Posted by Utpal Parashar on the Hindustan Times Blog, Nepal, on December 17, 2013
From the outside everything seems peaceful and perfect at Osho Tapoban, a commune and retreat set up by one of the Indian spiritual teacher’s foremost Nepali disciples, located 10 km from Kathmandu city in the lush forests covering Nagarjuna Hills.
But the commune’s founder Swami Anand Arun and his followers are battling inner turmoil and angst due to events happening nearly 2000 km away at the Osho International Meditation Resort at Pune in India, the ashram established in 1974 by the guru.
On Sunday Pune police registered a first information report (FIR) against six administrators and trustees of the commune for allegedly forging Osho’s will.
The complaint lodged by Osho Friends Foundation is part of a tussle between trustees of the Pune resort and another section of Osho’s followers over his legacy, control of his assets spread worldwide and income generated from his intellectual property.
The tussle took an unexpected turn earlier this year, 23 years after Osho’s death, when the faction controlling the guru’s properties produced a copy of his will in connection with an ongoing trademark and copyrights case in European Union.
The will, executed in October 1989, three months before Osho’s death, bequeathed all his properties and publishing rights to Switzerland-based Neo Sannyas International Foundation. It named Michael Byrne, also known as Swami Anand Jayesh, president of Osho Foundation International, Zurich as the executioner of the will.
Besides Osho, the will was signed by Byrne and two other witnesses, John Andrews (Swami Amrito) and Philip Toelkes (Swami Prem Niren). The FIR lodged in Pune names these three and three others.
Three suits are pending in Mumbai and Pune courts questioning authenticity of the will and charges of embezzlement of property worth several hundred crores against administrators and trustees of Neo Sannyas International Foundation.
“The so called will has now been declared as forged based on two expert investigations in Europe and India,” said Swami Arun who first came in contact with Osho in 1969, became a disciple in 1974 and started the first Osho centre in Nepal the same year.
“The reports clearly indicate that Osho’s signature on this document is false and has been executed by means of a photographic montage and copied from Osho’s handwritten letter in 1976 through counterfeiting techniques,” added a letter issued by Osho Tapoban last week.
Reports from Pune say the police who have lodged the FIR under sections 465, 467, 471 and 120-B of Indian Penal Code have asked those named in the complaint to produce Osho’s original will.
The anguish of Swami Arun and his followers over this controversy is understandable. “We have been banned from going to our guru’s ashram by those people who claim to be Osho’s heirs,” said Swami Arun.
Since Osho’s death in 1990, those claiming to be the guru’s heirs have sidelined many of his disciples like Swami Arun and sought royalty on his books, meditation techniques and other intellectual property.
“Osho International Foundation has harassed and tortured Osho disciples all around the world in the name of fabricated copyrights and trademark. Following which many Osho centers and ashrams were closed globally and his disciples willing to work for Osho were harassed and threatened through heavy royalties that had to be paid to OIF,” said Osho Tapoban’s letter.
Swami Arun’s Osho Tapoban has six communes in Nepal and its activities are spread over more than 50 other countries. The centre has also published 63 of the nearly 700 books by Osho. The copyright issues and mysterious emergence of the will could threaten these activities.
“Osho Tapoban has always been against these heinous acts of OIF and has from the very beginning been taking its stand that Osho never left a copyright,” said the letter which states that it was issued “with the sole intention to make Osho’s spiritual teachings accessible to all at large”.