Who Is Osho?

Updated on January 25, 2017
Bridget F profile image

Bridget is a life-long writer, runner, researcher, cat-lover, yogi and traveler. She is also a social worker and voracious reader.



Osho's Early Life

Osho lived from December 11th, 1931 - January 19th, 1990. He was an Indian spiritual leader and teacher, as well as a mystic. His birth name was Chandra Mohan Jain. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and he was actually only known as Osho during the last years of his life and beyond.

Osho was the eldest of 11 children and was raised in a small village in India. For the first seven years of his life, he was raised by his grandparents, though he was very much affected by the death of his grandfather when he was seven. After this, he went back to live with his parents. Later, Osho attended college where he was a very bright but disruptive student. He was asked to leave Hitkarini College after an argument with a professor, and transferred to D. N. Jain College where he was not required to attend lectures- only to take tests- because he was so disruptive! Next, Osho attended graduate school, graduating with an MA in Philosophy. At the age of 21, Osho reported becoming spiritually enlightened while sitting under a tree in the Bhanvartal Garden in Jabalpur.

Osho then became a teacher and public speaker, who was controversial due to his openness regarding sex, his criticisms of Gandhi (who he described as a masochist who worshiped poverty), and his criticisms of politics and religions. Osho even advocated for birth control, as well as science and technology as tools for societal progress. Osho's dynamic lectures gained popularity over time, and soon he was well-known throughout India and beyond. During this time Osho went by the name Acharya Rajneesh (Acharya means professor and Rajneesh was a childhood nickname.)

Osho Discusses His Views

Osho in the 1970s and Beyond

Osho gained popularity in the 1960s and early 1970s, and by 1974 he settled in Poona (also known as Pune), India, and opened an ashram which developed a reputation for being open, sex-focused, controversial and welcoming to Westerners. It was said that this ashram had a "carnival like" atmosphere, with meditations, lectures and therapies offered throughout each day. Some of the therapies involved sexual encounters as well as acts of physical aggression. This type of permissive and open climate at the ashram upset the Indian government and tension grew throughout the 1970s. In May 1980, there was an assassination attempt during one of Osho's lectures by a man who believed Osho was a CIA agent. By this point the ashram had over 30,000 visitors per year!

In 1981, Osho moved to the United States. In 1981 Osho's secretary's husband bought and opened a commune in Oregon, and named it "Rancho Ranjeesh." Local residents were upset by the opening of the huge Ranch Ranjeesh, which spanned two counties, and in 1982 the residents of Rancho Ranjeesh voted to incorporate it into its own city called Ranjeeshpuram. Local residents were very upset about this, and fought against it fiercely. The city's name was not changed after they lost their bids to incorporate and to take over a nearby small town. (Today, it is is a camp owned by Young Life.)

Osho had initially claimed that he was visiting the US as a tourist in order to receive medical treatments for his spine which were not available to him in India. However, he did not seek medical treatment while in the United States, which led to his arrest in 1984 for immigration fraud. Osho originally pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty soon after and returned to India.


During his time at Ranjeeshpuram, Osho wrote three books while under the influence of nitrous oxide, which was given to him by his dentist. They were tiled: Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Notes of a Madman and Books I Have Loved. It was also reported that he took 60mg of Valium per day.

He also purchased many cars including Rolls-Royce's, having purchased a total of 93 vehicles by the end of his time there which made him the largest single owner of Rolls-Royce's in the world. Osho also lived in silence during this time and did not lecture. Residents only saw him daily when he would drive slowly past them while they stood outside.

Osho was also known to advocate for euthanasia, including for children born with birth defects such as blindness or deafness. Also, prior to the 1980s Osho said regarding homosexuality: "No condemnation, no judgement, no evaluation. If you are a homosexual, so what?! Enjoy it! God has made you that way" However, by the 1980s, he had changed his mind, and said that homosexuals were "perverted and created the disease AIDS," and that they should be separated from the rest of society.

The Arrests

Osho also depended greatly on his secretary, Sheela, who carried a .357 Magnum handgun, and began a Ranjeeshpuram police force armed with Uzi's and other submachine guns. In 1985 Osho shared that the leadership of the commune had been charged with bioterrorism against the citizens of The Dalles, Oregon, after they had purposely contaminated food with biological agents (Salmonella). This was done under Sheela's leadership. Because of this, the commune collapsed and was closed and Sheela was sentenced to 3-20 year sentences for assault, attempted murder. Sheela served 29 months in prison, and was then given parole. She immediately left for Switzerland, where she currently resides and operates two nursing homes! Osho claimed to have no knowledge of the attack and broke off his ties with Sheela after her arrest. However, Sheela turned in tape recordings of conversations that she had with Osho about the "need to kill people." Osho and several of his followers were indicted in October 1985, and he and a small number of the followers were arrested aboard a plane on an airstrip in North Carolina. According to Federal Authorities they were attempting to evade persecution by flying to Bermuda. It was at this point, that Osho decided to change his plea to guilty and he was given a 10-year suspended sentence, five years' probation and a $400,000 penalty in fines and prosecution costs for immigration violation charges.

Osho returned to Poona after attempting to travel to many other countries where he was refused entry, including Canada, Ireland, Uruguay, Greece, Jamaica, Spain and England. Osho blamed his health problems on his time in US prison, and claimed that he had been poisoned by prison officials.

In February 1989 he took on the name Osho Ranjeesh, which he shortened to Osho in September 1989. Osho also believed that audience members at one of his lectures were using evil magic on him, causing his health to further deteriorate. He died in January 1990 of heart failure.

Osho's Arrest

The Type Of Quote Osho is Known For Today

The type of quote Osho is known for today
The type of quote Osho is known for today

Osho's Ten Commandments

Osho was asked to list his ten commandments in an interview, and listed them "for fun."

  1. Never obey anyone's command unless it is coming from within you.
  2. There is no God other than life itself.
  3. Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.
  4. Love is prayer.
  5. To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
  6. Life is now and here.
  7. Live wakefully.
  8. Do not swim—float.
  9. Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
  10. Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.

A question for you!

Were you aware of the controversy surrounding Osho?

See results

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        kathleen mckee 

        22 months ago

        I didn't know his entire history. However, any madmen have said wise things, but they were still wise ; such is the dichotomy of being human. his writings do sound Jungian. I am sad to read that he devolved and deteriorated. Some of this words really work for me. Most of his actions DO NOT. So, I cherry pick what works and disregard many things that do not.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Osho is a mystic , you can never know Him.There are lakhs of people who have felt Him in past and also at present and many more will feel Him in future. His Bless is showering even today , just do his meditation techniques you will feel the bliss , the connection to The Unknowable.

      • Bridget F profile imageAUTHOR

        Bridget F 

        5 years ago from USA

        Yikes! I wouldn't want him on my Twitter list either!!!!! :)

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia Zirkwitz 

        5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        I have recently had "Osho" asking to follow me on Twitter... but his eyes and his claims of having died and being still alive gave me the creeps. So, I didn't read below that to find out what else he had to his credit. Thank you for filling in the gaps. I DEFINITELY don't want him in my Twitter list.

      • Bridget F profile imageAUTHOR

        Bridget F 

        5 years ago from USA

        Thank you so much!!! I saw many quotes by Osho and assumed that he was a wholesome person but I was very surprised by what I found!!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        5 years ago from USA

        I had never heard of Osho, but I am glad I read the entire hub. At first I thought it to be a hero worship type hub of a spiritual leader but then whoa! Fascinating stuff here. The guy was not what he was claiming. Great hub here.

      • Bridget F profile imageAUTHOR

        Bridget F 

        5 years ago from USA

        Thank you! :)

      • Risha Linda profile image

        Risha Linda Mateos 

        5 years ago from Florida

        You certainly did your research. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

      • Bridget F profile imageAUTHOR

        Bridget F 

        5 years ago from USA

        Exactly, you never know!! Thanks for stopping by ;)

      • WiccanSage profile image

        Mackenzie Sage Wright 

        5 years ago

        Wow, this was interesting to read. It just goes to show you that some people are not what they seem and you have to be careful not to idolize people and evaluate messages carefully. Best to be your own guru. Peace.


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