Osho, formerly known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (abbreviated here as BSR in citations for works written when he still used that name), stands out as perhaps the most controversial of all Eastern gurus who have managed to attract a significant Western following. Often referred to as a “sex guru” or “the guru of the rich,” Osho appears to epitomize the stereotypical guru often encountered in popular culture and decried by the anticult movement. Osho’s positive understanding of sexuality, his unashamed display of material wealth—when living in the United States, he shocked his critics by claiming to own 93 Rolls Royces (Palmer 1988, 128)—coupled with repeated allegations of illegal activities, all came together to establish Osho as the archetypal “cult leader” to his detractors. However, as will be discussed in this chapter, Osho’s teachings on sexuality are in fact not as controversial or irrational as they might have appeared to the eyes of his critics. On the contrary, Osho’s teachings are not only consistent and coherent, but they are also reflective of the period in which they were formulated. Although some scholars have previously discussed Osho’s teachings on sex, sexuality, gender, and women—most notably Hugh Urban, Elizabeth Puttick, and Marion Goldman—Osho’s teachings on these subjects remain difficult to access since they are scattered throughout his published work.2 This chapter aims to provide a deeper understanding of Osho’s teachings on sexuality by discussing a wide range of direct references to sex, sexuality, gender, and women culled from over 200 publications.
- Sexual Attitude
- Mystical Experience
- Sociological Analysis
- Woman Entrepreneur
- Spiritual Leader
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Henrik Bogdan wrote the first two sections of the chapter, whereas the remainder was written by Roshani Cari Shay. All the original research and interviews were conducted by Shay.
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Note: Many of Osho’s books bear no year of publication or copyright. In those cases, an attempt to indicate the most likely date is made in parentheses.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (BSR). 1978a. The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol. 3. Poona, India: Shree Rajneesh Foundation.
—. 1978b. The Psychology of the Esoteric. New York: Harper & Row.
—. 1978c. Yoga: The Path to Liberation. London: Penguin Books.
—. 1979. From Sex to Superconsciousness. Poona, India: Rajneesh Foundation Ltd.
—. 1980. The Secret: Discourses on Sufism. Poona, India: Rajneesh Foundation.
—. 1983. Tantra, Spirituality & Sex. Rajneeshpuram, OR: Rajneesh Foundation International.
—. 1984a. The Book: An Introduction to the Teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Series I from A to H. Rajneeshpuram, OR: Rajneesh Foundation International.
—. 1984b. The Book: An Introduction to the Teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Series II from I to Q. Rajneeshpuram, OR: Rajneesh Foundation International.
—. 1984c. The Book: An Introduction to the Teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Series III from R to Z. Rajneeshpuram, OR: Rajneesh Foundation International.
—. (1985a). From Bondage to Freedom: Answers to the Seekers of the Path. Cologne, West Germany: The Rebel Publishing House GmbH.
—. (1985b). From Death to Deathlessness: Answers to the Seekers of the Path. Cologne, West Germany: The Rebel Publishing House GmbH.
—. (1985c). From the False to the Truth: Answers to the Seekers of the Path. Cologne: West Germany: The Rebel Publishing House GmbH.
—. 1986a. The Last Testament: Interviews with the World Press, Vol. 1. Boulder, CO: Rajneesh Publications, Inc.
—. 1986b. Sermons in Stones. Rajneeshdam, India.
—. (1986c). Socrates Poisoned Again after 25 Centuries. Cologne, West Germany: The Rebel Publishing House GmbH.
—. (1987). The Great Pilgrimage from Here to Here. Cologne, West Germany: The Rebel Publishing House GmbH.
—. n.d.a. The Last Testament, Vol. 3. http://www.osho.com/library/online-library-priest-global-fve-8d76b2ef-534.aspx (accessed July 22, 2010).
—. n.d.b. Tao: The Golden Gate, Vol. 1. http://www.oshocom/library (accessed July 22, 2010).
Braun, Kirk. 1984. Rajneeshpuram: The Unwelcome Society: Cultures Collide in a Quest for Utopia. West Linn, OR: Scout Creek Press.
Carter, Lewis F. 1987. “The ‘New Renunciates’ of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh: Observations and Identifcation of Problems of Interpreting New Religious Movements.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 26(2): 148–72.
—. 1990. Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram: A Community without Shared Values. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fitzgerald, Frances. 1986. Cities on a Hill. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Forman, Juliet. (1987–88). Bhagwan: The Buddha for the Future. Poona, India: Rebel Publishing House.
Geraghty, Anne. (2007). In the Dark and Still Moving. Cumbria, England: The Tenth Bull.
Goldman, Marion S. 1999. Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Goldman, Marion S. and Lynne Isaacson. 1999. “Enduring Affliation and Gender Doctrine for Shiloh Sisters and Rajneesh Sannyasins.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(3): 411–22.
Inderlied, Sheila Davis, and Gary Powell. 1979. “Sex-Role Identity and Leadership Style: Different Labels for the Same Concept?” Sex-Roles 5: 613–25.
Latkin, Carl A. 1986. “Gender Roles at Rajneeshpuram,” paper presented to the Oregon Psychological Association, May.
—. 1990. “The Self-Concept of Rajneeshpuram Commune Members.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29(1): 91–98.
Latkin, Carl A., R. A. Hagan, R. A. Littman, and N. D. Sundberg. 1987. “Who Lives in Utopia? A Brief Report on the Rajneeshpuram Research Project.” Sociological Analysis 48(1): 73–81.
Meredith, George. (1987–88). Bhagwan: The Most Godless yet the Most Godly Man. Poona, India: Rebel Publishing House.
Milne, Hugh. 1986. Bhagwan: The God Tat Failed. New York: St. Martin’s.
Osho. 1995. Nowhere to Go but In. Poona, India: Rebel Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.
—. 1998. The Book of Secrets: The Science of Meditation. New York: St. Martin’s Grifen.
—. 2009a. I Say unto You, vol. 2. New Delhi, India: Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd.
—. 2009b. The New Alchemy: To Turn You On. Pune, India: Osho International Foundation.
Palmer, Susan J. 1988. “Charisma and Abdication: A Study of the Leadership of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.” Sociological Analysis 49(2): 119–35.
—. 1994. Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers: Women’s Roles in New Religions. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
Palmer, Susan J., and Frederick Bird. 1992. “Terapy, Charisma and Social Control in the Rajneesh Movement.” Sociological Analysis 53(Spring): 71–85.
Puttick, Elizabeth. 1995. “Sexuality, Gender and the Abuse of Power in the Master-Disciple Relationship: The Case of the Rajneesh Movement.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 10(1): 29–40.
—. 1997. Women in New Religions: In Search of Community, Sexuality and Spiritual Power. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Strelley, Kate. 1987. The Ultimate Game: The Rise and Fall of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. London: Harpercollins.
Subhuti, Anand. 2010. My Dance with a Madman. London: Perfect Publisher.
Urban, Hugh B. 2000. “The Cult of Ecstasy: Tantrism, the New Age, and the Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism.” History of Religions 39(3): 268–304.
—. 2003. Tantra, Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.
—. 2005. “Osho, from Sex Guru to Guru of the Rich: The Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism.” In Gurus in America, edited by Tomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Humes, 169–92. Albany: State University of New York Press.
van Driel, Barend, and Jacob van Belzen. 1990. “The Downfall of Rajneeshpuram in the Print Media: A Cross-National Study.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29(1): 76–90.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2014 Henrik Bogdan and James R. Lewis
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Shay, R.C., Bogdan, H. (2014). Sex and Gender in the Words and Communes of Osho (née Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh). In: Bogdan, H., Lewis, J.R. (eds) Sexuality and New Religious Movements. Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137386434_4
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-68146-4
Online ISBN: 978-1-137-38643-4