Many consider that the Ranch period can be too dominant, and that in a sense Osho left that behind with his name change from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to Osho over three months at Pune two,  not so long before he died. However some questions have arisen about it as below.

THIS STORY FROM SANNYASWIKI  presents a flow of Osho’s words during the period of his big name-change from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to Osho, from Dec 1988 to Feb 1989. That presentation gets particularly detailed after he has dropped “Bhagwan”, so as to demonstrate a pattern in his words and how they relate to the events of that time. The pattern is this: At a time when he has no clear name — a big deal for publishing and PR purposes — he comments again and again on this word “Osho”, which he has rarely done before, and makes this word “Osho” out to be a wonderful term to convey respect and love for a master. Well! What can he be pointing to?

The synchronicity of Osho’s words on the use of “Osho” as a term of respect and love in Japanese Zen and his actual adoption of the name “should” be enough to explain the origin and meaning of his name but less than a year later, a different explanation began to appear and before long became widely accepted. This competing explanation needs to be addressed and debunked. Why this is important will become apparent.

The William James Version

The alternative explanation is that the word / name “Osho” derives from William James’ word “oceanic”. This word was not coined by James but his usage of it is said to have been original, and in fact it aligns / resonates well with Osho’s vision. Osho has cited and commented (very positively) on James’ usage at least eleven times, as found by using the search terms “James” and “oceanic”.  This pattern of persistent positive commentary thus makes the “Oceanic-Osho” connection at least plausible.

But there are a few things lacking or out of alignment in this theory which make it rather less attractive when considered closely and cumulatively:

First, timing: Only one of Osho’s eleven occasions of commenting on James and “oceanic” occurs in this critical time period, Dec 1988 to Feb 1989. Nine of the other times were earlier in the Pune Two era and there was one in 1972. None came after those. .

Second, not once anywhere does he publicly draw a connection himself between “oceanic” and “Osho”. This connection is not to be found in his public words, period. He may have made it privately, with his secretaries or whomever, but not publicly.

Third, explanations of the derivation of “Osho” have been printed in many of Osho’s books published after Feb 1989, variously in the flap text, the colophon page, a separate page opposite the title page, wherever, and they evolve over time. . Here, we will just note that the several versions of the Japanese Zen master explanations more in tune with Osho’s words appeared well before the William James version (WJV, not to be confused with KJVersion).

Fourth, the commune newspaper of the time, Rajneesh Times International (as “official” as it gets), reported their version of the Japanese Zen master derivation ten months before any published WJV appeared anywhere.

Fifth, the earliest “insider” book to come out after Osho left his body was Shunyo’s Diamond Days with Osho. She says: “On January 7th, 1989, the name Bhagwan dropped and He became simply Shree Rajneesh. It was later that year in September that He dropped the name Rajneesh. He was now without a name. We asked that we might call Him Osho. Osho is not a name, it is a common form of address used in Japan for a Zen master”. This is on p171 of the first Rebel edition of her book, believed to have been published in 1992. Shunyo is as much an insider as anyone and thus her complete non-mention of William James and “oceanic” is important.

Sixth, in the time after his name became Osho, all the old books remaining to be sold under his old name had stickers put inside to explain his new name. As with the explanations printed in the books, not all stickers go with the WJV. It is simply not the only story.

One non-WJV sticker says:

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is now known simply as Osho.
“Osho” is a term derived from ancient Japanese, and was first used by Eka, to address his master, Bodhidharma.
“O” means “with great respect, love and gratitude” as well as “synchronicity” and “harmony.” “Sho” means “multidimensional expansion of consciousness” and “existence showering from all directions.”

It can be seen at From Bhagwan to Osho: Publications table that this is very similar to the non-WJV explanations printed in many of the books published after Osho changed his name.

The William James stickers say:

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is now known simply as Osho.
Osho has explained that His name is derived from William James’ word “oceanic” which means dissolving into the ocean. Oceanic describes the experience, He says, but what about the experiencer? For that we use the word “Osho”. Later, He came to find out that “Osho” has also been used historically in the Far East, meaning “The Blessed One, on Whom the Sky Showers Flowers.”

There are a couple of major problems with the story on this sticker:
1. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that Osho has nowhere ever explained publicly that his name derives from “oceanic”. The assertion cannot be justified by his published words. So if he did “explain” this derivation, it could only have been privately to “insiders”, and it was not mentioned by Shunyo, who surely would have been among those in the know.
2. “Later he came to find out”? Really? Was that supposed private “Oceanic-Osho explanation” prior to all his talks in the name-change period that we have seen? This does not seem plausible at all. Osho’s words in early 1989 show clearly that he knew very well that “Osho” has been used historically in the Far East. And in fact, he talks about that historic use of “Osho” a number of times before that period as well, as far back as Jun 1988. Relevant text from those occasions is presented at “From Bhagwan to Osho: Prequel to Osho’s name change“. So when you get down to it, the abundance of time-stamped evidence shows that this “Later he came to find out” has no basis in factual truth.

In fact, the falseness of this “Later he came to find out” is demonstrated beautifully in a small section of an “official” biography of Osho,  It reads:

January-February 1989: He stops using the name “Bhagwan,” retaining only the name Rajneesh. However, His disciples ask to call Him ‘Osho’ and He accepts this form of address.”

There follows, more or less word-for-word, the text of the WJV sticker above. The juxtaposition of “His disciples ask to call him Osho” with the WJV is a major slip in “the story”, apparently trying to “marry” the WJV to the previous explanation published in the Rajneesh Times, wherein sannyasins had first individually asked and then collectively decided to call him Osho, all in its natural context of Osho’s Zen discourses.

It apparently was not understood by those who arranged this shotgun marriage that for sannyasins to “ask” to call him Osho, there must already have been some collective understanding about what “Osho” means, and where would this collective understanding have come from? Even if Osho had somehow, somewhere “explained” about William James and “oceanic”, it was not publicly, so it is simply not possible that sannyasins could have collectively had any other idea than the Japanese Zen usage as a basis for asking. And the “Later he came to find out” is, seen in this context, icing on the cake of this bogus story.

The question must therefore be asked … Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to change the story of Osho’s name. So much trouble, and going in a very different direction from Osho’s public words … It must be something big.

Well SN bloggers what do yo say?

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  1. Lokesh says:

    The first time I ever heard the word ‘Osho’ used was over thity years ago in Miyamoto Masashi’s ‘A Book of Five Rings’. The book has been read by millions and used in business due to its powerful strategies. One of the blurbs on the back cover says, “On Wall Street, when Musashi talks people listen.”

    I’ve read the book several times but must confess to never having really understood why this is such an important book in the business world.

    If I recall rightly the title ‘Osho’ simply meant ‘priest’.

    One thing is for certain, Osho must have definitely read this book.

  2. shantam prem says:

    Once, I was trying to read in wiki about the different kind of titles in Zen hierarchy. Osho seems to be like a lecturer, a kind of Acharya, little bit above than the middle.

    Without doubt, my master, late Holiness Shri Jain Sahib has given a new lease to the word ‘Osho’. Few months ago, one facebook friend who is a professional Indian astrologer, pointed towards the numerological significance. As per Britain´s legend, Cheiro, it means, ‘Good man blinded by the folly of others’!

  3. frank says:

    Oshobob could be a resource here. His very informative website was forced down by the Resort some years ago and dealt with the history of the word ‘Osho’, if I am not mistaken.

    • bob says:

      “The question must therefore be asked…Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to change the story of Osho’s name. So much trouble, and going in a very different direction from Osho’s public words…It must be something big.”

      It is something big, at least relatively speaking…

      The focus of this thread is: The name ‘Osho’ was chosen out of the Zen discourses that Osho was solely speaking on in his final year or two. ‘Osho’ was the reverent name (‘Heshang’ in China, pronounced ‘Osho’ in Japan) used by Zen disciples (in China) for their Zen master. Why was this changed to the William James “oceanic” derivation, as a conscious rewriting of its history?

      Easy answer, I would say. The business administrators of the Osho legacy, i.e., OFI, the Resort, did not want the main character in their new religion to be associated with just “one” of the many past spiritual movements of the world. That would constrain the propagation of the movement.

      Osho spoke on a vast array of historical spiritual ideas and people involved with those ideas. To in some way have future seekers think that he was ‘just’ a Zen master in the long lineage of that sect, would be a limiting factor that reduces the interest of new adherents and participants. To hook it to something “oceanic” – the W. James connection of the word -would make it more universal, and more profitable.

      Also, there may be a legal, trademark reason hooked in. OFI wants to trademark the word ‘Osho’, but that word has been used by the Zen centres for centuries, and is still in current use in Japan. That would be like trying to trademark ‘Mevlana, ‘Bhagwan’, or even ‘Father’ used for a Christian priest in contemporary times. Or ‘Pope’.

      • satyadeva says:

        A very plausible explanation, Bob. Well done!

      • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

        Hi Bob,

        Is there anything, just anything, you could review re this thread topic beyond or besides a financial ( aka ´power´) transactional viewpoint?

        (Did thoroughly read your your yesterday´s contribution telling us about your 4 or 5 years maintaining personal efforts (website on yahoo) which I knew nothing of – so far; maybe others here did (?), when I feel some heavy sarcasm going on..).

        Anyway – would you mind to share some re my first question, please?
        Even then, when such could be obsolete for you, the latter – as a statement – would be better to hear from your side instead of on my side imagining or murky fantasising….


  4. frank says:

    The other `oceanic` connection is that William James used nitrous oxide and his oceanic experiences were experiences he had on the drug.

    All in all, “Later he came to find out” is just a better story line than “he probably read about it in some obscure book.”

  5. shantam prem says:

    I have read years ago, in the preface of one Hindi book published in 1970s, where the disciple mentions the wish of the master to drop ‘Bhagwan’ at certain time.

    Without doubt, in Hindu religious hierarchy, Bhagwan is the ultimate title, mostly used for mythological as well as ancient ones like Buddha and Mahavira.

    It was really piercing like knife to Hindu psyche to see one living being giving oneself the title ‘Bhagwan’.

    I will suggest to Hindus to trademark and copyright the title ‘Bhagwan’. They should learn something from the followers of Acharya Rajneesh! For them, Osho is another name of Acharya Rajneesh. I can understand this without making them feel guilty. On the contrary, I appreciate their stand.

    • swamishanti says:

      Satya Sai Baba also accepted the title ‘Bhagavan’ when he was alive, did he not?
      What about Bhagwan Nityananda also, and Ramana Maharshi?

      • Lokesh says:

        What about Bhagwan Shantam?

        • shantam prem says:

          Shantam will remain like Lokesh and others without any fucking title.

          All religious titles are domination over others. They are like crotch guards in Cricket!

      • shantam prem says:

        Swamishanti, what about other Indian gurus who never got any problem in America. Answer lies in that.

        Osho was like elephant among the other big ones who were like everybody else.
        He was provocateur, paid the price.

        • swamishanti says:

          Well, shree Shantam, I remember coming across this tape once called “How to stop thinking” by Barry Long.
          I popped it into the cassette deck and had a listen.
          All I remember was this Australian voice, just announcing “Stop thinking now…”
          I thought, what, just like that?
          Isn’t he going to give any techniques or anyhing?
          But he didn’t, and he just went on and on and I just got fed up with it and stopped it and chucked the tape out the window.
          Barry Long wasnt controversial.
          Some say he was a “tantric” teacher. Did he have several women on the go at the same time or something?

          Anyway yes, what about other Indian gurus who never got any problem in America.
          Well, Bhagwan Nityananda has a disciple called Muktananda whn travelled to USA , he set up some centres and had some sex abuse allegations.
          He said it was tantra.
          His disciple, was Adi Da Samraj, Da Free John.
          Very controversial , also had some sex allegations. Also said it was tantra.
          Muktananda and Da Free John both argued over who was spiritually superior.
          Da Free John married ten of his female disciples at the same time in one night.
          Osho named the sewage facility on the Ranch the Muktananda sewage lagoon.

          • satyadeva says:

            SS, it seems you weren’t paying enough attention to that BL tape. Perhaps you were too impatient, expecting a ‘sudden flash of illumination’, or maybe you came to it with a preconceived idea that it would probably be useless, irrelevant to you? Many, including me, have found it useful, some, apparently, exceptionally so.

            Still, whatever your experience, it proves nothing except that it wasn’t for you. Just as not every single meditation method or therapy (or Master) suits everyone (far from it, in fact) – and neither is everything any Master says relevant to everyone, including his/her own disciples/followers/”friends”. As you yourself confirm with your recent highly critical remarks about Osho’s statements on John Lennon.

            • swamishanti says:

              Well, I woke up this morning on a pile of cardboard boxes with empty cans of ‘Special Brew’ lying around, and a book of Mother Meera next to me. Unsure of how I got there. Then I became aware that there was a blond woman with dreadlocks lying on top of me, who I did not recognise.

              And then I remembered that I answered your post about Lennon again at 8:21pm last night.

        • Lokesh says:

          What about Western gurus in America, like Charles Manson? He died recently and there was a legal battle over who would own Charlie’s ashes. Very holy.

  6. sw. veet (francesco) says:

    In my opinion, to speak intensely and for years about ‘here and now’ to people eager for words implies using words without being used by them, crushed by their weight.
    Better to forget, a luxury that a writer could not afford.

  7. madhu dagmar frantzen says:

    “Well, SN bloggers, what do yo say?”

    I´d say, this very moment, Parmartha, that His Departure from names, frames, controversies etc. was quite a long one and I´d also say, a very compassionate one, regarding His Lovers.
    Sensitive beings have been able to get a taste of THIS in the Darshan happenings – others elsewhere up to the present day, I´d also say.

    When I saw the clip of this young Kung Fu teacher commenting about the Netflix Story, edited in Oshonews, I´d say he got the vibe too, and my heart was in joy.

    The history(ies) about ‘controversies’ only show where the contributors to controversies are ´AT´ (precisely at the moment contribution to controversies happens – and that too is a river ´rivering´…as long as we are in the body-mind-soul).

    Today, I´ve been desperately looking for Deva Abhiyana´s (Robert Abrahamson´s) book: ‘The Long Reach of the Dharma’ and when I found it again in the shelves here, screamed like a little girl who’d got a birthday present.

    Maybe – I don´t care (just NOW).

    Have a beautiful Day, all readers and writers as any bug-spy agents of readers and writers…
    I´m going to visit the river of this town today, we´ve got an appointment…a ´date´….


  8. samarpan says:

    I was there during the whole name change saga. I assumed it was yet another device related to identity/attachment. There were a whole series of name changes during that time. I thought it was hilarious. It was playful…leela.

    Then it was announced he had no name. I thought that was perfect. Then the name Osho seemed to stick, and that was perfect too.

    The name change time was a fun time and Osho was enjoying the Zen discourses. So did I. Things are always changing…light and playful, even today.

    • shantam prem says:

      I feel like vomiting when I read every act and omission of Osho termed as just another device. If it is so, fact is device did not work.

      For many, Osho was the founder of spiritual fun park for adults only. Now memories are left of Indian Elvis Presley of spiritual industry who seems to be more at ease when microphone was before Him.

      Sometimes it is no harm to take actions of the master a bit seriously and sincerely, and with pinch of salt!

      • sw. veet (francesco) says:

        After many years it is incredible to see the intact power of Osho’s devices in stimulating cardias*, causing an anti-peristaltic wave.

        Obviously the problem is Osho, who takes all those devices seriously.

        *cardias: The anatomical term for defining the upper orifice of communication between the esophagus and the stomach, below the diaphragm.

  9. shantam prem says:

    I think title of this string, ‘BHAGWAN TO OSHO CONTROVERSY’, is misleading and far from truth. My choice will be ‘Bhagwan to Osho: An Evolution’.

  10. preetam says:

    As long as Osho’s face will not be replaced by the face of ‘Swami Slowfeet’, all is fine.

  11. anandrahul says:

    A new prophecy has been made by Great seers that there will be an ongoing battle for trademark/copyright between automobile manufacturer Suzuki over launch of small car in the name of the master as Osho sounds more of Japzen than Indian. It will be parked under Bonsai of a bodhi tree with reduced wheelbase which Rolls Royce used in The 80s.

  12. anandrahul says:

    My above post is the result of my No Mind meditation which I had been doing on Hanuman Jayanti celebrated today. I have been celibate since today morning.

  13. anandrahul says:

    The Rolls Royce Phantom 2018 has an option to get artwork done. OSHONews has an article where they carry an excerpt of Swami Deva Peter’s book, ’93 Rolls-Royces’.

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