Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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The Rajneesh Movement, currently titled the Osho Commune International, is a new religious movement that grew out of the daily discourses of the Jain-born Marxist critic of religion and former philosophy professor, Mohan Chandra Rajneesh (1931-1990).

Titled Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (often "the Bhagwan") once he revealed his status as an enlightened master, Rajneesh established an ashram in Poona, India, that was a center in the mid-1970s for avant-garde therapies emerging from the human potential movement. Thousands of Westerners were initiated into "neo-sannyas," attracted by this master's original, eclectic philosophy that combined oriental mysticism with Western psychological models. In 1981, Rajneesh and his red-garbed disciples bought a ranch in Oregon and built the city of Rajneeshpuram based on utopian principles of communalism, free love, absolute birth control, work as "worship," ecological harmony, and women's rule. Rajneesh also became famous for his collection of 93 Rolls Royces, bestowed upon him as gifts.

In 1985, a series of criminal charges and scandals resulting from both external pressures and internal rivalries and corruption led to the disbanding of Rajneeshpuram, and Rajneesh returned to Poona, was renamed "Osho," and died in 1990. This international movement, numbering around 20,000 core disciples at its peak, persists on an informal level. Neo-sannyasins have renounced the commune, wearing red and the mala bearing Rajneesh's photograph, but they tend to live and work in co-ops; they tend to remain childless and to meditate and party together. The Poona ashram continues to attract visitors to its meditation-therapy workshops and to initiate new disciples.

Studies on Rajneesh/Rajneeshees have focused on the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram and the city's conflicts with Oregon's secular authorities (Fitzgerald 1986, Gordon 1987, Carter 1990, Mann 1991), women's roles (Palmer 1994, Puttick 1995), appeal for and experiences of disciples (Palmer and Sharma 1993), and apostates' memoirs (Strelley 1987).

Susan J. Palmer


L. F. Carter, Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

F. Fitzgerald, Cities on a Hill (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986)

J. S. Gordon, The Golden Guru (Lexington, Mass.: Stephen Greene, 1987)

W. E. Mann, The Quest for Total Bliss (Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 1991)

S. J. Palmer, Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1994)

S. J. Palmer and A. Sharma (eds.), The Rajneesh Papers (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993)

K. Strelley, The Ultimate Game (New York: Harper, 1987).

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