For the last 23 years, followers of Osho were not permitted to wear an Osho mala – a string of beads with a locket – inside the very ashram established by the godman in Pune. Things changed today when the ashram’s controversial trust submitted to the demands of a group of “rebel” followers.
A similar protest had taken place in . On March 21, celebrated by Osho’s followers as his “enlightenment day”, the protesters sought police protection to enter the ashram – and permission that they be allowed to wear the mala while doing so. A spokesperson for the ashram , “Everyone is welcome but they will have to follow the rules and regulations of the resort.”
The protesters finally won. But this is just one of the many issues they have with the current heads of the Osho Meditation Resort, colloquially called the Osho ashram.
In 2021, on how two men, Michael O’Byrne and John Andrews, allegedly seized intellectual property rights worth thousands from the Osho ashram, inviting protests and court cases from some of Osho’s followers. The two men, who were also the only witnesses to Osho’s passing in 1990, allegedly faked Osho’s will – a matter that came to light after the followers took them to court in 2013.
The will purportedly said Osho’s Inner Circle – a 21-member committee of close associates – would run the Osho commune. O’Byrne, who now goes by Swami Anand Jayesh, is chairperson of this Inner Circle while Andrews, aka Swami Prem Amrito, is a member. O’Byrne is also the head of the Osho International Foundation in Zurich. They now face several cases.
Update at 8.29 pm, March 22: Osho followers behind the protest said that they were lathicharged by the police as they tried to enter the ashram wearing the mala on Thursday.
Protester Kishore Rawal, who goes by Swami Prem Anadi, told Newslaundry, “It’s ironic that we were not allowed to wear the mala of Osho inside his own ashram. But the people who made this rule are a bunch of foreigners who have been robbing the wealth of the commune for their own benefits. For the last 23 years, they have not allowed anyone to wear the Osho mala inside the ashram. Finally, they had to agree to our demands.”
Rawal’s theory is that the current management wants to “convert” Osho’s ashram into “a five-star resort”. He pointed out that the had also intervened and said “there is no prohibition for the petitioner or devotees to visit the samadhi”.
“Michael O’Byrne, his brother Darcee, and John Andrews are manipulating the trust,” Rawal alleged. “But things will change now as they can’t ban anyone from entering the ashram. And now they also have to allow Osho mala inside the ashram. This is our leading step towards change to save the ashram.”
Arti Razdan, a protester and Osho devotee, told Newslaundry she’d come from Mumbai to join the protest.
“I’ve been associated with the Osho ashram since 1988. What is shocking is that it’s become a crime to do Osho’s bhajan-kirtan inside his own ashram,” she said. “We were not allowed to wear his mala inside his own ashram! But we protested in large numbers and made them accept our demands.”
Like Rawal, she pointed fingers solely at O’Byrne.
“Michael O’Byrne is the main guy who handles things. The Indian trustees are his puppets,” she said. “They follow him blindly and do whatever he says. They want to depict that the ashram is running at a loss and want to sell the property. We have been fighting for the last many years against this dictatorship.”
In 2020, the Osho International Foundation filed an with the Mumbai charity commissioner proposing to sell two plots at the ashram, measuring 9,836.2 sq m, and a bungalow. It found a buyer in Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto, who offered to pay Rs 107 crore.
The following year, some Osho disciples objected to the sale, filed a complaint, and then against the joint charity commissioner of Mumbai.
As things stand now, some rebel followers want the prime minister to intervene and “save” their ashram.
“I have been associated with Osho since the 1980s,” said Shiraz Rangwala, 75, who came down to Pune from Ahmedabad. “It’s high time the prime minister and central government intervene and stop these scams by a few westerners who want to destroy Osho’s legacy. His legacy is for the entire nation. His teachings and meditations are like wealth for the country.”
Maa Anand Madhu, another follower, alleged O’Byrne and co. “have been destroying everything created by Osho”.
“These people should be punished legally under section 295 of the penal code,” she said. “This bunch of foreigners has been looting Osho ashram after his death. They have been filling their lockers in Zurich by acquiring his copyright. But now Osho’s followers are uniting. We will not let them destroy his legacy.”
Newslaundry contacted spokespersons from the Osho Meditation Resort but received no comment.