Osho Dham

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More than a decade after Bhagwan Rajneesh left the earth, the Osho ashram continues to attract devotees and controversies in equal numbers .

FOUNDED by Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh (as he was called by his followers in his early phase), Osho Ashram has, over the past few years, become a virtual refuge for anyone looking for exploring Indian spirituality and that it connotes.

Born as Rajneesh Chandra Mohan (1931-1990) in Kuchwara, a town in central India, Rajneesh attained samadhi (enlightenment when he became one with the universe and the power of life and death over him was removed) on 21st March 1953, at the age of 21.

It is believed that the faith had about 2,00,000 members and 600 centres around the world at its zenith. To the outside world, Osho, both the leader and the commune, has been the centre of controversy. Ranging from sex scandals, drugs, corruption, arson and even murder. And targeted by many anti-cult groups as an evil, mind control cult. One source, in a masterful stroke of religious disinformation, claimed that Bhagwan means Master of the Vagina. He has been called the "sex guru."

Osho's Journeys
Though Osho was raised as a Jain, he practised his own form of spirituality after his samadhi. This was first called Rajneeshism and then Oshoism. He went on to study, and then teach philosophy in Jabalpur for nine years, while teaching his faith. After which, he left his post and focussed on teaching entirely. Local opposition from the public forced him to close down his ashram in Mumbai in 1974, he was rebuilt it in Koregaon Park, a more isolated suburb. Many of his students came from the US.

In 1981, he went to the US for advanced treatment of his health problems, and the ashram settled in Big Muddy Ranch near Antelope, Oregaon. Bought at an expensive six million dollars, the ranch was renamed as Rajneeshpuram (puram means town or city). Once again, the sprawling rich Rajneesh community was not tolerated by the local groups, and Rajneesh's followers found itself involved in a messy controversy. Two of his disciples were convicted of conspiracy to murder and local pressure once again forced the ashram to relocate to Charlotte, NC.

Finally, Rajneesh was forced to leave the country, when faced with charges of arranging false marriages and of lying on his immigration papers. Back in Poona in 1986, his health began to fail. And with his return he took on his new name Osho from the phrase "Oceanic Experience". He died in Poona in 1990 as he lived, amidst controversy.

Underlying Belief
Having shunned the cumbersome garb of religion, Osho took to exploring the greater realms of the unknown, his main thrust focussed on shredding the veneer to reach into the unknown that eludes the unseeing eye and the unseeking mind.

Osho emphasised that different people needed different methods to find inner peace. These methods could range from ancient techniques of Tibetan Buddhism, Vipassana, Sufiesm, Greek philosophy, Zen and Indian mystical traditions to the new scientific methods including humanistic psychology specially designed for the contemporary human being who can find it so difficult to relax and be silent.

Having himself achieved nirvana, he believed in a form of monism - that God, humanity, life and non-life were one and the same. That God was in everything and everything was part of God. Duality that attributes an entity with superior powers as different from human beings does not exist. Human beings are inherently neither good or bad as they were part of God. It is only one's own social and personal repression that distorted perception of this truth. To achieve nirvana, he believed that the individual should overcome this repression. A combination of chanting, naturism, primal screaming, different kinds of meditation - static and dynamic, extreme forms of violent exercise, free love without social inhibitions to purge the ego.

Once having done that the individual would develop a "state of emptiness", and attain enlightenment "no past, no future, no attachment, no mind, no ego, no self." And would escape from the vicious cycle of birth and death and become one with the eternal force.

The Commune
The Osho Commune in Pune is a beautiful place spread over 32 acres of land carefully converted into an oasis for spiritual health. It provides a multitude of possibilities for inner discovery and exploration.

It receives thousands of visitors every year from all countries and from all walks of life. Not all come for spiritual reasons. Some do to satisfy their curiosity. The commune, though, is open to all. To participate in the commune's activity, one needs to have an AIDS negative certificate. The testing is to be done in the commune itself.

The followers of Osho wear maroon robes for meditation and white robes for the discourses, with a necklace of 108 rudraksha beads with an attached picture of Rajneesh. They are assigned new names by Osho. Men were given the title "Swami" and women "Ma". They are not expected to continue relationships with their family, when they are in the commune.

There are six different meditations that happen on a daily basis for the duration of one hour each. The high point of the day is the Osho White Robe Brotherhood which starts at 7:00 pm and incorporates music, dancing, meditation and discourse. For being in the ashram and for attending the meditations one has to wear maroon robes, while the white robe is compulsory for attending the evening discourses.

How to reach there
Just 180 kms from the nearest metro, Mumbai, Pune is easily accessible via air, road or rail. Though road travel should be avoided during the monsoons (June to August), as the Mumbai-Pune highway is nothing much to write home about or anywhere else. Private airlines like Jet Airways, along with the domestic carrier Indian Airlines conduct two flights to and from Mumbai daily.

The train shuttle service between Pune and Mumbai is an excellent one. Trains start as early as 6:00 in the morning and continue till 10:00 a.m, after that one could easily hop on to a passing train to reach the metro. Buses ply every half an hour to Mumbai and back and getting a ticket is no problem at all.

Unlike the more humid metro, Mumbai, Pune enjoys a temperate climate though the winters could be rather chilly. The even-tempered city generally sways between a warm 24 to 30 degrees celsius. November to March is the best time of the year to plan a trip to the former Peshwa capital. And it would be prudent to carry an extra pair of woollies then. Summers could be rather scorching and the wise would not venture forth in the rains.

Osho Centres and Event Calendar
The full moon celebrations at the commune start on Osho's birthday (December 11) and goes on for well over a month. The festivities at the commune attract the virtual who's who from all over the country and from abroad as well. 

Osho centres are present across the Indian continent. Not all of them have daily activities though the evening and morning meditations and the white robe brotherhood is present. The programmes of each centre is decided by the centre head themselves based on timings and possibilities available.

The centres are run by the center heads with other friends but they do not act as gurus. The only guru recognised in Osho himself. And if he is not present in his body, then taped discourses/ videos of him are used for guidance. Some of these centers are

Daily schedule in the ashram
Early morning is for meditation. From 5:30 am in the morning, everyone sits on a meditation session. At 8:00 there is breakfast. Then starts the various workshops, meditation therapy sessions conducted by the ashram. The afternoon is siesta time. And in the evening there is another round of workshops and meditation sessions.

Things to bring
Nothing. Whatever you need is available at Koregaon Park where the ashram is located.

Other practical tips
The ashram conducts AIDs test for anyone wanting to live there. You are required to leave your clothes and your paraphernalia behind. You will only require the maroon robes that you get in the ashram.



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