Oshō is the Japanese reading of the Chinese hé shang (和尚), meaning a high-ranking Buddhist monk or highly virtuous Buddhist monk. It is also a respectful designation for Buddhist monks in general and may be used with the suffix -san
Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, 11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Osho , Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Acharya Rajneesh, or simply Bhagwan (Hindi for god), was an Indian mystic and leader of the Rajneesh movement. During his lifetime he was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic. In the 1960s he traveled throughout India as a public speaker and was a vocal critic of socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and Hindu religious orthodoxy.
In 1970, Rajneesh spent time in Mumbai initiating followers known as “neo-sannyasins”. During this period he expanded his spiritual teachings and through his discourses gave an original insight into the writings of religious traditions, mystics, and philosophers from around the world. In 1974, Rajneesh relocated to Pune where a foundation and ashram were established to offer a variety of “transformational tools” for Indian and international visitors. By the late 1970s, tension between the ruling Janata Party government of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram’s development.
In 1981, efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Almost immediately the movement ran into conflict with county residents and the state government, and a succession of legal battles concerning the ashram’s construction and continued development curtailed its success. In 1985, following the investigation of serious crimes, including the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack and an assassination plot to murder US Attorney Charles H. Turner, Rajneesh alleged that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters had been responsible.He was later deported from the United States in accordance with an Alford plea bargain.
After his deportation, 21 countries denied him entry. He ultimately returned to India and a revived Pune ashram, where he died in 1990. His ashram is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort. Rajneesh’s syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humour—qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition, and socialisation. Rajneesh’s teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought,and their popularity has increased markedly since his death.
There are widely divergent assessments of Rajneesh’s qualities as a thinker and speaker. Khushwant Singh, an eminent author, historian, and former editor of the Hindustan Times, has described Rajneesh as “the most original thinker that India has produced: the most erudite, the most clearheaded and the most innovative”. Singh believes that Rajneesh was a “free-thinking agnostic” who had the ability to explain the most abstract concepts in simple language, illustrated with witty anecdotes, who mocked gods, prophets, scriptures, and religious practices, and gave a totally new dimension to religion. The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has called Rajneesh a “Wittgenstein of religions”, ranking him as one of the greatest figures of the 20th century; in his view, Rajneesh had performed a radical deconstruction of the word games played by the world’s religions.
During the early 1980s, a number of commentators in the popular press were dismissive of Rajneesh. The Australian critic Clive James scornfully referred to him as “Bagwash”, likening the experience of listening to one of his discourses to sitting in a laundrette and watching “your tattered underwear revolve soggily for hours while exuding grey suds. The Bagwash talks the way that looks.” James finished by saying that Rajneesh, though a “fairly benign example of his type”, was a “rebarbative dingbat who manipulates the manipulable into manipulating one another”. Responding to an enthusiastic review of Rajneesh’s talks by Bernard Levin in The Times, Dominik Wujastyk, also writing in The Times, similarly expressed his opinion that the talk he heard while visiting the Poona ashram was of a very low standard, wearyingly repetitive and often factually wrong, and stated that he felt disturbed by the personality cult surrounding Rajneesh.
Ma Anand Sheela (Gujarati: માં આનંદ શિલા; born 28 December 1949 as Sheela Ambalal Patel in India, also known as Sheela Birnstiel) is an Indian-born American–Swiss former spokesperson of the Rajneesh movement and multiple convicted attempted murderer.
As the personal secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh from 1981 through 1985, she managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, Oregon, United States. In 1985 she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack. She was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and paroled after 29 months. Sheela later moved to Switzerland, where she married, and purchased two nursing homes. In 1999 she was convicted by a Swiss court of “criminal acts preparatory to the commission of murder” in relation to a plot to kill US federal prosecutor Charles Turner in 1985.
In 1981 Sheela became Rajneesh’s personal assistant and convinced him to leave India and establish an ashram in the United States. In July 1981, Sheela purchased the 64,000-acre (260 km) Big Muddy Ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, which became the site for the development of the Rajneeshpuram commune.] She became president of Rajneesh Foundation International, managed the commune and met daily with Rajneesh to discuss business matters. According to Sheela, Rajneesh was complicit in and directed her involvement in criminal acts she later committed.
When asked by a reporter for Australia’s 60 Minutes about local objections to Rajneesh’s expansion into Western Australia, Sheela replied, “What I can say? Tough titties”.In interviews for US television Sheela referred to local government officials as “bigoted pigs” and “fascists”, causing one reporter to describe her as having an “acid tongue”