Thoughts on Osho

Osho, also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was a guru, of sorts, and Indian mystic who I have a mixed opinion of. After all, I usually dismiss gurus and swamis as just more exploiters the ignorant, but Osho may deserve some respect, though not as a guru or spiritual teacher. He was controversial as a public speaker in India between the 60’s and 70’s because he had criticized not just institutionalized religions, but also socialism (which he believed would socialize poverty) and Mahatma Gandhi (he criticized Gandhi as a masochist reactionary who worshipped poverty), as well as encouraging an open attitude towards sexuality (which led him to being called a sex guru in the press), and we all know how modern Indian society looks down on openness about sex. He believed that qualities such as meditation, awareness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humor were being suppressed by institutionalized religion, static religious traditions and belief systems, and socialization. Unlike other gurus, he never saw his followers as below him but rather as “fellow travelers” with equal chance of reaching enlightenment, while most gurus saw themselves as superior to all others, that their form of yoga is better than all others, that they are the avatar of a deity or incarnation of some Buddha, or that they were chosen by a god or yogic master thousands of years old, based on what? Oh, and they claim to have superpowers. Often, when they die, leave a disciple, relative, or rich benefactor as an heir. But back to the point, what really earns Osho respect is his exposing of the fraud perpetrated by many gurus during the 60’s and 70’s in India. He had exposed the gurus as con artists and abusing Western disciples for sex. He also demanded that they come out and prove their alleged powers instead of just talking about them. For instance, he exposed a Jain guru as being corrupt and ignorant of sexual abuse of nuns committed by monks, and that beautiful Jain women were being groomed by monks to become nuns so that they can rape and abuse them later, and then order them to commit suicide by starvation. It was so big at the time that the Indian government tried to hush this up like any other scandal. They wanted his head on a platter. It was a huge shock to people in India, who blindly followed religious figures. The mere fact that supposedly celibate monks would groom girls into nuns and then rape them into starvation, they thought, was better not to know. It seemed they’d prefer delusion than for the truth to come out. What sounds ironic is that even the Communist parties in India attacked Osho for this, and so-called atheists attacked him for showing religion as a scam. Then he fled to America in the 80’s and things took a turn for the worse. Some of his followers who lead the communes he had there had been found to be responsible for bio-terror attacks on people in The Dalles (including the contamination of food). People assumed Osho was behind it and he became the victim of a blame game. After that, the authorities decided to go beyond what was called for. They bound him like a devil and paraded him like something to be ridiculed and mocked. Then, after a hero’s welcome in India, he became very anti-American, and also anti-homosexuality, which is bad when you consider that he said it in front of gay followers who asked him about the subject. It should be noted that the Oregon commune was made with a great sense of urgency pertaining to Osho’s prediction that the world would be destroyed by nuclear war or other disasters in the 90’s. He believed the “third and last world war” was happening and that a new humanity needed to be created to prevent “global suicide”, and the idea behind the commune was to be “a Noah’s Ark of consciousness”, with a new sense of exclusivism behind it.  Naturally, the nuclear hellstorm didn’t happen. In 1984, one of his followers announced another prediction by Osho, in which he thought that two thirds of humanity would die of AIDS, thus his followers were required to wear rubber gloves and condoms if they wanted to have sex, and they were told to refrain even from kissing. It was the trip to America, and afterwards, that changed him. No longer was he a respectable critical thinker. Instead, he became like every other hack trying to predict the end of the world and make a new age. There, he stopped paying attention to what was cool about him. All in all, I respect him as the critical thinker of the 60’s and 70’s, but that’s about it.

The influence of Indian religion on Japan

Kangiten, the Japanese incarnation of a popular Hindu god, Ganesha.

Hinduism is one the oldest religions in the world, and was around thousands of years before the time of Jesus, let alone the first religion of Abraham, or even the first dedicated monotheistic religion. Surely, then, it would be no surprise that such a religion would have spread far and wide over the course of its development and evolution. Hinduism as a religion is not commony practiced in Japan, and is considered a minority religion, with only 4,000 registered Hindus living there. Nevertheless, Hinduism has played a very significant and important role in shaping Japanese culture.

Buddhism, which shares a common root with Hinduism, came to Japan in the 6th century AD from China, where the Buddhist teachings had been translated into Chinese, via the Korean peninsula. Buddhist missionaries would introduce gods from Hinduism to Japan, as well as Buddhist ideas, most of which were ultimately born from Hindu thought. Hundreds of Hindu deities were adopted into the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist pantheons, and nearly all of them have a Hindu counterpart, and many of these deities are still popular. Here’s some examples.

First is Benzaiten. In Hinduism, Saraswati as the goddess of rivers, beauty, and the arts, such as music. In Japan, she become a lucky goddess, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune to be exact. Worship of her came to Japan in the 6th-8th centuries through Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light.

Benzaiten, the Japanese counterpart to the Hindu goddess Saraswati.

Another god of fortune is Bishamonten, who is also a god of war and warriors in Japan, in contrast to his other depictions in Buddhism, where he is called Vaisravana, in which he is a more pacifist figure. Bishamonten comes from Vaisravana, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, who himself originates from a Hindu god of wealth called Kubera.

Shiva has also entered the Japanese pantheon, mainly in the form of Daikokuten, another lucky god of happiness of wealth. He is said to be combination of the Shinto god Okuninushi and the Tibetan and Mongolian Mahakala, and he most likely entered Japan from Mongolia. Daikoku’s status as a god of wealth possibly originates from Mahakala’s association with Kubera, indicated by reports from Chinese pilgrims of seeing Mahakala placed in Indian temples carrying a bag of gold. And there is a white form of Mahakala who is sometimes seen as a god of wealth.

Shiva’s son, Ganesha, also appears in the pantheon, brought to Japan in the 9th century by the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and images of him have been throughout Japan. He is known there as Kangiten or Shoten, and is worshipped as a god of bliss, endowed with great power and beleived to confer happiness to couples and devotees, as well as conjugal blessings. He is also said to be a manifestation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. There is a popular temple at Futako Tamagawa in Tokyo, in which figures of Ganesha are displayed more prominently than those of the Buddha.

Indra, king of the gods in Vedic mythology, appears as Taishakuten, and a deity presiding over the Four Heavenly Kings.

Yama, the lord of the departed, appears in Japan as Enma, or Enma Dai-O.

I can go on with many more examples of Hindu gods adopted in Japanese Buddhism. Shinto adopted Hindu gods alongside Buddhism, despite Japan’s efforts to separate itself from foreign religions, including Indian religions, during what is called the Meiji Restoration, and many Hindu gods became Shinto gods, or Shinto gods adopted characteristics and links with Hindu gods.

A komainu guarding a temple in Japan.

Some Hindu symbolism also appears in temple iconography. For instance, many Shinto shrines in Japan are guarded by lion-dogs called Komainu, which resemble Chinese guardian lions, who ward off evil spirits. A common characteristic of these statues is that there are pairs of two identical statues, but with one’s mouth open and the other’s closed. This pattern is Buddhist in origin, but is laced with Hindu symbolism. The one whose mouth is open is uttering the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, pronounced “a”, while the one whose mouth is closed is uttering the last letter, pronounced “um”. Together, they represent the beginning and end of all things and form the sacred syllable in Hindu thought, the Aum. The same is true of a pair of fierce, muscular guardian gods called Nio (or Kongorikishi), where one’s mouth is open (often he is called Agyo), and the other is closed (called Ungyo).

The influence of Indian ideas was noted by the Japanese scholar, Hajime Nakamura (1912-1999). He stated that “Without Indian influence, Japanese culture would not be what it is today. As most Japanese profess the Buddhist faith, needless to say, they have generally been influenced by Indian ideas to a great extent”.

Ultimately, Hinduism is one of the most important religions for Japanese culture, for its ideas were carried on the back of Buddhism’s arrival to Japan, many centuries ago.

Here is a good website on Buddhism in Japan if you want more information: