How did Osho die

Bhagwan / Osho movement

In the 1970s, the waves hit high around the world when young people dressed in red marched through the city centers demonstrating and proclaiming a new philosophy of life of liberation, limitless self-development and free love. They referred to an Indian master who had been gathering disciples since 1969. In 1974 he moved with his disciples to Poona, about 260 km southeast of Bombay (now Mumbai), where he founded an ashram. Between 1974 and 1980, 250,000 intellectual dropouts from Western countries - mostly young women - flocked to Poona with the desire for enlightenment. This is where the new person should come into being, who lives in harmony with himself and his environment in order to be able to develop without limit from all ideologies and belief systems. First, Rajneesh Chandra Mohan (1931-1990) was addressed as "Bhagwan" (the divine), towards the end of his life as "Osho" (teacher).

More than 20 years after the Indian's death, the major book publishers are reprinting his speeches. Thousands still make pilgrimages to Poona, which is now called Pune. The place is now one of the preferred meditation centers for higher earners, and a professional website provides information about publications, workshops and wellness offers ( The former commune is now an acre estate with tennis courts, swimming pool, restaurants and a spiritual college. The company sees itself as a service company for an international clientele who want to get to know Osho's awareness techniques as quickly and easily as possible.

The rise and fall of a meditation movement

Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain was born in 1931 as the eldest child of a merchant family in Central India. After studying philosophy, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Jabalpur from 1958 to 1966. In 1970 "dynamic meditation" was introduced in Bombay (abrupt change between phases of intense body movements and meditative silence), and the first six students were initiated. In 1974 Rajneesh founded a meditation center (Poona I) in Poona, which, with the help of western therapists, developed into a therapy center with a predominantly western following. From 1981 to 1985 Rajneesh built a second community in Oregon / USA, according to critics for reasons of tax evasion. “Rajneeshpuram” is organized in a strictly hierarchical manner. However, Rajneesh withdrew and did not make a public speech between 1981 and 1984. Once a day, sitting in a Rolls Royce, he is driven across the ranch grounds ("drive-bye"). His colleague “Sheela” Birnstiel takes on the central management function. The influx is enormous, and numerous meditation centers based on the same pattern are emerging in the west. After internal power struggles and criminal machinations (including assault), sheela and Rajneesh fell apart in September 1985 and the commune collapsed. Rajneesh wants to secretly leave the United States, but is detained for almost three weeks and then deported. Sheela is arrested in Germany and is serving a prison sentence of several years. Today she lives as a geriatric nurse in Switzerland.

Rajneesh returns to Poona in 1987 despite protests from local residents (Poona II). The regulations are now less strict, and the variety of training in alternative forms of therapy and esoteric and occult practices is growing steadily. Shortly before his death in January 1990, Rajneesh hands over the leadership of the municipality to a 21-person leadership group ("Inner Circle"), which is supposed to make all decisions unanimously and secretly.

In the years that followed, media reported on drug deals and money laundering in the community. Western travelers are arrested and the Inner Circle takes disciplinary action. In 1996, Sheela published her memoirs and raised serious allegations against Rajneesh's students and also against her former boss, whom she still revered as her personal master. In 1998 the image and sound rights of Rajneesh's works and the name “Osho” ​​are protected by trademark law by the New York “Osho Foundation” in Zurich. A management trio of the "Inner Circle" declares itself to be the sole owner of all copyrights and sends out warning notices to other Bhagwan centers that are active in publishing. However, an American arbitration court dismissed a lawsuit on the grounds that "Osho" could not be a legally valid trademark. A long-time employee and confidante of Rajneesh, who was a member of the “Inner Circle” until 2000, turns to the press after conflicts with the co-leaders and accuses the leadership trio of dictatorial behavior.

The film "GURU - Bhagwan, His Secretary & His Bodyguard" (2010) by two Swiss filmmakers portrays the self-proclaimed guru from the point of view of his secretary and bodyguard today. In addition to clear criticism, lasting respect is evident.


Rajneesh was convinced that the ego can only be transformed with the help of a master. So he demanded submission: “You are not real! I will kill you, destroy you, so that your old, ephemeral personality becomes eternal existence. ”Today's man, according to Rajneesh, is bound by outdated worldviews and traditions and burdened by the fears of modern life, so that he has to go through a deep cleansing process in order to be able to get into the state of completely relaxed meditation free of all thoughts.

Rajneesh combined the developmental ideal of humanistic psychology, self-realization, with the ideas of reality of Eastern religions, especially with that of the divine essence of man. In this way, mysticism and spirituality, as the “psychology of the Buddhas”, are placed at the service of a deeper understanding of therapy. The fetters of the ego-consciousness should be "broken open" and thereby the divine essential nature of the human being should be accessible. In a spiritual-psychological synopsis, the goal of a Buddha-nature is to be implemented with the help of therapeutic techniques from humanistic psychology. Body-oriented exercises are intended to break the dominance of the mind and the primarily intellectual perception and evaluation and enable access to the supposedly unadulterated essence. The desired liberated life requires overcoming social conditioning through the dissolution of the ego.

Current situation

Since the death of Rajneesh, there can no longer be any talk of a unified Bhagwan / Osho movement. The disputes in Poona's governing body over the marketing rights to Bhagwan's writings, tapes and videos have made it clear to all the world that motives such as envy and greed affect this spiritual renewal movement. In addition to the inheritance disputes, the question of “loyalty to the master” was discussed intensively internally. The successors of Rajneesh have developed in different directions. It is true that many seminar leaders and health teachers who are now offering their services on the alternative self-awareness and life-support market still speak with respect from their master. Nevertheless, it cannot be overlooked that the Bhagwan followers also use other therapeutic methods on the alternative therapy market and worship spiritual masters who are still alive. The use of newer awareness techniques is also discussed critically in the Rajneesh movement. When a therapist built a bridge between the authoritarian family constellations according to Bert Hellinger and Rajneesh's vision of liberation in the company magazine “Osho Times”, protests raged. The editors were accused of having subliminally given space to certain ideologies - and that in the "Osho Times"! Despite all the criticism, more and more Bhagwan therapists are offering family constellations according to Hellinger. Well-known seminar leaders who first went to school with Rajneesh or were inspired by his thoughts and then developed independently are:

• Paul Lowe (“Teertha”), born 1933, American, well-known Poona therapist, founded and led meditation centers in England and Italy, has been traveling as a group leader through Europe for many years (

• Michael Barnett (“Somendra”), born 1930, English, eight years student of Rajneesh, founded his first center in Switzerland in 1982, then moved to France, now works near Freiburg (

• Denny Yuson (“Veeresh”), born 1938, American, founder and director of a Dutch training center (

• Sam Golden ("Samarpan"), born 1941, American, lives in Frankfurt, successful Satsang teacher (

• Alan Lowen, born in 1943, founded his own tantra school (

• Michael Crawford (first "Anamo", then "Mikaire"), born 1955, New Zealander, is active as a Satsang teacher (

• Margot Anand Naslednikov, born in 1944, is regarded as the mother of modern, western neo-Tantrism. Inspired by Rajneesh, she developed special methods and Tantra institutes all over the world (

• Gerd B. Ziegler, born in 1951, wrote several tarot books and established Tantra training (

• Burkhardt Kiegeland, born in 1943, founded the association “The White Lotus” in Salzburg, and works as a seminar leader in Switzerland (

• Michael Plesse, born in 1945, founded the “Orgoville International” network in 1991 with local Tantra schools (

• Kabir Jaffe; After 18 years in India, the psychologist and astrologer now offers awareness training with pseudo-academic degrees in Germany (

• Bernd Joschko (“Dyhan”), born in 1951, has been offering pseudotherapeutic training in “Synergetic Inner World Travel” since 1992 (

It is amazing that, despite all the scandals, intrigues and contradictions, the Rajneesh movement has remained alive to this day. If it integrates new elements, as is done, for example, by the Osho-UTA Institute in Cologne, by “bhagwanizing” esoteric trends and current alternative forms of therapy, this seems to help and also to enable expansion. The Osho UTA Institute in Cologne advertises that it has developed into one of the largest spiritual growth centers in Europe over the past 18 years and, alongside Poona, is the world's largest Osho Institute.

Increasingly, however, the Osho movement has lost its revolutionary claim and is only known through its self-awareness, therapy and meditation methods. Typical Osho methods such as “dynamic meditation” mix with everything that is current on the alternative health market. The main focus of the offers is still body-oriented, but purely cognitively working such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming) are also increasing in the Osho scene.


From a religious studies perspective, Rajneesh violated the basic rule of Indian asceticism, the lack of property. In addition to Rajneesh, the Transcendental Meditation of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the ISKCON movement were referred to as "traders with Hindu spirituality". What all three organizations have in common is that their founders were venerated as religious teachers and, under this guise, acted as clever business people.

Another problem is that the devaluation of thinking is one of the hallmarks of this movement. In this way, a human characteristic, its rationality, is discredited or even denied. The absolute setting of the emotional experience leads to a distorted perception of reality. The contradictions of everyday life require heart and mind to work together. What about higher, z. B. community values? It is probably not by chance that a noticeable number of sannyasins decide against having children of their own because they could hinder the individual path to enlightenment.

The intense bond in the master-student relationship as well as the targeted emotional provocations in the meditation groups are further points of criticism of the movement. Contrary to the utopian goal of disappearing into nothing, it must be emphasized from a psychological point of view that it does not contribute to a successful coping with everyday life to break boundaries, but to accept them and learn to deal with them. This includes arranging things that are provisional, processing disappointments and dealing with crises and setbacks. Such experiences are also essential to life - it is unhealthy and inhuman to try to erase them.


Birnstiel, Sheela, don't kill him !, Basel 1996
Osho, Esoteric Psychology, Zurich 1991
Osho, The Book of Healing, Munich 1995 Osho, Beyond the Limits of Mind, Cologne 1997
Osho, body-mind balancing. A relaxation program, Munich 2003
Osho, consciousness. Observe without judging, Munich 2004
Osho, The Orange Book, Cologne 2008
Osho, The Book of Secrets. 112 Meditation Techniques for Discovering Inner Truth, Munich 2009
Osho, The Gospel of Thomas. The groundbreaking message of Jesus, Munich 2010


Osho Times (German edition has been published monthly since 1982)


Doerne, Angelika, A Guide to Dealing with Psycho-Spiritual Groups Using the Example of the Bhagwan Movement, in:Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy15/2 (2009), 19-34
Hummel, Reinhart, gurus, masters, charlatans. Between fascination and danger, Freiburg i. Br. 1996, 82ff
Huth, Fritz-Reinhold, The self-image of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in his speeches about Jesus, Frankfurt a. M. 1993
Klosinski, Gunther, Why Bhagwan? In search of home, security and love, Munich 1985
Süss, Joachim, Bhagwan's legacy. The Osho movement today, Munich 1996
Utsch, Michael, Beyond the mind - Bhagwan Rajneesh and the consequences, in: Hempelmann, Reinhard et al. (Ed.), Panorama of the new religiosity, Gütersloh22005, 170-179

Dr. Michael Utsch, August 2011