‘Wild Wild Country’…garnering much controversy and momentum…the reason isn’t fictitious…it is by virtue of it being a factual (OR NOT) portrayal of OSHO or Bhagwan Rajneesh as he was (in)famously known as. The series gives an insight of the life and journey of the world’s most popular spiritual leader. From black slippers, an ordinary watch and an unstitched white cloth to 21 Rolls Royces, diamond-studded Swiss watches, rich flowing gowns and Gucci goggles…here is a Case study on the most controversial spiritual guru that there ever was….or will be!
The Unconventional ‘Bhagwan’
Osho, ‘Acharya Rajneesh’ in 1960s, assumed the name ‘Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’ during the 1970s and 1980s and called himself ‘Osho’ in 1989, mainly by his disciples or sanyasis and sanyasins ( as they were called), he was an enigma, a kind of a secret to whoever yearned to learn about him, yet cautious of his ideologies. Gathering much flak for his advocating an open attitude towards sexuality, they also landed him in a number of controversies.His life, ashrams, beliefs and speeches still remain topics of controversy. I confess, I too have been a victim of the intrigue that Osho carried.Founder of Osho International Meditation Centre, he devised a number of meditation techniques and came to be known as a spiritual therapist.
An Erroneously Proclaimed Sex Guru?
Erroneously referred to as a Sex Guru owing to his logic that the past deprives the human mind of the ability to live in the present leading to repressed emotions, and hence one must release all inhibitions and be spontaneous in all situations. Plenteous debates on what really goes on in the periphery of the Ashram, it certainly does entail being open and permissive of emotional and physical expression, sans any attachment.The idea is that to know the truth, one has to satiate every repressed desire as it rose. This held true for inter personal, emotional, even sexual relationships. This is what lent the Ashram a contentious bent.
The Osho Effect
Some of Osho’s speeches were extremely audacious….and became a cult of sorts. Interspersed with jokes and delivered with rhetorics, his speeches were spellbinding, perpetually at loggerheads with tradition, because of his techniques for transformation to push people beyond their mind. Though most of his teachings were logical and practical they were maybe too ahead of the times.
There was certainly some divine power he carried that made people hysterical in his presence. His followers have been known to react hysterically in his aura. He hypnotised people in an uncontrollable way. Some of his most profound quotes are worth a mention….
“Falling in love you remain a child; rising in love you mature. By and by love becomes not a relationship, it becomes a state of your being. Not that you are in love – now you are love.”
“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it’s not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person–without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other.
“My meditation is simple. It does not require any complex practices. It is simple. It is singing. It is dancing. It is sitting silently”
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you.
Osho’s meditation was simple…it involved letting all inhibitions vented. Singing, laughing, hugging, shouting….just about any emotion….unabashedly….then sitting in complete silence for hours. It was to bring a sense of satiation after the venting.
Red and orange were the colours of The Osho Foundation. The Osho Foundation and Ashram in Pune was established to offer “transformational tools”, because of which he faced the displeasure and opposition of Janta Party in the 1970s, leading to the ashram’s development being curbed. This is when Ma Anand Sheela stepped into his life as his personal secretary and brought him the idea of moving the cult to USA.
The Oregon Mistake
Impressed by her conviction and confidence, OSHO surrendered all of the cult’s activities to her. This was probably his biggest mistake. He and his disciples based themselves on a ranch in Oregon and tried to set shop as an exclusive town, Rajneeshpuram dedicated to the activities of the foundation.
The city of Rajneeshpuram was built from scratch, with the help of professionals amongst the followers themselves, The initial promise of building a natural farm fell flat once .the ‘Rajneeshees’ as the followers were addressed by the Oregonians, faced flak at the hands of the residents who opposed the setting up of the new town, after a video was leaked (or bugged) showing the reality of the disciples indulging in sex openly, with multiple partners and physically abusing each other.
The Conspiracy Theory
A devious and conniving side of Sheela emerged as she grappled with the legal officials in the US, going to the extent of poisoning 700 locals of The Dalles, with salmonella, by the admission of Jane Stork (a.k.a. Ma Shanti B, Sheela’s partner in crime. Officials also claimed to have found ‘sex kits’ and arsenal weapons on the ranch.
There were, apparently, multiple felonies that were committed by them, committed for the “safety of Bhagwan”, who probably was completely oblivious to it, conspiring with Shanti ( admitted by Jnae Stork in the series) to murder U.S. Attorney Charles Turner, the man who ultimately brought down Bhagwan (and Sheela and others), charged with fraudulently acquiring Green cards for the followers to permanently redeem Rajneeshpuram, After which Sheela fled, without Osho’s knowledge, only to lead him to flee too and ultimately be caught and imprisoned….as was she and her accomplices.
David Berry Knapp (a.k.a. Krishna Deva), The once-hubristic mayor of Rajneeshpuram fell hard from grace after flipping on Bhagwan and the commune to cut a deal with law enforcement.
Philip Toelkes (a.k.a. Swami Prem Niren), as the succeeding Mayor of Rajneeshpuram, was instrumental in bringing Osho back to India after the devastating hiatus in Oregon. Osho was deported from USA and was denied entry in 21 countries. His efforts to revive his Ashram, remained largely incomplete, owing it to abandonment by disciples and cynicism related to it.
An Obsessive Unrequited Love Affair?
The story of Osho and Ma Anand Sheela was a whole lot more bizarre, and of way more consequence than met the eye. It all began when Rajneesh brought her in firing his previous secretary Laxmi. On her behest, the idea of Rajneeshpuram sprouted. True or not, ‘Wild Wild Country’ projected her as fiery and unstoppable.
Was it her ove for Rajneesh reaching an obsessive level, which led her to commit felony after felony, including murder, jealousy? It was a known fact within the commune that anyone who gets the juice from Bhagwan, would have to bear the brunt of Sheela’s jealousy ridden vengeance, which she carried out by drugging and other such means….
The last straw to her ego stuck out when Bhagwan shut her out once the “Hollywood crowd” or the creme de la creme of Los Angeles joined the commune, namely Ma Prem Hasya (a.k.a. Francoise Ruddy)
Sheela connived her way through Bhagwan by bugging his room and every corner of the ranch to know his conversations with his physician Dr. George Meredith (a.k.a. Swami Devaraj).even going as far as conspiring to inject him with fatal drugs. That was her last day in the commune. She fled with 2 other conspirators, Ma Shanti Bhadra and Ma Pooja.
When Sheela ultimately fled the commune in 1985, all hell broke loose. Osho, feeling cheated and abandoned, finally breaking his silence, accused her of a plethora of crimes, and famously claimed “She is on hard drugs. Perhaps she is angry because I never made love to her.”
By Sheela’s own admission, she loved Osho. Not just an enamoured love like his followers, but a deeply romantic and borderline obsessive love.There were strict ultimatums from Osho, an unhealthy amount of jealousy from Sheela, and an all-controlling aura that automatically translated into something malignant.
Who Killed Osho?
As much as his life was controversial, Osho’s death stood at par. There are a few conspiracy theories floating that may prove to be true at some point. According to The Quint, Dr. Gokul Gokani was summoned to the Pune ashram on the afternoon of 19 January 1990 and told by Swami Devaraj (Osho’s personal physician) and Jayesh that Osho was dying. However, there were several doctors already present at the ashram, and it’s strange that none of them were called in earlier.
Gokani was asked to write myocardial infarction as the cause of death so as not to arouse suspicion. Devaraj and Jayesh apparently told everyone that Osho wanted his body cremated immediately, and that they should take darshan from a distance for all of 15 minutes. After a hurried public announcement, Osho was cremated within an hour of his death. Questions still remain about why this was all done so quickly. Even Osho’s mother, who was present in the ashram was not informed of his critical condition through the day.
Osho’s will, worth millions, was forged, and thankfully denied by the court.
So, all talk of illegal, unethical activities in Rajneeshpuram, as told by US officials, is shrouded in ambiguity owing to the fact that Osho’s hand in any of the felonies committed was never proven. My belief somewhere denies the extremity of what is projected in “Wild Wild country”. Instinctively, I felt a bout of sadness for Osho, the probability that maybe he was oblivious to all that Sheela carried out in his name, maligning his name in the bargain….and partly, shown as a one sided story , from the eyes of America, maybe racial and biased too!… I don’t know. My only advocation is that if a man can hold devotion from millions around the world…admitting to a life change…for decades….there must be something to it! The whole truth….We will never know!