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By: Prem Amrito MD
AIDS and Osho go back a long way, in fact almost to the beginning of the epidemic. It was early 1984 the first cases had been noticed three years earlier, and no one was sure what was going. Was it a virus? Was it the result of drug use? Was it something specific to the sexual activities of gays? as almost all the infected people were homosexuals. Osho asked for a brief resume of what was known at the time.
A short time later he announced that AIDS was going to be a major worldwide plague, and that protection was the key. Condoms should be used for all sexual activities, kissing should be avoided as their was no way of knowing whether saliva was involved, and that gloves should be worn during sexual activity.
It is instructive to read that media coverage now -- essentially dismissing this view out of hand. About a year later it became possible to measure antibodies in the blood to the virus that was by then assumed to be the cause. Immediately Osho added that everybody should be tested regularly, and that those who were infected should live separately from those who were not.
At that time, because people had been infected for such a short time, only about 20% of those infected had died. The medical community accordingly announced that it was fatal in only 20% of the population. Osho said it was 100% fatal and that it was incurable. Further, he explained that although he was not doctor, it was clear to him this was something deeper than just another disease. His feeling was that this particular combination of sex and death was related to the other suicidal tendencies of contemporary humans, in particular their headlong rush to risk the destruction of the planet for more material comfort. And as such represented a deeper process than simply another infectious disease, and would be very difficult if not impossible to cure because of this underlying issue.
If outsiders thought it was weird that the Rajneeshpuram Hotel should provide condoms with the sachets of shampoo, then insiders were also rattled. I remember a virologist from Washington State writing that she didn't like to see her master sounding like a fool by saying the disease was 100% fatal, when everybody knew that only a minority of infected people died. Of course as time went by, and the deaths mounted, eventually it was discovered that the disease was indeed essentially 100% fatal.
Perhaps the most controversial element of Oshos proposal was the separation for the infected from the non-infected. Quarantine as it used to be called, has been widely practiced for all kinds of infectious diseases, but people were very provoked by the application of that same principle to AIDS. It was OK for open TB, OK for chicken pox, but not OK for AIDS. There was already so much ugly discrimination against gays that perhaps this proposal touched a particularly raw nerve. People immediately compared it with leper colonies and all the historical horrors associated with them.
There was endless reassurance from the authorities that AIDS could not be contacted by casual contact, so isolation of infected people was quite unwarranted, and totally discriminatory. Of course, Oshos idea was far from that of a leper colony. His idea was that these people were not going to live very long, so they should be given the best facilities, so they could live out their lives in comfort. And that unlike the rest of us, who always imagine that death only happens to others, these people had been given their ticket out. They knew now they were going to die. Now was the time for them to meditate, now was the time for them to put their total energy into preparation for death. For Osho, to fail to die consciously was to miss the point of being alive in the first place.
And one death is certainly worth remembering. One part of Rajneeshpuram, called Desiderata, was where all the AIDS-infected people lived. After being unwell for quite a while, a gay called Lazarus summoned a few of his friends for 3 o'clock in the afternoon. His friend from California was visiting at the time. He had stopped all his subscriptions to magazines, given away all his belongings, and was pretty much as he had arrived, some forty years earlier, except for the pajamas. Just before 3 o'clock he wanted a shower, and with some help from the others managed that before climbing back into bed. He acknowledged everyone present, turned to his friend lying on the bed next to him, smiled into his eyes, took in a deep breathe, exhaled and died.
Those who were there describe a profound and ecstatic silence that filled the room. It was an experience they would never forget.
Oshos idea was that in time, all the attendants for AIDS patients would be people who also had AIDS: that by living in an AIDS-only environment, the prejudice that AIDS sufferers were experiencing everywhere would be eliminated.
It is a typical Osho approach that puts him at odds with conventional thinking. His insight is that all prejudice is an inevitable result of living in the mind. Better/worse, higher/lower, good/bad -- this is simply the way the mind works. For Osho complaining about a prejudiced mind would be like complaining about all the 1's and 0's in a computer. Conventional thinking is also against prejudice, but feels that acknowledging it as a reality is a compromise. In that view, prejudice is bad and shouldn't happen, so AIDS-infected people should live in the world where all this prejudice shouldn't happen. In fact they feel that Oshos very proposal is making prejudice more likely.
Oshos view is that prejudice exists. In his understanding, only when people no longer see their dualistic minds as their master will prejudice disappear. Meanwhile, rather than exposing AIDS-infected people to this ugliness, at this most important moment of the lives, better to offer them a prejudice-free environment and not sacrifice them on the altar of some fanciful and theoretical idealism from hope.com. Given that no one deals with this basic source of prejudice, why expose these people to this additional suffering.
And Lazarus could have gone elsewhere long before if had wanted to.
Less that two years later, Osho is back in Pune, India, where the very first AIDS cases had been discovered. There were less than ten cases described from Tamil Nadu. A press conference was called where the local media could hear about this new disease and benefit not only from our experience with this disease, but also hear Oshos insights on this condition.
What a circus! Was anybody interested? Forget about it. Firstly this was a disease of promiscuous Westerners -- by now heterosexual females were being diagnosed so it was no longer peculiar to gays. We spiritual Hindus with our sacred family values would never get AIDS, and if we did it would be fault of non-Indians. Foreigners were the problem. It was not going to be a problem for India. And the suggestion that those infected should be isolated brought howls of protest. What about their civil rights? This was discriminatory. Why were we testing people who wanted to enter the meditation resort? It must mean we were either promiscuous ourselves, or paranoid about AIDS. Osho should be tested they demanded. Wasn't he sick since his incarceration in the US? Good idea we said. Any why not also test Rajiv Gandhi who was then India's prime minister. Lets test everyone. More howls of protest.
It was a classical head in the sand response. A local AIDS worker, a physician, took up the cry and diagnosed Osho as having AIDS simply because he was ill. Dr. Korshed Pavri, the director of India's National Institute of Virology came and witnessed Oshos blood being drawn and took the sample off and tested it personally. It was negative. Rajiv Gandhi was never tested. The press widely reported this result, but that didn't prevent the Western press claiming that Osho was rumored to have died of AIDS. Years later, the London Observer repeated this story, so it then got repeated with sheep-like consistency all over the place. So much for all this concern about prejudice. Thus was Oshos insistence of prevention rewarded. What else to expect of such good examples of William Reich's "little men."
Of course, as always with Osho, his idea of isolating infected people is very radical. And in the Indian cultural milieu of denial perhaps impossible. But for sure those few early cases could have been housed for the rest of their short lives in a five-start hotel at a fraction of the cost of dealing with the millions now dying of AIDS in that one country. What to say of the suffering that might have been prevented. But their rights were duly protected from Oshos proposals and they were allowed to die on the streets in poverty.
Of course with some 100,000 prostitutes in Bombay alone being kept busy day and night by all those men with their family values, and with everybody pointing fingers at everyone else, the outcome was inevitable. When we told those journalists that unless steps were taken urgently, millions would die, they just scoffed. And strangely, even today, as the disease spreads furiously throughout the country, not one of those journalists has ever had the courage to admit they just might have been wrong.
Still today, with the epidemic raging out of control around the world, people still question the wisdom of Oshos proposal. For example of testing everyone on arrival at the Osho Meditation resort in Pune and only allowing entry to those who are anti-body negative. People usually cite the view that this is unnecessary because AIDS is not contracted by casual contact.
Of course, to date that is basically true. The footballer who contracted the disease after a collision during a game is a rarity, and not really a casual contact. But the issue raises one of those thorny questions where the facts and the truth don't match. Everybody says that the facts don't warrant the separation of AIDS-positive and AIDS-negative people. But the facts also tell us that there are now some 30 million people infected, with a new case occuring every few seconds. Whatever the theoretical objections to separation, the fact is that all those 30 million people were infected by someone else who was AIDS-positive. The truth is that whichever way you look at it, it is the contact between AIDS-positive and AIDS-negative people that is the one essential ingredient of this epidemic.
Rather than condemning this experiment, it would be much more scientific to say, OK, this is a very unusual experiment, lets see if it works. After all, the rest of the world is also an experiment in not separating AIDS-positive and AIDS-negative people.
And if we accept that sexual contact between people is the major source of spread of this epidemic, the truth is that when AIDS-positive and AIDS-negative people have casual contact with each other, sex often follows. At least often enough to kill tens of millions of innocent people, not to mention their babies.
As far as we know, over the past fourteen years not one individual has converted from anti-body negative to anti-body positive while staying at the meditation resort and following his guidance on preventing this disease. And at any one time there may be thousands of people there, with stays of up to six month in length.
So the current score is 30,000,000 to 0...of course they are not comparable population sizes, but 0 is 0, and interesting!
So the debate about Osho's proposal boils down to just how many millions of people should be sacrificed for the sake of conventional ideology: that people should tell their future partners they are infected, that people should always wear condoms, that people should use clean needles, that people should always get tested after risky behavior...and so on. Great theory...meanwhile the slaughter goes on. Bottom line of this approach is that people are conscious of what they are doing. And yet the science of being conscious isn't even on the agenda! This is precisely where Christianity is so dangerous. For Zen, what is is, and what ain't ain't, while Christianity is always supports the blinding effect of hope, rather than seeing what is and then adjusting intelligently to that "isness."
So, while the epidemic rages around much of the world, the disease has yet infect anyone where Oshos proposals are in place. Is it discrimination? Of course it is discrimination. If there were a simple, instant test for open tuberculosis would anyone object to these open cases being prevented from flying in airlines full of uninfected people? Discrimination between infectious and non-infectious people is good medicine. If you are due for a blood transfusion, do you want someone to discriminate between safe and unsafe blood? Funnily enough, the word discrimination has a different connotation in the East. To be discriminating is seen as a positive quality. When you wait for take off on that airline flight, you certainly hope whoever gave the pilot his or her license was discriminating and didn't give it to the guys who couldn't fly. Same with your doctor, or the guy who runs your local nuclear power plant, or drives the bus or the train.
So there is nothing wrong per se with discrimination, it is a natural part of life. It is the mental baggage that has accumulated around it that causes all the confusion. It is the ugly game of being judgemental that makes discrimination poisonous, it is not the discrimination. Instead of accepting that we are all different, we judge: white is better than black, man is better than woman, airline pilots are better than plumbers -- and of course, AIDS-negative people are better than AIDS-positive people. On and on this stupidity goes...ulitmately based on our underlying sense of inferiority which creates the need to pretend that I am superior to you.
If someone is not cut out to be an airline pilot, so what? If someone is too lazy to pass his medical exams. So what? If someone is born with too few grey cells to manage higher mathmatics, so what? That is just how things are. It doesn't make anyone better or worse than anyone else. Simply different. We are all equally unique. But we are not equal, in fact the word has no meaning. Is an apple equal to an orange? It is the unconscious habit of allowing our lives to be dominated by the the mind, and it's endless process of comparison, which lies at the root of all "prejudice." But do you know any human rights' group which has "the mind" on its agenda?
Of course people may say it the licensing authorities are discriminating against the person who fails to make it as a pilot. What to do? If it is not appropriate that someone be an airline pilot or a doctor...? Better they find jobs that do suit them. And equally you can say it is discriminating in favor of the patient who instead is treated by a good doctor.
And in this situation, yes, you can say it is in favor of those who are uninfected with AIDS -- and also would be in favor of those who are infected, like Lazarus. And to date, it has worked better than any other proposal.
Copyright © 1998 Osho International Foundation
I have copied this text from the original site, in case the article should be removed from that site in the future - Prem Srajano