A New Momentum in the Neo-sannyas Movement.
By Swami Aatmo Neerav
For thousands of years the culture of sannyas was hidden in the wombs of the East and remained a privilege rare to the common world. It required great penance and unswerving self confidence, determination, honesty, sacrifice and devotion on the part of those who wished to walk this non-worldly path of spiritual enlightenment. For this, seekers had to pass through years of austerities, discipline and purification before a master would initiate them into sannyas.
Osho was not in favour of this concept. He argued that with time, the original concept of sannyas had lost its grace and honor and had become a refuge of the escapists. So in 1970 he invented a revolutionary vision of sannyas known as neo-sannyas.
His sannyas was different from the old concept of no possessions, no family and no profession. Osho did not want his sannyasins to renounce the world but practice meditation in the market, while also embracing their worldly duties. Though this looked easy, it was a bigger challenge for the sannyasins to meditate and remain aware while being in the crowd.
It came as a shock to traditional fundamentalists and priests who thought Osho’s concept of sannyas was just too easy, and they predicted that it wouldn’t work. But the consequences were quite contradictory.
Just in seven years after its establishment, the movement of neo-sannyas had gained so much momentum that every year thousands of people were being initiated at the Pune Ashram. Young sannyasins in mala and orange sprang up throughout the world. This crowd of young and educated individuals further grew when Osho went to America and established his commune, Rajneeshpuram. By 1985 the number of his sannyasins had accelerated beyond millions and the red clads in malas could be seen in all major cities of the world. It was a period of honour and glory for the neo sannyas movement.
But unfortunately the neo-sannyas movement felt a great jolt in October 1985 when the American government plotted and destroyed Rajneeshpuram. Especially after Osho left his body in 1990, the movement seemed to take the journey of a setting sun.
Furthermore, the management at the Pune Ashram formed unnecessary rules that resulted in much confusion. They instructed camp-conductors to wear black clothes and ordered them not to organize camps for more than three days. Orders were made not to celebrate Osho’s birthday, Enlightenment day, Mahaparinirvana and Master’s day. All Osho pictures were removed from the different departments of the Pune Ashram and instructions were made for others to follow the same. Songs mentioning Osho and the word, master, became banned in the Ashram. While great efforts were made to destroy sannyas, initiation was gradually discouraged and wearing Osho’s mala was seen as a “crime”.
All intimate and dedicated disciples who loved Osho were asked to leave the Ashram one after another and their entry became banned inside the Ashram premises. Committed sannyasins who were working in different departments of the Ashram since many years got replaced by paid non-sannyasin workers. Dedicated Osho disciples doing his work for many years were discouraged to continue and great threats were made on the basis of fabricated trademarks and copyrights so that people would stop working out of fear.
Despite the prevailing confusion a few devoted disciples who had been banned by the management of the Pune resort continued with Osho’s work and established communes independent from the control of Pune Resort. Old Indian sannyasins like Swami Narendra Bodhisattva, Ma Amrit Mukti, Ma Yoga Neelam, Swami Chaitanya Keerti, Ma Dharma Jyoti, Sw Anand Vijay, Sw Anand Swabhab, Swami Chaitanya Bharati, Swami Anand Vairagya, Swami Vairagya Amrit and Swami Anand Arun from Nepal started giving sannyas and spreading Osho’s message throughout the world. The newly established communes again started to work as true Osho meditation centres and the neo-sannyas movement which was almost dead regained its pace of acceleration.
Recently this movement has attained a glorious momentum in Nepal. Today there are 4 active Osho communes and 70 meditation centers spread throughout the country with 65,000 initiated sannyasins. Every month Swami Anand Arun and other camp conductors trained in Tapoban conduct several meditation camps and initiate about 3000 people from all over the world every year. During this year Swami Anand Arun is traveling to 11 different countries in Western Europe, North America, Asia and the former USSR to conduct meditation camps, facilitate sannyas and open meditation centres and communes. When asked about his pace of work he says, “This is what existence wants. Its people’s love for Osho that invites them into sannyas and its Osho’s energy and compassion that accepts them. I am just a medium.” He adds. “Osho’s neo-sannyas and his meditation techniques are the only way to create the new man and the best solution to the prevailing global crisis. In 1969 when I had my first interview with Osho, he had said to me, ‘If you work hard the whole of Nepal will plunge into my colour like Tibet has plunged into Buddhism.’ I didn’t believe him then but today I can see it manifesting.”
Seeing “the work” happening in and through this little country in the mountains proves that the concept of neo-sannyas that shook the world in the seventies has lived and is thriving with the same glory. It also ascertains that good intentions never die but manifest themselves in due time.