In 1984, an announcement was made in Rajneeshpuram of three categories of enlightened sannyasins: Siddhas, Arihantas and Acharyas. At the same time, Osho spoke several times of three committees that would continue his work after his death, composed of Mahasattvas, Sambuddhas and Bodhisattvas. To arrive at a better understanding of what these titles mean, here is a roundup of what Osho said about it.
I called a small meeting of a few sannyasins in Rancho Rajneesh in America. I declared that there were going to be three special committees: one of mahasattvas, the great beings who are destined to become enlightened in this very life; the second of sambuddhas, who have already become enlightened; and the third of bodhisattvas, who will also become enlightened... but perhaps they will take a little longer than the other two categories, but certainly before their death.(Osho - The Great Zen Master Ta-Hui, #6, 17 July 1987)
The [Rajneesh] Academy also gives titles, because the meditators
- although they experience the same space of blissfulness, of
eternal life, they come from different paths, and after their
experience their expressions are different. For example, siddha is
one of the titles that the Academy gives. He knows the meditation,
he knows the ultimate experience, he knows the deathlessness - but
he cannot express it, he cannot say anything about it. In fact, the
experience is inexpressible, and the siddha remains silent.
In India, we know only of eighty-four siddhas in the whole of history. There may have been thousands, but even to know a siddha is difficult. He keeps it to himself, he is not articulate.
The second category is the arihanta. He is very articulate, but the way he expresses himself is rarely understood because he tries to remain close to his experience, rather than thinking of the audience. He does not come down into the valley; he remains on top of the hill, and from there he speaks. So you can hear a few sounds, but you cannot make any sense of it.
The arihanta is more articulate than the siddha. The siddha is absolutely silent. He will be helpful only to those few people who can understand silence, who can communicate through silence. The arihanta helps more people, but not many. His statements are maxims: you will have to figure out what he means, and most probably you will figure out something which is not the right thing. Your mind cannot understand that experience; but he is closer to his own experience and is not much concerned whether you understand him or not.
The third category is the acharya. He is the most articulate of all the three categories. His effort is to come closer to you, to bring the truth in such a way that it can become of some use to you. He does not speak in mysterious language, he speaks in ordinary language. He creates devices so that he can lead you towards the way. He helps the biggest number of people.
Be compassionate to those enlightened people, because never in
the world have certificates been issued for enlightenment. If they
had any intelligence, they would have immediately returned the
Certificate for enlightenment? I don't have any certificate. It seems I am the most unenlightened person here: no degrees from your university, no certificate for enlightenment. Sometimes I start thinking, "What the hell am I doing here? With so many enlightened people...."
It was a joke, and those who are still clinging to those certificates are poor souls; just have compassion on them. It is not that I have called it a joke so that those who are not included in the lists will be able to drop jealousy, competitiveness, or an inferiority complex because "somebody else has become enlightened and I am still a camel."
Don't be worried. This is a caravan of camels!
And whenever, once in a while, a camel turns into a lion, I whisper in his ear, "Keep quiet. Don't start roaring, because the camels are too many: they will simply kill you. They will not tolerate such a nuisance." And whenever a lion changes into a child, then naturally for his protection I have to tell him, "Now you are a child - vulnerable, open, keep it a secret hidden deep within you."
Certificates have been given to the camels so they can enjoy their camelhood without any inferiority complex. I love jokes. There is no need to be worried. If they are going all around with their certificates, just have a good laugh with them. Pat their backs, tell them, "Boy, you are doing well, just go on. You have received the certificate; sooner or later enlightenment will also come."
This was just a joke. We enjoy everything, even we can make a joke of enlightenment. It was nothing but once in a while the commune needs some entertainment.(Osho - Press Conferences, interview with Don Lattin, San Francisco Examiner, 16 September 1985)
Once I declared some people enlightened - and they became
enlightened! And when I said it was just a joke, they became
unenlightened again. I had told them, "You are now free." So they
are free! Tomorrow I can call them back and put them in red clothes
and in the mala: "This much freedom is enough; more than that is
dangerous. Just come back and be your old self!"
If you are really understanding me, you will see the point: I give you chances to show your ego to yourself, to show your reality to yourself. And that's what is happening, and it is really hilarious.
There were only two Indians in the group who were declared
enlightened, and they understand traditionally what enlightenment
means. One was Vinod Bharti.
He became very nervous, was crying, came to Vivek to give me the message, "Osho, I am not enlightened. And you have created a trouble for me: I cannot say you are wrong, and I know perfectly well myself that I am not enlightened. So what am I supposed to do? I am just torn apart. You just tell me the truth!"
He knows about enlightenment. He knows that for centuries in India enlightenment has been the ultimate peak of spiritual search. In the West the very idea has never existed. So he cannot conceive of himself as Gautam Buddha, and he cannot deny me because he loves me and trusts me. So I can see his trouble. So I sent him the message, "Don't be worried, it was just a joke. You are not enlightened, relax!"
Until he heard that he was not enlightened, he could not sleep for two days. Then he relaxed - he is not enlightened; there is no problem.
The other man was Swami Anand Maitreya, who was the only one who understood the joke immediately, because as he left the room he said, "Osho is really a rascal! Saying to me that I am enlightened, proves it!" But he was also an Indian and particularly comes from Bihar where most of the enlightened people happened in India - Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Parsunatha, Naminatha, Adinatha... a long series of enlightened people. All twenty-four enlightened masters of the Jainas... Gautam Buddha - they all happened in Bihar. Bihar has the deepest understanding and experience of enlightenment. So naturally he said, "Osho is a rascal." But it was also his love.
He was not disturbed, because once you know that it is a joke, there is no question of any difficulty about it.
After I declared a few people enlightened - Santosh was also one
of them. He wrote me a letter saying, "Your declaration of my
enlightenment gives me no excitement, but my being accepted as a
member of the committee of the enlightened ones makes me feel very
I sent him the message, "Why does your being enlightened not make you feel excited? The reason is that you think that you are already enlightened - and that is not true. That's why your becoming a member of the committee of the enlightened ones makes you feel great - at last your enlightenment has been recognized. It is not a declaration for you but a recognition that you have been enlightened long before.
"But if enlightenment is not an excitement, then how can it be a great thing to be a member of the party, or the committee, of enlightened people? If enlightenment itself makes no sense to you, then being the member of the committee cannot make any sense, except this: that it fulfills your ego.
"You were enlightened, and nobody was taking note of it. Finally I have recognized it, and now you are part of the committee of enlightened people, so it is sealed. But you are wrong - because it was all a joke! The committee was a joke, the declaration was a joke. And it was a device."
More chances! If you are nobody you have more chance of becoming enlightened. The moment you become somebody, the doors close.(Osho - From Bondage to Freedom, #37, Doubt is absolutely okay, 21 October 1985)