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Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom

There are laws protecting religious freedom in all the countries and areas where OIF has attempted to claim ownership of trademarks for “Osho.” These laws prohibit anyone from monopolizing or controlling religious teachings against the wishes of the people involved.

In past centuries there were state religions and everyone was obligated to belong. Now, in the countries involved here, people have the freedom to choose. No one, for example, can monopolize Christian teachings. An individual can choose to be a Catholic, a Lutheran, a member of the Church of Christ, or hundreds of other choices. Anyone who wants to can start his or her own church or group that interprets the Christian teachings. No one can prevent that, because religious teachings are free to all.

Osho spoke strongly about His right to speak about Jesus, even though He was not a Christian:

Just few days before, from Germany… The Protestant Church of Germany has published a booklet against me in which they say that people can be deceived by
my words because I talk about Jesus and I give beautiful interpretations to Jesus’ words, but those interpretations are not Christian—as if they have to be Christian, only then can they be right! As if Christians have any copyright over Jesus! Jesus belongs to all! Of course, my interpretation is my interpretation. Who is saying that it is Christian? Even if they say it is Christian, I will deny! It is not Christian—it is my interpretation, it is my vision. But I know Jesus more directly than the Christians know him. They know him through the scriptures, they know him through scholarship.
Zen: The Special Transmission
Chapter 6, Q1

Osho says “Jesus belongs to all,” but OIF claims that Osho belongs to OIF. OIF is apparently well aware how indefensible its position is, because it doesn’t actually try to argue that OIF has the right to own a religious teaching. Instead it argues that Osho’s teachings are not religious.

OIF’s first argument on this has to do with the way Osho distinguished between religion and religiousness. Such as:

What I am doing here has nothing to do with religion at all. It is a kind of religiousness—no belief, no dogma, no church. It is a love affair; you cannot be convinced of it. Do you think Majnu can convince others about the beauty of Laila? It is impossible. Nobody can convince anybody else about his love affair. It is far deeper than the intellect, it is of the heart, and the heart knows no arguments, no proofs; it is simply so. One can dance, one can sing, but one cannot prove it. One can shout with joy, one can say “Alleluia!” but those are not arguments, they are not convincing.
Come, Come, Yet Again Come
Chapter 13 Q1

OIF’s attorney claimed in the oral argument in the US case that “Osho abhorred religion.” She also argued that because OIF sells nonreligious note cards under its Osho “mark,” and because some people go to Pune for spa treatments, not meditation, “Osho” is not religious.

In fact, OIF went so far as to claim that Osho’s people, of all people on the planet, are the only ones lacking religious freedom. OIF claimed that there was no need for “Osho” to be available for people other than OIF to use, because there were other forms of “mind/body/wellness” that people can use. For example, people can refer to Deepak Chopra. In other words, only OIF can refer to Osho, but sannyasins and Osho lovers who don’t want to be controlled by OIF can go find another religious teaching. OIF claims sannyasins who don’t want to submit to OIF’s control have no rights to use “Osho.”

OIF is completely wrong about all of this. OIF can’t unilaterally declare that Osho’s teachings are not religious. If Osho’s teachings are not religious for the members of OIF, that’s their freedom to decide, but they can’t make that decision for anyone else. Anyone who considers Osho’s teachings on meditation and religiousness “religious” in the sense that they play an important role in their lives, then the teachings are religious for them. No one can ever make that decision for any other individual.

Even if OIF was correct in arguing that Osho was not interested in religiousness (which they certainly were not), that still wouldn’t prevent the teachings from being religious for some people. Even the teacher cannot control religious teachings once they have been given. The founder of an idea doesn’t have to consider him or herself to be a religious teacher in order for his or her teachings to be religious.

For example, an early US President, Thomas Jefferson, wrote a version of the Christian New Testament in which he removed all references to the supernatural and attempted to remove what he thought had been added later to the essential teachings of Jesus. In doing this Jefferson probably did not consider himself to be a religious teacher and most people consider his work to be primarily political and philosophical, instead of religious. Nevertheless, if anyone believes that Jefferson’s interpretation of the New Testament correctly identifies the essence of Christian teaching and lives his or her life according to Jefferson’s writings, then Jefferson is a religious teacher for that person and his writings are religious teachings.

Religiousness is a personal, individual thing, and each individual has the right to choose what religious teachings to accept, how to interpret them, and whether to choose organized religion or religiousness. Organized religions can exist and they can even exercise religious authority. However, they can only exercise religious authority over those who voluntarily submit to their authority. No religion can ever exert religious authority over anyone who has not freely chosen to submit to that religious authority. Further, anyone who has submitted to a religious authority can always choose to opt out and leave the religion.

This means that no one, not OIF, and not anyone else, can ever control or monopolize the activity of people who are interested in, working with, interpreting, or living by the teachings of Osho. This kind of control can never happen. Catholics can’t force Methodists to accept the Catholic Church’s interpretation of Christian teachings. Orthodox Jews can’t force Reformed Jews to accept Orthodox control. Sunni Muslims can’t control Shiite Muslims. Theravada Buddhists can’t stop Pure Land Buddhists from chanting the name of Amida. OIF can’t stop Osho lovers from interpreting His teachings in as many and a varied ways as they like.

Because no religious teaching can ever be controlled, all efforts to impose a “trademark” which is really a form of religious control or monopoly is a complete waste of resources that could be used, instead, to promote and spread Osho’s work.

For the legal arguments in the US case see: Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner pp. 52–53; Reply Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner pp. 13–15.



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