Sexuality and New Religious Movements

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Roshani talks about the book by Henrik Bogdan and James R. Lewis, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Together with Henrik Bogdan she wrote Chapter 4, entitled ‘Sex and Gender in the Words and Communes of Osho’.

Sexuality and New Religious MovementsThis compilation of scholarly articles was solicited by a Danish scholar and includes chapters on Adidam, Gurdjieff, Wicca, Fundamentalist Mormons, Branch Davidians and several others, and also one on Osho. I was asked to write this chapter in 2011 and, finally, the book was published this last November. Being an academic collection, it is not inexpensive (more than $90), so you probably would not purchase it for your personal collection. However, if you are interested, you might ask your local or university library to obtain a copy.

The first few pages of the chapter on Osho are a background, written by Bogdan, and barely acceptable to me. But so is the world of academic writing. My contribution begins with the section on ‘Sex, Sexuality, Love, and Mystical Experience’. The gist of this part is that sex is a natural phenomenon, while sexuality is all in the head; sex is a biological function to be enjoyed and moved beyond. Sex provides a glimpse of transcendence and is the expression of the energy which can be transformed, through witnessing, into mystical experience. Osho speaks of “rising in love” from the physiology to the psychology to the heart and finally to beingness.

The next section of the chapter deals with Osho on ‘Marriage and Children’. Osho never minces words when it comes to the topic of marriage. He sees it, at best, as a great teaching on the difficulties caused by being together out of need or dependence or due to an enforced societal contract. As for children, he speaks often about their being raised by everyone in community, but urged a moratorium on births due to the population explosion and the dangerous place the world has become.

‘Osho on AIDS’ shows what a visionary Osho is. He is one of the first to speak out about and implement preventive measures in his communes. In ‘Women and Gender’ there is an accounting of how and why Osho put women in charge of most departments of the communes in Pune One and Rajneeshpuram. Osho recognizes the ill effects of the treatment of women over the centuries, but does not at all support the Women’s Liberation movement as an answer. He recognizes and praises the differences between men and women and their complementary qualities. He says, “My sannyasins have to be both: half man, half woman. That will make them richer.” (BSR [1985b] 214-215)

The next grouping of sections deals with ‘The Understandings, Experiences, and Impressions of Sannyasins’. It explores how well Osho’s sannyasins understand his words and have experienced their application of these words during their own time spent in Pune One, Rajneeshpuram/The Ranch, and Pune Two/The Meditation Resort. This section recounts the comments of interviewees who responded by e-mail to a questionnaire in August of 2011. Their understanding of Osho’s words seems to be quite accurate, as one Ma states: “Sex is purely a natural physical phenomenon. Sexuality isn’t a reality. It is psychological.” Several of them speak of sexual freedom in the communes as being in service of transcendence. They explain how their experiences in Pune One seem to coincide with Osho’s teachings on sex and gender, on children and AIDS, on the relationship between sexual energy and mystical experience.

The subsection on Rajneeshpuram/The Ranch includes statistics related to the backgrounds and attitudes of sannyasins and the results of several studies by Oregon scholars. The subsection on Pune Two finds that attitudes and practices towards sex and gender are generally the same as in Pune One; that is, that sexual experience and gender roles are being explored as part of the larger context in which the goal is spiritual growth, social experimentation, and ultimately, enlightenment.

Finally, while younger sannyasins may continue to explore sex and relating in a fashion not unlike their young, urban counterparts in the United States and Europe, longtime sannyasins may have gone beyond, in the sense of sexual transmutation. The chapter leaves us with a quote, shortened to say: ”Sex has disappeared… I remember Osho say that meditators can transmute the powerful primal energy to higher levels. So I did and it has. Not that I can’t but that I don’t feel the need for that huffing, puffing exercise these days. My partner and I have a deeply sensuous and loving connection without sex. Freedom from desire. What a gift of freedom from a controversial Sex Guru. Thank you, Osho, thank you.”

Roshani (aka Cari Shay)

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