Osho goes to Russia, with love from Nepal

New Kerala, India/August 7, 2005
By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu -- Fifteen years after his death, controversial Indian cult leader Osho, alias Bhagwan Rajneesh, is being resurrected - in Russia by his disciples from Nepal.

The charismatic guru, who advocated liberation from mental and sexual inhibitions in the larger spiritual quest, shot into fame in the 70s when he established his headquarters in Pune in western India.

A young architecture student from Janakpur in southern Nepal attended some of his lectures and was so mesmerised that he decided to become a disciple of the controversial guru and spread his teachings in the Himalayan kingdom.

Osho Tapoban, founded by the disciple Swami Anand Arun in the 1980s, today has 55 centres in Nepal. In the US, Rajneesh became embroiled in a series of sensational scandals involving allegations of attempted murder, poisoning, arson and wiretapping.

He was given a 10-year suspended sentence for lying to immigration authorities and asked to leave the country in five days. He died in 1990 after public disgrace.

But his disciples in Nepal are labouring on to keep Osho's memory alive worldwide.

According to Arun, currently there are Rajneesh centres in over 50 countries in Europe and Asia, including Islamic kingdoms like Iran with little religious freedom.

Now, the Nepalese disciples are eyeing the former Soviet Union to spread the movement.

"Russians became interested in the teachings of Osho as early as the 70s, when they started coming to the Pune ashram to listen to his lectures," said Arun who will hold a series of lecture camps in some Russian cities during Sep 2-29.

"From 1979, Osho started initiating them into his philosophy." However, with the then communist government in the erstwhile Soviet Union virtually banning religious activities, the first Rajneesh centre, set up in the basement of a Russian businessman's office in Moscow in 1980, operated clandestinely.

"Since the presses would not touch religious literature, the first Russian translations of Osho's lectures were cyclostyled and distributed secretly," Arun said.

In May 1981, after Rajneesh left Pune with 18 handpicked disciples to start a centre in the US, it became increasingly difficult for Russian followers to keep in touch with him.

"Not only were they abysmally poor, it was also virtually impossible for them to get a passport and visa to go to the US," Arun said. So as an option, they started coming to Kathmandu and today Osho's Nepalese disciples are spearheading the propagation of his teachings in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Tashkent.

"After Gorbachev's reforms and glasnost, Russians are now turning openly to religious philosophies," said Arun. "Because of the repression of the earlier decades, they are starved of religion and today Russia has the potential to become a religious hub."

He added: "Westerners are drawn to Osho's teachings because they are so rational. He doesn't promise miracles and instant cures. All he advocates is leading a natural life tuned to nature."

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