Osho's fake adoption

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This story is a big story, with many threads and involving the apparent connivance of many people. It happened at the Ranch, and in fact could only have happened there, and so of course at the center of it all is Sheela ...

The basic circumstances are:

  1. In 1984, Osho's legal status in the States is in jeopardy, his legal options circumscribed at every turn by the state and federal governments, acting in an atmosphere of general public hostility, which arose both from prejudice and, it must be said, from the bristling, abrasive negative PR work of Sheela and her deputies. (See Veena's article about her time as a Ranch tour guide for a good account of that.)
  2. Quasi-miraculously, the (Sleight-of-)Hand of Existence produces a document and accompanying testimony which will be a bullet-proof way for Osho to get permanent resident status.
  3. This document purports to be a legal record of Osho's adoption, at age four, by an acquaintance of Osho's father, an unmarried Gujarati man. The reason for the adoption is said to be predictions by Varanasi astrologers that Osho might not live beyond age seven unless he were to be adopted.
  4. And who does this adoptive father turn out to be but someone who soon marries, eventually gets permanent residence in the States (and can thus gain such status for his family) AND is the father of Ma Anand Sheela?

How convenient is that? How believable is that? This page and its discussion page will explore these questions. First, our sources. How reliable might they be?

The document

The wiki has acquired decent-quality images of the purported adoption document from 1936, below. Images of the doc were also reproduced in the Ranch's newspaper, along with the story, but of lesser quality. These images languished in boxes of photographs from the ranch, only re-appearing in Jun 2021 (story of that to come). We are pleased to present a transcription and translation of the original handwritten Gujarati here.

The central item of intrigue in this story is that the supposed adoption was kept a secret, revealed only in 1984. We'll leave for now the question of how many people were in on the secret, and follow first the public story as it unfolded.

The Rajneesh Times

The first the public knew any of this was Feb 3 1984, on publication of Vol 2, Issue #23 of The Rajneesh Times (USA). The paper explained that Sheela's father, Sw Swarupananda Bharti was revealing for the first time in 48 years the secret of this adoption, which -- whaddya know!?! -- would help Osho in his fight to stay in the States.

Working-on-that.jpg

(The image of the front page can be enlarged to readable quality. There is also a text version here, which has, additionally, the continuation of the story in an inner page. Missing from the wiki's coverage of the Rajneesh Times of the day so far are three other related stories on that inner page plus the follow-up stories from the next issue (#24, Feb 10), but we're working on that.)

The interviews

What does Osho say about this adoption? Here we might think we can easily get to the nub of the matter, since Osho has said so much about everything, but straightforward it is not.

The problem here is that Osho has said very little about it directly, there being only three records of his words on the subject, and one of them appears to be inauthentic. We'll get to the inauthentic one shortly but first, two relevant interviews have been found, though only the first actually mentions the purported adoption explicitly. The second adds more to what we "know" about the time Osho spent with Ambalal.

Der Spiegel

Following is the relevant part of an interview with two reporters from Der Spiegel. This interview is only the second in the newly launched series of interviews with the world's press/media. Most of these interviews have never been published except electronically in the CD-ROM. This one did make it into print, as ch 5 of The Last Testament, Vol 1. It is from 19 Jul 1985.

Q: WOULD YOU PLEASE FOR OUR AUDIENCE GIVE A BRIEF RUNDOWN OF YOUR BIOGRAPHY AND YOUR FIRST ENLIGHTENMENT? WHAT HAPPENED? AND HOW?
A: I don't have any biography. And whatsoever is thought to be biography is utterly meaningless. On what date I was born, in what country I was born, does not matter. What matters is what I am now, right here.
Q: SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, FOR INSTANCE, FOR THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES IS WHETHER YOU WERE ADOPTED BY AN INDIAN GENTLEMAN WHO IS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, FOR INSTANCE. COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
A: Everything has been explained to them. All the documents have been given to them. Now it is for them to decide. If they decide against me I am going to fight up to the Supreme Court.
Q: THAT MEANS THEY HAVE NOT YET ACCEPTED THE EXPLANATION?
A: Four years those lousy people are just sitting there, doing nothing -- no decision this way or that.
Q: I UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENTS HAVE STARTED PURCHASING PROPERTY IN THE HIMALAYAS. IS THAT TRUE? DO YOU PLAN TO MOVE?
A: No. I don't plan to go anywhere. I am going to be here.
[ ... ]
Q: BUT YOU BROUGHT IN TRUCKLOADS OF DISPLACED PERSONS AND DRUNKARDS AND WHAT NOT JUST TO INCREASE YOUR VOTING POWER. CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE ARE A LITTLE BIT AFRAID OF YOUR TACTICS?
A: We did not vote at all! They were absolutely creating the whole situation.
Q: BUT WHY DID YOU BRING IN ALL THESE PEOPLE?
A: They are still here.
Q: JA, BUT THEY WERE NOT SANNYASINS... ARE THEY?
A: A few of them are still here. A few of them have become sannyasins. Those who wanted to leave, they left. We brought them because we wanted to share something with them. Next year we will bring someone else. Next year... every year after our annual celebration we have enough money to share.
Q: OR IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT THIS COINCIDED WITH THE ELECTION DATE?
A: It was just a coincidence, and we did not vote at all.
Q: SO IT WAS THE SAME KIND OF COINCIDENCE WHEN YOU DISCOVERED THAT YOU WERE ADOPTED... WHEN IT JUST CAME IN HANDY FOR THE IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES?
A: No. It is not a question of my declaring it. I was myself not aware up to that point that I was adopted in my childhood. It was a secret pact between Swami Swarupananda and my father. They were friends. And it was just superstitious astrology. Astrologers said that if I was not given in adoption I would die, and I should be given to somebody who does not belong to my family, does not even belong to my caste, to my religion... somebody utterly a stranger.
Q: BUT SOMEBODY MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT ALL THE WAY.
A: Only Swami Swarupananda and my father. Those two persons knew it all the way. My father is dead, now Swarupananda is the only person who knows, and who has all the documents. So when he declared, I came to know about it.
Q: WELL, I'M QUITE AMAZED BY THAT HIGH RATE OF COINCIDENCE.
A: It is not a coincidence. It happens in India every day. If people are told by astrologers that their children will die, it is good to let them be adopted that way they think they are going to deceive the stars and death, and everything. It is foolish, but it happens every day. And they kept it a secret pact between themselves....
Q: UNTIL THEY COULD USE IT, OR UNTIL SOMEBODY COULD USE IT.
A: There was no question.... Yes, my father told Swarupananda, "If there is any need any day, you are authorized, he is your son."

Twice above the two journalists from Spiegel have tried to put Osho on the hook of how coincidental and convenient this story is, making it thereby improbable. He will not be put on any hooks of course, but the point is, yes, the story is improbable, and what he has to say here, that he was unaware that he was being adopted, also undermines the words attributed to him in the questionable source, Glimpses of a Golden Childhood. More on that below in Glimpses.

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Excerpts from an Interview given to Laura Parker from the Seattle Post Intelligencer. This interview also make it into print, as ch 24 of The Last Testament, Vol 1. It is from 30 Jul 1985.

Q: IF WE COULD GO BACK TO INDIA, AND WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER.... I HAVE READ SOME THINGS ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, BUT I DON'T KNOW VERY MUCH ABOUT IT. COULD YOU TELL ME... I HAVE HEARD THAT YOU LIVED WITH SHEELA'S FAMILY FOR A WHILE, AND I HAVE READ THAT YOU LIVED WITH YOUR GRANDPARENTS AS A YOUNG BOY. I'M NOT CERTAIN WHICH IS ACCURATE. COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD?
A: Yes. My early childhood, up to six or seven, I was with my maternal grandfather and grandmother. I loved the place. It was a very small village surrounded by lush greenery and the house of my grandfather was just on the bank of a beautiful lake. After that, for three years I lived with Sheela's father. He loved me not like a small boy, but just like a contemporary friend.
It was a strange relationship -- he loved me, he respected me, too, which is very rare. I loved him, that was nothing new; I respected him, but I respected him more because he could respect a child just like a friend. And for three years it was a tremendous experience, because I could never communicate or relate with my own age group. I had never played any game in my life. It all looked stupid.
Q: EVEN AS A VERY SMALL CHILD?
A: Never. As far back as I can remember, I loved only one game -- to argue.
Q: TO ARGUE?
A: To argue... about everything. So very few grownup people could stand me. Understanding was out of the question. In Sheela's father, I found a man who was ready to understand me, and I never felt that he was tired or bored or not ready to answer. He never tried to shut me up. He never told me a single time, "These things you will understand only when you are grown up." If he did not know something, he accepted it: I don't know it, I am searching as you are searching. If in argument he could not convince me, and my argument was weightier than his, he was able to accept it without feeling insulted, humiliated. He is a man of tremendous understanding, caring, and our relationship has remained the same. Now he is my sannyasin.
Q: THIS WAS WHEN YOU WERE TEN YOU LIVED WITH HIM, APPROXIMATELY?
A: It must have been nearabout... between six to nine.
Q: DID HE SEND YOU TO SCHOOL? WAS HE RESPONSIBLE FOR EDUCATING YOU?
A: No. Because I was never interested in going to school. That was the worst place. I was forced finally to go, but I resisted as much as I could, because there were only children who were not interested in things I was interested in and I was not interested in things they all were interested in. So I was an outsider.
Q: WHAT WERE YOU INTERESTED IN?
A: My interest has remained the same: to know what is the ultimate truth, what is the meaning of life, why I am here and not anyone else. And I was determined that unless I find the answer, I am not going to rest, and I am not going to let anybody around me rest, either.
So he was teaching me at home, because he loved me; if I did not want to go to school, then he would teach me at home. After living with him for three years, finally I had to go back to my house, because he -- Sheela's father -- left for England for his further studies.
Q: YOUR FATHER WAS A MERCHANT, IS THAT CORRECT?
A: He was a cloth merchant, and that's how he came in contact with Sheela's father. Sheela's father lived in Bombay, and my father used to come to Bombay for his business. And they immediately became almost like twins.
[ . . . ]
Q: WHEN DID YOU MEET SHEELA?
A: Sheela's father was not even married when I started living with him. He got married after three months. Sheela came long afterwards. But Sheela's father has been trying to bring all his children to me, he wanted them not to miss me. His two sons are sannyasins, all his daughters are sannyasins. Sheela was studying in America for about ten years before. She was not interested in any search for truth, she was not aware that there is something to seek in life.
When she came to me, she was almost a TABULA RASA, a clean sheet, nothing written on her. That helped her immensely. Once she came to me, she never left. And because she was open, clean, without any prejudice, she could understand me immediately. Her understanding has not been any mental effort on her side... she simply absorbed me. She ate every word that I uttered to her.
[ . . . ]
Q: DID YOU SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE (Osho had been speaking about his enlightenment)?
A: No. For seven years, I kept completely silent about it because I was waiting for somebody to recognize it -- perhaps I had gone mad, perhaps it was just insanity. I wanted somebody to recognize it, and there were a few people who started recognizing that something had happened which is rare and unique.
The first man to recognize was an old man who was almost silent for his whole life. Once in a while he would utter a word -- meaningless, you could not make anything out of it, but he was respected immensely. His name was Magga Baba. People used to come to him from faraway places, and he never spoke. To have a contact with that man people used to massage his feet and just sit around him. He might be sleeping and people would be sitting around him, because there was something radiating from that man, something that they could feel like a fragrance.
The first day I went to see him, he immediately hugged me and whispered in my ear, "My boy, so you have got it... and it is good that you have not told anybody. Wait for the right moment to tell, because it immediately creates opposition, antagonism, and you are too young... you may not be able to fight. So just wait a little."
Q: COULD SHEELA'S FATHER TELL?
A: No.
Q: DID YOU SEE HIM AFTER YOU BECAME ENLIGHTENED, BUT BEFORE YOU HAD TOLD PEOPLE?
A: Yes. The moment I met him afterwards, he immediately became a sannyasin.

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Glimpses

This part of the story is familiar to many: the first edition of Glimpses, his classic reminiscences of his earlier days, had a whole chapter on the adoption. In this chapter, Osho told the tale of how his father just up and left him with his new beloved "Bapuji" (Swarupananda), with whom he lived for three years (and with Swarupa / "Ba" after their marriage), only occasionally returning to his Nana and Nani in Kuchwada. He sang the praises of his adoptive parents and their daughter Sheela; these praises were laid on so thick that they were the greatest clangers in the whole chapter.

This chapter was removed from the second edition of Glimpses. In his introduction to the second edition, Abhinandan writes: "This is the second edition of this book. The first was changed in a few subtle and less subtle ways by its first publisher. But the original diamond remained flawless, the changes she made are gone, and it is now back in its original form.

"This edition is richer. Since the original series of talks given in 1981 Osho has spoken many times of his childhood. These stories and anecdotes have now been added in an appendix to the book -- a few extra spices for this already superb banquet".

Abhinandan is saying more or less flat out, in 1991, that Sheela inserted this chapter into the first edition, that these are not Osho's words, which agrees with the assessment of many sannyasins. And post-Ranch, to expunge and denounce Sheela's deeds was very much in fashion. "In-fashion" is of course not necessarily the truth but there is enough experience-based testimony as to her perfidies in general that it is not a great leap of faith to discard this chapter as fake.

Is this chapter self-evidently fake, ie based purely on a reading without prior opinion? Many sannyasins feel so. Should the reader wish to see for herself, it has been rescued from its purgatory and can be read at The Missing Chapter 29 of Glimpses.

Osho's over-the-top supposed praise of Sheela was mentioned above as one of the chapter's greatest clangers. Another is the belittlement of his mother, a third the relative abandonment of his beloved Nana and Nani for those three years with Ambalal/Swarupananda and his new wife. Signs are abundant that this is not The Real Osho, though its authors have done well with getting the under-the-influence tone of those dental sessions right.

Other questions arise about this apparently fake chapter:

1. If it is fake, why have the other participants, Osho's dentist and doctor, not said anything about it, say after the publication of either edition?
2. It is not compatible with Osho's version in his interview (above). Could the interview be the one that is off?
3. There is much mystery swirling around Glimpses and the other "Nitrous Books", especially concerning the time when Osho gave these talks. Abhinandan above refers to talks given in 1981. The original "official" version when the three Nitrous books were published in 1985 said that these were Osho's last words before he went into an indefinite silence, ie early 1981, in Pune. Some speculation has them as late as 1984, but our best info is that Nitrous book talks ran from late 1981 into Feb or Mar of 1982, all at the Ranch. See Glimpses' Talk page for more on all this.
4. Why does this timing stuff matter? Because in all cases save the poorly documented 1984 speculation, the talks were given long before the Feb 1984 emergence of Swarupananda's announcement.
5. And so, how could the creators of that announcement be so out of tune with this chapter? For example, the adoption was supposedly a secret arrangement between Osho's father and Ambalal/Swarupananda, with even Osho out of the loop, but how could he not know if he spent those three years with them?
6. And how could the publishers of the Feb 1984 announcement think that this Glimpses ch 29 could be published and not derail Osho's residency status with its discrepancies from the announcement story?

These and other questions can be considered in more detail in the discussion page.


see also
Osho's fake will, another mysterioso document surfacing many years after its purported creation to serve a current perceived need