1931 ‒ 1990

OSHO, ALSO KNOWN as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was a twentieth-century Indian guru with an enormous following in the West. For a while he and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were the two most famous gurus in the United States. They were frequently discussed in the mass media.

Osho was a man of exceptional intelligence, erudition, charisma, and powers of communication.

Some people thought of him as a guru of hedonism, an impressario of spiritual Mardi Gras. Tens of thousands of seekers jetted across oceans to his ashrams and communes to participate in giddy, high-energy experiments in living and consciousness.

But he was also a professor of philosophy, a lover of literature, and the author of a large library of books that explain the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures in matter-of-fact, crystal-clear English.

He was extremely intelligent, probably the most intelligent famous spiritual teacher of the twentieth century, and well educated.

He spoke very slowly and carefully, like an exceptionally articulate alcoholic trying not to slur his words, and was rumored to be a drug addict.

Nisargadatta said he was a “great sage” (see below for the full quotation).

He dressed in pretentious, hand-tailored costumes, owned dozens of Rolls-Royces, and wore a diamond-crusted Rolex rumored to cost one million 1980 dollars.

In the 1980s, Osho and his followers built a 65,000-acre city from scratch in the Oregon wilderness. Some people called it an experiment to provoke God, and others called it a fascist concentration camp.

Controversy surrounded him; he was accused of crimes and eventually deported from the United States for violations of immigration law.

He has left us hundreds of books and videos (legally speaking, he left them to the Osho International Foundation). We think they are among the most interesting documents about enlightenment that anybody made during the twentieth century.

Was he a criminal or a sage?

Maybe he was both?

Why did so many people want to be near him?

Hugh Milne, who was Osho's bodyguard and photographer for many years, writes in his book Bhagwan: The God That Failed:

When Bhagwan called me as the subject for one of the first energy darshans, he sat me down opposite a medium who was directly in front of his feet. Then, after the lights had gone out and the music reached its tribal crescendo, he touched the point on my forehead known as ‘the third eye’. I felt a new energy flowing through me like molten honey. It rose in intensity until it felt as though I was caught in a long dark tunnel with an express train rushing towards me. Then it dissolved into peace, light, and the scary but exciting promise of the unknown. As that train of his energy passed into my being, some kind of internal fuse blew, and I floated blissfully in a sea of nectar, quite unaware of my surroundings. I heard Bhagwan calling, as if from a great distance: “Shiva, come back, you have to take the photos now.” I remember thinking: how could he be serious? How could I take pictures in this state?

…Many people have asked me how a sensible, independent person could be mesmerised by someone like Bhagwan. The answer, as many sannyasis would agree, is that once you had been affected by his energy and experienced the sensation of being touched by it, you knew that there was nothing like it, no bliss to compare with it. Once you had experienced it, you had to go back for more, to try and regain that feeling of harmony and being at one with the universe. It is similar to a drug-induced high, except that here there is no artificial chemical at work. Bhagwan’s touch could be just as addictive as the strongest drug. (Page 179)

The book is out of print; click here for free PDF.

What Nisargadatta said about Osho

This quotation comes from the book Consciousness and the Absolute.

Nisargadatta said:

“Rajneesh [Osho] is not a small personality or small principal. He is tremendous ‒ he is very big. He is a great sage.

“When you already have a guru [Osho], why do you visit other sages? Since You already have a great sage as your guru, you should not sit here or come here. I do not like those shiftings from gurus to gurus. I do not like wanderers. What is the difference between Maharaj and Rajneesh [Osho]? Once you remove the letters (that is, the names) what is the difference?”

From Consciousness and the Absolute, June 9, 1981.


Osho was born in Kuchwada, Madhya Pradesh, India on December 11, 1931. His parents gave him the name Rajneesh Chandra Mohan and raised him as a Jain. When he was seven, his grandfather died with his head in Osho’s lap while they rode to the doctor in a bullock cart. Osho became enlightened at 21 and graduated at about the same time from the University of Saugar with first-class honors in philosophy. While a student, he won the All-India Debating Championship. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Jabalpur for nine years. In 1966, he left his teaching post and established an ashram in Bombay (Mumbai). In 1974, he left Bombay and established an ashram in Poona. In 1981, he moved to the United States and established an ashram in Oregon. In 1986 he was deported from the United States for violations of immigration law (he pleaded no contest) and returned to Poona. He died on January 19, 1990.

His Awakening

Osho’s description of his awakening is one of the best accounts of enlightenment that we have read. It’s on this website here.

His Teachings

Osho interpreted and discussed almost every method that anybody ever used to gain enlightenment, but the technique he stressed above all was the habit of watching the mind. This leads to mindlessness which in turn leads to enlightenment. He explains this technique here and here.

Recommended books

The Book of Secrets:
112 Meditations to Discover the Mystery Within

By Osho

This mammoth 1152-page book is Osho’s commentary on the Vijnana-Bhairava, an ancient Sanskrit how-to manual that describes 112 methods of attaining enlightenment. Please note that some of the material in this book is also contained in Meditation: The First and Last Freedom, recommended below. See it on Amazon.

Meditation: The First and Last Freedom (A Practical Guide to Meditation)

By Osho

This book is one of the best all-around manuals for meditators. Osho believes meditation is watchfulness. He explains how to do it and how to let it carry you to enlightenment. Please note that some of the material in this book is also contained in The Book of Secrets, recommended above. See it on Amazon.

In Search of the Miraculous: Chakras, Kundalini and the Seven Bodies

By Osho

Using simple analogies and anecdotes, Osho talks about kundalini, sex, shaktipat, chakras, tantra, and related subjects. See it on Amazon.

Osho’s writings on this site


This page was published on January 11, 2000 and last revised on April 10, 2018.


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