Patent Perfidy

Times of India online (July 31, 2000)

What if, like the characters in Michael Crichton’s latest best-seller, Timeline, we could appear as ourselves in another time zone? Or say, if our Vedic rishi munis could fast forward themselves in today’s universe? Going by the factors that are the root cause of most ‘battles’ fought today in courtrooms, the hallowed authors of the Vedas too would probably get dragged into disputes over copyrights of their works. Even if they had no intention of making proprietary claims on the ancient texts, as the original ideas for Vedic thought are said to have emanated from the Almighty Himself, they might be driven to defend themselves. One can well imagine arguments flying thick and fast between the counsels for Vyasa muni or Shandilya and a whole host of publishers and practitioners of Vedic principles – each trying to ward off the indiscriminate scramble for patent rights unleashed by the intellectual property regime — arguing for mankind’s right to the free use of Vedic thought. Something as bizarre as this is plaguing Osho’s legacy today. There’s a huge tussle over copyrights to ‘Osho’ Rajneesh’s writings and recorded materials, post-Osho. When Osho moved to India and set up his ashram in Pune after being denied permission to stay on in the US, he had reportedly asked for all his belongings, including his library, to be returned to India from Oregon, USA. This wish of his was apparently never carried out, even after his worldly exit in 1990. Soon after this, however, began the race for registering all his copyrights and trademarks overseas – most of which have by now been transferred to the Zurich-based branch of the Osho Foundation. Ma Yoga Neelam, who was Osho’s secretary in India has been speaking out on this issue, and has severely criticised the move. Swiftly following her statements, she was prevented from entering the Osho commune at Pune when she set about proceeding for her usual morning meditation routine. This has sparked off protests from sympathising fellow Oshoites like the Delhi-based Swami Chaitanya Keerti, who are beside themselves with anxiety over the whole sordid affair. It is one thing for Osho’s teachings and meditations to be appreciated and practised the world over; it is entirely another to tar his legacy with a mercenary brush, especially since his was a philosophy based entirely on love and understanding for fellow beings. With the recent rush to patent inherently traditional and widely-used items like neem, karela, basmati, jamun and curry, it is not surprising that the wave for patenting and copyrights has not spared even the spiritual arena.

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