenon of “car-shan,” or drive-by blessings. There, the faithful would line up to catch a glimpse of His Holiness during his daily trips into the nearest town—Antelope, population thirty-nine—forty-five minutes away.

Meanwhile, privileged residents and visitors to Oregon and the Rajneesh ashrams/communes elsewhere enjoyed horseback and aircraft rides, boating, swimming and river rafting.

To complete the Club Med appeal, discos, bar lounges and gaming tables were made available in late 1983 (Palmer and Sharma, 1993).

And thereby was the table set for the fortunate few to “eat, drink and be merry,” for

shortly before [Rajneesh] came out of his three and a half year silence, he prophesied with great drama and precision that two-thirds of humanity would die of the disease AIDS by the year 2000 (Palmer and Sharma, 1993).

That off-base prediction was based on Bhagwan’s understanding of a Nostradamus verse. (For a debunking of the latter purported seer, see Randi’s [1993] The Mask of Nostradamus.)

Fears that insiders at the Oregon ashram may have been plotting to murder Rajneesh soon took root, however. Thus, in late 1984, Bhagwan and his “right-hand woman,” Sheela, allegedly commenced with spending $100,000 per month on the installation of wiretapping and bugging equipment throughout Rajneeshpuram (Milne, 1986).

Directing their attention as well to concerns outside of the ashram, followers in the same year

spiked salad bars at ten restaurants in [nearby The Dalles, Oregon] with salmonella and sickened about 750 people (Flaccus, 2001).

The goal there was apparently to incapacitate large numbers of voters, allowing the Rajneesh-sponsored candidates to prevail in county elections. A contamination of the local water supply was reportedly planned for after the “test” restaurant poisoning.

Investigations into that salmonella outbreak ultimately revealed an alleged plot to kill the former U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Charles Turner. Though the attack was never actually carried out, in the hope of derailing the investigation into their other activities some of Rajneesh’s loyal followers nevertheless reportedly

assembled a hit team in 1985. They bought guns, watched Turner’s home, office and car, and discussed ways to assassinate him (Larabee, 2000).

Following all that, and with the continuing failure of his apocalyptic predictions for the near-end of the world to materialize—as they had previously dissipated in 1978 and 1980—Rajneesh was deported from the U.S. for immigration violations in 1985. He was refused entry by at least twenty countries before finally returning to his old ashram in Poona, thereby leaving Americans either waiting longer for their Messiah ... or being glad that he had left.

The Oregon ashram closed down soon after Bhagwan’s departure. (Various followers were later convicted on assault, attempted murder, wiretapping and food poisoning charges [Larabee, 2000].) Today, it serves as a summer Bible camp for teenagers safely devoted to following their own, more conservatively acceptable (but still long-haired, robe-wearing, “only one Enlightened Master”) Messiah.

* * *

The use of consciousness-altering drugs was never officially approved-of in either the Poona or the Oregon ashrams. In spite of that, by 1982 Rajneesh was allegedly sniffing nitrous oxide (i.e., laughing gas) to get high on a daily basis. On one occasion, six months into that, reportedly reclining in his own $12,000 dentist chair and babbling,

Bhagwan went on: “I am so relieved that I do not have to pretend to be enlightened any more. Poor Krishnamurti ... he still has to pretend” (Milne, 1986).

Krishnamurti—who actually considered Rajneesh to be a “criminal” for his abuse of the guru-disciple relationship—was the only “sage” whom Rajneesh had ever acknowledged as an equal. (Bhagwan himself denied being a guru, but those denials are no more convincing than were Krishnamurti’s own.) Indeed, by contrast to their man-made, imported white-sand Krishnamurti Lake in Oregon, in an open show of contempt for another of his “main competitors” in the enlightenment industry, Rajneesh named a sewage lagoon there after Swami Muktananda. The latter’s own guru, the shit-eating Nityananda, would surely have approved ... and perhaps even gone for a dip.

At any rate, having returned to India, Bhagwan’s “enlightenment” soon improved to the extent where he could announce that

Gautama the Buddha had entered his body, and that this had been verified by the seeress of one of the most ancient Shinto shrines in Japan (Hamilton, 1998).
Rajneesh, as the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha, fits the model of the Second Coming ushering in the Thousand Years of Peace (Palmer and Sharma, 1993).

The Buddha himself, however, made do with a simple Tree in his own spiritual practice or sadhana, never having had access to a “Bodhi Chair” of Enlightenment.

Of course, Rajneesh was by no means the first “spiritual seeker” to reportedly make use of nitrous oxide in his quest:

William James thought he had recorded the ultimate mystery under the influence of nitrous oxide. On returning to his normal state, he eagerly consulted the paper on which he had scrawled the great message (DeRopp, 1968).

That message?

Hogamous, Higamous,
Man is polygamous.
Higamous, Hogamous,
Woman is monogamous.
* * *

Rajneesh died of a heart attack in 1990 at age fifty-eight, but not before changing his name to “Osho” (“Beloved Master”), under which authorship his books are currently being marketed. His Poona ashram continues to host devotees from around the world—up to 10,000 at a time—in an increasingly resort-like, “Club MEDitation” atmosphere. Indeed, the environment currently features waterfalls, a giant swimming pool, a sauna and cybercafe, and tennis courts where “zennis” (non-competitive Zen tennis) is played.

“Osho has become a cocktail party name,” said Sanjay Bharthi, thirty-four, a freelance graphic designer who described the Osho lifestyle as “so aesthetic, so juicy, so modern, and at the same time so peaceful” (Waldman, 2002).
In India the once-persecuted Rajneesh is currently the country’s best-selling author. His books are on display in the federal parliament library—an honor accorded to only one other, Mahatma Gandhi (Hamilton, 1998).

Indeed, worldwide Osho book (two thousand titles in forty-four languages) and audio-book sales now surpass $1 million annually (McCafferty, 1999). There is, of course, scant mention in those honored books of

  • Rolls-Royces

  • Homophobia

  • Prostitution

  • Drug-running

  • Tax evasion

  • Wiretapping

  • Salmonella

  • Assassination plots

  • Nitrous oxide sniffing, or

  • Mangoes ... in syrup

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