Trouble has been brewing in this Pune paradise ever since Osho, aka Bhagwan Rajneesh, left his body—as his devotees like to put it—about two decades ago. However, of late the split in the ranks has become unbridgeable, battlelines clearly drawn and court cases getting more bitter and complicated by the day. In the eye of the long-blowing storm are the three foreigner administrators or trustees—Swami Jayesh (Michael O’Byrne) and Swami Yogendra (Darcy O’Byrne) from Canada and Swami Amrito (George Meredith from the UK)—who Osho’s ex-secretary Ma Neelam once reportedly referred to as the “three dictators”.
They began by changing the commune’s name to Osho International Meditation Resort but the other alterations have been more wide-ranging and have piqued other disciples. “They want to change everything...it’s throw out the old,” says long-time Osho disciple and ex-Osho spokesperson Swami Chaitanya Keerti. “They are ruining the movement,” says artist and follower Jaya Dixit Nag Peralta. Over the years, the opposition to the ‘dictators’ has been growing and they, in turn, have reacted by banning many of the antagonistic Osho followers from the ashram. “Anyone who questions them is labelled anti-Osho and banned from the ashram premises,” says a follower. Many, like Swami Keerti, have left the commune to work independently. Now social network sites are emerging as the platforms to air grievances.
The latest point of conflict is the allegation of misappropriation of funds—that the trustees have been clandestinely transferring funds from the trust to themselves. They have allegedly been transferring benefits of the Osho trust directly in their own favour as directors and shareholders of a company called Osho Multimedia and Resorts Pvt Ltd. “As a result, the trust is being deprived of income and benefits. For example, any income accrued from visitors staying at the Osho Guest House (held by the trust) gets directly siphoned off to Osho Multimedia and Resorts Pvt Ltd,” alleges Yogesh Thakkar aka Swami Premgeet. He, amongst others, is demanding that a proper inquiry be initiated by the authorities and the administrators prosecuted for said criminal offences, and the trust’s money retrieved with interest. “According to the Bombay Public Trust Act, the trustees can’t directly transfer any benefits for personal favour...the trustees can’t be the beneficiaries,” he says. Thakkar’s stand is categorical: that the public charitable trust established by Osho is gradually getting turned into a private limited company.
Ex-ashramite Yogesh Thakkar
Earlier this year, he initiated another legal battle against the trustees. There have been allegations that parts of the Osho ashram land (6,600 sq ft, worth Rs 50 crore) in Koregaon Park were surreptitiously disposed of and transferred to outsiders through gifts by the Osho International Foundation. The transfer had allegedly been made to a little known, obscure ‘Darshan Trust’, registered in Delhi and controlled by Mukesh Sarda, a trustee of the Osho International Foundation. A writ petition was filed, challenging the arbitrary order passed by the charity commissioner, Mumbai, on the grounds that “the gift” was not “clean and thoughtful”. Subsequently, the Bombay HC issued notices to the charity commissioner and the trustees of Osho International Foundation and Darshan Trust. So is this an attempt to shut down the ashram by selling it piece-meal? (Since the case is sub judice, the trustees expressed their inability to respond to Outlook’s queries on this and the other allegations against them.)
But these malpractices apart, Osho followers are also upset that the sanctity of the samadhi is no longer being maintained, that Osho’s objectives are getting compromised in the new, ruling commercialism. As Ma Neelam put it, the commune is being turned into a corporation. “Osho’s pictures are being removed. They don’t believe in ‘samadhi’. It’s not even called an ashram now, but a luxurious meditation resort,” says Peralta. “The place where the ashes are kept is universally called samadhi. They are now calling it Osho Chuang Tzu,” says Swami Keerti. Over the years, the administrators are said to have shifted a chunk of Osho’s archives—documents, paintings, photos, audio/video recordings and personal belongings—outside India.
The entry fee to the ashram has gone up 15-20 per cent to Rs 480 for Indians and Rs 980 for foreigners (which detractors claim as reason for the sharp drop in visitor numbers). In the peak season, November-February, the ashram used to attract 1,200-1,500 visitors a day, now its reportedly down to 150. “The Multiversity School of Meditation is on the verge of being shut down with only 10 per cent of the programmes going on as compared to five years back,” says Thakkar.
The traditional celebrations have also been stopped. Osho’s birthday, enlightenment and nirvana are no longer marked. “The new message is that everyday is a celebration,” says a follower sarcastically. So instead of observing Guru Poornima, Bollywoodisation is the new mantra. Dancing to Sheela Ki Jawani and Bollywood karaoke nights were the highlights of a recent monsoon festival. Again, another indication that the ashram, as we have known it, will eventually shut shop? Will it shift to another country? Devotees predict the worst, they say it’s not just Osho’s legacy but India’s heritage and philosophy that are at stake.
More than being perceived as ‘commercialised’, the Osho meditation resort is being seen as politicised (The Salvation Slide, Oct 15). The issue isn’t about simply dollars and sense. Rather, it is about how so many seekers are deprived of being enriched in a “Buddha field”. Osho declared each of his sanyasins his successor; it is imperative therefore that all rationalisations and justifications be set aside and the legacy of the enlightened Master be kept alive and available to all who wish for spiritual growth. It is not a legal matter alone—more a sense of being morally responsible for and protecting a spiritual heritage.
Swami Satya Vedant, New Delhi
There is actually a range of views within the Osho movement regarding the issues that affect the meditation resort. Some friends and Osho lovers seem willing to accept that perhaps it is better to let go of the Pune resort—Osho encouraged accepting that the nature of life is constant change and how it’s better to not cling on to anything or anyone. My own view is that it would be a great shame if the resort disappeared; I remember it being a truly magical place.
Merlina, Swindon, UK
There have been numerous attempts to open a channel for communication, but the resort’s current administrators have thwarted such overtures. When Ma Neelam left, people signed a letter asking for a more open and transparent style of management. It was ignored. It’s time they leave the running of the ashram to people who are more capable.
Swami Satya Vedant, New Delhi, India
More than being perceived as "commercialized", the Osho Meditation Resort is being seen as politicized. In view of the very vision for which Osho worked incessantly for over forty years, the issue is not simply the financial rightness or wrongness alone. Rather the basic issue is how so many seekers, spiritually thirsty individuals feel deprived of enriching themselves in an energy field, a "Buddha-field" so compassionately created by Osho and supported by countless people around the world. Osho declared each of his sannyasins(disciples) as his "successor"; it is imperative, therefore, that setting aside all rationalizations and convenient justifications the work and the legacy of the enlightened Master be kept alive and available to all who wish to grow spiritually. It is not just a legal matter alone -- it is more a sense of being morally responsible to care and protect a spiritual heritage.
Swami Satya Vedant
Member, Presidium and the Osho Inner Circle
Chancellor, Osho International Meditation University
Editor and Translator of Osho’s Books in English
The views expressed in this article about the Meditation Resort do not represent the views of all of Osho's followers. For one thing, on the Facebook page for the Meditation Resort, there are over 90,000 'likes'.
Other Osho centres around the world have flourished, and many therapists and group-leaders who were previously based in Pune are now accessible in other places around the world. So I think part of the reason for the reduction in numbers may be simply that Osho's work has expanded and spread and become more available worldwide.
I think there are actually a range of views within the Osho movement regarding these issues. Some friends and lovers of Osho seem willing to simply accept that perhaps the time of the Pune Resort has come to an end and it's better just to let it go, since Osho encouraged accepting that the nature of life is constant change and not to cling on to anything or anyone.
My own experience when I spent time there was that it was a truly magical place, where inner transformation was possible just through being in that mileu. I think it would be a great shame if it disppeared It looks physically very different now to how it was when I was there, but it a has also expanded a lot, and I've heard some people who currently go there that the magic is still there.
I think the present management are sincere in their wish to manifest Osho's vision, according to their understanding, but have not necessarily handled things in the best way, and have lost the trust of the Osho community.
The paradox, as I see it, is that both sides in this rift are fighting for freedom - in the case of the current Resort management, freedom from any religious tradition or belief system. In the case of those who oppose them, freedom to express love and devotion to Osho in the way that they choose, including through the Indian tradition of Samadhi and special celebratiion days.
Both camps, in the name of freedom, have become over controlling. People have been banned from the Resort, but people, myself included, have also been banned from some of the online groups that claim to be for freedom for Osho sannyasins.
In fact, whatever the shortcomings are of the current management, I would rather they were in charge than some of those who are trying currently to topple them. In my view they would impose a far worse facist regime there if they were to gain control. I think the greatest threat to the Resort comes not from those who run it, but from some of those who are currently attacking them, and, in my view, attempting to mount a smear campaign against them through unfounded allegations and mud slinging.
I have been connected with Osho and the movement for many years, having originally been initiated by Osho in 1979, and I can remember how it was when Osho was alive and attracted a lot of controversy and negative rumours and reports in the media. The invitation then was for anyone who really wnated to know the truth to just go there, setting aside all their beliefs and pre-conceived ideas and find out for themselves from their own first hand experience. I think the same applies now to the Meditation Resort. Osho always encouraged people to go by their own experience, not rather than just believing what other people say.
There have been numerous attempts made to have an open communication and bridge the trust deficit but the current managers thwarted any such attempts citing various reasons. the last one was when Ma Neelam left, people signed a letter asking for more transparent and open style of management, but these 4 managers just ignored and oppsed strongly any such move. It's time that these people leave, they can take the money they have made so far, and leave the running of Ashram to people who are more capable, have love for Osho and his friends...
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