Hugh B. Urban

Zorba the Buddha

Sex, Spirituality, and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement

University of California Press 2016

New Books in Buddhist StudiesNew Books in Hindu StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network October 9, 2017 Kristian Petersen

Many contemporary spiritual movements are characterized by denial of material pleasures, subjugation of the self, and focus on transcendence. A spiritual program that cultivates...

Many contemporary spiritual movements are characterized by denial of material pleasures, subjugation of the self, and focus on transcendence. A spiritual program that cultivates embodied satisfaction is often seen as inauthentic and fraudulent. These public understandings of new religious movements are part of the reason why the Indian Guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho, is so controversial. In Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Spirituality, and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement (University of California Press, 2016), Hugh Urban, Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University, explores the Osho Movement as a case study on the intersection of religion, capitalism, sexuality, and globalization. Urban traces the social contexts of the Osho-Rajneesh transnational religious movement as it extends from its local origins in India, across to America, and back to South Asia. He puts textual and ethnographic sources to use in producing a rich account of Osho, his followers, and the social worlds that shape them. At its height, Osho’s archetype of Zorba the Buddha represents the shifting attitudes of the public towards the body, physical pleasure, and material consumption. In our conversation we discuss the social and political atmosphere of post-Independence India, national patterns of socialism, spiritual sexuality and neo-Tantra, New Age debates, questions of religion and law, the 1980s Oregon utopian community, global capitalism, and Osho’s legacy and the continuation of the movement.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at [email protected].

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