Saturday, May 6, 2000

Fading away of a commune
By Ashok Malik

THE Osho commune at Koregaon Park in Pune is no longer what it used to be. From a spiritual resort for the footloose and fancy-free, the last resting place of ‘godman’ Rajneesh is fast turning into a ghost town.

Inmates have been leaving the ashram in droves and meditational activities, including group therapies, have been reduced to a minimum. Construction activities have come to a standstill. Even the hotels close by which used to feed on the tourist traffic, are closing down.

‘Godman’ Rajneesh Financial irregularities are being said to have caused this sordid state. "For months we have been told that the flow of funds to the commune has been reduced to a trickle," informs Swami Utsav, an inmate who has supposedly broken his code of silence.

"Most old times were being told that nobody should stay permanently in the commune and become a parasite. They should go out, earn and return for a while. The commune doors will never be closed to them."

Among those who have left are Ma Yoga Neelam, Rajneesh’s secretary, Swami Tathagat, former commune in charge and the media savvy Swami Chaitanya Keerti, who has relinquished the editorship of Osho Times.

That’s not all : a large number of faceless Indian ‘workers’ attached to various departments have quit their jobs. "We are planning to hire workers to man various departments," says Utsav. "They will be regular employees and not voluntary ones as in the past."

  Significantly, there have been no takers for the posts. Worse, rumblings about the man in charge, Canada-born Swami Jayesh (formerly Michael O’Byrne), who operates from a five-star hotel suite in Bombay, are growing louder by the day.

Jayesh heads the Inner Circle, which controls the affairs of the commune, but doesn’t have any legal status. This has prompted local right wing groups like the Patit Pavana Sangathana (PPS) to gun for foreigners for overstaying at the ashram.

Sandeep Khardekar, its state organiser, has been campaigning for long in a bid to evict the foreigners from Pune : "We want to know how these foreigners manage to stay for long periods ? How do they get multiple-entry visas ? What are their sources of funding?"

To an extent, such needling has worked. For the Osho International Foundation (OIF) has already shifted its headquarters from Pune to Zurich and runs a publishing centre from New York. Both these outfits are controlled entirely by non-Indians.

Says Utsav: "The inevitable is happening. The authorities must have woken up and tightened up the visas of the foreign managers of the commune who were getting away with successive stays in India. They must have been inquiring into the flight of capital."

But the foreigners are having the last laugh. For the OIF has registered "Osho" as a trademark in Zurich and controls all royalty collected from publishers, audio tape producers and centres and resorts all over the world.

According to its official website, it is the sole registered rights owner of "all the published and unpublished words and works of the author, Osho, in all mediums, including photographs, writing, music, art and other products created or otherwise associated with the author".

In fact, the foundation’s permission is necessary for conducting therapies like Osho Tibetan Pulsing, Osho Divine Healing and Osho Rebalancing. Even camps on Dynamic Meditation, Mystic Rose and other meditation forms propagated by Rajneesh, require the OIF's clearance.

Says a sanyasin with a touch of sarcasm : "We Indians went on about the dubious nature of activities in the ashram. The foreigners have now retaliated. They have withdrawn from Pune and left us high and dry. Now all funds are to be controlled by them."

Swami Chaitanya Bharati, a photographer and close friend of Rajneesh since 1974, says he had a premonition of how the commune would collapse: "I am not surprised that the ashram is showing symptoms of a terminal disease.

"Over the years, a coterie has taken control of its functioning, transferring all the intellectual property rights to overseas outfits under their direct control and then started showing the door to the old guard so that the commune died its natural death ." — (MF)