- NAME: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
- OCCUPATION: Criminal, Cult Leader, Religious Leader
- BIRTH DATE: December 11, 1931
- DEATH DATE: January 19, 1990
- EDUCATION: Hitkarini College, Jabalpur University, Saugar University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Kuchwada, India
- PLACE OF DEATH: Pune, India
- Full Name: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
- AKA: Acharya Rajneesh
- AKA: Shandra Mohan Jain
Best Known For
Indian cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh created the spiritual practice of dynamic meditation. He started the Rancho Rajneesh commune in Oregon in the 1980s.
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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as "Osho," was born December 11, 1931 in Kuchwada, India. In 1970, he founded "dynamic meditation". In the 1960s and 1970s he welcomed followers to his ashrams in India. In 1980, after an assassination attempt against him, he fled to a ranch in Oregon. In 1985 he was arrested for immigration fraud and after pleading guilty, returned to India. He died on January 19, 1990 in Pune, India.
"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life."
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was born on December 11, 1931 in Kuchwada, India. In 1951, he graduated from high school and started attending Hitkarini College in Jabalpur. Rajneesh's philosophy courses were the catalyst for his spiritual struggle. In 1953, after taking a year off from college to soul search and meditate, Rajneesh claimed that he had achieved enlightenment. In 1955, after graduating from Hitkarini, he went on to pursue a Master of Arts degree in philosophy at Saugar University. Following graduation in 1957, he accepted a position as an assistant professor of philosophy at Raipur Sanskrit College. Just one year later, he became a full professor at Jabalpur University, located in his hometown.
While teaching at Jabalpur University, Rajneesh traveled throughout India, spreading his unconventional and controversial ideas about spirituality. Among his theories was the belief that sex was the first step toward achieving "superconsciousness." By 1964, he started conducting meditation camps and recruiting followers. Within two years, he resigned from his professorship to focus more fully on spreading his spiritual teachings.
In 1970, Rajneesh founded the concept of "dynamic meditation," which, he alleged, enables people to experience divinity. The prospect enticed young Westerners to come reside at his ashram in Pune, India, and become Rajneesh's devout disciples, called sannyasin. In their quest for spiritual enlightenment, Rajneesh's followers took new Indian names, dressed in orange and red clothes, screamed, cast clothing aside and engaged in group promiscuity. By the late 1970s, the six-acre ashram was so overcrowded that Rajneesh relocated to a larger commune in Jadhavwadi.
Rajneesh's movement met with violent resistance from Indian traditionalists, and in 1980, an assassination attempt was made on his life. Rajneesh fled to the United States with his disciples, settling on a 100-square mile ranch in central Oregon, which he named Rancho Rajneesh. There, Rajneesh and the sannyasin started building their own city, called Rajneeshpuram. Disapproving neighbors contacted local officials in an attempt to close down Rajneeshpuram, asserting that it violated Oregon's land-use laws, but Rajneesh was victorious in court and continued to expand the commune.
In 1985, police arrested Rajneesh while he was trying to flee the United States to escape charges of immigration fraud. Several of his commune's leaders had already fled after committing a number of crimes—including drug smuggling and prostitution—over an extended period of time.
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Combine a charismatic personality with fringe beliefs and an appetite for violence, and you get some of history's most notorious cult leaders. Charles Manson terrorized frightened Americans in the late 1960s, convincing his followers to commit heinous murders in his name. David Koresh led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, leading to a standoff with the federal government in 1993 that resulted in the death of Koresh and 75 of his believers. Learn about these leaders, and many more, who inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies—often with tragic results.
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