Osho’s Rolls in the US Press

From 'On the Edge'

Punya remembers filing hundreds of press clippings with the photos of Osho’s Rolls Royces

Up until now the Twinkies sent out press releases and invitations to journalists only once a year, just before the Summer Festival. But suddenly we busied ourselves, in the middle of the year, with dis­patching two photographs (one of Osho and one of a line-up of some of the 65 Rolls Royces we owned at the time) and a short caption to press agencies and to all local and some national papers.

Image by © JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Image by © JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis

The clippings all showed a 6×4 black and white photograph of the Rolls Royces, neatly parked in parallel at an angle on the road leading to Osho’s house. In the background were the garages to house the cars and in the front, the creek flowing under the culvert. In one corner, mostly boxed into an oval, was the bearded face of the ‘owner’ of the fleet. The title and the three-line caption mentioned: number of cars, Rolls Royce, Silver Spur, Osho’s name, Rajneesh­puram, OR, and certainly the ‘red-clad followers’.

We had never expected that the photo of the cars would attract so much attention. With my experience of working in the media department of a major advertising agency like the one in Geneva I could easily calculate that an advertising budget covering the whole of the United States would have been much more expensive than the cost of the cars. And considering that an advertisement on meditation would not have attracted any attention whatsoever in a country where money and riches are number one on the priority list, an absurd and extravagant display of so many cars, all of the same make, all being used by one person only, did the job of putting the Ranch and Oregon on the map. Osho was now a household name in the US. And maybe, I thought, if the right person saw Osho’s portrait, they could be attracted to come and join the caravanserai.

The usual procedure of pasting the articles onto individual sheets, marked with title and date of publication, was quickly abandoned. We decided to file them according to States and created special folders called: Rolls – Ohio, etc. The number of clippings could then be measured by the bulking of the individual folders. In this way I learnt the names of all the states of America.

The acquisition and display of the Rolls Royces did not go down well with our neighbours and also found a lot of criticism among sannyasins, even those who had been with Osho for many years. Gaveshana, for instance, never came to the Ranch for the festivals because of the cars. Osho’s (apparently) absurd ideas had always found a soft spot in my heart. I trusted that behind the absurdities he might have a reason, and if there was no reason, motivation or scheme, they were all the more welcome.

Unfortunately, in the West as well as in the East, spirituality has always been associated with poverty. The picture of a saint living in riches was suspicious from the very start, as if living in hunger and discomfort helped meditation. I knew from my own experience that while fasting I started dreaming about food. It even happened that towards the end of a week of fasting I found myself, a vegetarian for years, staring at a poster showing a raw steak in the butcher’s win­dow. I also remember my hippy and penniless friends in Goa who spoke about nothing else than food every minute of the day. I came to the conclusion that it is not possible to meditate or to empty our rich minds and to enjoy life if we have to worry about our basic needs.

Already in Pune journalists had called Osho not only the ‘sex guru’ but also the ‘guru of the rich’. I remember his answer when someone had asked: “Are you not the rich man’s guru?”

I am, because only a rich man can come to me. But when I say ‘a rich man’ I mean one who is very poor inside. When I say ‘a rich man’ I mean one who is rich in intelligence; I mean one who has got everything that the world can give to him, and has found that it is futile.

Yes, only a rich person can become religious. I am not saying that a poor person cannot become religious, but it is very rare, exceptional. A poor person goes on hoping. A poor person has not known what riches are. He is not yet frustrated with it. How can he go beyond riches if he is not frustrated with them? A poor man also sometimes comes to me, but then he comes for something which I cannot supply. He asks for success. His son is not getting employed; he asks, “Bless him, Osho.” His wife is ill, or he is losing money in his business. These are symptoms of a poor man, one who is asking about things of this world. When a rich person comes to me, he has money, he has employment, he has a house, he has health – he has everything that one can have. And suddenly he has come to a realisation that nothing is fulfilling. Then the search for God starts.

Yes, sometimes a poor man can also be religious, but for that, very great intelligence is needed. A rich man, if he is not religious, is stupid. A poor man, if he is religious, is tremendously intelligent. If a poor man is not religious, he has to be forgiven. If a rich man is not religious, his sin is unpardonable.

I am a rich man’s guru. Absolutely it is so.

Osho, The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 3, Ch 10

From ‘On the Edge’ by Punya

Read Madhuri’s review: On the Edge by Punya

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