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Osho's Life. A Misguided attempt at Autobiography?

A Review of "Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic"

(St Martin's Press, New York)

(Available from Osho Purnima (UK) tel: 01268 584141.)

I met Osho in 1974 and a number of western sannyasins even then were interested in his "previous life". Sometimes sannyasins with a literary or journalistic background were asked by Osho between 1974 and 79 to "write something about him" even by Osho himself. However I remember clearly when a friend of mine was responding to this call with a characteristic diligence, he asked Osho whether he might have material on his earlier life, Osho replied with his usual disarming grace, "make it up"! Many westerners took this on trust for many years believing that Osho felt it unproductive for us to "know" him in this way, myself included, none the less we felt a delight with the publication of "Glimpses of a Golden Childhood" in 1985, but we took it with humour, and bore in mind his earlier instruction to "make it up", especially as the book benefited from the catalyst of nitrous oxide.

I myself do not believe that Osho was at all interested in autobiography or even biography. I do know that he was very keen to have appended the phrase "this discourse is complete unto itself" to all his "gossips", the name he himself gave to his lectures, and one wonders, not only here but elsewhere why his works are being processed through category and cut up in a way that he himself often vociferously opposed. Further there is certainly evidence that when a Master begins to find an undue interest in his past life he often wishes to cloak it in a "Cloud of Unknowing", not for his own sake, but for his disciples. For example Gurdjieff in the modern age seemed to have gone to quite considerable lengths to consign his earlier life to obscurity, as did Rumi's own Master "Shams" in 13th century Konya.

However I do not distrust the sincerity with which the task of producing an "Autobiography" has been undertaken. But what a strange title! Osho's mysticism was always impeccable in my mind. What he demonstrated was the rebellious implications of such a mysticism for it was and is an affront to what might be called societal norms, especially in its insistence that the only contract for any human being is that of a stark individual one between him(her)self and God which throws any identity with nation, family or religion into free fall.

Osho's words almost always send me into reverie of one sort or another, as do the ones in this compilation, and I am sure they will do any sannyasin who feels that kind of proximity to him. But it is important to see not only what the compilation includes, but also what it excludes. For me it excludes the "rough edges" of Osho, oddly enough the rebellious stuff which took on the shibboleths of political, religious and personal power, and showed then to be inimical to the 'paradise regained', at the centre of authentic spiritual life. For example his attacks on the American or Indian establishment, his attacks on the Vatican, his attacks on communism, his attacks on capitalism, and his complete emphasis on a universal and open, untargeted "love", rather than the unseemly lauding of family or any other kind of ego-centered love. This "spin" put on Osho to portray him as someone, somehow acceptable to respectable opinion is misguided, to say the very least, and one that would have prompted, should he have been alive, his usual humourous attack.

In what has become known as the 'Hindi Canon" which is increasingly available in translation, there is some detail of Osho's earlier life, not previously available to westerners, and this will become more and more so as time goes on. This is because there are still many other discourses from Hindi to translate. Sannyasnews has discovered a little known website http://pages.unisonfree.net/otto201/ simply entitled on entry "Osho's Life" which demonstrates what looks like extensive research around Osho's words including the "Hindi Canon" where he reflects on his own life. It is downloadable and is extremely comprehensive being what looks like the equivalent of 1,500 pages of text. For the scholar, but not only the scholar, this is really a treasure trove with lots of entries about Osho's life before he became a public figure, many from little known parts of the "Hindi Canon".

If you're interested why a boy born in an obscure and remote Indian hamlet, without a school or even a post office, and at that time just a road for bullock-carts came to be the foremost mystic of the century, then this is the source to which to turn, not the rather one-sided issue from St Martin's press.


(Swami Anand) Parmartha