Rockstar gone wrong: Rajneesh was a godman for all those who were too human

Media Watch

Pritish Nandy delivers “A shining image of a rockstar gone all wrong.” Published in India Today Magazine on September 15, 2017, including some comments.

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Illustration by Arijit Gupta

I remember Rajneesh clearly. Anyone who met him, talked to him, will never forget him. I remember his piercing eyes, like those of the ancient mariner in Coleridge’s poem, that grabbed you in its stare and refused to let go. The shining bald pate and the long white beard, carefully groomed to look impossibly careless, reached out wherever you looked. And the shimmering overcoat with giant sequins and rhinestones that hung loose on his frame as he sat surrounded by his disciples at his feet and those gorgeous looking girls dressed in red short skirts and purple halters with Uzis held firmly in their hands, pointing upwards as they womanned the gates of his commune hall. He was, as you would call it, a sight for the Gods.

A godman if ever there was one, a guru like none other. Absolutely, incredibly unforgettable. Etched in your mind forever. A shining image of a rockstar gone all wrong.

And when he spoke, he had you mesmerised. For he spoke of all the things that mattered to you. Sex. Religion. Freedom. Sex. Music. God. Sex. Faith. Freedom. Hope. Dreams. Sex. A world without wars. Zen. Liberation. Sex. For that hour or two there was nothing else that mattered.

Above the commune hall in the city of Rajneeshpuram, in what must be America’s bleakest state, Oregon, whirred the armoured choppers protecting a man who no one wanted to ever kill. But he was always paranoid. His armoured cars, all Rolls Royces, 300 of them, nothing less would do for him, queued up in many colours in an open air parking lot. I had dropped in to interview him without warning or prior appointment, and he had broken his maun vrat (vow of silence) to give me that interview.

On the way, Ma Anand Sheela, his second in command, some called her his sister, others, his secret lover, told me how the commune was built by the followers, every building, every home, even the giant lake, the commune hall, the massive kitchen. For us, work is worship. We build for Bhagwan. This city is his. She was tiny, dressed for the occasion. In bright red, pink and orange. Tiny shorts. Tightly tied blouse. Great cleavage, I noticed.

Her right index finger was casually twirling a shiny Beretta as we walked. Six big strapping bodyguards towered over her. Swiss, she whispered.

I remember him, yes, distinctly. The gentle voice. The occasional smile. He was playing to a crowd that adored him. I was the only one out of place, seeking a story, seeking insight into what made the man tick. I asked him straight questions. He gave me interesting if somewhat convoluted answers. But he was charming. He had nothing to hide, apart from his addiction to Valium, which he denied. It made him human. I felt he had no answers. But yes, he had many interesting questions. Like I did. Like his followers did.

That night I left Rajneeshpuram and drove out into the dark. I remember his last words: You and I are the same. We ask the same questions. We seek the same answers. But I have my people. They love me. Who do you have?

Before my interview appeared the following week, Ma Anand Sheela had decamped with $55 million from the ashram’s coffers. The commune began to break up. Rajneesh was jailed and finally deported. Twenty one nations refused to allow him entry. Finally, he returned to India, to the very Pune he had once quit in a huff, a quieter man. The shimmering overcoat with sequins and rhinestones stayed in the empty city that had once housed an impossible dream. Of a generation that wanted to end all wars and simply make love.


Dr Param Srikantia
A very disappointing article…as a Professor I have prescribed books by Osho
(Rajneesh’s) for graduate courses- he has left behind a legacy of over 2000 brilliantly
insightful books. I am aware of the profound impact that Rajneesh’s teachings have
had in so many professional and scholarly contexts-including courses for physicians
that use his books, management seminars and scholarly articles and books that
reference Osho (Rajneesh). I would recommend to readers to try for themselves a few
of Osho’s books and see for themselves the profound depth of his understanding of
the human condition. Pritish Nandy chalks it all down to charisma- I never met Osho
and know him through his books and Osho’s mastery of Eastern and Western
philosophy and wisdom traditions is nothing short of stunning. He expresses complex
ideas with poetic fragrance.

Anand Bhagawati
Ah, Pritish Nandi, your memory doesn’t serve you too well! But then it’s more than 30 years ago that you came to Rajneeshpuram and wrote your piece for the Illustrated Weekly.
Of course, an Indian male mind would be remembering “those gorgeous looking girls dressed in red short skirts and purple halters with Uzis held firmly in their hands,” except they only exist in your mind. Also, I am amazed that you saw Sheela wearing “Tiny shorts. Tightly tied blouse. Great cleavage, I noticed.” Who knew?
Besides the great many other memory lapses and wishful thinking on your side, let it be said that the 93 (not 300!) Rolls Royces that had been made available to Osho, were not armour-plated. And, pray tell me, where did you see “Six big strapping bodyguards towered over her [Sheela].”
Your calling Osho a Rockstar makes me wonder if you aren’t getting your wires crossed by thinking of Guru Ram Rahim Singh? But then again, the mind comes up with all kinds of odd associations.
And, Pritish, Osho did not give up his silence for you – he had decided to speak again publicly a month before you showed up. And your mention of the last words Osho allegedly said after the interview you had been granted, “You and I are the same. We ask the same questions. We seek the same answers. But I have my people. They love me. Who do you have?” – is another fabrication of your feverish mind. Osho ended the interview by answering your questions about kissing (and sex) with regard to AIDS.
An enlightened Master cannot be described with such poor understanding that you show. It would have been better had you published the detailed answers Osho gave on July 25, 1989 to the many questions you wrote to him in view of the upcoming general elections in India. Those answers are as valid today as they were then.

Prachi Rastogi
I am one of the regular readers of India Today.
You should be nothing less than ashamed of your article on a Master like Osho.
He did speak about everything that mattered to humanity. Of the topics carefully mentioned by you in the third para of your article it is interesting that you could mostly hear sex. Being a well-read person you must know that we hear only what we WANT to hear. This says a lot about you Pritish.
Now about Rajneeshpuram- the commune was constantly receiving death threats and they indeed had the right to protect ourselves. You would do better with a little research before writing.
His one armoured car and Rolls Royces, 96 of them (not 300) were a gift of love by His disciples. It was not His need.
The next statement made by you makes me want to laugh but wisdom dictates grace. Osho spoke after three years of silence not because of you Mr Nandy but because He wanted to communicate with His disciples. And you were not the only journalist wanting to interview with Him. There was always an unending queue.
And yes, the whole commune was built by His disciples; every building, every road, every utility – everything. And work was indeed worship for them. They did their work wholeheartedly. I won’t say anything about what you saw in Ma Anand Sheela. You noticed what you could.
Osho is famously infamous for calling a spade a spade. He will give anything but a convoluted response to any question asked of Him.
He was sent to jail and deported by political influence not by a legal process. He, a Master of Masters showed us all the way; inspired us to be the change we sought, gave women the respect they never got before by our society; gave significance to an increasingly meaningless world.
Pritish- As we talk, huge numbers of people worldwide are benefitted by Osho meditations that are designed by Him for the modern times. He understood at that time, the kind of stress we will all have to deal with today. He showed us the way.
Your article is not only misleading but also inflates your sharif fled and constipated understanding of life.
You were fortunate to meet Him and instead of using that precious time to transform yourself, you were ogling women in short skirts.

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