Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, 11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and latterly as Osho (/ˈoʊʃoʊ/), was an Indian godman and leader of the Rajneesh movement. During his lifetime he was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic. In the 1960s he traveled throughout India as a public speaker and was a vocal critic of socialism, arguing that India was not ready for socialism and that socialism, communism and anarchism could evolve only when capitalism had reached its maturity. Osho also criticised Mahatma Gandhi, and Hindu religious orthodoxy. Rajneesh emphasized the importance of meditation, mindfulness, love, celebration, courage, creativity and humour—qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation. In advocating a more open attitude to human sexuality he caused controversy in India during the late 1960s and became known as “the sex guru”.
In 1970, Rajneesh spent time in Mumbai initiating followers known as “neo-sannyasins“. During this period he expanded his spiritual teachings and commented extensively in discourses on the writings of religious traditions, mystics, and philosophers from around the world. In 1974, Rajneesh relocated to Pune, where an ashram was established and a variety of therapies, incorporating methods first developed by the Human Potential Movement, were offered to a growing Western following. By the late 1970s, the tension between the ruling Janata Partygovernment of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram’s development and a back taxes claim estimated at $5 million.
In 1981, the Rajneesh movement’s efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Almost immediately the movement ran into conflict with county residents and the state government, and a succession of legal battles concerning the ashram’s construction and continued development curtailed its success. In 1985, in the wake of a series of serious crimes by his followers, including a mass food poisoning attack with Salmonella bacteria and an aborted assassination plot to murder U.S. Attorney Charles H. Turner, Rajneesh alleged that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters had been responsible. He was later deported from the United States in accordance with an Alford plea bargain.
After his deportation, 21 countries denied him entry. He ultimately returned to India and a revived Pune ashram, where he died in 1990. Rajneesh’s ashram, now known as OSHO International Meditation Resort, and all associated intellectual property, is managed by the Zurich registered Osho International Foundation (formerly Rajneesh International Foundation). Rajneesh’s teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought, and their popularity has increased markedly since his death.