When the shadows come back to light, by Philippe Nirav

(edited Nov 18th 2021)

The world of Osho has gone through a few crises over the last decades, but the one unfolding right now reaches unprecedented depths.

Within a few months, snowballing at increasing speed, accusations of sexual abuses against senior and respected members of the Osho community are made public almost daily. Women are coming forward and telling their stories of being raped in Osho’s communes when they were children or young teenagers. A woman recently disclosed publicly how she was raped by over 150 Osho disciples when she was between 12 and 15. Boys were not spared. Osho himself is being exposed.

This is unfolding semi-privately over social media and it will obviously go public sooner than later- for the better and for the worse.

Before I continue, allow me a few words about myself. I arrived in Pune in January 1990, only a few days before Osho left his body. I never met him alive, and I was never in “Pune One” or on “the Ranch”, where kids were around. When I arrived in Pune, there were no children in the Commune and teenagers were only allowed in for 2 hours a day. I indeed found it strange, but I accepted the explanation that “meditation isn’t for children.” With hindsight, I understand that if kids were not allowed, it was because of the abuses of the past which were thoroughly put under the carpet. I remember Osho’s remarks on monasteries not allowing women. “What kind of people are afraid to see women?” he commented “are they monsters or what?” Today I see that Osho’s Commune in the ’90s did not allow children into their premises because too many of them had been abused sexually in the ’80s. In Osho’s own garden, monsters were still around, and ghastly shadows had never been faced.

Pune 3, as it was then called, was all in all a safe and thriving place where I had the best time of my life for over ten years. I certainly felt uncomfortable with the “dirty old men” in the Commune who seemed to jump on young women as soon as they entered the gate. Unfortunately, many of those are still around. A respected sannyasin who has been with Osho since the early ’80s told me recently, “Nirav, I only give workshops so I can get young women into my bed.”

I certainly noticed how therapists, famous bodyworkers, “mediums”, people with a name, misused their fame and power to manipulate innocent newcomers and get sex. But never did I suspect that those predatory behaviors were only tiny fragments of an iceberg of unimaginable proportion that would one day rock Osho’s very legacy…and my life.

I am often asked if I ever regret having missed Osho physically. The answer is no. I have always been aware that true spiritual seekers are a rare species and that being around a master won’t help you wake up if waking up is not what you are after.

Back to here and now. Three months ago, I was informed that a well-known sannyasin was asked to leave a prominent Osho Center where he was resident, because of alleged “repeated sexual misconduct”. Not only that, but from all the places in the world where he could have gone to try and resettle, he chose the little village in Corfu where I live and where many old Osho Sannyasins have settled.

I inquired deeper and soon found out that there was probably more at play here than met the eye- and for him to be asked to leave his home of residence, something serious must have happened. I became convinced that a major cover-up was taking place. I privately informed the local community because I feared for the safety of the hundreds of vulnerable young women who come here. My warning was met with, “Thanks for informing us, we will keep an eye on him, but there is no need to stir things.”

I remember the wrenching feeling in my belly. I knew that all kinds of institutions had the old habit of protecting repeated predatory sexual behaviour. Was that same old dirty game happening around Osho also? How deep was the rabbit hole?

Two days later, a young woman who lives in this village accused a well-known musician of raping her here five years back. That was the very first public exposure and the first tsunami in this community. The ripples of that first and courageous exposure went deep and large, and a few weeks later, other women started to speak and relate their stories of abuse.

As I write today, more and more Osho Sannyasins are being accused of rape and sexual abuse when they were with Osho in the ’80s. Under pressure, most of them are admitting their crimes and are trying to apologize. Many more confessed that they had “relationships”, some of them for months or even years, with 12 or 13 old year girls, but feel that it was okay because those were willing relationships. I even heard aberrations like “consensual sex with a minor”. It seems that some old folks will need more time to review what is “normal”. Consensual sex with a minor is never consensual. NEVER! It isn’t sex either- it is rape with a minor. And so, having a relationship with a 12-year-old when you are in your 30’s doesn’t make it okay. On the contrary.

I have spent the most significant chunk of my life looking inside, trying to uncover my shadows, and before writing this piece, I wanted to find out why I am getting so involved in this happening right now. I planned to end this article with something like, “this isn’t about them only; it is about you and me too!” I took time to reflect on the darker sides of my personality, to look at how I have at times been emotionally abusive in intimate relationships; I discovered that indeed on a deeper level of my psyche, I too have hated women for holding power over me and that a deep-seated urge to take revenge is there in the background. I feel grateful that I have come across the work on time and largely succeeded to live a life where I keep those shadows in front of me instead of letting them run the show from the depths of my unconscious. Fortunately, I never raped anyone, I never had sex with an underage woman, and I never had the slightest drive to experiment with any of that- and all in all, this unfolding had nothing to do with me!

 So, where does this leave us?

 The scandal in the world of Osho that is slowly coming to the surface today has been buried for over 40 years. What we see as I write those words is only the very tip of the iceberg. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, only one in about eight children who is sexually abused reports it. Secondly, only very rarely does someone abuse children sexually only once. Finally, there are many reasons why victims do not come forward, and there is plenty of literature about it. Still, when it took 40 years for the first victim to gather the courage to speak up and name one perpetrator, how many more crimes did this one-person commit? How many more children were abused? And how many more pedophiles managed to get away?

You do not need a PhD in mathematics to understand the enormity we are dealing with here.

Not all, but many of the people with Osho during the old days had at least one toe in the pot. Some were predators themselves, some saw but looked the other way, some knew but chose to stay silent. Most are accomplices in different degrees.

In the village where I live, where one of its resident has recently been accused (and he has publicly admitted) of raping and deflowering a woman in Osho’s Commune when she was 12 years old, the impatience and discomfort with what is happening now are tangible. There is a tacit understanding that more residents are probably involved and may be exposed soon. What would happen to the local community if the shit did hit the fan? Dozens of Osho sannyasins have chosen to retire here, and the majority stands behind their old buddy; they can’t wait to get to “business as usual” and feel it is time for those stories to disappear. Enough is enough.

“I am done listening to more of that,” said someone the other day. “I worked so hard at the Ranch, and I wasn’t around children. I had no idea this was happening; I am in total shock,” said another, and then to add, “well, we all knew, but, well, it was accepted.”

Another friend living here told me recently, “When I worked on the Ranch, I remember hearing therapists having sex in the next room. I always knew something was wrong, but I never said anything.”

Or, as I heard yesterday, “I know many of them who had teeny girlfriends, sometimes even younger. They are my friends, and I will always stand by them. It was a different time. It was okay then. I don’t even read those reports. Past is past. I don’t want to hear about it anymore”.

It appears that those who were vital in keeping the lid on decades of sexual abuse within the Osho community now feel that a few weeks of airtime is enough.

Why does it seem so difficult for Sannyasins to acknowledge and recognize the criminal activities happening in their own garden?

Why so much resistance to open up their own can of worms?

To the question of why I am getting so involved, I reply that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 As I mentioned above, I was not present in Pune 1 nor on the Ranch when most of those crimes happened, but I have been involved with Osho Sannyasins for the last 28 years. I know that all isn’t black or white and that there are many nuances to this story (which mainstream journalists will undoubtedly bypass when it all goes public). I was in three long-term relationships with women who became Osho disciple before reaching their teens. Although all of them carry their share of trauma from those days, they are all beautiful women living a deep and balanced life. I never felt that they had anything to envy from the repressed Christian conditioning I grew up with. Many of them still carry deep gratitude for Osho and remember their childhood as a beautiful and extraordinary time. Yes, most of them were sexually overexposed. Most of them did suffer from feeling abandoned in the Osho’s Boarding school. Many feel that they started their sex life far too early, often with men too old. One of them had a direct experience with one of those predators (who was later tortured and murdered, apparently by angry parents). She was 9 when he tried to abuse her. Still, she luckily had a strong sense of healthy boundaries at her young age and found the strength necessary to stand her ground and keep him at arm’s length.

But not all children and young teenagers had that strength, and not all were that lucky. As people started to speak up, this friend just found out that this man who tried to abuse her when she was 9 had violently raped (and deflowered) another 13-year-old girl in Pune 1.

Another woman who was raped by the headmaster of an Osho School when she was 11 related publicly on social media recently: “Today, many of us face issues of anxiety, addiction, mental illnesses, behavioural disorders, shut down, isolation, we’ve had some who have tried to commit suicide and some who have been institutionalised. We are still facing your actions everyday. And if it wasn’t for the bond we have with each other over the years, many of us might not be here.”

I have a connection with Osho, which I will not discuss here. All I can say is that my identity as an Osho sannyasin has been shaken to the roots, to the point where I don’t know my name anymore. There are people and groups I have associated with for years, primarily out of habit and need to belong, and with whom I do NOT want to be associated any longer. I am facing my loss, my disillusion, another night of the soul. I welcome these pains and sorrows with an open heart. I have gone through a few dark nights in the past, and I always came out the other side more alive and more awake.

I hope that this exposing goes all the way, and I urge everyone to support the courageous steps taken by the victims.

This unfolding can have different outcomes. I am not Madame Soleil, but if the cover-up continues or if Osho was involved, it could well be the ultimate downfall of Osho’s legacy.

I hope that this rabbit hole will be followed until its very bottom. Until every child abuser in this community has been exposed and made accountable. Until every enabler has been made answerable. Until the King himself stands naked.

Then, and only then, may Osho have achieved in just a few decades what the Christian church hasn’t started to tackle in 2000 years.