'Betrayal, lies and corruption': Inside the murky world of Osho Ashram

How an influential coterie of the godman’s followers captured his commune, and its wealth.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
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Read the story in Hindi here.

In Wild Wild Country, the Netflix film about Osho’s Rajneeshpuram religious commune in the United States, one major plotline is his rift with his closest associate, Ma Anand Sheela. It’s this story that has shaped the perception of late godman's Osho Ashram. But there’s another story, which has been arguably as significant in shaping Osho Ashram over the past three decades. It’s a story of alleged betrayal, greed and a power grab at the centre of which lie the lucrative rights to Osho’s literature and personal effects.

This story starts after Sheela’s has ended, in jail.

It’s January 19, 1990. A roomful of men and women are gathered in an auditorium at Osho Ashram in Pune’s affluent Koregaon Park, awaiting the news they have been dreading. Just after sunset, a bearded man with silver grey hair, recognised by most of them, gets up on the stage, grabs a mic and the assembly snaps to attention. They know it has happened.

“Osho left his body at 5 pm,” Swami Prem Amrito breaks the news.

Amrito, born John Andrews in the United Kingdom, had long been Osho’s personal physician and one of his more prominent overseas followers. He had also been one of only two witnesses to the godman’s passing, the other being Swami Anand Jayesh, born Michael O'Byrne in Canada, who sat in a front-row seat as Andrews described to the assembly of fellow devotees their master’s last moments.

Andrews addressed the devotees again the next day, conveying to them Osho’s final wishes and directions. The most significant detail: Osho had commanded Andrews and O’Byrne to spread his word to the world. “I leave you my dream,” he’d reportedly told them.

The godman had also willed the Inner Circle, a 21-member committee of his close associates established nine months earlier to run the Osho commune, to be his inheritor, Andrews declared.

At the time Osho’s followers wouldn’t have imagined that Andrews and, especially, O’Byrne were preparing to turn their commune upside down.

In the three decades since Osho’s death, O'Byrne and Andrews, both in their 70s now, have allegedly seized intellectual property rights worth thousands of crores from Osho Ashram, inviting protests and court cases from a group of Osho’s followers.

How did they pull off such a heist? Quite easily, actually: they had allegedly faked Osho’s will.

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