by B. B. Nagpal
New Delhi, July 11(UNI) Can one turn consciousness, thoughts, prayer or meditation into registered trade marks, and can they be subject of copyright disputes ?
This is the question perplexing hundreds of thousands of devotees of Bhagwan Rajneesh all over the world, especially since the Osho Commune in Pune allegedly at the behest of the New York Commune claimed that Osho’s thoughts had been copyrighted in New York and nothing could be published without their permission. Interestingly, Osho never wrote a word while he was ‘in body’ (as his disciples describe it).
The matter has taken on a serious turn with the Pune Commune banning the entry of Ma Yoga Neelam, former secretary to Osho and Swami Chaitanya Keerti, one of the senior-most devotees who had been editing the journal ‘Osho Times’ since its inception. Initiated into Sanyas in 1971, Swami Chaitanya Keerti had since 1973 been involved with various publications related to Osho.
And now, the persons many devotees call the ‘three dictators’ – an Australian, a Briton and a Canadian – who claim to run the Osho Commune in New York have through a legal notice challenged the right of Osho followers in the capital who are attempting to set up the website ‘oshoworld.com’. The complainant D’Arcy O’Byrne, younger brother of Canadian-born real estate agent Michael O’Byrne who is one of the three ‘dictators’, has alleged that OSHO was registered as a trademark by them in August 1998 and that ‘OSHO Active Meditations’ were registered as trade marks in October 1999.
Ironically, Osho had himself scoffed the very idea of copyright of meditations when he was ‘in body’. Ma Yoga Neelam told UNI that he had once told her that meditations are God’s gift to uplift the conscious level of humanity. He said these are not ‘things of the market and should not be copyrighted and should be made abundantly available. He said thoughts, and certainly mediations, cannot be copyrighted. He had also said the job of his headquarters was to serve the sanyasins and not govern over them.
Ma Neelam said when Osho came back to India in 1987, he wanted everything belonging to the Commumne to be transferred to India including the copyright of his books. But the copyrights never got transferred and the publishing rights continued to remain in New York, she says. Thus, although the world headquarters of the Commune is in Pune, permission had to be sought from New York to publish Osho’s works, she said.
A 21-member decision-making committee described as the ‘Inner Circle’ had been chosen for life by the Osho himself, she said. But over a period of time, 15 of the original members left the Commune in disgust, peeved over the autocratic functioning of the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary of the ‘Inner Circle’, says Ma Neelam, who herself had been a member of this Circle. All these 15 members had been replaced by nominees of New York-based Inner Circle chairman Swami
Prem Jayesh (Canadian-born real estate agent Michael O’Byrne), she alleged, adding that the actual policy decisions were taken only by the three members at the top of hierarchy.
Swami Keerti said disciples all over the world have to take permission from New York for any publication. ‘This is the height of stupidity, obsession and paranoia’. For the last so many years, Osho had not been seen on TV in India because of the restriction by New York’s commercial considerations. ‘For them, Osho is just another author, albeit a bestselling one to be commercialised and traded in the marketplace’, he said.
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