OSHO, aka Chandra Mohan Jain (1931 –1990) was also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He was a professor of philosophy, a self- proclaimed Indian mystic, guru and spiritual teacher with an international following. The books now released under his name are edited and printed versions of recorded speeches OSHO gave to his cult followers decades ago.
I decided to look into OSHO’s teachings mainly because I surprised to learn that Peter Sloterdijk was his disciple in the 70’s. I was intrigued and needed to see what the author of the Critique of Cynical Reason found so appealing in the teachings of this individual that many call “the Rolls Royce guru.” After reading many of OSHO’s books I realized that he was a master of marketing rather than a master of enlightened living. I compare his teachings to those of an ex-heroin addict on the talk show circuit who gives teachings on the benefits of the 12 step program while shooting up on a commercial break.
Sloterdijk in a moment of clarity called OSHO the “Wittgenstein of religions” and ranked him as one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. According to Sloterdijk, Osho had performed a deconstruction of the word games played by the world’s religions. This hardly makes him a spiritual teacher along the lines of credible masters like Thich Nhat Hahn, for example.
OSHO was often described as being “Zorba the Buddha.” I take this to mean that OSHO longed to teach us how to dance the Sirtaki while showing the way to his brand of enlightenment through sex, drugs and mind numbing chants. Of course, I have nothing against sex, drugs used when required or chanting when needed, but these things are dead-end paths when it comes to enlightenment even if the most viagra hardened atheist cried out “Oh God!” at the peak of ecstasy. To quote Ryle, such individuals are engaging in a category mistake.
A Wikipedia entry has interesting biographical information. For instance we read that “Osho was indicted on 35 counts in Multnomah County, Oregon on 28 October 1985; charges included immigration violations and making false statements on his visa application. He agreed to pay $400,000 in fines, and was deported from the United States.” Of course his followers will claim that OSHO was simply a great man who was misunderstood. They will claim that he did nothing wrong even though his cult was responsible for one of the first cases of bio-terror in the United States.
His followers see him as a spiritual alchemist who had the ability to transform their habit bound mediocre lives into a great swirl of happy bliss. How an orgasm, multiple or otherwise can lead to the enlightenment espoused by the Buddha will require an answer that only Jim Morrison and the Doors can provide. For the more critically minded, it would be interesting to examine the pastoral effect, that is, why so many people are willing to be led and leashed by others such as OSHO.
After watching OSHO on YouTube I realized that he has mastered the guru game, that is to say, he carved out his market share by answering the needs and wants of North Americans and Europeans who have lost the ability to think for themselves. He shares this trait with many TV Evangelists who each week tell us that the end of the world is near while calmly asking for more donations to be sent their way. I assume that TV Evangelists will need these funds to pay for their passage into the rapture. OSHO’s performance is polished and his rhetoric is slick. He speaks slowly in order to hypnotize his audience. He gives his words a sense of weight and importance. He is convinced of his own greatness even when he uses the word “and”.
Sociologists Bob Mullan from the University of East Anglia summarizes OSHO’s thought nicely. He writes “It certainly is eclectic, a borrowing of truths, half-truths and occasional misrepresentations from the great traditions. It is also often bland, inaccurate, spurious and extremely contradictory,” Perhaps this is the reason OSHO appeals to so many people. He has style without any deep philosophical substance.
Mullan’s observations equally apply to the series of talks that OSHO gave collected under the title, Moral, Immoral, Amoral: What Is Right and What Is Wrong? It would take a multi-volume work to refute all of OSHO’s claims. There is simply not enough time, nor enough paper to do so. I can however provide a few examples of OSHO’s wisdom. For instance, OSHO argues in favor of relativism but he phrases it in such a way to make it sound very mystical. He writes, “sincerity means to live according to your own light.” Presumably for OSHO this dictate holds for the suicide bomber as it does for the restaurant accountant. Actually, sincerity from the Latin sincerus means “sound, pure, whole.” I sense no sincerely pure teachings in OSHO’s works. OSHO continues with the theme of relativism when he states “if your own consciousness allows you to do something, it is right- do it.” So, if your consciousness allows you to deploy chemical weapons on your own citizens or mix up batches of poison kool aid to give to your followers, then according to OSHO’ insights, it must be right and “sincere.| For those locked into the absurdity of relativism, etymology will not help.
OSHO’s teachings give the outward appearance of being profound when in fact they do not lead to any form of enlightened awareness. They are, in my opinion, a further descent into the unconsciousness that OSHO tells us he is against. When he argues, “consciousness is yours. Conscience is given by the society. It is an imposition over your consciousness” we see the extent of his confusion. This leads him to say that “evil depends on our attitudes…there is no way to decide what is good and what is bad.” According to OSHO evil exists only because of “moralists’ definitions.” If this is the case, all we have to do is to get rid of dictionaries.
He does manage to reveal the truth of his own situation. He writes, “The complexity of our social structure is such that those who succeed can hide their corruption….a person is only a thief if he is a small thief. If he is a great thief, then he becomes Alexander the Great, a hero.” This is true enough. When a confused philosopher plays word games with those looking for enlightenment in all the wrong places they become YouTube gurus living out their digital samsaric delusions; extending their fifteen minutes of fame on borrowed time.
In a nutshell what OSHO has to say about ethics and philosophy is inaccurate. He engages in broad-sweeping generalizations about culture, society, religion, politics and spirituality without providing any credible arguments or evidence.
Those interested in becoming a guru can study OSHO’s techniques. In this way they can build their own commune while becoming addicted to various narcotics and accumulate a fleet of luxury cars (given as gifts by the ultra-rich apparently not satisfied with their wealth) while telling their followers that loss of ego is the key to enlightenment. Who is being fooled here?
OSHO’s book is one of the worst examples of shoddy thinking on important matters. The only redeeming feature of the book is that it contains a few good jokes and some excellent advice on how to stop smoking.Tags: Chandra Mohan Jain, living, Multnomah County, Oh God, OSHO, Peter Sloterdijk, Rolls Royce, something, Thich Nhat Hahn, United States, YouTube