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‘Wasn’t Looking for Spirituality’: Ma Anand Sheela on Aiding Osho

In an interview to Amrita Gandhi, Ma Sheela talks about her relationship with Osho and the obsession with godmen.

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Video Producer: Riniki Sanyal
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

When ‘Wild Wild Country’ dropped on Netflix in 2018, people went into a tizzy, deep-diving into the murky world of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, popularly known as Osho, and his personal secretary, Ma Anand Sheela to unearth more trivia.

The six-part documentary series shed light on how Sheela expanded Osho’s commune and led its move from Pune to Oregon, USA in 1981, where a series of controversial incidents in building the township of Rajneeshpuram ultimately landed her in prison for little more than 3 years.

Now months after the release of her authorised biography by Manbeena Sandhu – Nothing to Lose: The Authorised Biography of Ma Anand Sheela, she spoke to The Quint’s former editor Amrita Gandhi on why she fell for Osho, her relationship with him and the obsession with Indian gurus and godmen.

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The Sheela that we have seen on television in the documentary ‘Wild Wild Country’, you were taking on people. You were fighting people, attitudes and opposition. Was this the Sheela inculcated by your parents who nurtured you a lot or was this the Sheela groomed as the secretary in Rajneeeshpuram to defend it?

It was a combination.

Bhagwan brought out the potential which was in me, through my parents…to go out and be bold. He trained me to be bold.

When you speak about Rajneesh, Shree Ranjeesh, Bhagwan Rajneesh you say you were  drowning in love…

At what point does this love veer into something that is unhealthy, veers into something that is not safe, where you might be being used?

In love nothing can go wrong, otherwise it is not love. Where love gets infested is with expectations and desire to gain.

When love becomes a barter, becomes give and take then the confusion comes. When love becomes a place of security then it has gone wrong already…

Love is that which pulls the rug under your feet. And you are suspended in the air. There you enjoy the beauty of love, dissolving into love, there is no doubt there is only trust

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You have experienced love and devotion for a charismatic leader...who a lot of people believed in and even today they listen to his quotes and teachings....what do you make today of all the gurus and godmen out there?

I wasn’t looking for a guru when I met Bhagwan. I fell in love with him and I have no interest in any leader nor was I looking for spirituality or enlightenment or any such thing...I was simply in love, so I would say people who want to know themselves fall in love.

I was reading about these group therapies (in Osho’s commune) and they seemed a bit scary to me…And it sounded like what is going on in there?

Was it at any point unhealthy or unsafe?

In seventies new therapies were coming out of the West and Bhagwan was experimenting with these new age therapies and now those therapies are accepted by the governments and others. When they were being used in Pune ashram where they began, Bhagwan allowed freedom to the therapist to experiment. When he realised that this extreme aggression is not acceptable by a lot of people, participants, he told them to go back to mild methods…

And they are still going on all around the world…

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In a lot of communes people are asked to sign up to courses…

Was that happening…were you ok with all of that or at what point did you feel it is not right?

I never felt it wasn’t right. When you go to a seminar you pay for it. When you go to a hotel you pay for the restaurant and the room. When people were coming as a tourist to Pune ashram the were paying for the facilities they were offered.

For me, what went wrong? Bhagwan came across not right company and started experimenting with different medications…  I can call it ..drugs…

I was given the job of protecting Bhagwan’s commune, his wisdom and teachings and it was clear that if he himself does something that invites the govt to shut us down there would be horror. He told me to stay out of it. So, then I was not ready to take responsibility. And I said if I am to work for you I am going to be hundred percent and not just selective . That’s when I chose to leave.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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