I did not know Rajneesh but met him twice fleetingly in 1985-86 after he was essentially prosecuted out of the United States. Both my meetings took place in Bombay as an Associated Press (AP) correspondent and both were unintentionally memorable.
I would like to recount one of them a little bit as a prelude to my short post about the upcoming release of “The Ultimate Iconoclast: Understanding Rajneesh Osho’s Revolutionary and ‘Dangerous’ Ideas” by Dr. Kuldip Kumar Dhiman. Before I get to Kuldip’s book this short detour.
My first meeting with Rajneesh was at the Bombay airport as he was being wheeled out by one of his aides. Rajneesh had become a huge story in the US having been slapped with a 35-count indictment by a federal grand jury accusing him and his disciples of violating immigration laws. He was arrested on October 28, 1985 on board a private jet in North Carolina and then paraded in chains. There are several sordid details to the whole case but they are not germane to this post.
The case against Rajneesh concluded with him having agreed to what is known as the Alford plea, which essentially means the defendant not pleading guilty and maintaining innocence even while conceding to the existence of enough evidence with the prosecution to convict should the case go to trial. I am mentioning the basic details because they are relevant to my meeting. Rajneesh received a suspended sentence of 10 years, a fine of $400,000 and was asked to leave the country.
As Rajneesh was coming out of the airport I quickly introduced myself. The word AP did the trick because by then he was very familiar with it.
I was told sternly by the aide that unless I addressed him as “Bhagwan Rajneesh” he would not respond. I kept calling him Mr. Rajneesh. He relented after a while. One of the questions I asked was whether his commune in Oregon was seen as a threat to the local Christian community. He looked at me with mild amusement and replied in his trademark nasal tone, “If a religion, which is nearly 2000 years old, can be destroyed by an old, unarmed man (namely Rajneesh), then that religion deserves to be destroyed.”
For the record Rajneesh was not that old then. He was 54 but managed to look much older. He told me he had been administered a slow acting poison during his incarceration.
The author, Dr. Kuldip Kumar Dhiman
Kuldip’s book, for which he generously asked me to write a blurb and which has absolutely no connection to my writing this post, is soon to be released in America. Being a doctorate in philosophy, specializing in philosophical psychology, Kuldip is uniquely qualified to dissect the core of Rajneesh’s ideas which seem to have lived well beyond him as they continue to find many adherents. Rajneesh died in 1990.
My blurb, which bears repeating here for obvious reasons, said, “What Rajneesh stood for could have fresh resonance all over again, not in terms of creating more camp followers but by prompting people to be free from dogmas. In that sense, Dr. Dhiman does a credible job of reintroducing Rajneesh Osho.”
‘The Ultimate Iconoclast’ soundly showcases Kuldip’s keen and sharp understanding of not just what Rajneesh stood for but the author’s ability to encapsulate it for generations that came after his time and is scarce aware of him. (An oblique inspiration from Einstein’s tribute to Gandhi). To say that Rajneesh was controversial is like saying the Moon is not a ball of cheese. There are many compelling passages in the book for what they represent but let me cite just this one from page 238 because it is relevant in light of the recent ferment among India’s civil society over debasement of values in public life.
Kuldip writes, “Rajneesh proposed the view that in any healthy society there should be a group of experienced people, who contemplate deeply on political and social affairs but are themselves not active in politics. Such thinkers must now and again inject fresh ideas into society, but this should be done without any formal organizational support. ‘Because I believe that the moment people rally behind an idea, the idea begins to get distorted, and begins to get exploited. The moment an organization, or a sect stands behind an idea, from that very instant individuals begin to exploit it for their own self-interest. The the idea dies, and in its place self interest arises. So I believe that an idea should never take an organizational form.’” That’s sharp and succinct.
I am glad that Kuldip has chosen to write the book if only to bring back to the current debate public figures such as Rajneesh who decidedly operated outside the norm and yet managed to influence it. I have chosen not to write a review because I find reviews redundant and irrelevant simply because the author has said what he or she wanted to say. It is futile to second-guess or speculate over what has already been written. A book is written and that’s that.
The only observation I will make about Kuldip’s book is that his passionate interest in the man and his ideas is writ all over it.