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RAJNEESH , Bhagwan Shree (19311990), later known as Osho, was a controversial spiritual teacher from India whose disciples at the start of the twenty-first century include thousands of Americans, Europeans, and Asians, who are called sannyasins. The spiritual movement is centered at the Osho Commune International in Pune, India, at 17 Koregaon Park, where it was first established in the early 1970s.

There are Osho centers in more than fifty nations. In the United States, the largest are Osho Academy in Sedona, Arizona; Viha Meditation Center in Mill Valley, California; and Osho Padma Meditation Center in New York City. Centers are independent, with some tensions developing because of different emphases, but they share common bonds through Osho's meditations and teachings.

Osho Meditation Resort in Pune began as the Shree Rajneesh Ashram and continues as the movement's heart, housing a multiversity offering myriad courses on spiritual growth, healing, creative arts, and intimate relationships. There are also meditation workshops and programs emphasizing meditative aspects of sport.

From 1958 to 1966, Osho, then known as Rajneesh and holding a master of arts degree in philosophy, taught that subject primarily at the University of Jabalpur in the city of Jabalpur. He resigned his post in 1966 to travel throughout India as an independent religious teacher, also offering meditation camps during summer months. In the early 1970s he shifted headquarters from his Bombay apartment to the Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Pune.

Osho's synthesis of spirituality with personal-growth psychology attracted significant numbers of Westerners, many in midlife transition. Sannyasins often received new names signifying their spiritual rebirth. These sannyasins were known as new or neo-sannyasins ; they renounced living in either the past or the future, but emphatically did not renounce material or sexual indulgence. He developed unique meditations, many involving intense, emotionally cleansing activity preceding stillness. Before his death, he shifted his emphasis to meditative therapies encouraging individuals' responsibility for their own personal and spiritual growth.

Meditation remains central to the movement, and Osho meditations have been taught in schools, corporations, and other venues. Osho's philosophical approach blends Western and Eastern traditions, with special emphasis on Zen Buddhism. Important themes include dropping the ego and its conditioned beliefs and integrating the material and the spiritual. The ideal human is Zorba the Buddha, a consummate being combining Buddha's spiritual focus with Zorba's life-embracing traits.

A major reason that Osho was controversial in India was his advocacy of sexual freedom and exploration. However, the greatest international controversy developed in the United States when he settled at the Big Muddy Ranch in central Oregon. From the summer of 1981 until the late fall of 1985, several thousand sannyasins labored to create the communal city of Rajneeshpuram and a model agricultural collective. Their dream disintegrated because of financial, legal, and political conflicts, and Rajneesh embarked on a world tour before returning to Pune in 1987. Two years later he took the name Osho, which means dissolving into the totality of existence, or merging with all life. Osho died on January 19, 1990.

Osho Meditation Resort is an international center where a core staff hosts thousands of visitors annually. Both sannyasins and other seekers visit the resort center in Pune, read some of the more than six hundred books that have been transcribed from Osho's lectures or have been written about him, communicate on the internet, gather to meditate throughout the world, or enroll in Osho-based counseling and personal growth training.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is discord within the movement between those who regard Osho's general teachings and methods as of primary importance and those who put primary emphasis on Osho himself as an embiodied charismatic individual. This is a major dispute that could lead to a segmentation in which new centers, without connection to the Pune headquarters, incorporate and spread Osho's teachings. Such schism may result in either continued growth and spread of the belief system or attenuation of the movement and its teachings.


Carter, Lewis. Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram. New York, 1990. A thorough, balanced look at the Rajneesh organizational structure, history, and the politics of the communal city, Rajneeshpuram.

Friends of Osho.

Goldman, Marion S. Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1999. A book about the high-achieving women who gave up families and careers to follow Rajneesh to central Oregon.

Osho. Osho: Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic. New York, 2000. Osho's own words about his philosophies and personal experiences.

Palmer, Susan J., and Arvind Sharma, eds. The Rajneesh Papers: Studies in a New Religious Movement. Delhi, 1993. A collection of chapters written about Osho by both his devotees and also by academics.

Marion S. Goldman (2005)

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