New religious consciousness in advanced industrial societies: Explorations of the Osho Rajneesh Movement and its members in Japan

Masayuki Ito, University of Pennsylvania


In this dissertation I aim to increase the understanding of the new religious movements that have emerged, usually in advanced industrial societies. I focus on the Osho Rajneesh Movement and its members in Japan. The primary purpose of this study is to explore the processes of the Japanese members' conversion to Rajneesh's worldview. Through in-depth interviews with these members and participant observation of their activities, I attempt to understand their lives before and after initiation. Before their encounter with Rajneesh, potential converts had suffered from meaninglessness or lack of direction in their lives. They tried to understand their problems from the "new spirituality" perspective. My informants strove to transform their consciousness by their own efforts, and in that process they read and were attracted to Rajneesh's books. When they reached the turning point, they visited the Rajneesh Ashram in Poona, India. Visitors participated intensively in group therapy and meditation, and most of the informants decided to become disciples of Rajneesh. Their experiences there were the force for maintaining and developing their new identities. After returning to Japan, informants passed through three distinctive stages. Immediately after initiation, they suffered a poor mental condition and became less closely associated with their former friends (the confusion period). Then they began to believe that their former lifestyles were determined not by their own wills but by the expectations of their parents and of society in general. They searched for a new lifestyle by changing occupations and living places, and by visiting Poona frequently (the fluctuation period). Several years after initiation, they moved on to the stability period, when they tended to find full-time work, visit Poona less frequently, and establish their own lifestyle in Japan. As they moved from one stage to another, the disciples' general perspective also was transformed significantly. Thus Rajneesh members' conversion was not static, but an ongoing, cumulative process that did not end at the time of initiation. Their new identities and perspectives changed constantly, according to their subsequent experiences.

Subject Area

Sociology|Religion|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Ito, Masayuki, "New religious consciousness in advanced industrial societies: Explorations of the Osho Rajneesh Movement and its members in Japan" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829923.