Being a voracious reader, I recently came across Osho. I was amazed at the author’s sense of humor and his ability to convey the essential through jokes. A little deeper dig made me aware that the man had been banned from 21 countries with humongous controversies surrounding him. I was intrigued to find that the merry-go-round of his life continues after his death. He has written in some of his books that he was poisoned by the American government. Meanwhile, I came across this exciting title: Who Killed Osho? by long-time journalist Abhay Vaidya.
After reading couple of pages I realised this book purports to tell the truth, and in the very first chapter the author tells us that “A lie cannot be allowed to be passed down as a fact of history.” In an interview shortly after the book’s publication, the author states:
“The research for the book has been in-depth and the book has been put through a journalist’s rigour; no hearsay, all recorded statements and facts only. All precautions have been taken. I am neither on this side, nor that. I am on the side of the truth. And truth must prevail.”
Laudable indeed, and there are a number of incontrovertible facts cited. However, not all the facts presented may be relied upon. For example, a swift search on Google reveals the number of Rolls Royces to have been 93, not 97 as stated in chapter 3. So much for the author being an investigative journalist. If a fact as basic as this can be mis-reported, how can any credence be given to the book as a whole?
The cover blurb tells us that the book is the result of “nearly three decades of reportage and investigative journalism” and yet time and again Vaidya resorts to “whys” and “what ifs.” While there is nothing wrong with speculation, in a book promoted on the veracity of the information used, it is worrying to say the least.
Rather than veracity the book fuels the flame of conspiracy theory by raking through ashes rightly gone cold long ago, bizarrely hinging on the idea that Osho’s death remains a mystery. The author could not have done a better job of reviving conspiracy theories if he had been paid to do it.
Furthermore, while searching online about the reliability of the book and the publication I came across Wikipedia Reliable Source Noticeboard (RSN), a space where the notability and reliability of cited sources is discussed by seasoned Wikipedia editors. Needless to say, Wikipedia is the largest and best known online encyclopaedia, with a strong domain authority.
I found an archived discussion to do with the reliability of book where one Wikipedia admin mentioned:
“I can’t find any evidence that this is a reliable source. The publisher’s domain is actually blocked at the office due to phishing, which is hardly a good sign.”
A second admin supported this view:
“I too would suggest caution with this book. ‘Om Books International’ may or may not be just a vanity publisher, but it does not have any reputation for fact-checking or editorial control either. It’s essentially a book retailer/distributor, which recently started publishing its own line of books. The articles in ‘The Hindu,’ and ‘The Hindustan Times,’ both appear to be lightly edited press-releases, with not a single sentence of critical appraisal evaluation; note too the common language in the pieces, as in:
The Hindu: the result of nearly three decades of reportage and is based on extensively recorded audio and video interviews with Osho’s closest followers and a mass of official documents, testimonies and press reports.
The Hindustan Times: the result of nearly three decades of reportage and investigative journalism and is based on extensively recorded audio and video interviews with Osho’s closest followers and a mass of official documents, testimonies and press reports.
“Worldcat finds only two libraries holding the book (and that includes the LoC). Given the lack of quality reviews or any other ‘we can trust this source because…’ indicators, I would avoid using this source.”
It was concluded that the book should not be cited as a reliable source and holds no notability on Wikipedia.
The Dalai Lama recognized Osho as an enlightened master, having this to say about him: “Osho is an enlightened master who is working with all possibilities to help humanity overcome a difficult phase in developing consciousness.” Our author apparently does not share this view, writing of Osho’s empire and Osho’s estate, whereas Osho himself owned nothing, another fact that may be verified by searching on the Internet. Anything he was given by the wealthy among the people around him, he gave away.
Vaidya expects Osho to behave in the same way as anyone else, as here, “Although the Commune claimed that Osho ‘kept a close watch’ on the functioning of this committee, ‘giving guidance where necessary, and adding a few new members,’ the fact is that he did not address the Inner Circle even once.”, again betraying his complete lack of understanding. Strange in someone who claims to have been “reporting on the Osho Commune since 1987.” So what has he missed here?
Still, a suspicious mind will always doubt that things can indeed be as innocent as they appear.
One of the people interviewed for the book was Osho’s second-youngest brother, Shailendra Saraswati. When questioned about Osho’s death he was apparently “most reluctant” to go into the circumstances, saying, “I don’t have any interest in the past. We cannot undo anything. There’s no point in digging the past. I have no interest in that. I live in the present. I did not even go to the cremation ghat because I felt it served no purpose. Instead I focused on my sorrow and looked at it deeply.”
Perhaps now is the time for the author to try living in the present too.