Christo sent us an article by Bernard Levin that appeared in the British ‘Times’, describing the events that occurred in Buddha Hall on 22nd May 1980, and recounts his memories.
Bernard Levin was a well-known English journalist and broadcaster who after a short visit to Osho’s ashram in Pune, although not a disciple, developed a deep sympathy and admiration for Osho. He had the courage on returning to the UK to write some very positive articles about Osho for which, predictably, he was abused and lampooned in the English media.
In this article he describes the incident of the attack on Osho by the Hindu fanatic Vithal Tuppe, an incident which all of us who were there at the time will remember well.
I happened to be guarding at the Main Gate during Discourse that morning when three members of the police arrived in plain clothes wanting to enter Buddha Hall (the lecture had already started) on the grounds of a tip-off of an impending attack. We refused entry – we had no means of verifying their identity! I had the task of taking a message around the back of Buddha Hall and alerting Shiva of the tip-off. I remember the guards taking up immediate, presumably well-rehearsed, emergency positions on the podium. The knife had already been thrown by the time I had got back to the Main Gate, to see the attacker being carried out firmly by the Buddha Hall guards. He was, as I remember, taken away in a waiting police van, although later released. Osho’s response and the rest of the story is well known and beautifully and sympathetically described by Levin.
The Times, London U.K.
4, 5 or 6 June 1980
A rather special kind of loving
A few weeks ago, I wrote a series of three columns, after returning from my most recent visit to India, about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the work he is doing in his ashram in Poona. I tried to convey something of the extraordinary refulgence of love and wisdom that emanates from this very remarkable figure in his daily discourse and that seems to surround almost tangibly the dwellers on the ashram and his other followers who live scattered throughout Poona (accommodation in the cramped conditions in the ashram itself is very limited) and come in each day to hear Bhagwan speak and to take part in the work and practice some of the techniques to self-realization that are taught there.
Bhagwan speaks month and month about in English and Hindi alternatively. On May 22, he was speaking in Hindi in his usual place of address, the open auditorium called Buddha Hall, when an attempt was apparently made on his life. At about 8.30 am (the discourse starts at 8) a young man rose in the audience (the listeners sit on the floor) and ran towards Rajneesh, crying “You are speaking against our religion! We won’t tolerate it!”
Rajneesh’s ashram has guards whose job is to maintain security (not only his, of course) and these grappled with the man; before they could do so, however, I am told that he flung a large dagger; this passed in front of Rajneesh (who speaks from a raised platform roughly in the middle of one side of the roughly oval hall) and fell harmlessly onto the floor. My information from the ashram is that there had earlier been a tip-off from the Poona police to the effect that an attack was to be expected that morning.
The man was taken into custody by the police; he was identified as a member of an extreme Hindu organization; a police statement later said that a second weapon had been found on him when he was searched, together with a document criticizing Bhagwan, in what terms is not at present known.
Rajneesh remained undisturbed throughout the episode; his first words on it were to the effect that no authentic religion needed to be defended by assassins, and that by such actions the individual was not protecting his religion but demonstrating its weakness. In a statement made afterwards Laxmi, the executive director of the ashram, pointed out that the man was not treated roughly by Bhagwan’s neo-sannyasins, “The teachings of our Master,” here statement was, “are such that our disciples did not react in an angry or violent manner. The man was gently apprehended, removed from the hall in silence and handed over to the police.” (I may interpolate here that from all I saw and heard on my two visits to the ashram that is precisely what I would have expected.)
In his discourse the next morning, Bhagwan said that there would be other attempts on his life, and urged his followers not to be angry if one should succeed. This is what he said:
I don’t think that there will be only one man: there will be many more. But no anger should arise in you, nor should there be any place for counter-violence in you. Even if someone succeeds in future, even if my body is snatched away, your love, your bliss, should remain as it is. I am happy that no one among you caused that man any injury. What he did was trivial, but what you did has an immense significance. You have made me immensely happy. You carried him with love. Even police officers were surprised, because they thought you might beat him, but you did not even slap him once.
And Rajneesh continued, broadening his theme as he did so:
That is why I am thankful to you – that you ran and picked him up as one picks up someone who has fallen in the street. You treated him with love, with respect, with goodwill. This should be the quality of a sannyasins. This is the mark of religion… For centuries Hindus and Christians and Mohammedans have been murdering each other in the name of religion. But no person who is truly religious can be a fanatic. Religion has nothing to do with fanaticism.
Quoted from a discourse in Hindi: Sumiran Mera Hari Karain, Ch 3 – 23 May 1980 am, Buddha Hall, Pune
My Fight Has Been Universal