Rajneesh Chandra Mohan (December 11, 1931 - January 19, 1990), better known during the 1970s as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and later as Osho, was the founder and leader of a controversial religious movement in India and the United States.
The Sanskrit word Bhagwan means "Blessed one" (historically, it is used by many spiritual masters in India including Gautama Buddha and Ramana Maharshi); Shree (more commonly transliterated as Shri or Sri) in Sanskrit means "spiritual wealth" and is thus roughly equivalent to the English word "Lord". Thus, among those who disagree with this connotation of vast spiritual wisdom, which they only care to attribute to a God, he is most commonly referred to simply as Rajneesh.
Attempts have been made by those in charge of Osho's legacy to trademark "Osho" (and his meditations for that matter) but whether these have succeeded is not clear. It stands to reason that trademarking a name that is also commonly used in other spiritual traditions is not a matter-of-course. Osho explains it comes from "Oceanic", but "Osho" in Zen tradition is used to call a spiritual master. For example "Osho Bodhidharma".
Childhood and Awakening
Osho was born at Kuchiwada, a small village in India. At the time, the astrologer predicted that he might die before he was seven years old according to the birth chart. His parents, who were Jains chose to send him to be with his maternal grandparents until he was seven years old.
Osho explains that this was a major influence on his growth because his grandmother gave him the utmost freedom and respect, and also made the other people including her husband do the same. So, Osho was left reckless and carefree without education or restrictions.
Osho explains that children, during their first seven years, have their development affected by being forced to learn and having their dignity ignored. He says ideally it should be the opposite. People can learn from children that which they themselves have forgotten. If a child is allowed freedom during his initial years, he will grow in strength and have enough intelligence to decide and to discuss.
This, Osho claims, was what happened to him. When he joined the first school, he was able to discuss with and convince his teacher who was very strict with children. Osho explains that if the child receives respect, he is more obedient to his parents. If the parents ignore the child's individuality, the child would in turn ignore them.
After Osho was seven, he went back to his parents. Osho explains that he received a similar kind of respect from his paternal grandfather who was staying with them. He was able to be very open with his grandfather. His grandfather used to tell him, "I know you are doing the right thing. Everyone may tell you that you are wrong. But nobody knows which situation you are in. Only you can decide in your situation. Do whatsoever you feel is right. I will support you. I love you and respect you as well".
At his grandfather's deathbed, the last words to him were, "I can not support you the same way like before. And you need the support. So, remember wherever I am, I love you and I respect you. The whole world may be against you but I am on your side. Don't be afraid.".
In 1953, 21st of March, when Osho was 21 years old, Osho explains that he got spiritually enlightened. It was the day of the full moon. After this happened, he says he went out to the garden and sat under the bodhi-tree (bo-tree).
The US Chapter
In 1981, Rajneesh came to the United States (fleeing tax evasion charges in India) and bought (for $6m USD) a ranch in Wasco County, Oregon previously known as "The Big Muddy", but later renamed Rajneeshpuram where he settled for several years. Disagreements over zoning rules and building codes in the beginning continued to escalate between not only his followers and the inhabitants of Wasco County, but eventually with the rest of the state. His followers, known as Rajneeshees, settled en bloc in Antelope, Oregon and were able to elect a majority of the town council. Comments by his public spokeswoman, Ma Anand Sheela, only increased tensions, and were not helped by Rajneesh's vow of silence. When the Rajneeshees subsequently recruited homeless people from across the United States to settle at Rajneeshpuram, it was widely seen as an attempt to use the ballot box to seize control of Wasco County. But perhaps the most bizarre turn of events was when an outbreak of salmonella in a salad bar at a restaurant in The Dalles was traced to the acts of his followers. About this time, Sheela was removed from her post in the Rajneesh's service, and shortly afterwards left for Germany.
This chapter finally ended in 1985, when Rajneesh was arrested in North Carolina as he allegedly was fleeing the U.S. On October 23, 1985, a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon had secretly indicted Rajneesh, Sheela, and six others of his followers for immigration crimes. Two days later, a Wasco County grand jury returned indictments against Sheela and two others, charging them with the attempted murder of Swami Devaraj, the Bhagwan's personal doctor. Rajneesh entered an "Alford plea," also called a no-contest plea, and was given a suspended sentence on condition that he leave the country.
Osho claimed that he was poisoned in jail and January 19th, 1990, four years after the arrest, he died. He was 59. His ashes are placed in a magnificently reconstructed lecture hall, at his last home place, his Ashram in Pune, India.