Osho Lao Tzu Library

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An in-depth report about the research of Anand Neeten into Osho’s work, his books, and Lao Tzu Library

Anand Neeten is a brilliant and dedicated researcher into Osho’s life and work, who has devoted his life to establish a complete archive of Osho’s books, talks and writings, both in English and Hindi. I met him after he had spent a long holiday in a small hamlet on the East coast of Bali together with this wife, Susen. He is a native of Denmark and retired Assistant Professor at the Royal School of Library and Information Science. He took sannyas in 1981 and has travelled India widely for years, visiting crucial hubs where Osho had lived or visited, met with local sannyasins and people who knew Osho personally, and interviewed all of them at length. Neeten already published several papers on his research, and one of them is ‘Osho Lao Tzu Library’ – an explorative study of what is assumed is the world’s largest private library. Neeten kindly gave me permission to quote from this work.

Osho as University student
Osho giving a talk in the early days
An early publication in Hindi
Osho in his library
Signature by Osho in a book
6 Neeten and Susen

It is estimated that the library houses between 80,000 to 100,000 books. In this paper Neeten focused on Osho’s bookish merits and not on his vision and teachings. His presentation is based on taped interviews with Osho’s librarians in Lao Tzu library where he conducted his first survey during 1989, with numerous further visits between 1991 and 2007, and additional information from other friends in India, Japan and the USA. To include the vast Hindi part of Osho’s work, Neeten conducted innumerable interviews with Indian friends in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Jabalpur.

The Lao Tzu collection dates back to Osho the student; he began the collecting of books while still living in his father’s house. When he moved to Gadarwara, he became the youngest member to join the public library: all 3,000 books there were read by Osho when he was a teenager.

“But I have been collecting books from my high school days. You will be surprised that by the time I was a matriculate I had read thousands of books and collected hundreds of books of my own – and great masterpieces. I was finished with Kahlil Gibran, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky, Turgenev – the best as far as writing is concerned. When I was finishing my intermediate I was finished with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Bertrand Russell – all the philosophers that I could find in any library, in any bookshop, or borrow from anybody.”

Osho, From Personality to Individuality, Ch 4, Q 1

The contents of Lao Tzu library are mainly non-fiction on the arts, autobiographies, biographies, history, literature, philosophy, poetry, politics, psychology and religion, and most of them in English. There are also four copies of all of Osho’s published discourses in English and Hindi, translations thereof, and all published and unpublished Darshan Diaries. In addition full sets of international Osho magazines and many secondary works on Osho; many books in Hindi are also part of the collection, adding to approximately two kilometers of shelves!

We don’t know how many books Osho read over the years but according to Neeten they “must be in the region of 150,000 to 200,000 books, based on 5,000 to 10,000 books each year between the 1950s and 1980. A kind of speed-reading had been developed which allowed Osho not only to remember what he read with a photographic memory, but also to underline and add special coloured dots in the margin in his dialogue with the text.

“Osho signed every book after having read it. Some 3,500 books contain various styles of his signature in color or as part of a painting, and a full-page painting by Osho is found inside the cover in some 900 books. The last signature is from December 20, 1987 in a Japanese book and is spread over four pages.”

Neeten further outlined that “Osho gave specific instructions throughout his life for the style and character of the library’s interior design and for various techniques to be used. Among other features the books are arranged on the shelves according to size and colour. Two books of the same size and colour are not to be placed next to each other, so the effect is that of waves going up and down, adding a lighter impression of the packed shelves than is usually seen. Of all the libraries I have observed worldwide, including China and Japan, public and academic, none comes close to the beauty and lightness of Osho Lao Tzu Library.”

According to Kavisho who was one of the librarians, Osho stopped reading books around 1980. She said, “Often I heard him say that he is a lazy man, and he could read more than 200 books a week in his reading days. But the moment it stopped, it stopped completely. He left it to his secretary to inform him of the latest world news, and in the library, when we started to buy new books (1987-1989), we could make a synopsis of the most interesting ones, and give it to his secretary.”

In Notes of a Madman, Osho says,

“When my doctors started saying that if I still wanted to study I would have to use spectacles, I said, ‘To hell with all books, because I hate spectacles.’ I hate all kinds of specs because they obstruct, they come in between. I want things face to face, directly, immediate. So I have stopped reading books. And the library is so rich, and so big, containing all that is great. But it no longer matters to me, I have gone beyond the words.”

Shortly before Osho left his body, he sent a message about the future of the library, stipulating that everything should be locked away and only made available to those writing on Osho; permission should be rarely granted, with only three books taken from the shelves at a time. The library is now a protected archive of Osho’s creation being used for copyright, publication and research purposes.

Neeten found a captivating link between Lao Tzu library in Pune and Norbulinka in Lhasa, Tibet. He explained, “The co-dependency of access to a physical library and spiritual development is of an intriguing nature. In Norbulinka a physical combination of library and meditation room is found in the private quarters of the thirteenth and fourteenth Dalai Lamas. The meditation room of the thirteenth Dalai Lama is placed on the second floor above his library in Tuzin Palace, and the meditation room of his successor adjoins his library room on the secluded top of the New Summer Palace. In Lao Tzu house no specific meditation room was needed, as the resident’s enlightenment made this arrangement unnecessary…and the library encompasses…most of the interior space in the mansion.”

Another paper by Neeten covers Osho Early Prints and Manuscripts and the many photos are a fascinating display of the very first publications when Osho began to speak publicly, and with many depictions of locales related to Osho then and now.

It is imperative to note that after all the controversy surrounding Osho during his lifetime in particular in India, his books are held in a special collection in the library of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi.

Neeten’s research makes absorbing reading and I hope that his paper on Lao Tzu library will be published in book form to share also this lesser known part of Osho’s life and work. These years he is working on a bio-bibliography, The Osho Source Book, covering Osho’s early phases in Gadarwara, Jabalpur and Bombay between 1931 and 1974.

If any of you reading this article has some old/new anecdotes or insights on Osho’s reading, book collecting and publishing throughout his entire time on this planet, do not hesitate to contact Neeten: mail@pierreevald.dk

Read other published articles by Neeten at: www.pierreevald.dk

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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