“Rajneesh” Chandra Mohan Jain was born on December 11th 1931 in Kuchwada, a small village in Madhya Pradesh (India) as the eldest of eleven children of a cloth merchant and then raised the first seven years by his grandparents. Through the death of his grandfather and his cousin Rajneesh was confronted with death at an early age and his late teenage years were marked by melancholy, depression and chronic headaches. During this time he walked about 15 to 25 km a day and often meditated to exhaustion.
As a teenager he was an atheist, was interested in hypnosis and engaged temporarily in communism, socialism and nationalist movements. At the age of nineteen, he began to study philosophy at Hitkarini College, Jabalpur. Due to fierce arguments with a teacher he had to leave college and moved out to the D.N. Jain College, also in Jabalpur. During his studies at Jabalpur he had an extraordinary experience on the 21st of March 1953 while meditating in Bhanvartal Park in a full moon night in which he felt overwhelmed with happiness – an experience he later described as his spiritual enlightenment.
From the 1960s Rajneesh undertook extensive lecture tours through India in which he criticized Gandhi, Socialism and the orthodox Hinduism: The brahminish religion was sterile, all political and religious systems are false and hypocritical. Around this time he began to use the title of Acharya. In 1966 he gave up his teaching at the university and devoted himself entirely to his career as a speaker and spiritual teacher.
He had a charismatic presence, that exerted a fascination even to the people who were had a hostile about his views. His speeches earned him loyal following soon, including a number of wealthy businessmen. He issued individual life coaching and received donations – a common practice in India. Several times a year, he led meditation camps with active cathartic elements, and first meditation centers (Jivan Jagruti Kendra, life awakening centers) were formed.
His relaxed attitude to love and sexuality and his comprehensive critique against religion meant that he had to bear some heavy criticism in India and internationally. At a public meditation event in the spring of 1970 in Bombay (now Mumbai) Acharya Rajneesh presented his dynamic meditation for the first time. That year he also began to initiate students as sannyasins. The renunciation and spiritual quest should be a life-affirming, celebrating one which center is “the death of all the things you were yesterday.” It should only be given up what prevents people from living completely in the moment. One biographer wrote: “To be launched in sannyas means that you recognize that you’re just a seed, a potentiality. It is a decision to grow, a decision to separate yourself from all your collateral and live in uncertainty. You are willing to take a leap into the unknown and mysterious. ”
In March 1974, Osho moved from Bombay to Poona, where they built an ashram. The number of visitors from the West grew more and more. In 1981, the ashram possessed its own bakery, cheese, cosmetics manufacturing, clothing manufacturing, pottery, theater company and also had its own health center with more than fifty employees, including 21 doctors. Treatment groups were soon an integrated part of the Ashram and also offered one of its largest sources of revenue. 1976 the offer included 10 treatments, including Encounter, Primal and Enlightenment Intensive, a group in which participants had to try for three days to answer the question “Who am I?” In the following years the number of available therapies increased to about eighty.
On April 10th 1981, Bhagwan, entered a phase of silence after being ill. Instead of the daily talks he now gave satsangs (silent sitting together, with short periods of readings from different stations and live music). Around the same time Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) left Laxmi as Bhagwan’s secretary. Sheela came to the conclusion that Bhagwan, who suffered from a long and very painful disc problem at that time, should go to ensure better medical treatment facilities in the United States. The new home of the Osho Commune was on a remote farm in Oregon and grew rapidly – and thus came into conflict with the authorities and local residents. Sheela and her staff ran the ranch very authoritarian after a bomb attack, and eventually slipped into crime. It was later proven that they commited electoral fraud and even murder. 1985, Osho was arrested and deported. After a few trips around the world he returned back to the old ashram in Pune.
The road to authentic religious experience lies within its teaching to accept life as a whole. It is to love it in all its aspects and to celebrate every day. Each and every kind of activity could serve the inner growth. Meditation has the function of a witness of all internal processes and to let go the stream of thoughts and feelings in oneself without further identifying with them. In this way one could recognize one’s tentativeness and sharpen one’s sense of reality behind the rational or sensible, transitory world. In the moment when the meditator is only a witness, he might know who he really is.
“Anyone who sells you a belief system is your enemy, because the belief system becomes a barrier for your eyes and you can not see the reality. Even the desire to find the truth disappears. But in the beginning it is bitter, if all your belief systems are taken away. The anxiety and fear which is suppressed for centuries, but which is still there, is very much alive, will be effective immediately. No God can destroy it. Only to find the reality and the experience of reality – not a belief – can heal all your wounds, make you a whole being. And for me a whole man is a holy man. ”