Ma Anand Sheela, who had been former secretary to godman Rajneesh, also known as Osho, was in Chandigarh recently, and spoke to News18 in an exclusive interview where she opens up about setting up a care home in Punjab, and her future plans.
Sheela along with Osho and some of his followers built Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, USA, which was protested by local ranchers of the region. In 1986, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault in a bioterror attack where commune members contaminated food at local salad bars in the US to lower the voter turnout in county’s municipal legislature.
After being sentenced for 20 years in federal prison, she was paroled after 39 months for good behaviour, and fined $500,000.
The Wild Wild Country docuseries, that created quite a stir, backfired its makers, and “people are interested in me”, said 72-year-old Sheela who chooses to return to the public eye after this.
In this interview, she also talks about her relationship with her Bhagwan Osho, and how she led an “adventurous” life, which she has no regrets about and would not like change.
Q: You have had many names and you have also been called many names — clever, cunning, ruthless — how do you see yourself now? What kind of names would you like to give to yourself?
A: I would like to give no names. Just call me a human, and that I am.
Q: How do you remember your life? How do you remember Osho?
A: I remember my life quite eventful. I was never bored in my life. It was adventurous.
Q: When you left the community, you were called many names by the Bhagwan himself. There were accusations, even about your personal life. How do you see that?
A: Accusations are always interpretations of others. Reality is another thing. Unfortunately, not many people in the world are keen to know the reality. What Bhagwan does and says is between me and him. But as one journalist said — this is an international love affair breaking up. And we all know on a daily basis when a love affair breaks, people show their ugly side.
Q: But you never did!
A: I have none. I loved the man and I still love him.
Q: You have talked about Enlightenment, the word used in a sense as a hoax by the Bhagwan. But didn’t he use the ‘love’ as a hoax upon you because afterwards he called you a parrot that he needed to communicate messages?
A: It was a compliment. If I filter his words, I would not be doing justice to him or his followers. I never came between him and his followers. I totally respected his followers. It was a sacred relationship between him and his disciples.
Q: Why did you leave him then?
A: I left him for my reasons. I found out that Bhagwan was being experimented on with drugs by his doctor and few other people. I informed him, he said — ignore it. I explained to Bhagwan how dangerous it was for his physical health, for the community because the US government is known to use drug issues to shut down anything. You have given me the responsibility of protecting your teachings and yourself. And he still said to ignore. I fought within myself for six months after that. The only possibility I had is to take the love I felt for him and take care of his community or to use the same love as a strength to walk away from him. It was difficult.
Q: You were all-in-all. You had power over the Bhagwan and over the commune. Many people also see it as the power was slipping away from you, that is why you left. Do you think so?
A: Where did it slip away? Power went in other hands and I am sitting here with power. The power that Bhagwan had given me was the power of love. Has it slipped away? No.
Q: If you hadn’t left, would things have been different?
A: I don’t think in hypothesis. I am a realist. As a realist, I would say as long as I am alive he is alive with me.
Q: How do you choose to return to India now? How do you return to the public eye so many years after Rajneeshpuram ended?
A: You have to blame the Wild Wild Country, and its makers. It backfired on them. People are interested in me.
Q: Did you watch it?
A: No, I have lived it.
Q: But have you heard about it or read about it?
A: I get emails and messages on Instagram daily. People talk to me.
Q: When you chose to leave India, because there were political complications here, was going to America the right decision? Didn’t it backfire?
A: It was the right decision for us. Unfortunately, we overestimated mentality, we overestimated the constitution of America. I used to worship the American constitution as a student. And today after 50 years, I can say it is not even worth a toilet paper. Republicans have destroyed the constitution and have corrupted the whole political system.
Q: But you yourself, at one point, talked about using loopholes in the law!
A: Loopholes you have to use. But it was not a loophole, it was a law. Law said 150 American citizens can create their own community or city. The constitution allows it.
Q: But you came in direct conflict with the community residing there…
A: We were living 20 miles away from them. They were a ghost town. There were not 5 people living. Otherwise we are in love with ghosts, we love ghosts.
Q: But you as a commune talked about peace, harmony, life, celebration, and you came in a direct conflict with the American people…
A: If you drive a car on the road and someone hits you head on, what will you do?
Q: Things changed in the commune too. People have been writing about that too, meditating among security personnel. This was different from what they had thought about.
A: Now they are meditating in the normal world. There is security, there is police, there is military, there is unpleasantness. What happened to their meditation now?
Q: But isn’t this what they were choosing to leave behind?
A: They were choosing to leave but then they realised people are people everywhere
Q: There were people who lived in the commune in Pune and in Oregon. Was there a lot of difference?
A: It was two different countries, two different mentalities, two different cultures. They were not unaware of it. Why was the West attracted to Bhagwan? Because of this difference.
Q: Why were people so attracted to Bhagwan?
A: It is obvious. This guy was a genius. He had knowledge from A to Z. He can peel the onion of A to Z completely, and present it to you where you simply don’t have to digest it, you swallow it and it goes into your being. That was his talent, his remarkable ability.
Q: What appealed to you, you did not even meditate?
A: I don’t meditate even now. I fell in love. When you fall in love, it is a complete package, you don’t choose this or that.
Q: You pleaded guilty to attempts of murder, even Osho accused you of things. Do you think he was under the influence of drugs even then?
A: I would assume he was panicked by having the responsibility all by himself. It does not matter. Much water has gone under the bridge. I have served my sentence of 39 months, regardless of accusations. Now people should leave me alone. The purpose of punishment is zero-zero balance.
Q: Do the ghosts of the past leave somebody alone?
A: I see no ghost around me. I see ghosts around opposite people. I think people are obsessed themselves that they cannot let go.
Q: There were many children in the commune. When all this ended, life was very difficult for them. They could not adjust nor could read and write. What do you have to say about that?
A: I had my daughter and nephew living there. They had none of these problems. They are talking after they left Rajneeshpuram. When they came this was not the issue.
Q: But it was not a choice for the children, their parents brought them.
A: They should go and cause problem to parents, ask them why did they take them there. It was their parents’ legal right to choose for their children. If they made a mistake in choice, they should be responsible. I cannot collectively answer that because I know children who did not have such problems. I know the school that we were running, how I fought for our children to be educated.
Q: In retrospect, do you think you could have done something differently?
A: No, I would do it all over again the same way as I have done it. It was a product of love.
Q: What are your plans now?
A: Getting old and one day depart.
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