From Bhagwan to Osho: Website survey

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This page consists of material relating to Osho's name change gathered from various sites' pages on Osho in mid-June, 2015. From Bhagwan to Osho: What's in a name? deals with all aspects of the "explanations" offered for this name change; this page goes into lots of detail regarding one aspect of that.

The predominant "explanation" we have dubbed the William James Version, or WJV. When the similarity of expression of the many nominally independent sites is seen, it becomes clear that the near-universality of the WJV is not so compelling. In an era of easy copy-paste, it is much quicker to do just that than to go to the trouble of composing new words.

The WJV

Sites below were mostly found using search terms "osho oceanic james". To minimize selectivity bias, all of the first thirty results are detailed, omitting only five consisting of G**gle Books versions of Osho's books, whose text about the author is quite naturally a copy-paste. A few other well-known sannyasin sites have been added that were found with other search terms. It will be seen that most have adopted the WJV without reservation, with, in many cases, a degree of similarity suggesting a fairly mechanical and unexamined approach. Thus has history been manufactured.

For example, #1 - 4 below are from the bio or "about" pages of prominent sannyas sites. #1, osho.com, is of course the "official" site, ie emanating from the office of the org that runs HQ, Osho's former Commune. #2, oshonews.com, is completely a copy-paste, with small changes for continuity purposes. #3, sannyas.net, has some original thought, some copy-paste and some paraphrasing. #4, oshoworld.com, has slightly more original material but only surrounding the more or less unchanged phraseology of the WJV sticker. It is interesting that Osho World was the center of a trademark dispute with HQ in American courts, which they did win, but even they have apparently overlooked the change from the Osho's words version to the WJV.

1) osho.com:

Having previously removed his name from everything, he finally agrees to accept "Osho," explaining that the word is derived from William James' "oceanic." He initially said, “It is not my name, it is a healing sound."
Later he also gave “Osho” a meaning, adding, “Oceanic describes the experience, but what about the experiencer? For that we use the word ‘Osho.’”

2) oshonews.com:

Having previously removed his name from everything, he finally agrees to accept “Osho,” explaining that it is derived from William James’ “oceanic.” “It is not my name,” he says, “it is a healing sound.”

3) sannyas.net:

After his failing health had caused him to stop giving discourses, a message came that the name Rajneesh was also being dropped. Many of his disciples had already collectively decided to call him Osho. He has explained that the word 'Osho' is derived from William James' expression 'oceanic experience' which means dissolving into the ocean. "Oceanic describes the experience," says Osho, "but what about the experiencer? For that we use the word 'Osho'."

4) oshoworld.com:

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. Osho explains 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.’ At the same time, 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." [...]
September 1989: Osho drops the name "Rajneesh," signifying His complete discontinuity from the past. He is known simply as "Osho," and the ashram is renamed "Osho Commune International."

5) osho.com again:

William James has given this word, "oceanic" to the world. The ocean has always been there, but once in a while a man of insight gives it a totally new dimension. He is the first man to use the word "oceanic" in the sense of vastness, infinity, eternity, immortality. It is always there; waves upon waves go on coming. Just as in the ordinary ocean, so in the ocean of consciousness: waves upon waves, unending joy, unending dawns, unending celebration.

-- This is from a page entitled, "Truth - William James - Ocean? - Osho Online Library" taken from Osho's words. As the text consisting of Osho's words on that page is fairly long and the analysis of that text's function in the WJV illusion is complex, comment has been moved below so as to allow the rest of the hits to flow more easily.

6) colorpointinstitute.com:

... he changes his name to "Osho," explaining that it is derived from William James’ “oceanic.” “It is not my name,” he says, “it is a healing sound.”

-- This is on the personal site of a sannyasin who mentions Osho's name's supposed provenance but the page is concerned mostly with his Active Meditations. The Osho's name part is fairly pure copy-paste, then the rest of it goes in a different direction but does return to a Tom Robbins quote found in #1, osho.com. Other sites as well have used the Tom Robbins portion.

7) learnoutloud.com: [an audio sales site, info about Osho is identical to #1, osho.com, including much more than the name-change portion, except for one paragraph omitted] -- OTOH, what else to expect from an "outside" site dealing in audio sales. Copy-pasting Osho info is perfectly natural.

8) books.google.ca: [Controversial New Religions -- Lewis and Peterson]:

Sannyasins usually trace the derivation of Osho to William James' word "oceanic," which implies dissolving into the whole of human existence -- in other words, being at one with everything there is. They note that Osho also carries the meaning of "The Blessed One on Whom the Sky Showers Flowers." Others write that Osho comes from the Japanese language, implying great gratitude and respect for one who expands consciousness. (Jina 1993: 53-54). Like almost everything else about Osho Rajneesh, his name itself created initial controversy. It could be interpreted broadly to mean a revered teacher of meditation (Jina 1993:54).

-- This was the highest-ranking of the alternative views found in the original search with terms "osho oceanic james". It is from an outsiders' book about Osho and sannyas which itself uses multiple sources. Thus they remain aware of the earlier Japanese origin story while presenting the WJV as the commonest belief.

9) newearthrecords.com: text is identical to #3.

10) completehealthcircle.com:

Osho once explained that His name is derived from William James’ word ‘oceanic’ which means dissolving into the ocean. And is this not what we do in meditation? Dissolve into the ocean?

-- A non-sannyasin site, possibly the most original in its text of all the WJV adherents.

11) books.google.ca: [New Vision for the New Millennium -- Vasant Joshi]:

To millions of his lovers and friends, disciples and devotees all over the world he is known simply as 'Osho'. As explained by Osho himself, the name is derived from William James' word 'oceanic' which means dissolving into the ocean. However, 'oceanic' describes the experience, he says, but what about the experience? [sic] Osho therefore means: one who has disappeared into the universal ocean of consciousness, one who has disappeared as a separate entity such as a dewdrop disappears into the ocean. "Osho" has also been used historically in the Far East meaning: "The Blessed One, on Whom the Sky Showers Flowers".

-- Both #11 and 12 are "insider" books on Osho, with near-identical texts (concerning this matter), both published in 2000. Allah to Zen below is a compilation. But the relevant text in New Vision above is pretty much copy and paraphrase too.

12) books.google.ca: [Allah to Zen -- Ma Chetan Unmani and Sw Chaitanya Keerti]: Text identical to #11, except second "experience" rendered correctly as "experiencer".

13) books.google.ca: [Critical Companion to George Orwell -- Edward Quinn]:

He abandoned the name of Rajneesh and adopted Osho, a name derived from the expression oceanic experience coined by William James.

-- #13 & 14 are both from "outsiders". #13 has not done much research on Osho, as Osho is fairly peripheral to the author's main theme. The article at #14 understands there is another story. Since the first sentence is nearly identical in both, there may be some copying.

14) religioustolerance.org:

He abandoned the name of Rajneesh and adopted "Osho". Some sources explain that the name was derived from the expression oceanic experience by William James; others say that it was derived from an ancient Japanese word for master.

15) oshorisk.com:

[The evening meditation] reaches its climax with three shouts "Osho, Osho, Osho". In this context "Osho" is used as a sound, which helps to raise the energy even higher. He says of the word Osho, "It is not my name, it is a healing sound derived from William James' 'oceanic.'"

-- words relating just to Osho's name are more or less from #1, reshuffled a bit.

16) oshomeditationcenter.com (Ljubljana): text identical to #15 above

17) pashyo.com (based in California): text identical to #15 above.

18) touchstudio.be (Osho Touch Studio): text identical to #3.

19) sannyasnews.org (intro to a discussion on Osho's name change):

In January 1989 Osho dropped the Bhagwan name, but he did retain the name Rajneesh. The “official” line is that disciples, (whoever they were) asked at the same time to call him Osho - as he seemed to indicate that he was to have “no name” after dropping the Bhagwan name.
Bhagwan appeared to make a different western connection, he said the name was another word for “Oceanic” and should be associated with William James use of “dissolving into the ocean” However for whatever reason he retained the name Rajneesh until September, 1989, which he then dropped and this was to symbolise a complete discontinuity with the past. From then on he is to be simply called “Osho”, and the commune renamed Osho Commune International.
So there was actually a spirit of confusion for much of 1989 about Osho’s name… and Osho did little to relieve the confusion!

-- Discussion might have thrown some light on Osho's name change, as it received input from many sources / posters, most of them not sympathetic to OIF in almost any respect, but in the event discussion started with incomplete and partially garbled info and went downhill from there. One original contribution: claiming credit on behalf of a local boy for having initiated a move toward changing Osho's name. This was not completely explicit in the June 2012 version of this discussion but became so when the discussion was once more taken up in 2015 following publication of the articles in Sannyas Wiki related to this page. (But the hoped-for improvement in the level of discussion in the 2015 version did not materialize.)

An SN insider who was in PR and in Pune at the time of the later name change, 1988/89 says that he recommended to the Ashram authorities a complete change of name as the old name, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was killing business due to its associations with Oregon and all the fishy business that went down there. A total split from the past would help re create the whole book/tapes/trade. As the main proponent of this advice was a guy with long experience working for Satchi and Satchi, it was listened to.

20) hu.wikipedia.org: actual content unknown, as it is in Hungarian.

21) facebook.com (OSHO): text identical to #3

22) majzooban.org: text identical to #4

23) indiasutra.co.nz:

Some sources explain that the name Osho was derived from the expression "oceanic experience" by William James; others say that it was derived from an ancient Japanese word for master.

-- succinct, balanced.

24) elephantjournal.com:

Osho said his name came from an understanding of the “oceanic” experience of a human’s spiritual seeking.

-- page would not have been found with those search terms except that "James" comes in accidentally, in a commenter's name.

25) people.bu.edu

In his later years, Rajneesh changed his name for the second time to Osho (referring to an "oceanic experience," a term coined by philosopher William James).

-- original commentary.

26) wajid.nl (a Dutch Osho center):

Osho zegt over het woord Osho (Osho says about the word Osho): "It is not my name, it is a healing sound derived from William James' 'oceanic'."

-- English text identical to part of #15.

27) oshonisarga.com: January 1989:

He stops using the name “Bhagwan”. Later His disciples ask to call Him ‘Osho’ and He accepts to be addressed as Osho Rajneesh. Osho explains 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.’” He also discovers that historically in the Far East, ‘Osho’ means “The Blessed One, on Whom the Sky Showers Flowers.”

-- very closely resembles the WJV sticker, with small occasional paraphrases.

The degree of copy-pasting found above is pretty impressive. It is also impressive that this applies much more to sannyasin sites than "outside" sites. And outside researchers are the only ones above who acknowledge the existence of another explanation besides the WJV. Hmmmm. Below, after the "Truth - William James - Ocean?" section, are a few more sites found with different search terms. Some selectivity has gone into them, as those few finally represent another story.

"Truth - William James - Ocean?"

The text consisting of Osho's words on that page is reproduced here in its entirety, as there are clues to be gleaned and points to be made regarding the use to which it is put:

BELOVED OSHO,
"THERE IS SO MUCH MAGNIFICENCE IN THE OCEAN... WAVES ARE COMING IN, WAVES ARE COMING IN...." AND ONCE AGAIN I SEEM TO BE DESPERATELY RUNNING FOR DRY LAND! MY SWEET OSHO, HOW ABOUT YET ANOTHER INTENSIVE LESSON ON DROWNING?
Radha, when the invitation of the ocean comes don't run away from it.
The ocean is the very beginning of life, not only metaphorically, but factually. We are from the ocean, physically. And we are from a vaster ocean, invisible to the bare eyes, spiritual. And when the invitation comes, running towards dry land is running towards your own grave.
Only the graveyard is outside the ocean.
Life is in being oceanic.
William James has given this word, "oceanic" to the world. The ocean has always been there, but once in a while a man of insight gives it a totally new dimension. He is the first man to use the word "oceanic" in the sense of vastness, infinity, eternity, immortality. It is always there; waves upon waves go on coming. Just as in the ordinary ocean, so in the ocean of consciousness: waves upon waves, unending joy, unending dawns, unending celebration.
Why should you think of running? But it is not rare; almost everybody thinks of running away from the ocean, from anything that is bigger than you, because the fear is you will be overwhelmed, you will disappear.
You don't need any lesson in drowning; the ocean will do the whole work. You simply don't run. You simply go on sitting silently and let the ocean take you over. Don't be worried that this is going to be your death. That is the fear that comes to every mind the moment it is close to the infinite. It is a very small, very tiny thing. It has made its own cozy life, although it is dark and miserable, poor, spiritually poor.
But it seems to be safe in a way, that you are not being overwhelmed by something bigger than you. And unless a man learns how to be overwhelmed, he will miss everything that is of value. He will miss love; he will run away from love, because love is bigger than you and very overwhelming. Such a person will run away from truth. Lies are good; they are smaller than you. They are your own creation; how can they be bigger than you? But truth is not your creation; in fact, you come from the sources of truth. Naturally, the fear arises when you come across truth.
Silence is overwhelming; all noise is yours.
Silence belongs to existence.       -- taken from The Invitation, ch 16

Since the page has come high several times in the G**gle page ranks for those search terms, this selection of Osho's words can be deemed the most prominent of his pronouncements on William James and "oceanic". The word "truth" in the page's title can of course be "justified", since it pops up in the quote but it can also be viewed as putting a "spin" on his words, as if, "Here is to be found the TRUTH of the Osho - William James - 'oceanic' connection". This quote is not significantly different from any of his other quotes on James / "oceanic" and, as in all of them, Osho is in no way "explaining" the origin of his name. And since this particular one is from Aug 1987, it can in no way be construed as being connected with his change of name.

In fact, when looked at closely, "truth" is no more important in what Osho is saying than "love", and both are less central to his point than "silence", say, might be, so why not title the page "Silence - William James - Ocean"? Or for that matter, just leave out William James, who is not really central to Osho's advice to Radha? The impression is that this titling, combined with some SEO (search engine optimization) techniques, has been used to make a few magical passes to reinforce the WJV illusion.

Other Views?

Not all significant sites which purport to explain Osho's name are found high up in G**gle's hit list with search terms "osho oceanic james". Below a few which can be thought of as differing, ie not simply parroting the WJV, found with different search terms:

1. oshoviha.org, a major distributor of Osho's books, audio and video in the Bay area in California, and publisher of Viha Connection, an important sannyas magazine: They say, in the relevant section of their "about Osho" page, "In early 1989 Osho stopped using the name 'Bhagwan' and accepted the address 'Osho,' which derived from ancient Japanese." And that's all they have about Osho's name change.

So there you have it. This was the only major sannyas site which was unequivocal about the Japanese derivation of Osho's name (or term of address if you prefer). This site was unfortunately overlooked somehow -- wrong search terms? or whatever -- in the earlier iteration of this page, but since their site is archived by Archive.org, it can be seen to have been that way since the first appearance of their "About Osho" page, in 2012 or so, so great!

2. satrakshita.com, a site offering tons of material on Osho and sannyas maintained by Sw Satrakshita: First there is a lengthy citation of Judith Fox's book on Osho, Osho Rajneesh, a study in contemporary religion, offering both the WJV and the JZMV (Japanese Zen Master Version) and citing as her source for the latter Maneesha's Bhagwan: Twelve Days that Shook the World. Fox goes a bit further and more emphatic than the standard "Osho explained" with the WJV, stating "Osho himself announced that the term was inspired from a different source." Oh well. Osho did not announce. What to do with stuff like this?

Following that, Satrakshita has his own observations:

"One of the stories is, that after the two names ′Maitreya the Buddha′ and ′Shree Rajneesh Zorba the Buddha′ had been discarded, in all the Zen anecdotes and sutras the sannyasins′ now name-less Master was commenting on, Zen-disciples would address their masters as Osho; one sannyasin eventually asked, 'Can we call you Osho?' It seems an effortless way, to have these Zen stories day after day until someone asks."

As this was cached by G**gle on Apr 14, 2015, it must be reckoned as original and independent, ie nothing to do with the efforts here in the wiki.

3. books.google.com: [The Rebellious Enlightened Master Osho -- Sw Gyan Bhed]: This source also reports both the JZMV and WJV, in its own very original way, and weighed more toward the JZMV. From p 581:

One day in the dental session assembly Shree Rajnesh said looking into Anando's eyes, "My name 'Rajneesh' is a useless exra burden on me when I am not 'I' because I am beyond the limitation of names. Won't it be better if you call me 'No body'?"
Suddenly Anando remembered that Shree Rajnesh had told once during the Zen sermon series, "The Zen Masters were usually called 'Osho'. Osho means 'frequently expanding consciousness'." Then only he had also told that 'Osho' had been derived from 'Oceanic' which means to submerge into the ocean. She suddenly spoke out, "How if it is 'Osho' instead of Nobody'?"
Shri Rajnesh said smiling, "I can understand your problem in calling me 'Nobody'. 'Osho' is a very lovely word. In the far east 'Osho' means a man who has attained Godlinness and on whom God throws flowers. You can call me Osho. From today I am withdrawing all my names. Now onwards only this name should appear on all the books published and all audio and Video cassettes released".
On the 27th of February, 1989, among the 10,000 disciple ascetics in the Buddha meeting hall before the evening sermon, Anando announced mentioning the above incident, "Now onwards we will all address Shri Rajnesh as Osho. In Japan the disciples of a Zen master used to call Him 'Osho'."
She explained, "Osho is a Japanese word which 'O' means with great love, respect and gratitude and 'sho' means multi-dimentional expansion of consciousness and Existence showering from all directions".
All the ascetics accepted this announcement showing great delight. The entire Buddha meeting hall echoed by the joyful shouts of Osho! Osho!! Osho!!!

Spelling and usage has been left as found. Certainly many quibbles can be raised concerning details of this account, like the historical accuracy of Anando's time in the dental room or some parts of the Feb 27 meeting, possibly cobbled from other "explanations". There was certainly no discourse that night. And Osho's request that "now onwards only this name should appear"? ... well, it didn't really work out quite that way.

This book and its nine-vol Hindi antecedent were published in 2006, so possibly some retrofitting of details has allowed stuff like that to seep in, but that it could even get published (with Resort blessings) asserting something counter to a pure WJV is somewhat remarkable.

And in fact, someone with access to press release info of that era has come forward to share that there was a press release apparently dictated by Osho on Mar 1 1989 that "He has dropped the name Bhagwan and will now be known as Osho Rajneesh". This puts it squarely in the hiatus time (Feb 22 to Apr 1 1989) when there were no discourses, so Anando's "announcement" in Buddha Hall to the cheers of the ten thousand buddhas may be a kind of confabulation. But the editorial in the Apr 1 1989 Rajneesh Times also reported on the Feb 27 meeting with 20,000 hands raised to say yes to Osho's new name, so possibly the only incorrect part of Gyan Bhed's report on the meeting is that Osho attended it and gave a discourse.

4. biographyonline.net: Overall an interesting mix of unusual fact, fiction, clarity and drivel; the part relating to Osho's name reports both explanations in BO's own original language.

In 1987 Osho became fearful of investigation by the authorities so he decided to leave the compound in Oregon and went to South Carolina. Here he fell foul of US immigration law. He had arranged false marriages and other violations of immigration laws. He was given a suspended sentence on the condition that he leave the country. Therefore he reluctantly decided to leave for Puna in India. It was at this time that he decided to change his name from Rajneesh to Osho. This is said to be a Japanese word for “Master”, although others say Osho comes from the term “oceanic experience”.

5. new-age-guide.com: A new version, the Harideva Version, but at least leaning toward the JZMV:

Since all these honorifics had always been a matter of discord with many outside his community, specially amongst some religious groups in which those names are significant, in February 1989 Osho requested his disciples to drop them all, including his legal name. This was a bit inconvenient so his disciples proposed several names over these weeks until he accepted the loving offer by his oldest American disciple Swami Harideva (who introduced Osho to the West and organized Rajneesh's last international festival in India) to use the name "Osho" which had previously been used for hundreds of years in Japan when addressing a spiritual master. The name "Osho" in this context means "The Friend"
Attempts have been made by those in charge of Osho's legacy to trademark "Osho" (and his meditations for that matter) but whether these have succeeded is not clear. All recent attempts by the Canadian lawyers to try and "own" the name Osho have met with failure in the courts.

This last one raises the question, connected with the JZMV, of various individuals aiming to take personal credit for Osho's having adopted (or accepted) this name. Since the original JZMV credited sannyasins collectively and anonymously, it left a rather large opportunity in the legend for anyone to wander in. The writer has known one such person. This page may eventually consider such claims and counter-claims. For now, we can note that this might be considered a "positive" reason for the org in Pune to have gone over to the WJV.


see also
Osho's names
From Bhagwan to Osho: The story
From Bhagwan to Osho: Prequel to Osho's name change
From Bhagwan to Osho: Publications table
From Bhagwan to Osho: What's in a name?
From Bhagwan to Osho: Website survey