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Arrested for Selling Osho Books!

The first part of an interview with Swami Anand Arun:
coordinator of Osho Tapoban

When I recently visited Osho Tapoban in Nepal it felt like I’d discovered an Osho Oasis, a meditation camp was in full swing and with over a hundred people participating, there was truly the flavour of Osho in the air. (See ‘Sannyas is alive and well and living in Nepal’ on this site).

Many people took sannyas at the end of the camp and in contrast to what you will find of Sannyas in the west, the number of Sannyas centres in Nepal is expanding, a map (CLICK HERE) shows just how prolific this expansion is. A major influence on all this has been Swami Anand Arun, Tapoban's coordinator.

In October 1969, at an Osho meditation camp in Gujarat, Arun was asked by Osho to spread his (Osho's) message.
Much has happened since then.

Q: I’m told you started with nothing (when you set out to start a centre in Nepal). Can you tell me about the early times and how things developed?

The early days were really a great challenge, because nobody knew in Nepal about Osho at that time. In those days in sannyas it was obligatory that you have to wear always orange clothes, and always wear a mala in front of your clothes, you can’t hide it. So I started travelling like this. And people were unaware about Osho’s name, so they thought – at that time he was another Indian guru, Sai Baba! Sai Baba was becoming very popular in Nepal at that time – so people used to mistake Osho for Sai Baba. Everybody would ask me: “Is that Sai Baba?”, and I would say: “No, it’s Osho.” Also remember, at that time he was Rajneesh, Bhagwan Rajneesh. Nobody knew Bhagwan Rajneesh. But in the early days it was OK; in '74 when I started the Centre there was not much resistance.

But slowly, the Nepalese papers and other Indian papers started writing about the “sex guru“ and sexual scandals in the Osho ashram, and things like that, so people got very negative about Osho, very negative. And I had to really face a great problem, because I was the only sannyasin in the whole country, and I had to work alone, with orange clothes. And I had a small Indian government job! I was threatened in my job also, that I have to come in proper dress, that I should come with tie and shoes in meetings, and in negotiations I should not look like a mad person with beard and with orange clothes. So they were days of great struggle, starting from say, 1970 to 1977, seven years, I had to struggle really very hard.

I was arrested also for selling Osho books, because at that time there was no democracy in Nepal. There was simply direct rule of the King, and it was not permitted to sell anything without getting it through police censorship. If you wanted to sell any book, it must pass through the police censor

What I used to do was – my house was in a remote corner of Kathmandu at that time; it was away from the city, and there were not many houses in that locality. Kathmandu was not crowded 30 years before, and people were not interested in coming so far to my house to buy books or cassettes; so I started selling books on the footpath, in the main centre of Kathmandu, in New Road.

My job I was doing, was that I was working in a Israeli/Nepal government company, so they had very tough timing, 8 am -5 pm - I had to work 9 hours (a day). But then after 5 pm I used to go to New Road, and I started selling Osho books on the footpath. If you go to New Road, there is a tree, a very old tree, a very popular tree, and there, there is a small platform. On that platform you will see many people nowadays selling magazines and papers. I was one of the first Nepalese who started selling books there. Nobody else was there then. So I used to sell books till it got dark – from 5 pm – 7 pm – small books, pocket books, because people were not interested in buying Poona produced books because they were too expensive. So I used to get Osho pocket books - at that time books costing two or three Indian rupees were available. So I used to sell those books, but still there were not many buyers, people were not interested, and if I could sell one two rupee book, that day was a day of celebration. The guy that purchased a book, I used to tell him, you meet me at 7 pm, because I have to remain on the stand until then, and later we will have tea together. And then I used to take him in a hotel, and I used to give him a really good treat for buying a book. If you bought a two rupee book, you used to get a 20 rupee’s treat! (Laughter) So that way, I started making friends.

Still people were not interested in books, so in my engineering office I wrote on the board – “ A free trial for any book: you buy any book and read it, and if you are not satisfied within one week, you can return the book and get your money back, and no questions will be asked.” So then a few students and others started coming to buy a book on that assurance, that if they are not satisfied they can get their money back. And another offer was, that if you buy a book you get a treat. That was not written on the board, but that became known, that for anybody who buys a book, he gets a good treat in the evening. So I just spent all my salary on this, getting books from Poona, selling them on the footpath, and then if anybody bought a book I would give them a good feast. If they bought many books then I used to take them for dinner. If they bought one or two books, then a good snack. But it became fruitful, because when you feed people they become very open, then you can talk to them, because while eating everybody becomes open, as the whole system is ready to accept the food, and at the same time they can accept the ideas, because they are not closed. So I got a few friends from this practice, who later became sannyasins after a few years. So that way, selling the books on the footpath became very fruitful. I did it for two years, and in two years I made a few friends who started coming to the centre later on for buying more books.

The police and the CID they are not very intelligent. They used to come and watch every day, (thinking) who is this man who sells the books on the footpath. And they saw a book and they could not understand (what it was about), and the book was (called) “Beware of Socialism”, so they thought it was a political book. And another book was called “The Inward Revolution”. The third book was “The Silent Explosion”. Actually, that was the book which I was arrested for selling, that was a wonderful book. In English its cost was only 12 Rupees. When the CID came they saw that book, and they thought The Silent Explosion meant the book contained some information by which you can make bombs (Laughter), so I was arrested for selling that. The police were there and they reported to the Magistrate that one young guy, he comes every evening and attracts other young people, and he sells a book which is called The Silent Explosion, so may be his book is about how to make bombs. And (he also sells) other political books like The Inward Revolution, and Beware of Socialism, and other revolutionary books, so he must be arrested. So I got arrested next day.

I had a hard time trying to convince the Magistrate that these were religious books and there was nothing political. But all my Osho books were seized, and the books I had purchased through my very limited monthly salary – 700 Nepalese rupees a month – and six months of my salary, all these books were seized. Although after long a case I was acquitted. However I was told: OK, these are not political, you can do this, but you have made a mistake because you didn’t get permission to sell the books, so you are free, but your books are seized. So that was a big blow to me, because that was my whole salary for six months. Again I had to save money to buy books.

So that way I continued, for two years continuously, that was my centre - the footpath of the main road was my centre, and people used to come to talk about Osho till it used to get dark. And after it got dark we used to go to a good coffee shop, every evening I had a few friends there talking, and we had snacks and talks, so that was the way the movement (here in Nepal) started.

Other questions and Arun's replies will be published soon