Suspense, Intrigue, Greed… The Mystery behind Osho’s Death

Suspense, intrigue, greed, power struggle, massive wealth and the mysterious death of a mystic guru who enthralled lakhs of young men and women across the world, with his discourses.

Journalist Abhay Vaidya’s debut non-fiction book, Who Killed Osho, has all the ingredients to make it this season’s ultimate read.

When the temperature outside sizzles, pull down the shades, get yourself a tall cool drink and settle down with this fascinating book that takes you on a mind-boggling journey that begins with controversial spiritual guru, Osho aka Bhagwan Rajneesh’s death at his Pune ashram in January 1990 and onwards to courtrooms in the US and in Europe where a slew of cases are being fought between warring factions of man who was once their God.

Osho aka Bhagwan Rajneesh’s death at his Pune ashram in January 1990 and onwards to courtrooms in the US and in Europe where a slew of cases are being fought between warring factions of the man who was once their God.

Vaidya’s narrative pulls you deep into the murky depths of the power struggle between a handful of Osho’s inner coterie who now control the huge assets he left behind and groups of loyal followers who have raised disturbing questions regarding the cause of his death, the systematic shifting of his assets including the Osho International Foundation and the Osho publication division to Zurich and New York respectively and the gradual and complete disbanding of everything that he and his commune once stood for.

Osho’s story should have ended with his hurried cremation within hours of his death on January 19, 1990, but it did not.

Within days of his death, a faction of his disciples were questioning the circumstances surrounding his death and asking why the coterie, which virtually controlled the ailing guru,- Swami Anand Jayesh and Swami Prem Amrito, his personal physician- had consigned his body to the flames, giving them the privilege of just a brief 15 minute darshan.

Why had his closest family and his disciples not been told that he was dying and why did they withhold the information of his death till late evening when the disciples arrived for the commune’s evening meditation?

Vaidya was an intrepid young journalist in his mid-twenties when he reported on the controversy surrounding Osho’s death; He probably never imagined that his reportage on the evolving drama at the Osho ashram, the power struggle between different factions for control over the considerable assets of the master and the steady murmur of foul play around his death, would become the grand obsession of his life.

In the nearly 3 decades since then, he has been the Washington Correspondent for Times Of India and returned to a senior position with the same group before he became Resident Editor at DNA, Pune. Through the years he kept up a steady stream of reportage on the once-vital ashram that has now been converted into the Osho International Meditation Resort, while groups of the disbanded commune’s former sanyasis struggle to keep his flame alive in other parts of the world including Dharamshala and New York City.

It was not until 2012 when he stepped down as RE at DNA that he finally got the time and mind space to get down to writing the story that had consumed him for long. “I pieced the story together bit by bit, going to Dharamshala to meet Neelam and Tathagat (Osho’s former close confidantes who were ousted by the coterie) who are now in Dharamshala, visiting  Osho’s brother in Haryana and other followers in Delhi, Mumbai and Baroda. I remember being shocked when Osho’s personal cook told me that she had visited his bungalow in the commune house even on the afternoon of his death. She said she had prepared his usual milkshake and left it in the fridge; she was not told that Osho was probably breathing his last in his bedroom, a few feet away.”

Among the topics that he has touched upon in the 270-page book (published by Om Books international) is the mysterious death of Osho’s former girlfriend and soul mate, Nirvano, in suspicious circumstances inside the commune, 41 days before he himself died. ‘Her body was hurriedly cremated in secrecy by a few members of the coterie and to this day her death is spoken about in whispers,” says the author. In 2013, exactly 23 years after Osho’s death, the Osho International Foundation, now controlled by Jayesh and his insiders, produced the late spiritual Guru’s will in a European court and claimed a legal right to all his properties, rights and assets.

Predictably, it set off a worldwide furore amongst his followers, especially because the coterie had categorically denied the existences of any will, at the time of his death. The will was later declared a forged document by all three of the forensic experts who had examined it and in a bizarre development, the OIF withdrew the will from the European court since it did not want to distract the court proceedings!.

“For me, that was one more reason why I needed to tell this story,” says Vaidya.

Possibly the biggest breakthrough for the author happened in December 2015 when ENT surgeon Dr Gokul Gokani who had signed Osho’s death certificate again in mysterious circumstances- recorded a video interview with him and signed an affidavit with his version of what happened when he was summoned to sign Osho’s death certificate. Gokani, now in his eighties, is still upset that instead of allowing him to attend to his master in his last few hours on earth, Jayesh and Amrito had locked him up in a room for hours in order to prevent the news of the imminent death from being leaked. It was only when he passed away, that they summoned him to sign the death certificate, specifying that Myocardial Infarction was to be mentioned by him as the cause of death so that no suspicion would be aroused. Over the years, there has been speculation that Osho’s death was the result of poisoning by drug overdose.

Three years ago Vaidya gave up all his other writing to focus on writing Osho’s story and says it was an intense experience that consumed him completely. He recalls days merging into nights as he poured over documents, researched the topic and read endlessly about Osho.

“My daughter, Anshita, was so used to seeing images of Osho on my computer screen and in books lying around the house that she started asking me if I knew Osho Ajoba ( grand-father ) well!”

Vaidya ends his book by underlining the many inconsistencies in the official narrative about Osho’s death and calling for a court-appointed Special Investigative Team which will work to unearth the truth. The book is already in bookstores and he is a content man.

“This is the biggest journalistic achievement of my life. If I don’t write a word after this, it is ok by me. ”

Go pick up your copy. It is money well spent.


( The views expressed in this column are the authors ) 

Sudha Menon

Sudha Menon

Sudha Menon is an Author, a Writing Coach and a Speaker on Gender and Diversity.

You can reach her on or her twitter handle@sudhamenon2006
Sudha Menon