Hugh Milne, Bhagwan, the god that failed

Caliban Books, London 1986


15 Osho arrived at JFK airport in 1980 with the message “ I am the Messiah America has been waiting for.” 16 Hugh Milne – As a member of Bhagwan’s privileged ‘inner circle’ for more than eight years [eight years in Bombay and two in America], and his personal bodyguard, I witnessed events and activities that were far removed from those normally associated with a religious movement. I was one of the first Westerners who went to India to meet Bhagwan. Apart from my job as his bodyguard, I also became his personal mannequin, osteopath, photographer and driver, and was in charge of training his guards. (18) I was a very successful osteopath, earning the equivalent of £20,000 a year. At the beginning of the seventies that was a very large income indeed, especially for a man of twenty-three. … I left the movement in 1982, less than two years after it had moved to America and set up its headquarters in Oregon, where it purchased the Big Muddy ranch for more than $5 million. (19) Bhagwan said things like “Wherever you go, I shall haunt you. He informed disciples who were about to leave that henceforward they would have no peace. (45) From the moment I first met Bhagwan, I had the distinct feeling that I had finally met my real Father and Teacher, and that my search had now ended. I had reached my destination.

Bhagwan advocated the freest of free love as an Important step on the path to enlightenment. Most of his followers were only too happy to give physical expression to his teachings in this respect and, while at the Poona centre, we enjoyed a surfeit of sexual activity. Bhagwan said on many occasions that he hated and despised poverty, In Poona he owned a succession of Mercedes and large American cars, and during his years in America he amassed over ninety Rolls Royces. He rationalised this by saying the cars helped him ‘stay in the body’ … 17 Such was the sense of power and authority he conveyed that we even took his words as gospel when he completely when he completely contradicted himself – and that was often.

The irony was that the Rajneesh movement eventually became as totalitarian. repressive and materialistic as anything its adherents were attempting to break away from.

By advocating free sex and endorsing the natural tendencies of his followers to defy authority, Bhagwan seemed to be giving his sanction to everything we most longed to do, but daren’t because of internal and external restraints on our behaviour. At the same time be offered spirituality, a purpose, a goal, a crusade, so that there was at last a meaning to existence. By following him and adhering to his teachings we could, we were sure, become Enlightened Beings ourselves. During the course of this book I will show through my own experience the many unique qualities that Bhagwan possessed, qualities that inspired such devotion from so many who came into contact with him. 19 There is no doubt, to my mind at least, that the emphasis on ‘spiritual sexuality’ and the physical release of inhibitions was a major factor in attracting so many people from the West. 20 we were encouraged to have as much sex as we could, with many different partners. Normally it takes many hard years to attain enlightenment, but here was somebody who told us it could happen instantly. 21 Bhagwan’s undoubted charisma extended into superlative showmanship, and this made him very impressive indeed. … that Bhagwan’s words had an “effect which seems to bathe the hearer in a refulgent glow of wisdom. His voice is low, smooth and exceptionally beautiful.

” … extreme physical hardships was something Bhagwan seemed to specialise in arranging for lis disciples, while he lived in sumptuous luxury. I and many others suffered severe malnutrition, continuous and varied tropical diseases and total exhaustion resulting from putting in a backbreaking hundred-hour week.

22 As Bhagwan did not want children within his commune, pressure was exerted on members of the commune, both male and female, to be sterilised. I and about two hundred others had vasectomies or became sterilised in India, and any woman who became pregnant was encouraged to have an abortion or sterilisation, or both.

And what did it become? Totally regimented, alarmingly conformist in its own ranks, militaristic, a mini-empire ruled by a recluse with a penchant for very expensive toys.

The illusion that Bhagwan ‘s disciples have that they are the chosen ones is now used as a licence to behave abominably towards other people. .Outsiders’ are treated like dirt.

23 He is not God incarnate, but an ordinary man: gifted, erudite, a natural leader, completely fearless, and ;apable of inspiring love. These are not small attributes, but they do not make him The Blessed One. All things have their season; all things grow, become fruitful, and finally wither away. It is time, I believe, to declare the end of this particular movement. The hypnotic and psychic powers that Rajneesh once had seem to have deserted him.

24 Deceit, deception and distrust finally characterised the movement. I left when I saw it was degenerating, and was not the utopia we had desired. This book is my personal story. At the same time it charts the progress of one of the most incredible movements of our time. [eind introduction]

Chapter One – The route to Bombay

25 … [eerste ontmoeting] Here was ill y spiritual father. a man who understood everything. someone who would be able to convey sense and meaning into my life. It was a truly magical feeling. I was overawed, transported, and felt instantly that Bhagwan was inside my mind as nobody else had ever been able to be. From the moment his delicate brown hands with their perfectly manicured nails touched mine, I knew I was in another world. He radiated a palpable sense of unconditional love which was simply electrifying. I was swept off my feet, enchanted, afloat in a sea of compassion emanating from this wholly original, unique being. (27) The cynicism and disillusionment that was to set in later can never take away the impact of that first audience, of those early years.

26 Why did this man and his teachings have such an enormous impact on me, and later upon thousands of other Westerners’? I think we can find at least part of the answer in the sexual and social climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, with his doctrine of free love, appeared on the scene when many young people were trying to throw off the constraints of a society they saw as repressive, self-seeking, empty, finished. Freedom of all kinds was in the air; everybody wanted freedom to express themselves, to live life in the way they saw fit, not in the way their parents and grandparents had laid down as correct. Those of us who were young wanted a chance to give free reign to our emotions, not bottle them, to get out of the straitjacket of fear and anxiety.

42 In later years, stories leaked out about how the tantric sessions led to broken bones, violence, and outbursts of wild hysteria. These reports were not exaggerated. “Falling up the steps on the way to the ashram” became a euphemism at the local hospital for those who had suffered injuries during tantric sessions. This was necessary to avoid police involvement.

45 Chapter Two – Early days with Bhagwan

55 In 1973, the year I arrived, Bhagwan had already acquired a reputation as the ‘sex guru’. This description seemed to refer both to his personal tastes and the content of many of his lectures. He became an arch advocate of the female orgasm, and he talked at great length about the clitoris, its function, and how it should be stimulated. Most Westerners were fully aware of Bhagwan’s proclivities before coming to India, and indeed it was to hear more and experience more on the sexual level that brought most of them out in the first place. 56 I was asked if Bhagwan instructed people to strip off in front of him. Yes, that did happen. He also had sannyasi couples making love in front of him, nominally to give them advice on how to do it properly, though there was certainly a degree of voyeuristic delight. To foster his own reputation in those days, Bhagwan had an enormous number of carefully-lit studio photographs taken of himself. These were dramatically staged and lit to give an appearance of spirituality and religious awe. 60 We had already learned to do exactly what Bhagwan said, however strange or distasteful it may seem.

61 Chapter Three – Abu and after

65 In Bombay I had seen striking pictures of a black bearded Bhagwan sitting in his low chair surrounded by two or three dozen naked people, eyes closed in bliss at the end of a meditation session. As Bhagwan talks, the sheer persuasiveness of his oratory, the hypnotic sibilances of his lingering ‘s’s’, his habit of extending the last syllable of every sentence, conspire to lull, reassure, inspire and energise the audience. I can well understand how Bhagwan became the School Debating Champion. His words are like a love song sung 66 specially for you and none other. His message seems targeted straight at every Individual heart, and the fact that there are three hundred other people listening doesn’t seem to matter, You feel that you are his only real disciple. 68 When Bhagwan spoke, he had behind him a banner which proclaimed: “Surrender to me, and I will transform you. That is my promise – Rajneesh.” The banner was about twenty feet long, … 72 He had an almost uncanny accuracy for getting inside your head, knowing what you were thinking and what your wishes were long before you expressed them. The man was a genius in the art of communication.

77 Chapter Four –Bhagwan’s hold grows stronger

So she got off the next station, changed trains, and returned to Bhagwan’s side. It was evident that our guru had far more of a hold over us than we were willing to acknowledge, or perhaps even to understand. 78 Most of us had come to Bhagwan in search of this sensation of bliss, and some of us had already witnessed it. Once you have experienced this feeling, you long to have it again. It is a difficult thing to describe for those who have never had an inkling of it, but it’s like the most wonderful and sustained orgasm, thc light on the road 00 Damascus, or the high that can come from psychedelic drugs only better. Many thousands of people experienced a tangible sense of upliftment and clarity in Bhagwan’s presence. 84 One of those very special four-in-the-morning darshans, the darshans about which so much was rumourred, and which were euphemistically known as ‘energy sharing’. Bhagwan would have one woman with him until midnight, then have four hours’ sleep, after which another woman would come to him.

90 Chapter Five – Heat, heaven and hell at Kailash

Veetrag, the South African pilot, … We did not know it at the time, but Laxmi and Bhagwan had told him to gradually increase the workload and the number of restrictive rules. He had been given instructions to remove privileges, reduce food, free time and days off, and to forbid excursions. He seemed to enjoy making our regime more and more repressive. He was a natural. 94 [the family of rajneesh says] I felt too loyal to Bhagwan to admit of any reservations about him, but the way they went on about his hypnosis and how he had practised it on everybody for many, many years did worry me, causing a question mark to form in my mind. Later on, when it became clear how Bhagwan operated, I was to understand exactly what they meant by hypnosis, but for the time being I did not want to admit to any doubts. 96 After his grandfather had died, Rajneesh resolved never to become attached to a human being again. He said himself in his writings: “His death became for me the death of all attachments. Therefore I could not establish a bond of relationship with anyone. Whenever my relationship with anyone would begin to become intimate, that death stared at me. Since then, I have been alone.” Bhagwan described his attitude to death – and how closely that related to sex – in a writing of 1979: “If you listen to the phenomenon of sex that knocks at your door every day, year in, year out, and goes on knocking even while you are dying, you will be surprised to know that whenever prisoners are crucified, sentenced to death, the last thing that happens to a man is ejaculation. We cannot be so certain about the woman because she has no ejaculation. She must have an orgasm, but invisible. And this is my observation of many people I have watched dying: that has been one of my hobbies from my childhood. 100 Gurdjieff was the main role model for Bhagwan who, needless to say, had read all his stuff both in the original and in the version written by Ouspensky. In particular Bhagwan liked the way Gurdjieff had rebelled against authority and kept testing the strength of his disciples’ faith. … The hardships of Kailash and later of Oregon were Bhagwan’s versions of typical Gurdjieff devices. But there is no hint or record that Gurdjieff ever deliberately endangered a disciple’s life: he never engineered dangerous devices. Bhagwan did. 102 Surrender to our master in all things was being tested, and the weakest would naturally not be able to stand it. When new and more stringent rules were applied, this was merely a sign that you had passed the first trial and were ready to undergo more. Ideally, you should take it all as a compliment.

106 Chapter Six – Early days in Poona

110 Before I left Scotland I had received a huge shopping list from Teertha of things to bring back for himself and for Bhagwan. They were not exactly what you might think of as appropriate gifts for a guru, including the finest French brandy, chocolates, and a large piece of Chinese jade for Bhagwan’s new cufflinks. This was the beginning of a new collecting phase. He had already been through pens and gold watches, was now on to cufflinks, and would end with Rolls Royces. 114 It was the primitive start of a security system that ten years later culminated in hundreds of highly-trained guards carrying sub machine guns. 117 This meditative space was incomparably beautiful, and worth anything to experience. Those who dismiss ‘evil cults’ have no idea at all how rapturous this state can be and how no other pleasure can begin to compare with it. Most people who have spent any time in a religious sect will have tasted this bliss, and it is what keeps them coming back more. 118 Though Bhagwan placed so much emphasis on the physical side of sex, he was by all accounts hardly the world’s greatest lover himself. Like so many who set themselves up as sexologists, his own sex life left much to be desired. Many of the women Bhagwan slept with told me that far from practising what he preached and making sex last for an hour or more, It was often all over in a couple of minutes. Most of his sexual pleasure seemed to lie in foreplay and voyeurism rather than in active performance. He also had couples make love in front of him, a definite case of voyeurism. 121 As soon as I started taking pictures of Bhagwan. I realised that his ‘’photographic’ face was quite different from the one we usually saw. Mukta’s daughter, who had up to that time been his ‘official’ photographer, told me that Bhagwan thought his nose was too long, and that he did not like his baldness. He was very emphatic that he wanted his body kept out of the photographs. 122 From then on Bhagwan maintained total control over editorial and artistic matters.

127 Chapter Seven – Poona becomes world famous

134 [1976] On the whole, though, Bhagwan encouraged our complete sexual freedom. He also, especially if things got difficult in one relationship, encouraged frequent changes of partner among ashram members. 140 It was at about this time that the money-making at the ashram started in earnest. Admission charges were levied on all who came to the ashram. 142 Bhagwan’s own views on marriage were well known. He had never been married, and he violently disapproved of the institution. The Bhagwan was also adamant on the subject of children, and did not want any couples having children while in the ashram. Thus in Bhagwan ‘s eyes, any marriage within the ashram had to be regarded as being purely for convenience. 143 If you loved Bhagwan totally, you should not become seriously involved in other affairs. As children interfered with the primary allegiance to Bhagwan, most women who became pregnant. were instructed “to finish with it” – in other words to have an abortion as quickly as possible. This alternative instruction was to finish with it absolutely’ – to be sterilised at the same time as having the abortion, so there was no more risk of getting pregnant and interrupting ‘the Work’. 144 Exaggerations were encouraged where they showed Bhagwan in a favourable light. In one of the autobiographies you can read about the excitement of twenty thousand people arriving for Celebration Day in 1977. I know for certain that the numbers did not exceed three thousand, since I managed the seating arrangements for the occasion. Exaggeration had always been one of Bhagwan’s passions.

145 Chapter Eight Poona grows apace

146 He would scrutinise all photographs very carefully, and only allowed certain pictures to be included in books and photographic records. This applied not only to photographs of himself. but to all official pictures of the ashram. 149 We felt as if we were new people, shaping the future, showing the world how people could and should live. When in 1977 Laxmi made the pronouncement that in ten years’ time half of Red China would be sannyasis, it did not seem at all impossible. 155 Laxmi accepted very large donations without questioning too closely where they had come from, and Bhagwan certainly enjoyed the proceeds. By 1980 he had two white Rolls Royces in Poona, an unheard-of luxury in this land of poverty. 157 His current mania was pens, though not fountain pens – he complained of the mess they made. If a particular brand of pen took his fancy, he would amass a collection of them, always ordering the most expensive diamond-encrusted ones from the top of the range. Bhagwan was a real techno-freak, and loved every new piece of gadgetry he could lay his hands on. In this respect he was certainly following his own dictum that the way to transcendence lay through surfeit and overindulgence. 160 After I had had the operation I was asked to help promote the campaign in the commune, and in the next two or three months maybe a quarter of the sannyasi men had vasectomies. It was only possible to avoid the operation by being adamant that you weren’t going to have it, and such refusal sometimes meant having to leave the ashram workforce. This kind of stance flew in the face of established ashram behaviour. Vasectomies became quite the vogue, yet another step on Bhagwan’s road to total surrender.

161 Chapter Nine – Protecting Bhagwan

165 One of the reasons why the Poona ashram became so famous was that Bhagwan loved publicity. He was addicted to it. … “I have now found the fulfilment of my life. Now it does not matter whether I am famous or notorious. … That’s beautiful. One thing I am certainly interested in is that everybody should think something about me.” 166 Bhagwan still had a special relationship with Vivek, but this was less close than it had once been. He used to boast that he made life the hell for her, and this was certainly true.

173 Chapter Ten - Death of a prince and last days in Poona

177 Answering questions in a lecture about the kind of women who could hope to become mediums, Bhagwan made it quite clear that only women with large breasts could hope for the honour. “I have been tortured by small-breasted women for many lives together,” he announced to a startled audience, “and I will not do it in this life!” 182 Bhagwan decided about December 1980 that he wanted to go to America. 183 Bhagwan did not leave India simply because of these contentions and often violent conflicts. Bhagwan left because he wanted to go to America. Bhagwan felt the time was ripe for a massive enlargement of his empire.

190 Chapter Eleven – The start of the American dream

192 As he left the aircraft, he paused at the top of the stairs, looked around for a few minutes, and said expansively: “I am the Messiah America has been waiting for.” 201 She had found her playing a music cassette in Sheela’s own Merccdes 280 while she was cleaning it. Sheela didn”t want a cleaner messing with her equipment. Sheela bawled her out on the spot, and in the next day’s work session angrily reported the woman’s behaviour to Bhagwan. He heard Sheela out and asked a few pertinent questions, then told Sheela and Deeksha to come to see him early the next day, when he would explain a few things about the art of manipulating people… “Nevcr deal with such things yourself, Sheela.” he said. “Delegate and isolate. Sheela, be more intelligent next time.”

229 The next morning Bhagwan called Sheela, Jayananda and Isabel in for a special work session…. There were only three things that would enable him to stay in his body. One was to have a thousand more sannyasis at the ranch at the earliest opportunity – he felt more comfortable when he has surrounded by his own people. The second was to plant a forest, and he third was to get him more cars. “Every week I will be needing more,” he told her.

230-231 When I went to take the photographs, I soon realised that Bhagwan had found his own way of circumventing the stricture about drugs – he was taking nitrous oxide as a consciousness-altering drug. I took shots of small clear tubes being passed into his nostrils and being held in place by a specially handmade clip. … As the gas began to affect him, Bhagwan started to talk. His speech became increasingly slurred and slow. His normally sibilant trailing ‘s’s’ became even more drawn out and exaggerated as the gas started to have its effect. I knew that nitrous oxide was also called ‘the drug of the ego’. I had recently had a large dose of it myself for genuine dental work, and was aware of its ability to induce a euphoric, trancelike and almost out-of-the-body effect. … Bhagwan himself had used the stuff regularly after he had noticed its effect in relieving his asthma during a dental session. He now incorporated nitrous oxide inhalation into daily one or two hour sessions. This had apparently be going on for about six months before I got to hear about it. Bhagwan spoke under the influence: “SSShhhheeeeeeeeellaaaaa.” he said, “wants to buy me an aeroplane. But I don’t need an aeroplane. I am flying already.” 232-233 I knew that Bhagwan hated the place, but at the same time he needed adulation. That was why he needed thirty-five Rolls Royces – the number grew each week – and the biggest commune in the World. Though Bhagwan could no longer ‘fly’ on his own, he needed thousands of people round him to prove to himself that he was still important, that he still mattered. It gave him his identity. Without his extended entourage he would be a desperately lost soul.

239 I said I felt oppressed by Sheela and her officers, and that the constantly multiplying rules and regulations. The paranoia and suspicion, and the lying we were having to do to official bodies, were all getting me down. I objected to the monitoring of telephone calls and the checking of mail, the lack of privacy, the ban on trips outside he ranch, the growing fascism of the regime Was this really the new age, the paradise we were building to show the rest of the world how it was possible to live?

De acties om mensen uit Antilope te verdrijven, mensen die een rustige dag wilden hebben.

De vermissing in de rivier van Ambara – er mocht niet meer gezocht worden. Het Werk ging voor.

255 I had an image of Bhagwan sitting in front of his video screen for hours on end, saw his driving accidents, his speeding tickets, the bitterness he had expressed to the Boston photographer, and the day I had walked into his room and seen him clearly as a hollow shell. It was all so different from his public persona. He was supposed to be the Enlightened One, the Master, the Omniscient One, the man of perfect awareness. What was he doing now? Watching movies, driving incompetently and dangerously, issuing commands about making money to Sheela. and buying new Rolls Royces every week. The videos had now become so important to him that the sannyasis whose job it was to keep him satisfied were flying to Portland or San Francisco almost every day to provide new movies – an enormously costly indulgence.

275-276 During the month I spent working in Zurich I met Deeksha. In her distress she had sought out Krishnamurti, the only person Bhagwan had eeer acknowledged as an equal. Krishnamurti had no time for Bhagwan, and particularly objected to the use of the word Bhagwan; nobody other than God himself should use that title, he said. Krishnamurti had told Deeksha: I have received thousands of letters from all over the world asking why I do not speak out in public against this man. But I will not, as it is not my way. The man is a criminal. You have to understand this very clearly. What he is doing to people in the name of spirituality is criminal. One must never give to another human being – and he is simply a human being – your ultimate manifestation of consciousness, which is your ability to make decisions for yourself. You have made a great mistake in giving him hat power for twelve years, but understand this: no man has power except the power his followers give him. That is why he needs people around him all the time, and the more the better.”

283 At the Festival in 1984, Sheela announced that three sannyasis had died of AIDS, though they were never named. Sheela proposed to Bhagwan that condoms and rubber gloves should be introduced to counteract the threat of spreading the virus. This he approved, along with some directives designed to inhibit sexual freedom between his disciples. What a change from the heady days of Bombay when he had proclaimed that sex was divine!

286 Whcn Krishnamurti called Bhagwan a criminal, I suspect he was not referring to the breaking of civil laws. He was referring to his misuse of hypnosis and psychic powers. Perhaps the most obvious of the psychic links that sannyasis have with Bhagwan is their mala. It comes as no surprise to learn that when sannyasis were given their mala at darshan, they were told that if ever they stopped wearing it they should return it personally to Bhagwan.

287 The collective sum of disowned anger found a scapegoat in the world beyond the gates, and he commune started to cast itself in the victim role. Soon after the takeover of Antelope, the commune’s spokespeople began predicting bloody confrontation, violence, and the use of weapons.

288 About 150 sannyasis were formed into a ‘Peace Force’ and trained in the use of these weapons. In a concerted effort to cement their total control of the commune and avoid any possibility of rebellion. Bhagwan and Sheela now started to arrange for bugging and wiretapping equipment to be installed throughout Rajneeshpuram.

290 To prevent people leaving. mind-altering drugs began to be prescribed to treat people who made it known that they wanted to leave. The euphoric mood-altering drug ‘Ecstasy’ was discreetly slipped into rich sannyasi’s drinks just before fund-raising interviews. It was infinitely more productive than Sushila’s brandy.

291 The ranch now had eleven armed watchtowers, and a whole series of checkpoints to ensure that no unwanted visitors could get in and no sannyasis could get out. The armed police worked out a detailed code to identify unwelcome vehicles and people.

293 If enough of the electorate became ill in polling day, the Rajneeshees could still outvote the rest of the population without the aid of additional voters, and ensure that the city status of Rajneeshpuram and the survival of Bhagwan’s commune, were guaranteed. Some time before polling day undercover sannyasis sprinkled salmonella bacteria over the salad bars at several large restaurants in the Dalles, the county’s capital and largest town. Around seven hundred people subsequently became ill; nobody died. This was merely a sample poisoning, to see if the technique would work.

295 In a poignant revelation. Rajneesh said that Sheela had in effect ended the life of her first husband, Chinmaya, by removing his oxygen mask. What he did not admit was that he had told her to do it.

304 While extolling the virtues of the commune, Rajneesh forebore to mention the strong police force with its forty-seven automatic weapons, the rigidly-enforced wearing of condoms and rubber gloves for lovemaking, or the widespread use of mind-altering drugs to maintain law and order. Nor did he mention the false AIDS readings, the isolation ward for the rebellious, the extensive wiretapping, the opening of all mail, the bugging of telephone calls, the spate of vicious lawsuits issued against honest and innocent local people, or the eventual internal backlash which finally killed the community. He did not talk about his own deliberate and cavalier flouting of American law – “We are the law,” Sheela had once said. While castigating America, Rajneesh did not mention the busing and drugging of homeless people, the mass poisoning at The Dalles, the arson at the Wasco County courthouse, the Portland bombing or the murders that had been committed.

305 Whatever the outcome of Sheela’s case, the tapes are unlikely ) present a glowing picture of the man who describes himself as the only Enlightened Master in the world. He is not very enlightened in private.

307 A false master has to have as many unquestioning people around him as possible, and Rajneesh was a brilliant manipulator of the unquestioning disciple. He needed to have more disciples all the time so that he could feel secure in his gurudom, which had become his sole identity.

308 The question is probably as unanswerable as discovering whether Sheela was Rajneesh’s puppet, or he hers. Deeksha said it was a ‘mutual manipulation’, which probably best describes what was going on during the American years.

Er is geen tweeheid

als je ontspannen bent
in zelf-bewustzijn
is dat duidelijk.

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