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Archive for the ‘Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’ Category

Ma Anand Sheela: Lifes tough, baby; easy is for cowards – Hindustan Times

Posted: January 19, 2020 at 9:45 pm


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Ma Anand Sheela, Be brave. What you have to do, you must, easy or difficult.

Ma Anand Sheela or Sheela Biernstiel, who lives in Switzerland, visited India last year, after 34 years. And one has to be living under a rock to not know who this very popular millennial icon is. The Vadodara-born was spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Oshos personal secretary and the brain behind the ambitious Rajneeshpuram, a commune established in the 1980s in Oregon, USA, by and for his followers. A part of her controversial life of the 80s was captured in the Netflix series Wild, Wild Country. In the series, she comes across as a redoubtable stateswoman who hit international headlines with her grit, gumption and a sharp tongue

When I met her, I was greeted by a warm and soft-spoken person whose calmness was contagious. Was she indeed the skilful minence grise who kicked up a storm with her witty comebacks and provocative one- liners (remember: tough titties)? Whats left people in her owe is the fact that even back then, the 70-year-old had the guts to live life as she wanted to and totally own her story with all its vagaries, including prison time and controversies.

Read more: Ma Anand Sheela hasnt given Priyanka Chopra permission for biopic, says Alia Bhatt has the necessary spunk to play her

You all have to create your story and you have many ways to create it, says Sheela, who was in India for Sipping Thoughts and the NGO Humans for Humanity.

But living life on ones own terms is not easy, is it? Not easy is not a good excuse either... To not live life on your own way is a very coward way to live. I know millennials are not cowards, says the 70-year-old with conviction, adding, Life is tough, baby. Lifes not easy. You have to go through your crisis, dont look for easy, dont make it easy for yourself. Easy is for cowards. Be brave. What you have to do, you must, easy or difficult. Whatever difficulty comes, say, Ah! I can do it. The resolute voice is back.

Ma Anand Sheela, Create a little paradise around yourself and beautify this lovely country that you are living in. Everyday take a few minutes off your social media, and clean up the city you are living in. Dont forget to go out and pick garbage from the streets.

She says, Stop looking for life to be easy. Be in the moment... just remain with yourself. Start living life... In the beginning, you go through a trial-and-error period. You look within yourself, what you want, and what you dont like what you dont want... Recognise your qualities and your flaws or weaknesses. Move towards qualities. If you are confused, just say yes to every opportunity and be positive. The choice is always yours. It happens that sometimes you choose the wrong, then accept the consequences.

But how does one stay calm in the midst of a storm, how did she manage it? I dont blame my crisis and catastrophes onto others. I take responsibility of my crisis, I try to analyse it understand it and I dont put my burden on others, she says. And if given a choice, would she change anything about her life? No she says, I can tell you I love my life.

Oh! We have to ask her, why is she not on Twitter? After the series, everyone tried to connect with her, and look her up on social media. I belong to the old generation, I dont understand this social media, I dont understand computer even today. For the work I am supposed to do, I have written down a few steps, and I go through those whenever I need to , she adds, I want to be myself. Social media is probably okay for you guys to occupy in free time and catch up with boredom, but for me, it is a really good time wasted.

Sheela, who runs nursing homes in Switzerland, Mauritius and Vietnam, has three sisters and two brothers.

Interact with author @ MedhaShri/Twitter

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Ma Anand Sheela: Lifes tough, baby; easy is for cowards - Hindustan Times

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January 19th, 2020 at 9:45 pm

Will active meditation save me from myself? – Fashion Journal

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Zen out.

Two voices in this world might save me: those of Andy Puddicombe (co-founder of Headspace) and Coach Bennett (Nikes Global Coach). The pair have been trickling mindful thoughts and meditations into my ears thanks to the Nike Run Club app.

I was once a staunch anti-runner living in fear of the pavement pound. As cheesy as it sounds, with friendly and encouraging voices behind me, I have overcome this. Thanks to their collective musings, Ive become a weekly treadmill jogger. Even more, Ive learnt a thing or two about meditation. Yes, Ive started *meditating* while running.

The concept seems counterintuitive when you consider the loss of breath and stress of muscles that running induces.How could a painful activity encourage mindfulness and meditation?I hear you ask, and its a great question.

Supposedly, active meditation is the genius of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (yes, that Rajneesh of Wild Wild Country). Dont let his controversial past put you off; his ideas are aligned with modern-day propriety.

In a nutshell, active meditation endeavours to bring oneself into the body as opposed to into the mind, which occurs in regular meditation. Over-thinkers with an active imagination and full to-do lists, rejoice! By focusing on the body and its senses, the mind is less prone to wandering and related distress.We are no longer side-lined by self-care gurus spruiking daily 15-minute meditations; our gateway to ~chill~ is here.

Truthfully, the practice doesnt have to be complicated or even that intentional. It can easily be integrated into daily life through everyday tasks. Take the morning commute, for example. While the public are staring cross-eyed at their screens, allow yourself to simply stand up, feel the bumpy ride beneath your feet and slow down. Tap into the swaying movement of the carriage, your breathing, or the muffled sounds around you. Pay attention to the moment and come back to the five senses every time your mind starts to wander.

The same principle can be applied in almost every activity: washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, showering, crafting.

For me, exercise is my go-to the distraction of a pounding body and exhaustion prompt mindfulness Ive never previously experienced. I feel a little bit freer; I can breathe a little easier (once the pain has subsided).

Journalist/author/amateur-runner, Bella Mackie, is in the same boat. She delved into the mind-altering effects of running following the breakdown of her marriage, having refused the exercise prior.

When I ran I didnt feel quite so sad, she says of her anxious thoughts. My mind would quieten down; some part of my brain seemed to switch off, or at least cede control for a few minutes.

When practising active meditation, exercise becomes not only a form of fitness but a mental break. By using our bodies and concentrating on the senses the swing of the arms, thumping feet, gasping draws us away from our inner turmoil. Our minds are allowed to rest.

When you run, your body takes your brain along for the ride. Your mind is no longer in the driving seat, Bella writes.

If running isnt your jam, but an active outlet sounds appealing, I recommend swimming.

My research led me to realise that, technically, Ive been practising active meditation for years. My weekend lap swim has been driven by counting, counting, counting the many strokes and shutting off the mind.

There are Sundays when my body is sore, but I know a trip to the pool is necessary to calm me down. Immersing myself in water is utterly life changing. Its almost magical to hear the bubbles of your breath popping and feel the cool of the water against your skin. Once Ive zoned out and released, Im more than ready to tackle the issues waiting for me on the outside.

We dont have to find a quiet place and dig into the trenches of the mind; all it takes is an injection of intentional mindfulness in the everyday.

Even washing the dishes is looking far more appealing now.

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Will active meditation save me from myself? - Fashion Journal

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January 19th, 2020 at 9:45 pm

‘I looked like her when I was young’: Ma Anand Sheela prefers Alia Bhatt over Priyanka Chopra for her biopic – DNA India

Posted: December 23, 2019 at 10:41 am


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Sheela Biernstiel who is popularly known as Ma Anand Sheela is a former spokeswoman of the Rajneesh Movement and an Indian born American-Swiss convicted criminal.

Ma Anand Sheela came into the limelight again after Netflix series Wild, Wild Country aired and she grabbed eyeballs for her witty comments and one-liners.

As per reports, Ma Sheela Anand came across as an influential and imposing stateswoman but the 70-year-old is full of warmth in one meets her in person.

She got involved in a lot of controversies in the 80s when she was a personal secretary for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and later pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for the role she played in the 1984 Rajneeshee Bioterror Attack, however, several filmmakers from the film industry are now approaching her to bring her story to life on reel.

In a recent interview, Ma Anand Sheela spilled the beans about the time Priyanka Chopra had announced starring in a biopic based on her, she had sent Priyanka a legal notice not allowing her to do so. She said that she denied the Quantico actress permission to star in the biopic as she had not chosen her for the same.

Ma Sheela further revealed that she did not hear from Priyanka's team post her legal notice but that she never took it to heart.

When she was asked who she would prefer to play her in the biopic, Ma Sheela said that she wished Alia Bhatt played her as she looked more like Alia when she was young and sees a spunk in the Raazi actress that she had in her early days.

She further added that spunk is very important and natural, not artificial and made up and that Alia has that necessary spunk to play her on-screen.

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'I looked like her when I was young': Ma Anand Sheela prefers Alia Bhatt over Priyanka Chopra for her biopic - DNA India

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December 23rd, 2019 at 10:41 am

Ma Anand Sheela, of Oregons Rajneesh saga and Wild Wild Country fame, will star in new Netflix documentary – OregonLive

Posted: November 2, 2019 at 12:48 am


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Oregonians with long memories have never forgotten Ma Anand Sheela, and people all over the world saw her in action thanks to the Netflix 2018 documentary, Wild Wild Country. Now, the former top aide to the controversial Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is getting more Netflix attention as shes set to be the subject of a documentary filmed during her first trip to India in more than three decades.

The Associated Press reports that the documentary, scheduled to stream on Netflix India on a date not yet announced, follows Ma Anand Sheela as she visits the Rajneeshs cremation site in Pune, and also makes a trip to her family home.

When the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers came to Oregon in the early 1980s to establish a commune on the the site of what was then known as the Big Muddy Ranch, near Antelope, locals had strong reactions.

As the Rajneeshees exerted their influence in the area, many Oregonians were alarmed at the commune members free-wheeling behavior and the gurus habit of riding in Rolls-Royces, among other things. As the culture clash heightened, the goings-on at Rajneeshpuram, as the commune members had christened their Wasco County property, drew national media attention.

Tensions escalated to crimes, with the revelation that Ma Anand Sheela had been behind the 1984 mass food poisoning bioterror attack in The Dalles, which left more than 700 people ill after eating food contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

Ma Anand Sheela eventually served two years and five months in prison for attempted murder, arson, immigration fraud and the food poisoning in The Dalles. She was granted parole after 39 months and later made her home in Switzerland.

Related: Netflix documentary on Rajneeshees in Oregon revisits an amazing, enraging true story

The bizarre saga became internationally known years later, thanks to the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country, which recounted how the commune formed and collapsed amid the Bhagwans deportation from the U.S.

Related: Read The Oregonians original 20-part investigative series on Rajneeshees

According to the Associated Press, when she was asked about her past, Ma Anand Sheela replied, "I have nothing to apologize for."

-- Kristi Turnquist

kturnquist@oregonian.com 503-221-8227 @Kristiturnquist

Visit subscription.oregonlive.com/newsletters to get Oregonian/OregonLive journalism delivered to your email inbox.

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Ma Anand Sheela, of Oregons Rajneesh saga and Wild Wild Country fame, will star in new Netflix documentary - OregonLive

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November 2nd, 2019 at 12:48 am

Some Eye-Opening Osho Quotes That Will Grow Your Wisdom – Thrive Global

Posted: October 18, 2019 at 2:48 pm


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Born as Chandra Mohan Jain, Osho took birth in Raisen (a district in Madhya Pradesh) on December 11th, 1931. He was a great visionary and a religious movement leader who was praised and followed by many. His followers used to call him Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and later, Osho. He didnt only have followers in India, but also in many other countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, and many more. It was like people were attracted by his words and he gave them an eye-opening experience.

Along with being a religious leader and a mystic, he was also a best-selling author and published many books such as Tarot Zen, The Book Of The Secrets, Gita Darshan, and many more. His books, words, and morals affected many people and gained him a lot of followers. He was so popular that Netflix even made a docuseries on him by the name of Wild Wild Country consisting of only 6 episodes. He was really a quotable man as he taught people a lot about love and spirituality through his sayings and books.

Rajneesh Osho inspired a lot of people to follow the path of spirituality with his words. I will be sharing some of those words in this article and they are either the ones he has said or written in his books. Either way, the goal is to grow our wisdom with the words of a man who influenced a lot of people. So, here are some eye-opening Osho quotes that will grow your wisdom:

If you love a flower, dont pick it up. Because if you pick it up it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation.

What Osho says here is gospel and is really the true definition of love. Love is a big misconception nowadays and we really need to understand its true meaning. If you see a flower and find it beautiful, youll most probably pluck it to keep it with you. Well, thats human nature, however, if you do pluck it, it will not be able to complete its necessities for survival and will eventually die.

As a result, it wont be appealing to your eyes anymore. So, youll lose the reason you loved it for in the first place. A better thing to do would be taking care of that flower without plucking it. This way, it will always be the flower you fell in love with. It should work the same way with the people you love. For love is about appreciation, not possession.

Be dont try to become.

The meaning of this quote is very simple and quite understandable. Be the way you are. Just learn to love yourself and dont try to become someone or something that you are not. God gave us all different personalities, different goals, and different lives. You only have one life and you are here to be who you are, to play your part. Dont waste your one precious life to change the way you are from the inside.

Friendship is the purest love. It is the highest form of Love where nothing is asked for, no condition, where one simply enjoys giving.

Ive never heard anyone giving such a pure and perfect definition of friendship, other than Osho, of course. He says that the purest form of love is friendship as you dont keep any unreal expectations from your friends and you love them unconditionally. And that is exactly what love should be, caring for someone unconditionally. Rather than expecting that someone will do something for you or be a certain way with you, learn to appreciate them for what they are, just like you do with your friends.

Life begins where fear ends.

Never be afraid of hesitant to achieve anything you want to. Whatever you want in life, just go for it. Life is too short to keep waiting for the right moment and worrying about taking risks. If you really want something from the bottom of your heart, then stop worrying about the future and start working to achieve your goals. The life that you truly want to live, will begin when you stop stressing over things.

Truth is not something outside to be discovered, it is something inside to be realized.

People spend their whole lives trying to discover their true passion and identity. While theres nothing wrong in doing so, but we need to understand where we must be looking for our true identity. And as per Osho, our true identity lies within ourselves and instead of looking for it in the outside world, we must believe in self-exploration. Just dig deep and you will be able to find your true self inside yourself.

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Some Eye-Opening Osho Quotes That Will Grow Your Wisdom - Thrive Global

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October 18th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Return of the agent provocateur – THE WEEK

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On October 2, Zorba the Buddha, an open faith spiritual centre in Gurgaon, hosted a date with Ma Anand Sheela, who was the personal secretary of Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) from 1980 to 1985. During a pre-dinner talk, the moderator asked about the famous spiritual gurus take on sex, marriage and polygamy. Sheela, 69, sat slightly bent on the stage, wrapped in a green shawl with her grey hair styled into an elegant bob. There was a smiling portrait of Osho in the backdrop, garlanded with marigolds. Although known for her sharp witshe was once called the tigress of the two-minute television news spotthat day, she seemed uncharacteristically mellow. You take responsibility for your actions..., she said. Bhagwan is not interested in your daily problems. Leave him alone.

And what about power, the moderator, Ashwin Bharti, asked. Sheela jumped up from her seat. With an eerie smile, her eyes glinting with excitement, she stared down at her enraptured audience. Look at me, she said. I am Oshos power. Have a good look at me. It is called the power of love. The crowd roared and whistled; they had got their moneys worth. In this instance, Rs 2,500 for a sampling of Oshos work, a talk, a Q&A session and dinner with Sheela, the linchpin of the 2018 blockbuster documentary Wild Wild Country, on Osho and his improbable commune in Oregon.

But what the participants had not bargained for was a possible cameo in an upcoming Netflix documentary on Sheela herself. When they were informed that there was a videographer shooting the show, some walked out of the hall feeling short-changed and wanting a refund. Most did not seem to mind. Ma Anand Sheela is like Oshos first wife, you know, said a participant, who was never really a follower of the godmans teachings but was a fan of Wild Wild Country. It is great entertainment, he said. But you cannot believe anything of what she says. It is like listening to Modi. Sheela, who was born in Gujarat as Sheela Ambalal Patel, was introduced by her father to Bhagwan Rajneesh in Bombay in 1967, just as she was about to leave to the US for further studies. She apparently got lost in his eyes in that first encounter. By mid-1981, she had bought the 64,229-acre Big Muddy Ranch at the Wasco and Jefferson counties in Oregon to form the Rajneeshpuram commune. At its peak, it hosted 15,000 spiritual seekers from around the worlda hippie carnival that turned into a dangerous, aggressive cult. And when it crashed and burnt, Sheela was exposed as the mastermind behind the movementa sort of manager, spokesperson and chief of staff of the Rajneesh empire. Her operating style during her four years in Oregon was perceived as Machiavellian. She was accused of arming the commune members with semi-automatic weapons, drugging homeless people, attempting to murder Oshos doctor and plotting to kill an Oregon investigative reporter. You accept a crown, be ready for the guillotine, Sheela said in a recent interview with Karan Johar, organised by the NGO Humans For Humanity and Sipping Thoughts, a women-centric talk show. The two organisations were responsible for bringing Sheela to India, 34 years after she left the Osho ashram in Pune.

You accept a crown, be ready for the guillotine Ma Anand Sheela

Evidently, the Indian audience wants more of her trademark, flame-throwing punchlines from the 1980s. The internet is full of listicles of her wild wild quotes. What can I say? Tough titties tops the lot. Ever the slick provocateur, she could twist any uncomfortable question into a brazen celebration of the self. Which is how she has tackled questions during her India tour as well. But those quotable quotes are not as fiery or egomaniacal as they used to be. Now, they are more about self-love and self-help. A few of her tepid one-liners during Johars show which generated hearty applause were: I am a free woman; Love has no reason, if love has [a] reason it is not love. It is a bargain; I dont push the buck around; You create your own rainbow and You too are divinity. Some titillating bits included Sheela offering Johar post-coital Swiss chocolates, admitting how she never meditated or had sexual relations with Osho, and how she had personally paid for 96 Rolls Royces.

But often, one could see flashes of alarm and muted outrage. After Johars interview, when an audience member asked her about the allegations of mass poisoning and fighting with the local residents of Antelope in Oregon, she recalledalmost with a death-glarehow the Rajneeshees were even blamed for a volcano that exploded there. I have nothing to do with these accusations.... This information you have is not correct, she said. There was a bit of gaslighting, too. At the pre-dinner session on October 2, when a woman wondered how her great love for Bhagwan could allow for violence, Sheela defended her actions as self-protection at a time of spiraling negativity. But I have a question for you, Sheela shot back. Tell me this, you are such a pretty girl, but why do you look so sad? She ended the cross-questioning with an advice: Be positive, otherwise you will become suicidal. Yes, that is where depression starts. That was the last question of the evening.

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Return of the agent provocateur - THE WEEK

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October 18th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Monday Musings: When Sheelas love for Osho brought her to Pune after 35 years – Hindustan Times

Posted: October 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm


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On October 4, I had the rare opportunity of spending more than three hours with Sheela Birnstiel, formerly, Ma Anand Sheela, as she re-visited the lanes and by-lanes of Koregaon Park, saw the Osho International commune, and paid her respects to Osho at the place where he was cremated in Pune.

Famous as the controversial secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who was later known as Osho, Sheela shot into the limelight in recent years after the Netflix docu-series, Wild Wild Country, featured her prominently, and, the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon.

The most tumultuous period of Rajneeshpuram centred around clashes with the locals, her sudden flight to Germany in September 1985, and the criminal convictions for which she was deported to the US and served a prison sentence.

Pune was the place where she spent one of the most beautiful periods of her life at the Commune, demonstrated her organisational capabilities, rose to become Oshos secretary after Ma Yoga Laxmi and planned Oshos secretive departure to the US in June 1981. Pune was also the place where she spent beautiful moments with her first love Chinmaya, whom she lost to cancer in this city.

Now 70 and settled in Switzerland where she runs two homes for the elderly and disabled, Sheela, accompanied by her two devoted secretaries-caretakers, and a film crew, was on a short, discrete visit to Pune to re-visit Koregaon Park.

Full of nostalgia about Koregaon Park (KP) of the mid-to-late 1970s, one of the first things she noticed was the lifeless faade of Osho International commune in lane number 1, and the complete absence of people in orange robes. Yes, when she left Pune in 1981, Oshos followers wore bright orange robes, and the maroon robes only came later. She was happy with the rich greenery of KP, although the entire landscape had changed with large buildings, numerous shops and restaurants and the high volume traffic.

She was not aware of the famous German Bakery restaurant because it did not exist when she was here. The only hotel she knew was Blue Diamond- Punes first and only five star hotel in those days. Take me to Hotel Blue Diamond because that is my reference pointthe Commune was right behind, she said.

The most poignant and deeply emotional moment for her was when she visited the place where Osho was cremated on the night of January 19, 1990, at Tulsiram Ghat in KP. Full of reverence for Osho, Sheela closed her eyes, stood in silence for minutes and bowed with a namaste at the low pedestal created to place bodies. She was delighted to spot a dog sitting below the grill and spoke of her immense love for animals.

For Sheela, this was one of the most significant moments of her journey with Osho. I was not there when he died, but I feel connected with him here, she said.

When asked, where she was when Osho died, Sheela said she was in Paris with her lawyer, who saw the news on TV, confirmed it and then informed her. I had the feeling that it was an unnatural death, Sheela said, of her intuition when she got the news.

We had a lengthy discussion on all that happened on the day Osho died, and in the years that followed. She could not immediately connect with some of the names such as Amrito- Oshos personal physician, whom she knew as Devraj; and Nirvano- whom Osho considered as his soulmate- and who had died in suspicious circumstances 40 days before his own death. Sheela knew Nirvano as Vivek.

Sheela spoke extensively of how shocking and outrageous it was to completely deny the existence of Oshos Samadhi inside the Commune, created as per his own wish. She wondered whether this was being denied by the Commune managers to make it easy to liquidate the property.

She expressed the hope that Oshos followers, his admirers and others would take steps to ensure that the Samadhi was protected and opened to the public.

abhay.vaidya@hindustantimes.com

First Published:Oct 07, 2019 14:02 IST

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Monday Musings: When Sheelas love for Osho brought her to Pune after 35 years - Hindustan Times

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October 10th, 2019 at 7:42 pm

Karan Johar interviews Ma Anand Sheela: She is controversial without revealing a thing – India Today

Posted: September 30, 2019 at 6:50 pm


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Karan Johar took to his Instagram today to post a picture with Ma Anand Sheela and to announce that he interviewed her. The Bollywood director was all praises for the controversial figure in his post.

Karan posted a selfie with Sheela, who featured in the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country on Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh aka Osho.

Karan posted the picture with the caption, "Interviewing #maanandsheela was an experience! She is fun forthright and fabulous! Dodging every answer in her inimitable fashion! She is controversial without revealing a thing! Now thats an art! She is witty and never at a wits end! Thanks for the help."

For the selfie, the star was dressed in a quirky, nerdy look. He donned a navy blue blazer over a black shirt, nerdy glasses and a quirky chain. As for Sheela, she wore a lemon yellow ensemble.

After Karan posted the picture on his gram, celebs like Shibani Dandekar, Ananya Panday and even Vishal Dadlani took his timeline to show there excitement.

Shibani wrote, "Damn cant wait to see this," and Vishal wrote, "'Seela is a beach!' said the most venerable Osho. She must've done something right!" As for Ananya, she was super excited and so are we.

For the uninitiated, Sheela is an Indian-born American-Swiss, former spokeswoman of the Rajneesh movement aka the Osho movement and was also convicted for multiple attempted murders.

As the personal secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Sheela managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, Oregon, United States.

In 1985 she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bio-terror attack. She was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and paroled after 39 months.

In fact, Priyanka Chopra is also working on a biopic which is based on Ma Anand Sheelas life. Priyanka had announced the news on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she also revealed that the film will be directed by Barry Levinson.

ALSO SEE | Karan Johar shares old video of Yash Chopra on his birth anniversary: Honoured to be fathered by him

ALSO WATCH | Karan Johar on Bollywood, love and Section 377 at Conclave Mumbai 2019

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September 30th, 2019 at 6:50 pm

I have come out as a winner: Ma Sheela Anand – Livemint

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Its difficult not be in awe of Sheela Biernstiel, or Ma Anand Sheela.

Her soft words and warm smile make you forget that she was once the foul-mouthed, no-nonsense administrative head of Rajneeshpuram, a commune established in the 1980s Oregon by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (or Osho), a Rolls-Royce-loving godman who advocated free sex and unique meditation methods. The fine lines on her forehead, which get accentuated when she talks about the 39 months she spent in a California prison in the late 1980s after pleading guilty to attempted murder, arson, wire-tapping, and assault for poisoning hundreds of peopleoften referred to as the largest bioterror attack in American historyremind you of all the things she did to live the life the way she wanted to. Her defiance and competence make you root for her, even if you are not supposed to.

The world had almost forgotten about Sheela till Wild Wild Country, a 2018 Netflix documentary that follows the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, brought the Vadodara-born anti-hero back into the limelight. Today, Sheela, now 70, is running Matrusaden (mothers home) and Bapusaden (fathers home), homes for the mentally ill, disabled and the elderly. She has established similar homes in Vietnam and Mauritius. What about India? If someone shows interest (in funding), Im happy to do it," she says.

In an exclusive interview with Mint, Switzerland-based Sheela, who was recently in India to be part of Sipping Thoughts, a platform for women established in association with the NGO Humans for Humanity, shares her life experiences, her relationship with parents and Bhagwan Rajneesh, and why she did what she did. Edited excerpts:

You are returning home after 34 years. What took you so long?

I had people they said they would like me to come (to India) but I wasnt ready yet to come so I didnt encourage anyone. I was sure that when the right time comes, I will be there, and now is the right time.

What makes now the right time?

Feeling. Feeling inside. Often our intuition relates to our feeling, and it felt right. So when I got this invitation, there was a yes" in me. There wasnt ummm..no..I have to thinkno. I feel it is my responsibility to share my reality and my feeling to people.

Has your perspective towards life changed since the time you first left India?

Im the same individual I was when I was young. It is the same person, who became young, and then a bit older. It is the same person who met Bhagwan and fell in love with him.

Most people talk about you only in reference to Bhagwan Rajneesh. Did that ever bother you?

They talk in reference to him because that (being with him) was the biggest event of my life. And it is normal, the love I felt for Bhagwan. It was out of this world and it should be talked about. Such love, such commitment you dont see it every day. It was rare and even today I feel the commitment to him.

What I have come to learn from this man is remarkable. It should not be ignored, because this learning is itself an achievement. This is the real achievement: To live with somebody and learn from this genius, that is remarkable. In love and trust, you learn the most.

Have you used this learning in building Matrusudan?

Matrusudan is my expression of love for my parents. Ma and Pa have given me the basic correct values of life. In their honour, I do the work that I do now. When I was with Bhagwan, I was in love with him and I did what I could offer him in terms of my learning and in my being there. And now, Im being there for my handicapped people.

What are you doing for yourself?

People make me happy. People around me make me happy. The way I have lived till now makes me happy. The thought of my parents makes me happy. Thought of Bhagwan makes me happy. I work seven days a week. And I dont take vacation; Im not stressed in my work. I enjoy it.

How did Matrusaden and Bapusaden start?

I had come out of prison (December 1988), and I wanted to be on my feet. There was still much emotional chaos in me. At that time, I couldnt speak German. I started working as a housekeeper with an old couple in Basel. I was almost coming to the end of the journey with them (the old couple). I missed my parents very much. I could go back to them but I was not ready to take the risk of the US government. I was safe in Switzerland but I still missed them. Then I started seeing my parents in the people I saw on the streets. I felt my parents were here with every person, and then one day I came across an advertisement about a new law that people can take handicap person into their house and take care of them and the government will pay them to take care of them. So thats what I exactly did. With my little savings, I rented a house and I took in my first three patients and then three more. They were happy, I was happy. And just then the immigration law in Switzerland changed and I was able to call my parents. I was in heaven. And in 1996, my parents came. Existence took care of me. It realized that she doesnt have to suffer anymore heartaches".

How was prison life?

I only learnt. In such hard situations, you can only learn. If you dont learn, then you shouldnt be called human. What makes us different as humans, as individuals, is our ability to learn. And I took it as, Did I have any choice?" No. Since childhood, our parents taught us, Be ready for every situation and learn from it. Dont play to complain." Thats all I did.

So, what did you learn?

One of the most important things I learnt was time. Nobody has time. People are in traffic jam in the street or in the traffic jam of the life they create. Everybody is stressed because they dont have time, either for their loved ones or for themselves. In prison, everything you talk is in terms of time. How many years are you doing? How many years you have been here? How much more time do you have? Thats the vocabulary there. Then you have to sit back and understand what is this phenomenon. I learnt the value of time and what it meant to me.

The other important lesson was patience. Because to complete 39 months in prison requires a lot of patience. Women in nine months of pregnancy are finished, they want the child out. Thirty-nine months of pregnancy is bigger than an elephant.

Today, I do justice to my two learnings with my work. Im there for people, and I take the time for them. People need one another. Why has the problem of psychologically ill people, or handicap people, or the old people, become such a big problem? Because they are isolated. I have 10 more years to my life; I want to be there for people.

Bhagwan Rajneesh accused you of several crimes. How did you deal with them?

It is very simple today when I speak about it. Much water has gone by. I was brutally hurt in my heart but that was my problem, and I was very clear about that what Bhagwan says was his problem. I had to suffer for my heart, for myself. I fully accepted it. If I landed in prison, I had to learn something from there. Everyone can meditate, everyone can read books when life is good. But can you, in hard circumstances, look within? I dont talk about spirituality; I have nothing to do with it. But can you look within in all honesty?

Bhagwan and I had a wonderful love affair. We understand that when an average couple separates there is a lot of bloodshed. Now this was an international love affair, with thousands of people involved. He has to hold on to his people. Nobody had ever imagined that Bhagwan and Sheela will be separate. So he has to say something that is believable for people. But I can tell you, recently a sanyasin wrote to me, Do you know every day Bhagwan asked, How was Sheela, till the day he died." For me, it was clear, Bhagwan cannot think of anything other than my love for him. He did what was right for him. He did take a lot of drugs, and it is normal for people who take drugs to talk nonsense at times. He had to do that; I assumed he had a more intelligent way to do that, there too I agree he wasnt creative under drugs.

But I was like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The whole world was against me. Think about that. People who called me friends no longer existed all gone with the wind. And then I had to depend on my own back. My old values that my parents had given me came to my rescue.

What were your parents like?

Im made of my parents. My mother was very intelligent and my father spent his time with Gandhi, Kakasaheb (Dattatreya Balkrushna Kalelkar).... He was well trusted and respected. And that is the value of loyalty he taught us. Im no Christian in that sense that I suffer from guilt but I have learnt to look at myself and move on. Life is vast.

What was your parents reaction when you told them about your decision to join Osho?

I tell you a small incident. When my father was young, he used to take my mother on his bicycle and go through Baroda. His friends always told him not to do so because it didnt look nice" but my father also said, My wife is beautiful, I want the whole world to see her". My father gave me an advice when I was 16 and going to America for study. He said: Im sending you to America to study, to learn. I want you to remember that you are at that age where you will be interested in men and men will be interested in you. Experiment. Dont meet the first man and marry him. Have sex. Marriage is a long-term event, and if you enter into it without knowing your desires it would be wrong. Date few men, then make your choice."

Did you have any apprehensions about the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country?

My four sisters were against it; they didnt want me to go through any more public scrutiny, but my brother convinced them. The two brothers (Maclain and Brocker Way, the directors of the documentary) said they have this 200-300 hours of raw footage from our time in Oregon. It was a goldmine. I was just putting out my heart. I had no idea what they were planning to do. They filmed me for five days. I was just there, with my reality, with life, with myself.

Do you ever wish to go back in time and change things?

I have no regrets. I have come out, out of the whole deal, in spite of 39 months in prison, as a winner. I feel like a winner; I am a winner. Thats what makes me, me. The training of my parents, the love of my brothers and sisters, the trust of Bhagwan in me, that I could do it, that makes for a good foundation.

If Bhagwan Rajneesh was here, what would you say to him?

(Blows a kiss).

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I have come out as a winner: Ma Sheela Anand - Livemint

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September 30th, 2019 at 6:50 pm

LFW SS20: Ashish – beauty, magic and escapism – FashionUnited UK

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Ahead of London Fashion Week if you had to pick out one show that would bring the party it would have been Ashish, known for his high-tempo catwalk collections, however, when the invite arrived, a packet of wildflower seeds, it suggested that the British designer was about to take us all in a different direction.

Set in the large sports hall of the Seymour Leisure Centre, Ashish greeted his guests with a meditative beats from musicians, Candida Valentino and Michael Ormiston, who played with gongs, wind chimes, and a singing bowl, adding a calm to the storm of fashion week, as the sun set through the skylights.

For spring/summer 2020, Ashish was inspired by the Netflix documentary series, Wild, Wild Country, which tells the story of the Rajneeshpuram ashram cult in Oregon, the designer told FashionUnited backstage following his show: I became kind of obsessed with Ma Anand Sheelas character, I was thinking shes kind of amazing, she is such an anti-hero and you dont want to mess with her - she is such a strong character.

Then I was kind of inspired by the situation, about being in an ashram, away from everything, it is like a magical space where it is like free love and everybodys like really chill and just away from all the horribleness that is happening.

It is kind of like escapism, just beauty, magic and escapism.

This was a spiritual awakening of sorts, there were still sparkles, sequins, bright colours and clashing patterns, everything we expect from Ashish, yet it seemed a little more subdued, if not reflective and mesmerising.

Gone were the overtly obvious tongue-in-cheek slogans, well except for one black sweatshirt that featured 19 sexual expletives on the back, all of which began with fuck, this collection was more reflection, quite literally, as traditional shisha mirror embroidery covered full tracksuits, denim, shirting, slip dresses and full-skirted dresses.

As well as spring/summer ready-to-wear, the catwalk showcase also featured resort-style pieces from swim shorts and polos for men, and bikinis for women, which were mixed in alongside sportswear, which Ashish stated added contrast to the collection.

As with most London Fashion Week designers, sustainability was on Ashishs mind, following on from previous collections dedication to slow fashion, the designer added: A lot of the fabric was actually vintage that I literally found sack loads of, Ive then joined them all together to make my own fabric.

Also, all the denim is sustainable, as it is all old jeans that have been cut up and joined back together.

The looks were also all styled with handmade jewellery, featuring discarded wood blocks that Ashish said he had found about the place, which really added to the hippy-vibe of the colourful collection.

The show notes concluded with a quote from controversial Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho from the documentary Wild Wild Country, saying: A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life, and a little wisdom to avoid errors, that will do.

If this was Ashish starting his own cult, a cult filled with a kaleidoscope of sequins, sparkles and mirrors, where do we sign up.

Images: courtesy of Ashish

Original post:
LFW SS20: Ashish - beauty, magic and escapism - FashionUnited UK

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September 30th, 2019 at 6:50 pm


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