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A response to Osho Foundation International from Gorakh, the convenor of the sannyasworld.com website

A reader of the sannyasworld site wrote to Osho International Foundation to ask about why the site had been closed down. In fact, quite a few people have written to them. The response recieved requires some clarification from our side, as it perpetuates a lot nonsense that has been going around.

(Unfortunately, the copyright on the letter is unclear, but we suspect that the whole letter is copyrighted by OIF and it will be strictly enforced. Therefore we will have to use short excerpts from the letter to stay within the 'fair use' guidelines (US Copyright Act S.107).)

The sannyasin had expressed dismay at the closing of sannyasworld. The reply from Pramod started with: "Thank you [...] for your messages regarding the taking down of sannyasworld.com.".

The letter continues with "... sannyasworld.com made large numbers of the foundation's digital audios and book excerpts available for download.". We had, for a short time, made some audio discourses available for download. They took too much bandwidth so we discontinued them. Unfortunately Google still had the links in the cache and some downloads continued. They have now been removed. We did, of course, have 'book excerpts' (or 'Osho quotes' as we call them) on the site but to say they were 'available for download' is a nice bit of legal spin. If you can view them in a browser, well of course they are available for download! But we have never had books available for download.

The letter continues with the explanation that they tried to contact the site owner and after recieving no reponse, then proceeded with a legal approach via the lawyers. This is true. Unfortunately we didn't recieve the email. We asked our technicians to take a look and there was a week when a lot of emails got flagged as spam until the fault was noticed and corrected. Coincidentally, that was the week that OIF tried to contact us. Existence certainly has it's own timing in these matters and we take it as an excellent opportunity to bring these matters out into the open.

There then follow a couple of paragraphs expaining that Osho wanted books published and copyrights upheld, also mentioning that Osho was never interested in giving things away for free and that having sannyasins and others pay for things was always his intention. The text makes reference to 'pirating' and 'illegally'.

Next he explains that Osho requested that his name be changed to Osho everywhere and the dates removed from the discourses, a policy we have always observed here. Also that Osho only wanted pictures of him wearing a hat to be used.

This brings up an interesting issue. Those of us who have worked (previously) in the publishing department know about these guidelines, but most sannyasins don't. So, it is easy for a web site owner to go against them. By keeping the guidelines 'secret', or at least, not public, means that OIF can easily wave a big stick over the site owners. These guidelines are not publically available and known only to the few. Governments everywhere have similar tricks, the best way to control the population is to make them 'criminals', and the best way to have control over sannyasins is to turn them into 'criminals' too.

Then come some paragraphs explaining how the copyrights to Osho's words and pictures belong to OIF and that they have a court case to back it up: "Osho gave personal sworn testimony in a copyright case in the United States – in a copyright infringement action against a sannyasin – confirming his assignment of copyright to the foundation. The court held that Osho's copyright is with the foundation and that the sannyasin was in breach of that copyright."

"Endless situations have appeared where the Foundation has had to take legal action to protect the work.". A publisher that took a mix and match of Oshos discourses and created his own book, a website that published Osho's talks under his own name. Next there is some stories of how OIF has protected Osho's copyright by closing down a brothel in Bombay called 'Osho', a massage practise in Spain called 'Osho'.

This is all excellent, and this is what Osho intended OIF to do. We have no problem with that. What we do consider a misuse of power is to use the same techniques against friendly web sites and blog-owners. But more on this later, because next we have:"Of course people are free to discuss any matter they like on any site they like and sannyasworld.com certainly entertains any view including those personal attacks slandering anyone and everyone involved in this work in ways which are often so mean spirited and absurd as to be laughable.".

Here we have to say a few words. We are not Osho fanatics. We tend to give posters the benefit of the doubt. But we are very clear that this site is for Osho's sannyasins to share news and views together. When it becomes clear that some one, or some group, has headed off in a direction that takes them away from this policy, then we stop accepting news from them. So it has been with OshoWorld, Osho Tapoban, Pan, Giten and others. At first we accepted news items from them, but after seeing the direction they were headed, then we stopped.

We also have an opinion section, where we accept opinions. We make it clear that the opinions posted are those of the poster, not of sannyasworld. In our view, it's better to have things out in the open and discussed.

We don't accept everything. About half the news submissions we get are simply deleted. Any opinion that is anonymously submitted is deleted. All news items about groups or individuals that are not connected to Osho sannysins are deleted. All viagra salesmen are deleted... as are offers of body enhancements.

He continues: "And on Osho.com, it is purely an Osho site. No personal attacks, no politics, no opinions from the unenlightened or pseudo enlightened: Just Osho.".

Could this be connected to the fact that OIF and Osho.com claim to own all the copyrights to everything??? And it is interesting that nearly two decades after Osho's body left him, it is doubtful that OIF could name a single website that they would consider within Osho's guidelines or representative of Osho. Why is that?

The letter closes with an explanation of why it is necessary to follow up every copyright violation ("To not do so would tarnish the strength of the copyright and would be a gross avoidance of the responsibilities proposed by Osho prior to his leaving his body.") and "Please understand that this process of policing will be ongoing and it is choiceless.". This is followed by statistics showing how the book publishing business has grown under the watchful and careful administration of OIF.

The Big Issues

The response raises a number of issues.

First, the lumping together of an Osho lover putting a few quotes on a blog (a pirate) and full scale commercial plagiarism. Or, if you like, a Bombay brothel, seems to be a bit contrived. Yes, certainly make sure that Osho's name is not abused or slandered, that his words are not entirely misrepresented. But to pretend that the same attitude is needed towards sannyasin websites, and to claim that it is 'choiceless', is a shallow defence. In fact, the whole letter is rather defensive and it would be good to look at why that is.

Not making the guidelines public for presenting Osho. It should be possible to have a page with some guidance for those who love Osho and would like to put something on their site. You could mention that ultimately all copyright rests with OIF, that Osho liked to wear a hat, that use of quotes should be no more than xxx lines, not modified from the original and so on. In short, be pro-active with the community, not reactive.

The creating of an 'us and them' mentality. Of course, OIF are not the only ones guilty of this. There is a growing industry based on fragmenting Osho's people and profiting from them (Keerti and OshoWorld, Arun and Tapoban to name a couple) but there is something very sad to see OIF playing the same games.

OIF functions perfectly in the 'real world' of publishers, lawyers and commercial enterprise. But the price of doing this has alienated them from the rest of the sannyas community and, to a certain extent, from the Resort in Pune. One option is to have OIF limit itself to the 'hard' cases, have the Resort deal with the 'soft' cases. Indiscriminately lashing out at all and sundry is not constructive though. It is as if Osho has created a beautiful garden and OIF feels it is the gardener and in the process of hacking down the weeds it is also destroying the flowers.

Osho once said: "But nobody is my follower. Nobody is going to be my successor. Each sannyasin is my representative. When I am dead, you all -- individually -- will have to represent me to the world. There is not going to be any pope. There is not going to be any shankaracharya. Each sannyasin, in his own capacity, has to represent me.
This has never happened -- but it is going to happen! You are all my successors.
When I am dead, that simply means I have left this body and entered all the bodies of my people.
I will be within you.
I will be part of you."

Wherever sannyasins gossip or sit silently, dance madly or sing, meditate or celebrate, there is where we really find Osho. All the books and internet sites are like shadows on the wall, pale reflections of our inner light. How much more beautiful it would be if those shadows could be given colour and depth by using some of Osho's words and pictures. Wouldn't the world be a richer place?

The idea that because a web site has published a quote from Osho therefore means it is harder to publish books is false. Certainly if a site is going to put all the books up for download, that may (but only may) have a detrimental effect, but it is also possible that it may move people to buy the book. No-one curls up on the couch to read a PDF, they would want to hold a beautifully printed book. Think of it as free advertising.

The effect of legal threats against web sites is to drive them underground and create division. For politicians, that makes sense. But you don't need to be politicians. OIF can't control the Internet anyway, so why not work with the bits that you can work with? Be creative, not reactive. If there is site that is contravening some guidelines, then help them to improve it. Be lenient, accept that all of Osho's people have their own point of view and that they will often do things that you don't like. Work with them, not against them. Think of it as a leela.

"So wherever my people are, whatever they are doing, if their heart beats in tune with me, they are with me. Then all distances of time and space disappear."