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June 20, 2000
The Rediff Interview/Swami Chaitanya Keerti
'Three guys in New York can't hijack Osho's legacy'
Swami Chaitanya Keerti is livid. The former Editor of Osho Times and spokesman of the Pune Commune breaks the code of Omerta to speak out against the transfer of the copyright of Osho's works and properties to New York, where the headquarters of the ashram have been sneakily shifted. This theft of a spiritual legacy will be fought to the bitter end, he tells Pritish Nandy. Excerpts from the interview: What exactly is this controversy over the copyright of Osho's works?
As I know from Ma Neelam, when Osho came back to India after being deported from the United States and rejected by 21 other countries, the first thing he decided was that all his belongings, including his library, should be returned to India. When he had moved to Oregon, everything had gone with him there. So he told Neelam to get everything back. But, for some strange reason, the stuff never came back. They secretly kept back many of his properties and copyrights in the US and, later, registered them in Zurich.
Was this done during his lifetime?
Ma Sheela initially did that. Whoever took over from her continued the same sneaky thing. Despite the fact that Osho had said that everything must come back here.
Were there any witnesses to this statement?
Ma Neelam. She was his secretary at that time. We however came to know all this much later in 1998. The process had apparently started on July 10, 1991. Osho left the body on January 19, 1990. So, within a year, they were already registering all his copyrights and trademarks overseas. We chanced upon this information in 1998 while surfing the internet. Even osho.org had become osho.com, which shows exactly what they were up to! The moment I pointed this out, their entire attitude towards me changed.
They also announced now that they had a headquarters in New York! Till then, no one had ever heard of this. All of us were taken by surprise. We always knew till then that Pune was our world headquarters. That was where Osho spent the last years of his life. That is from where he left the body. Where did New York come from?
Did you protest?
The moment we started asking questions, we were told that all answers will come from New York. If India wanted to publish a book by Osho, we had to ask New York. If Japan wanted to publish a book, they had to ask New York. If France wanted to publish anything, they had to check with New York. We were all surprised. How come the whole commune was here and yet three guys in New York controlled everything?
Who were these three guys in New York?
One name that keeps coming up in everything is Klaus Steeg. His sanyas name is Pramod. But the peculiar thing is that he took sanyas after 1990 and had never seen Osho when he was in the body! How can such a person who has never seen Osho nor met him in flesh and blood now take charge of everything that Osho had left behind?
Are there any Indians in the New York headquarters?
There could be one.
Who is he?
Swami Mukesh. I am told he is there with the three of them. If you surf the website of the US Patent and Trademarks Office, you can get all the information yourself. Of how many meditations are being trademarked, how many books copyrighted. I was a trustee of the foundation that published all the Osho books till last year, but I had no idea that all this was going on behind our backs.
Why did you leave the trusteeship?
Neelam left the commune very suddenly in February last year. She was a member of the inner circle. Her leaving left us all shattered. Then all these peculiar things started happening. Sanyasins who were deeply involved in the publishing of Osho's works like Swami Sant in France and Swami Satyateerth in Japan, both Indians, were suddenly told to cough up cash as royalty or warned that they would have to face legal notices!
Osho used to send his blessings to everyone around the world. These guys want to send legal notices! Osho encouraged sanyasins to do such work because he knew that the regular publishers were not ready to touch his books. Some said he was against Christianity. Others said he was against Hinduism. Only the sanyasins were daring enough to publish and propagate his thoughts. Now, instead of encouraging and appreciating this, the headquarters were sending them legal notices. We were astounded!
Do you think all this is to commercially exploit Osho's legacy?
Yes. But I do not believe that there is a divide between the east and the west on this, as newspapers have reported. We are all against these three guys in New York who are trying to grab everything. Let everybody be involved in the decision-making process. We are all part of the commune. The headquarters must remain in Pune for that is what Osho always wanted. That is where he left his body. Pune is our spiritual Mecca.
I am also against this crass commercialisation. The commune is not a five star resort. It is a place of faith. We resent its commercialisation. See the website for yourself and you will know what I mean. It looks like a tourist site today.
In what sense?
In the sense that it sells holidays. It sells the commune as a resort. It does not promote Osho's message of love and celebration. That is what is hurting us. They say, it is time to move on from Osho and look forward. How can we? We, who have lived with Osho, experienced his love, shared his ideas, danced and celebrated with him. How can we suddenly forget the man who brought us so much love and joy and worry only about how to exploit him commercially?
But don't all gurus get industrialised after their death? Look at Gandhi, Tagore. Everyone has been industrialised.
If I have learnt anything from my master, I will not allow this. Certainly not in my lifetime. We who have sat at his feet for years and felt his unconditional love can never accept the idea that he is a mere commodity to be traded in.
Does this make you feel isolated?
Yes, in a sense. People say I may be banned. I do not know. I just know that I am speaking the truth and there are many, many people with me who feel the same way and resent what is happening today. We will not give up the struggle.
Will you seek judicial intervention?
Not as yet. First we want to bring this whole thing before the people and then, later, if they still persist maybe we will go to the courts. Whatever happens, we have to stop this at any cost. Three guys sitting in a small New York office cannot be allowed to hijack Osho's lifetime work.
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