Sangeet writes about how she dealt with conflict, in particular during the trademark issue
I’ve been surprised in recent years to see how differently I relate to conflict when it’s about me instead of about taking care of other people. My discomfort with personal conflict means I’m more likely to deal with it badly by avoiding it, being overly emotional when the conflict does come up, or being unclear about what I want. When the dispute involves taking care of other people, particularly when I feel injustice is being done, there is no urge to avoid the conflict.
This led me to be involved in a major conflict in the sannyas world: the dispute over whether ‘Osho’ is a trademark. Getting involved in this dispute has been quite a process for me. In retrospect, I’m grateful that it happened because it has given me the opportunity to learn about conflict in a deeper way and to find levels of strength I never realized I had.
At first I didn’t want to get involved in all the hassle, yet I also felt drawn to get involved. In the last years of Osho’s life I worked most of the time in Lao Tzu House, near the space Anando used for her office, so I often overheard her talking about what had happened in her meeting with Osho that day. One day she came back and said that Osho had spent the whole time talking about the damage Sheela had done to his work by interfering with the centers and he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t want anyone to interfere with the centers again.
I also remembered hearing Osho say that the disciples of all the great religious teachers have created religions, and would we please not do that. When I heard his request, I made a promise in my heart that I would not let that happen. Later, when a group claimed to own an Osho trademark, I knew as a lawyer that this claim was inconsistent with the reality of independent centers. So, the time to take a stand had come, and I knew I wouldn’t let the issue pass.
I plunged into the conflict…but it wasn’t easy. I felt uncomfortable being at odds with so many people in the community. My sannyas experience up to then had been about being part of the group – now I was in conflict with a significant part of the group. At times I took the conflict personally, and felt angry and betrayed by some of the actions of the people ‘on the other side’. In short, I probably made every mistake in the book. It was stressful, often overwhelming, and exhausting.
There were people who disagreed with what I was doing – some because they didn’t think the centers should be independent and some who just didn’t realize what a trademark was. Those people rarely communicated with me. I heard indirectly that they thought I was being ‘political’, that I ‘had some trip’, was too devotional, and so on. It was interesting that most of these kinds of comments attacked my motivation and not the substance of what I was saying and doing, and since I had no problems with my motivation, the comments didn’t have much direct effect.
Still, from the experience of receiving this energy I came to realize that if we attack the motivation of people we disagree with, there is no basis for real communication. Attacking motivation just sends an ego blast with no space for respect or exchange, and this has a major impact on how we relate as a community.
I’ve thought a lot in recent years about Osho’s message that all his beloveds are his successors. On the one hand, this is sure to prevent any religion from forming. On the other hand, since there is such a variety of people around Osho, differences of opinion and style can easily degenerate into nasty conflict – nasty in the sense of being angry and disrespectful. I think this kind of conflict splinters the community and creates an energetic cloudiness around the work.
A middle way, where everyone creates and shares in unique ways, while staying loosely connected, involves a walk on the razor’s edge. For this to work, we need a deep respect for Osho and his request that there be space for all his beloveds to work. We also need to respect others in the sense that we can stand back and appreciate a style we may personally dislike and the work of people we may equally dislike.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a state of anarchy, where anything goes. There is another alternative. Osho has often spoken about the difference between persuasion and coercion. It’s significant that he has always used persuasion (though there have always been individuals ready to use coercion in his name). If someone is really doing something ‘off’ in Osho’s name (and not just expressing something that makes us uncomfortable), I don’t see any problem with persuading that person to do it differently or to stop using Osho’s name. I also don’t have a problem with persuading other people to avoid working with that person or arguing publically that the questionable behavior is not in line with Osho.
Of course, there’s a fine line with that kind of action between legitimate criticism and interfering with others, and we, as a group, would be sure to make mistakes. In some ways, a religion is easier than an open community that uses persuasion to create balance. The people at the top of the hierarchy just step in and make a decision. There is little room for conflict, and other people don’t have to take the responsibility of making decisions about when to use persuasion. If we are willing to take responsibility, some conflict is inevitable.
Realizations about the risks involved when conflict gets nasty led me to think about other comments I heard along the same lines. People told me that they felt we shouldn’t be fighting, that fighting is harmful, and so on. I came to the conclusion that conflict, like most things in life, is neutral. It’s the result of people living together on the planet, so it can never be avoided. The important thing is where I’m coming from in a conflict. If I’m coming from my center, willing to respect other points of view that are sincerely held, then conflict is not a problem at all. On the other hand, if I’m coming from my ego, believing that my opinion is the only correct one, then conflict will always be destructive, no matter how ‘right’ I am on any issue.
None of these realizations made me less willing to engage in the conflict over the trademark issue. They simply allowed me to relax into the process and begin to enjoy it. I came to realize that conflict can become a leela, a play, a dance, even if others are coming from their egos. Dealing with all the legal arguments had been exhausting, but the experience became more playful, challenging, and fun. Instead of being exhausted, I was energized, because I had relaxed into being in tune with acting from my center and not worrying about what others were doing.
I love a quote from Osho I found recently. When Sheela left the Ranch Osho asked people to burn the Rajneeshism books. Afterward, Osho thought US Immigration would argue that he couldn’t be a religious leader without a religion, so he declared his intention to fight this point:
I love fights. It is so exciting. I am all for fighting − of course, nonviolent fighting, not with guns. Guns are used only by retarded people. I have enough intelligence to fight, to argue. And I will argue my case up to the Supreme Court.
Osho, From Bondage to Freedom, Ch 17
I’ve come to love a good fight too; though, so far, only on behalf of others. Now I have to deal with the issue of enjoying conflict when my personal interests are at stake. The lessons I’ve learned from a big conflict have opened my eyes to the potential for enjoying little ones too. The learning goes on – one step at a time.
This article was first published in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Viha Connection which was dedicated to the subject of ‘Conscious Conflict’ – reproduced with permission
Ma Prem Sangeet (Sangeet Duchane) was trained as an attorney and was the city attorney for Rajneeshpuram and Antelope during the Ranch days, and Osho’s legal representative and researcher in Pune Two. She was also a writer and editor for the Rajneesh/Osho times. She became involved in the case challenging Osho trademarks in the US in 2000 and worked on the case until it was resolved in 2009. She now lives in northern California, where she works as a writer and editor.
SangeetDuchane2 (at) aol.com – replace (at) with @