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The Rajneesh sannyasin community in Fremantle

O'Brien, Paula (2008) The Rajneesh sannyasin community in Fremantle. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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In the early eighties, the world media depicted the emergence of a spiritual movement popularly known as the Orange People, or Rajneeshees. Dedicated to an Indian guru, named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, they dressed in orange-coloured clothes, wore a wooden beaded-necklace with a photo of the Bhagwan on it and called themselves sannyasins, a term traditionally related to Indian religious discipleship. The spectacular nature of this movement invited the attention of the media and indeed, generated much interest, particularly in their sexual practices. As with other media inspired fashions, the movement appeared quickly and seemingly disappeared as quickly. Rajneesh was extirpated as a unique person in much the same way that superstars pass in and out of the world. Most scholarly work on the subject considers Rajneesh and the Orange People to be a product of their time, the media effectuating the primary evolution of the group.

During this time, Fremantle in Western Australia became a major centre for the movement. Using interviews with 21 sannyasins still living in Fremantle, this study documents the rise, expression and demise of the sannyasin community in Fremantle. The interviews illuminate the development of the movement from its earliest days in India to its high point in Oregon, as being in everyway consistent with a normal corporate growth facilitated by its presence in media. While the media’s interest has declined, the movement itself has not gone away. Sannyasins now are not doing anything radically different from what they used to do. Their social and professional relationships appear to have remained largely the same throughout all the publicity highs and lows and the rise and the fall of the movement. The informants as a group offer a perspective that seems to reflect the wider society and the broad de-centring processes associated with the development of post WWII globalisation.

The thesis concludes that it may be more useful to consider the movement as being a symptom of globalisation with characteristics that can be found throughout all developed countries. Only the Orange People’s 15 minutes of fame has come and gone and it continues to have a presence, even in its invisibility.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Media, Communication and Culture
Supervisor(s): Petkovic, Josko
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