Osho is one of the brightest, most radical and controversial spiritual masters not only of the 20th century, but probably the whole history of spirituality. Throughout his whole life he continuously questioned and challenged the status quo of the society, culture and religion; he caused so much public controversy and disagreement that no other master ever did. His immensely profound vision keeps inspiring spiritual seekers and intellectuals, in his analysis he goes with great clarity to the very roots of the issues of human life and society.
Osho Rajneesh was born in a brahmin family in a small village of central India. The first years of his life he spent with his grandparents, which didn’t interfere in his life and let him grow in absolute freedom. From the early childhood he had a rebellious and non-compromising spirit, he used to question everything and argue with everybody. After the death of his grandfather he moved back to his parents, and at the age of 9 his father made him go to school, which he never liked and was spending most of the time outside on his own. He took deep interest in reading, which remained with him throughout his life; later on he used to read 8-10 books a day. After finishing school he decided to study philosophy, and moved away from his family to a bigger city. His intense spiritual search led to the enlightenment experience in the age of 21, which he kept secret for the next 20 years. Despite having continuous discussions with his professors, and being expelled from one college for that, he graduated with brilliant marks and started teaching philosophy himself as a professor. He was already known as a great speaker during his college years, and he continues giving public talks in different contests, conferences and meetings all over the country. In the 60s he gained popularity as a religious teacher, and started giving courses of meditation. In 1970 Osho moved to Bombay; he stopped speaking in public events and only received a small audience of close disciples. In a few years he moved to a nearby city of Poona, where his followers created an ashram for his growing movement. In the mid 70s he introduced modern psychotherapy methods, combining them with traditional and new meditation techniques, and his commune started growing rapidly. The lifestyle in the commune was multidimensional – apart from meditation and therapy it involved art, music, dance and other forms of creativity. By the beginning of 80s a small commune in the suburb housed a few thousand people, and Osho decided to search for a bigger place. In 1981 he moved to a newly purchased property in Oregon, US, and went into silence for more than 3 years. Thousands of his followers worked day and night to build a new commune on 260 km2 of deserted land. The new community faced increasing problems with the conservative local population, which saw them as a religious cult, as well as with the authorities. By 1985 the conflict escalated; eventually the commune was surrounded by the military, Osho was arrested and charged with numerous crimes, of which only 2 minor offenses were proved. Being under arrest he was supposedly poisoned by the government, which eventually made his health deteriorate quickly. After being released he tried to enter 21 different countries, all of them denied him entry for no obvious reason. Finally Osho returned to his indian ashram, and his followers started gathering there again after the dismission of the american commune. He continued giving daily discourses until the last months of his life, when he stopped because of the health issues, and was only coming out to be with his disciples in silence.
Osho was speaking on a wide range of subjects, his talks are published in more than 600 books. His teachings are contradictory, it is actually impossible to make any system out of them, and he was doing that intentionally. He was continuously criticizing the established religions, social values, morality and politics, that are enslaving and conditioning the individual. The human being and his personal freedom is the highest value, but the society in all ways tries to adjust and cultivate the individual to make use of him. Thus rebellion is one of the key ideas of Osho. Instead of the ready-made rules and dogmas one should follow his intelligence and awareness, because every situation is uniquely different. The central idea of Osho’s teaching is awareness – it is the essence of meditation, constant awareness is the best way of practice. Osho realized, that the traditional sitting meditation has become difficult for the modern person, so he created new forms of active meditation, which include breathing, body movements and dance. He was the first spiritual master, who started giving sannyas (spiritual initiation) without any requirements; according to him the essence of sannyas is the search for truth, so it doesn’t require preparation and conditions. Another important concept of Osho is wholeness – one has to find the balance and completion in both spiritual and material spheres, uniting the both opposites together. The opposites are just two sides of the same phenomenon, and all the ideas of good and bad are relative. Through meditation one finds the way beyond the opposites and transcends both of them; everything becomes one, united and whole. Every human being is already complete and perfect as he is, but because he is surrounded by the cloud of ego and mind, he cannot see his enlightened nature, which is already present here and now. The only way for real transformation is to accept yourself totally as you are, then eventually the negativity, old patterns and desires drop by themselves without any struggle.
Osho’s message of sexual, emotional and spiritual liberation and his opened expression of contempt for politicians and spiritual leaders caused a great deal of controversy around his life. His radical teachings (especially his acceptance of free sex) contradicted traditional values and aroused a great deal of anger and opposition, especially in the establishment. At the same time he was readily accepted by many of the western youth, which saw his ideas as a long awaited voice of freedom. Interestingly, after his demise his personality and teaching has become much more accepted in the pubic opinion, and he is now officially described as one of the greatest thinkers and spiritual teachers of India. Just as Osho was saying – when the master is alive, everybody is against him, when he is dead, they create a religion and start worshiping him.