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Wild Wild Country, on the quest of 'Bhagwan' a.k.a Rajneesh a.k.a Osho offers interesting insights into what makes a cult tick - at least for some time!
Wild Wild Country, on the quest of ‘Bhagwan’ a.k.a Rajneesh a.k.a Osho offers interesting insights into what makes a cult tick – at least for some time!
Throughout watching Wild Wild Country, I was in awe. In awe of what humans are capable of pulling off and what some humans are capable of believing in.
Few years back, I read a quote by Tim Wolfe – a cult is a religion with no political power. This quote seemed so relatable to the series and the events that were documented here.
Before watching the series, I was aware of Osho, somewhat aware of his teachings and had with interest during my college time, read about his views on sex and society. But, nothing had prepared me for discovering the scale on which his influence worked and the magnitude of money and power that was involved in his rise and subsequent fall.
As I watched the documentary series, my mind kept pondering on the whys. Why would people blindly follow a man who had such a huge ego that he unabashedly called himself ‘Bhagwan’? I mean, who in their right frame of mind calls themselves ‘Bhagwan’? Then, when I saw the actual tapes of Rajneesh, I was so unimpressed by his communication skills that I could not wrap my head around the fact that he had enough money to buy 64000 acres of land in America and could overnight shift his ‘ashram’ from India to Oregon where he owned 94 Rolls-Royces!
His ways, his views, his mannerisms – none of them were special. So why did he have such a huge following? Why so much money? Why were 7000 people willing to leave everything behind and live in Rajneeshpuram (another ego-filled supercilious name)?
To my mind, human beings are basically insecure beings. From this insecurity and the constant search for belonging, religions are born. Religions and cults represent ideas to people that seem to give them a sense of belonging, security, warmth, brotherhood and most importantly, help them in painting their own identities.
Mediocrity is a scary state. Being mediocre strips one off the idea of self that a person has, believing they are meant to do great things in life. The realisation of being mediocre sucks the life out of some. In this case, to suddenly find a path of unconditional acceptance with no judgement, to be able to work and live as equals seemed to have blinded some who just saw the light of the ideas but never could see the reality of their execution that was filled with drugs, violence and murders.
Another section that was highly influenced by the ‘bhagwan’ was the ultra rich, the layer of society that had so much money that they didn’t mind paying chunks of it in exchange for getting some direction in their lives. Filling the hollowness of their souls by being a part of something special. Having a purpose. The mystic ways, the brush with spirituality and Yoga also added a certain amount of glamour to ‘Bhagwan’s’ ways.
Why religions as ideas and ways of life are so widely accepted by homo sapiens is, to my mind, because most of us don’t know what to do with the freedom we have to live life our own way, to find our own direction. Most of us look for purpose, identity and self by identifying ourselves with ideas, thus suddenly being a part of something divine and ‘godly’.
The last thing that I could think of was that the idea of society that Rajneesh offered, the shackle free sex, the open society that he suggested and almost succeeded in building, was also definitely a big reason for many, for they could explore their sexuality and freedom without being judged by society.
Being a teacher of philosophy, he thus knew the insatiable thirst of a being to belong to or identify with something and exploited this raw human emotion to the hilt.
Had Rajneesh started this whole theatrics about 500 years ago, I am sure it would have become a religion. Good for humanity and bad for him that his end came soon and was rather unceremonious. Good that countries and people could identify BS and work to stop it!
All said and done, I am still rather impressed by the magnitude of his influence considering the shallowness of his ideas.
Besides, I cant help but find this man a bit of a fool too. Why keep such an outrageous number of luxury cars that would attract the attention of everyone? Why be such a big headed ego maniac to call himself Bhagwan? Why not curb and control strong forces like Ma Sheela? And why on earth piss such a powerful administrator off?
But then, ‘Bhagwan’ thought he could get away with everything, right?
Basically, Rajneesh’s God complex lead to his debacle.
First published here.
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Rrashima Swaarup Verma's new bestselling book The Royal Scandal is a celebration of the spirit of womanhood set in the 18th Century.
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