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Followers Flock to Commune After Guru’s Death

January 20, 1990

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Thousands of followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the guru of free love, flocked to his commune Saturday a day after his death to celebrated what they consider the release of the Rajneesh’s spirit.

Rajneesh, 58, died at his commune in the city of Poona on Friday. The official cause of death was heart failure, but a statement released by the commune said he died because ″living in the body had become a hell″ after the Rajneesh’s alleged poisoning in U.S. jails.

Commune spokesman Swami Chaitanya Kirti said at least 15,000 followers visited the center Saturday and chanted mantras, meditated and danced.

″They celebrated. They came to hear Osho’s last words,″ Kirti said in a telephone interview.

Since 1988, Rajneesh had gone by the name Osho Rajneesh, having dropped the honorific ″Bhagwan,″ which means ″god″ in Hindi. Osho is a Buddhist term that means ″on whom the heavens shower flowers.″

The spokesman said the guru’s last message, communicated through his doctor, said he would be always among his followers.

″Never speak of me in the past tense,″ Rajneesh said in his last message, according to Kirti. ″My presence here will be greater without the presence of my tortured body.″

Rajneesh was deported from the United States in 1985 after pleading guilty to two counts of immigration fraud, which alleged he arranged sham marriages so his followers could remain in the United States illegally. He often claimed to have been poisoned while in jail awaiting trial and deportation.

Rajneesh spent four years in central Oregon, where he set up a huge commune that became home to thousands of slavish disciples whose big thrill of the day was seeing the guru drive by and wave from the windows of one of his 93 Rolls- Royces.

Rajneesh preached that materialism was good, and his followers lavished him with riches. The commune eventually collapsed after both Rajneesh and his personal secretary were arrested.

His secretary was convicted of a variety of crimes, including attempted murder, in connection with a plot to take over the Oregon county in which the commune was located.

″In his final message, Osho said that since the days in jail in Charlotte, North Carolina, his body has been deteriorating,″ said the statement, read to The Associated Press by telephone.

″While he was in Oklahoma County jail, he was poisoned with heavy metal thallium, they exposed him to radiation in a way that it will not leave any proof,″ it said.

″Osho had said he had kept the pain to himself but living in the body had become a hell,″ the statement said.

Rajneesh’s death has triggered questions on the fate of his commune, which has 500 branches across the globe.

A 15-member group has taken over adminstration, Kirti said.

″There are very capable people to take us through,″ he said. ″Nothing has changed and nothing will change.″

Update hourly