Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Analysing the finger

Before I begin I need to make it clear that it’s not my intention to “bash” or promote any spiritual path – we all must follow our own yellow brick road – I’m simply offering my observations and I know there are others with an entirely different perspective. And that’s fine. But this is going to be controversial, so hold onto your hat…

I’ve spent a decent amount of time around Buddhists in different locations, and the same with followers of Osho, and the stark differences between the behaviours of these two groups claiming a path to spiritual enlightenment is nothing short of staggering. 

Obviously I have to generalise here as not all Buddhist followers are alike, and not all Osho followers are alike but there are some very strong and noticeable themes in the overwhelming majority of those whom I’ve encountered, and I believe this is owing to the main types of meditations they practise. 

I must clarify at this stage that those I’ve met who tell me they follow “Zen Buddhism” do not seem to show quite the same characteristics as the other Buddhists I’ve met – they seem a lot more serious and a lot less joyous (sorry, but they do!) – and I can’t speculate why this is as I know nothing whatsoever about Zen Buddhist meditations but I believe they are not the same as the two main Buddhist meditations outlined below. So in this piece I’m talking about Buddhists in general but NOT Zen Buddhists.

Where did I get my experience?

Buddhism: I completed the Introduction to Buddhism Course at The Buddhist Society, London, and spent many evenings at the Buddhist Centre in East London, UK. I spent an intensive eight days with 280 participants, plus monks and nuns at the Lam Rim (teachings of the Buddha) course at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, and a further four intensive days with 10 participants and monks at an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism course in Pokhara, Nepal. I lived for six months and attended many meditations at the Ganden Buddhist Centre, Halifax, UK, and have read three books by the 14th Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists), as well as having dipped into several books by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (the founder of The New Kadampa Tradition) and have read several other books on Buddhism.

Osho: I spent two months living in Pokhara, attending a small Osho meditation centre for daily meditations, followed by two months living in Pune, India, a few minutes’ walk from the Osho Meditation Centre, mingling with Osho followers on a daily basis, as well as spending full days at the centre many times during that period. I attended a full day of meditations commemorating the death of Osho at a centre separate to the main ashram in Pune , and I spent three months at Angsbacka, Sweden, living in close contact with several followers of Osho.

What did I notice?

The (majority that I’ve met of) students of Buddhism come across as open, grounded, present and friendly. Their general outlook on life is one of positivity and acceptance which makes it easy to be friends with them, to work with them, and to get to know and understand them. Generally, they’re able to express themselves in a healthy manner by asking for what they do or don’t want, and saying what they mean, kindly but clearly. The longer they’ve been following Buddhism, the more prominent these characteristics.

Conversely the (majority that I’ve met of) Osho followers appear spaced out, out of touch with reality and unable to communicate effectively. They can be unapproachable, it’s difficult to connect with them, get to know and understand them, they’re confusing, you’re not sure where you stand with them, and they can be moody and seem very lost and deeply unhappy. They often have a far-away look in their eyes like they’re not present. Generally, they’re unable to express themselves in a healthy manner, apparently hiding their emotions with blank looks and soft words that strongly suggest a mismatch between what they’re saying and what they’re feeling. The longer they’ve been a student of Osho, the more prominent these characteristics.

Why could this be?

In Buddhism, the two main meditations are Mindfulness: being present in the moment, very aware of your surroundings instead of allowing the mind to wander – and Meta Bhavana or Loving Kindness Meditation: sending out prayers of love and kindness to oneself and others. These two meditations cultivate qualities that make life as a human being easier to deal with. Rather than being upset about the past or worrying about the future, these meditations help us to focus on the here and now which is very freeing, and to love and take care of ourselves and everyone we encounter, which makes our day to day a lot less of a struggle. The positive effects of both of these meditations are immediately noticeable, and improve the more times they’re repeated.

For followers of Osho, the two main meditations are Kundalini and Dynamic.
In Kundalini meditation, the first parts of the meditation are to allow the body to shake, and then dance to music. The idea is to help energy move through the body, allowing it to come without forcing it and, in doing so, release the day’s tensions. This is followed by two stages of staying still, witnessing what is going on inside. It’s an individualistic meditation that focuses purely on oneself and what’s inside, and doesn’t take into account anything outside of oneself. It stands to reason, then, that a person regularly practising Osho’s Kundalini meditation can become very internalised and appear out of touch with other people and what’s going on around them.

In Dynamic meditation, which is to be practiced first thing in the morning ideally every day, the focus is on expressing one’s emotions in whatever way they come. As those who usually seek spirituality or religion are struggling with something, this means that the emotion that comes up is often (but not always, of course) distressing and dramatic and most often involves crying and/or shouting, as well as physical body movement. Another aspect of this meditation involves 15 minutes of jumping with one’s arms in the air. It’s common that the first time a person practises Dynamic Meditation they don’t enjoy it or get anything out of it and are advised that they must go a few times to notice the benefits. Drama and exercise are very addictive and so it’s easy to see how 15 minutes of jumping and 15 minutes of crying/screaming/wailing each morning can quickly become depended upon, and once addicted, it’s easy to see how an “addict” can think that their daily fix of exercise and drama is actually benefiting them. No addiction is a good thing because it’s masking something that needs addressing, but an addiction to this drama is particularly damaging because what we focus on perpetuates. So although it’s entirely healthy and, indeed, essential to feel and release emotions, when the same emotion is expressed repeatedly (in this case, because of the addiction that builds to expressing it on a daily basis) it becomes stronger and more real. If the emotion being expressed is distressing then it’s easy to see why someone regularly practising Dynamic meditation could become deeply unhappy.

In a nutshell

If, like a Buddhist, you focus on your physical senses in conjunction with your surroundings and cultivate a loving mindset, you will learn to become connected with the present moment and attract loving relationships.

If, like a follower of Osho, you focus purely on your own physical and emotional feelings with no regard for anything outside of yourself, you will learn to become out of touch with your surroundings and disconnected from other people.

It’s actually not rocket science, is it? What are your thoughts?


  1. Lisa, well done with this article - you're the only person to put into words what I'd been thinking for a long time (as regards to Osho followers). However I have little experience with Buddhism but have whilst travelling come across so many of the Osho Yogi's with whom I find I have no connection with. It is something that has put me off doing further trainings as I personally love kundalini yoga, however I understand how eventually you can become a zombie (to put it bluntly!!) - and well if I'm honest compared to my group of non-yogi friends and most yogi 'acquaintances' I find the latter are no fun to be around and are very egotisitical (ironically!) and so despite teaching yoga I choose to distance myself from these types. I'd never actually taken the time to work out quite why this is (I'd often questioneed but could not come up with a rational reason) and so thanks for this as it does make sense. I've been told by a few well meaning kundalini teachers (and some really are lovely people and so I don't want to upset them here) to undertake kundalini training to better my development however I can see how 'cult like' these training become (I've been on retreats enough to get an idea) and for me I choose to do my further development online and through work shops. A lot of these people seem very young and are brainwashed. As a teacher of kundalini I know this is really controversial for me to say all this and one day I do intend to write up on this as it's something which is true but most people are scared to speak up about, I went to Agama in Thailand a few weeks ago, and this is a perfect example of what you are describing. However my time there was interesting and I am contemplating taking a course with them in the future, however I hope I'm wise enough to know where to stop and to still hang on to reality and this world. As an end note imo a lot of things they advocate we have all the time to do when we're dead so why not live for the now instead of becoming 'brain dead, (and not much happier with it). I'm sure this will upset a few Osho / kundalini followers and I would like to say I still hold a lot of respect for the teachers who really do mean well and are in some ways so much more dedicated than others, this does not mean in any way they are 'better' than anyone else, which is my gripe when a lot think this way is better than that way etc..... however horses for courses and whilst there may be some people who really need this style of teaching I don't advocate it for everyone. There's a fine line where I think we should still take a reality check and question rather than 'dumbly' being led.

  2. Excellent comment, Tash, and I completely agree that many do seem to become "zombiefied". I'm glad you've also noticed these characteristics and it's interesting to hear your perspective as a kundalini yoga teacher. Thanks for speaking up. :) xx