She has proved herself to be the true disciple at least on one count — her devotion and love for her master, which is unflinching. Her spiritual master exposed her to luxuries of life, spiritual bliss and then allegedly to the dungeons of sorrow. Still, for Ma Anand Sheela, the former secretary of controversial spiritual leader Bhagwan Rajneesh, he stays her “eternal lover”. She still reminisces about his charisma in a childlike bliss.
Rajneesh aka Osho, on the other hand, wasn’t as magnanimous in forgiving Sheela when she decided to leave him. “She will either commit suicide under the burden of the crimes she committed or she will go to the imprisonment,” he had said on camera after Sheela left Rajneeshpuram in Oregon (US).
Sheela met ‘Bhagwan’ in 1968 as a 16-year-old girl when her father took her to him. “I saw Rajneesh and that was the end of me,” says Sheela. She went for studies to the US and then joined Rajneesh’s Pune ashram. She was elevated to the post of Rajneesh’s secretary in 1980.
Since then she was the biggest connection between Bhagwan and his ever-growing community till the day she said goodbye to ‘her eternal lover’ in 1985.
Sheela came out with a “bare-all memoir” in 2013 titled ‘Don’t Kill Him’, published by Fingerprint, a Delhi-based publishing house.
In her memoir, Sheela recalls her days with Rajneesh, how she was the undeclared queen of the commune, how and why she fell off with Osho, how she spent days in jail and her journey to Switzerland and life afterward.
The reasons behind leaving the commune she cites in the book are many. She claims she was under great stress due to Rajneesh’s greed for luxury watches and Rolls Royce cars. She claims that at one point in time, Rajneesh asked her to buy 30 more Rolls Royce cars in a month; this happened at a time when he had 96 of them at his disposal!
Another reason she has cited is Rajneesh’s dependence on chemical drugs, which she didn’t approve of. She claims that Rajneesh was on valium and laughing gas during his days in Oregon and she holds his personal doctor responsible for that.
She delves into a range of issues concerning Rajneesh, his beliefs, her feelings towards him, the privileges she enjoyed as his secretary and how extraordinary he was. However, at the same time, she has conveniently not touched upon issues which are now in the open with the release of a six-part documentary ‘Wild Wild Country’ released on Netflix, directed by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way.
In the documentary, one of her confidante Ma Shanti Bhadra, admits on camera having stabbed Osho’s personal physician Amrito with an adrenaline-filled syringe at the behest of Sheela. Shanti Bhadra too had left the Muddy Ranch commune at Oregon and joined Sheela in Germany. Shanti also admits to Sheela’s plan to kill Mr Turner, the then United States Attorney for the district of Oregon, and snooping on Rajneesh and all others at the commune through a network of wiretapping.
As per the admissions of Rajneesh’s followers in the documentary, Sheela was ambitious and couldn’t stand a person between her and Rajneesh. She was especially zealous of people from Hollywood holding a sway over Rajneesh and having direct access to him like she had. Sheela never admitted this in the book but this is apparent from the sequence of events shown in the documentary.
Even as Sheela spent 39 months in jail on charges of fraud and attempted murder, she nowhere owns to the alleged crimes in her memoir.
In the book, Sheela takes the reader on a journey she had been through after leaving Rajneeshpuram in Oregon and the time she had spent with her spiritual guide as his most-trusted aide. She describes in detail how fortunate she was to have direct access to him and how his presence would melt her. She also details how she survived in the difficult times and the people who helped her after she left Rajneesh. American federal agencies were on her trail after Rajneesh levelled serious charges against her —stealing $54 million, attempted murder, arson, and poisoning.
Nearly a fugitive, Sheela went to Germany and appeared nude for a media organisation and sold the rights to use the photographs in lieu of an unspecified sum — another fact missing in the book — apparently to raise funds for survival. She was arrested soon and taken to the US to face trial. She was sentenced to 20-year-jail term for different crimes.
She was released in 1988. She moved to Germany, then to Portugal and finally to Switzerland. She married Swiss citizen Urs Birnstiel, a fellow Rajneesh follower. She stays in the country to date and runs a home for elderly people.
She believes Rajneesh was killed and didn’t die a natural death. In the last chapter of her book, Sheela writes: “Even today I do not accept that it was a natural death. If it was natural, I would have certainly felt it. I have missed Him every day since then. His beautiful face, the special touch of His hand and feet, His charming voice, His madness—I have missed it all. I have never stopped loving Him and never will.”
“His discourses as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh were divine, even if some of His actions as a fallible human being were flawed…His soul left His body in 1990. Now, please, Don’t kill him!” she concludes.