Out of Germany: ARD, WRD and NDR

Media Watch

Last week, German TV viewers had the choice between two documentaries on Osho and his people.

Bhagwan in Koeln

WRD (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) – Bhagwan in Köln: Eine Stadt wird rot (Bhagwan in Cologne: A city becomes red)

13 May 2022, 19:15

In the middle of Cologne: In the 1980s, the Belgian Quarter suddenly turns red, young people dressed in red clothes appear everywhere. These sannyasin follow Baghwan [sic], the guru from an ashram in Poona, India. Seekers from all over the world find their way there. Communes are springing up all over Europe, one of the largest in Cologne: soon they own cool discos, restaurants, houses, shops, yoga and meditation centres and other businesses. But sannyasin are not always popular in their neighbourhood.

The video was viewable online in Germany only: www.ardmediathek.de
Trailer: www.facebook.com

NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk) – Als Bhagwan in den Norden kam (When Bhagwan came to the North)

11 May 2022, 21:00 and 12. May 2022, 6:35

For some, Bhagwan was a saint and a source of meaning; for others, the Indian guru was just a bourgeois terror and charlatan. But about 40 years ago, thousands of northern Germans followed him. The documentary tells of them and their surprising lives. An exciting and entertaining look back at a movement whose ideas are nowadays taught as mindfulness in seminars.

Film in German language only: www.ndr.de

For some, Bhagwan was a saint and a source of meaning; for others, the Indian guru was just a bourgeois terror and charlatan. But many thousands of northern Germans followed the preacher. At the end of the 1970s, mainly young people – frustrated by bourgeois society – set off for Poona, India, and returned in red robes as his faithful disciples. This NDR documentary is about them, the so-called sannyasins, and their lives.

I didn’t want to become a sannyasin”.

Teacher Lisa Lottig herself – and also her friends – would never have thought it possible that she would one day follow a guru from India. But when the summer holidays came round, 40 years ago, she had no one she could go on a jourmey. A tip from a friend took her to Poona. And there, with hundreds of others, she heard the man who would change her life: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a charismatic philosophy professor with a long beard and an engaging voice: “I didn’t want to become a sannyasin. But Bhagwan said, do it and you will see what happens. And then so much happened in my life!”

Hundreds of thousands follow Bhagwan’s life credo

Live in the here and now, said the Master. Meditate and hope for no paradise after death. Be mindful of yourself. Apart from Lisa Lottig, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world followed this credo. The majority of Bhagwan’s disciples came from Germany. And the fact that Bhagwan preached free love among the sannyasins made him the target of the German press as a “sex guru”: “But you want to be allowed to live, that you are allowed to love different people and loved by them,” says Jagran, who still today lives with about 70 other sannyasins in a village near Göttingen.

During the shooting of this film, it turned out by chance that at that time there was even a small group of sannyasins in the GDR [East Germany] who followed Bhagwan’s teachings – and not the SED [East German Communist Party]. Swami Alnua Kalyan, whose real name was Dietrich Raschke, even ran a meditation centre on the island of Rügen at that time: “Years later we read funny informants’ reports in our Stasi files. The state security didn’t know what to do with us and seemed overwhelmed by Bhagwan’s teachings. So they left us alone.”

In his NDR documentary, Carsten Rau tells of the people who followed Bhagwan and were insulted for it by their middle-class neighbourhood. But what had scared many back then is now called mindfulness and is now taught at seminars, even in large corporations. By former sannyasins. An exciting and highly entertaining look back at the days when Bhagwan came to the North.

Author: Carsten Rau
Editing: Stephan Haase
Camera: Boris Mahlau, Andrzej Król, Hans Tanz
Sound: Torsten Reimers, Augusto Castellano
Visuals: Oliver Stammel
Editorial assistance: Andrea Pittlick
Narrator: Stephan Schad
Editing: Christoph Mestmacher
Production Manager: Tim Carlberg

Credit for alerts to Bhagawati, Rani B. Knobel and Nirvano

Update 20.5.2022: Added translation of text from extended NDR page.

Comments are closed.