OSHO (Rajneesh) Chandra Mohan Jain (11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh, as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
Rajneesh’s ashram in Pune is today known as the Osho International Meditation Resort. His teachings emphasize the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, courage, creativity and humor.
Rajneesh was born Chandra Mohan Jain (the eldest of eleven children of a cloth merchant and his wife) at his maternal grandparents’ house in Kuchwada, a small Indian village in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh State. His parents, Babulal and Saraswati Jain let him live with his maternal grandparents until he was seven years old. By Rajneesh’s account, this was a major influence on his development; his grandmother gave him unbridled freedom and imposed no education on him. When he was seven his grandfather died, and Chandra went to Gadarwara to live with his parents. Rajneesh was profoundly affected by his grandfather’s death and the death of his childhood girlfriend (his cousin Shashi) from typhoid when he was 15. His preoccupation with death lasted through much of his youth.
In 1951, aged nineteen, Rajneesh began his studies at Hitkarini College in Jabalpur. Asked to leave after conflicts with an instructor, he transferred to D. N. Jain College in Jabalpur. Disruptively argumentative, he was not required to attend classes at D. N. Jain College (except for examinations); he used his free time to work as an assistant editor for a local newspaper.
He began speaking in public at the annual Sarva Dharma Sammelan (meeting of all faiths) at Jabalpur, organised by the Teranpanthi Jain community into which he was born. He participated there from 1951 to 1968.
He resisted parental pressure to marry. Rajneesh later said he became spiritually enlightened on 21 March 1953, at age 21, in a mystical experience while sitting under a tree in the Bhanvartal Garden in Jabalpur.
After completing his B.A. in philosophy at D. N. Jain College in 1955, he joined the University of Sagar, where in 1957 he earned his M.A. with distinction in philosophy. He secured a teaching post at Raipur Sanskrit College; however, the vice-chancellor soon asked him to seek a transfer since he considered him a danger to his students’ morality, character and religion.
Beginning in 1958 he lectured in philosophy at Jabalpur University, and was promoted to professor in 1960. A popular lecturer, he was acknowledged by his peers as an exceptionally intelligent man who had overcome the deficiencies of a small-town education.
At a public meditation event in spring 1970, Rajneesh presented his Dynamic Meditation method for the first time. Rajneesh had acquired a secretary, Laxmi Thakarsi Kuruwa, who (as his first disciple) had taken the name Ma Yoga Laxmi. Laxmi was the daughter of one of his early followers, a wealthy Jain who had been a key supporter of the Congress Party during the struggle for Indian independence, and who had close ties to Gandhi, Nehru and Morarji Desai. Laxmi raised the money which enabled Rajneesh to stop traveling and settle down.
In December 1970 he moved to the Woodlands Apartments in Mumbai, where he gave lectures and received visitors (among them his first Westerners).He traveled rarely, no longer speaking at open public meetings.
In 1971, he adopted the title “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh”.Shree is a polite form of address, roughly equivalent to the English “sir”; Bhagwan means “Blessed One”, used in Indian tradition as a term of respect for a human being in whom the divine is apparent.
The humid Bombay weather was detrimental to Rajneesh’s health; he developed diabetes, asthma and a number of allergies.
In 1974, on the 21st anniversary of his experience in Jabalpur, he moved to a property in Koregaon Park, Pune, which was purchased with the help of Ma Yoga Mukta. Rajneesh taught at the Pune ashram from 1974 to 1981. The two adjoining houses and 6 acres (2.4 ha) of land became the center of what is now the Osho International Meditation Resort. The number of Western visitors increased. The ashram soon featured an arts-and-crafts centre, which produced clothes, jewellery, ceramics and organic cosmetics and hosted theatre, music and mime performances.In 1975, after the arrival of therapists from the Human Potential Movement, the ashram began to complement its meditations with group therapy.
The day began at 6:00 am, with Dynamic Meditation. At 8:00 am Rajneesh gave a 60- to 90-minute lecture in the ashram’s Buddha Hall auditorium, commenting on religious writings or answering questions from visitors and disciples. Until 1981, lecture series in Hindi alternated with series in English. During the day, meditation and therapy took place; their intensity was ascribed to the energy of Rajneesh’s “buddhafield”.In evening darshans, Rajneesh conversed with individual disciples and visitors, and initiated disciples (sannyas).Sannyasins came for darshan when leaving, returning, or when they had anything they wanted to discuss.
On 10 April 1981, having discoursed daily for nearly 15 years, Rajneesh entered a three-and-a-half-year period of self-imposed public silence; satsangs—silent sitting, with music and readings from spiritual works such as Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet or the Isha Upanishad—replaced discourses. Around the same time, Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) replaced Ma Yoga Laxmi as Rajneesh’s secretary.
From April 1981 to November 1984, Osho was “in silence”, not speaking publicly or giving discourses. During that time, videos of his discourses were played to audiences instead. His time was largely spent in seclusion; he communicated only with a few key disciples, including Ma Anand Sheela and his caretaker girlfriend Ma Yoga Vivek (Christine Woolf).
On 30 October 1984, Osho ended his period of public silence, announcing that it was time to “speak his own truths.” In July 1985 he resumed daily public discourses (against Sheela’s wishes, according to statements he made to the press).
Osho died at 5 p.m. on 19 January 1990 at age 58, reportedly of heart failure.