Tom Robbins’ essay on Osho (also known as ‘Shree Bhagwan Rajneesh’)…
I’m no disciple of Shree Bhagwan Rajneesh. I am not a disciple of any guru. I am, in fact, not convinced that the Oriental guru system is particularly useful to the evolution of consciousness in the western world (although I’ll be the first to admit that what is most “useful” is not always what is most important). The very notion of guruhood seems at odds with the aspirations of the passionate individualist that I profess to be, and I’d be only slightly more inclined to entrust my soul to some holy man, however pure, than to a political committee or a psychiatrist.
So, I am no sannyasin. Ah, but I recognize the emerald breeze when it rattles my shutters, and Bhagwan is like a hard, sweet wind, circling the planet, blowing the beanies off of rabbis and popes, scattering the lies on the desks of bureaucrats, stampeding the jackasses in the stables of the powerful, lifting the skirts of the pathologically prudish, and tickling the spiritually dead back to life.
Typhoon Bhagwan is not whistling Dixie. He is not peddling snake oil. He won’t sell you a mandala that will straighten your teeth or teach you a chant that will make you a millionaire. Although he definitely knows which side his bread is Buddha-ed on, he refuses to play by the rules of the spiritual marketplace, a refreshing attitude, in my opinion, and one that stations him in some pretty strong company.
Jesus had his parables, Buddha his sutras, Mohammed his fantasies of the Arabian night. Bhagwan has something more appropriate for a species crippled by greed, fear, ignorance, and superstition: he has cosmic comedy.
What Bhagwan is out to do, it seems to me, is pierce our disguises, shatter our illusions, cure our addictions, and demonstrate the self-limiting and often tragic folly of taking ourselves too seriously. His pathway to ecstasy twist through the topsy-turvy landscape of the Ego as Joke.
Of course, a lot of people don’t get the punchline. (How many, for example, realized that Bhagwan’s ridiculous fleet of Rolls-Royces was one of the greatest spoofs of consumerism ever staged?) But while the jokes may whiz far over their heads, the authorities intuitively sense something dangerous in Bhagwan’s message. Why else would they have singled him out for the kind of malicous persecution they never would have directed at a banana republic dictator or Mafia don? If Ronald Reagan had had his way, this gentle vegetarian would have been crucified on the White House lawn.
The danger they intuit is that in Bhagwan’s words, as in the psychedelic drugs that they suppress with an equally hysterical bias, there is information that, if properly assimilated, can help to set men and women loose from their control. Nothing frightens the state — or its partner in crime, organized religion — so much as the prospect of an informed population thinking for itself and living free.
Freedom is a potent wine, however. Its imbibers can take a long while to adjust to its intoxication. Some, including many sannyasins, never adjust. Patriotic Americans pay gassy lip service to their liberty, but as they’ve demonstrated time and time again, they can’t handle liberty. Whether more than a fistful of Bhagwan’s emulators can handle it has yet to be determined. It likely will take something more eschatologically dramatic than the unorthodox wisdom of a compassionate guru to dislodge most modern earthlings, be they seekers or suckers, from our age’s double helix of corruption and apathy, let alone to facilitate the human animal’s eventual escape from the web of time.
Meanwhile, though, Bhagwan’s discourses ring a lot truer than most. He has the vision to see through the Big Mask, the guts to express that vision regardless of the consequences, and the love and humor to place it all in warmly mischievous perspective. Moreover, here is one teacher who is honest enough, illuminated enough, alive enough to openly enjoy the physical world while simultaneously pointing out its ubiquitous traps and trickeries. Zorba the Buddha!
Predictably, the journalists who’ve investigated Bhagwan have each and every one been befuddled by his methods, his messages, and the delightful paradoxes that they see only as flaky contradictions. Even many of Rajneesh’s followers end up being confused by him. Well, Jesus left numerous contemporaries, including fellow Jewish reformers and his own disciples, in a comparable state. It goes with the territory, which is why they say in Zen, “The master is always killed on the road.” Frequently he’s killed by those who profess to love him most.
When Rajneeshis misbehave, the media and the public blame Rajneesh. They can’t understand that he doesn’t control them, has, in fact, no intention of ever trying to control them. The very notion of hierarchical control is antithetical to his teachings.
When Bhagwan learns of vile and stupid things done in his name, he only shakes his head and says, “I know they’re crazy, but they have to go through it.” That degree of freedom, that depth of tolerance, is as incomprehensible to the liberal hipster as it is to the rigid square. And yet, as an outsider who’s been moved, impressed, and entertained by the manner in which Bhagwan has put the fun back in profundity, I know it’s a level of wisdom that we simply must attain if we’re to climb out of the insufferable mess we, the most aggressive of primates, with our hunger for order and our thirst for power, have made of this splendid world.
Credit Osho Afroz and Daya