Aneesha Dillon reviews Vikrant Sentis’ recently published book.
From Esalen to Pune
Osho and the Path of Humanistic Transpersonal Psychology
by Vikrant Sentis
RiL editores, Chile, June 2022
Kindle and paperback (300 pages)
Paperback: Osho Viha (shipment from USA, special price)
Through the publisher: Spain and Europe – USA – México – Ecuador – Argentina – Other countries (shipment from Chile, discounted price)
I have been waiting for years for this book (originally published in Spanish) to be translated into English – and here it is, at last!
I don’t mind telling you that one reason why I am so thrilled by From Esalen to Pune is because I was there, in real time. The story this book tells is also part of my own personal and professional story. It has been an exciting ‘blast from the past’ to revisit those early Pune years and remember all those amazing people who were (and are) part of Osho’s fearless experiment “to provoke God.”
In his book, From Esalen to Pune, Vikrant Sentis, a Chilean psychotherapist and Osho sannyasin, chronicles the birth and development of Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, and their physical, creative expression through the Human Potential Movement. He also traces the simultaneous rise in the West of intense interest in Eastern religions, and the eventual meeting of psychotherapy with meditation and spirituality, particularly through the revolutionary vision of the Indian mystic Osho.
Vikrant’s unique vantage point as a young body-oriented psychologist who also became a disciple of Osho, gave him a ‘front-row seat’ to observe, experience, and write about the radical and very effective combination of contemporary western psychotherapies with meditation that Osho proposed.
The book takes us to the very roots of the Human Potential Movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s in California and Europe. In previous decades, the work of many great teachers like Reich, Jung, Maslow, Rogers, Perls, Assagioli, Ichazo and others, began to trigger a shift away from traditional Freudian psychoanalysis and behavioral psychology. Traditional Freudian-based psychotherapies sought merely to bring the neurotic patient to social normalcy. New growth methods were developed from humanistic values which supported the intrinsic abilities and unique potentialities of the individual.
The other stream of influence that captured the imagination of young western seekers at the time was the new fragrance of Eastern spirituality, which wafted over the Pacific to the shores of California. Indian Yogis, Zen Masters, Meditation Teachers and Gurus traveled to the US and Europe to encourage and teach this new generation of seekers.
In Vikrant’s own words, “This book tells the story of pioneering men and women on a quest for growth, self-awareness, and transcendence; of their experiences, the therapeutic methods they developed, and their encounters with Osho, the man who showed them where to look and how to expand their therapeutic frontiers towards the integration of psychology and spirituality. This is the story of their self-realization.”
In the sixties and early seventies those ‘pioneering men and women’ were busy studying and practicing the work of some of the early methods that were created by the founding teachers of the Human Potential Movement and Transpersonal Psychology. They learned their craft at Esalen Institute in California, and a host of other Schools and Centers in the US, and in Europe including Quaesitor and Community in London, and Zist in Germany.
To me it felt as if we were all unknowingly preparing ourselves, though living in different parts of the world, training to be part of a larger movement. As if we were destined, as a group, to carry forth a new understanding of the human being, the human psyche, and to offer new and daring therapeutic techniques that revolutionized traditional psychotherapy.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, in India, the enlightened mystic Osho was formulating his fresh, new vision for a new humanity – a vision of peace, compassion, love, wisdom, and freedom; a vision that could be realized through using the many and various practices of self-inquiry and meditation. And all of this, balanced with a healthy dose of humor, laughter, and celebration!
As humanistic psychology took hold in the West, Osho was preparing to create a new ashram in Pune, to expand his work in such a way that he could work intensively with a committed group of disciples. In 1974 when he moved from Mumbai to Pune, he started to lay the groundwork of what was to become the Osho Multiversity. Osho’s personal library contained about 100,000 books, including virtually all of the books written by those founders of Humanistic Psychology; and he read them all! Early on he recognized the usefulness of western psychotherapeutic methods, especially in his work with western seekers.
Osho’s vision attracted many recently trained western group leaders from the Human Potential movement who were particularly interested in learning meditation. They arrived, listened to him speak, practiced his Active Meditations, took sannyas, and many settled in for the long haul. Osho invited some of these new disciples to lead groups in the ashram, using their western therapeutic techniques of de-conditioning including Encounter groups, Primal therapy, Esoteric work, and various kinds of movement, breath and body work.
In his book, Vikrant traces the histories and time-lines of the therapists and group leaders who arrived in Pune One (1974-81), and he describes the many groups they developed in those early Pune years. As these therapists matured during the time of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon (1982-86), they developed deeper, more subtle and sophisticated methods. And after Osho’s return to Pune in 1987 there was the flowering of the Osho Multiversity, a therapeutic and growth which continued to develop deep new processes for a dozen years after Osho left the body in 1990.
Through his extensive research and numerous personal interviews and conversations with many of these group leaders, Vikrant has amassed a huge collection of their recollections, their understandings, and their awakenings over the years with Osho. Anyone who participated in these group programs will be as fascinated as I was to read and remember about them, and the group leaders who led them. Many forgotten details are there…stories we had not heard, and memories long forgotten.
In recent years the ‘marriage’ between Western Psychology and Spirituality has found its way into the mainstream conversation through Mindfulness – another word for Meditation – and other practices. The roots of this significant trend can surely be traced back through the historical context described in From Esalen to Pune. Osho’s original vision of the two wings of the human growth process, Therapy and Meditation was, and is, being realized!
From Esalen to Pune is also of great interest for scholars in the field, as this book remains unparalleled in its thorough reportage of a complex and chaotic era in Western Psychology. Further, it emphasizes the important occurrence of the merging of Eastern and Western approaches to understanding personal growth in humans. The book reminds us of the methods, the many different methods, that can enhance the process.
It has been an honor to work along-side the many therapists and group leaders who were part of Osho’s remarkable experiment in human consciousness.
- A synthesis between humanistic-transpersonal psychotherapy and meditation – Excerpt from Chapter IX, titled Therapy Groups in the East, of Vikrant Sentis’ book, From Esalen to Pune.
6.9.2022: corrected amount of books in Osho’s library. It previously stated 300,000.