The book, Life’s Mysteries: An Introduction to the Teachings of Osho, published 30 years ago, is in the news again – by Bhagawati.
Shobhaa De is an influential Indian columnist and novelist and a familiar name to me. I first heard about her when she connected with Sarjano while the latter was residing in Goa, running his delightful and charming restaurant, My Place, in Vagator.
At the time, in September 2009, Sarjano also opened the International Academy of Italian Cooking Arts and as Shobhaa was so impressed by him and his cooking talents, she pushed Sarjano into writing a book on Italian cooking and food and, as far as I know, helped him a lot to get the book published by Penguin India, entitled Food is Home. She also wrote the introduction for it.
Seeing her name occasionally on articles over the years, it was more often than not connected with something about Osho. One of the latest was, ‘Ma Anand Sheela’s second coming’ in Fall 2019. Her writing is not always friendly rather, cleverly acidic. However, change happens.
Fast-forward to now, Keerti told us about an article by Shobhaa De that he found on Facebook, entitled, ‘The Essential Osho’. [We could not find out where it was originally published, ed.] This article motivated him on June 13 to write about his experiences with her:
Just a few hours ago, I came across an interesting article, ‘The Essential Osho’, written by Shobhaa De, a very well-known senior journalist and columnist of the Indian media and author of several books. She had the reputation of a bitchy journalist also when she was the editor of Stardust, a Bollywood magazine full of spice, like most of the Indian movies mags are. In the past, long after Osho had left the body, she continued writing sensational articles about Osho and the commune, talking about sex orgies. During the years I was in charge of the press office of the commune, I was upset about her negative articles and wanted to meet and convey this to her.
Then one evening we met at the Pune Cultural Festival, which was being organised every year by Mr Suresh Kalmadi, the Congress Party member of the Indian Parliament. I told her, “You are always writing nonsense articles about Osho and the commune without visiting the commune, ever. This is not fair.”
She understood my point and said, “OK, tomorrow, I would like to visit the commune.” She came the next day and I gave her a tour of the commune and took her to see Ma Yoga Neelam in the main office. We had chai together and discussed various aspects of Osho’s vision and his commune. Since then, everything has changed. She started writing articles with some positivity, though she did have a cynical comment about my departure from the commune in the year 2000. I did not wish to correct or respond to her then, because the rest of the article was positive about the commune. I knew that journalists are generally irreverent towards one-all, as Khushwant Singh also had a column then, ‘With malice towards one and all’.
In her article, which follows below, Shobhaa De is writing about Osho’s first book published by Penguin India, celebrating its 30 years in print. One beautiful German, Ma Prem Amiyo, and I went to see Khushwant Singh, as we knew he was the editorial advisor to Penguin India. Also, I had an idea to take a bottle of scotch whisky for him, knowing he would appreciate it. And he did. I said, “You are one of the editorial advisers to Penguin India; we wish that you talk to this company to publish Osho’s books in English.”
His response was amazing and he said, “I am Penguin India. I suggest that you create a compilation of various topics for new readers; this compilation should have all aspects of Osho’s vision. And send that to me. I will write a foreword to the book, and the book will be published.”
And it happened within a few months. We organised the book launch at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai; Khushwant Singh and Poet Gulzar launched the book in a grand function. He wrote an article about the book, and several newspapers published it. This was a good start, indeed.
Swami Chaitanya Keerti
In his foreword, Khushwant Singh writes that he met Osho only once, in the early 1970s when he lived in ‘Woodlands’. He goes on to write in more than 6000 words about his impressions, views, and an intriguing encounter with a female sannyasin.
“Rajneesh was perhaps the first of the great teachers who had carefully examined tenets of other faiths; he could rightly claim to be the only teacher who was a scholar of comparative religions.”
In 1989, he writes, “I visited the Pune Osho Centre in Koregaon Park. Osho Rajneesh was in a poor state of health and advised not to receive visitors.”
Shobhaa De: The Essential Osho
It has taken 30 long years after his death for a small section of society to acknowledge and celebrate Osho. With the publication of Life’s Mysteries: An Introduction to the Teachings of Osho (Penguin India), perhaps a new generation of readers will get the chance to access Osho’s formidable work sans prejudice and bias. His was a life touched by genius… and madness.
In a country as hypocritical as ours, a person has to be a little crazy to say what Osho consistently said, knowing all along that his ideas would be mangled beyond recognition by those who were so conditioned by convention to conform to centuries of clichés about our ‘great culture’. Osho was horribly misunderstood during his lifetime. And rendered largely irrelevant to the next generation (after his death) that didn’t quite understand just how ahead of his time Osho really was.
It was easy for an ignorant press to label him a ‘sex guru’ and focus on wild orgies at his commune in Pune. Sure, Osho had dedicated a large part of his life to deconstruct and demystify sex – he’d consistently mocked those who gave it such exaggerated importance, he’d laughed at others who treated sex as a terrifying affliction. Sex, Osho declared, was like eating, sleeping, breathing, drinking. It was our problem, if we attached any more significance to it.
His irreverence and wicked sense of humour (nothing was sacred in his book, and nobody was a holy cow) were misconstrued by people who refused to look beyond his flamboyant lifestyle (a careful construct that was actually a sly and subversive send-up of our fascination for money and symbols of wealth), his velvet robes and an impressive fleet of Rolls Royces (he changed cars every day to drive the short distance from his home to the meditation hall in which he held his discourses).*
This was the essential Osho – as mischievous as a child. Ready to play intellectual pranks on the world, then sit back and chuckle at the furore those created. Behind the diamond bracelets and elaborate headgear was a man with complete and absolute control over his subject. Forget dubbing him a philosopher who had mastered comparative religions – any academic can rightfully make such a claim. Osho was an original.
His take on religion was radically different from anybody else’s. And as an original thinker, he challenged everything and everybody. In the bargain, he managed to annoy the world. Perhaps that was his intention. If there is one thing Osho hated, it was complacency and smugness. He provoked with deliberation, aiming his barbs at those who were cosily ensconced in their bubbles of certainty about life and its ‘rules’ (borrring!!) Osho abhorred humbug and didn’t miss a single chance to debunk all those pious, pompous asses who sat in judgment over others. In the process, he acquired a terrible reputation and was seen as a threat to ‘civilised’ society. This positioning would have suited him fine as well had he not had to pay such a stiff price for it in terms of his physical health.
Post his ordeal in Oregon, which nearly cost him his life, Osho was a mere shadow of his former self – frailer in body and spirit, he more or less abdicated and left his vast empire in far less capable (even wily) hands. Today, the commune in Pune is no better than a swanky resort or spa, without a charismatic leader to head it. Yes, it still attracts foreigners looking for a warm winter break in Pune from the brutality of European winters, and I’m sure it makes serious money, too.
The great scholar that Osho was, may just find the recognition denied to one of the last century’s most iconoclastic thinkers, thanks to the book. He died an inglorious death. But his vibrant life was his true message. Here’s hoping Osho lives vividly in our imagination once again. I was, and remain, Osho’s ardent admirer.
Shobhaa De, Indian columnist, Literary Writer of South Asia
[first appeared in a Facebook post by Kannan Vishwanathan]
Life’s Mysteries: An Introduction to the Teachings of Osho is available on amazon.in
* It was in the last years of the Oregon commune that Osho used a different car each day for his drive-by.
- ‘Life’s Mysteries: An Introduction to the Teachings of Osho’ – Foreword by Khushwant Singh to this bestseller at Penguin that describes the life and legacy of Osho
- Zorba the Singh – Khushwant Singh (2 February 1915 – 20 March 2014) was one of the paramount Indian writers and journalists of all times, says Kul Bhushan