Raja Rajneesh 1931 – 1951
Kuchwada and Gadarwara
“While listening to my childhood stories you should try to look
for some quality in it – not just the story, but some intrinsic
quality that runs through all of my memoirs. And that thin thread
is spiritual.” The Transmission of the Lamp #10
It was early morning in March 1930 when Gandhi and his small group of chosen companions set off from his Sabarmati ashram near Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He was aiming to reach the remote coastal hamlet of Dandi, 240 miles to the south, in his attempt to break the British monopoly on salt. He had become an almost messianic figure in his fearless confrontation with the British, and his political vision of swaraj (self rule) had by now reached the remote villages of India. In the following days he set a fast pace in the heat. On his march he was showered by crowds with flowers, coins and kum kum (red powder signifying reverence) which soon created a religious aura around him. He was by now 61 years old, but still he could be seen writing letters late at night after his long daytime march.
When almost a month later he walked across the black sand of Dandi and picked up a handful of natural salt, it was like a crystallization of the freedom movement’s opposition to the British Raj (rule). The news flashed round the world, and within days India was in turmoil. Millions of Hindus began to collect salt illegally all over the subcontinent, with a forceful response leading to riots in Calcutta and Karachi and the stoning of the police in Poona. And when Gandhi and Congress nationalists were arrested in the following months, this prompted a fresh outburst of civil disobedience.
Whatever repressions the British carried out, the moral victory belonged to Gandhi. When, upon his unconditional release in January 1931, the Mahatma (great soul) walked up the steps of the Viceroy’s House to negotiate, now on equal terms, with the viceroy Lord Irwin, this was also a major step in the long process of the liberation of India from colonial power. The agreement they signed was indeed called by some ‘the funeral of our British Empire’ and Winston Churchill rightly made the prophecy that ‘England, apart from her Empire in India, ceases for ever to exist as a great power.’ Never had Gandhi’s prestige been greater, and his spiritual sway left its indelible mark on his opponents defending the British Raj.
The whole situation changed when the Earl of Willingdon was appointed as new viceroy in April 1931. He introduced internment, tighter censorship, identity cards, curbs on assembly, restriction on movement (including bans on bicycles) and even dress decrees (prohibition of Gandhi caps). The whole subcontinent was, according to Jawaharlal Nehru, turned into a vast prison of the human spirit. Within a few years Willingdon also succeeded in weakening and dividing the Indian nationalists, when in 1934 Gandhi chose to resign from the Congress party and distance himself from Nehru.
Gandhi’s fasts in the 1930s soon became a kind of moral blackmail and his slogan Bharat Choro! (Quit India) was the prevailing rallying call not only for his ongoing peaceful disobedience campaigns, but also for the widespread riots that were to follow during the Second World War. (1)
The growth of national feeling and all the events leading to the independence of India at midnight in August 1947 were to leave a profound impact on the childhood of a small boy just being born in 1931. This fabric to end imperial domination was being woven around his birthplace in rural Madhya Pradesh right at that time. His name was later to become Osho.
These few strokes on the socio-political and multicoloured canvas that was India in the early 1930s are to indicate the environment of Osho’s childhood in Kuchwada and Gadarwara. The outcome of these events was discussed in his Jain family and his politically active uncle was to take part in the action against the British Raj.
This is not to say that Gandhi was the only influence on the young boy, but we do find lectures and discussions on Gandhi among his first published articles and booklets. Throughout his childhood in Gadarwara he remained truly affected by Gandhi’s central messages, that of living in search of God, and that of non-violence. Other ideologies and religious paths were soon to succeed Gandhism in the young Rajneesh’s initial understanding of the power of man’s thinking. Tantra, Jainism, Advaita Vedanta and Indian mystics were, along with political Socialism, heralding the whole range of spiritual paths he would transmit to his followers in discourses for more than thirty years in Jabalpur, Bombay, Poona and to some extent also in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon.
1.0 Birth and Childhood in Kuchwada 1931 – 1939
In the first Indian struggle for freedom, usually called the mutiny of 1957, the sepoy regiment in Sagar, Madya Pradesh, had staged a rebellion in July. Shortly afterwards however, a column of Madras troops from Kamptee arrived and decisive action was taken against also the rebels in Jabalpur who had joined in. In the aftermath of the mutiny further discontent seethed, expressing itself in various movements for religious and social reforms. At the same time as the freedom movement was growing, the British were developing their honours system. The great money lending zamindars and landowners of Jabalpur were honoured for their contributions to the development of the town. In 1857 the British administration gave honours to the Marwari banker Sewa Ram for standing by it during the revolt. Ten years later the administration made his heir Gokul Das a Rao Sahib because he erected a town hall for Jabalpur. After a few years he became a Rai Bahadur for lending money partly free of interest to supply the town with its much needed water tanks (tal). Subsequently Gokul Das of Jabalpur was bestowed the title of Raja as a reward for his loyalty and services to the British rule. Like Beharilal Kazanchi, another influential landlord, he controlled hundreds of villages in the province, and they were both among the five biggest moneylenders settling in and around Sagar and Jabalpur. In every corner men such as these formed the most important section of the notable community and they influenced and wielded power over the peasants in the region’s villages. Including Osho’s farming forefathers.
Osho’s father, Babu Lal Jain (known as Dada or Daddaji), was from Timarni, a small town in the Hoshanabad district of Madhya Pradesh. He was born in 1908 into a family of Digambara Jains of the Taran Panthi sect, who worshiped the Jain saint Taran Swami (2). Babu Lal followed his own father, when in 1934 due to financial circumstances he and his wife had to move to Gadarwara where his father had settled earlier due to the outbreak of an epidemic in his former home town Basoda. Epidemics of cholera prevailed in the region throughout the 1890s together with malarial fever in the first great local famine in the Central Provinces since the commencement of British rule and also during the First World War severe famine occurred in Jabalpur division.
Gadarwara was at that time a centre for the production of grain, and in this new location the family set up a cloth business together. A lover of nature and a friendly and generous man, Dada himself was an independent spirit and a spiritual seeker. He had a reputation as a religious Digambara Jain, visiting the temple, fasting and reciting and reading the scriptures. But his search gradually went beyond the outer confines of religious practice, and as years went by he moved more inwards in meditation. The young Rajneesh studied his father’s books about Jainism and Taran Swami, and he used to ask his father questions about them, questions not always easy to answer.
Osho’s mother was Saraswati Devi (3), born in 1915 in the village of Kuchwada, located in the Raisen district some forty miles from Bhopal. She was married to Babu Lal at age seven, in the usual practice of child marriage. Coming from a rather wealthy and kind family, her parents were to have significant influence on the boy Rajneesh, who moved to Kuchwada to stay with them in his very early childhood. Kuchwada was at that time a small farming village with a population of some seven hundred (Osho mentions 200 only) and located in a lush valley of the Vindhya Mountains, eighteen miles from the nearest road.
The bullock cart was the only means of transport on the kachcha (uneven road) in those days. Saraswati was to give birth to Rajneesh in her parent’s home, so, as Kuchwada remained cut off from other villages during the rainy season, she was brought there from Timarni five months before the birth was due.
On December 11, 1931, Saraswati gave birth to Osho, a boy with a certain beauty that made her father instantly call him Raja (the king, in Sanskrit). On that cool morning shots were fired from a double-barrelled gun and celebratory sounds rang out from the beating of bronze plates, drums and cymbals at the haveli (mansion) of Osho’s grandparents. Their servant Bhoora (white man) informed the villagers that an heir had been born, and a fire was lit under the mango tree in front of the haveli for sweet potatoes to be roasted while the villagers gossiped about the auspices of the newborn.
His maternal grandfather was Raja Saheb (Rajaji), landlord of Kuchwada and the owner of some 1400 acres of land. Osho called him Nana and he called his maternal grandmother, Rani Ma, Nani following the general custom in India. According to Osho the features and appearance of Nani were not entirely Indian, rather she came from some mixed stock, perhaps with Greek blood in her veins leading back to the days of Alexander the Great and his adventure in India. She lived until she was eighty, and quite obviously she had a profound influence on the boy Rajneesh. Her own father was a poet, and his songs could be heard in those years in the villages around Khajuraho where she was born.
After the birth Bhoora, Raja Saheb’s servant, went to Timarni by bullock cart along an almost impassable dirt track to invite Babu Lal’s whole family to the sixth day of celebration of the birth. Babu Lal and his parents immediately returned with Boora to Kuchwada in the same bullock cart. They were welcomed by Raja Saheb and offered gifts prepared by Rani Ma, Osho’s grandmother. It was when they were to leave after the birth celebrations that Raja Saheb asked Babu Lal to let the baby stay in Kuchwada to soften their old age; whenever his parents were to miss him, they could send an order and the boy would immediately be returned to them. Raja’s father agreed to the proposal of his Samadhiji (father-in-law) and returned with his family to Timarni while Saraswati stayed behind with the newborn baby.
Osho’s birthplace was visited by Bhagawati in 2011 and she reports that the village of Kuchwada still appears as it must have looked many decades ago. The two-storey house was surrounded by a strong fence with a gate. Downstairs were several small rooms, with a kitchen in the back. In one room a few large mounted photos of Osho were leaning against a wall and some small candles in clay pots had been placed at random. The floor is stamped earth and the ceiling low. A steep narrow staircase leads upstairs. As a visitor Bhagawati observed the precarious state of upkeep in the haveli. (4)
Osho’s infancy in Kuchwada was in all respects a fortunate outcome of the love and affection he found in his maternal grandparents’ home. They provided him with an extraordinary atmosphere of freedom and respect during the eight years he was to spend there, until the death of his maternal grandfather forced him to move to the home of his own parents in Gadarwara. His staying with his maternal grandparents in Kuchwada was partly due to the death of his paternal grandmother in Timarni, leaving the care of her youngest children and responsibility for the family’s business to Raja’s young parents. Osho remembers:
“From my earliest years I was brought up, again fortunately, by my grandfather, my mother’s father, not by my father. Because a father is bound to be a disciplinarian…he is bound to be concerned about the future. My grandfather, maternal grandfather remember…because my father’s father was a totally different man. My mother’s father had no other child. My mother was the only child, and once my mother was married he showered all his love on me. I lived like a king. He used to call me Rajah. Nobody has called me that since. “Rajah” means “the king””. Notes of a Madman (1985), p. 65
Rajneesh Chandra Mohan was to become his full name, suggested by his uncle Shikhar Chand, and Raja his pet name in the family. From his early school days in Gadarwara everybody started calling him Rajneesh (Lord of the Full Moon). George Meredith reports: “His name, Rajneesh, is very rare. It seems never to have been used before – and it is a mystery where his parents got it – although now a few people have copied it. “Rajneesh” means “moon,” or more precisely, “the king of the night.” The quatrain says also that the second to last name shall also mean moon. Of the rest of Bhagwan’s full name, Rajneesh Chandra Mohan, “Chandra Mohan” means not just “moon” but “hypnotic moon.” (5)
“His original Hindi name was Chandra Mohan Jain; Chandra means ‘Moon’. His nickname in childhood that stuck with him for much of his life, Rajneesh, literally means ‘king of the night’ or simply ‘the Moon’.” (Mistelberger 2010, p. 185)
In the following years Osho’s parents were to have eleven more children, five girls and seven boys, of which Osho was the first born. His presence in the house of his grandparents was even more appreciated as Raja Saheb had raised a daughter, Osho’s mother, but now seized the opportunity to have his strong desire for a grandson fulfilled. A boy meant someone to light his funeral pyre and perform the funeral rites after his death, and it also indicated someone to be his heir. Osho’s mother remembers:
“My memories are of a child that never gave me any problem, never something to worry about. I was taking care of many children in my village, I was like a second mother to many of them, and sometimes I had to beat them, but then little Mohan would come and scold me, saying that I should not punish them, that I should never punish any child.” (6)
Osho’s father Babu Lal recalls beating him only once: “Just think that I have beaten him just once in my entire life, and this happened because he was only ten years old and had come back in the middle of the night, without even informing anybody. I didn’t ask him where he had been, but I hit him because our pacts were very clear: during the day he was free to do whatsoever he liked, but before night he was supposed to come back home within a certain hour, like every other good Jain who retires before dark.” (7)
Osho’s father and mother later in life both had the rare experience of becoming disciples of their own son, Dadaji taking sannyas in Poona some years before Saraswati. His name was Swami Devateerth Bharti (1908 – 1979). They were then living in the ashram in Poona in Francis House, named after Saint Francis of Assisi and located in the courtyard of Jesus House. He died there in 1979. (8)
Babu Lal’s mother died in Timarni when Osho was only four months old, and this led to a new rhythm, as Saraswati’s presence was now much needed in the house in Timarni. From then on, Osho traveled with his mother between Kuchwada and Timarni every second month, living with his parents in Timarni for two months and then with his maternal grandparents in Kuchwada for the next two months. From the time Osho’s younger brother was born, he started living in Kuchwada permanently, without his mother. So he developed a very intimate relationship with his grandparents, not unexpectedly most closely with his maternal grandmother Rani Ma, Nani.
The many children to be looked after by Saraswati in some way distanced her from Raja, and he never called her Ma (mother). From the very beginning he called her bhabhi – elder brother’s wife – just like the other kids she was fostering in the house.
In sources mentioning the circumstances around Osho’s birth a rather fascinating account of his previous life some seven hundred years ago is related, opening up the issue of rebirth and the whole theory of reincarnation.
Lama Karmapa from Rumtek monastery in Sikkim has said that the body of Osho from his previous life is preserved as the ninety-seventh among ninety-nine bodies in a cave in Tibet. The previous life of Osho is said to have occurred seven hundred years ago, when he had a mystery school in the mountains of Tibet and carried his former past life name as a Tibetan incarnation: Pengon Pawa Lutup. (9)
“Seven hundred years ago, in my previous life, there was a spiritual practice of twenty-one days, to be done before death. I was to give up my body after a total fast of twenty-one days. There were reasons for this, but I could not complete those twenty-one days. Three days remained. Those three days I had to complete in this life.” (Urmila 2007, p. 6)
When for the first three days the newborn Osho was not sucking milk from his mother’s breast and any milk forced into him was spat out, an old Brahmin lady of the village said that they should not worry. A great saint had taken birth in the form of this child and she advised them for the time being to give him warm water for his throat not to dry up. On the fourth morning he readily started sucking milk to the big relief of everyone, and that was the day they started calling him Raja.
This incident was narrated by Osho’s mother to Vasant Joshi when he was working on his biography on Osho. He asked her if she recalled anything from his birth:
“Yes, he did not take milk for three days. I was very much worried, but did not know what to do. My mother [Nani] was looking after him. She kept feeding him water and told me not to worry. On the fourth day, after my mother gave him a good bath, he started taking milk.” (Joshi 1982, p. 16)
The three days had to be completed in this incarnation as Osho was killed just three days before he had died in his previous Tibetan incarnation. It may be in the context of his past lives that we find some impetus for his lifelong interest in observing people, not to mention his creativity and spirituality.
According to his grandparents, one of the boy Raja’s earliest favorite pastimes was to gaze at the moon and the stars for hours, sometimes with a beautiful smile on his face. When one day Bhoora took Raja to the pond for a walk, the two year old cried out with joy and resisted being taken home until the red sphere of the setting sun had sunk into the pond. In the following years he was to spend much of his time imbibing the natural surroundings, when he was not rolling naked in the dust in front of the house causing a number of discussions on the principles of decent upbringing between his grandparents. The pond in Kuchwada separated the higher castes like Brahmins and Jains from the lower castes, with the servant Bhoora belonging to the latter, being a low caste sudra (impure by birth).
Toys were given to Raja, but most of all he liked the wooden horse and the elephant made for him by the local village carpenter. Even dearer to him were the pet animals in the compound like rabbits, deer and also birds taken from the fowler by his grandmother. Parrots and other colorful birds could be seen chirping in the wooden cage made by the fowler. One day Raja opened the cage to let all birds fly away to join their fellows in the trees, and when this action was positively sanctioned by Nani he soon after also released the deer and the rabbit. (Gyan Bhed 2006, p. 23)
Raja toured the forests around Kuchwada on horseback with Bhoora, who used to carry a very primitive gun. He not only drank in the wonders of nature, like the dancing peacocks, but soon he started asking simple and yet essential questions: From where does the river emerge? Where is it going? What does the ocean look like? From where is the water coming? The sun beams? The colours and fragrance of the flowers? For listeners and readers of his later discourses these themes and allegories are well known. Throughout his life he drew heavily, among other sources, on his early memory bank from Kuchwada.
That Bhoora was carrying a gun turned out to be not without reason, as they were attacked on two occasions by dacoits (armed robbers) who used to abduct children to collect ransom from their rich parents. Nani had explicitly told Bhoora to shoot directly at persecutors if they turned up, and not just fire into the air as Nana, the devoted Jain, had told Bhoora.
At age four his attention was more or less diverted from living creatures to the stories his maternal grandmother was telling him mostly in the evening, and he was keen to learn the stories by heart. Her practical knowledge of life was in this way shared with him, and she also had to put up with his eagerness to discuss Jain religious matters. Questions piled up, as every answer generated more new questions. Raja Saheb suggested that he should also be taught how to read and write. The Hindi characters were taught to him while Nani was playing with him, and the local Jain priest taught him some religious lessons. The twelve vowels of the alphabet and their combinations with the consonants, plus the skill of counting, were soon all familiar to him.
From age five he was to be found swimming in the lake or rowing a boat – a dongi his Nani had the village carpenter make from a hollowed-out trunk of a large tree. It was round without a keel and very difficult to control in the water. He later recalls that by paddling a dongi he learned balancing and to stay exactly in the middle, the middle way. No wonder clothes were not for him, so during the summer season he used to roam around naked like the other children of the village.
Only for a week or so once a year he would visit his father’s village Timarni or later on Gadarwara, as he felt it was much too crowded for him to stay in the overflowing and patriarchal joint family. The attraction of pastoral Kuchwada and the love and freedom provided to him by his maternal grandparents gave him not much of a choice. The village of Kuchwada was at that time said not to be part of the British Empire, but was part of a princely state ruled by a Muslim queen. Rajneesh as a child visited her princely palace in Bhopal. (10)
Again and again Osho has revealed his sweet memories from the years in Kuchwada where nature and the rural social everyday life provided him with a touch of innocence never to be forgotten:
“My birthplace, Kuchwada, was a village with no railway line and no post office. It had small hills, hillocks rather, but a beautiful lake, and a few huts, just straw huts. The only brick house was the one I was born in, and that was not much of a brick house. It was just a little house.
I can see it now, and can describe its every detail…but more than the house or the village, I remember the people. I have come across millions of people, but the people of that village were more innocent than any, because they were very primitive. They knew nothing of the world. Not even a single newspaper had ever entered that village. You can now understand why there was no school, not even a primary school…what a blessing! No modern child can afford it.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 6
The pastoral beauty of Kuchwada, his native town with its few hundred villagers and surrounding nature, was later recalled by Osho when reading Unto This Last (1900) by John Ruskin. In those surroundings he remained uneducated during some of the most innocent years of his life. In the village pond the frogs were jumping, surrounded by ancient trees and beautiful rocks, the sound from their jumping making the silence even richer, and over the pond white cranes with their love calls could be seen passing by. As his maternal grandparents and their servant Bhoora were all old people, and he wasn’t allowed to play with other low caste children, he once remembered himself as an alone child growing up in Kuchwada (From Darkness to Light #2). Much of his time was spent alone in silence at the pond watching the lotus flowers and hiding in the dense bamboo cluster at one corner of the pond or indulging in the fragrance of the Madhumalti (white honey-suckle) tree and the bushes growing by the side of the pond. Later when he felt the Narmada River to be within reach, he would prefer the river and its more varied challenges to the central pond of the village. (11)
The Narmada River (she who gladdens the hearts of men), one of the world’s most ancient rivers with numerous mythical stories of its birth, was only two miles from Kuchwada. Coming from its stream and infancy in the mountains of the Maikala Range – where the shrine at the sacred mountain Amarkantak overlooks the sources of three great rivers – and then leaping into multiple waterfalls where the marble rocks below Jabalpur enclosed its westbound course towards the Arabian Sea far away, now disappearing into the ocean with a volume being equal to three great northern rivers: The Ravi, the Sutlej and the Beas. (12)
That his favourite river had its chief source at the sacred mountain of Amarkantak with its pastoral beauty was without doubt known to the boy Rajneesh, and the holiness of the river may have added some flavour to his diving in its waters. He may also have been aware of the story that Kabir, the fifteenth century mystic, was said to have meditated at Amarkantak when resting from his travels preaching in the region. The Narmada River itself was to Rajneesh a place to remain in solitude for hours or riding on the back of a buffalo with his face towards its hind legs. Later on in Jabalpur he recalled this posture when seeing pictures of Lao Tzu riding his buffalo in the very same way. Further away the primeval forests were full of animals and birds, not to mention leopards roaming in the dense forests of the Vindhya Mountains some twenty miles from the village. The lure of this river would captivate Rajneesh for years to come, having sheer fun in its waters and jumping in its waters with the dangerous undercurrents, and even a beach with white sand could be found some places for his resting and meditation.
Vindhya has given name to the occurrence of red sandstone to the north of Jabalpur used for some monumental buildings in India – The Red Fort in Delhi and Agra Fort – and from his very childhood in Gadarwara Osho was living in a special red coloured landscape where the surface movements of the water during the various dry and wet seasons has coloured the soil from iron composites leaving the soil with a hard crust not suitable for farming. This reddish landscape can be seen all around Jabalpur and red is the character colour his eyes have been seeing on a daily basis for many years. In this vein we were in Oregon to see the roads at the Ranch paved with red asphalt for his benefice. And around Jabalpur local deposits of a light fireclay was the material used for common stoves and fireplaces in the houses he was living in during his childhood. The house of Raja Saheb was the only pucca (brick house) in the village of Kuchwada, and it had the shop in the front towards the street where the village people exchanged the value of their crops and food grains with their daily requirements and groceries.
In spite of several invitations in the following years he never again returned to Kuchwada. Maybe the silence and the beauty of the place were to stay with him unpolluted until his last breath, rather than letting the dream world of his childhood disappear in some untimely visit (Urmila 2007, p. 12). Nor did Nani, his father or his mother ever return to Kuchwada, mostly due to the pain and the emptiness following Nana’s death. In his own words he has pictured his childhood and also the feeling of belonging to another place:
“Although my grandfather was not very rich he was the richest man in his village. On each of my birthdays he would bring an elephant. I would sit on the elephant and throw coins all around. That was his great joy. In his days there were golden coins, not paper notes. That’s what I have been doing my whole life, throwing golden coins all along…I am still throwing, sitting on an elephant.
So when I say something and you do not understand please forgive me. I come from a totally different context. I am really a foreigner. In my own country I am a foreigner. My whole vision is in a way primitive, and in a way original. Original means primitive, of the origins.” Notes of a Madman (1985), p. 66. (13)
Dada’s two younger brothers Amrit Lal Jain (second born) and Shikar Chand Jain (third born) both were to have a remarkable influence on the young Rajneesh from his early age. Amrit Lal’s education in high school and later at college in Jabalpur was financially supported by Dada until he had to be called back because of lack of money. When in 1932 Amrit Lal actively took part in Gandhi’s independence movement he, like many others, was imprisoned by the British. With his quest for independence and freedom – not to mention his literary talent – Amrit Lal and Gandhi had quite an impact on Rajneesh, who also from his very young days was expressing himself in the writing of poems.
“One of my uncles is a poet, but the whole family was against him, they destroyed him. They did not allow him…they withdrew him from the university because they saw that if he passed from the university then all he was going to do was write poetry. But if he had no certificates, then he had no way to escape anywhere; he had to sit in the shop…He was not interested in business at all, while sitting in the shop he was writing poetry.” From Ignorance To Innocence #1
When Amrit Lal was married to a beautiful girl, all arranged by the family, his wife later burned all Amrit Lal’s poems, and the family in this way kept him from writing and kept him tethered to the lowest part of his being instead. Still, for Dada it was a lifelong obsession to encourage all his family members to pursue education and academic degrees.
Yet Rajneesh was even closer to his other uncle Shikhar Chand, who engaged himself in the progressive and socialist thinking of the Congress Party, and several group meetings on socialist ideas were in years to come to be arranged in common by Shikhar Chand and the young Rajneesh in Gadarwara (14). Later in life Shikhar Chand was to become a disciple of Bhagwan, his own nephew.
According to his own accounts, and the accounts of others who knew him during his childhood, Rajneesh was a daredevil and mischief-maker, never missing an opportunity to test his own physical limits and to challenge self-importance or hypocrisy where ever he found it. Not unexpectedly his behaviour had its response from the villagers, and it is said that Raja Saheb would sit on his gaddi (seat) all day listening to customers as well as complainers all coming to see him for business purpose or to complain about Rajneesh’s actions. Like the day when Rajneesh had chopped off the choti (lock of hair) from the ritual priest of the temple while he was sleeping on a cot out in the open.
This mischief was indeed very meaningful and significant in the sense that he was constantly making efforts to awaken people and to rid them of any superstitious beliefs and false rituals. The episodes and anecdotes telling us about his mischievous behaviour and acts are numerous and to be found several places in his lectures and biographies as well.
To have a gist of his later actions this small story may be illustrative. In Gadarwara a doctor, Dr. Dass, was known for his extortion of money even from the poor and for never reducing the price of his medicines. One day Rajneesh made a slight alternation in the name plate of Dr. Dass. He erased the letter D from Dass and the name plate now read Dr. Ass. When this was corrected by the doctor, the same happened again. This was in fact repeated quite a few times, and soon he was known by his new name all over town until finally the doctor had to promise free treatment to the poor. (Bhed 2006, p. 44)
Rajneesh was at an early age confronted with death, as his younger sister Kusum died from an attack of smallpox when he was only five years old. At that occasion he was so upset by her death that he not only refused food but also put on the features of a traditional Jain monk. He was at that time impressed by the simplicity of the monks’ lifestyle and he started wearing a traditional loin cloth when carrying his begging bowl he would walk along the line of family members begging them for food. This way of showing grief and the performance of some austere religious rites were only to be abandoned by the young boy after considerable persuasion.
Death was not only witnessed first hand by Rajneesh, but also mentioned as a theme of destiny by a famous state astrologer who predicted, that the boy would not survive beyond his seventh year. Nana had made the long journey to Varanasi (15) to find the great astrologer, and when Nani had shown to him the notes with date and time of the birth of Rajneesh, he then said to her in the wording of Gyan Bhed:
“I am sorry, I can only make this birth chart after seven years. If the child survives then I will make his chart without any charge, but I don’t think he will survive. If he does it will be a miracle, because then there is a possibility for him to become a buddha.” (Urmila 2007, p. 24)
The chart made by the state astrologer in Varanasi and received by Osho’s grandfather Raja Saheb is leading to the following considerations: “He [Raja Saheb] requested the state astrologer to prepare a horoscope telling him the date and time of Rajas’s birth. Having calculated something for few minutes the astrologer said, “The year 1931, 11th of December and that also in the morning time, it’s a marvellous time for a child’s birth. Venus, Saturn, Mars and Mercury all the four stars [planets] are in the seventh house of the centre of high status. Sun and Moon are in the sixth and the eight house and Jupiter in the second house.” He paused for a while and than said, “Lalaji! The boy is very brilliant and dignified. I’ll prepare his horoscope and bring it to you myself. Please give me your detailed address…I have never seen such strong and dignified stars of anybody in my whole life, but I have a doubt whether the child would survive for seven years. I’ll know this on reading the almanac after seven years, I’ll prepare the horoscope and will come personally to your village to see the child even if your village is far away from here. And now please, for God’s sake, don’t ask any questions. Please go and pray God for the child’s long life.”” (Bhed 2006, p. 22). (16)
After the death of the state astrologer his son also in Kashi continued to work on Rajneesh’s birth chart, and he finally declared that he would face death every seventh years and almost certainly die at the age of twenty-one.
This prediction turned out to be fairly close to what was to happen later in Rajneesh’s life. When Raja was seven the astrologer kept his promise and came to Kuchwada riding a white horse. This time he revealed that his calculations had shown Raja to be an incarnation of Buddha, and that very same year Raja had a profound experience at the death of his beloved maternal grandfather Nana.
Later on, at the age of fourteen in 1945 and provoked by the astrologer’s prediction, Rajneesh undertakes a seventh-day experiment in a ruined Shiva temple outside Gadarwara waiting for Yamraj – the god of death (17). He took the help of his middle school teacher, the Khaki master, who managed his solitude in the deserted Shiva temple, bringing him food, informing Babu Lal and taking care of his safety. Osho was sitting meditatively in the inner sanctuary of the temple, continuously looking at the Shiva-linga for hours, but sometimes he also left the ruin to sit outside under the peepal (holy fig tree), in silence or playing the flute. Climbing the top of the peepal tree he was in the realm of the Brahma Rakshas (18), looking at the murmuring riverflow and the stars above. Some other night was spend at the riverbank while animals were drinking from the river nearby, and some night he dreamt that he saw Magga Baba and Pagal Baba – both Indian mystics to be mentioned later on – before he again sat in meditation. They had told him that gradually he was to remember the time seven hundred years ago when he had been a Buddhist lama in Tibet, and when lying in the sand at the riverbank during daytime he felt like an unlimited energy was falling on him. In the evening he struck the temple-bell making the whole inner room tremble before observing a seven feet long Naga (poisonous snake) emerge from the corner of the temple and slowly passing over his legs. Rays were exchanged between their eyes and he felt like submerging into an ocean of ecstasy. This episode will be remembered as his first satori experience.
His acceptance and awareness of the reality of death were tested by the snake entering the temple and crossing over him, and the story goes that after these days meditating on death his acts of mischief decreased and that he much more frequently could be seen wandering in the burning cremation ground, a place where people did not pass during the night for fear of ghosts and witches. The prediction of the astrologer also made his family wait for his death once again at his age twenty-one, and slowly he came to realize that death can be a total fulfilment, but only if life has been lived to its full flowering. The way we are dying will any time be nothing but a reflection of the way we have lived our lives.
The final flowering of these experiments with consciousness, life and death was his enlightenment experience during the night March 21st 1953 in Bhanwar Tal Garden in Jabalpur. He was then twenty-one as predicted by the astrologer.
But his first deep encounter with death at age seven was the death in 1938 of his maternal grandfather Nana. Following Nana’s increasing chest pain and the muttering of the Namokar Mantra the seven years old Raja was in a bullock cart accompanying his dying and dumb grandfather on the rough journey from Kuchwada to the town of Gadarwara thirty-two miles away where the nearest hospital was to be found. (19)
“Unless you love someone and he then dies, you cannot really encounter death. Let that be underlined: Death can only be encountered in the death of the loved one.
When love plus death surrounds you, there is a transformation, an immense mutation, as if a new being is born. You are never the same again. But people do not love, and because they do not love they can’t experience death the way I experienced it. Without love, death does not give you the keys to existence. With love, it hands over to you the keys to all that is.
My first experience of death was not a simple encounter. It was complex in many ways. The man I had loved was dying. I had known him as my father. He had raised me with absolute freedom, no inhibitions, no suppressions, and no commandments.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 109
When Nana was dying in the bullock cart, he presented to Osho his finger ring. It had a diamond on top and a magnifying glass window on both sides for looking through, and inside there was an image and statue of Mahavira, the last Jain tirthankara. All he could give to Osho before dying was his love and as a devoted Jain also an image of the One who had realized himself, and Raja responded that he was much grateful for the love and freedom he had given to him and that he could now die in peace.
“Tvadiyam vastu Govinda, tubhyam eva samarpayet: “My Lord, this life you have given to me, I surrender it back to you with my thanks.” Those were the dying words of my grandfather, although he never believed in God and was not a Hindu. This sentence, this sutra, is a Hindu sutra – but in India things are mixed up, particularly good things. Before he died, among other things, he said one thing again and again: “Stop the wheel.” (Urmila 2007, p. 33)
Certainly it was not the wheel of the bullock cart he meant, but the wheel of karma turning onwards, and it was only stepped down when Raja remembered a glimpse from one of his past lives and began chanting the Tibetan Bardo Thodul ritual for dying people, the sound of the mantra finally silencing the dying man and helping him to reach a more calm and quit space of mind, while Rajneesh was intensively observing the gradually loss of all his grandfather’s senses. The last words on his lips were: “Don’t be worried, because I am not dying.” After he had died they all remained with the dead body for no less than twenty-four hours because of the slow progress on the uneven road during the night.
“This close observation of death of a loved one, at such an early age, changed his childhood overnight. He prayed bitterly that he might also die and in the early hours of next morning awoke to find that his own body was as if dead. The eyes would not open and there seemed to be no breath. It was the first arising of the ‘witness’ and from that time onwards, while the boy acted much as any happy child of his age, there was always a certain aura of aloofness, aloneness and self-sufficiency about his behaviour.” (Devika 2008, p. 189)
Bhoora the servant was devastated at the death of his master and he died himself less than 24 hours after Nana. Now Raja was confronted not only with one but with two deaths around him. (20)
Heartbroken Nani had wanted to go on the funeral pyre to be cremated together with Nana in the traditional Indian way of sati (21), but she was persuaded by Rajneesh not to go on with this endeavour. She left and never went back to the village of Kuchwada after the death of her husband.
This experience of death at first hand was to bring a profound change in Rajneesh, confronting him with loss and the feeling of aloneness and with the loss of Shashi it was the most profound experience during his childhood. The event brought him to a new plane of being and into a new dimension which would later flower in his enlightenment and the future dissemination of his vision. In his description of Osho’s childhood, with its traces of grandiosity and emperor like behaviour, the Indian psychoanalyst and author Kakar calls the first seven years in the life of a child the foundation stone for the rest of his life, and emphasizes the impact his grandfather’s death had on the child: “The death of his grandfather at the age of seven that marked the end of a golden childhood was not only decisive for the course of Rajneesh’s psychic life. Its trauma that provided the glue that cemented the grandiose self firmly in his psyche was also vital in awakening and giving form to his spiritual strivings. Rajneesh returns to the deeply traumatic experience again and again… Seven years later, at he age of fourteen, convinced he himself was about to die, he took seven days’ leave from school. He went to an old, isolated temple at the outskirts of the town and lay there ‘being dead’… Spiritually, the most important episode of Rajneesh’s life took place another seven years later when he was twenty-one and went through a prolonged period of psychological breakdown, ‘his dark night of the soul’. It was a time of what he calls ‘nervous breakdown and breakthrough’ that was to be the midwife of his emergence as a spiritual Master.” (Kakar 2009, p. 30)
From now on in Gadarwara Rajneesh was constantly preoccupied with the phenomenon of death, and whenever a cremation was to take place in town he would follow the people carrying the dead body to the cremation ground, watching and witnessing at first hand the rituals, the reaction of people and the quoting from the scriptures. On one occasion he recounts that he was laughing uproariously at the funeral, as he felt the old man’s delight and laughter in being able to leave the body, and his laughing was infectious although the mourners around were at the same time shocked and solemn to what was happening. We will see later on that not only death but also love – and with Shashi a combination thereof – were phenomena that sharpened his consciousness and awareness of what was at the very centre of existence.
1.1 School Days and Early Youth in Gadarwara 1939 – 1951
After the death of his maternal grandfather Rajneesh came to live with his own parents and the joint family in Gadarwara where Dada and Osho’s paternal grandfather had settled down as cloth merchants in 1934. At this time Gadarwara (village of the shepherds or sheeps’ grassfield), located about sixty miles from Jabalpur, was a small town of about twenty thousand people, among them many Hindu grain and cloth merchants. Its primary school and high school, not to mention the public library, were to have a significant influence on the education and reading of the boy Rajneesh as he grew up. The move to a town this size and offering so many new facilities, we can imagine the significance this change of setting may have had on the boy at eight, for good and for bad, making him depart from the rural pastoral beauty of Kuchwada which had been so dear to him. (22)
The case is that Rajneesh wanted to stay on in Kuchwada, but no one including Nani was supporting him in this decision and he couldn’t go there alone without Nana, Nani or Bhoora.
In Gadarwara neither Nani nor Rajneesh wanted to move into the big joint family of Osho’s father, so a house was found for her on monthly rent at a beautiful place near the river, a place where Osho often stayed at night with her – and the favourite sweets she so generous had bought for him before sleep, just like she had been doing over the years for Nana. She would wait for him late at night even up to 11 P.M., and after serving him beyari, the late evening meal, the sweets and sometimes butter-milk were offered. This small evening ritual could not have been done in his father’s Jain family as Jains don’t eat or drink after sunset.
“Following the traumatic experience of grandfather Nana’s death when Rajneesh was seven, Rajneesh moved to Gadarwara, where his biological parents [Dada and Saraswati] were then living. He reports that he did not relish living with his parents, because of the number of relatives who stayed with them. “This is not a family,” he remarked at one point, “It’s a bazaar.” The solution to this problem soon came when Nani also moved to Gadarwara and settled in a separate bungalow. In effect, he spent some of his daylight hours with his parents, but his nights were usually spent with Nani. Nani apparently continued to indulge her grandson by granting him permission to do whatever he liked. Of the six rooms in her bungalow, she kept only one for herself and turned the other five over to Rajneesh, allowing him to use them as he wished, even consenting to his insistence that no one – not even she – be allowed to enter one particular room, his “sacred place of learning”, where he allegedly mastered “all kinds of magical tricks”. (Aveling 1999, p. 84)
In a steady routine Rajneesh was spending the whole day at school and with his father’s family, and the whole night with his maternal grandmother Nani in her small house nearby. Again and again we are reminded of her small house, but it couldn’t have been that small as it contained at least six rooms. The five rooms were for Rajneesh’s disposal, and he divided those rooms according to different kind of activities. One room he kept as his ‘sacred place’ for his occult and yogic experiments as mentioned, and also in that room he used to learn all kind of things in dealing with snakes, how to catch them, how to teach them to dance to his music and stuff like that. She respected his wish for a total private space, and it was not because of her intruding that he at last put up a notice on the door to his sacred place: NO ADMISSION WITHOUT PERMISSION.
In his father’s house he was given a room with an independent entrance to it. That room was kept absolutely empty and clean, an emptiness acknowledged by an experienced Sufi, a Muslim mystic visiting his father’s house when Rajneesh was twelve and who felt the presence and energy of the room to the annoyance of Babu Lal who frankly considered them both to be mad.
Catching snakes was among his past time favourites and watching snakes dancing to the tunes of the flute of the madari (snake charmer) all of whom were Muslims as no Hindus were practicing that art. From the snake charmers he learned how to catch snakes and he found out that snakes couldn’t hear at all and the way of making them dance was by swaying your own head. He begged the snake charmers to convey their secret; not only in handling the snakes but also in all the tricks they knew as street magicians. The first snake he caught was taken to his primary school class right away, causing much interest and confusion. We may presume that the boy had some adequate knowledge on the various species of snakes in the district, as in the 1950s one hundred deaths were still reported each year due to snake-bites, and he may even have attended Naga Panchmi, the annual festival of snakes where Hindus in temples are celebrating their snake idols and dancing with snakes.
Later in life he was to call Satya Sai Baba and people like him, just street magicians, a designation he was most qualified to come forward with, as he himself had learned how things were practiced in the world of magic. Many things he was learning – and not always in the classroom. Rajneesh’s occupation with snakes in her own house wasn’t a surprise to Nani, who herself had told him about the snake as one of the most ancient and powerful symbols for cosmic creativity and sexual energy and was to be found in many Tantric works of art.
When staying in Gadarwara with his maternal grandmother Nani after those first seven years in Kuchwada, Rajneesh was still not under the influence of his parents. He moved away from his own parent’s joint Indian family with its uncles, aunts, in-laws, their children and cousins and staying relatives, a whole bazaar he called it, continuously buzzing with so many people. His joint family he called a gathering of the tribes, perhaps a kind of mela – a fair, and he joked that somebody ought to publish a small booklet about his family, a Who’s Who. His two uncles were also residing there with their families, and always a number of relatives used to come and stay for a longer period.
We have to remember that Nani had refused to stay in the house of her son-in-law as it was a Hindu tradition that the parents of the married girl could not take food or even drink water in his house. So like Nani he wasn’t capable of living with his own family devoid of silence and space, values he had cherished since his very first years in Kuchwada. From early childhood one thing became decisive in him, that he was not going to create a family of his own, the fights, the mess, the whole circus being all meaningless to him.
Outside Gadarwara on a faraway farm Osho’s old paternal grandfather Hazari Lal was now living. Osho used to call him Baba, the Indian word for (paternal) grandfather, and he often went to see him and massage his feet. Baba was definitely not a religious man, rather an atheist and perhaps because of his atheism his son, Osho’s father, had reacted and become a devoted Jain and theist. Rather Baba was a man fond of eating, drinking and being merry, so he didn’t have much to say for the religiousness of his son Babu Lal. When questioned by Osho why he didn’t believe in God, he simply answered, “Because I am not afraid” and he used to say:
“It is good my father did not force me to go to school, otherwise he would have spoiled me. These books spoil people so much.” He would say to me [Osho], “Remember your father is spoiled, your uncles are spoiled; they are continually reading religious books, scriptures, and it is all rubbish. While they are reading, I am living; and it is good to know through living.
He used to tell me, “They will send you to the university – they won’t listen to me. And I cannot be much help, because if your father and your mother insist, they will send you to the university. But beware: don’t get lost in books.” (Urmila 2007, p. 48)
Osho had now and then been reading some books for Baba who was uneducated and who could only write his own signature, an ability to which he was very proud. Baba died at eighty after Osho had become an ass. professor in Jabalpur in 1959, and Osho has later mentioned that he regretted not to have translated and read to Baba also the novel Zorba the Greek, which he believed Baba would have loved very much.
In many ways Baba was different from Rajneesh’s maternal grandfather Nana, as he was more cunning, restless and ready to fight with people around him. At the time when he was still in the cloth shop with Babu Lal it was evident that many customers preferred to do business with him as his way of bargaining and haggling was dear to them.
The cloth shop of Osho’s father in Gadarwara was located towards the village street in front of the private house behind, and when going into the street Osho had to pass through the shop and its customers. With his long hair he was now and then considered being a girl by the customers, in spite of the boy’s heavy stones or salted cashew nuts in the deep extra pockets of his shorts which he had persuaded his mother to sew for him in his dress. Watching Rajneesh’s mania for collecting his father had one day brought a full bag with coloured stones asking him not to collect stones from the river and overfill his pants. The bag with stones was instantly thrown away and he said to his father:
“Dada! Your stones are useless to me as there was an extraordinary charm and pleasure in searching and selecting the stones from the sand and you do not want to snatch that pleasure from me?” (23)
“Rajneesh had always been a compulsive collector. As a boy, he had collected stones from the beach [riverbed]; so many that his mother sewed extra pockets in his clothes. As an adult he collected pens, cuff-links, and watches; always the most expensive, often encrusted with diamonds and emeralds.” (Storr 1996, p. 59)
But most of all he collected books and as we soon will see, this was an endeavour not without challenges in India’s climate, where books and paper usually moulder away as years go by. As for his pockets, he finally dropped the whole idea of having any pockets at all, because it tempted people to cut open the pockets – or more rarely like Masta Baba did – putting money and things into them.
He had fallen in love with Punjabi clothes also which usually were not worn in that part of Madhya Pradesh. With his long hair, wearing salwar (Punjabi clothing) and kurta (Punjabi shirt) it wasn’t unexpected that people in Gadarwara took him to be a girl. To finish the customers’ mockeries in the cloth shop, Dada one day came with his scissors and cut his hair. Rajneesh didn’t say anything to him, but went to the barber’s shop in front of the house and told him to shave his whole head. The name of the barber was Nathur, but he was called Kaka meaning uncle. He was an opium addict and a beautiful man much loved by Osho, who learned quite a lot about human nature from him and his straigt forward responses to what happened around him. In India you only shave your head when your father had died, so much disturbance was there when Osho returned from the barber’s with his head shaved, creating even more trouble compared with his being considered a girl with his long hair. It is said by Osho this was the last time Dada did anything like this to him.
School Days in Gadarwara
In the days when Osho was still staying with his grandparents in Kushwara some arguments on education were passed between Nani and Nana. Nana felt some responsibility for the upbringing and education of the boy, but in no way Nani would allow a tutor to interfere with the space Rajneesh was in. He was to be left as natural as possible out of the grip of civilization. There was a tutor in the village, educated to the fourth grade only, but still the most educated man in town. He could have taught Rajneesh the alphabet, some language, mathematics or geography, but whenever the question came up between them, Nani insisted that until his seventh year the boy just had to be his natural self, not to be interfered with by any kind of pre-schooling. For the rest of his life Osho was grateful to her for not giving way to the pressure of spoiling his early childhood with the teaching of knowledge suited for the mundane world only. So until his days in primary school in Gadarwara he was left in an open and free space to literally pursue any path or river he wished. But from his childhood Rajneesh like other Indians was absorbing, orally and later through his reading, a diversity of sayings, proverbs, tales and songs which distilled in him the principal ideas of Indian thinking.
“So my spirituality has a different meaning from your idea of spirituality. My childhood stories, if you can understand them, will point to all these qualities in some way or other. Nobody can call them spiritual. I call them spiritual because to me, they have given all that man can aspire to.
While listening to my childhood stories you should try to look for some quality – not just the story but some intrinsic quality that runs like a thin thread through all of my memoirs. And that thin thread is spiritual.” (Sarito 2000, p. 3)
Many educational initiatives had been carried out in the Jabalpur District during the 18th century with several reforms to promote primary and secondary schools. The Great War in 1914-18 impeded the progress and so did the Non-Cooperation Movement which resulted in the boycott of schools where children remained absent for long periods. Not until 1928 compulsory primary education was introduced in Jabalpur, although the opening of many bidi workshops still drew a number of poor children away from schools. Further the Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Gandhi in 1920 seriously affected the discipline and the continuation of work in colleges and schools throughout the Jabalpur District during the 1930s. In 1937 the first Congress government came to power in Madhya Pradesh and its education minister, Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, introduced the Vidya Mandir basic scheme with a theoretical as well as a practical curriculum, including trade or crafts, to fight the colossal illiteracy. Since the 1919 reforms education had become a provincial responsibility and transferred to Indian Ministers causing some geographical imbalance in its standards. There was a striking increase in the percentage of literate people in the 1930s, but Indian women in general were still far less educated than men. In 1941 there were still about four literate men for every literate woman. (24)
Another setback was seen during the Second World War when staff had to be relocated to other duties and the Quit India agitation had its dire impact also on the educational system. However by the end of war in 1945 the progress of education was restored and we may have to imagine how all these irregularities were affecting the schooldays of young Rajneesh.
In India in those days the Basic Education Scheme had been launched by the provincial Congress governments. It began with four years of primary education under the local authorities, followed by three more years and then ending up with a certificate after seven years of primary schooling, but fully educated in the vernacular Hindi language only. Otherwise you could change line after the first four years and attend the middle school which gave you the opportunity of learning the English language. This meant four more years in middle school before continuing in high school for three years and becoming a matriculate after eleven years. Being now ready for university, this was an additional six-year course finally making a total of seventeen years of studying. For Osho this was the case – jumping over grade one – from his ninth to his twenty-sixth year when he finally left Sagar University as a gold medal winner with his M.A.
Rajneesh had a rather late start at school when he was nine and a half years old in 1940. From the very start of grade two – he started in primary school directly in 2nd Hindi class – he could already read Hindi. From grade five, when in middle school the teaching in English started, he could also here read English texts right away, while other pupils in class were still on ABC-level and struggling with the English alphabet quite new to them. Osho’s father recalls from those days:
“Our little Mohan was a totally normal child, like everybody else, and there was nothing extraordinary about him, nothing out of a normal behaviour for a child of that age. Until he was seven years old he was living with his grandfather who was a very rich man, but after his death he came to stay with us, and we started to provide him personally with some education, and to teach him how to read and write. Even in this he was a normal kid, not particularly of a genius type, perhaps just a little more dynamic than other children, more restless, which seems was creating some problems with our neighbours…or at least this was what they were saying.” (25)
Raja’s father Babu Lal first took him to the local primary school for registration and admission, discussing while walking along with the reluctant boy the jail like structure of the buildings and the boy’s tense feeling of being imprisoned inside its walls. In India at that time, schools and jails were often painted in the same colour and both institutions were made of red brick. On his very first morning at school he was most unwillingly dragged by his uncle Shikhar Chand to Ganj Primary School (Pradhamik Sala) in Gadarwara, passing under its impressive Elephant Gate (Hathi Dwar) which later has been modified. His name was now changed from his name of calling Raja into the more formal and less showy Rajneesh. Reluctantly he was to pass under the impressive Elephant Gate to his primary school, from grade two until he moved to middle school from grade five.
“Fortunately I was born to primitive people, in a village, uneducated. For nine years I remained uneducated. What a blessing! No modern child can afford it. It is against the law. You have to go to school. For nine years I was absolutely free from all education. It is because of that that I could penetrate the ultimate, that I could come into contact with the unknown.” Notes of a Madman (1985), p. 65
Rajneesh started in the very same classroom as shown on photo, where to the left is seen Sukhraj Bharti who as his classmate sat next to him from day one in that far left corner. He noticed that Osho could already read and that he had beautiful books and sketches in his schoolbag. Osho brought with him a polished stone slate with its fine wooden frame. The slate was among the family’s personal belongings and it had been used earlier by other members of the family. Sukhraj Bharti remembers that Rajneesh could draw a cow or a horse within a second, and when asked to draw a bullock cart, he promptly did so. Rajneesh’s leather schoolbag, slate and his first pens were with the family until the 1960’s. (26)
“Right from the first grade at public school Rajneesh became known for his beautiful handwriting and his ability to paint. He began to read newspapers and magazines when he was in the second grade and became a member ever of the Gadarwara Public Library – the youngest person ever to be a member. While in elementary school Rajneesh displayed his talent in writing poetry, short stories, articles and in photography. In the sixth grade, Rajneesh edited a handwritten magazine, Prayas, meaning ‘effort.'” (Joshi 1982, p. 27)
For a start he used his left hand when writing, and he remained a left handed writer most of his life. In his last years in Poona Two, when his writing had almost ended, some photos were taken in Osho Lao Tzu Library showing him signing and painting in his books, obviously with his right hand. The truth is he was ambidextral and capable of writing effortless with any hand he might choose.
“You will be surprised to know that when I started writing, being such a nuisance I started writing with my left hand. Of course everybody was against me, again, of course, except my Nani. She was the one who said, “If he wants to write with his left hand what is the wrong with it?”…But nobody would allow me to use my left hand, and she could not be everywhere with me. In school, every teacher and every student was against me using my left hand: right is right, and left is wrong.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 255
His secretary from Jabalpur, Arvind Jain, was associated with Osho since he was fourteen and he clearly remembers his way of writing when he was young and later on in Jabalpur:
“From his very beginning of childhood he was holding the pen in a very peculiar manner in his left fingers of his hand. And he beautifully writes with the assistance of those fingers by his left hand. And I’ve not seen such a personality who can use his left hand and holding the pen in his two fingers. It was a unique experience to see his writing practice by left hand…The writing of Osho was like a river flow. And as nobody knows how the river flows and where it is flowing, like that Osho himself was writing with his left hand. And at that time he didn’t want a single noise be there in his isolated meditation room.” (27)
And Osho’s writing with also his right hand has been confirmed by Vasant Joshi, the author of The Awakened One (1982) who has known Osho from the Poona days: “Personally, I have always seen Osho writing/signing on his letterhead with his right hand. In photograph he is also shown painting with his right hand. I am not surprised though, if he also used his left hand for writing – his creativity could touch any act with equal grace and ability.” (28)
In his family home in Gadarwara there had been no subscription or reading of any newspaper, and according to Osho not even a single newspaper was ever to be found in the village of Kuchwada. But from his student days in Jabalpur later on he was currently in touch with not only national newspapers but also Western magazines and journals.
So Ganj Primary Sala was his first encounter with formal education and from every fibre of his being he resisted the place, the whole structure and especially the teachers he met. According to Vasant Joshi he was admitted to the school already at age seven, but he had resisted the offer so convincingly that only after two more years he could at last be persuaded to begin his formal education. His whole career as a bookman and academic is hard to imagine without the basics provided by also the elementary school. But the truth is that he never enjoyed going to school. (Joshi 1982, p. 25)
“I really did not attend primary school much, because the river was so attractive and its call was irresistible. So I was always at the river – not alone of course, but with many other students. Then there was the forest beyond the river. And there was so much real geography to explore – who bothered about the dirty map that they had in the school? I was not concerned where Constantinoble was, I was exploring on my own: the jungle, the river – there were so many other things to do.” (Urmila 2007, p. 74)
The first class teacher he met was called Kantar Master by the children, Kanta meaning one-eyed, a heavily build short-tempered man, who had taught Raja’s father and uncle both. During the teaching of arithmetic Osho on his very first day at school happened to be much more absorbed in looking out of the window at the beautiful peepal tree shining in the sun with the parrots twittering in the foliage. In Kuchwara he had very much liked to sit under a peepal tree encouraged by Nani, who had been praising to him the rare and healthy atmosphere emitted by the leaves of the tree. As this liking of his now turned out to be close to a sin and leading to intricate punishment techniques – including the pressing of two fingers with a pencil in between, sitting and standing exercises Dand and Baitak, or having to run ten times around the school field – the boy had to call the headmaster and refer to the educational code to put things right when he was being harassed by Kantar Master. (29)
The confrontation with the teacher was later in the day to be followed by conversations with his father, the police commissioner, the president of the municipal committee in charge of Gadarwara’s education and finally the vice president of the same committee, Shambhu Dube. The young rebel fighting against the torturing of the kids in his school soon had Shambhu Dube’s understanding and as in those days the extension of Kantar Master’s service was being reconsidered, he left the school immediately on leave one month before his retirement and he was gone from the following morning. This early crusade against injustice turned out to be a commitment and a social inclination to be continued during his many years of education.
The full name of Shambhu Dube was Pandit Shambhuratan Dube (30). He was a well-educated advocate, a poet and a man of insight. Soon he was close befriended with Osho, to some surprise for the villagers: The vice president at fifty and the young boy Rajneesh at nine behaving as friends? In his way he had recognized Osho, like Magga Baba before him, and when the boy’s father questioned him on the nature of their close friendship, all he would say was: “I cannot answer. One day you will understand.” Shambhu Dube was with the middle school teacher Khaki Master one of the only two persons to know about Rajneesh’s experiment with death in a Shiva temple at age 14 in 1945. Shambhu Dube’s poetry and stories were never published while he was alive, but by chance one of his stories was later used as a script for the first coloured Hindi movie Jhansi ki Rani (The Queen of Jhansi) produced by Sohrab Modi.
Rajneesh had by now reached the age of ten and had already made a few friends during his first year at primary school. Kanchhedi Sukul, Shyam Soni, Sukhraj Bharti and Ageha Saraswati were some of his closest in the circle of friends, and they were to befriend him in many years to come. Shyam Soni was instrumental in protecting Rajneesh’s privacy when he secluded himself in the Shiva temple at the riverbank.
Rajneesh was among other things using his network of friends to campaign against and put pressure on the alleged incompetent elected chairman for the municipality of Gadarwara, who hadn’t done much to the benefit of the people of the town. He was soon to be replaced by Shambhu Dube. Sri Shyam Soni has recalled the activities of Rajneesh in those days, and has explained that while living with his family in Gadarwara, Rajneesh had come into contact with religion as well as politics and literature:
“When Osho was 10-12 years old, he used to study the Jain scriptures with his father and used to raise the questions regarding the superstitions and dogmas mentioned in them. His uncle was freedom fighter and his father was a Congressman, the follower of Gandhiji, and thus he studied the history of all the revolutions of the world and Gandhian literature also.
A leading advocate Shamboo Babu, a municipal commissioner also, was his intimate friend and used to sit in silence with Osho occasionally. His library was very rich. He was the writer of the film Jhansi Ki Rani also & thus his library had several books regarding Literature, Philosophy and other subjects also.
He used to hear the lectures at Arya Samaj annual celebrations and studied Vedas & Satyarth Prakash of Sw. Dayanand.
In the centre of Gadarwara Town there was a Town library, where Osho used to go to study magazines and take books also. To this library Osho had presented so many English books after passing Inter Exam from Jabalpur. On each book Osho had signed artistically and mentioning the date 1.2.53.” (31)
Babu Lal, Osho’s father, remembers how Mohan related to the family’s religiousness towards Jainism: “When he was a kid he wasn’t really a practitioner, but he was not critical about the family religion either, sometimes he would even come spontaneously on his own to the temple with us, but he always looked bored to me. However, during his secondary school year he became more and more critical towards all the religions, and he was very much influenced by communism, starting to use very harsh words about any religion, Jainism included.” (32)
In progress. Preliminary map.
In an interview later on in Bombay Osho has commented on his relation to Jainism when asked if his parents were traditional Jainas:
“They are Jainas, but I am not a Jaina. Remember this, or again there will be misunderstanding, because birth has nothing to do with religion.” Work is Love Made Visible (2011) #8
Rajneesh and Shambhu Dube were often sitting quietly together and as Shambhu Dube had sensed Rajneesh’s attitude and rebellious nature, he was telling him in details about the French Revolution and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolt in Russia against the regime of the Tsar, laying out some visible landmarks for the boy’s early interest in Socialism. Knowledge of the English language was also initially brought to Rajneesh during these days with Shambhu Dube, and as an ardent reader Rajneesh was allowed to take away any book from the rather extensive private library of this man of letters. The volumes here to be found in Rajneesh’s first accessible and well stocked private library were an obvious expansion of the pupil’s horizon, and Shambu Dube is without doubt to be recognized as one of the very first persons to introduce the young boy to the world of knowledge and academia.
To both of them their friendship, which lasted for twenty years, was of a rare synchronicity and quality, and Osho has called him the only single person whom he could call a friend. Shambhu Dube chose to resign from his position as a mayor and his whole presidency, and according to Osho he also dropped out of the bar association as a lawyer, following some discussions they had on politics and on what to spend your life and what not. Before that, Shambhu Dube had made the first paved roads lined by trees in the whole princely state of Bhopal and brought electricity to the twenty thousand inhabitants of Gadarwara.
Whenever Rajneesh was passing through Gadarwara by train while staying in Jabalpur, Shambhu Dube would be there to greet him at the station along with Rajneesh’s own parents. Osho rushed from Jabalpur to be with him at his deathbed when he expired in 1960, and from that time Osho’s visits to Gadarwara became more rare.
Rajneesh’s visits to the primary school happened only occasionally and Nani, who couldn’t read or write herself, was not in a position to teach him the basic skills he needed. She tried to convince the family that a private tutor was a solution, but initially nobody in the family was ready to hire a private tutor for him. After some discussions a certified tutor, a retired headmaster, was sent for. His service and meetings with Rajneesh in Nani’s house lasted a few days only, as Rajneesh happened to scare him away pretending an alliance with the ghosts in the neem tree nearby. The story was that the neem tree next to its healing properties also had the power to catch ghosts and Rajneesh was wondering how exactly this happened. In India any story becomes a truth, and soon after even the ultimate truth, as he has later remarked. So his absence from school continued now without a tutor, and one may wonder how and when he did pick up some basic skills at all during these formative years.
“I have been teaching my whole life. I was rarely present in my schooldays either. They had to give me a seventy-five percent attendance record just to get rid of me. Even that was an absolute lie. I was absent ninety-nine percent of the time. That was the case throughout my schooldays, in high school and college.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 247.
Until Rajneesh had it cancelled, a compulsory cloth cap was to be worn by the pupils, and a uniform supplied by the school was kept by him at the request of others, but it was never to be used. His resenting on wearing a Gandhi cap also in high school had the headmaster summon him to his office and he was to stand outside his classroom for two months, until the headmaster finally chose to change the high school’s dress code.
The rare showing of his face in primary school he called ‘his visits to school’ and when he finished the fourth and last class in primary school, he asked the servant to pick up his certificate from the headmaster, as his feeling was that his few visits to the school had not been appreciated by the management. During his first years in primary school a close friendship was made with the peon, the servant who had his place at the very corner of the Elephant Gate. He was very old and had the duty to open and close the gate when needed, and every forty minutes he had to hit his bell hanging in front of his small cabin. His name was Manulal and he was wearing a khaki uniform with very tight straps around his legs up to his knees, and his head had an ancient-looking face covered with lines. Behind the lines of his face Rajneesh found a man with love and understanding, and he became maybe the only one in primary school with whom Rajneesh felt total at ease. Whenever he visited school he would sit chatting and telling stories in his small cabin next to the impressive and dreadful Elephant Gate.
Before leaving primary school Rajneesh had his last say with the Elephant Gate. The state of Cheechli was a small princely state outside the British Raj not far from Gadarwara on the other side of the railroad. Here the maharaja had one elephant only, and according to Rajneesh he made the maharaja lend him the elephant for one day to ride through the Elephant Gate causing a big event with a gathering of crowding pupils. This was his last exit in fourth class and his last year in Pradhamik Sala.
Rajneesh’s next school, from grade five to grade eight, was Middle School which he attended 1944-48 and where his first teacher was Khaki Master. His full name was Rajaram, but he was known as Raju-Khaki (Raju the mad), and from schooldays onwards Rajneesh and Khaki Master were befriended for thirty years. Their connection was close, and a few times Khaki Master was chosen by Rajneesh to help him out in difficult situations, as when he was supplying Rajneesh during his stay in the Shiva temple at age fourteen. That Khaki Master now and then was going to school riding a horse and sitting backwards was not making him less dear to Rajneesh, who later was to tell stories about Lao Tzu and Mulla Nasruddin who were also riding backwards, on a buffalo and a donkey respectively.
It has been told, that on his first day in history class Rajneesh was commenting on the history books that they contain the stories of kings and emperors only, those who had killed thousands of people and burned the crops, houses and libraries for centuries. Having said this, he continued arguing that the history books were not mentioning the important history and revolutions in consciousness of enlightened persons like Bodhidharma, Tilopa, Marpa and masters of Sufi and Zen.
During this period of his schooling he designed and produced the handwritten magazine Prayas mentioned later, and he also won a grade A in a drawing contest in 1948 where he participated with a separate test paper.
The last school to be attended in Gadarwara was Government Higher Secondary School, Maulana Rahimuddin, which like middle school was located in the central Town Hall area in Gadarwara. Here he made it from grade nine to grade eleven in the years 1948-51 until he left for college and university studies in Jabalpur in 1951.
One of his first merits in high school was on his very first day to challenge the morningprayer with its nationalist singing of words by the great Urdu poet Mirza Iqbal. He made the headmaster cancel the morning prayer and a ten minutes morning silence was introduced instead. The headmaster avoided Rajneesh during his three years in high school, and when Osho later from Jabalpur visited his former high school, he recalled the headmaster telling him that he, when Rajneesh was in his final year, had told all teachers to support Rajneesh so he would pass the final examination and not bother them all for one more year if he was to fail. His matriculation was after 10 years only, as he did not attend the first grade in primary school. He might have left some impressions behind him when leaving school, as one of his teachers are said to have come to Poona later on to take sannyas.
It was in this Town Hall area, on the vast central playground in Gadarwara, that Osho used to give lectures when visiting his home town later on from Jabalpur. His last visit to Gadarwara was in 1970 when he came from Bombay for the funeral of his beloved maternal grandmother Nani. In Osho Hi Osho Niklank has narrated how her death during the night at 2 a.m. had been sensed by Osho, who heard her voice calling on Raja.
He certainly detached himself from his schoolmates in his maturity and range of interests, but at the same time he also had few close friends, notably Kanchhedi Sukul, Shyam Soni and Sukhraj Bharti. But he was also spending a lot of time with other friends in physical activities as well as in activities enhancing his skills in storytelling and debating.
“I was never interested in going to school. That was the worst place. I was forced finally to go, but I resisted as much as I could, because there were only children who were not interested in things I was interested in, and I was not interested in things they all were interested in. So I was an outsider.” (Sarito 2000, p. 24)
In the late afternoons when school was over, Rajneesh frequently went to the grain market in Gadarwara where he used to sit on the grain sacks at the open air market, chatting and telling stories to his friends. His ability in storytelling was developed these years, where especially his narrating of sensational stories from detective novels made him a popular figure with his friends. The stories went on and on, finishing every day on a peak point of suspense only to be continued the following day, a pattern and tradition we’ll still meet among the storytellers on marketplaces in Africa and Asia.
“His voice and oratorical skills were equally persuasive. In India, the oral tradition is still kept alive by highly accomplished village storytellers, who weave into the traditional myths stories of their grandmothers and political events. Osho may well have been nourished by this tradition and certainly polished his gift during his academic career and later travels.” (Puttick 1997, p. 35)
“From my very childhood I have loved to tell stories, real, unreal. I was not at all aware that this telling of stories would give me an articulateness and that it would be of tremendous help after enlightenment.” (Sarito 2000, p. 83)
So his skills in storytelling had in fact been developed from his earliest childhood, where his Nani was listening to him and he had to invent stories on an ongoing basis to satisfy her need. It was Nani who initially made him a storyteller, and it was she who lay the seed for his ability later in life to cast a spell over his audience, when narrating anecdotes and parables to make a point in his transmission of philosophical and religious matters.
“I love stories, and all this started with my Nani. She was a lover of stories too. Not that she used to tell me stories; just the contrary, she used to provoke me to tell her stories, all kind of stories and gossip. Just for her I would find something interesting, because she would wait the whole day just to listen to my story. If I could not find anything, then I would invent. She is responsible: all credit or blame, whatsoever you call it, goes to her. I invented stories to tell her just so she could not be disappointed, and I can promise you that I became a successful story teller for her sake.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 231.
Nani took in his words with love and respect, urging him again and again to continue: “Tell me something more,” or “Tell me that one again,” and her attention was only to be rivalled by Shambhu Dube whom Rajneesh had befriended in Gadarwara and who was listening to him not only on a basis of intuitiveness but also from an intellectual standpoint.
“But I tell you one thing: both she [Nani] and Shambhu Babu spoiled me by their being so attentive. They taught me, without teaching, the art of speaking. When somebody listens so attentively, you immediately start saying something you had not planned or even imagined, it simply flows. It is as if attention becomes magnetic and attracts that which is hidden in you.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 233.
From primary school onwards he was winning in competitions, and the prizes, medals, cups and shields he collected were to be stored in Nani’s house, almost turning it into a museum. When in Jabalpur, he kept on sending her prizes he had won either for debate, for eloquence or for story-telling competitions.
“I started speaking so early, yet it was not in any way what you call a speaker in the western world. Not a speaker who says, “Ladies and Gentlemen,” and all that nonsense – all borrowed and nothing experienced. I was not a speaker in that sense, but I spoke with my whole heart aflame, afire. I spoke not as an art but as my very life. And from my early schooldays it was recognized, not by one but by many, that my speaking seemed to be coming from my heart, that I was not trying parrot like to repeat something I had prepared. Something spontaneous was being borne, then and there.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 236.
“As far back as I can remember, I loved only one game, to argue – to argue about everything. So very few grown-up people could even stand me – understanding was out of the question.” (Sarito 2000, p. 24)
As remembered by Osho’s father Babu Lal: “At home he was never creating any problem, and often we didn’t even realize his presence as he was so quiet and silent, but outdoors he must have been a real pest! To tell you the truth, there were always some people coming to complain about him, saying that he was a bad boy and very mean too, because he was always arguing with everybody, he was fighting with the other kids, and he would tease everybody in front of him, often with some cruel joke that he used to define as ‘my special treatment’, and on top of it he was even making fun of the village authorities, so ultimately he was making everybody crazy! However, to us all this never occurred, and we were always surprised about all these complaints.” (33)
Verbal articulation and debating was dear to him from at least grade sixth, when he started giving speeches and participating in debates. This continued and increased from the ninth grade onward, and he was from those early days known for his ability to pick any side in a debate and then go for defeating the opponent in the argument. Once he was awarded a first prize in a debating contest when speaking in favour of Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy of non-alignment, and at another occasion as a youngster he gave what may have been his first series of talks over seven days on religion and spirituality at a friend’s house in Gadarwara. From his first radio broadcasting he remembers the puzzled director of the radio station watching Osho speaking to the microphone in front of the bare wall with his whole being involved in the transmission.
“When for the first time, somewhere in 1950, I entered a radio station studio for a lecture to be recorded…They wanted to display it all over India, broadcast it, for the simple reason that I was so young and the director of the radio station had heard me speaking in a university debate. He could not believe what I was saying, so he invited me to the studio sometime “to record any subject you give me”…He watched from there, and he was very puzzled because it was as if I was talking to people, the way I am talking to you! He had seen many orators giving their speeches for records but he had never seen people moving their hands and talking and looking at people…And I can’t speak without my hands. If you hold my hands I cannot speak a single word, because it is not only that a part of me is speaking, it is my whole being that is involved in it. My eyes, my hands, my whole body is involved. My whole body is saying something, is supporting what I am saying in words.” From Misery To Enlightenment #21. (34)
From the market Rajneesh bought a photo camera and he was keen in experimenting with its technical features. A few photos of his own are still preserved, among them a photo of his cousin sister Kranti visiting him in his room in Prabhu Niwas, Gadarwara. The room was arranged by his father for his staying there, and on the photo shelves with his books are to be seen and on the sloping wall a poster of Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Indian poet and Nobel prize laureate held in high esteem by Osho. (35)
Helping to support the household was definitely not among his spare time pleasures, and soon it was known that it was more or less useless sending Rajneesh to the market. Either he would forget about time and the cooking of dinner, or he would mix up what groceries to bring back home. Like one time when he forgot to bring the requested bananas and in stead bought tomatoes, a commodity not at all allowed in a Jain house as just the colour red would remind them of blood and meat which are unacceptable to Jains. The unwanted tomatoes he distributed to the beggars in Gadarwara, as the beggars knew him well and they were always happy to see him, when his shopping had been miscalculated.
After school the boys sometimes used an open-air akhara (wrestling ground) behind a Krishna temple – a local temple Rajneesh also used to visit because of its beauty and silence – but still his favourite place was the nearby Sakkar River (shakkar meaning sugar for its sweet water) floating through Gadarwara just a few minutes from his house. Swimming he had learned already in Kuchwada, where at age five he had dived into the waters of Narmada River without a trainee. Now his father Babu Lal took him to the riverbank to practice swimming, but as Rajneesh was also familiar with his paternal grandfather Baba, who could spend more time away from the shop, those two in his early days in Gadarwara went to the river where Raja was swimming in the mornings. Later he was swimming with friends, jumping and diving in the fresh waters, challenging the current and roaring waves. Again and again he was pushing himself physically towards the borders of his ability, jumping into the whirlpools of the flooding river during the rainy season or climbing up the seventy-foot-high railway bridge – called Death Bridge because of its suicidal history – to set off from there into the river, experiencing the stopping of the mind in the jumping gap between the bridge and the river. When reading Herman Hesse he realized he had a soul brother who also loved the moods of the river.
“When I first came across Siddhartha, Herman Hesse’s novel, I could not believe that what he had written about the river I had known so many times…He was able to create Siddhartha, but could not become a Siddhartha. But when I came across his description of the river, and the moods, and the changes, and the feelings of the river, I was overwhelmed. I was more impressed by his description of the river than by anything else. I cannot recall how long I had loved the river – it seemed as if I had been born in its waters.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 253
His whole youth was spent in a intimate love affair with the river. In the stillness of early mornings before sunset and late at night he was at its banks and his first experiences in meditation happened in this natural setting (36). The river was an ideal place to enter into deep meditation, and on a daily basis he would come down to the river and sit in meditation. He simply fell in love with the river, just like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and the Sakkar River had an everlasting impact on him. Slowly, slowly, the whole existence became a river to him, becoming liquid and floating:
“And I am immensely grateful to my father. He never taught me mathematics, language, grammar, geography, history. He was never much concerned about my education. He had ten children…and I had seen it happen many times: people would ask, “In what class is your son studying?” – and he would have to ask somebody because he would not know. He was never concerned with any other education. The only education that he gave to me was a communion with the river. He himself was in deep love with the river.” (Urmila 2007, p. 56)
Living with the flowing river Osho understood that God is not a person but a process, not a noun but a verb, not a doer. But an existential experience, with a beginning, a flow and some ending where the river is dissolved into the ocean. And his first experiences of satori started near that river. Not doing anything but simply being there, with the ultimate knocking at his door in a happening beyond words. After the first glimpses of meditation he started exploring how these moments and spaces could be made available without going anywhere, just by closing one’s eyes. Much of his time was spent in silence, to an extent that made his presence unnoticed by other family members, and hours were passed in the shade and coolness of a huge bodhi tree (English: bo tree) close to his house.
In later years, when he grew up in Gadarwara, he first lived in the house of his youngest uncle Shikhar Chand, also a cloth merchant like his own father. His family background surrounded by cloth merchants had a lasting impact on Osho who throughout his life was extremely interested in the wonders of garments made of quality fabric as described by Veena, his later seamstress: “Firstly, Osho genuinely loved fabric. His father had been a cloth merchant and Osho had been brought up surrounded by the colours and textures of the fabric in the shop. Anyone who has been to India knows that buying cloth is a very creative, even sensuous, process. You take your shoes off, sit down on a clean padded surface, select bolts of fabric from the shelves and an assistant unfurls them in front of you until you are almost drowning in a sea of fabric.” (Veena 2012, p. 105). And she continues to reveal how during Poona Two Osho had acted just like that and left the whole scene in chaos after choosing his fabric for new robes: “In true Indian fashion, Osho had pulled out most of the pieces, flung them out to have a good look and now the room was knee high in unfurled fabric. It looked like he had REALLY enjoyed himself. It took us that afternoon and the whole of the next day to fold everything up and put it back in its correct place.” (Veena 2012, p. 153)
Shikhar Chand occasionally had to interfere and put things straight when it got too tough in the encounters between the rebellious boy and his teachers – or anyone else for that matter. As Shikhar Chand’s family was growing, Osho later had to move to another place in Gadawara, Prabhu Niwas (God’s residence). Here he stayed in room no. 6, where his space was full of books placed in niches in the wall. The house has later been turned into a guesthouse.
Hazarilal, Osho’s grandfather had done the family partition while he was still alive, and taking his share from the joint family partition Osho’s father had purchased some land near Nani’s rented house in Gadarwara. Some land in Kuchwada was also sold and with this capital a new house was constructed in Gadarwara, and at its frontal side towards the street the cloth and hardware shop was set up. In the meantime Osho’s parents and brothers and sisters all stayed in the rented house of Nani’s while Osho was a student of class eight, and when the construction was finished they shifted to the new house and left Nani’s rented house to herself and to Rajneesh. Later on the new house was purchased by his uncle Shikhar Chand from Osho’s brother Vijay and Prabhu Niwas was reconstructed. (37)
At one time Rajneesh disappeared from his house for two or three days to attend a fair on the occasion of Magh Purnima (the full moon winter day) without informing anybody at home. The fair was held on the other bank of Narmada River about ten kilometres from Gadarwara, and he took great interest in the circus and the jugglers, who were playing magic and performing all kind of tricks, while his parents feared that he was hanging out with drugs or prostitutes.
“So I told my father, “I was interested only in the magic, because in the fair all kinds of magicians gathered together, and I have seen some really great things. My interest is that I want to reduce miracles into magic. Magic is only about tricks – there is nothing spiritual in it – but if you don’t know the trick, then certainly it appears to be a miracle.” From Ignorance to Innocence #25
From the Brahmin point of view, the Veda is white or legitimate magic, and in Hindu occult science it is believed that power over everything on earth may be obtained by means of benign spirits. The power of Hindu magicians are to induce phenomena which could be called supernatural, and it is more than likely that there are forces akin to magnetism and electricity whose functions we do not yet understand. Anything which we do not understand may be termed occult and associated with permitted/white magic or with forbidden/black magic, and to Rajneesh all this was a first look into the enchanting world of magical powers and illusions. These experiences were later to be presented by him mostly in the early publications from his time in Bombay. The sacred number seven was to dear to him as we have seen, constituting among other things the various phases of his life. (Bhed 2006, p. 59)
Reading, the making of poetry, leisure time at the river and hanging out with his friends were the favourite activities for the young Rajneesh, supplemented by rare cultural entertainment bought to the village from the outside world: The playing of the drama Ramaleela, the life of Rama, or the showing of talkies (movies) by a wandering man with a big box containing the projector.
“You know Gadarwara is a small place. When I lived there in my childhood, movie cinema had reached that town for the first time. Its shows, in the beginning, used to be extremely irregular. Cinema was an innovation. The show would sometimes start at 6 o’clock in the evening and end at 11 o’clock in the night. At times the machine would give way. And, sometimes the show used to start at 8 o’clock and end at midnight. Usually I would inform at home that I was going for an evening movie. If I told the members that I was going to some temple, once in a while there was a slight possibility of some one reaching the temple to check if I was really there or not. But the very information that I had been off for an evening show, that meant a low grade objective, would deter them from going out to see. The family would go to bed at the usual time knowing that I would return home only after the end of the show. But actually I would leave the house with the advent of dusk and reach the banks of a tiny river in Gadarwara. I have spent countless nights lying naked on the sandy banks of that rivulet. Several dark nights, I have spent digging an old grave on the river bank and have lain there for how long on one knows. So, if you go and ask my people they would tell you that in my childhood I used to frequent picture-halls. That I ever practiced meditation they have no knowledge of.” (Bharti 2012, p. 123)
But he was also deeply concerned over the political and social injustices in India under British rule.
Gandhism and Socialism
As mentioned earlier both his uncles Amrit Lal and Shikhar Chand were to have an profound influence on the young Rajneesh, their agendas being Gandhism and socialism respectively. Where Amrit Lal took part in Gandhi’s independence movement, Rajneesh found himself even closer to his other uncle Shikhar Chand, who engaged himself in the progressive socialist thinking of the early Congress Party as we have seen. Several group meetings in a study circle on socialist ideas were arranged in common by Rajneesh and his uncle in Gadarwara. The study circle was reading and discussing books regarding Gandhism, socialism and communism, and also books on the French and Russian revolutions and Marx’s The Capital were available to the participants from the circle’s own collection. We may presume that also pragativada, the progressive Hindi authors influenced by socialist ideas, were among the writers being discussed in the study circle. Shikhar Chand was prohibited by the authorities to continue his studies beyond high school because of his participation in political movements.
“Before India became independent there was such a feeling all over India. My house was a place of conspiracy. My two uncles had been in jail many times, and every week they had to go to the police station to report that they were not doing anything against the government and that they were still there. They were not allowed to move out of the town but people were coming to them – and they all had so much hope…One of them, a very famous revolutionary, Bhavani Prasad Tiwari, was the national leader of the socialist party. Whenever he had to go underground he used to come to my village and just live in my house, hidden.” From Ignorance To Innocence #1
Following the 1942 Congress Movement and the campaign for Quit India! with its peaceful continuous disobedience, but also its widespread riots, Shikhar Chand had to go to jail. He was convicted for manufacturing bombs to be used in terrorist activities. Certainly he was not the only one to go to jail, as 92.000 Indians were arrested during the movement until 1944 with the hardliners among the freedom fighters to be deported to isolation at the penal settlement in Port Blair on the Andaman islands where its Cellular Jail had first been used in 1858 for mutiny prisoners as a new Imperial gulag.
“His uncle Sri Shikar Chand was deeply interested in politics and Gandhism. From him Rajneesh had studied the biography of Gandhiji and other literature of Gandhism. He had also read the famous book British Empire in India, written by the freedom fighter Sri Sunder Lal, which was banned and anyone keeping the book with him was committing a criminal offence. In that voluminous book the Black Chapters of East India Company regarding mass massacre, rapes, looting etc were disclosed with sufficient proofs. And it is no wonder that The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in 30 volumes are still on the shelves of Osho Library in Poona. His elder uncle Sri Amrit Lal was a poet of Hindi and he had a good collection of the Hindi poetry. Rajneesh had keen interest in reading Hindi poetry and he used to write the selected stanzas in his note book. Later on during his discourses, he quoted these selected stanzas.” (38)
Jawaharlal Nehru imbibed the gospel of socialism which he had met in the economic and political developments of The Soviet Russia during his European tour. He and Gandhi had their ongoing grievances of the right course of the Congress Party during the increasing resistance movement, leading towards the final fragmentation of India and the creation of Pakistan. But before that, Nehru was to spend a no less than a total of 3.251 days in British prisons.
Rajneesh was himself in the hey day of the British Raj speaking ardently against oppression and injustice, but he never became politically involved or signed up as a regular freedom fighter for Congress. His political inclination can be grasped in this quote from Vasant Joshi: “However, in 1940, a representative of the Indian National Army (INA) led by Subhash Chandra Bose met with Rajneesh and his uncle Shikhar Chand. He inspired them to form a youth branch of INA, and Rajneesh was made its captain. For some time Rajneesh was also a member of another nationalistic movement, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but did not stay in it for too long. In fact, he quit both INA and RSS because he could not accept any external discipline, ideology, or system.” (Joshi 1982, p. 38). (39)
The Indian National Army was 25.000-strong and commanded by the Indian nationalist Subhash Chandra Bose. It was mainly recruited from sepoys captured by the Japanese in Singapore or Malaysia, and they were now deserting the British Raj to fight for Japan. Many Indians were during the Second World War confident, that INA would be instrumental in India’s fight for freedom at its final stage and Chandra Bose stands out as India’s second most revered independence leader. Born in 1897 Subhash Chandra Bose was known popularly as Netaji. He was fiercely opposing Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of non-violence, as his own stand was a militant radicalism. He had adopted the tiger emblem of Tipu Sultan – ‘The Tiger of Mysore’ – as well as the slogan of the mutineers of 1857, Delhi chalo! (Onward to Delhi!). Chandra Bose died in a plane crash in 1945 following his resistance to the British.
The spreading of nationalist booklets and propaganda was supported by the effort to fight illiteracy, and by the end of the 1930s 15% of the Indian people were literate, mostly men, thereby having direct access to the burning questions on the nationalist agendas coming from the printing presses of India with an increasing speed.
According to his uncle Amrit Lal, Rajneesh even formed a group of young friends that regularly discussed communist ideology and their opposition to religion (40). On the walls of their meeting place Amrit Lal had seen written: “Religion is an opium.” His concern for the spreading of communist ideas made Rajneesh and his friends build a small library mostly containing communist literature. The socialist ideology stayed with him for quite some years, and he was in the late 1940s reading communist authors at large. But after 1950 he was distancing himself from socialism as well as from Gandhism. His departure from socialism was the theme for a series of lectures held in Bombay 1970, later to be entitled Beware of Socialism (1978).
Osho’s cousin Arvind Kumar Jain remembers from those days: “After the Communist Ideology Osho formed a Socialist Group of 10-12 Youths at Gadarwara in which Osho talks on Socialism & its thinkers: Acharya Narendra Deo, Shri Ram Manohar Lohia, Babu Jai Prakash Narayan & other Prominent Thinkers of Socialism. In weekly Group Discussions Osho presented his views on Socialism to whom the listeners listen very seriously. At this time in Hoshangabad, Gadawara & Narshingpur the eminent Political Socialist persons Shri Hari Vishnu Kamath and Thakur Niranjan Singh has made their powerful influence by Socialist views. At the time of Communism & Socialism Ideology, Rajneeshji came in contact with Comrade Sristhidhar Mukherjee & other Communist personalities at Jabalpur.” (Jain 2007 #17)
Osho was indeed born under the second continental satyagraha, which under Gandhi’s guidance lasted from early 1930 to early 1934, and during the three Round Table Conferences in London between 1930 and 1932, where Indians were invited to discuss with British politicians the making of a new constitution, negotiations which finally took shape in the Government of India Act of 1935. The act provided for some kind of self-rule and autonomy (dyarchy) for the eleven Indian provinces within a federal structure, but with its many reservations political and economic power both continued to be concentrated in the hands of the British government. Nehru called the Act a ‘Charter of Slavery’ and it didn’t take long before the new viceroy Lord Willingdon had declared total war on the Congress. With its socialist ideas, Congress was beyond doubt the main anti-imperialist force in India. Babu Lal, Osho’s father, remembers how Rajneesh in line with Marxist point of view started calling religion the opium of the people:
“That’s exactly what he was saying, and all the time, for that matter! He had become a Marxist, but he was limiting himself to be a theorist, an avid student of Marx, Lenin, Hegel; yet I believe that he had never become a militant, also because our village was not offering much space for active politics…In those times India was still under British dominion and all of our family was of a nationalistic spirit, for a revolutionary indepency, and my brother went even to prison for this idea. Hence, politics was a common fact in our family, and we were very open-minded people, not one of those orthodox families, closed and reactionary. Therefore his political choice didn’t disturb us at all, because he was already a very rigorous individual, of absolute sincerity, and it was clear to everybody that he knew very well what he was doing.” (41)
In spite of nationalist insurgence the gradual transfer process of power from British colonial rule to Indian hands turned out to be peaceful, in the provinces in the 1930s and then at the Delhi centre in 1947. This said, the blame for the killings in Punjab and elsewhere when India was partitioned and Pakistan born, may be shared between the Muslim negotiator Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten with his plenipotentiary power and mandate to let India go from the British Empire as soon as possible. The birth year of Osho was also the year for the death of the legendary Motilal Nehru who defied Hindu orthodoxy and he was the father of Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first prime minister of a liberated India at the midnight hour of 15th of August 1947. From the debate in the British Parliament it is tempting to quote the words of Winston Churchill who was strongly in opposition to the transfer of power, a quotation which may give some understanding of the colonial attitude India so eagerly had been fighting for almost a century:
“In handing over the Government of India to these so-called political classes, you are handling over to men of straw, of whom in a few years no trace will remain.” (Mishra 1956, p. 491)
We have seen that the young Rajneesh was an ardent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, the former Gujarati lawyer, and his leading role in India’s national liberation movement. So the literature of Gandhism was studied intensively by Rajneesh in Gadarwara. It’s hard to imagine that during his school days Rajneesh has not been handed out the Hindi textbook ‘What every young boy should know about Gandhi’ and that Gandhi’s pamphlet Hind Swaraj (1909) and his Hindi newspaper Navajivan (Young India) had not been read by him at an early age, but this matter still has to be verified (42). What we do know, is that The Story of My Experiments with Truth (1940), the autobiography by Mahatma Gandhi, was studied by Rajneesh and the biography is explicitly mentioned by Osho in Books I Have Loved, calling it one of the most authentic autobiographies ever written.
“…it is very difficult to find a man of so much integrity, sincerity, honesty, and a tremendous desire to know the truth. But that very desire becomes a barrier…I feel for the man, although I have always criticized him for his politics, his sociology, and his whole stupid idea of turning the wheel of time backwards. You can call it the spinning wheel…he wanted man to become primitive again. He was against all technology, even against the poor railways, the telegraph, the postal system.” Books I have Loved (1985) #15
As mentioned his father Babu Lal as well as his uncle Shikhar Chand were members of Indian National Congress, and the activities – or to be more precise: passive resistance – of Gandhiji were discussed in his Jain family and in all daily newspapers in India. Shikhar Chand was a leftist belonging to the left wing of Congress and believing in revolutionary socialism. Later on other left wing members of Congress stepped out and organized the Socialist Party: Subhash Chandra Bose, Shri Ram Manohar Lohia, Jai Prakash Narayan and Acharya Kirshani. (43)
Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence had deep roots in the Hindu and Jain heritage of his Indian homeland. The credo of Jainism Non-violence is the ultimate religion was almost identical to the ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (non-cooperation) of Gandhism, making it easy for the boy Rajneesh to identify himself with this common religious and ethic approach. And we can only guess how big a mark Gandhi’s dialectical virtuosity had left on the upcoming orator. (44)
Gandhi saw people as spiritual beings. He believed that there were as many religions as there were individuals, and he followed his whole life the long-established Hindu pattern of syncretism. By his own example he showed the way of swadeshi (use of things belonging to one’s own country) and one of its elements, hand-spinning on charkhas (spinning-wheels), became part of Gandhi’s daily routine in his attempt to fight rural poverty and unite educated and uneducated in a shared experience. He was aiming at the consciousness of the Indians, and he preached a life of simplicity with the fulfilling of essential needs only. His focus was on the village as the social framework for interdependence and local co-operation with as little outside government as possible.
His use of traditional Indian language and its rich symbolism is a major factor to explain his power over the Indian people: Satyagraha, swaraj, sarvodaya, ahimsa and harijan. Gandhi used in his last phase the prayer meeting as a device to announce his major moves and decisions. The prayer meeting had two parts. The first consisted of a reading from religious texts followed by hymns and prayers. To set an example of tolerance verses were read from the Koran and the Bible along with those from Hindu texts. The second part was Gandhi’s personal ‘post-prayer message’ which he said should be regarded and listened to as an integral part of the prayer. The red thread in Gandhi’s ‘post-prayer message’ was that of tolerance and social discipline, and the psychological design of these events is very likely to have influenced the young Rajneesh. He saw a mechanism useful to promote a mutual understanding of the need to focus on the common religious values rather than differences. To what extent his later discourses with their intermingling of sutras, commentaries and mundane remarks, from Jabalpur and onwards, have found some inspiration from Gandhi’s oratorical and psychological design still has to be discussed. An argument that they didn’t share a common syncretism is hard to sustain. (Philips 1970, p. 241)
It was within the Indian guru tradition that Gandhi took his stance and to most Indians he became a messianic figure with a remarkable charisma. His jail sentences and fasts all contributed to his heroic image which had a remarkable attraction for most Indians, including those who never actually followed his guidance.
According to Osho, Gandhi during his life had the idea to become either a Christian or a Jain, and his first guru was indeed a Jain, Shrimad Rajchandra. One time Gandhi even received a letter from Meher Baba who offered him spiritual guidance, but this offer was considered arrogant and turned down by Gandhi. Gandhi was very much inspired by the small pamphlet Unto This Last by John Ruskin also cherished by Osho. The book is said to have transformed Gandhi and to have changed his life. Commenting on this, Osho takes the opportunity to reveal some of his basic understandings of the process of reading:
“If I had read that book as Gandhi did, I would not have come to the same conclusion. It is not the book that matters, it is the man who reads, chooses and collects. His collection would be totally different although we may have visited the same place. To me his collection would be just worthless. I don’t know, and nobody knows, what he would think about my collection.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 428
It happened once that Gandhi’s train was passing through Gadarwara and the stationmaster introduced Rajneesh at age ten to the Mahatma after the boy had been waiting for hours for the delayed train and all people had left the station during the night. The three rupees, Nani had given Rajneesh, were on Gandhi’s request to be dropped into the collecting box Gandhi was now carrying with him. Arguing with Gandhi Rajneesh tried to make him support the many poor people in Gadarwara itself, to much surprise to the secretary and Gandhi’s wife Kasturba. To the boy Rajneesh this meeting had turned Gandhi into a businessman, and his star had fallen somewhat on the firmament. His affinity for Gandhi and his grievances at seventeen, when Gandhi was killed in January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, tells us that Gandhi’s message of non-violence have had a profound impact on the values and understanding of the young Rajneesh and he was crying his eyes out at the death of Gandhiji.
“He [Rajneesh’s father] said, “You, and weeping for Mahatma Gandhi? You have always been arguing against him.” My whole family was Gandhian, they had all gone to jail for following his politics. I was the only black sheep, and they were, of course, all pure white…Particularly – just that it is on the record – I want to say to you that there were many things about Mahatma Gandhi that I loved and liked, but his whole philosophy of life was absolutely disagreeable to me. I loved his truthfulness… his cleanliness…that he respected all religions…his simplicity…I had to explain all this to my father later on, after I came back [from Gandhi’s cremation in Delhi]. And it took me many days, because it is really a complicated relationship between me and Mahatma Gandhi. Ordinarily, either you appreciate somebody or you don’t. It is not so with me – and not only with Mahatma Gandhi.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 425
We find his initial respect for Gandhi reflected in a number of his early publications from the 1960s focusing on Gandhi, and already in his first printed periodical Mukul (Flower in bud) from early Jabalpur in 1953 an article on Gandhism was featured. (45)
However, in the course of the next years Rajneesh’s position was changing into severe criticism of Gandhi as a role model for the Indian people and its prosperity, and this view is found in his later publications on Gandhism. He argued that Gandhi was first of all a spiritual person who had to enter politics out of necessity and therefore his political mistakes are not beyond criticism (46). In his speeches and lectures we hear him distancing himself from the Mahatma again and again, as in 1969 when he was speaking by invitation at the centennial of Gandhi’s birth celebration in Jabalpur:
“Gandhiism honoured poverty by dignifying it as Daridra Narayan (the poor as God). As a result people were satisfied in themselves considering poverty as an honour. They never tried to make money. The concept of ‘Plain living and high thinking’ stopped the development of the country…The Gandhians are submerged up to the brim in corruption fulfilling their suppressed temptations with the demise of Gandhiji. All the ideals have gone away. Therefore it is very necessary today to think over Gandhism. It has damaged the nation a lot and now we have to be cautious so that it can not do so any more.” (Bhed 2006, p. 286). (47)
While in higher secondary school Rajneesh remained interested in socialism although he gradually became more and more critical, not the least following his attendance in the national meeting of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) held in Panchmarhi. This meeting proved quite disappointing to Rajneesh and soon he began criticizing some of the leaders of the Socialist Party, such as Jaya Prakash Narayan and Asok Mehta. CSP had emerged in 1934 for the spreading of more radical political, economic and social reforms, and their socialist ideas had impressed also Nehru who was sympathetic, but at the same time pragmatic not to join a socialist party too leftist to his own stand. In the words of J.P. Narayan’s: “Gandhism has played its part. It cannot carry us further and hence we must march and be guided by the ideology of socialism.” (Brown 1986, p. 296)
On two occasions in particular his friends remembered him secluding himself from the outer world, spending much of his time meditating at the banks of the Sakkar River. First time when his boyhood companion Shashi died, and again the following year when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Hearing the news of Gandhi’s death Rajneesh went to the riverbank with some of his friends to sit in silent meditation. And the fact that Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes later were to be immersed in the Narmada River at Tilwara Ghat some ten kilometres from Jabalpur was definitely not to make Rajneesh’s love affair with this river less intense. It is beyond doubt that Gandhi and his silent fight to end the colonial rule over India by his own soul force and ahimsa had shown to Rajneesh the prevailing power of non-materialistic and emancipating forces.
According to Gyan Bhed, Rajneesh was introduced to a number of high level Indian politicians: “Sri Babu Lal went to his friend Sri Ambalal Patel in Ahmedabad with Raja. Raja called him Bapuji. He was a very influential and insurgent political person. He had very close relations with the top ranked political person like Gandhiji. He got Raja introduced to Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, J. Krishnamurthy and Sharat Chandra Chatterjee etc. He had also the capacity to look into the mysteries of the universe and the number of his disciples grew rapidly after his book ‘Vivek Aur Sadhana’ was published.” (Bhed 2006, p. 90)
The Indian mystic Masta Baba out of his vast network of people introduced Rajneesh to the first prime minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his young daughter Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi. She was later much interested in Osho and is said to have had one of his books on her bedside table at the very time when she was assasinated by her Shikh bodyguard, following her attack on The Golden Temple in Amritsar. She is also known to have performed Tantric rites in her home (Singh 2002, p. 380). In a lecture she was blessed by Osho, and at a meeting in 1978 she was presented with a darshan diary and a discourse book on Zen. (Allanach 2010, p. 236) (48)
Masta Baba and the young Rajneesh were on the first day having an unscheduled meeting with Nehru for ninety minutes leaving the Prime Minister Morarji Desai waiting in the secretary’s front office for his own appointment to happen. Osho has recalled, that from that time Morarji became his enemy causing quite some trouble when in the 1970s Osho was to find an appropriate location for his growing Poona ashram. They met over three days in Nehru’s house Trimurti, later turned into a museum, talking of poetry, the poetic experience, meditation and what not. Finally Nehru gave Masta Baba the address of Ghanshyam Das Birla, one of the richest men in India, in case he could be of any help to Rajneesh if needed. It was in the garden to the House of Birla, the billionaire industrialist and his patron, that Gandhi was assassinated.
The very same year as Osho was born the well known English author Edward Thompson published his novel A Farewell to India (1931). Here he predicts the downfall of the Raj and describes the last days of power and ‘the granite of the Raj’. Like the boy Rajneesh had experienced himself, the book tells about Gandhi’s train rides in India where students were called out to meet the Mahatma at RLY with the train waiting for half an hour at the station. Later on students are supporting Gandhi through actions at their colleges, and although we cannot verify right now that this political narrative was actually read by Osho, nor the same author’s The Other Side of the Medal (1925) on the British misrepresentation of the so called Mutiny, it would be a surprise to us if in his voracious reading he had missed these tales so dear to him in their contents.
Gradually Rajneesh’s affinity was moving on from the political world to the sphere of meditation and spirituality, and experimenting became very much an integrated part of his life. He would experiment and search on all levels, with sleep, with eating and fasting and with meditation in nature. Breath exercises and the occult were within the range of his experiments, as well as hypnosis, and all this practicing was directed towards the state of meditation and the moments when one transcends the mind. To be alert and aware was from now on his intrinsic method, and courage his sole and indispensable prerequisite for the journey towards freedom and truth.
1.2 Spiritual Traditions
As already indicated Osho was brought up in an orthodox and traditional Jain family at his parents’ house in Gadarwara. In Kuchwada his grandfather Nana had been a devoted Jain also, and his maternal grandmother Nani would discuss Jain religious matters with the curious boy. We have seen him showing his grief when his younger sister Kusum died in his dressing up as a Jain ascetic and begging his family for food carrying his begging bowl. When his beloved grandfather Nana had died on his journey to the hospital in the bullock cart the boy was presented with Nana’s most precious belonging: His finger ring with an image of Mahavira, the last Jain tirthankara. And as we’ll se later on, the young Rajneesh was to use the designation Chandra Mohan Rajneesh Jain on the front page of his homemade magazine Prayas.
So Jainism has been a major factor in his childhood’s socialisation, and its mark has to a high degree been left on him. In an early letter, written to Kranti while he was living in Napier Town in Jabalpur, he is discussing these matters as he was doing repeatedly in various contexts over the years:
“The most significant thing about knowing man’s life is that much of it contains conditioning given by the society. An individual is not just an individual, much of what he is has become from the society. And getting rid of this hidden society within him is the biggest challenge, because the individual begins to take this layer of social conditioning as his own being.” (49)
The young Rajneesh was much aware of the conditioning imposed on him from the outside, not only the political, but also the religious and social conditioning. On his family’s Jainism he has mentioned later on:
“I was born in a Jaina family, and naturally, just as everybody else is conditioned, the conditioning was imposed on me. But I was continuously watchful, continuously alert; hence, I was not caught by the conditioning. And the conditioning is so subtle, once you are caught in it, you become incapable of thinking, seeing, anything that goes against your conditioning, you become deaf to it.” Be Still and Know #6
The Sanskrit word Jaina derives from jina – conqueror, a line of enlightened human teachers who transmit the true doctrine of non-violence and subsequently attain the freedom from rebirth. Jainism emerged along with Buddhism at the end of the Vedic period where the body of Vedic literature had been collected. Members of the learned Brahman class had been speculating on the nature and function of the sacred rituals, and they derived from these speculations two generalised ideas which were to become central for Indian religions: Samsara – the world of continuity and rebirth, and karma – the belief that any action of whatever quality generates rebirth as a consequence. However, the Jain filosophy of time (kala) might have made the young Rajneesh rather dizzy when trying to grasp the concept of regularly returning eras of incredible vast time spans with their alternating periods of in- and decreasing spaces lasting no less than thousands if not millions of years in aeons upon aeons not very different from Hindu cosmology. Guess this perspective on time has been a good exercise for his developing spirituality.
Vardhamana Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, was a historical figure and contemporary of Buddha and lived 599-527 BCE. He is the last tirthankara (50) in a row of 24 ascetics and enlightened masters starting with the first master Adinatha mentioned in Rigveda. Mahavir taught a philosophy superficially similar to Buddhism, and he was himself in early writings given several epithets, among them Bhagawan – the venerable. The term Acharya is denoting a Jain teacher or master ascetic, and both epithets were in due time to be used by Osho: Acharya in Jabalpur and Bhagwan later on in Bombay and Poona. (51)
The Jains present themselves as advocates of harmony, conciliation and the essential equality of spiritual traditions. A general view in Jainism is that all religions are essentially the same, and that the followers of different faiths need to respect the truths which are to be found in other traditions. These understandings are of the very same nature as the non-dualist form of Advaita Vedanta, a view of the unity of the world’s religions widely distributed in India throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. This understanding was shared sentiment to Hindus and Jains, and this religio-political view was essential in promoting communal solidarity and moral during India’s fight for independence. But already in the eighth century this liberal approach to alternative non-Jain spiritual paths was mapped by Haribhadra, the most wide-ranging mind in Jain history and the first classical Indian author to write a scholarly work of doxography in which he presented Jain thought within the broad framework of contemporary intellectual orientations and Indian thinkers. Throughout his life Osho could be seen ardently propagating these basic values of Jainism and Advaita Vedanta both, and syncretism and eclecticism were in the course of time to become key words in the mapping of his spiritual path.
In many ways Jainism has similar dogmas as Buddhism as it was emerging from the same heterodox world of the Ganges basin and at the same time. You must embrace a life of world renunciation, non-attachment and an extreme form of non-violence. And as a monk or nun you must embrace the Three Jewels, namely right knowledge, right faith and right conduct, and take fierce wows: no violence, no untruth, no stealing, no sex, no attachments. So in many ways we are here dealing with a austere and ascetic religion propagating values which Osho was to denounce later on in a much more life affirmative approach to existence. In short, he was moving all the way from asceticism to ecstasy.
Despite this social and religious interaction and common understanding the Jains at the same time attacked the very foundations upon which Hinduism was build. The prestige of the Veda scriptures was challenged by the Jains, who claimed that their provenance and the absence of an author did not imply a divine status, whereas the Jain scriptures were deemed to be of human origin and of greater value. Crucial was the evil doctrine in the Veda prescribing rituals for animal sacrifice, a sin of violence to the Jains that could only lead to a dreadful rebirth. (Dundas 1992, p. 195) (52)
Some of the most artistic and noteworthy Jain temples are in Khajuraho, where six temples from the 10th and 11th centuries are to be found in the eastern group of temples. Parsvanath being the largest and finest of these, with sculptures that refrain from exhibiting the sexual intensity found elsewhere in the Khajuraho temple complex. The very remoteness of the temples in Khajuraho had helped to preserve them from the demolition by Moslem invaders. On Mt. Abu pure dreams perfected in marble can be seen in the Dilwara group of Jain temples from the 11th and 12th centuries and the temples with their carvings are among the finest Jain architecture to be found in India. Again and again in his discourses Osho has been revealing his awe of these temples, most notably the Khajuraho temple complexes praised by Nani and visited by him several times on journeys out of Jabalpur. The Sanskrit name for a holy place is tirtha, and referring to Osho’s love for rivers, it appears that the Hindu reverence for sacred rivers has no founding with the Jains, as no Jain tirtha has had any sacred status conferred on it through proximity to water. Pilgrimage remains a popular activity owing to its combination of religious and recreational substance, and prominent tirthas are Pava near Patna, the site of Mahavira’s death, and Mount Sammeta in Bihar, both places sacred to Shvetambaras as well as Digambara Jains.
The painting of miniatures in illustrated manuscripts was greatly developed by the Jains during the medieval period, and a large number of such manuscripts are preserved in different manuscript libraries. This tradition was carried on by Osho’s paintings of miniatures in his books throughout the years, and the beautifully illustrated Jain invitation rolls (vijnapati patras) may have been a source of inspiration to Osho, when in Jabalpur he was himself designing invitation and greeting cards for the Jain Divali festival. Divali (Row of Lights) is celebrated in mid-October in both Hindu and Jain communities, although with different connotations. The Jain festival commemorates the final liberation of Mahavira, and the lighting of lamps by the kings in the Ganges area are in tribute to the light of knowledge which had disappeared with the death of Mahavira. (53)
The bulk of literature produced by the Jains is essentially religious as the monks and laymen have devoted a major part of their time to the study of the shastras – the holy books (54) – the writing of books and the copying of manuscripts. The early literature is mostly written in the Prakrit language, the common language of the masses at the time of Mahavira, but gradually other Indian languages have been adopted for the dissemination of their religious principles. (55)
“The importance of scriptural knowledge in attaining liberation and the emphasis laid on sastradana (gift of books) have instilled an innate zeal in the Jaina community for the composition and preservation of literary works, both religious and secular, the latter, too, very often serving some religious purpose directly, or indirectly.” (Jain 1977, p. 150)
With this emphasis on the creation and preservation of scriptural knowledge, it is only natural to find that the oldest manuscript libraries in India are those of the Jains. Their holdings can be dated back to the eleventh century and their value not only for Jain literature, but for classical Indian literature in general is of significant importance. The Shvetambaras in Gujarat founded famous libraries in Patan and Jaisalmer, where in the Thar desert manuscripts were taken away and secured to save them from Moslem destruction. In Jaisalmer we find the oldest known Indian paper manuscript dating from 1189, and generally it is hard for Western scholars to gain access to these ancient Jain treasures, as they are under strict control due to their role as sacred objects in toto, and not only because of the importance of their content for the Western mind.
The study of Jainism has come late to western scholars and the integration of Jainism in the wider picture of Indian society has generally been absent. With no ethnographic studies made in this field it was not until 1980 an English reader could have a somewhat more accurate sense of the Jain religion. The lack of interest among Jain scholars in publishing their works in English may have contributed to the ignorance of Jain literary and philosophical tradition in the West. (Jaini 1979)
The two principal sects are the Digambara (sky-clad) and the Svetambara (white-clad), so-called because the male ascetics of the former go around naked and those of the latter wear scanty, un sewn white clothes. Under British law Digambara Jains needed a permit to enter cities in their nakedness and they had to be surrounded by followers to hide their nakedness.
The first Shvetambara reference to the Digambara branch was the appearance of a ‘Forest-dwelling Lineage’ of a particularly austere ascetic community.
“Shvetambara monks and nuns wear robes (an upper and a lower garment) and they use a bowl into which alms are deposited and from which they eat. They believe that women can attain spiritual deliverance and that the kevalin, the fully omniscient being, needs to take food. Digambara monks, on the other hand, wear no clothes at all (this does not apply to Digambarta nuns) and do not use an alms bowl, eating their food from their cupped hands. They reject the authority of the Shvetambara scriptures, as well as the possibility of deliverance for women and the omniscient being’s need for food.” (Dundas 1992, p. 40)
The Digambara attitude to their scriptural tradition is less complex than that of the Shvetambaras and at the same time more mysterious, in the very fact that they reject the whole Shvetambara canon of holy books. The circumstances for this schism are less known, but we cannot leave out the possibility that Kundakunda, an early 2nd century Jain Digambara acharya and mystic, may have a role in the withdrawal from the scriptural tradition and toward a more mystic approach. Kundakunda’s book Samayasara (Freedom) is mentioned by Osho in Books I Have Loved, where he calls it beautiful and one of the greatest books produced by a Jain enlightened master, but also very mathematical and dry in its style. Books I Have Loved (1985) #3
The Jain influence on Osho is explicitly to be found from the Jain saint Taran Taran, to whom he has devoted some of his first published booklets in Jabalpur in the 1950s to be mentioned later. And his gifts to public libraries when moving are founded in the Jain custom of sastradana (gift of books). Values and understandings from Jainism were imbibed by the young Rajneesh from his family, although he later ardently rejected the religious organization and its holy messengers.
Jainism did not attain the power and extension of Buddhism, and it never spread beyond the boundaries of India. At the time Osho was born, it was discussed whether or not the Jains were to be regarded legally as Hindu dissenters, and in those days Jainism had lost a great deal of its former power, its number of followers decreased to no more than one million (In 1981 up to 3.2 million), although Jainism was not confined to those people only who were devoted Jains, but its views on life and moral code were far wider spread over the Indian subcontinent. Still Jainism was carried from place to place by learned and enthusiastic Jain ascetics, who attracted not only the broader masses but especially educated people all over India, and it’s plea for universal love and tolerance was to a large extent met with sympathy where ever it was preached. Yet the strict caste regulations and sectarian organization of the Jains of north and central India were responsible for an ongoing diminishing of the number of followers and the general decline of Jainism to an great deal caused by it’s breaking down into different sects and sub-sects.
Within the Jain community, two distinct parties were to be found around 1930, at the time when Osho was born. The conservative party was opposing every closer connection with heterodox people, the traveling to Europe and any education based on Western lines, as well as the study of the sacred writings by laymen. The reform party was opposing the traditional caste system and its obvious repression of the social position of women, a matter to be highlighted in Rajneesh’s relationship with Shashi, when he was sixteen. They also eagerly propagated principles for education based on broader and modern lines, and at the same time they were encouraging the thorough studies of the sacred writings as well as the popularization of Jain literature, not only in India, but also in the West. (Krause 1930)
It was this Jain socio-religious system that surrounded Rajneesh and to a certain extent made it’s hallmark on him during his upbringing in Kuchwada and Gadarwara. In the words of Vasant Joshi: “Dadda’s father’s family were followers of a small sect called Taran Panth. The sect was founded in the sixteenth century by a saint named Taran Swami, who was a contemporary of the Indian saints Kabir and Nanak. The Jain religion, founded by Mahavir, contemporary of Buddha, was later split into two sects: Digambara and Shwetambara. Taran Swami belonged to the former. The Digambara sect was split further into several small sects, one of which was known as Parwar. Taran Swami’s family came from the Parwar sect, which is primary located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Taran Swami opposed the idol worship widely prevalent among Digambara Jains and preached the worship of the formless. He criticized the emphasis the Digambara Jains placed on materialism and exhorted them to turn toward the spirituality taught by Mahavir. Taran Swami was put to a lot of trouble and harassment by the society for his views. However, a few Jains and other non-Jains became his followers. Dadda’s forefathers were among those who had accepted Taran Swami as their guru. His teachings are contained in fourteen books. It is said that Bhagwan read his works as a child and may have been inspired by his teachings.” (Joshi 1982, p. 189)
Osho’s maternal grandfather Raja Saheb in Kuchwada was also a Digambar Jain, and there was a small Jain temple in the village built by him. When he was a boy Rajneesh used to visit the small temple, but only when it was closed, and sometimes just to steal some prisms from the chandeliers, all donated and later again to be replaced by his grandfather, a devoted and obviously patient Jain. Osho’s early experiences with orthodox religions were all characterized by his critical approach to those who blindly were following old traditions without any awareness and questioning.
“I am reminded of my own childhood and so many things that will help you to understand the beauty of the question mark. And unless you understand the question mark as something intrinsic to your humanity, to your dignity, you will not understand what mysticism is.
Mystifying is not mysticism. Mystifying is what the priest have been doing. They have taken your question mark….
This is what I was going to tell you. In my childhood they started giving me answers…because there was a special class for Jainism in the Jaina temple and every child had to attend it, one hour every morning. I refused…
But before a child even asks a question, you stuff his head with an answer. That is a basic and major crime of all the religions. This is what programming is, conditioning is.
From my very childhood I have been continuously questioning knowledgeable people. My (parents’) house was a guest house of many Jain saints, Hindu monks, Sufi mystics, because my grandfather was interested in all these people. But he was not a follower of anybody. He, rather, enjoyed me bothering these saints.” (56)
Whenever a Jain monk or a Hindu saint entered the village of Gadarwara to preach, Raja along with his father went there to listen. The speech finished, Raja would start asking the monk intriguing questions and producing contradictory arguments to put the monk stalemate. It is said, that those priests and saints who used to collect offerings in bulk from Gadarwara every year, gave up the idea of passing through the town in those years.
The unveiling of the religious shallowness also targeted Satya Saheb, the mahant (monk) of the Kabirpanth Math (57) in Gadarwara. He was preaching about the ‘snake-rope-illusion’ in all of his speeches, explaining that the world was full of illusions and how people are entangled in the illusion of taking the rope to be a snake. When Raja decided to teach him a small lesson, he made a black snake from cardboard, tied it to a string and hid himself behind a cot on the path Saheb was walking every evening. The monk was scared when he saw a black cobra crawling in front of him, and he twisted his ankle while trying to run away. Saheb soon gave up the idea of complaining and punishing Raja due to his gang of supporting friends, and not the least because of the fact that Raja had seen him entangled with a female devotee locked in loving embrace, and his fear was that Raja might bring this affair of his to the notice of the public of Gadarwara. So instead he decided to present to Raja the special Prasad prepared in the Math itself for keeping him quiet and obtain from further challenges. We may wonder, if this kind of bribing had any effect on Raja, throughout the years we will repeatedly be shown that the effect in most cases with Osho turned out quite the opposite. (Bhed 2006, p. 60)
His affinity for snakes came once more into the open when he decided to tease a bachelor teacher living just a few houses away from his own home in Gadarwara. In the middle of the night he climbed a tree, went on the roof and removed a few tiles before dropping a rope with a rubber snake twisting at its end. The teacher had been harassing Rajneesh due to his mischief and threatened to take his revenge at the examination time. Now the rubber snake was slowly touching his mouth and finally he opened his eyes and seeing a snake hanging over him he screamed so loudly that it came close to a primal scream. For the rest of that year the boy was left outside from his class as he wished, and for the exam the teacher gave him a hundred percent mark. To leave him alone and escape further late night attacks by snakes. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries # 28
Rajneesh’s father pleaded him to go to the Jain religious school – like a Christian Sunday school – of the Jain temple, where the Jain muni recites Jain religious books and gives answers to those questions which were raised by the worshippers. Rajneesh argued that they were readymade answers, incomplete and insufficient as they were creating more new questions than they were answering. Again Babu Lal insisted that he should go with him to the temple, so that he may in the temple school see for himself whether the teaching was rotten and useless. That was in those days when in the Jain temple of Gadarwara Rajneesh was placing laddoo (sweets), on the head of the statue of Mahavira to make the rats piss on his head, while they were eating the laddoo. After this incident his father is said never to have insisted that the boy should join him in the temple. (58)
“His father was a religious Jain, and used to go to the Digambar Jain temple daily and used to recite and read religious books of Jainism. Rajneesh had also studied these books and while reading those books he used to raise such questions before his father, that he could not answer them.” (59)
In spite of the boy’s awareness of the religious pitfalls to the human mind, it is beyond doubt that Jainism has left its mark on the boy’s growing consciousness. He later elaborates more on his situation belonging to a Jain family, and in his first publications from Jabalpur in 1955 he is discussing the Jain saint and saviour Taran Taran, whose two books are mentioned also in Books I Have Loved. Osho tells of his affinity to Taran Taran:
“I was born in a family which belongs to a very small section of Jainism…it follows a madman who must have been just a little bit less mad than me. I cannot say more mad than me.
I am going to talk about his two books which are not translated in English, not even into Hindi, because they are untranslatable. I don’t think he is ever going to have any international audience. Impossible. He believes in no language, no grammar, nothing whatsoever. He speaks exactly like a madman. His book is Shunya Svabhava – ‘The Nature of Emptiness.’
It is just a few pages, but a tremendous significance. Each sentence contains scriptures, but very difficult to understand …His name is Taran Taran. It is not his real name, but nobody knows his real name. Taran simply means ‘The Savior.’ That has become his name.
I have breathed him from my very childhood, listened to his songs, wondered what he meant. But a child never cares about the meaning…the song was beautiful, the rhythm was beautiful, the dance was beautiful, and it is enough…I understand Taran Taran – not intellectually, but existentially. Moreover I also know what he is talking about. Even if I had not been born into a family of his followers I would have understood him…The followers of Taran Taran belong to the Digambara sect, and they are the most revolutionary of the Jainas. They don’t even worship the statues of Mahavira; their temples are empty, signifying the inner emptiness…I’ve said again and again “Awake!” That’s what he does in Shunya Svabhava.
Nana used to go to the temple every morning, yet he never said, “Come with me.” He never indoctrinated me… He never even said to me, “You are a Jaina.” (Urmila 2007, p. 22)
When he was only four or five years old Rajneesh in Kuchwada saw his first naked Jaina monk, who along with his naked hermit companions stayed in the Jain temple, but they had all been invited to his grandparents’ house to be their guest. The sight of the naked monk made him laugh, and the next day he couldn’t help asking the monk some intriguing questions bringing disturbance to the villagers assembled for the darshan (close meeting) with the monk, and to much annoyance for his grandfather whose guru and guest was now being insulted. The name of the Jain guru was Shanti Sagar (ocean of bliss) a name he was certainly not worthy according to Osho. His full official title was Digambar Muni Shanti Sagar Ji Maharaj, and Nani took the occasion in the first evening to tell Raja the details about the Digambar Jain tradition, and to provide him with some fuel for his questioning of the muni the following day. She never herself liked these filthy Jain munies (naked ascetic monks), and their preaching, but she had to bear it all due to her respect for her husband’s devotion and religious feelings.
To Raja Saheb this whole encounter with Shanti Sagar was most embarrassing, as he was not only hurt by Raja’s audacity, but also he had to realize that the schism between Nani and himself in religious matters was in no way being settled in his favour. Rather on the contrary, as his guru had failed to keep his stand and answer the question bought forward to him. He saw the muni off and started reciting the Namokar Mantra. The villagers gave more respect to Raja after this, and they took him to be an incarnation of an ascetic with supernatural powers. He was from now on requested to touch the sick and to give them Prasad with his own hands. Rani Ma began to get Prasad in the form of Illaychidana (60), distributed by Raja as a psychological treatment of their illnesses, as the villagers had no possibility of getting any medical aids when they needed it. (Bhed 2006, p. 30)
Osho later recalls that his life as a rebel began with this episode when he was arguing with Shanti Sagar, the Jain guru, and that this early childhood encounter and its questioning was like a seed for what was to happen during the whole life of Osho. (Urmila 2007, p. 33)
“Jainism is the most ascetic religion in the world, or in other words the most masochistic and sadistic. Jaina monks torture themselves so much that one wonders if they are insane. They are not. They are businessmen, and the followers of the Jaina monks are all businessmen. It is strange, the whole Jaina community consists only of businessmen – but not really strange because the religion itself is basically motivated for profit in the other world. The Jaina tortures himself in order to gain something in the other world that he knows he cannot attain in this.” (Sarito 2000, p. 13)
In Kuchwada his Nani never went to the Jain temple, but still Osho has narrated that she taught him one mantra, a Jain mantra, not in Sanskrit but in Prakrit ‘Namo arihantanam namo namo…’ (I go to the feet of, I bow down to, the arihantas…) Arihantas in Jainism is the name for those who have achieved the ultimate and turned their backs to the world without declaring and preaching (61). Together with her Tantric understanding, this mantra was the only religious thing given to him by Nani, who loved the mantra because of its beauty and not because it was traditionally Jain in its origin. (Sarito 2000, p. 11)
Only one small Christian church was to be found in Gadarwara for the four or five Christian families living there. Osho was visiting the church as the only non-Christian, just like he also visited the mosques, the Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and the Hindu temples of the town. He discussed with the Christian priest his function as a salaried preacher, depending on the money he received from the churchgoers. And as the few Christian families were all railway employees, who later got transferred, he soon had only Osho to listen to his last Sunday sermons. The crucified Jesus hanging on the cross was rejected by Osho as someone to follow, and also when visiting the mosque he resisted the sweet tongues telling him the blessings of a converting religion. He did not want to become like Hazrat Mohammed, but rather he wanted to be himself and to question what he saw during his encounters with the rituals and traditions of the various orthodox religions he met during his childhood.
At that time in Kuchwada a census was taken, and an officer came to the house of Osho’s grandparents making inquiries about a lot of things, including their religious status. Nana stated Jainism as his belief, whereas Nani answered that she did not believe in any religion. She was in fact born into a family of Tantrikas in Khajuraho where they had been practicing meditation without believing in any particular religion. She remained unmarried until the age of twenty-four which is unheard of for a beautiful woman. It was told, that even the king of Chattarpur, where Khajuraho was located, fell in love with her, but he was turned down. Her father, a poet, insisted that she was allowed to disagree to the proposal, and thus she later was free to fall in love with Nana.
To the villagers of Kuchwada she was not only a lady, tall and slim, but almost a Rani (queen), cherished for her beautiful and attractive appearance and the whole village called her Rani Ma. Within a few months after her marriage to Raja Shaheb, she took up the charge of landlordship in a way not to be ignored by anyone in the village. Including her own husband Raja Shaheb, who was now devoting his time exclusively to the shop as a general dealer and to the Jain temple. They had only one daughter in their marriage, Saraswati Devi who was to become the mother of Osho.
Osho has remembered how Nani allowed him to have her photo taken when he was young and experimenting with photography – at age thirteen Rajneesh was the first one to bring a camera to Gadarwara – but that she later destroyed the album containing the photos. The photo shown of Nani is of a later date, probably from the 1960s after Osho had left Gadarwara for Jabalpur.
“The only person whom I loved and knew as one of the most beautiful people, and who allowed me to take pictures, was my Nani. She allowed me, but with the condition that the album would be in her custody…But after she had died [in 1970] when I opened her closet where she used to keep all those photographs, there was an empty album. She could not write, so she had told my father to write on it, “Please excuse me.” She had signed with her right thumb print.” …The album was empty. I looked minutely, and it had never been used. I searched the whole house. There was not a single picture to be found. I would have loved to show you her eyes, just her eyes. Her whole body was beautiful, but her eyes…it needs a poet to say something about them, or a painter – and I am neither. I can only say that they reflected something of the beyond.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 310
The ancient tradition of Tantra is in some parts older than the Rigveda, and its roots are to be found in the magic and fertility cults of pre-Aryan India. Although tantra is be experienced, there are numerous Sanskrit scriptures known as Tantras, with the oldest one probably going back to the six century BCE. In Books I Have Loved Osho is mentioning Saraha as the original source of the school of Tantra, but he also mentions that Buddha has given the Tantra tradition to his son Rahul from whom it later reached to Saraha, Tilopa and Marpa. Books I Have Loved #4
Tantra is an Indian cult, not a religion, not an ideology and not at all something to be read about in books. Rather tantra is action and experiencing, an approach which includes all pleasures of life. It is definitely not a matter of abstaining, but of raising your enjoyment to its highest power so that feelings and pleasures can become like raw materials for transformation and enlightenment. Sex is the chief symbol in Tantra, when the act of continuous creation is expressed in sexual activity where the female energy occupies the central erotic symbolism.
In the understanding of the world evolved by Tantra the mechanisms of time and space is mapped in a model illustrating the continuing act of creation and similar to what Osho has been mentioning in his discourses on Tantra as ‘the key-hole vision’ of the Western mind. It has all been there before and after the moment when we realize its existence, and this realization is grounding Tantra in the very reality and not in man’s world of fantasy. (Rawson 1973)
For those in favour of labelling, Osho is indeed a Tantric master. Elements of Tantric teachings have been woven into living practice of many religions, be it Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism. With Osho they could be found too, not only in his words, but more significant in the whole energy field of his later ashram in Poona. In the words of Vismaya:
“Bhagwan spoke about all these traditions, but the Left-Handed Sinister Tantra was the most secret of them all. Scholars are still searching for the scriptures of this form of Tantra; but there were none written, because the truths you encounter in this Tantra cannot be expressed in words…
Whatever the rituals and trappings, the central requirement to enter the Tantric path is to fall in love. There are no other qualifications. You fall in love with a ‘crazy’ guru. The Dalai Lama is reported to have said that Bhagwan was the re-incarnation of the most powerful Tantric master of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and that Bhagwan had also been a ‘crazy wisdom’ guru in other incarnations in other traditions. He said that Bhagwan’s incarnation in the 20th century was his last, his greatest and most potent of them all.” (Geraghty 2007, p. 123)
We have seen Rajneesh’s preoccupation with snakes in Nani’s house, when he was experiencing with one of the most powerful symbols for creative and sexual energy. The snake is figured repeatedly in Tantric art as fuel for the Tantric flame and the raising of the Kundalini.
The grandfather of Osho, Raja Shaheb, sometimes mentioned to his Tantric wife, that she was a riddle to him, not knowing how to understand among other things her free way of bringing up Osho. At one occasion, when he expressed his concern and inability to understand her even after years of marriage, she may have answered him in this way:
“It is enough that you understand your landlordship, your shop, your customers and your Guru. Why do you forget that I am the daughter of a Tantrik of Khajuraho? I am such a complicated riddle like a ‘Tantra’ that even I am unable to understand myself. It is enough if one can understand himself.” (Bhed 2006, p. 21)
Nani was convinced that on the Tantric path one only learns by experience, so accordingly Nani was providing young Rajneesh with wine, cigarettes and even once, when a prostitute came to the village, with the opportunity to go and see her, an offer he politely declined after having seen the prostitute dancing in the village.
Years later, when Rajneesh was to leave Gadarwara for his academic studies in Jabalpur, Nani had a really hard time parting from him. She made him promise to come and see her in Gadarwara every month, to drink his daily milk and continue to purchase books as he desired. She encouraged him to go to Khajuraho whenever he wished, to look deep into the temples and their sexual carvings. (62)
She is then said to have opened her box and handed him four books which she had received from her dying father; more specific, it could have been handwritten manuscripts wrapped in a cloth. In the words of Gyan Bhed:
“”I have only these invaluable books on Tantra as memories of my father. I could not read them because I am illiterate. I preserved them only for you to read. Now you are adult. It is the appropriate time for you to read and learn secrets hidden in them.” Rajneesh curiously unwrapped the books and found that they were Tantra Sutras of Lord Shiva written on Bhojpatras. He started overturning the books but Nani said, “Read them later, first you listen to me.” (Bhed 2006, p. 96). (63)
And she continued to put his attention on his forthcoming train rides in and out of Jabalpur, and carefully he had to promise her never to board or get off a running train and never to engage himself in discussions with his fellow passengers. She knew quite well that this was essential to keep him from arguing with volatile and potential aggressive Indians, who might easily feel that he was insulting them deeply with his intriguing arguments. Rajneesh was in fact to follow this simple but useful advice from Nani, as we will see later on, when his train rides were expanding steadily during the 1950s and most significant in the late 1960s when he had laid down his professorship to devote his entire time to traveling and lecturing, before his move to Bombay 1970 where all traveling was stopped except for his meditation camps only. Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 33
After Osho’s enlightenment in 1953 he went to see Nani in Gadarwara for her to recognize that he was no longer the same. He later on called her his first disciple, but as she died in 1970, the same year he started giving sannyas to his disciples in Manali, she was never to be initiated into sannyas.
Osho loved his Nani throughout his whole life considering her to be his real mother, and he had promised her to be there for her at her deathbed, when that time came. And that promise he kept in mind in 1970, when on October 7th she died at age eighty and he went from his sannyas initiation camp in Manali via Bombay to see her for the last time in Gadarwara. She had died twelve hours before Osho reached to her deathbed, but before she expired she had insisted that nobody should touch her body until he arrived. After her cremation Osho went to Khajuraho once again to pay his last homage to her and to her Tantric way. He remembers and recognizes her part in his becoming who he is:
“I never saw a more beautiful woman than my Nani. I myself was in love with her, and loved her throughout her whole life. When she died at age of eighty, I rushed home and found her lying there dead. They were all just waiting for me because she had told them that they should not put her body on the funeral pyre until I arrived. I went in, uncovered her face…and she was still beautiful! In fact, more beautiful than ever, because all was quiet; even the turmoil of her breathing, the turmoil of living was not there. She was just a presence.
To put the fire to her body was the most difficult task I have ever done in my life. It was as if I was putting fire to one of the most beautiful paintings of Leonardo or Vincent van Gogh. Of course to me she was more valuable than the Mona Lisa, more beautiful to me than Cleopatra. It is not an exaggeration. All that is beautiful in my vision somehow comes through her. She helped me in every way to be the way I am.
Even in her death she was beautiful. I could not believe that she was dead. And suddenly all the statues in Khajuraho became alive to me. In her dead body I saw the whole philosophy of Khajuraho. The first thing I did after seeing her was to again go to Khajuraho. It was the only way to pay homage to her. Now Khajuraho was even more beautiful than before because I could see her everywhere, in each statue…” (Urmila 2007, p. 159)
Nani herself was enlightened on January 16th 1967 according to Osho, who mentions that from that day she stopped wearing the colour white, the colour of a widow in India, and for her last years she was wearing orange only, the same colour she wore on her deathbed and which Osho had just started to use in his neo-sannyas initiations in Kulu Manali only a few days before her death.
Osho has mentioned that she has positively poured herself into him, and for the rest of his life he might have had the feeling of being her vehicle. Tantra was beyond doubt the first major transmission picked up by Osho as a very young and receptive child, to the depth of his being receptive also to the stories and narratives of Tantric significance told to him by his maternal grandmother. We are here talking of a spiritual tradition imbibed by him in the milk of his grandmother’s, and his prime socialization until his time in Gadarwara, where the family’s orthodox Jain religion became his daily culture and challenge. But Tantra remained his nucleus.
Indian Saints and Mystics
Among the row of masters and spiritual gurus Osho came across during his childhood, the first one was to be met even before his birth, while in the womb of his mother Saraswati. Osho narrates that it is customary in India for the first child to be born at the maternal father’s home, so while she was going from the house of his father’s to her father’s house in Kuchwada in the rainy season, she had to cross the flooded and roaring Narmada river. Due to local superstition, the boatman refused to carry the pregnant woman and also her cousin in his boat, so for three days they had to stay in a temple on the bank of the river where a saint was living. His name was Saikheda (Sai meaning saint, kheda the village of the saint), known as Sai Baba, contemporary to the later famous Sai Baba of Shirdi. When the boatman saw Sai Baba touching the belly of the pregnant woman – and thereby Osho’s feet – he was amazed. The saint told the boatman that the womb was carrying someone capable of saving thousands of lives, so he should not be afraid to take them across the river. This was the first time Saraswati became aware that the child she was carrying was no ordinary child.
Next to Mahatma Gandhi there was only one other Mahatma in India. Mahatma Bhagwandin was his name, and Osho tells us about the friendship and synchronicity that existed between the old man and the youngster. He was a great scholar and immensely knowledgeable – like a walking Encyclopaedia Britannica – and he used to stay in the house of Osho’s family when visiting Gadarwara. Constantly Osho was hammering on his admiration for knowledge, and when present on his deathbed, Osho could witness his final recognition before he died, that knowledge was nothing but a hollow shell hiding the existential truth and the silence surrounding it.
A hermit from Kashi called Kashi-wale Baba used a strange shaped shining bamboo-stick to exorcise people, and he called it his miraculous stick. Rajneesh realized that the stick was not having any magic powers at all, but was only used to befool the illiterate people of Gadarwara and extort money from them. The hermit had purchased the stick with great difficulty for 10 rupees from a tribal ojha (a holy person who practices Mantra Tantra). One day Rajneesh and his friends played him a trick and took away his magical stick, telling him that he could have it back only if he promised to stop his false exorcising. He was also told to take up Ayurvedic medicine instead of encouraging superstition and exploiting the illiterates. Finally Kashi-wale Baba understood the point and promised to take up naturopathy instead of doing false exorcising, and he agreed with Rajneesh that he could use his magic stick while practicing Ayurveda in a combined effort to mix traditional and scientific Indian medicine with something for the faith and will-power of his patients.
According to Gyan Bhed the young Rajneesh was introduced to a few Indian mystics by Sri Ambalal Patel in Ahamedabad, a friend of Rajneesh’s father Babu Lal. One was a famous saint Babaji who was seven feet tall with a lean and thin physique and very dignified eyes. Babaji is said to have embraced Rajneesh, kissing his forehead and telling him that he would complete the work that he himself could not complete. Patel, called Bapuji by Rajneesh, also introduced him to Swami Nikhilanand who was mastering many spiritual powers. (Bhed 2006, p. 90). (64)
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born in Cheechli about six miles from Gadarwara on the other side of the station and the railway line. He was from the sudra caste, the lowest caste in India, and therefore he could not write swami before his name but had to invent Maharishi (great seer), and he was not an initiated sannyasin in any of the ten old sannyasin orders in India. Rajneesh met him once in Pahalgam in Kashmir where by chance they were both leading a meditation camp. The story goes that they didn’t really meet one another, but that Rajneesh took over his meditation camp as Maharishi was not there to meet Rajneesh as agreed upon. Osho considered him to be the most cunning of all the so-called spiritual gurus, and whenever he was asked some question he would start giggling to avoid answering. So he was by Rajneesh nicknamed Swami Gigglananda.
In his early days before Jabalpur Rajneesh was in contact with quite a few esoteric groups, of which in his lectures for matters of confidentiality he has talked about only few of these. The following powerful teachers and sadhus have all been mentioned by him in Glimpses of a Golden Childhood and in his lectures. They introduced the young Rajneesh to the Vedanta teachings deriving from the Upanishads and constituting an essential core of not only Hinduism but also of Jainism, the religion of Rajneesh’s family home. Advaita Vedanta (advaita: not two) is a sub-line of Vedanta introduced by the mystic Adi Shankara more than one thousand years ago. Osho and Ramana Maharshi both had these teachings as their core spiritual values: That all apparent separation is created only by the mind and your only task is to enhance your ability to distinguish between the eternal and the transitory, or between the absolute reality and the relative reality. Meditation is a device to show you who you already are from your very birth: You are it – Tat tvam asi. This may sound quite familiar as an under flowing current in most of Osho’s teachings with their emphasis on using your energies on the real and true self, realizing that you are not separate from the world, instead of wasting them on false and trivial matters. (Waite 2007)
The masters he met laid out the foundation for Osho to become a genuine Indian mystic by introducing him to some of the oldest philosophical teachings of India, if not in the world. Retreating to the solitude of the forest to test one’s own strength and recover the understanding of your own self has been going on for centuries in India and some of these mystics are even said to have composed forest books with experiences on their union with the All. The tradition of the holy man – the sadhu, the sannyasin, the Renouncer – has profoundly influenced Indian culture and its ideals. And is still doing so.
Magga Baba. Baba – paternal grandfather; Magga – big cup, as he was always wearing his cup in his hand, ready to receive anything, food and money, from people he met. He never bothered if someone happened to take something from him out of his cup, so more often his cup happened to be empty. Some day he had entered Gadarwara and started sitting under a tree, occasionally making gibberish sounds to keep away persistent and curious bystanders.
He never spoke but remained silent, or if he was nagged too much by people, he started shouting gibberish, sounds without meaning. According to Osho, when he was eleven years old he would be visiting Magga Baba late at night under his holy neem tree with its dense foliage. He was in the night time sitting silently in his worn out blanket next to the fire after having been surrounded by people all day. The young Rajneesh would sit with him in silence or speak a few words only. There was no way to persuade him to speak, either he spoke or not, and no one is said ever to have known about their secret conversations. To Osho, Magga Baba with his extraordinary presence and whole being had to be visited at least once a day, being a kind of spiritual nourishment as he triggered in him hitherto unknown forces, and their company seems to have been vitalizing. With no one has Osho ever laughed like with Magga Baba, who was to him unequalled with no one to be put beside him at his level of consciousness.
One night after dinner Rajneesh was sitting at the cremation ground looking at a pyre burning, when suddenly he saw Magga Baba’s figure before him, He heard him say, that life and death were but two faces of the same coin, pushing Rajneesh in a flash back to the experience he had, when his grandfather Nana had died in the bullock cart. Later in the night, when he was seeing Magga Baba, he heard him say that Nani had been his disciple in an earlier birth, and that he remembered everything from the time he and Osho had been together seven hundred years ago. Some other night Magga Baba also prepared Osho for the appearance of two more Babas, who were to contact him and recognize him later in life. In the rendering of Gyan Bhed the wording of this nightly session may have sounded like this:
“But now you stop playing and complete your studies. You have to learn various languages and the foreign languages too and all the philosophies. You will learn all these only by looking at the book as you have already learned them in your previous birth. Stop your studies when you feel that you know nothing even after learning everything. You have to bring East and West closer to each other. You have to wake up the sleeping and unconscious people. All this you will get through meditation. When you become void through meditation, you leave meditating and dedicate yourself to the welfare of mankind. Drench the whole world with love and kindness.” (Bhed 2006, p. 56)
As for their nightly meetings only this much has been mentioned later by Osho from the last night when Magga Baba called Rajneesh to tell him, that he was leaving for the Himalayas and that Rajneesh was to attain enlightenment before his days of youth were over:
“Life is more than what it appears to be. Don’t judge by its appearances, but go deep down into the valleys where the roots of life are.” (Urmila 2007, p. 84)
Following his enlightenment in 1953 Rajneesh rushed not only to see his Nani, but also to meet Magga Baba in Gadarwara to touch his feet and let him witness the new state of his being. That Magga Baba was still in Gadarwara is inconsistent with his leaving for the Himalayas before Osho’s enlightenment. On the death of Magga Baba quite a few versions have been narrated by Osho, and when trying to clarify these matters for the rendering of Osho’s talks of his youth from the dental chair, his dentist Devageet had to face the distinction between truth and facts, a point we have discussed in the Introduction also:
“One particulary query concerned the date of the death of Magga Baba, one of the enlightened men who had befriended Osho as a child. Our notes showed him dying in three different places, at different times. Each narrative contained a touching poignancy, but we wanted to get it right. In the ensuring session supposed to answer our queries and settle our confusion, Osho gave us a fourth version of the death of Magga Baba. Far from being clearer, we now had an additional touching version. Each story of the death told the tale from a different perspective; giving another insight into the unique relationship between the older man and the boy-Buddha…He replied saying that he had said all there was to say about the death of Magga Baba. All the versions were true, and we should use our own intelligence to select the final version.” (Devageet 2013, p. 141). The final version to be chosen from Osho’s words was this one, where Magga Baba’s grave is said to be found in Pahalgam in the Himalayas::
“Magga Baba said, “I am leaving and there is nobody whom I could call to say goodbye to. You are the only one.” He hugged me, kissed my forehead, said goodbye and went away, just like that…That night, before he disappeared he told me, “I may not be able to see you blossom to a flower but my blessings will be with you. It may not be possible for me to return. I am going to the Himalayas.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990) #15
Pagal Baba. Pagal – the mad. He was already an established saint when Osho saw him for the first time at an assembly of saints, where the singing of bhajans (devotional songs) and songs of God was going on and on. Since then Raja had heard him chanting many times and the sweetness of his voice and luminous presence had greatly attracted Raja, but still he had never tried to see him or speak to him.
They met later when Pagal Baba was an old sage on seventy and Osho was twelve, at a time when they were both said to be swimming in the Narmada River near Gadarwara. Reaching the bank after the swim he touched Raja’s feet and they both sat down quietly with their eyes closed sharing a silent understanding. It was here that Raja understood that Pagal Baba was one of the two masters to come as predicted by Magga Baba. After sometime Pagal Baba took out a flute from his robe and started playing while Raja was listening with his eyes still closed. When Pagal Baba had finished playing the flute Raja asked him to teach him to blow the flute and he then gave Raja a few tips and kept on giving him instructions – also on the three main sounds a, oo and ma in OM – while he was playing his initial tunes.
Pagal Baba revealed that he had come to Gadarwara only to meet Osho, and he took him to the place where he was staying in a mango orchard. There one of his disciples was waiting. His name was Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the later well-known great flutist, who was to play his bamboo flute for Osho many times in the years to come. Hari Prasad has mentioned that it was Osho’s understanding of the soundless sound that kept them close together all the time. Many years later, in January 1990 when Osho expired, a disc with Hari Prasad was to be found on Osho’s cd-player. Now in the evening they both touched Rajneesh’s feet, a gesture also to happen the following mornings when Pagal Baba came to the river bank to swim with Rajneesh and to make him practice playing the flute.
When Pagal Baba came to Gadarwara, people tried to persuade Osho’s parents not to let the boy be seen with this insane man. Still Babu Lal gave his permission for Raja and Pagal Baba to travel together during a summer vacation in the late 1940s, when they were to visit the sacred and wonderful places of India, to go on a yatra. Osho himself was born in 1931, the same year as the formal inauguration of the capital New Delhi, and he now took the chance to broaden his knowledge of India. They went by long distance express trains, as he later would do out of Jabalpur at a furious pace for his lectures and meditation camps, but now as a youngster he was taking in the whole new atmosphere and infrastructure of Indian trains, the smells, the noise, the rhythm and the whole overwhelming chaotic flow. First they went to Hardwar, where Rajneesh enjoyed swimming in the swift current of Ganga at Gar Ki Paudi and they saw the twin hills where Ganga came pouring out of the Himalayas and entered the plains. From Rishikesh they reached Kedarnath on horseback in the pastoral beauty with mighty snow clad coniferous trees along their track. Further on to Kedarnath where Pagal Baba showed Rajneesh the cave where the sage Vyasadeva has written the Mahabharata epos. Up the mountains to the border to Tibet and China they went from Mana village before returning to Hardwar and there onwards to Agra. So Pagal Baba was the first one to let the young Rajneesh set his eyes on the beauty of Taj Mahal and other palaces and fortresses in Agra. In Gwalior they attended the All India Music Conferences where the flute legend Hari Prasad Chaurasia from north India and also the well-known southern Indian flutist Sachdeva were present. Osho was during this adventurous tour introduced to quite a few leading artists and musicians, and the contacts he now established at young age were to benefit his creative and artistic vein as well as the spreading of his message in the years to come. Hesitating Rajneesh allowed the musicians to follow Pagal Baba’s request and touch his feet, and he was during the Music Conference further introduced to some of India’s leading musicians, including the recognized flutist Panna Lal Ghosh from Bengal who died shortly after, not to mention Thakur Onkar Nath, Kumar Gandharv, Bismillah Khan and Bare Gulam Ali Khan. It was a whole new world of art and human expression now opening up to Osho. In the rendering of Gyan Bhed:
“Rajneesh said, “In my childhood I learned playing the flute from Pagal Baba and I used to attend the All India Music Conferences in his company. He was the very famous musician and he introduced me to all the top most musicians of India, such as Panna Lal Ghosh, Sachdeva, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Thakur Onkar Nath, Kumar Gandharv, Bismillah Khan and Bare Gulam Ali Khan etc.”” (65)
From Gwalior they went to the caves of Ajanta where the whole setting made Rajneesh feel like he was in some magic region and he was spellbound when watching the paintings on the walls in the caves. In nearby Ellora he was deeply impressed by the architecture of the Kailasa Temple built in 760 CE as a carved representation of Mt. Kailasa, the home of Shiva in the Himalayas. It hasn’t been mentioned, but it is hard to imagine that he did not also pay a visit to the local Jain caves with their images of the Jain tirthankaras and the seated Mahavira.
Finally Paga Baba took Rajneesh to the Kumbh Mela in Prayag near Allahabad, with its huge crowds of people every 12th year in what some call the largest religious gathering on earth, nowadays with some 20 million people coming to the Hindu fair to bathe and celebrate in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Rajneesh saw processions of Naga Babas (naked ascetics) mounted on elephants, holy sadhus smoking ganja (cannabis) and exposing themselves to all kind of piercing and other bodily tortures. Rajneesh might have noticed also the large tents of the four Shankaracharyas, each with a lamp uninterrupted burning with deshi ghee (lamp oil) and with their interior thrones made of gold. The illusionary world they transmitted and its obvious riches might have made him wonder of the mind’s ability to accept these evident contradictions.
One reason for Pagal Baba’s going with Rajneesh to the Kumbh Mela was to take him to all the famous saints present at this occasion, and after introducing Rajneesh to one more saint he asked when the meeting with the saint was over: ‘Is he a true saint?’ ‘No!’ would be Rajneesh’s answer. Until on the final day Rajneesh was taken to a filthy looking saint sitting under a peepal tree away from the crowd. This time Rajneesh said, ‘He is the saint you were in search of. This time my answer is yes.’ They all touched each others feet, and as Pagal Baba had by now found what he had been looking for, he took Raja back to Gadarwara via Benares. (Bhed 2006, p. 82)
Whenever Osho tried to thank Pagal Baba for what he was doing to him, he fell down and touched his feet instead. The courtesy he was doing to Osho was said to be his way of trying to bring about balance after having poisoned Osho in a past life. The tour gave Rajneesh a lot of cultural understanding and that was indeed what Pagal Baba had intended.
“Pagal Baba was a famous ascetic. His disciples were present everywhere in India. Almost all the musicians and singers of the country touched his feet with reverence. His blessings were considered guarantee of success. Many ministers and political leaders were also among his disciples. He came to Gadarwara for the second time. He stayed there for ten days and one day he disappeared from there all of a sudden.” (Bhed 2006, p. 64)
In his last days Pagal Baba seemed a bit worried to Osho and when questioned, he told that he was waiting for a man to whom he could handle over his responsibility for Osho. He told Osho, that according to old convention if a child is ever going to become awakened, then at least three awakened people had to recognize him at an early age. He died at ease in Gadarwara at age ninety after having introduced Osho to Masta Baba and making him promise to pass his M.A. and be in command of the English language as he would have to know everything that had been known in the Western world. Osho is said to have been present at his deathbed, chanting the Tibetan Bardo Thodul and as his last deed performing his cremation. It was when Rajneesh returned to Gadarwara from Pagal Baba’s cremation that he found his beloved Shashi in a fatal state and soon after he was to loose her too.
Before dying Pagal Baba had presented his flute to Osho, and Osho played it for a few years, sometimes with his friend Hari playing the tabla and with whom he also went swimming. Hari was later drowned in the rainy season when he tried to cross the full flooded river together with Rajneesh, and after this incident the bamboo flute from Pagal Baba was thrown into the river to retain the memory of Hari.
“In my childhood I used to play the flute, and one of my friends – not really a friend, but an acquaintance – used to play on the tabla. We both came to know each other because we both loved swimming…
This boy, Hari was his name too. Hari is a very common name in India; it means “god.” But it is a very strange name. I don’t think any language has a name for God like Hari because it really means “the thief” – God the thief! Why should God be called a thief? Because sooner or later he steals your heart…and the sooner the better.
The boy’s name was Hari. We were both to cross the river in full flood. It must have been almost a mile wide. He did not survive; he drowned somewhere on the way across. I searched and looked, but it was impossible; the river was flooding too fast. Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990) #27
Masta Baba. He was called Masto (66) and he was the third enlightened being to befriend and recognize Osho, thereby taking over the responsibility from Pagal Baba. Pagal Baba had told Osho that Masto was Haridas, the guru of Baiju Bawara and Tansen in his previous birth hundred of years ago and he then used to live in Sewa Kunj of Vrindavan.
He was a meditator, a prolific orator but also a beautiful singer and a talented sitar player whose playing is said to have make Rajneesh shed his tears, but never did he show any of these talents to the public. He was really a philosopher and a thinker, and a very logical one, not to mention other merits also praised by Osho. A genius with a very fertile mind, Osho called him, with the ability to make something beautiful out of anything. He also painted on canvas, but later simply destroyed his paintings saying, “I don’t want to leave any footprints on the sands of time.” (Urmila 2006, p. 95)
When Osho met him, unlike his two other elderly masters Masta Baba was a young man in his mid-thirties, tall and thin with a long hair and a beautiful beard. On the day he died, Pagal Baba introduced Masto to the young Rajneesh and made him promise to take over his own self-chosen responsibility for looking after Rajneesh and his spiritual development. He told Masto to keep on touching Rajneesh’s feet, until three times he had shouted: Masto, Masto, Masto – three being a magical number also in the East to make an event unfold in a prosperous manner. Again, the idea is that unless three enlightened people recognize a child as a future Buddha, it is almost impossible for him to become enlightened, so the recognition is helping him immeasurably on his way. We may here be reminded of the three Magi coming from the East to Bethlehem to recognize the birth of Jesus. Masto was the first one to call Rajneesh Bhagwan – the blessed one, when Rajneesh had gone to visit him after enlightenment in 1953. (67)
Also Masto used to take Rajneesh to meet rare people and being himself a versatile player of many instruments he once took him to meet Allauddin Khan when he was in his nineties, the musical genius and Ravi Shankar’s master in playing the sitar, and whose daughter Ravi Shankar had married. As Allauddin Khan was living near Osho’s university in Jabalpur, Osho went to see him a few times following their first meeting.
When staying in Gadarwara Masto could be found in Nani’s house, also playing his veena for her, which she enjoyed very much listening to. Rajneesh occasionally used her house as a guesthouse for his visiting friends, and she kept her house very empty, like a temple, and with a cleanliness which was to remain with Osho as a quality for the rest of his life. Masto was among the few persons Rajneesh wished to have photographed, but for some reason this never happened. On their last meeting Masto told Osho a few maxims which he had from Pagal Baba. First, never enter into any organization. Second, you should not speak against the establishment. It looks like Osho in his later discourses did have some difficulties in complying with the latter. Anyway, these spiritual exercises all took place within an Indian tradition most dear to Osho:
“Yes, I call India not a country, but an inner space. I call India not something that exists there in geography, on the maps. I call India that which exists hidden within you, and that which you have not yet discovered. India is your innermost space. India is not a nation, it is a state of mind.” India My Love, p. 150
Those three sages, Magga Baba, Pagal Baba and Masta Baba we may consider Osho’s mentors and his personal connection with India’s inherent tradition of wandering mystics, a role he soon were to take up himself as a persistent rider of trains to carry out his message to all corners of India. He too was to belong to the masters of wisdom, the invisible school, who have roamed the country throughout time. Among the bulk of Indian mystics Ramana Maharshi, Ananda Murti, Meher Baba and Osho may be considered the cream of the 20th century. Osho did meet also other Indian mystics, among them Meher Baba and Anand Murti, but later in life he disassociated himself from them. As it turned out both Osho and Anand Murti were to be procecuted by the authorities during their work, while Meher Baba’s approach was a different and less confronting one. Ananda Murti was with his vast publishing a rival to Osho, but his imprisonment and the persecution of his organization Anandamarga put an end to this. The three of them is said to have had a certain transmission between them, and also some unofficial connection. Osho did receive some advice on his work from Meher Baba, but is said not to have followed it. Further discussion of Osho and the guru tradition in India can be found in The Rajneesh Papers (Sharma 1993), and here it suffices to point out that Osho has been lecturing in extensive series on the row of spiritual figures like Adi Shankaracharya, Gorakh, Kabir, Nanak, Malukdas, Raidas, Dariyadas and Meera.
1.3 Early Steps of a Bookman
From what is known up to now, Osho’s first foray in publishing – or at least in expressing himself to friends and family by means of the written word in a structured format – was to be seen at age thirteen in 1944 when he was attending middle school in Gadarwara’s Town Hall area. His desire to learn the fundamentals in publishing and how to reach out to an audience manifested itself in a handwritten hardbound magazine called Prayas (Effort). The letters from his toy rubber press he used for printing the title headings on the pages, the page numbers and a few whole pages with text. But most pages are written by hand, some with vivid calligraphic drawings of the headings. On top of each of its pages the word PRAYAS had been stamped in Roman majuscule characters.
The contents of the magazine are hand-coloured drawings, jokes and poetry, e.g. a folk song on Rani Durgavati, the fierce warrior queen, who with her son Vir Narain at age sixteen had fought for the former state of Gondwana against the invading Muslim rulers and sacrificed their lives (68). The poetic description of the fighting has been narrated by Osho in Alha style poetry and is said to indicate at this early stage his talent and poetic vein, a gift to be enhanced poetically in his later discourses. All articles are in fact written by Osho, three or four in his own name Rajneesh Mohan Chandra (RMC), some are written under various pseudonyms and he even took the freedom to use the names of his classmates and friends for some other texts in the magazine. As a special feature, the magazine contains letters written to friends in reverse writing – to be read in a mirror by the reader.
Prayas appeared in two annual issues only, 1944 and 1945, but only the 1945-issue is still preserved, not quite unaffected by the strain of insects and more than fifty rainy seasons. (69)
On the front page of the 1945-issue is seen a water coloured picture of a dashing soldier in a light blue uniform with a shiny headgear, drawn on the page in a diagonal line with the year 1945 also coloured with light blue shadows. In the left margin are Osho’s vertical initials ‘By RMC’, and below his initials is pictured an interesting identification ‘Jain’ on a framed yellow diagonal background. On another page we find an impressive parrot, sitting on a branch up against a sunny mountainous landscape, at the bottom of the drawing two young men are boating on a river carrying a red banner, and again we find his signature R.M.C. in the right margin, this time with punctuation. This picture may easily be associated with his memory of Kuchwada’s natural beauty. Gyan Bhed recalls how he himself got acquainted with Prayas:
“I have read in the old issues of Jyoti Shikha and Yukrant that when Osho was only 14 years old he had issued a hand written magazine of 100 pages in the name of Prayas. I have never thought, even in my dreams, that one day I shall see that magazine from my own eyes. Whatsoever Osho’s valuable treasures are, they were preserved by Sw. Niklank and I got an opportunity to see the cover page of Prayas including its pages 24 to 27 and from 84 to 101…Niklank Ji told me that at first he had preserved all 100 pages of this magazine. But as the other articles and poems were written in the name of Osho’s friends, he threw them away. But he came to know later on, that the entire matter was written by Osho himself and to oblige to his friends he had mentioned their names. Alas! If the entire material would have ben preserved then the picture of his sprouting would be clear. But even then whatsoever is available, it is in itself sufficient proof, that in a boy of 14 years old, what type of wisdom was available.” (70)
In an interview with Gyan Bhed in Osho Times (71) Osho’s younger brother Nikalank Bharti, the preserver of Osho’s early literary materials, has shared his own memories on Prayas and he is adding some indications on the effect the satori experience had on the young Rajneesh at age 14:
“This magazine contained 100 pages, but [I] had destroyed those pages, where the articles and poems in the names of friends of Osho were written and had only preserved the pages from 24 to 27 and from 84 to 94, where the poems and the articles in the name of Rajneesh were written. Later on I came to know that all of the matter of the magazine was composed and written by Osho himself. The magazine would be considered genuine, so he had mentioned the names of his friends on some articles.
He had also made the cover himself and painted it by blue, yellow and black water-colours. He had painted the rising sun in the background of mountains and a parrot was painted, sitting on a tree. Below the mountains a lake was painted, where a boat with two boys were pictured, and one of them was holding a flag, on which the letters R.M.C. was written, meaning Rajneesh Chandra Mohan. Actually he had painted the atmosphere of Kuchwara village where he had passed his childhood.
Rajneesh had composed a long poem in Alha style, which is famous in Bundelkhand, where the bravery of Alha & Udal was described. He narrated the bravery of Rani Durga Vati & her sixteen year old son Veer Narain, who had fought in self defence for his state of Gondwana against the Muslim rulers. They had a very small army as compared to the vast army of Muslims, but even then they had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their state. Gondwana and Gadarwara both come in the territory of Jabalpur. This long poem was written on pages 24 to 27 and shows that Rajneesh had been a born poet, and on account of this born gift, we find a poetic touch in the language of his later discourses.
From the very childhood, Rajneesh was fond of creating and telling jokes. In Hindi language jokes are called “Chutkalas“. On pages 84 to 94 of the magazine Prayas, self created jokes were written. Out of these jokes two of them are as below:
The mother said to her son – My dear son, go inside the kitchen and see, whether the hearth is burning or not. The son goes to the kitchen and comes out again & reports – “Mother! The hearth is not burning. It is the wood, which is burning.”
There was a heated discussion between two persons. One of them was a one eyed person, while the other had two eyes. Both were claiming that their sight was the best. The one eyed said – “I see more than you, because I am seeing your two eyes and you can see only one eye.”
Gradually this art of telling jokes was developed and in his later discourses Osho had used so many self created jokes of Mulla Nasruddin, Sardar Gurdayal Sing, Chandu Lal Marwari and in other names. He used these jokes to create a joyful atmosphere and with these jokes he has awakened the senses of unconscious people. This magazine has a historical importance. It is just like a seed, who had blossomed later on at its full…
Suddenly, on remembering something, Nikalank said, ‘Before and after 1946 whatever handwritten things of Osho are available, you will be able to see a qualitative difference in it. Like this Prayas magazine, Osho created it in 1945. At that time from somewhere he got a hand-printing rubber press, some pages he wrote by hand and some pages he printed, and he published a hardbound magazine. There were many stories, poems, jokes etc in names of many of his friends which he himself had written, which had an imprint of a genius in it. But it does not have the flavour of spirituality and philosophy which you can find in the notes of his diary of 1946. You will see that somewhere you can find a sutra of Mahavira, somewhere else Kabir’s sutra, and somewhere else he is comparing two different sutras and somewhere you will find a definition of some sutra. And the amazing thing is, that if you listen to his talks of 1974 or 1976 on the subject of these very sutras, you will find that the ones of 1946 seem to be linked by a silk thread to those of 1976.’ The sudden transformation which happened between 1945 and 1946 reminded me of that recollection of Osho in which he mentions the experiment with death he made when he was 14 years of age, in which he says that he experienced satori. ‘Was it the result of that experience?’ I asked. ‘Perhaps, but all these things can only be inferences.'” (72)
Osho’s lifelong interest in the design and layout of all his publishing can be traced back to these early formative years, where from scratch he was engaged in the design process of Prayas, while at the same time he was developing his skills as a story teller and a man of letters.
Reading and Book Collecting
He didn’t attend primary school very much, the river, the jungle and the whole nature were too tempting to explore in full seize instead of the dirty maps in the school.
As we have seen, the boy Rajneesh was keen in reading Hindi from his very early days at school, and according to himself his maternal grandmother Nani had an early lucky hand when teaching him to read. Other sources on the contrary tell us she has been illiterate as mentioned earlier in this essay. By that gentle task she was indeed laying the first seeds to what was later to become the greatest bookman of India:
“For example, as my grandmother had only taught me to read, I started reading books. I don’t think anybody before or after me had ever been so involved in the library of that town [Gadarwara]. Now they show everybody the place where I used to sit, and the place where I used to read and to write notes. But in fact they should show people that this was the place from where they wanted to throw me out. They threatened me again and again.
But once I started reading, a new dimension opened. I swallowed the whole library, and I started reading the books that I love most to my grandmother at night. You will not believe it, but the first book I read to her was The Book of Mirdad. That began a long series.
Of course once in a while, she used to ask, in the middle of a certain sentence, or passage, or a whole chapter – just the gist of it. I would say to her, “Nani, I have been reading to you, and you have not heard it?”
She said, “You know, when you read I become so interested in your voice that I completely forget what you are reading. To me, you are my Mirdad. Unless you explain it to me, Mirdad will remain absolutely unknown as far as I am concerned.”
So I had to explain to her, but that was a great discipline to me. To explain, to help the other person who is willing to go a little deeper than he would go on his own, to hold him by the hand, slowly slowly, that became my whole life.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 249
His urge was to help people to understand, and in a way all his reading was devoted to this sole purpose, and his way of reading was to be developed over the years as thousand of books were passing on their way in front of his eyes. The pace of his reading was definitely speeding up, but as a child he was naturally reading in the way beginners behave. While staying in Woodlands in Bombay later on, he conveyed to Jyoti who helped him taking care of his library during his time in Bombay:
“As a small child you read single letters. As a young man you read sentences and as an adult you read the whole page in one glance.” (73)
His memory was kind of photographic, with one look only at a page for storing and memorizing it completely. During his time in Poona in the 1970s his librarians in Lao Tzu Library remember his way of asking for books to be retrieved from the shelves by mentioning their binding and referring to the details of their content. So with this pace of reading it was no wonder that his library had to be growing rapidly in number of volumes to meet his demands. Vasant Joshi narrates:
“His passionate search made him explore books on every possible subject. Often he read all night, which occasionally gave him a headache, but he would then apply a pain-killing balm to his forehead and continue reading. Then at dawn he would go to the river and take a swim. Although as a young boy he played games such as field hockey, soccer and volleyball, he was more interested in reading. Many of the books at the Gadarwara Public Library still have cards that show only Rajneesh’s signature. The books ranged from politics and philosophy to science, religion to detective novels. Not only did he himself read widely, but he insisted that his friends also read something other than the usual textbooks. The Indian Nobel Price winner in literature, Rabindranath Tagore, was one of his favourite authors.
Because of his extraordinary reading habits, Osho rarely attended school. Not only that, he was branded a communist, for he read extensively in Marx and Engels and other communist literature, and was threatened with expulsion from school. With the help of his friends, he built a small library that contained mostly communist literature, and believing socialism to be the answer to the economic plight of India, Rajneesh leaned toward socialism and remained an atheist.” (Joshi 1982, p. 42). (74)
Just like Nehru Tagore was educated in England and through his upbringing deeply anglicised. Unlike Gandhi his outlook was international and in his early days he challenged the politics of the Mahatma and ‘kept his own head high above politics’ in his own concept of spirituality and transcendentalism. This stand of his was to change in his later days where he denounced his former fascination with English literature and liberalism, most noteworthy in his political lecture Sabhyatar Sankat (Crisis in Civilisation) a few weeks before he died in 1941. “And he concluded with the proud nationalist – even chauvinist – affirmation that ‘the Saviour’ of world civilisation will come not from the West but ‘will be born in our midst in this poverty-shamed hovel which is India’.” In those days Osho was ten years old and living in Gadarwara. (Trivedi 1993, p. 63)
According to Nikalank Bharti the headache mentioned by Joshi was of a general nature and not caused by his intense reading. So he was indeed using balm to relieve his pain, but reading was to him pure pleasure and not in any way to be connected with austerity.
In The Sound of Running Water (1980) this portrait is found: “Then…he began to explore books on every subject possible. He soaked himself in an extraordinarily eclectic assortment of material, from politics and philosophy to religion and detective novels. He would read deep into the night, then at dawn take a swim to be ready for the long relating in elaborate and intricate detail of the whole suspense story he had read the night before. This was given to the drawing classes in his high school and these highly regarded daily renderings did not end until he ran out of the library’s stock. But much of his reading was not so light and seemed to reflect a desperate search for the answers to his mounting questions. He doubted everything.
“This attitude became useful when I began to read and write. Whether I studied the Gita, the Koran, the Bible, or whether I studied Buddha or Mahavir, that doubting instinct was always with me.”” (Asha 1980, p. 20)
That doubting instinct was expressed in clear daylight when self-assured he commented on the reverence for the holy scriptures of the world religions:
“What they called scriptures, to which they used to bow their heads in worship, were but ordinary books for me upon which I could rest my foot. Whatsoever they asserted as being beyond doubt, I dragged into uncertainty and suspicion. Their God, their soul, and their salvation were all matters of joke and fun for me.” Dimensions Beyond the Known (1978), p. 163
The reading of the scriptures has been discussed in several contexts by Osho, and also by his followers to some of whom the reading of the scriptures without some guidance from a qualified guru may lead them astray: “The scriptures, ‘shruti’ that which has been heard; the ‘ilham’ that which has come down as an inspiration; ‘revelation’, that which has been revealed; are all names for Godly messages that are delivered, as also through the ‘veda’ in many prophets, avatars, thirthankars etc…Without a ‘sadguru’ the scriptures are dangerous. With him their worth is immense, absolute, highest says OSHO. In the living presence of the ‘sadguru’, for you the scripture takes a new birth…Thus reading the scriptures is the way to liberation from their texts. And that is the way to search and find the ‘sadguru’. Blessed are those who have contacted a ‘sadguru’.” (Chaitanya 2001, p. 17). (75)
From his very early days as a reader the great Russian authors were among his favourites and this inclination of his for Russian novelists was to last throughout his whole life and is exposed in Books I Have Loved:
“I have loved many books, thousands of books, but none like Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. I used to force my poor father to read it. He is dead, otherwise I would have asked him to forgive me. Why did I force him to read the book? That was the only way for him to understand the gap between himself and me. But he was really a wonderful man, he used to read the book again and again, just because I said. It wasn’t once he read it, but many times. And not only did he read the book, but at least between him and me the gap was bridged…
Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection: For his whole life, Leo Tolstoy was concerned, immensely concerned with Jesus, hence the title, Resurrection. And Leo Tolstoy has really created a tremendous work of art. It has been a Bible to me. I can still see myself, when I was young, continuously carrying Tolstoy’s Resurrection with me. Even my father became worried. “It is okay to read a book,” he said to me one day, “but why do you go on carrying this book the whole day? You have read it.”
I said, “Yes, I have read it, not only once but many times. But I am going to carry it with me.”…
I don’t like Gorky. He is a communist, and I hate communists. When I hate I simply hate, but the book The Mother, even written by Maxim Gorky, I love it. I have loved it my whole life. I had so many copies of that book that my father used to say, “Are you mad? One copy of a book is enough, and you go on ordering more! …I said to him, “Yes, as far as Gorky’s The Mother is concerned, I am mad, utterly mad. When I see my own mother I remember Gorky.” Books I Have Loved #13
So we see that from his very early days the young Rajneesh had an inclination towards the great Russian authors Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov. The rooting for his reading of these authors may be found in Leo Tolstoy’s elder days when he as a well-off writer founded a political-religious movement known as Tolstoyism. Its ideology was a abstinence from material and sexual pleasures paired with a non-violent anarchism grounded in a deep religious conviction, in his case Christianity. The movement was at its peak in the early years of the 20th century and it is known that Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by the foundation and methods of Tolstoyism. So a qualified guess could be that the young Rajneesh in his interest for Gandhi in this way came across Tolstoy and the other great Russian authors. And we can certify that this inclination of his lasted into Osho’s very last years in Poona Two where his secretary was asked if she could find some movies for him to watch based on the great Russian novelists. Some classics in black and white from the early years after the revolution were shown to him, but he was a bit disappointed in them and said they didn’t reflect the true fragrance of the books. (76)
During the 1930s democratic and socialist ideas suitable for a future Indian society was spreading throughout the subcontinent, but before the days of the Congress Socialist Party these radical views – considering the rate of literacy and other circumstances – were limited to the Gandhians and a few well-read and well-traveled young idealists such as Nehru. The commitment to social change and a more egalitarian and secular society became from now on an inevitable part of the Indian political debate. This phase of Rajneesh’s adolescence has been remembered by his later secretary in Jabalpur, Arvind Jain, who is narrating further on what we have already heard of Osho’s reading and his affinity to political movements:
“From his early young age he studies in a well planned way & he started studying ‘JASUSI Books’ due to his adolescent hobby. Up to Higher Secondary level he studied intensively the Communist Ideology. He studied Karl Marx, Tolstoy, Dostojevski, Lenin & pleaded the materialism & tends towards Atheist. I remember that at that time Osho presents such strong Logic against Godly existence that on listening to his Logic the Great Devotees of God remain stunned but can’t cross his arguments. My father who is ‘Fufaji’ (Parental uncle) of Osho whenever he went to Gadarwara Osho was opposing his Self Conscious beliefs & defeated by Arguments. Osho’s father (Late Pujya Shri Babulalji Jain) has also left the Jains religious activities on account of Osho’s Arguments for communism…
Upto Higher secondary level & then in College Graduation degree of First Year Osho remains in touch with Communism but the last Salvage come in God’s consciousness. Whenever Osho resides at Gadarwara in his native place, thereby he visited an Ayurvedic Practioner late Pandit Shri Bhagirath Prasadji; here Osho pleaded commandably against God’s existence, fate and karmas. Osho presented arguments in favour of materialism & labour’s skillness as pleaded by Karl Marx and other materialist thinkers & the persons who were present on the premises of Pandit Bhagirath Prasadji become Answerless on hearing the argument of Osho.
After the Communist Ideology Osho formed a Socialist group of 10-12 youths at Gadarwara in which Osho talks on Socialism & its thinker: Acharya Narendra Deo, Shri Ram Manohar Lohia, Babu Jai Prakash Narayan & other Prominent Thinkers of Socialism. In weekly group Discussions Osho presented his views on Socialism to whom the listeners listen very seriously. At this time in Hoshangabad, Gadarwara & Narsingpur the eminent Political Socialist persons Shri Hari Vishnu Kamath and Thakur Niranjan Singh have made their powerful influence by Socialist views.
At the time of communism & socialism Ideology, Rajneeshji come in contact with comrade Sristhidhar Mukherjee & other Communist personalities at Jabalpur.” (77)
But despite his extensive reading of Marx and socialist literature his overall search remained exclusively spiritual, and it dawned on him, that answers were not to be found in any particular social or political system, but only as an individual revolution in consciousness. This transition in Rajneesh from having a keen interest in communism and socialism and then moving toward religion and spirituality took place during his years in high school between 1945 and 1950. Following his satori experience in 1946, we may add. (Joshi 1982, p. 44). Osho’s understanding is:
“…without doubts, without thinking, all accepted views become superstitious. Seeking dogmatic solutions from Marx or Gandhi should not be acceptable. I am awakening this free thought, unfettered belief for revolution to happen, my work is only a preparatory base for it…For after all, what difference it makes whether the blind faith rests on Geeta or the Das Capital? Without any reason, blind faith on Lenin, Marx or Engels is as harmful as on any deity or any scripture.” (Chaitanya 2001, p. 97)
His book collection was these years growing steadily – at age 14 his personal library had almost 4000 books – and he has commented on the different phases of his reading during his years of education and on the impact the communist literature included in his library has had on his intellectual development:
“But I have been collecting books from my high school days. You will be surprised that by the time I was a matriculate, I had read thousands of books and collected hundreds of books of my own – and great masterpieces. I was finished with Khalil Gibran, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky, Turgenev – the best as far as writing is concerned. When I was finishing my intermediate I was finished with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Bertrand Russel – all the philosophers that I could find in any library, in any bookshop, or borrow from anybody.
I have been interested in communism from my very childhood …communist literature – perhaps there is no book that is missing from my library. I have signed and dated each book before 1950. I was absolutely concerned to know about communism, everything. For three years, 1948, 1949 and 1950, I had collected all the literature possible. And I stopped at 1950. I have not read anything after 1950 about communism, for or against…
Small details are so vivid before me, because that was my first entry into the intellectual world. It got deeply rooted in me. But I never became a member of a communist party, because I could see something was missing. It is a grand plan for humanity, but something central is missing: it has no soul, it is a corpse.
First I was deeply interested in communism, but finding that it is a corpse I became interested in anarchism – that was also a Russian phenomenon – Prince Kropotkin, Bakunin, Leo Tolstoy. All three were anarchists: no state, no government in the world…
I have been always very scientific in my approach, either outside or inside. Communism can be the base. Then spirituality has to be its growth, to provide what is missing.” (Urmila 2007, p. 101) (72)
To be a passionate reader in Gadarwara in those days was quite a challenge, as in the evenings no electric light was available. Arvind Jain remembers Rajneesh reading in this way:
“When he was here at Jabalpur and at Gadarwara from his very childhood I do remember when he was at the age of fourteen and a student of eight class. At that time electricity was not there at Gadarwara, only the lamps with kerosene oil were kindled there. And with the help of kerosene lamps he used to study for eight to ten hours, at the age of fourteen. And in his studies was the greatest book of our India’s great yogi Aurobindo The Enlightened Mind. So one can wonder that a student of eight class can study such a miraculous and arduous work by Aurobindo.” (79)
For his book Osho Hi Osho Gyan Bhed conducted an interview where Osho’s brother Nikalank Bharti as a most reliable source is commenting on the reading of Osho, the role of his satori in the Shiva temple in 1945 and a new orientation in Osho’s own writings toward a more spiritual content from 1946 onwards following the experiment with the handwritten magazine Prayas:
“He [Nikalank] had also shown to me [Gyan Bhed] Osho’s note books where he had taken notes while passing his High School and Intermediate examinations.
In 1946, when he was fifteen years old only, he had compiled the selected sentences and poems of Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Daria, Raidas, Maluk Das, Yari, Meera, swami Ram Tirth and Gandhi Ji. He had also noted the quotations from Jain scriptures Samaysar, Updesh, Shabdsar Bodh and Tamil Ved. It appears that in this very year he had studied the literature of medieval saints deeply. In the next two or three years he had studied all the books of all the important philosophers, thinkers and psychologists. At the same time he was reading the world literature and other religious books also. At that time he had about 4000 books in his own library…
Whatsoever he had written before 1946 and after this time, there is a qualitative difference between them.
We both were sitting in silence when suddenly Sw. Niklank said: ” When Osho had written the entire matter of this magazine [Prayas] in 1945, at that time from somewhere Osho had brought a hand driven printing machine made of rubber and with its help he had printed the pages of this magazine and had binded it. But you shall not find any touch of spiritualism and philosophy in the matter of this magazine, which you will find in his other note books, which were written by him in 1946 to 1950. In these diaries, somewhere you will find any sutra of Mahavir and Kabir and somewhere you will see the comparative study of the two sutras. And when you hear his discourse in 1974 or 1976 on these sutras, then you will find as if a silken string has joined 1946 to 1976.”
This change in the thinking of Osho has drawn my attention to that very incident, when at age 14 he had encountered death in the form of a cobra snake at the Shiva temple when he had attained satori. I asked Sw. Niklank if this change in his attitude was the result of this satori?
He said: “It may be so, but we can only guess. I do not see these happenings separately and can not divide them in different segments of time. I see them as a gestalt and according to that gestalt, Osho was a born Buddha. From his very childhood I had been surprised by seeing his life style, just as now the whole world is surprised with his presence or absence.”” (80)
When Osho in 1981 stopped reading, partly due to the weakening of his eyes, he had read more than 150.000 books during his entire lifetime. His reading of fiction was mainly in his younger days and during university days in Jabalpur, but the reading of non-fiction was expanding concurrently with the arrival of Westerners in the early 1970s, for whom he had to gain insight in their varying socio-cultural and psychological backgrounds. For this purpose there could be no slowing down in his pace of reading, only a deliberate change in scope and the profile of his reading. His reading was first of all a comprehensive attempt to understand, first the sutras, then the maze of the Western mind.
Shashi was Raja’s classmate, two years younger than himself, and the daughter of Dr. Sharma who lived near the ruined Shiva temple where Rajneesh had his death experience at age fourteen. She was to become his first and never to be forgotten girlfriend. From her house she would often watch his steps when he visited the temple, and sometimes Rajneesh had to point out to her that he wanted to be left alone in the temple for his meditation. Her love to him was nevertheless returned. She even used to follow his swimming in the river using her father’s binoculars, and as they belonged to different castes their meetings were secretly managed by Kanchhedi Shukul. Shashi belonged to the Brahmin caste and Rajneesh to the group usually called vaniya, a community of Jains in northern India, whose traditional occupation is that of merchants and financiers.
Affectionately he also called her Gudiya, and Rajneesh was with her at her deathbed when she died an untimely death of typhoid. She was at that time only fourteen and Rajneesh himself sixteen in 1947. They had promised each other to return and unite again, and he even promised her never to accept another woman again, but rather become an ascetic.
Her death happened when Rajneesh was away from Gadarwara for a while, seeing off and preparing the cremation for the Indian mystic Pagal Baba. She had been scorned by some women from the neighbourhood for her relationship with Rajneesh without any regard to their different castes. Naturally she was hurt by these accusations limiting her freedom in her love affair, and she very much pulled herself back from the outer world in his absence, sitting on her own with her thoughts at the bank of Sakkar River or in the deserted Shiva temple. She first caught a cold, and then a fever, converting into typhoid and pneumonia due to her exposing herself to the cold temperatures out in the open – and to her longing heart.
Returning home from Pagal Baba’s funeral Rajneesh rushed to Shashi’s house, when he received the news about her condition. He assured her of the firmness of his love toward her, and told her that all the nonsense about their different castes meant nothing to him. For three days he visited her and put a rose in the flower pot near her bed, rubbing her cheeks, caressing her hair and cracking a few jokes to keep up her spirit. One early morning she finally passed away, and Rajneesh didn’t return home until after her funeral at two o’clock in the afternoon. Nani was there for him to console him, and when she turned on the radio the song ‘God knows if you remember the promises between us and the love that I had for you!’ song by the famous singer Noorjahan (Translation at the end of this chapter). This tune made Rajneesh request Nani to buy him his first record player that very day so he could listen to that song. (Bhed 2006, p. 89)
They were only to be a few years together with love and affection for both of them, but it is evident that his time with Shashi were maturing for Rajneesh and most significantly for his ongoing celebration of love throughout his life. His insights were deepening after her death, and it’s beyond doubt that he was shaken in this new encounter with another death among his closest friends.
Shashi’s mother he playfully called his mother-in-law because of his love to her daughter. Like his own grandmother Nani she was a powerful woman, and when she left her husband later on she went to Pakistan and married a Muslim, herself being a Brahmin. When Vivek (aka Nirvano) appeared as his companion in Osho’s life many years later in Poona One, he at once recognized Shashi reincarnated in her body and also started calling her Gudiya. (81)
“Perhaps I interpret it like this because of the energy that came to me from Nirvano and I always think of her as Osho’s ‘bride’ and closest disciple. Perhaps for her it is also like a marriage to the divine and this is the nature of her energy. Osho says that in her past-life she was a girl in his village before he was enlightened, and she was very much in love with him and wanted to marry him. She was called Shashi. She used to take him food when he was meditating in an old ruined temple. At the age of fifteen, when Osho was only seventeen, she died of typhoid and Osho was with her at her death. She said to him, “Call me back.” Osho says in one of his Discourses that this is why, in this life, she came back to take care of him.” (Devika 2008, p. 177)
A short story called Abhi Root Kuch hai (Some Moments of This Night are Still to be Passed) has been published in 1951 or 1952 before Osho’s enlightenment. It appears that among the characters presented the hero of the story Shekhar is Rajneesh himself, and the story has been written in the memory of his beloved Shashi. It tells us about his state of mind, his feelings and emotions when thinking of his lost love on his nightly walking with his puppy Neeru, named after one of Osho’s sisters, in the forests of the Vindhya Mountains surrounding Gadarwara and Kuchwada. The language of the story is a very poetic Hindi, and also we find a spiritual touch in the fiction with some poems along with the text in prose. A few excerpts may give us an idea of this autobiographical piece of fiction from Osho’s hand at age 20:
“He cannot forget anything from that time, when the night in the hut on the hill had become too cold and they remained sitting, embracing each other closely in the glittering light from an earthen lamp. Breaking the silence they would talk a little while the sound of a dog’s barking continued in the distance. The night became still colder, but her tender little palm was in his hands, and her cheek touching his shoulder was giving warmth to his body as well as his soul…
For ages his soul was searching him from those primary moments, when for the first time he had started his endless journey, ascending on the rays of light, and then one day, when he suddenly met her, he had said that never he would leave her alone; never in this life. Then his long endless lonely and rugged journey had oscillated before his eyes – Oh! With how many difficulties and troubles he could search her, and again after finding her, how would it be possible to leave her. It is true, that it was not possible for him to leave her in any way, but the world is not complete from impossibilities of possibilities and possibilities of impossibilities…
The depth of her eyes at the last moment is still in his memory even today. If thousands of hollow deep trenches are joined together, even then so much depth of her eyes cannot be created. The suffused darkness all around appeared to be shallow. He had seen that darkness of death in her eyes. He had felt some turmoil in the silent strings of her soul. Then he had remembered their last kiss which he had imprinted on her lips.
Now he was again alone. The mountains, where perpetual spring is blossoming, were converted into big heaps of stone. Those sweet nights, where the shade of embrace was still wet, and it appeared to him that it had become heavy from the dirty fragrance of death. He was tired of those treks, of the forests and even of his own life. With his little puppy Neeru he remained lurking and he wandered madly hither and thither until at last he had returned to that abandoned house, where for the last two years with great difficulty he had found time for staying for a few hours only…
The persistent traveller of my soul shall not refuse from your challenges. I will go further, collecting all the decayed energies of my life. I shall again go forward. Her last wish was only, that even after her passing, the work of collecting folk songs should not be stopped. I shall go forward with my life only for her, even until the last breath of my life…
He now heard that some persons were passing by on the road saying – “Today this mad Shekhar has come home again rather early. He is mad.” But let it be anything, silently he accumulated himself without any obstacles…
Look! Far away
the domes of the holy temple are shining
in moment to moment
The symphony of far horizons
is ringing at the main gate in its trance
Whatsoever beauty there is of this life
it has been missed
Which touches the soul also
on the path of this long journey of wholeness
Give me some hint
something strikes in my heart
It is not far away, it is not far
But no, it is too far.
He had asked her so many times, how he could ever be alive without her. Also today the counter shadow of her words had returned. Alas, if you might have gone somewhere, then please tell me what shall I do? My breath would be stopped, believe me, and my heart shall never throb.
But his heart was still throbbing and the breath of his body was still alive. After loosing all and everything he could see the false promises and the world of the fictitious beliefs in their naked form. Therefore all allurements of today and tomorrow are incapable of misleading his bewildered heart.” (82)
It is said, that once a devotee came to Sri Rama Nand, the Master of Kabir, and requested him to be initiate as his disciple. Rama Nand asked him whether he had loved any person or not. When the devotee answered – ‘No’, Rama Nand refused to accept him as his disciple. Without love one cannot enter into the mystery of life, love being the fragrance of meditation.
The death of Shashi was one more encounter with death and loss to Rajneesh, and following her death he remained in silence for days without speaking to anyone. The reality of being alone and detached was to be with him for years, and often in his later lectures key issues like death, relationships and aloneness were to be elaborated on. The spiritual insight achieved in these matters in the days of his childhood and adolescence is not to be ignored, and the attachment to others was replaced by his inner journey towards the self, leaving him even more an outsider and misfit in the small rural society where he was living. But its impetus also opened to him the world of books and knowledge and made him intensively explore the religious and scientific answers to these fundamental questions. We may wonder why according to Bhed he is said not to have read but only discussed philosophy and spirituality:
“Raja’s love for books had increased after Guriya parted from him. He read out all the books available in the Town Hall Library as well as those in Shambhu Baboo’s [Dube] personal library, except the books on philosophy and spiritualism. He kept himself away from his friends during this period and dissolved the Azad Hind Brigade that he had organized earlier.
It was his last year in high school. In the evenings he used to sit on the platform under a tree in the college among his friends and admirers and discussed philosophy and spiritualism, Nobody had seen him sad or serious in any case.” (Bhed 2006, p. 91) (83)
It is said, that sometimes when Osho took a book in his hands he realised that he had already read or from other sources understood what the book was telling, and he might then turn over the pages and finish his reading of that book (Bhed 2006, p. 77). We sense in this observation the expansion of his way of reading as well as the absentmindedness of a youngster who had just lost the love of his life.
When later on he was sharing memories from his childhood with his close disciples one old song by Noorjahan, the famous Urdu singer of the 1930s and early 1940s, was told to be among those tunes he was listening to over and over again on his new record player, and also singing to himself in the mornings and during night time. In Rajneesh’s translation the song goes like this:
“Whether you remember or not, / Once there was passionate love between us. / You used to tell me, / ‘You are the most beautiful woman in the world,’ / Now I don’t know if you will recognize me or not, / Perhaps you do not remember, but I still remember. / I cannot forget the passionate love, and the words you said to me, / You used to say your love was impeccable, / Do you still remember? / Perhaps not – but I remember, / Not in its totality, of course, / Time has done much harm. / I am a dilapidated palace, / But if you look minutely, / I am still the same. / I still remember the passionate love and your words, / That passionate love that once existed between us, / It is still in your memory or not, / I don’t know about you, / But I still remember.” (Kakar 2009, p. 28)
Although Kakar does not mention Shashi in this context it is hard to believe that the heartbreak and longing expressed through the haunting voice of Noorjahan could move him that deeply if not for Shashi, the love of his childhood whose death turned out to have an impact on him similar to that of his beloved grandfather. But his affinity for Urdu poetry stayed with him and he later referred to its qualities in discourses (Bhakti Sutra), and also wrote a moving piece himself on the Urdu poet Majaz. Excerpts:
“I do not know Urdu but Urdu songs and Urdu poetry cause a flutter, a storm, in my breath. My introduction with Urdu poets is through Hindi only but I have a feeling of appreciation and love for them and my endeavor always is to have an access to their voice through their poetry. Once, during a night journey one of my friends recited a few lines from Majaz’s poetry and it was here that my introduction with that great poet began…I started liking Majaz more and more and by and by I started forgetting that I had not even seen him! And, when the other day I visited the ‘Gujarati library’ I was suddenly taken aback. There was an article in “Naya Samaj” that bore the news that Majaz had gone off his mind – mad! My vision dimmed and the bookshelves became invisible to me…All the words and letters got jumbled up before the eyes and I found that I could remember only these four words: “Majaz has gone mad”. I got up and came out. I felt that someone very close to me, very dear to me is in the prison-cell of Ranchi.” (Bharti 2012, pp. 115-121)
Use of Public Library and Own Library
Rajneesh was the youngest member ever to join the public library in Gadarwara. He started reading magazines and taking out books from the library at age ten in 1942, and the whole stock of 3000 books in Gadarwara Public Library (Sarvajanik Pustkalaya) had been read by Osho when he was a teenager. Part of his own student collection of books in Gadarwara, mostly books in Hindi but also English copies, were later donated to the public library when in 1951 he left for college in Jabalpur. Most of his English books were moved with him to Jabalpur, where his reading of non-fiction in English was increasing over time at the expense of his former reading of fiction, now including also magazines and journals from the West.
To find a public library in a small town as Gadarwara was by no means a common feature in the 1930s, and its outstanding founding may be due to some local benefactor years before India’s first Library Act was passed in Madras 1948. The modern library movement in India originated in the princely state of Baroda during the first decade of the 20th century as part of a plan for mass education and compulsory elementary education similar to what we will see later on in the kingdom of Bhopal near Jabalpur. The concept of free public libraries was brought back to Baroda from the maharaja’s travels to the United States, and the tradition for library building was dominant also within the English administration which transferred to India institutions familiar to them from back home. The Indian professor in library science S.R. Ranganathan was a key figure and instrumental in bringing forward the Library Act from 1948, and he developed rules and terminology for the library movement, e.g. his term ‘library consciousness’.
Sarvajanik Pustkalaya in Gadawara was located at first floor in an ochre building at the Town Hall area close to the buildings of middle and higher secondary school Rajneesh frequented in those years. When visited in 2000 the library was still of the same dimensions in three rooms as when Osho was a user, but a ground floor extension was being planned (84). On photo is seen the green sign board on the library building with the name Sarvajanik Pustkalaya in Hindi. The head-and-shoulder figure on the sign board is Lala Lajpat Rai, extremist member of the Indian National Congress and one of Gandhi’s freedom fighters in the national movement against the British Raj. (85)
Osho’s friend Shambhu Dube was the chairman of Gadarwara Town Hall library and he had purchased a lot of books for the library. Through his efforts the library was fairly well stocked with literature on philosophy and within other fields much valued by Rajneesh. As no convent education was found in Gadarwara, the company of Shambhu Dube and the reading of books in English provided by the library were both instrumental for Rajneesh’s introduction to and subsequent command of English language. His grasp is said to be extraordinary and he soon picked up the language which was to be of crucial importance for the later dissemination of his vision. Furthermore and next to his reading he would purportedly move coins on the library table at school by mental control. (Brooke 1986, p. 110)
Ageh Bharti has in his Beloved Osho (2012) reported on his visits to the library in October 1994 where he managed to make a extensive registration of the charging files showing us titles of the books Rajneesh had taken out from the library in the 1940s. But first we hear how Raja succeeded in by-passing the rules of the library:
“Probably, according to rule only one book was issued to a member at a time in public library. This is why Osho would get books issued in different names like Shikhar Chand Jain (Kaka Ji, who is now known as Swami Anand Siddharta), Vijay Kumar Jain (brother who is now known as Swami Vijay Bharti) and Aklank Jain (Second younger brother). In this way he would get four books issued in one day. It is a fact – not that I have been told about this, I have myself seen the names mentioned in the pages of the registers – the columns for the members name bear as four names viz, Rajneesh Chandra Mohan, Shikhar Chand Jain, Vijay Kumar and Aklank. Against these names are mentioned the names of those who issued the books and then of those who deposited them and it bears the signature of Rajneesh alone. This fact alone goes to prove that Osho got the family members enrolled to have more and more books to study. All these registers have been safely preserved. I have kept them separately and safely to ensure that the librarian has an easy access to them in case one is interested in seeing Osho’s signature etc in 1942.” (Bharti 2012, p. 59)
Shri Joshi was the librarian in the 1940s and his registration in the ledger was with an occasionally illegible handwriting making it somewhat difficult for the later reader to take down notes. So 25 titles could not be deciphered and further 150 was not to be included in Ageh Bharti’s registration due to lack of time. Still he leaves us a spectacular registration of Rajneesh’s reading on 568 titles taken out between December 1942 and November 1951 with indication of genre or translated title. Some complementary ledgers for the years before 1948, a period of political upheaval in India, seem to have disappeared possibly taken away by a former chairman of the library committee, Shri Kabra, but what is preserved more than suffice to give us an impressive insight in his reading. The following registration is based on Ageh Bharti (2012), pp. 61-93.
The first book to be taken home by Raja from the library was Pauranik Mahapurush (Ethical Stories) which is issued to him on 05.12.1942 at age 10 only, one year after he had started his primary school.
At age 11 until May 1943 12 books were issued to him including the followings: Mahabharata ke Patna (Characters of Mahabharat), Nirala Desh (Strange Country), Jadugarni aur pari (Female magician and fairy), Batao to Kya Hai? (Children’s literature), Sati padmini (Biography), Hitler (Biography) and Veer pooja (Play).
At age 12 from November 1944 8 books were issued to him including: Pativrata (Faithful woman), Rana Jang Bahadur (Biography), Vir Keshari Shivaji (Top Hero Shivaji) Nav Nikunj (New Garden), Amar Singh Rathore (Biography of a hero), Bhartiya Neeti Katha (Indian Ethical Stories).
At age 13 two titles only are mentioned from January and March 1945 respectively: Azadi ke Shaheed (Martyrs of Freedom), Rangili Kahaniyan (Romantic Stories).
At age 14 9 titles are mentioned for November and December 1946 including: Sharat Sahitya (Sharat’s Literature, several volumes), Ateet ke Chalchitra (Pictures of the Past), Kahani (Story), Rubaiyat Omar Khayyam, The Bible.
No registration is preserved for 1947.
At age 16 in 1948 55 titles are mentioned including: Quran, Jain Sahitya aur Itihas (Jain Literature and History), Buddha Vani (Buddha’s Voice), Samajwad (Socialism), Samyavaad (Communism), Gandhivaad Samyavaad (Gandhism Communism), Roos ki kranti (Revolution of Russia), Gandhi Abhinandan Granth (Gandhi Commemoration Volume, 24.06), Buddha Charitra (Buddha’s Character), Tolstoy ki Kahaniyaan (Stories of Tolstoy), Mahakavi Dagh (Great Urdu Poet Dagh), Sabhyata: Maharog (Civilization: A Great Disease), Gorki ke Sansmaran (Memoirs of Gorky), Bharat Ka Arthik Shoshan (Economic Exploitation of India), Hindi Kavya Dhara (Stream of Hindi poetry).
At age 17 in 1949 a huge number of 257 titles are mentioned including: Gandhi Vichar Dohan (Contemplation of Gandhi’s Thoughts), Jadu ka Mulk (The Country of Magic), Lal Cheen (Red China, 05.02), Fascism ki Atma (The Soul of Fascism), Naye Bharat ke naye Neta (New Leaders of New India), Atma Katha (Mahatma Gandhi. Autobiography, Part 1-2), Meri Kahani (Jawaharlal Nehru: My Story), Divya Jeevan (Divine Life), Charlie Chaplin, Father of India: Lala Lajpat Rai, Pragatisheel Pustaken (Progressive Books), Vish-Vigyan (The Science of Poison), Jhansi ki Rai (Biography of female freedom fighter), Chalo Dilhi (Let’s go to Delhi. History), Shakespeare, Bankim Chandra Chatterji (Biography), Asia ki Kranti (The Revolution of Asia).
At age 18 in 1950 116 titles are mentioned including: Sahitya Sushama (The beauty of literature), Sipahi Vidroh (Rebellion of sepoys), Young India (Politics), Neeti Vigyan (The Science of Ethics), Elements of Chemistry, Homage to Mahatma Gandhi, Selection from Tennyson, Kalyan (Periodical), Short History of Greater India.
At age 19 until November 1951 103 titles are mentioned including: Vartman Asia (Present Asia), Vivekanand ke Sang (With Vivekanand), The Purpose of Philosophy, Kabir ka Rahasyavad (Mysticism of Kabir), Sahas (Courage), Pashchatya Darshan ka Itihas (The history of Western philosophy), Tolstoy ki Kahani (Story of Tolstoy), Lenin (Biography), Lamaon ka Desh (The country of Lamas).
From this registration we learn that young Rajneesh was reading widely in the literature offered to him by the public library. As can be seen his main areas of interest are philosophy, religion, politics, history, ethics and biographies like those of Gandhi, Nehru and Chatterji. The Quran, The Bible and books on Buddha were read at an early age, and political ideologies like socialism, communism and fascism, not to mention capitalism, were studied repeatedly by him, and also novels by his favourite Russian novelists and quite a number of poems. In 1950 and 1951 he took home several more novels and poems compared to previous years. And all the time we’ll have to keep in mind that his reading of library books was only supplementary to the reading of his own books kept in his personal collection. Later on many of these books were donated to the library as a complimentary donation to make up some balance for the support he had received from the library during his childhood years and youth.
An example of his donations to the library are four books in English shown on photo, all donated by Osho before he left Jabalpur for Bombay in 1970. He had continued to donate books to the public library in Gadarwara in the course of time while staying in Jabalpur, mostly books in the wide field of cultural history. Among the four English books, all with Osho’s signature (Rajneesh Chandra Mohan) are two copies of Mother India by Katherine Mayo (1933 & 1939 editions. 1st ed. 1927), a somewhat biased survey where Mayo, an American, is discussing and blaming Hinduism for India’s immunity to progress, in the same line with Rajneeesh’s later criticism of Gandhi’s ideology. When Mother India appeared – somehow in tune with the discussions in the Simon Enquiry on the future of India – Gandhi had described her book as a ‘drain Inspector’s report’. Also shown is Mirror of India by Robert Sewell (1941). In the library’s newspaper room on 1st floor book cupboards can be seen containing some of Rajneesh’s donations from his time in Jabalpur to his childhood library where his donations are preserved in a total of five almirahs or cupboards.
The following titles are among the books later presented by Osho to Sarvajanik Pustkalaya in Gadarwara after completing his Intern Examination from Jabalpur university on 01.02.1953. The books signed artistically and dated 1.2.52 are mostly popular titles and suspense novels read by Osho when he was at age 16 to 19, and quite obviously they are all titles not indispensable for his academic career and the spiritual path he was to follow in Jabalpur. Some of the titles are clearly indicating where he found the material for his storytelling to his friends in the lazy afternoons on the grain marked in Gadarwara. (Mishra 1956, p. 365) (86)
A Stranger in India / George W. Johnson; Sir George Grey. A Study in Colonial Government / James Rutherford; Outline of General History / Renof; Augustees / John Buchen ; The Golden Magnet / George Fan; Letter to My Grandson on the Glory of English Poetry / Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Secrets of School / Brany Reburn; The Believing World; The Ship Builders / George Black; Fullfillment of the Hills / Bairier Elvin; My Brother’s Face / Dhan Gopal Mukherji; Cast and Outcast / Dhan Gopal Mukherji. 1924; The Mammoth Book of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries / J.H. Pares & John Crossland; The Naval Venture. The War Story: An Armed Cruiser / Flease Jeans; Handbook of Central and East Europe. 1936; Rise of the Christian Power in India. Vol.1-5; ‘Novel of the Year’ / Jack Lindsey. 1939. Further registration of 91 titles from Osho’s donations is to be found in Beloved Osho (Bharti 2012, pp. 94-101)
“He had also studied the “Satyarth Prakash” of swami Dayanand, who was the founder of Arya Samaj. He used to go to attend the annual functions of Arya Samaj where learned organizers of Arya Samaj used to deliver their speeches. He had also read the Hindi translation of Vedas as well as of Upanishads also.
He used to say that the history of the religions is full of violence, war and rapes, while real religion teaches love, peace and humanity.
After completing Intermediate course from Jabalpur, Rajneesh had presented hundred of books to his Gadarwara Town hall library, from where he had studied all of the books of that library up to 1951. Though he used to love his books very much, but as those books had no use for him, so he gave up those books generously to the library, so that others may use them.” (87)
His use of public libraries, and later on also of academic libraries in Jabalpur, was extensive these days in the 1940s and 1950s, although he later declared that the use of public libraries and their filthy books with disturbing under linings from former borrowers was disgusting to him, as we can see in the quotation below. And we can see a continuous development where the buying of his own books was expanding over time when his finances gradually allowed him to enlarge his own library. This reference library was becoming more and more useful as his own lecturing and publishing increased dramatically in the following years, as it was offering to him all major spiritual works and sutras from every path on earth walked by mystics and masters. The collecting of books was an early phenomenon from his school days in Gadarwara where not only money but also lack of space for books in his house were both critical factors.
“People used to wonder where I got all the money from to purchase my books, because I had thousands of books. Even when I was just a student in high school I had thousands of books in my house. My whole house was full of books, and everybody wondered where I got all the money from. My grandmother [Nani] had told me, Never tell anyone that you get money from me, because if your father and mother come to know they will start asking me for money, and it will be difficult for me to refuse.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 56
So his books were during his school days in Gadarwara bought mostly for money he received from the family and later on in Jabalpur for the salary he earned from his writings to the paper Nav-Bharat who received his writings and translations from 1954. One source for enlarging his collection was his father Babu Lal’s monthly travels as a cloth dealer to Bombay or Ahmadabad to purchase cloth for his shop in Gadarara. He used to enquire from Rajneesh what type of book presents he liked to receive on his homecoming after the trip, and naturally he was mostly requested to bring some particular titles which Rajneesh could not get from the local sellers in Gadarwara. It is beyond doubt that much money was needed to satisfy his urge for reading materials. At fourteen Osho had read Yogi Arvinda Life Divine in English when in middle school, and at age seventeen in higher secondary school he was reading Paul Reps Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (88). When he was nineteen in his days as a leftist Osho was reading Marx’s Capital and also Lenin, not to mention his favourite author Dostovjevsky whom he was to laureate later in Books I Have Loved.
He was still reading Gandhi in his early college years, where Osho also practiced his ideas and spun his own khadi (cloth), and took soul and water treatment. “As he had used the platform of jain religion like a jumping board to create listeners of his lectures in the same way after the death of Gandhiji there had been a voidness, and none appeared who can fill his place.
It is not an accident, that when Osho had started speaking publicly from 1962 he used to wear a Lungi made of Khadi and a handmade towel on his shoulders. Like Gandhiji he used to cover his upper body with a shawl or chadar. He was also awakening the masses by traveling throughout India. So many of the followers of Gandhiji had gathered around him. When in 1969 he felt that these people are not true seekers of truth and are blocking the way for other true seekers, he started to speak against Gandhism. He also left wearing Khadi.” (89). From 1969 onwards he started criticizing Gandhism, but until this year Gandhi as well as Marx were both highly honoured by Osho. (90)
“I was from my very childhood tremendously interested in books of all kinds on all subjects – nothing to do with the textbooks of the school and the college and the university. My family was not rich. It was a poor family, but I made it clear to them, “For books, even if you have to sell your ornaments please sell them. I need those books – and I hate to read second hand books. I don’t want to read any book from the library. I want to purchase it.”
My father said, “This is a strange idea. Why can you not read from the public library?”
I said, “Every book is marked, underlined. That does not allow me freedom; that hinders me. For example, if I am reading a book and two lines are underlined with red ink, those two lines stand out dominantly, emphatically. Somebody else’s idea becomes important on that page. He does not allow me to find my own ides on that page; he is forcing me.
“I don’t want to read any book that is underlined. And there are notes also. A few idiots go on writing notes, their comments, on the pages of public library books. I don’t want their comments. I want fresh books…
And they gave me money, as much as I wanted, although it was difficult for them. But that brought a deep intimacy.
My grandfather was old but he was working, not retired. He said, “You need money. I can work, you need not work.”
When I left the university [in Jabalpur 1966], I had a library of one hundred and fifty thousand rare volumes from all over the world concerning all the philosophies, all the religions, all kinds of ideologies. I was obliged to my parents, but they never allowed me even to show my gratitude.” Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries (1988), p. 326
In Gadarwara first second-hand books were bought due to his economy, and also some second-hand booksellers in Jabalpur were collecting books for Osho at his request. Later on, after he became an assistant professor in Philosophy from March 1959 he is said to have bought only new books directly from the booksellers. On Sundays in Jabalpur he could in the 1950s still be seen at Gurandi Market buying second-hand books, sometimes accompanied by Naik, the professional academic librarian, who also helped him managing his private library. It’s most likely that Naik has revealed to Osho quite a few clues in library science and the handling of bibliographic registration. The size of his book collection in Jabalpur, in the limited space of his premises in the late 1960s mentioned above, has to be taken with some caution. Again and again we will meet figures of his collection clearly exaggerated from the plausible, and in its heyday his library in Poona was said to have the magical round figure of 100.000 books in its holdings, although the actual number may have been somewhat closer to 80.000 volumes.
During his years at secondary high school in Gadarwara, his room was full of books, with all the walls covered with books. The floor too was packed, just leaving enough space for his bed, a charpoy, to be standing there also. The bed was in fact standing in his library, anticipating the years in Poona where Lao Tzu House was completely turned into an extensive corridor library. His collecting of books was nothing but a bibliophile love affair to him, and we are repeatedly reminded of his aversion against the reading of books that had been underlined by other readers, and also his considerations on the use of the sometimes filthy books in public library collections as we have seen. The protection of his book collection against intruders, be it smaller children in the family or curious visitors to the house, was of paramount importance to him as illustrated in the following quotation where his father realizes that Rajneesh’s library is taking over the whole house:
“I asked him for money only when I wanted to purchase more books; I never asked money for anything else. And I told him, “When I ask money for books you had better give it to me.” He said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “I simply mean that if you don’t give it to me then I will have to steal it. I don’t want to be a thief but if you force me then there is no way. You know I don’t have money. I need these books and I am going to have them, that you know. So if money is not given to me, then I will take it; and remember in your mind that it was you who forced me to steal.”
He said, “No need to steal. Whenever you need money you simply come and take it.”
And I said: “You be assured that it is only for books,” but there was no need for the assurance because he went on seeing my library growing in the house. Slowly there was no place in the house for anything other than my books.
And my father said, “First we had a library in our house, now in the library we have a house!” And we all have to take care of your books because if something goes wrong with any book you make so much fuss, you create so much trouble that everybody is afraid of your books. And they are everywhere; you cannot avoid stumbling on them. And there are small children…” My younger brothers and sister were all protective of my books when I was not there: nobody could touch my books. And they would clean them and they would keep them in the right place, where ever I had put them, so when I needed any book I could find it.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 543. (91)
His precautions against any damage being done to his books is confirmed by his later secretary in Jabalpur, Arvind Kumar Jain: “One more remark I want to express, is that he was so much aware of his books that if any person touches the books and keeps it away from the very place where it was to be kept, when so ever he comes in his home, he recognized if someone had disrupted the books and told to those people that ‘Who has touched my books’. And if there was anything wrong he scolded those people, but we take it very lightly. And we do understand that he is so much careful that none can touch it and none can alter it.” (92)
Audio1. Arvind Kumar Jain. (92)
It is no wonder that his deep involvement with his own books also fostered some natural limitations on his use of library books, although we do know as a fact that throughout Gadarwara and the greater part of his time in Jabalpur he remained an ardent user of libraries to quench his thirst for reading.
“I don’t want anybody else to mark my books, underline in my books, and these people go on doing that.” I hated the very idea that somebody should underline in my books.
One of my father’s brothers-in-law was a professor, so he must have been in the habit of underlining. And he would write notes on my books. I had to tell him, This is simply not only unmannerly, uncivilized, it shows what kind of mind you have.
“I don´t want books from libraries, I don’t read books from libraries, for the simple reason that they are underlined, marked. Somebody else has emphasized something. I don’t want that, because without your knowing, that emphasis enters your mind. If you are reading a book and something is underlined with red, that line stands out. You have read the whole page but that line stands out. It leaves a different impact on your mind.
“I have an aversion to reading somebody else’s books, underlined, marked. To me it is just like somebody going to a prostitute. A prostitute is nothing but a woman underlined and marked – notes all over her from different people in different languages…
“To me a book is not just a book, it is a love affair. If you underline any book then you have to pay for it and take it. Then I don’t want that book here, because one dirty fish can make the whole pond dirty. I don’t want any book prostituted – you take it.”
He was very angry because he could not understand. I said, “You don’t understand me because you don’t know me much. You just talk to my father.”…So my father said to the professor who had underlined my book, “Never do that to him. Take this book and replace it with a fresh one.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 543. (93)
As indicated in this quotation his first ‘self-appointed librarian’ was his younger brother Nikalank who from their early childhood together had been involved in Rajneesh’s book collecting. When Nikalank was 14-15 years old he was engaged also in the protection of his brother’s collection, and among other duties he was helping drying books on the family terrace following the rainy seasons, a procedure to be continued later on the roof of Lao Tzu during Poona One. Nikalank remembers that Osho’s selection of reading material was much driven by his intelligent approach, selecting confidently without any bias in the bookshops according to his hunch for titles and authors. (94)
“One of my brothers, my fourth brother, Niklanka, has been collecting everything concerning me from his very childhood. Everybody laughed at him. Even I asked him, “Niklanka, why do you bother to collect everything about me?”
He said, “I don’t know, but somehow there is a deep feeling in me that someday these things will be needed.”
I said, “Then go ahead. If you feel like that, go ahead, do it.” and it is because of Niklanka that a few pictures of my childhood have been saved. He has collected things which now have significance.
He was always collecting things. Even if I threw something away in the wastepaper basket, he would search to see if I had thrown away something I had written. Whatsoever it was, he would collect it because of my handwriting.” Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1990), p. 480
So ever since Rajneesh’s early childhood in Gadarwara Nikalank has carefully kept and stored treasures from his brother’s writing and bookish activities. The discussion of preserving precious items from celebrities after their passing away is an intricate matter, not the least in the case of Osho. On the collecting of items from Osho Gyan Bhed recalls from his interview with Nikalank Bharti in Osho Hi Osho that Nikalank used to collect even from the wastepaper basket and if asked about this madness, he used to say:
“Today you can not understand its importance, but I am confident that one day, not only this country but the whole world would have to recognize its importance…I understood it very clearly that Osho never liked that his used articles [utensils for writing] should be preserved. In foreign countries, especially in the West, there is a tradition to preserve all those things which were used by the renowned literary person: His pen, pad, table, chair, spectacles etc. in a museum and people take too much interest in seeing them. They take an inspiration from them. And with the articles used by an enlightened person they have an immense value. They have absorbed his energy, his vibrations. For this very reason we make Samadhi where the bones and ashes of his burned body are being preserved…But Osho is not in favour of preserving the articles. There is no life in them, they are dead and the people who worship them forget the consciousness of that very enlightened person. This is the danger, and the attachment to the articles closes the doors of consciousness. It closes the door of meditation… “Still if it had been in my control, then I would have preserved all of his things,” Niklank remarked.” (95)
It may be somewhat difficult to identify the exact time when Osho’s book collecting turned into a more organized private library, but we have an early clue telling us that the organizing of the books and the technical procedures with accession and cataloguing were introduced by him much earlier that we might expect. The truth is that already at age 12 in 1943, when he was in primary school, he organized and started an early book catalogue over his very first library collection in Gadarwara. To be more precise, it is in fact an accessions register in chronological order, handwritten in a large quarto format and containing 1106 entries covering the accession of all new books for his collection in the period 1943-1950. All entries in the accessions register are most professionally listed by himself according to: entry number / title / author / price / subject /.
Such a comprehensive collector’s registration we’ll not meet with any young book collector, but it tells us with all clarity the sincerity of his book loving affair from it’s very beginning, as well as his early commitment to approach and handle his bookish activities with both grace and professional care. In the register every book he donated to Gadarwara Public Library, when he left for Jabalpur, is to be found as single entry according to its time of accession. (96)
We are now in his final years in high school and Gyan Bhed’s understanding may give us some clue to what these last school days were like, also indicating that his mischief had not finished totally with the death of his girlfriend Shashi:
“He used to put on wooden sandals in school. His favourite activities in school were writing with left hand, looking out of the classroom at the mango orchard while reading in the classroom, at the time of attendance calling out ‘Upasthit Sriman’ in place of ‘yes, sir’, making a cartoon of some teacher on the blackboard or putting a frog into the drawer where the teacher used to keep chalk and duster. He very readily accepted the punishment of standing on the bench, taking ten rounds of the playground or remaining in kneel down posture in the classroom.” (97)
An inter-school competition in debating was to be held and Rajneesh was selected and invited to speak on behalf of his school. His initial words addressing the audience were disrespectful, his speech was going astray from the paper written by his Hindi teacher, and he was speaking ridiculously whatever was coming to his mind. Nevertheless the organizers of the competition gave the first prize to Rajneesh in spite of the fact that many listeners felt insulted, among them Netaji, the Congress leader. When Rajneesh was called on the stage to receive the prize from the hands of the president, he challenged him instead and went back to his seat. The president was Sri Srinath Bhatt, who had become a Congress leader after he had gone to jail for a few days in 1942 and had become famous for his moneymaking and corruption.
Having passed his matriculation exams and graduated from high school in 1950 and enrolled directly in second Hindi class he had spend 10 years up to now instead of the usually 11 years. Osho’s family was much concerned about his future, when as the eldest son of Babu Lal he was supposed to take his seat in the prospering cloth shop and take charge of the trade. For obvious reasons this was not an option acceptable by Rajneesh, so all kinds of professions were proposed to him by members of the family: Doctor, scientist or engineer to name a few. And the proposals were all within the field of science. But as Osho decided to study philosophy, psychology, logic and theology, not unexpectedly this caused a great turmoil in the family. Still he was insisting and self-confident in his intention to become a philosopher, because, as he put it, he had to know everything about philosophers in order to be able to fight them, and when his academic studies were finished he wanted to live his own vagabond ways as an educated vagrant.
“Always remember that philosophies are worthless unless they can give you an insight, unless they can give you a new vision of life, unless they can transform you, unless they are alchemical.” The Rajneesh Upanishad #31
So finally he left Gadarwara in 1951, after a row with his father on his choice of study and his self-dependent refusal of receiving any money from his parents. On the other hand, Nani was secretly supporting him with money for his studies in Jabalpur, and she even continued sending money to him when later he became an ass. professor in philosophy from 1959. Nani was throughout their close relationship taking the leading role in also providing Osho with the finances he needed to engage in his necessary activities as a bibliophile. But he only visited Gadarwara once or twice again after his move to Jabalpur, making Nani feels she had somehow been left behind on their journey in life.
During his university days in Jabalpur he was to stay at several places in the years 1951 to 1970. The first place, and for a brief time only, was at the house of his aunt, Babu Lal’s sister. In Jabalpur he was to study for his B.A. and later on teach philosophy, first as a lecturer and then as an ass. Professor. As we will see, he was in Jabalpur passionately dedicating himself to his lifelong obsession of collecting and reading books, and soon he started lecturing too. In years to come his bookish devotion happened in an ever expanding and uplifted mode making him in fullness of time what we might call the greatest bookman of India. Not to mention his work as a mystic, where all the knowledge and wisdom he had collected started to pour on his listeners all over India. His books as well as his meditations are stepping stones laid out to be followed by anyone who feels inclined to go on an inward journey.