Keerti asks in a letter, “Who are Osho’s friends and disciples?”
The day Osho said, I am your friend, almost everybody, except for a few disciples, felt very happy that from now on he is just a friend to us – not a master, not a guru. The number of such happy people could exceed ninety percent. I guess these people. who rejoiced in this new proclamation from the master, might have been feeling some burden or carrying some kind of tension, as they knew that being a disciple meant some kind of deep surrender to a master. And Osho’s historical statement proved to be a masterstroke of retrenchment, a layoff. Osho didn’t have to work on these people anymore; it was up to them how they took him for their growth process – though Osho’s love and wisdom remained available to all of them forever. But, just being a friend means that they would take as much as they understand or are open to receiving grace from the Master.
Earlier, I had heard one or two of his Hindi discourses in Bombay-Pune days when he explained how he had gotten rid of certain groups of people who he knew would not continue their journey of self-transformation and would waste his time. Osho used a certain device for such groups to get rid of them and keep working on the worthy people, who were basically his own people for his whole life. These people who were there with him forever will not go back. They were real devotees.
In the early days of his fiery talks of revolution, a certain group of communists gathered around Osho, thinking that he is for communism. Seeing this, Osho gave talks on the topic Beware of Socialism and trashed communism. And his talks made communists and socialists annoyed with him and they left.
Around the same time, a large number of Gandhian followers, including new and old politicians, as well as several businesspeople who had supported Gandhi and regarded him as the nation’s father, were impressed by Osho’s oratory and began to crowd around him. On Gandhi’s 100th birthday in 1969, Osho decided to conduct a series of talks on him in Gujarat. Osho harshly criticized Mahatma Gandhi to the point where all Gandhians vanished, except for Ma Yoga Laxmi and Ma Anand Madhu, who were also Gandhians.
Later on, after settling in Mumbai at Woodland apartments, Osho started his most profound talks on Lao Tzu and prior to that, he did something very controversial: he changed his name from Acharya Rajneesh to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
This name change made some people realize that this was not the radical revolutionary Acharya Rajneesh they had known. Hearing people addressing him as Bhagwan was too much for their intellect. One Bollywood actor, Mahipal, who had been editing Osho’s quarterly magazine Jyoti Shikha (ज्योति शिखा), was unable to accept the name change and left. Previously, he had been asking such deep esoteric questions that we read about in Osho’s books –The Hidden Mysteries, Dimensions Beyond the Known, Astrology, Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy, and so on – Mahipal loved Osho, but not so deeply that he was prepared to embark on the crazy journey of sannyas and disciplehood.
Talking on Lao Tzu’s Tao Upanishad was more of an intellectual affair and Mumbai’s intelligentsia enjoyed it thoroughly. A serious group of intellectuals gathered around him, all of whom were big fans of logic. So, in this situation, Osho invited the audience to stay for another five minutes and enjoy the heartfulness of devotional kirtan performed by his sannyasins. This statement was certainly shocking for the intellectuals who had been enjoying Osho’s logic at its best. The irrational kirtan was too much for them to bear. As a result, more people left him – this so-called intelligentsia. They were not seekers, and their thirst did not go beyond their intellect. They were more like J. Krishnamurti’s followers, who were always content not to be committed as disciples.
Throughout these various phases, there was a continuous process of retrenchment, with some people dropping out to make room for the true seekers – the disciples and devotees. With the occasional departure of “friends” and the arrival of disciples, the caravan of celebration with the Master grew larger and larger. On March 21, 1974, Osho left Mumbai and settled in Pune with those disciples who were committed to be devotees. This was a completely different level of surrender to the master, his commune, and his vision – Buddha, Sangha, and Dhamma.
Here I am reminded of a historical example of Arjuna; in the beginning he was just a friend of Krishna, and kept inquiring about the mysteries of life. But as a friend, he was not capable to receive the deeper mysteries which can only be revealed to a surrendered disciple. So, at one stage when Krishna felt that Arjuna was perhaps ready to understand now, he proclaimed to him: Leave aside all your religions, come at my feet. Surrender!
सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं ब्रज “Sarva dharman parityajya mamekam… Sharanam vraj”… Before this time, Arjuna had regarded Krishna as just a friend, a sakha, some kind of well-wisher or a mentor. At the right moment of Arjuna’s receptivity, Krishna revealed to him his real self, what we call Bhagwan in Hindi. This was a turning point in the epic war of the Mahabharata.
Now, let us understand Osho’s declaration of being a friend in this context and background.
Ma Vivek, later known as Nirvano, asked a significant question: Beloved Osho, For some time now you have been saying that you are our friend and we are friends. I’m having difficulty in truly getting it. Osho, to me you are my most beloved master. Please show me where I am missing.
Osho answered, “Vivek, you need not be worried about it. Those who love me, those who know me, know perfectly well that I am their master, and they have travelled a long way with me, in devotion and love. And of course, it is impossible for them at any moment – even if they become enlightened – to call me a friend. That will be simply ungratefulness.”
And Osho tells a story:
Again, I remember Sariputta. One day finally he became enlightened, and Buddha said, “You have to go to preach. Now you are enlightened there is no need for you to sit here by my feet.”
He said, “This was the trouble! I was ready to drop the idea of enlightenment. You forced me to go on deeper into meditation, and now I am in a fix. I knew that this was going to happen – once I become enlightened you will tell me to go to spread the word. I don’t want to go anywhere. While you are alive, I want to be just your shadow.”
But Buddha persuaded him. Finally he agreed, when Buddha was so insistent, but he said, “One freedom I want…”
Just see the use of the word ‘freedom’, and you can see the freedom that your so-called resentful and angry sannyasins have:
“One freedom I want, that wherever you are I should be allowed to bow down and touch your feet, from a faraway distance, in your direction.”
But Buddha said, “You are already enlightened – you need not touch my feet!”
He said, “You have to give me that freedom.”
Love asks for a freedom which logic cannot understand.
Sariputta was asked again and again in his journeys… Every morning he would get up, take his bath, and the first thing he would do was to bow down on the ground with folded hands towards the direction where he knew Buddha was dwelling.
They would say, “To whom are you praying this way?” – because there is no God in Buddhism.
And he would say, “I am not praying to any God, but Buddha is God to me; he is my master.”
And they would say, “But you are enlightened!”
He said, “That does not matter. I am enlightened because of him. Without him I don’t think it would have happened in many lives’ time, I cannot conceive how it could have happened. So he may say he is not responsible for the happening, but I cannot accept the idea. This freedom I have asked from him, and this is a special privilege.”
I am feeling very relieved – relieved of all those who were not my people but somehow were hanging around. Now I want only those who are really with me.
Yesterday while Vivek was reading the questions to me, when she read her own question she started crying. I said, “What is the matter? Whose question is this?”
She said, “It is my question.”
And I know that is the situation of many hearts – but only those hearts who have learned to love a master.
All those egoist people were pretending to be disciples. I did not want to hurt them, so the best, the graceful way was that I declared: you are my friends, and I give you total freedom. And they accepted immediately, joyously, not knowing what they were accepting. They were free… they met me; now they are again free, in the same position. ¹
While initiating us into his Neo-Sannyas, Osho defined Sannyas was a jump into insecurity. And it was simply a love affair with the Master and being with him through thick and thin. This journey was not meant for the fickle-minded or casual people, assembling only for good times of comfort and security. It was all together a very different kind of play.
A sannyasin asked Osho: What type of play are you playing with us?
Osho said, “Certainly, it is a play. I am not serious. And if you are serious, there is not going to be any meeting with you. Seriousness does not cross my path at all. I am absolutely non-serious. This is a play. And I would like to call this play ‘the mad game’.
“The word ‘mad’ I have coined so: ‘m’ stands for the master and ‘d’ stands for the disciple. The master-and-disciple game! It is a mad game! I am an expert in being a Master. If you are also ready to become a disciple, here we go!” ²
A friend is not so much of an insider as a disciple is – a friend comes and goes, but the disciple remains and grows into a devotee. Then the life of the master is also the life of disciple – they are not separate; the disciple lives and dies for the master.
And in the same discourse, Osho adds another dimension of deep intimacy:
“Between the master and the disciple – if the rule of the game is followed rightly – devotion arises. That is the fragrance, the river that flows between the two banks of the master and the disciple. That’s why it is so difficult for the outsider to understand. But I am not interested at all in the outsider understanding it, it is a very esoteric game. It is only for the insiders, it is only for mad people. That is why I am not interested even in answering people who are not insiders, because they will not understand. They do not have that attitude of being in which understanding becomes possible.” ²
PS: And do you know to whom he said: “Forgive me and forget me?” He said this to those who felt relieved that they were disciples no longer – just friends, or merely friends. They were not the insiders.
- ¹ Osho, Beyond Psychology, Ch 24, Q 1
- ² Osho, The Art of Dying, Ch 8, Q 1