Nitya Prem reflects on the changing relationship between Osho and his sannyasins.
Perhaps it would be good if we sannyasins talked about how we have related to Osho over the years, because it hasn’t always been the same. Osho once said there was no relationship between him and his sannyasins, that it was one-sided and only from their side. Yet he talked quite a few times in discourses about the master-disciple relationship. He created this great distance, as if he had gone through stages of evolution that we had no knowledge of.
But one day, during the World Tour, he changed direction: he no longer cast himself as the master but instead talked about being the spiritual friend. He said this about it:
“The distinction between a disciple and a friend has two sides to it. First, from the side of the master it has happened. I don’t have any disciples anymore. You can relax.
From the disciples’ side it is going differently for different people. A few are relaxed — the transformation has taken place. A few are getting to be relaxed; a few are thinking to relax.
A few are unwillingly accepting the idea because to be a disciple was better: the master was responsible. Now the whole responsibility is thrown on you — and nobody wants to be responsible. Everybody wants to get rid of responsibility. There are a few who have not even heard it. They have listened to me, but it has not reached to their hearts. They still remain disciples.” (Osho, ‘Light on the Path’)
Later on, when he was giving the ‘Beyond Psychology’ lectures, someone asked a question about it, and he said it was for the therapists and the people who wanted to feel themselves as his equals. Certainly for Indian followers I think it must have come as a shock. Even for westerners, who had struggled to get used to having a Master, it was a big change to now be told ‘it’s all about spiritual friends.’
In a way, Osho was always more my “spiritual friend” than anything else. I rarely saw him as a Master, it never felt quite right although I managed to be quite surrendered a few times. It was a relationship of the heart, as he said, and nothing more was needed. For me he was a beloved, not that different from a parent or other family. So for me to see Osho change the relationship like that seemed just an acknowledgement of what had always been so.
It seems more appropriate to see that Osho is the spiritual friend to many, than for him and the sannyasins to try and carry on more traditional master-disciple roles, which were often used by more traditional gurus in small groups. What Osho tried was something different, closer to what the Buddha did with his public sermons and teachings, not really the traditional Indian model of the guru.
In the end I don’t think it truly matters, whether one wishes to see Osho as the Master or as the guru or as a spiritual friend, for those who loved him. He was there to shine his wisdom on us, and through his books and discourses he still does.
How did you relate to Osho?