Tale of 2 Countries: Sex Guru Put the Poon in Poona

Osho aka Bhagwan Sheee Rajneesh

Osho aka Bhagwan Sheee Rajneesh

I’ll have to admit that, had I not lived in Oregon from 1981-84, I probably would never have heard of Poona, India, and probably would have passed it right by. After all, it’s not really on the tourist circuit, backpacker or otherwise—unless you’re a sannyasin, one of the Osho faithful. Osho used to be known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and as fate would have it, he lived in Oregon almost exactly the same years as I, 1981-85. Before that he was already famous in Poona, and for many of the same reasons— controversy over his religious teachings.

But in Oregon the problem wasn’t so much religion as politics. It was a daily melodrama made for the tabloids, a highly laughable joke, had it not been so real. Maybe closest in narrative to Mao Zedong and his wife-led Gang of Four, the Rajneesh story was almost a caricature of a pseudo-mystic Eastern guru duping Western gullible travelers into trading their fortunes for quickie enlightenment. It was led by a dragon-lady confidant, embellished with more Rolls-Royces than anywhere else on the planet, and was consolidated on a huge rural compound that was often at odds with the Oregon locals.

 

Temple in Poona, India

Temple in Poona, India

When the dust finally cleared at Rajneeshpuram—aka Rancho Rajneesh—the Bhagwan had been arrested and deported on immigration fraud, AFTER numerous land-use and zoning complaints, and allegations of attempted murder, wiretapping, and bio-terror against the city of The Dalles, Oregon. He copped a plea, after being caught trying to flee the country, and was eventually refused entry to more than twenty countries before returning to Poona and dying five years later, in 1990.

And there his ashram and huge compound stand to this day, the OSHO Meditation Retreat and Multiversity, a testament to eclectic teachings that would rival Rastafarianism in diversity and DIY pragmatism. In addition to Rajneesh’s own native Hindu and Jain background, there are many borrowings from Buddhism, especially Zen, apparently the inspiration for his final name Osho.

For some of the rest of us, as the dust cleared, his teachings were inspiration for the zen koan, “What is the sound of one ranch f*cking?” (You know, like, ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping?’). For apparently that always was one of the big attractions: when the lights went out at the end of a long hard day at Rajneeshpuram, there was still a long hard night to go, and the sound of 5000 people f*cking… or so I hear. At the Pune OSHO-run guesthouse, rooms start at around $100 per night. An AIDS test is mandatory.

Shiny objects for sale in Poona, India

Shiny objects for sale in Poona, India

Where I stay it’s $30 with a/c and b/f, and that’s the highest I’ve paid in India in a month of travel. Capitalism was always part of the Osho religion. Other than OSHO, Pune is almost refreshingly normal, even boring, but that’s not bad. Here on the west coast I’m getting a picture of a different India from that of the north, one that is cleaner and at least a bit more modern… and that’s good. Too much of India seems lost in its own mythology and symbolism, its history and its mythic past.

For me that means cows, for that’s really the only tangible difference on the street, literally all over the street. Lose the cows, or just keep them in and around temples for religious purposes, and you’ve got a cleaner greener India. I like it. Pune is a good city to walk around in. Aside from the OSHO faithful, there aren’t many tourists—none, to be exact—so the people are friendly, always refreshing. The only problem is coffee, or lack thereof. I’m getting desperate. At this points all my hopes and dreams at this point depend on Goa. C U there.

Disclaimer: I was never a Rajneeshee in Oregon, though I met a few. I also went in costume as one for Halloween 1983, but all my information is second-hand, scuttlebutt and hearsay. I didn’t go to his Poona compound, either, since it’s in the ‘burbs and costs money just to enter. Oh, well. The preceding is intended for entertainment only. Please don’t sue me. Pretty please with sugar on top?

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