Published in The Business Standard, India, July 21, 2014.
Title: New Dimensions of Yoga
Publisher: Penguin Ananda
Title: Nowhere To Go But In
Publisher: Penguin Ananda
As he travelled across India in the 1960s speaking against politicians and institutionalised religion, Chandra Mohan Jain (born 1931) came to be known as Acharya Rajneesh and, later, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He was one of the most controversial among Indian mystics and spiritual teachers. He accepted divinity but rejected god, angering many. (He called the Vedas and the Bible paper boats!)
The sprawling ashram Rajneesh set up in 1974 in Pune attracted hordes of foreigners as well as Indians but soon became notorious for its permissive climate, leading many to dub him a “sex guru”. With tensions mounting vis-à-vis Pune residents and the Indian government, Rajneesh left for the U.S. where he set up a commune at Oregon in 1981.
But conflicts developed there too, both with the locals and the American authorities. The commune collapsed in 1985, Rajneesh was arrested after he admitted to crimes committed by his followers, and was deported. With no country ready to admit him, he returned to Pune, where he died in 1990.
Notwithstanding his notoriety, Rajneesh’s teachings – he wrote hundreds of books and delivered hours of lectures – have commanded a huge following, their popularity seemingly soaring after his death. It is not clear if the two books under review are from unpublished question and answer sessions he had with his followers or have been published earlier.
Osho, as he became known, was a great votary of yoga and meditation and proud of their Indian roots. He himself believed strongly in Zen and meditative therapy. Underlining that yoga is a science and not a belief, Osho called the ancient Indian teaching “a systematic methodology of scientific experimentation in the search for the truth of life”. He preached: “Meditation is a lifestyle, not an activity.”
For all the criticism he faced, Osho was extremely well read and could talk on any subject with authority. His knowledge base was vast. In the volumes here, he dwells at length on body and mind, disease, death (a favourite subject for him), duality, sharing, family life, the Hindu mind, the Quran, mantras, godliness, sex and celibacy, and more.
One may not agree with everything Rajneesh says. That of course goes for any spiritual guru. Nevertheless, both books make for great reading, more so for those interested in spirituality or Osho.
M.R. Narayan Swamy is Executive Editor at IANS. He can be reached on email@example.com. The views expressed are personal.
Books are available from Penguin India