François Pilet writes in L’Hebdo, weekly French-language news magazine, Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 11, 2014
Investigation: Disciples of the Indian mystic Osho fight for the control of a Swiss Foundation. Amidst suspicions of fraud and a false testament, the Federal Department of Home Affairs is conducting investigations.
A strange letter arrives on the table of the Swiss Minister of Home Affairs, Alain Berset, at the beginning of November: “This is a matter of deep concern for us. We realise that members of a Swiss Foundation could be linked to a scandal of global proportions threatening to taint the legacy of the philosopher Osho”, explains the letter.
The authors of this letter are disciples of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, aka Osho. The movement of this controversial mystic, also named Sex Guru, or Rolls Royce Guru, had known its peak during the 70’s and 80’s and has influenced the New Age movement. Criticized in India, mainly for his very liberal ideas of sexual behaviour, he emigrated to the United States and settled on a ranch in Oregon in 1981 with 2,000 disciples called ‘sannyasins’.
This adventure had a very bad ending. The parade of Rolls Royces used by the master provoked tensions with the population. Eventually, some disciples were involved in a salmonella poisoning episode directed against ten restaurants of the neighboring town. This episode, which luckily did not cause any casualties, led to the end of the community. Expelled, the master returned to India before dying there in 1990.
A flourishing enterprise
Twenty five years later, the movement founded by Osho became once again a flourishing enterprise. Its interests, which include mainly hundreds of publishing contracts in 50 languages and an e-commerce website, are gathered at the core of a Zurich-based Foundation, Osho International Foundation.
This non-profit organisation operates an ultra-modern meditation centre in Pune, India, which is visited by many westerners. The Osho meditation resort offers programmes such as the Osho Mystic Rose for which the Osho Multiversity charges 3,000 francs for 30 days. Some disciples give their testimony on the YouTube channel of the Foundation, such as Larissa, a 25 year old woman from Munich with a diploma in tax law, who explains that she has “found the answers to her questions” and has “overcome her blockages” thanks to the mystical teachings of Osho.
But this is how it goes: according to a group of rebel disciples in India, Italy and Germany, the ideal of the founder has been totally distorted by the Swiss Foundation, which today is under the control of two Canadian brothers, Michael and D’Arcy O’Byrne.
Their main complaint being that the testament in which Osho would have bequeathed his rights to the Zurich Foundation, was forged. This testament mysteriously appeared in 2013, 23 years after the demise of the master, in the context of a legal proceeding in Spain, during which the Foundation was trying to defend its trademark registration ‘Osho’.
According to Robert Doetsch, an Osho disciple since 1976 and leader of a meditation centre in Cologne, the O’Byrne brothers by and by have taken control of the Foundation after the demise of the master to transform the movement into an impressive commercial machine. “Osho would have never tolerated this,” explains Robert Doetsch. “He never wanted to create a religion. And now this is exactly what the Foundation is trying to do around the trademark Osho.”
Last May, Robert Doetsch launched a complaint to the Federal Supervisory Board for Foundations, a branch of the Department of Home Affairs (DFI) assigned to oversee non-profit organisations. The administration then acted firmly and swiftly which is most unusual in the rather slow-moving world of foundations.
On 2nd June, two weeks after the complaint was launched, the Supervisory Board announced a series of provisional measures to be taken against Osho International Foundation by suspending its administrators of their functions, among them the O’Byrne brothers, and by ordering the freezing of its Credit Suisse and Poste-Finance bank accounts.
This injunction, which L’Hebdo has examined, mentions a long list of suspicions. The Supervisory Board mentions that “… the investigations could reveal grounds for criminal proceedings” due to conflicts of interest. According to the Supervisory Board, it seems that the companies belonging to the O’Byrne brothers are beneficiaries of licenses given by the Foundation. Cherry on the cake: “The independent graphological reports proving that the testament of Osho is not authentic should be taken into consideration,” the Supervisory Board points out again in June.
The authority [Supervisory Board, ed.] then appointed an independent administrator to manage the Foundation and to try to shed light on this imbroglio. According to his first conclusions, given a month later, he assessed that his job involved… too much work.
In particular, the administrator realized that just the publishing activity involved 2,700 contracts in 48 languages, of which at least 500 have to be renewed each year. “I realized that it was impossible to keep under control and renegotiate all these contracts,” confided the administrator. His proposal? To reinstate, as fast as possible, the old administrators to their functions.
Where is the testament?
This is the state of affairs since 24 September. With a second injunction that has cancelled the first, the Supervisory Board has taken a 180 degree turn. After hearing the arguments of the board members of the Foundation, defended by the law firm Vischer of Zurich, the Supervisory Board completely reversed gear.
Of all suspicions mentioned in the injunction of June, not a single one was left at the September injunction. Basing itself on the administrator’s report, the Supervisory Board came to the conclusion that the Foundation has simply “answered in a credible manner all the points that had been raised.” That’s it.
In a five-page statement to L’Hebdo, the board of the Foundation claims to be the victim of an operation of destabilisation that has been implemented through “false accusations” by a “group of individuals” led by Robert Doetsch. These individuals are supposedly trying “since many years to take over and destroy the intellectual property of Osho’s work.”
The board of the Foundation in turn refers to the supposed wishes of the master: “Osho never wanted his writings to fall in private hands. That’s why he has chosen to protect them through a Foundation and a responsible board of directors.”
Marcus Binder, spokesperson for DFI, points out that in spite of the decision of reinstating the Board, the “monitoring procedure” against Osho International is “still pending.”
In spite of all this, a question remains open: what about the famous testament, which has been declared false by 3 graphological reports? Strangely enough, the second injunction of the Supervisory Board does not mention it. The answer of the Foundation to our editorial staff does not include a single word on the subject. Having being questioned specifically on this subject, the board of the Foundation did not wish to comment.
Despite the fact that just a few months earlier the issue of the forgery was considered to be potentially relevant from the criminal point of view, the spokesperson of DFI strangely points out that “the alleged forgery of the testament is in no way part of the context of this procedure.”
In their letter to the Federal Department of Home Affairs, Robert Doetsch and his small group of ex-sannyasins have only one request: “No final decision should be taken until and unless the board of the Foundation produces the original document, and have it’s authenticity assessed by the Swiss Authorities.” Caught in a grip between the rebel disciples of Osho and the O’Byrne brothers, the Department of Alain Berset will be perhaps compelled to shed light very soon on the legacy of the “Sex Guru.”
Translation by Osho News Team and friends
More info on the will: www.osho.de