reviews – Osho Rajneesh

Dallas Morning News, Mary A. Jacobs
Why would anyone devote his life to a self-styled guru who flaunts a fleet of Rolls-Royces? This slim volume offers some theories with a balanced look at the 20th-century Indian guru Bhagwan, who renamed himself Osho Rajneesh.

The sheer outrageousness of Bhagwan and his controversial community of followers, called Rajneeshpuram, garnered plenty of media attention. (They were the folks accused of poisoning salad bars with salmonella in Oregon in 1981.) But Ms. Fox’s account goes deeper, examining Bhagwan’s persona and his teachings, a blend of Tantra, Zen, and Western psychotherapy combined with the ideas of Gurdjieff and Nietzsche.

She explains the ninety Rolls-Royces as “one of the greatest spoofs of consumerism ever staged” but doesn’t apologize for the group’s sometimes abusive leadership, its ties to prostitution and drug trafficking, or its promotion of promiscuous sex.

The book is one of a series called Studies in Contemporary Religion; other volumes look at the Unification Church and Soka Gakkai, two other controversial spiritual movements.

by Swami Rammurthi
I haven’t thought much about Pune or the Ranch recently, so Judith Fox’s concise and sympathetic little booklet entitled Osho Rajneesh (you can read it in about two hours) was like watching an old home movie: Familiar faces and places came alive again, exhumed from dusty bins and cornices of memory. At times I said to myself, “Did all this really happen? And what connection does it have to my life today?” For that reason, alone it was a worthwhile read.

Judith Fox is a scholar in the sociology of religion, but this breezy summation of the Osho saga is happily free of interpretation, footnotes, and the other cerebral artifices of academia that usually kill my interest in the first two paragraphs. I felt quite at home in this book and am convinced that Ms. Fox must have known a few sannyasins personally. There are testimonials on why people went to Osho, a fairly accurate description of Pune and Rajneeshpuram politics, and a fairly complete Who wuz Who of prominent players in Osho’s evolving caravanserai. Ms. Fox is also the co-author of The Way of the Heart: A Study of Rajneeshism, which indicates to me that Osho and His work mean more to her than just adding another title to the “Studies in Contemporary Religion” series.

What I like best about this book is that it does not attempt to categorize or define Osho and His work. It simply describes what happened from the early days in Pune One through Rajneeshpuram and Pune Two. It convey an insider’s perspective, but without a political agenda. I liked that because I have not felt much enthusiasm for any of the books written about Osho thus far. On the one hand we have the Party Line books which are to a certain degree inspirational and elegiac, but the integrity of which are often compromised by either omitting or whitewashing the seedier events that have occurred in our collective history. I often find these books to be self-righteous and lacking in authenticity and depth.

On the other hand, we have the books of the disenchanted which are laden with recrimination, retrospective dismay, ex post facto revelation, and that often seem to be cathartic attempts to bury the past in the light of a more reasoned spiritual revisionism. Not much fun either. Perhaps we just have to face the fact that it’s difficult to write an interesting book about someone who is so much larger than Life, whether you have an axe to grind or are an inspired lover of Osho.

Judith Fox’s book is not exactly gripping, titillating, nor is it likely that it will launch a new wave of seekers to The Resort, but I think it has integrity and gives Osho (and all of us) a fair shot. The first sentence of the last paragraph is a good example of the balanced, howsoever tepid flavor of this book: “In conclusion, it is entirely possible for one person to interpret Osho’s behavior as having been unscrupulous and for another to experience a positive transformation in his or her life as a result of the same example.” I can understand that some friends of Osho might find this type of objectivity boring, but for me Osho Rajneesh was a romp back in time with a fair-minded hostess, and was all in all quite enjoyable.

Theology Digest
Judith Fox, who lives in Massachusetts, has a doctorate in the sociology of religion from the London School of Economics. She studies the Indian guru Osho Rajneesh (1931-1990), who blended Tantra, Zen, and Western psychotherapy into his teachings, produced commentaries on mysticism, and devised “active meditations” that resulted in emotional catharsis. He was condemned as a “sex guru.” His Oregon headquarters, Rajneeshpuram, was a short-lived utopia, but his ashram in Poona, India, continues to thrive. Included are eleven photographs and a bibliography. (Published by Signature Books in cooperation with CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions).