The Gandhi Background to Osho
One year before Osho was born, in March 1930 Gandhi and his small group of chosen companions set off from his Sabarmati ashram near Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He was aiming to reach the remote coastal hamlet of Dandi, 240 miles to the south, in his attempt to break the British monopoly on salt. He had become an almost messianic figure in his fearless confrontation with the British, and his political vision of swaraj (self rule) had by now reached the remote villages of India. In the following days he set a fast pace in the heat. On his march he was showered by crowds with flowers, coins and kum kum (red powder signifying reverence) which soon created a religious aura around him. He was by now 61 years old, but still he could be seen writing letters late at night after his long daytime march.
When almost a month later he walked across the black sand of Dandi and picked up a handful of natural salt, it was like a crystallization of the freedom movement’s opposition to the British Raj (rule). The news flashed round the world, and within days India was in turmoil. Millions of Hindus began to collect salt illegally all over the subcontinent, with a forceful response leading to riots in Calcutta and Karachi and the stoning of the police in Poona. And when Gandhi and Congress nationalists were arrested in the following months, this prompted a fresh outburst of civil disobedience.
Whatever repressions the British carried out, the moral victory belonged to Gandhi. When, upon his unconditional release in January 1931, the Mahatma (great soul) walked up the steps of the Viceroy’s House to negotiate, now on equal terms, with the viceroy Lord Irwin, this was also a major step in the long process of the liberation of India from colonial power. The agreement they signed was indeed called by some ‘the funeral of our British Empire’ and Winston Churchill rightly made the prophecy that ‘England, apart from her Empire in India, ceases for ever to exist as a great power.’ Never had Gandhi’s prestige been greater, and his spiritual sway left its indelible mark on his opponents defending the British Raj.
The whole situation changed when the Earl of Willingdon was appointed as new viceroy in April 1931. He introduced internment, tighter censorship, identity cards, curbs on assembly, restriction on movement (including bans on bicycles) and even dress decrees (prohibition of Gandhi caps). The whole subcontinent was, according to Jawaharlal Nehru, turned into a vast prison of the human spirit. Within a few years Willingdon also succeeded in weakening and dividing the Indian nationalists, when in 1934 Gandhi chose to resign from the Congress party and distance himself from Nehru.
Gandhi’s fasts in the 1930s soon became a kind of moral blackmail and his slogan Bharat Choro! (Quit India) was the prevailing rallying call not only for his ongoing peaceful disobedience campaigns, but also for the widespread riots that were to follow during the Second World War.
The growth of national feeling and all the events leading to the independence of India at midnight in August 1947 were to leave a profound impact on the childhood of a small boy just being born in 1931. This fabric to end imperial domination was being woven around his birthplace in rural Madhya Pradesh right at that time. His name was later to become Osho.
These few strokes on the socio-political and multicoloured canvas that was India in the early 1930s are to indicate the political world into which Osho was born in Kuchwada and Gadarwara. The outcome of these events was discussed in his Jain family and his politically active uncle was to take part in the action against the British Raj.
This is not to say that Gandhi was the only influence, but we do find lectures and discussions on Gandhi among his first published articles and booklets. Throughout his childhood in Gadarwara he remained affected by Gandhi’s central messages, that of living in search of God, and that of non-violence.
It maybe that this sort of historical background is too little taken into account in the early development of Osho.