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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – Oregon History Project

Posted: July 10, 2018 at 3:43 am

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The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was the spiritual leader of the Rajneeshee religious sect headquartered at Rancho Rajneesh in the Central Oregon desert from 1981 to 1985. He attracted hundreds of thousands of red-clad followers from around the world, known as sannyasins. These followers, mostly educated and affluent, followed Rajneesh's teachings which he argued did not reject but rather built on, other religions. Described by reporter David Sarasohn as a combination of Eastern mysticismand the Western human potential movement, the Rajneesh believed that meditation and sexual exploration were essential to spiritual enlightenment.

Born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan in 1931, Rajneesh grew up in Kuchwada in central India. In 1955 he earned a masters degree in philosophy and taught at two universities until 1966. In 1974 he founded an ashram (commune) in Poona (Pune), India where his success as a spiritual leader began. On July 10, 1981, his assistant Ma Anand Sheela, the president of the Rajneesh Foundation International, purchased the 64,000 acre Big Muddy Ranch straddling Wasco and Jefferson Counties in Central Oregon. The Bhagwan renamed it Rancho Rajneesh and moved there in August 1981.

The Rajneeshee developed the city of Rajneeshpuram, whose population was estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 in 1983 and 1984. They also planned a communal farm on the property. As the population of sannyasins increased, so did local resistance. Reports surfaced that Rajneesh was exercising mind control techniques on his followers. To the suspicion of the residents of the nearby town of Antelope, he owned fleets of Rolls Royce cars and private jets, while sannyasins on the commune labored 12 hours each day without monetary compensation. A lengthy struggle between the Rajneesh and their neighbors erupted, attracting the attention of the international press. On September 13, 1985 Sheela, his assistant, fled the commune for Europe amid criminal charges.

Despite Rajneesh's attempts to distance himself from Sheela, the commune collapsed, and on October 28, 1985, he too fled. Arrested when his jet refueled in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rajneesh was tried in Portland on charges of immigration fraud. Immediately after his trial on November 14, Rajneesh left for India and changed his name to Osho. He spent the rest of his life in several countries including Greece and Uruguay. He died on January 19, 1990 in Poona, India where his followers still operate an ashram.

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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh - Oregon History Project

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July 10th, 2018 at 3:43 am

Wild Wild Country: What Is the Rajneesh Movement?

Posted: June 15, 2018 at 10:41 pm

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Chapman and Maclain Ways six-plus-hour Netflix docuseries Wild Wild Country chronicling the Rajneesh communes controversial and criminal efforts to overtake a rural Oregon town is nothing if not exhaustive. But as anyone with an internet connection knows, theres always more to the story. Before you start scouring the web for everything to know about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (a.k.a. Osho), Ma Anand Sheela, and the sannyasins five-decade saga of dynamic meditation and sordid international intrigue, here are the eight biggest questions that Wild Wild Country didnt answer. (Plus, a handy bibliography of recommended reading and viewing if youd like to dive into the investigation yourself.)

Wild Wild Country is far more interested in how one mystic can inspire multitudes than what creates a single persons mystique. But if youre curious about Bhagwans biography and how he successfully strung along generations of devotees during his life and postmortem, heres some insight: He was, according to one uncle, headstrong and prone to devouring library books. Further Oregonian reporting circa 1985 (see further reading bibliography below) clarifies that he was raised in rural poverty by, alternately, his grandparents and parents, and more or less grew to be both an expert in Eastern religions and know-it-all doubter. In 1953, while attending college, he professed to have had a moment of ultimate enlightenment that dovetailed with his burgeoning interest in meditation and hypnosis, as well as his knack for public speaking. Ostensibly, a guru was born by the time he was 21. One former acquaintance told Oregonians Les Zaitz that Bhagwan (then known as Rajneesh) knew what the rich people want. They want to justify their guilty consciences, to justify their guilty acts. Fast-forward to the late 1960s when he would encounter Sheela and start planting seeds for Puna and eventually Rajneeshpuram and Bhagwan was more or less a traveling spiritual salesperson promoting a lifestyle that was as much submissive as sinful. Better yet, it was largely funded by donations from Western businessmen seeking an approachable slice of flower power and psychedelia. It was the perfect storm from which Bhagwans image as lord of the hedonistic manor took unshakable hold.

In archival footage from Wild Wild Country, longtime Rajneesh spokesperson Ma Prem Sunshine (a.k.a. Sunny V. Massad) coyly suggested that there simply was no single set of rules. Though in a post-Rajneeshpuram interview with Australian journalist Howard Sattler, Bhagwan (by then known as Osho) made it crystal-clear that his philosophy on monogamy and sex was rooted in, apparently, teen angst. Im against marriage from the very beginning, he explained. My parents were in difficulty, my family was in difficulty, but I told them clearly I am not going to be married. He goes on to describe a neurotic society populated by couples having duty-filled sex. In a separate lecture to his followers, Osho presents free love as a way to abolish the worlds oldest and most scandalized profession, preaching that, if sex becomes fun, prostitutes will disappear. He urges sannyasins to leave sex out of the marketplace and suggests that love to be your only god and we all be playful and joyous in the sack. That these ideals are apparently only possible when sannyasins evade less optional institutions like taxation and live within an outlier sovereign state paradoxically symbolized by its conformity goes undiscussed.

We learn a bit about Jane Storks abandoned and then grievously ill son Peter in Wild Wild Country, and other kids are caught on film or discussed in fleeting retrospect. But what was it like to be raised against your will in Rajneeshpuram or any out-there commune? Ask Hira Bluestone, who recently shared an account of spending ages 7 to 11 alongside her dad under Bhagwans sway, and is penning a memoir on the experience. Bluestone recalls working the land more than hitting the books, and getting lectured by Stork (a.k.a. Shanti B.) for avoiding her obligations. Though when they did read, it was fare like this terrifying tale of a girl deteriorating from the effects of radiation in Hiroshima, seemingly to comfort them as they counted down to nuclear holocaust. Movie night struck a similar tone. More distressingly, there were unconfirmed allegations of children being sexually abused on the compound. An incredible photo set by Jean-Pierre Laffont illuminates how, at minimum, Rajneeshpuram was like a surreal sleepaway camp that lasted for nearly half a decade.

No. Longtime Rajneeshpuram mayor Krishna Deva (a.k.a. David Berry Knapp) didnt get off scot-free for flipping on his pals. He was slapped with a two-year prison sentence for immigration fraud by an unsympathetic judge who ignored U.S. Attorney Charles Turners pleading that Knapp merely serve probation. (Youll recall that Turner was also the target of a foiled Rajneeshee murder plot, as depicted in Wild Wild Country.) Meanwhile, another of Bhagwans secretaries, Ma Anand Puja (a.k.a. Diane Yvonne Onang), spent more than three years behind bars in the U.S. and abroad for her part in purportedly poisoning salad-bar diners. Others who received sentences ranging from probation to several years in jail stemming from their participation in everything from coordinating sham marriages and illegally wiretapping their own people to attempted murder included Rajneeshees Ma Prem Padma (a.k.a. Suzanne Pelletier), Ma Yoga Vidya (a.k.a. Ann Phyllis McCarthy), Ma Anand Su (a.k.a. Susan Hagan), Dhyan Yoginia (a.k.a. Alma Peralta), Swami Anugiten (a.k.a. Richard Kevin Langford), and Ma Prem Samadhi (a.k.a. Carol Matthews).

As explained above, Bhagwan benefited financially from his wealthy followers blind faith. But they werent the only ones carrying the load. Upon swallowing Antelope, Oregon, Rajneeshpuram raised original town residents property taxes. Other Rajneesh cash-flow machinations included mail-order merch with all sorts of goods, books, and apparel bearing Bhagwans likeness, while the crux of his communes riches came from two main veins: the aforementioned member and supporter contributions (totaling as much as $10 million annually, in addition to exponentially larger sums just from the Rajneeshpuram residents, according to one report), and old-fashioned debt (which Bhagwan laid blame for at Sheelas feet). As one sannyasin has said, Most of us gave whatever we had. Also, that groovy disco on the ranchs premises? A cool $50 cover charge to dynamically dance the night away.

Sannyasin sympathizer Wolfgang Dobrowolnys fly-on-wall documentary about Bhagwans 1970s Indian ashram, which left the townspeople of Antelope in shock and awe, is even crazier than Wild Wild Countrys compiled clips connote. The documentarys scenes of graphic sexual sordidness and paganlike ritual would be difficult for even the average modern hedonist to sit through. (This footage is neither safe for work nor recommended for sensitive viewers.) Bhagwan probably relished the prospect of his Oregonian adversaries going pale bearing witness to his flocks behavior. But objectively, anyone not under his sway would be by turns skeptical and appalled.

Depends on whom you ask. Wild Wild Country didnt delve into the minutiae of postmortem infighting over the gurus estate, but there is enough drama in the fallout to merit a sequel. To sum up, Bhagwans alleged will first materialized in 2013, bequeathing all of his property to a Swiss trust overseen by Osho International Foundation board members, including Bhagwans former attorney Philip Toelkes (a.k.a. Swami Prem Niran) and Dr. John Andrews (a.k.a. Swami Amrito, n Dr. George Meredith). But rival Osho preservationists from the Osho Friends Foundation cried foul and forgery. In 2014, a Swiss court agreed, suspending the offending board members and voided their entrusted privileges. Two years later, an Indian court asked that the contested will be sent over from Europe to facilitate possible prosecution. However, prosecution back at Pune stalled, so petitioners from Friends Foundation pushed to get agents at Indias Central Bureau of Investigation involved. As of this January, they were still pushing back against Pune police and International Foundation resistance, and the matter remains unresolved.

We know Sheela was indoctrinated as a teenager, and that Jane and Philip were among the many escaping humdrum lives as housewives or overworked attorneys. And then there were the trendy Hollywood weirdos and homeless men and women exploited for their numbers at the voting booth. But there were less spotlighted individuals like Rajneeshpuram municipal judge Prem Homa (a.k.a. Michele Therese Mannel), who ditched her career as a New Jersey music teacher to bask beside Bhagwan. Or Bhagwan bodyguard Swami Shimavurti, who was an osteopath based in Britain (and later produced his own Rajneesh tell-all). By and large, though, early Western Rajneeshees were highly educated and had money to burn. One 1985 survey of defectors revealed that one-fifth of its participants held masters degrees. Nowadays, spiritual and professional wanderlust have overlapped. Consequently, Oshos standing ashrams might attract, for example, freelance graphic designers which will at least come in handy setting up websites to sell all that sweet Osho swag.

Ashram in Poona The Oregonians 1985 investigative series Dont Kill Him: The Story of My Life With Bhagwan Rajneesh by Ma Anand Sheela Breaking the Spell: My Life As a Rajneeshee, and the Long Road Back to Freedom by Jane Stork On the Edge: Living With an Enlightened Master by Yoga Punya Oregon Experience: Rajneeshpuram (PBS, 2012) Escape From Rajneeshpuram by Paul Morantz The Rajneesh Chronicles: The True Story of the Cult That Unleashed the First Act of Bioterrorism on U.S. Soil by Win McCormack Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram: The Role of Shared Values in the Creation of a Community by Lewis F. Carter The People vs. the Cult: Rajneeshees in Wasco County (Portland State University, 2017)

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Wild Wild Country: What Is the Rajneesh Movement?

Written by grays

June 15th, 2018 at 10:41 pm

Inside the Crazy Sex Cult That Invaded Oregon

Posted: May 13, 2018 at 3:46 pm

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A story about religion, guns, militias, cults, wiretapping, fraud, murder and individual and communal sovereignty, Wild Wild Country couldnt be more timelyeven if the particulars of its story are crazily unique to itself.

Directors Chapman and Maclain Ways six-part Netflix documentary series (produced by Jay and Mark Duplass) recounts a truly insane episode in recent American history, which will be well-known to those who lived through it and, given that its since faded from the countrys collective memory, will likely stun those who didnt. No matter your familiarity with its subject, however, the Ways non-fiction effort functions as both an eye-opening expose and an even-handed (sometimes to a fault) look into a host of contentious issues Americans are still grappling with today, minusat least for most of usthe free-love orgies.

Capably assembled from hundreds of hours of archival footage, Wild Wild Countrys focus is the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru in flowing robes and sporting a Rip Van Winkle-style beard who, in the 1970s, created a New Age-y movement founded on ideas of peace, compassion and sexual inhibition. Many of his followers, known as sannyasins, came from the cream of the cultural crop, wore red clothes, and partook in meditation as well as other therapies involving lots of screaming, shuddering, and writhing about en masse. It was touchy-feely spirituality designed to spread across the globe and be easily marketable to consumers via retail books and international centers.

In 1981, having run afoul of Indian authorities, it relocated its epicenter to a 60,000-acre ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, right next to the tiny town of Antelope (population: 40), where it began construction on a city designed to be a paradiseand, also, a place where Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh could store his 19 (!) Rolls-Royces.

And the actions she took to maintain her coveted position beside Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh soon involvedpoisoning the surrounding populace in an act of bioterrorism.

Antelope was a tiny enclave made up of elderly Christian retirees who prized their solitude and tranquility, so the influx of red-robed sannyasins and their master, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (or Osho), wasnt exactly welcome. A battle soon began brewing, with ranchers and farmers on one side, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs second-in-command, secretary Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman), on the other.

Sheela served as Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs mouthpiece (since he went silent for a four-year stretch), and orchestrated the development of an independent metropolis known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, replete with its own mail service and law enforcement. When long-time locals objectedincluding Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nikeand raised legal challenges to stymie this expansion, Sheela fought back by moving sannyasins into Antelope so they could take control of its municipal government through elections.

Then, she imported busloads of homeless people from around the country into Rajneeshpuram in an effort to further swell Rajneeshpurams ranks so theyd have enough voters to take control of Wasco Countys entire legislature. And when that plan failed, the surrounding area was suddenly, mysteriously struck by a plague of salmonella that made dozens violently ill.

Was this a case of a group exercising its constitutional rights to assembly, religion and representation, only to be persecuted by Christian bigots who didnt approve of peaceful others? Or was it a takeover by an invading sex cult that was exploiting (and outright breaking) American laws in order to establish its own sovereign New Age nation? Wild Wild Country leaves those answers to the viewers, providing equal access to both sides of the debate.

On the one hand are those like Bill Bowermans son Jon and the McGreers, who fought alongside Antelope mayor Margaret Hilland, later, those in the Oregon Attorney Generals officeto boot Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and company out of the state. And on the other hand are sannyasin publicist Sunny, disciple Jane Stork, lawyer Swami Prem Niren, and Sheela herself, who in new interviews paint their saga as one of discrimination and oppressionand ultimately, according to Swami Prem Niren, as a tragedy.

At the center of this entire affair is Sheela, a young Indian woman whose slight built and cheery smile belied her ferocity. As Wild Wild Country elucidates, Sheelas dedication to her cause was second only to her lust for power. And the actions she took to maintain her coveted position beside Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh soon involved not only stockpiling an armory featuring more guns than were possessed by all of Portlands police, but poisoning the surrounding populace in an act of bioterrorism, wiretapping her fellow sannyasins (in the largest such case in U.S. history), plotting to bomb a courthouse and assassinate the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, Charles Turner, and having Stork carry out a (botched) hit on Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs doctor.

Throughout, the filmmakers give Sheela and her former cohorts ample time to characterize Rajneeshpuram as an innocent, enlightened enclave (a shining model of diverse people living in blissful harmony!) that eventually took reasonable measures to protect itself from extinctiononly to be treated heinously by intolerant conservative Americans and the dastardly U.S. government. And to its credit, Wild Wild Country lets them raise a couple of not-unreasonable questions: Dont religious groups have the right to congregate, even in enormous numbers? And what prevents such collectives from seizing control of their regional governments via the ballot box?

Wild Wild Country allows its speakersSwami Prem Niren in particularto consistently cry victim while proclaiming (through moved-to-tears waterworks) the holiness of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The problem is, such arguments ring more and more false as we learn about the illegality, corruption and murderousness of the commune and its leaders.

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In an effort to provide both sides of the story, the directorsespecially in late, slow-motion-drenched elegiac passages full of uplifting and/or mournful musicbuy too much of the pap being sold by the sannyasins. Their comments are often self-serving to the point of being laughable, and much of the happy-go-lucky video footage of life inside the commune is clearly propagandistic. Worse still, the Ways refusal to have Sheela now directly address her own wretched behavioreven after Stork has outright admitted on-camera that Sheela ordered her to kill Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs physician with a syringe full of poisonmakes it feel like the directors are skirting obvious fundamental truths (and conclusions) in the name of objectivity.

No such equitableness, however, can obscure the fact that Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs communeregardless of Antelope citizens prejudicesseverely violated the separation of church and state, and participated in a wide range of crimes that eventually led to its downfall (this after Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh himself had a falling out with fleeing-from-justice Sheela).

As a portrait of militant zeal and religious conflict, Wild Wild Country is a fascinating glimpse at the perils of fanaticism-run-amok and the contentious intersection between faith and freedomand its one that, in our current age of armed civilian slaughter and red state-blue state hostility, doesnt seem as far in the past as one might like.

Wild Wild Country premieres March 16 on Netflix.

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Inside the Crazy Sex Cult That Invaded Oregon

Written by simmons

May 13th, 2018 at 3:46 pm

The Real Story of Wild Wild Country’s Bhagwan Rajneesh …

Posted: April 7, 2018 at 3:45 am

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There are few aspects of the story of the Indian guruBhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his Oregon commune that dont sound too strange to be true.

A bombing, a murder plot and a mass poisoning all of it revolving around a group of thousands of people who followed theirRolls-Royce-driving leader.

Wild Wild Country, a six-part documentary series released last month on Netflix, traces the strange story from past to present, featuring interviews with several formerRajneesh devotees.

The show has put a spotlight on a case that made national headlines throughout the 80s before fading somewhat from collective memory.

Heres what you need to know about what happened, according to reports through the years from PEOPLE, theNew York Times, the Oregonian and others.

Matthew NAYTHONS/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Rajneesh born in India around 1932 came to America in 1981 already the leader of an eponymous religious group that he had founded in 1974, in Poona, India.

A former journalist and philosophy professor, Rajneesh was a prolific author and speaker whose teachings were distributed via books, cassettes and videos; that, along with member donations, provided a significant operating income.

Also in 1981, Rajneeshs group purchased the approximately 64,000-acre Big Muddy Ranch in Oregons Jefferson and Wasco counties, whereJohn Wayne and Katharine Hepburn had once filmed a movie. The space, which covered about 100 square miles a few hours east of Portland, soon became home to thousands of Rajneeshssannyasins, or followers, many of whom came from upper- and middle-class families in America and Europe.

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TheBhagwan preached a peculiar mix of teachings that crossed traditions from both East and West, including a focus on mysticism, sexual freedom, the abolition of family and encounter therapy (which encouraged authentic face-to-face dialogues between two people or within a group).

His followers, also calledRajneeshees, wore only clothes in the sun-like colors of red, orange and purple. Meanwhile the Bhagwan was known for most of his years in Oregon for his daily appearances in one of his many Rolls-Royces, reportedly owning between a few dozen and as many as 91.

Beyond that, though, Rajneesh stayed silent except for communicating with his deputy and longtime secretary,Ma Anand Sheela.

It is impossible that Bhagwan would ever ask people to kill anyone. But if he asked me to do it, I dont know. I love and trust him very much, group member Shannon Jo Ryan, then known as Ma Amrita Pritam, told PEOPLE in 1981. To me he is God. He sees more clearly than I do. But if I want to say no to Bhagwan, Ill say no.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (right) with some of his followers at their ranch in Oregon in September 1984

JACK SMITH/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The Rajneeshee ranch in Oregon in August 1983

Keystone Press Agency/Zuma

According to theNew York Times,Rajneesh came to America after conflicts with government officials in Poona over his groups tax-exempt status. In the U.S. he settled first in Montclair, New Jersey, where the group had purchased a castle and operated one of its centers out of a storefront.

We are very concerned about our property values, our children and about this becoming an international headquarters for a free-sex cult,one local told the Timesin 1981.

Not long after, Rajneesh relocated to the ranch in Oregon, beginning years of escalating tensions between his followers and the dozens of locals already in the area, particularly those residents of the town of Antelope, not far from the groups property.

We thought they were a friendly bunch, Mayor Margaret Hill told PEOPLE in 1982. Lots of food, lots of free booze it was a great party.

Such seeming friendliness faded as the Rajneeshes pushed first to incorporate their ranch as its own city,Rajneeshpuram, and then through quirks in the states election laws used their numbers to take control of Antelopes city council, at one point officially renaming it after their leader. (This came despite an unsuccessful attempt by locals to abolish Antelope rather than see newcomers elected to lead it.)

The group was also able to purchase a sizable amount of real estate in the tiny town, including its general store.

With time, the ranch itself developed to include300-seat cafeteria, barns, greenhouses, a mall, dozens of homes and a160-room hotel.

Such expansion efforts were met in turn by pushes from local and state officials charging that the group was involved in voter fraud and other unscrupulous tactics. The Rajneeshes argued that this resistance was thinly disguised religious discrimination.

At various points the commune was described as housing approximately 1,400, 3,500 and 5,000 people; with Rajneesh representatives maintaining to media that there were some 200,000 followers worldwide.

The site of the former Rajneeshee ranch in Oregon

JACK SMITH/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Against this social and political conflict came more serious altercations: In 1983, a Portland hotel owned by the group was bombed by an Islamic militant (though no one was killed) while in 1984, hundreds of residents of the Wasco County seat where the Rajneesh ranch was located became ill from salmonella infections.

Later investigation discovered that 10 restaurants in The Dalles had had their salad bars infected by followers of Rajneesh in an attempt to suppress voter turnout and ensure the group could gain seats on the county commission.

Sheela, long the groups public face during Rajneeshs years of silence, abruptly left the ranch in 1985 and later pleaded guilty in connection with the large-scale poisoning, among other charges, for which she served about two years in prison.

In the 90s, two British followers of Rajneesh were convicted for conspiring to murder a U.S. attorney general in retaliation for his investigation of the group. By that point, however, Rajneesh himself had already died in India, where he relocated after being deported from America after a criminal guilty plea.

His crime, according to federal prosecutors? Arranging a series of fake marriages between Indian nationals and his followers to gain them resident status.

Rajneeshees in Oregon in an undated photo

Francois LE DIASCORN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

The Oregon commune dissolved in the months after Rajneesh left the country and remained abandoned for years afterward, falling into foreclosure. (Strangely, some of the groups barns and mobile homes were sold to another religious group, this one in Montana.)

Rajneesh died in 1990 at 58 from heart disease after returning to Poona, according to theTimes. Before his death, he had told his followers to refer to him simply as Osho.

After her prison sentence, Sheela moved to Europe and more recently has lived and worked in Switzerland, running care homes for those with mental disabilities.

My own personal conflict with Bhagwan was a bigger issue, she told the Oregonianin 2011. My love for Bhagwan had a priority over all problems.

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The Real Story of Wild Wild Country's Bhagwan Rajneesh ...

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April 7th, 2018 at 3:45 am

Wild Wild Country FAQ: Everything You Need to Know …

Posted: April 3, 2018 at 9:44 am

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A meditation expert, Osho, and sex guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneeshs presence radiates in Wild Wild Country.

Sex parties, wild dancing, red-clad followers, and a questionable salmonella outbreak are just scratching the surface of Netflixs latest docuseries. To explain what to expect before diving into the show, we have prepared the following guide on its enigmatic subject.

The story focuses on the controversial uprising of the Rajneeshpuram community in Antelope, Oregon and the man who inspired it all: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. You may know him better as Osho, Bhagwan, or simply Rajneesh.

The series is helmed by Chapman and Maclain Way (directors of another acclaimed Netflix original doc, The Battered Bastards of Baseball) and executive-produced by Mark and Jay Duplass.

The guru, whose birth name was Chandra Mohan Jain, was the spiritual leader of the Rajneesh movement, or the sannyasins, as his followers were called. He got his start in India during the 60s and 70s, when he traveled and spoke out against socialism, Mahatma Gandhi, and orthodox religion. He began amassing worldwide followers thanks to his more lenient views on sexuality and relationships, his penchant for wild dancing, and his unique transformational tools of meditation that he brought to those looking for enlightenment. Before long he was referred to by some as a godalbeit one who defended Hitler and took all of his followers money.

Covering Rajneeshs entire life would require a bigger investment than the six episodes offered here. Instead the docuseries digs deep into the gurus life during the 80s, when he and his followers departed from India and took up residence on a ranch in the small retirement community of Antelope, Oregon. The plan was to host 10,000 followers there, with lofty goals of eventually reaching 50,000 residents (at its height, the movement was said to have attracted roughly 500,000 sannyasins). Unfortunately for them, Antelope locals were none too pleased to have what they deemed to be a sex cult living in their community, and a constitutional battle eventually escalated into a full-on war involving guns, a bio-terror attack, and numerous other threats.

When it became clear that Rajneeshs ashram in India was too small for the hordes of people seeking enlightenment in his presence, the guru began dreaming up a self-governing city in which his disciples could carry out his vision and be free of other religious and societal constraints. India was no longer the place to do that, given the controversy the sannyasins were causing in the country, but the interpretive laws in the United States made it the perfect location for an uprising of the status quo.

This docuseries isnt just about the uprising of a questionable cult; its as much about politics, the interpretation of the Constitution, the lengths some people will go to for power, and how human beings can completely change their morals for a higher cause. Rajneesh and his penchant for lavish, shiny things (e.g. a collection of more than 90 Rolls-Royces) are used mostly as a launching pad for these discussions.

At first the guru was selective about who he wanted to surround himself with, opting for people who were really into changing their lives and who werent just there to entertain their minds. In that vein he attracted college-educated young professionals into his inner circle, and his popularity increased from there as more and more people donned the signature red-colored clothes of the Rajneeshees.

Before his death, Rajneesh appointed certain individuals to keep his teachings alive. And so visitors can still access the Osho Meditation Resortin Pune, India, where Rajneesh built his first ashram.

Rajneesh died in 1990, which means he has no present-day perspective to offer. This lack of modern context actually works in the series favor and lends to the intrigue.

To weave together this strange story, the filmmakers relied on a variety of archival footage, interviews with Antelope locals who were affected and fought against the cult, and interviews with prominent sannyasins. This includes an extensive interview with Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneeshs personal secretaryturnedPresident of Rajneesh Foundation International.

As Rajneeshs right-hand woman, Sheela was largely responsible for spreading the gurus wishes to those living in the commune (which she also managed), as well as to the naysayers outside of the community. Sheela first met Rajneesh when she was just a teenager, and went on to do anything she could to protect him and his legacy over the years including orchestrating a bio-terror attack and plotting murder. It was she who found the space in Oregon, and it was Sheela who represented the guru in the media. However, when it became apparent that her beloved leader had fallen deep into drugs, she was forced to sever ties with him and she was eventually replaced.

All six episodes are currently streaming on Netflix.

Wild Wild Country FAQ: Everything You Need to Know ...

Written by admin

April 3rd, 2018 at 9:44 am

1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack – Wikipedia

Posted: March 31, 2018 at 4:44 pm

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The 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack was the food poisoning of 751individuals in The Dalles, Oregon, through the deliberate contamination of salad bars at ten local restaurants with Salmonella. A leading group of followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho) had hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that their own candidates would win the 1984 Wasco County elections.[2] The incident was the first and single largest bioterrorist attack in United States history.[3][4] The attack is one of only two confirmed terrorist uses of biological weapons to harm humans since 1945, the other being the 2001 anthrax attacks across the USA.[5]

Having previously gained political control of Antelope, Oregon, Rajneesh's followers, who were based in nearby Rajneeshpuram, sought election to two of the three seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court that were up for election in November 1984. Fearing they would not gain enough votes, some Rajneeshpuram officials decided to incapacitate voters in The Dalles, the largest population center in Wasco County. The chosen biological agent was Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, which was first delivered through glasses of water to two County Commissioners and then, on a larger scale, at salad bars and in salad dressing.

As a result of the attack, 751 people contracted salmonellosis, 45of whom were hospitalized, but none died. Although an initial investigation by the Oregon Public Health Division and the Centers for Disease Control did not rule out deliberate contamination, the agents and contamination were only confirmed a year later. On February 28, 1985, Congressman James H. Weaver gave a speech in the United States House of Representatives in which he "accused the Rajneeshees of sprinkling Salmonella culture on salad bar ingredients in eight restaurants".[6]

At a press conference in September 1985, Rajneesh accused several of his followers of participation in this and other crimes, including an aborted plan in 1985 to assassinate a United States Attorney, and he asked State and Federal authorities to investigate.[7] Oregon Attorney General David B. Frohnmayer set up an Interagency Task Force, composed of Oregon State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and executed search warrants in Rajneeshpuram. A sample of bacteria matching the contaminant that had sickened the town residents was found in a Rajneeshpuram medical laboratory. Two leading Rajneeshpuram officials were convicted on charges of attempted murder and served 29months of 20-year sentences in a minimum-security federal prison.


Several thousand of Rajneesh's followers had moved onto the "Big Muddy Ranch" in rural Wasco County in 1981, where they later incorporated as a city called Rajneeshpuram.[8][9] They had taken political control of the small nearby town of Antelope, Oregon (population 75), the name of which they changed to "Rajneesh".[10] The group had started on friendly terms with the local population, but relations soon degraded because of land use conflicts and the commune's dramatic expansion.[10]

After being denied building permits for Rajneeshpuram, the commune leadership sought to gain political control over the rest of the county by influencing the November 1984 county election.[9] Their goal was to win two of three seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court, as well as the sheriff's office.[2] Their attempts to influence the election included the "Share-a-Home" program, in which they transported thousands of homeless people to Rajneeshpuram and attempted to register them to vote to inflate the constituency of voters for the group's candidates.[11][12] The Wasco county clerk countered this attempt by enforcing a regulation that required all new voters to submit their qualifications when registering to vote.[13]

The commune leadership planned to sicken and incapacitate voters in The Dalles, where most of the voters resided, to sway the election.[14] Approximately twelve people were involved in the plots to employ biological agents, and at least eleven were involved planning them. No more than four appear to have been involved in development at the Rajneeshpuram medical laboratory; not all of those were necessarily aware of the objectives of their work. At least eight individuals helped spread the bacteria.[11]

The main planners of the attack included Sheela Silverman (Ma Anand Sheela), Rajneesh's chief lieutenant, and Diane Yvonne Onang (Ma Anand Puja), a nurse practitioner and secretary-treasurer of the Rajneesh Medical Corporation.[11][15] They purchased Salmonella bacteria from a medical supply company in Seattle, Washington, and staff cultured it in labs within the commune.[11] They contaminated the produce at the salad bars as a "trial run".[12][16] The group also tried to introduce pathogens into The Dalles' water system.[11] If successful, they planned to use the same techniques closer to Election Day. They did not carry out the second part of the plan. The commune decided to boycott the election when it became clear that those brought in through the "Share-a-Home" program would not be allowed to vote.[12]

Two visiting Wasco County commissioners were infected via glasses of water containing Salmonella bacteria during a visit to Rajneeshpuram on August 29, 1984. Both men fell ill and one was hospitalized. Afterward, members of Sheela's team spread Salmonella on produce in grocery stores and on doorknobs and urinal handles in the county courthouse, but these actions did not produce the desired effects.[5] In September and October 1984, they contaminated the salad bars of 10 local restaurants with Salmonella, infecting 751people.[17] Forty-five people received hospital treatment; all survived.[18]

The primary delivery tactic involved one member concealing a plastic bag containing a light-brown liquid with the Salmonella bacteria (referred to by the perpetrators as "salsa"[15]), and either spreading it over the food at a salad bar, or pouring it into salad dressing.[19] By September 24, 1984, more than 150people were violently ill. By the end of September, 751cases of acute gastroenteritis were documented; lab testing determined that all of the victims were infected with Salmonella enterica Typhimurium.[20] Symptoms included diarrhea, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, headaches, abdominal pain, and bloody stools.[17] Victims ranged in age from an infant, born two days after his mother's infection and initially given a five percent chance of survival,[12] to an 87-year-old.[8]

Local residents suspected that Rajneesh's followers were behind the poisonings. They turned out in droves on election day to prevent the cult from winning any county positions, thus rendering the plot unsuccessful.[2] The Rajneeshees eventually withdrew their candidate from the November 1984 ballot.[19] Only 239 of the commune's 7,000residents voted; most were not US citizens and could not vote.[21] The outbreak cost local restaurants hundreds of thousands of dollars and health officials shut down the salad bars of the affected establishments.[2] Some residents feared further attacks and stayed at home.[22] One resident said: "People were so horrified and scared. People wouldn't go out, they wouldn't go out alone. People were becoming prisoners."[8]

Officials and investigators from a number of different state and federal agencies investigated the outbreak.[14] Dr. Michael Skeels, Director of the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory at the time, said that the incident provoked such a large public health investigation because "it was the largest food-related outbreak in the U.S. in 1984".[20] The investigation identified the bacteria as Salmonella enterica Typhimurium and initially concluded that the outbreak had been due to food handlers' poor personal hygiene. Workers preparing food at the affected restaurants had fallen ill before most patrons had.[15][23][24]

Oregon Democratic Congressman James H. Weaver continued to investigate because he believed that the officials' conclusion did not adequately explain the facts.[12] He contacted physicians at the CDC and other agencies and urged them to investigate Rajneeshpuram.[6][12] According to Lewis F. Carter's book Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram, "many treated his concern" as paranoid or as an example of "Rajneeshee bashing".[12] On February 28, 1985, Weaver gave a speech at the United States House of Representatives in which he accused the Rajneeshees of contaminating salad bar ingredients in eight restaurants.[6][25] As events later showed, Weaver had presented a well-reasoned, if only circumstantial, case; these circumstantial elements were confirmed by evidence found after investigators gained access to Rajneeshpuram several months later.[12]

Months later, starting on September 16, 1985, Rajneesh, who had recently emerged from a four-year period of public silence and self-imposed isolation (although he had continued to meet with his assistant) at the commune,[15][26] convened press conferences: he stated that Sheela and 19 other commune leaders, including Puja, had left Rajneeshpuram over the weekend and gone to Europe.[7][26] He said that he had received information from commune residents that Sheela and her team had committed a number of serious crimes.[9][26] Calling them a "gang of fascists", he said they had tried to poison his doctor and Rajneesh's female companion, as well as the Jefferson County district attorney and the water system in The Dalles. He said that he believed they had poisoned a county commissioner and Judge William Hulse, and that they may have been responsible for the salmonellosis outbreak in The Dalles.[9] He invited state and federal law enforcement officials to the Ranch to investigate.[15] His allegations were initially greeted with skepticism by outside observers.[26]

Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer established a task force among the Wasco County Sheriff's office, the Oregon State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the National Guard that set up headquarters on the Ranch to investigate the allegations. They obtained search warrants and subpoenas; 50 investigators entered the Ranch on October 2, 1985. Dr. Skeels found glass vials containing Salmonella "bactrol disks" in the laboratory of a Rajneeshpuram medical clinic. Analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta confirmed that the bacteria at the Rajneesh laboratory were an exact match to those that sickened individuals who had eaten at local restaurants.[15]

The investigation also revealed prior experimentation at Rajneeshpuram with poisons, chemicals and bacteria, in 1984 and 1985.[15] Dr. Skeels described the scene at the Rajneesh laboratory as "a bacteriological freezer-dryer for large-scale production" of microbes.[20] Investigators found a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, and literature on the manufacture and usage of explosives and military bio-warfare.[20] Investigators believed that the commune had previously carried out similar attacks in Salem, Portland, and other cities in Oregon.[15] According to court testimony, the plotters boasted that they had attacked a nursing home and a salad bar at the Mid-Columbia Medical Center, but no such attempts were ever proven in court.[15] As a result of the bioterrorism investigation, law enforcement officials discovered that there had been an aborted plot by Rajneeshees to murder Charles Turner, a former United States Attorney for Oregon.[27]

The mayor of Rajneeshpuram, David Berry Knapp (known as Swami Krishna Deva or KD), turned state's evidence and gave an account of his knowledge of the Salmonella attack to the FBI. He claimed that Sheela said "she had talked with [Rajneesh] about the plot to decrease voter turnout in The Dalles by making people sick. Sheela said that [Rajneesh] commented that it was best not to hurt people, but if a few died not to worry."[11] In Miller's Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, this statement is attributed to Sheela.[15] According to KD's testimony, she played doubters a tape of Rajneesh's muffled voice saying, "if it was necessary to do things to preserve [his] vision, then do it," and interpreted this to mean that murder in his name was fine, telling doubters "not to worry" if a few people had to die.[15] The investigation uncovered a September 25, 1984, invoice from the American Type Culture Collection of microbes, showing an order received by the Rajneeshpuram laboratory for Salmonella typhi, the bacterium that causes the life-threatening illness typhoid fever.[15][28]

According to a 1994 study published in the journal Sociology of Religion, "[m]ost sannyasins indicated that they believed that [Rajneesh] knew about Ma Anand Sheela's illegal activities."[29] Frances FitzGerald writes in Cities on a Hill that most of Rajneesh's followers "believed [him] incapable of doing, or willing, violence against another person", and that almost all thought the responsibility for the criminality was Sheela's according to FitzGerald, the followers believed the guru had not known anything about it.[9] Carus writes in Toxic Terror that, "There is no way to know to what extent [Rajneesh] participated in actual decision-making. His followers believed he was involved in every important decision that Sheela made, but those allegations were never proven."[30] Rajneesh insisted that Sheela, who he said was his only source of information during his period of isolation, used her position to impose "a fascist state" on the commune.[26] He acknowledged that the key to her actions was his silence.[26]

Rajneesh left Oregon by plane on October 27, 1985, and was arrested when he landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, and charged with 35 counts of deliberate violations of immigration laws.[31][32][33] As part of a plea bargain arrangement, he pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to immigration officials.[12][19][32] He received a ten-year suspended sentence and a fine of US$400,000, and was deported and barred from reentering the United States for a period of five years.[12][33][34] He was never prosecuted for crimes related to the Salmonella attack.[12][19]

Sheela and Puja were arrested in West Germany on October 28, 1985.[12] After protracted negotiations between the two governments, they were extradited to the United States, reaching Portland on February 6, 1986.[12] They were charged with attempting to murder Rajneesh's personal physician, first-degree assault for poisoning Judge William Hulse, second-degree assault for poisoning The Dalles Commissioner Raymond Matthews, and product tampering for the poisonings in The Dalles, as well as wiretapping and immigration offenses.[5][12] The U.S. Attorney's office handled the prosecution of the poisoning cases related to the 10 restaurants, and the Oregon Attorney General's office prosecuted the poisoning cases of Commissioner Matthews and Judge Hulse.[32]

On July 22, 1986, both women entered Alford pleas for the Salmonella attack and the other charges, and received sentences ranging from three to twenty years, to be served concurrently. Sheela received 20 years for the attempted murder of Rajneesh's physician, twenty years for first-degree assault in the poisoning of Judge Hulse, ten years for second-degree assault in the poisoning of Commissioner Matthews, four and a half years for her role in the attack, four and a half years for the wiretapping conspiracy, and five years' probation for immigration fraud; Puja received fifteen, fifteen, seven and a half, and four and a half years, respectively, for her role in the first four of these crimes, as well as three years' probation for the wiretapping conspiracy.[5][12][32] Both Sheela and Puja were released on parole early for good behavior, after serving twenty-nine months of their sentences in a minimum-security federal prison.[5][12][35][36] Sheela's Green Card was revoked; she moved to Switzerland. She remarried there and went on to run two nursing homes in Switzerland.[37]

The Rajneeshees committed the most significant crimes of their kind in the history of the United States ... The largest single incident of fraudulent marriages, the most massive scheme of wiretapping and bugging, and the largest mass poisoning.

Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer

The Oregonian ran a 20-part series on Rajneesh's movement, beginning in June 1985, which included an investigation into the Salmonella incident. As a result of a follow-up investigation, The Oregonian learned that Leslie L. Zaitz, one of their investigative journalists, had been placed as number three on a top-ten hit list by Sheela's group.[14] Then-Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer commented on the poisoning incident and other acts perpetrated by the group, stating: "The Rajneeshees committed the most significant crimes of their kind in the history of the United States ... The largest single incident of fraudulent marriages, the most massive scheme of wiretapping and bugging, and the largest mass poisoning."[8][38] Looking back on the incident, Skeels stated, "We lost our innocence over this ... We really learned to be more suspicious ... The first significant biological attack on a U.S. community was not carried out by foreign terrorists smuggled into New York, but by legal residents of a U.S. community. The next time it happens it could be with more lethal agents ... We in public health are really not ready to deal with that."[20]

Milton Leitenberg noted in the 2005 work Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat, "there is apparently no other 'terrorist' group that is known to have successfully cultured any pathogen."[39] Federal and state investigators requested that details of the incident not be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for 12 years, for they feared a description of the events could spark copycat crimes, and JAMA complied.[20] No repeat attacks or hoaxes subsequently occurred, and a detailed account of the incident and investigation was published in JAMA in 1997.[13][40][41] A 1999 empirical analysis in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases published by the CDC described six motivational factors associated with bioterrorism, including: charismatic leadership, no outside constituency, apocalyptic ideology, loner or splinter group, sense of paranoia and grandiosity, and defensive aggression.[42] According to the article, the "Rajneesh Cult" satisfied all motivational factors except for an "apocalyptic ideology".[42] An analysis in the book Cults, Religion and Violence disputes the link to charismatic leadership, pointing out that in this and other cases, it was organizational lieutenants who played a pivotal role in the initiation of violence. Arguing for a contextual rather than decisive view of charisma, the authors state that the attribution of outcomes to the personality of a single individual, even a charismatic leader, usually camouflages a far more complex field of social relationships.[43]

The media revisited the incident during the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States.[44][45][46][47] The 2001 publication of Judith Miller's Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, which contained an analysis and detailed description of the events, also brought discussion of the incident back into the news.[48][49][50] Residents of The Dalles commented that they have an understanding of how bioterrorism can occur in the United States.[2] The incident had spread fear in the community, and drained the local economy.[2] All but one of the restaurants affected went out of business.[51] In 2005, the Oregon State Land Board agreed to sell 480 acres (1.9km2) of Wasco County, including Rajneeshpuram, to the Colorado-based youth ministry Young Life.[52][53] On February 18, 2005, Court TV aired an episode of Forensic Files about the incident, entitled: "'Bio-Attack' Oregon Cult Poisonings".[54] The salmonellosis outbreak was also discussed in the media within the context of the 2006 North American E. coli outbreak.[55][56][57]

The book Emerging Infectious Diseases: Trends and Issues cites the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, along with the Aum Shinrikyo group's attempts to use anthrax and other agents, as exceptions to the belief "that only foreign-state supported groups have the resources to execute a credible bioterrorism event".[58] According to Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons Since 1945, these are the only two confirmed uses of biological weapons for terrorist purposes to harm humans.[5] The incident was the single largest bioterrorist attack in United States history.[3][59][60] In the chapter titled: "Influencing An Election: America's First Modern Bioterrorist Attack" in his 2006 book Terrorism on American Soil: A Concise History of Plots and Perpetrators from the Famous to the Forgotten, author Joseph T. McCann concludes: "In every respect, the Salmonella attack carried out by the cult members was a major bioterrorist attack that fortunately failed to achieve its ultimate goal and resulted in no fatalities."[19]

Media related to 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack at Wikimedia Commons

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1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack - Wikipedia

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March 31st, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Rajneeshpuram . TV | OPB

Posted: March 24, 2018 at 11:44 am

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In 1981, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a spiritual leader from India, and thousands of his disciples moved to Wasco and Jefferson counties. On what had been the Big Muddy Ranch, the sannyasins set out to build a new city, a utopian community in the desert Rajneeshpuram.

Thousands of people from around the world gathered here to celebrate life. They worked hard and transformed the landscape. And more than a few hoped to spend the rest of their days at this place. But by 1986, they weregone.

If you live in the country you kinda like the country to remain the way it is, said Bernie Smith, a former Wasco County DistrictAttorney.

Many of the Rajneeshees came from overseas, and most from urban backgrounds. They were vegetarians, now living among ranch people and small-town retirees in Central Oregon cattle country. The two cultures were foreign to each other and ultimately theyclashed.

I think there were a lot of masters and maybe doctors degrees out there. It didnt mean they had any horse sense. They were pretty illogical about a lot of things, said Margaret Hill, former mayor of nearby Antelope,Oregon.

As the Rajneeshee planners began to slog their way through the rules and regulations of local government, problems arose. As the new people encountered the slow-grinding wheels of bureaucracy building codes, zoning restrictions and other land-use regulations the sannyasins patience grew thin. Confrontation and rude behaviorfollowed.

The Rajneeshees took over the town of Antelope. Their leadership declared the local people to be bigoted and threatening. And Bhagwans open disdain for Christianity did not play well in the new conservative, Christianenvironment.

At some point, people stopped talking and they just started screaming. Nothing is going to get done in that environment, and nothing got done, said former news videographer MiltRitter.

In the span of four-and-a-half years, Bhagwans people invested more than $50 million in Rancho Rajneesh. They made substantial improvements to the land. Many found real joy in being close to their spiritual master and part of the Rajneeshpuram community, but they ultimately walked away from it all.

Twenty-five sannyasins were convicted of crimes ranging from arson and wiretapping to immigration fraud, election fraud and attempted murder. Ten served time in prison.

At the end of it all, Wasco County Judge Bill Hulse predicted (correctly) that somebody would write a book about what had happened there: The people who read that book, he said, will think itsfiction.



Kirk Braun, Rajneeshpuram: The UnwelcomeSociety

Max Brecher, A Passage to America e-book:, 1993, revised and updated2013

Devananda Day, Revise Priorities Ahead! Life on a SpiritualPath


A Reporter at Large: Rajneeshpuram I, Rajneeshpuram II, by FrancesFitzgerald

The New Yorker, Sept. 22, 1986; Sept. 29,1986

Utopia and Bureaucracy: The Fall of Rajneeshpuram, by CarlAbbott

Oregon Pacific Historical Review,1990

Averting Apocalypse at Rajneeshpuram by Marion S.Goldman

Department of Sociology, 1291 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR97403

Second-Chance Family by Marion S.Goldman

Oregon Humanities magazine, Summer2011


Oregon HistoricalSociety

Special Collections, University of OregonLibraries

Osho International, publishing headquarters for Oshoswork

Rajneeshpuram wikipediasites

Rise and Fall of Rajneeshpuram A film by JustinWeiler

OregonLive: Rajneeshees inOregon

Broadcast Date: Nov. 19,2012

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Rajneeshpuram . TV | OPB

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March 24th, 2018 at 11:44 am

I Covered The Rajneesh Cult. Heres What Wild Wild Country …

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In 1979, Bennington College freshman Dara Burrows traveled to India over her winter break. She would never return to the school. In a postcard to her mother back home in New Jersey, Dara wrote: Im not coming home. Im happy and Ive become a sannyasin. A disciple.

Burrows had joined a cult. But not just any cult. The 18-year-old had become a follower of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and started wearing Bhagwans photo around her neck. Over the next few years, Dara and thousands like her would travel to rural Oregon with Rajneesh, and build a sprawling commune in his name. The lure of the cult would fracture Daras already fragile family, and even now, some 33 years after I first met them, they are still healing.

On the surface a happy place with a Zen Connection bus terminal, Zorba the Buddha Rajneesh Deli and something called Nirvana Grove, Oregons Rancho Rajneesh metastasized into a dangerous organized crime ring. As Rajneesh indulged a fetish for diamond-studded watches and a caravan of Rolls-Royces, his hand-picked goon squad went to war with local detractors. Commune leaders sprayed salmonella on salad bars in a nearby town, poisoning at least 700 people in the largest bioterror attack in U.S. history. They plotted the assassination of the U.S. attorney for Oregon. And they organized countless fraudulent marriages to harbor foreign-born Rajneeshees, followers of the religion, in the U.S.

This outrageous yet underreported episode of American history is finally getting its due. On March 16, Netflix dropped a captivating six-hour docuseries called Wild Wild Country, directed by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way, with brothers Jay and Mark Duplass executive producing. The series, ambitious but flawed, has unearthed hours of home movies that the cult members shot themselves, in the fevered belief that they were building a true nirvana in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Dara Burrows and hundreds of former cult members around the world are binge-watching now. On the pages of fan websites still dedicated to Rajneesh he died in 1990 and is now known as Osho the reviews are pouring in.

Watched four parts already. Even worse than I thought, former sannyasin Dorothee Bull writes on a pro-Rajneesh Facebook page. Bhagwan was a politician playing the power game.

As with most media coverage of the Ranch, this series seems to skip like a rock over water, landing briefly on the most controversial events ... former sannyasin Roshani Shay writes at Viewers of this series can learn a lot about how not to behave from its episodes.

Not often you get to see a sannyasin confessing to attempted murder on TV. I was left thinking that quite a few people running the show on the Ranch really did lose their minds in the worst of ways, an observer named Lokesh posted on the Sannyas News website.

I happily powered my way through all six hours of Wild Wild Country this weekend, too. In 1984, as a rookie reporter in Trenton, New Jersey, I convinced my editors to send me to Rancho Rajneesh on assignment. At the time, the Rajneeshees were slipping into Trenton and other cities and enticing hundreds of homeless men and women to move across the country to Bhagwans Oregon paradise. With promises of free food, free beer and a life free of crime, the Rajneeshees explained that they were just humanitarians helping to address Americas shameful homeless epidemic. In reality, as later reporting and the Netflix series revealed, the cult was simply importing the homeless to pack local voting rolls and control local elections.

In the winter of 1984, Rancho Rajneesh was bustling, with a private airport, a teeming shopping center, the 145-room Hotel Rajneesh and enough heated A-frame cabins to accommodate thousands of red-clad sannyasins. The Rajneeshees had selected this spot carefully, purchasing 100 square miles of rugged Oregon rangeland for the privacy and protection the former Big Muddy Ranch provided. Everywhere, the propaganda and groupthink was overwhelming. The Rajneeshees celebrated the coming of dawn and dusk by bowing to Bhagwan and singing for him, as he slowly cruised by in one of his 90+ Rolls-Royces. In the evenings, thousands gathered in rapt attention to watch two-hour-long videotapes of Bhagwans hypnotic discourses. His photos were plastered everywhere, and, in the commune bookstore, only one authors works were on sale.

I was escorted around the well-armed property by an outgoing spokeswoman, Ma Dhyan Rosalie, formerly Rosalie Rosenberg of Scottsdale, and allowed to interview formerly homeless New Jersey transplants. Soon after, I set out to locate Dara Burrows, the one-time Bennington College co-ed.

Just before my reporting trip, Daras mother, Sandra, sat with me in her historic home outside Princeton. Her story was devastating. First, her husband, David Burrows, left her. He had been a tenured literature professor at Rutgers University, and the couple had four children together. David met Rajneesh on a trip to India in 1978, and the experience was profound. Back on the Rutgers campus,David began dressing in orange, wearing a beaded necklace with Bhagwans photo on it and insisting that he be called Swami Das Anudas. University life soon lost its hold, and Davis moved to India to be with Bhagwan full-time.

Just as Sandra was recovering from that shock, David gave his daughter, Dara, a collection of Bhagwans speeches. Dara was hooked immediately by his promise of a new way of being, his rejection of the institutional, rigid ways of society, and she booked a trip to India to meet the guru.

Her father gave her the money. It just kind of happened, kind of quietly, without me being privy to the decision, Sandra told me, as I recounted in a New Jersey Monthly Magazine feature story in 1986.

Mere weeks later, the terse postcard arrived back home. Dara, the Princeton Day School graduate, had become Ma Prem Dara and joined her father in the cult. All through my childhood I thought I was the odd one, Dara told me back then. When I met Bhagwan he was just saying everything I was feeling all my life. It was like I could breathe ...

Sandra banded together with her two younger children, and especially her teenage son, Jamie. But she knew Dara was gone. It was a terrible shock. I wanted her to go back to school, if not Bennington then somewhere. But there was no way I was going to influence her, she said.

For five years, the Burrows children resigned themselves to the loss of their father and oldest sister. Then, in the summer of 1984, 22-year-old Jamie accepted an invitation to visit Rancho Rajneesh, where Dara and David had moved. Improbably, the Burrows youngest son also fell under the spell. When I interviewed Jamie, Dara and David together at the commune in 1984, Jamie was wearing the traditional Bhagwan mala necklace and introduced himself to me as Swami Anand Brahma. The all-American family, one sannyasin quipped, as she passed by our table.

Back home, Sandra was emotional, weeping at the dining room table, a family friend recalled. In desperation, Sandra called a cult psychologist to win her son back. I didnt know what I could do. Hes not a child. He hasnt been kidnapped, she told me for the New Jersey Monthly article.

Less than nine months after my visit, the cult imploded. Bhagwans top aide, the vicious Ma Anand Sheela, quit and ran off to Europe under a cloud. After a three-and-a-half-year period of self-imposed silence, an enraged Bhagwan gathered the media to denounce her. Sheela and her group tried to kill three people, Bhagwan said. These people are absolute criminals. Fearing arrest himself, Rajneesh boarded a Lear Jet and tried to flee the country. He was arrested and jailed, and pleaded guilty to immigration crimes in exchange for a big fine and deportation. State and federal investigators rushed in, and once-loyal insiders easily flipped. As The Oregonian reported in a 2017 series, Rajneeshees piled into court, admitting criminal conduct on behalf of the sect. The charges included attempted murder, assault, arson, immigration fraud, wiretapping and conspiracy. Sheela and the worst of the offenders did federal prison time.

Back at the commune, the residents of Rancho Rajneesh glumly packed their bags. The Rolls-Royces were auctioned off in Texas, and Jamie, Dara and David Burrows began planning for an uncertain future.

I reached out to the Burrows family last month, and all the old wounds still seemed fresh. I learned that Jamie works in finance now and didnt want to discuss his brief time at the commune. Dara married, raised a family and for 22 years has served as a senior editor for a scientific nonprofit. Shes made peace with her mother, for whom the abandonment is hard to forget. Ive come back into the fold, but she always fears I could leave, Dara said in a recent interview. Im making a really strong effort to be in constant contact with her and show her how much I really love her.

Dara agreed to talk for the first time in three decades because, she said, she has nothing to hide. When we spoke last week, she said she was looking forward to watching Wild Wild Country, but added that she and most Rajneeshees were unaware of the serious crimes that took place at the commune. I dont have shame about becoming a sannyasin or going to India or to the ranch, she said. But I do have shame about being associated with an organization that did such horrific things and hurt so many people.

Looking back, she admits that her fellow cult members spread the illusion of us versus them, and how dangerous it was to leave the ranch. The propaganda was relentless. I definitely experienced being brainwashed, Dara said. Its taken her decades to move on.

Wild Wild Country fails to explore the heartache of the thousands of families like Daras who were left behind when loved ones joined Bhagwan in the mountains. Its one of many flaws in an otherwise haunting series that exposes the brutal town-gown confrontation between the malicious and condescending sannyasins who took over tiny Antelope, Oregon, and the narrow-minded and often bigoted farmers and ranchers who opposed them at every turn. The directors of the series seem afraid to play referee, and viewers pay the price.

Consider this: Ma Anand Sheela, Bhagwans trusted assistant and the former CEO of all things Rajneesh, is accused in the series of ordering or participating in a dizzying array of felonies. Among them: poisoning an entire town with salmonella; stalking and attempting to gun down the then-U.S. attorney in Oregon, Charles Turner; setting a local government office on fire; illegally bugging friends and enemies; secretly pouring an anti-psychotic drug into kegs of free beer, to help control the thousands of homeless people Sheela had recruited to the ranch; and then dumping those same homeless people onto the streets of Oregon after they had served Sheelas twisted purpose. Oh, and injecting Bhagwans personal physician with poison and attempting to murder him.

Despite Sheelas frightening rsum, the makers of Wild Wild Country hand her the microphone and walk away. They never question or fact-check her self-serving version of events, or ask what Bhagwan knew about the criminal underworld operating feet from his throne. Did Sheela order the hit on Bhagwans doctor to prevent him from killing the master first, as Sheela has claimed? And did she wiretap the ranch and read through all incoming mail to protect her beloved Bhagwan, or merely to keep a close eye on her many rivals and shut down dissent? Viewers are left to wonder.

Three decades later, sales of Bhagwans books and tapes appear strong. Most of his current followers have accepted the canard that Bhagwan was manipulated by Sheela, and was an innocent dupe all along.

Daras father, David, was one of them. The university professor who once wore ties and wingtips and had a Peugeot sitting in the driveway quickly forgave his master. For a few years after the commune broke up, he wandered to Nepal, Japan, Texas, New York and Guatemala. Then, in 1988, he confided to Dara, he had begun pining for India. I dont think I have to explain why, he wrote. Burrows would live with Bhagwan once more.

Until his death last year at age 80, the man who became Swami Das Anudas had few regrets, even if it had become clear to most outside observers that Bhagwans cult didnt offer the deliverance Burrows had sought from the cynicism and small-mindedness of the world. Whatever happened at the ranch, it was still a lot better than what was happening in the rest of the world, David Burrows once wrote to Dara. The harder something is to go through, the more you learn as you come out of it.

Jim Popkin is a writer in Washington, D.C.Follow him on Twitter:@JimPopkin.

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I Covered The Rajneesh Cult. Heres What Wild Wild Country ...

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March 24th, 2018 at 11:44 am

Remembering the Rajneesh – Local News – East Oregonian

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Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Journalist Wil Phinney, the current editor of the Confederated Umatilla Journal, worked at The Dalles Weekly Reminder during the time the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh started a commune near the rural town of Antelope.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Journalist Wil Phinney holds a prayer necklace that has a photo of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh he collected while covering the events at Rajneeshpuram during the late 1980s.

Gary Kopperud

Contributed photo

The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh takes his daily afternoon drive through Rancho Rajneesh in one of his 74 Rolls Royces.

Contributed photo

Followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh exult as the guru passes by in one of his 74 Rolls Royces.

Contributed photo

Ma Anand Sheela and her attorneys face reporters after a day in court.

Wild Wild Country paints a story as incredible as any futuristic fantasy flick.

Consider the following plot: A mystic and his followers construct a utopian city and paradise of spiritual existence in the Central Oregon high desert. All seems right, then things get sinister. The commune slams up against local law. The group co-opts a nearby town and eventually attempts to take over the entire country. Before its over, commune leaders face charges of biological warfare, attempted murder, wiretapping and immigration violations.

This twisty tale, however preposterous, is pure truth. The six-hour Netflix documentary chronicles the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers. Some who witnessed the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram share their impressions in the paragraphs below.

Wil Phinney

Every so often, Wil Phinney pulls his Rajneeshpuram box down from the shelf, lifts the lid and journeys back in time.

Phinney, now editor of the Confederated Umatilla Journal in Mission, worked for The Dalles Weekly Reminder when the Bhagwan arrived at the ranch. A shot of Phinneys byline appears in episode four of Wild Wild Country. Over the next years, Phinney visited Rancho Rajneesh many times, got to know Rajneeshee leaders and chronicled the cults efforts to take over Antelope and Wasco County.

This week, he lifted the lid of the worn cardboard box once again and started removing items one by one, laying them on a long table in the East Oregonian conference room. He fingered a beaded necklace he got from a homeless person who had lived on the ranch. Inside a chunk of clear plastic, the Bhagwan smiled serenely from a tiny photo.

He pulled out a diary neatly penned by a Bhagwan follower.

I felt on holy ground, she had written. I felt Bhagwans presence spreading over every inch of this vast desert, permeating even the smallest twig by the roadside, his love and protection encompassing every bird and insect and even every blade of grass and every rock.

Black-and-white photos taken by Phinney show scenes from the compound, Antelope and The Dalles. The Bhagwan taking his daily drive around the ranch in one of 74 Rolls-Royces. Red-frocked followers lining the road, kneeling and singing as he passed by.

In one photo, a woman mops the compounds huge industrial kitchen. In another, protesters from the embattled town of Antelope carry signs with slogans such as Free Antelope and Let Antelope Roam Free.

Aerial shots reveal dozens of large buildings and hundreds of tents brought in to house followers during the annual festival. Phinney pulled out several items he and other reporters discovered in the Antelope dump after the towns takeover. He held up a cork board with the image of the Bhagwan with a target imprinted over his face.

Phinney remembers the media at first thought the group would bring good things to the region.

Initially all the media thought these guys were great they were going to create an oasis at the (former) Big Muddy Ranch, Phinney said. Ill be honest, I bought into it.

But not for long. As the ranch grew into a self-sustaining town and steadily made moves to take over Antelope and Wasco County, he got concerned. Phinney reported some things that drew Rajneeshee ire. Eventually, he said, his name appeared on the cults enemies list. Rajneesh propaganda showed up on his car and front porch.

Sheela and other Rajneeshee officials proceeded with intelligence and knowledge of local law, he said, but finally they went too far.

It was all going according to plan, then they just got too arrogant and started pushing too hard and too fast, Phinney said. If theyd followed all the laws, theyd have gotten a lot farther.

Gary Kopperud

After the fall of Rajneeshpuram, Gary Kopperud returned to the ranch to rescue his favorite follower a large, orange cat named Popcorn that he soon renamed Swami. Swami later accompanied Kopperud when he spoke to groups about Rajneeshpuram.

Kopperud, who worked for Juniper Broadcasting in The Dalles and also shot video for Associated Press during the time of Rajneeshpuram, got a firsthand look at the commune as a member of the press. Kopperud, who now lives in Pendleton, said he watched the commune rise from the desert with fascination. At its height, he said, it included a 4,200-foot airstrip, public transportation system, creamery, restaurants, a police force dubbed the peace force, a mall, fire station and other amenities.

They were really on the move, Kopperud said. They had talented people from every walk of life.

Kopperud met the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his personal assistant, Ma Anand Sheela.

He was very soft spoken, Kopperud said of the Bhagwan. There was intensity and peace in his eyes at the same time. He was the spirit. He was everything to those people.

Sheela (Sheela Silverman) was a powerful presence.

When Sheela talked, no one else spoke, he said. She was not a person that allowed you into her space if she didnt want you there.

Kopperud had a close call in 1984 when Rajneesh followers poisoned salad bars in seven restaurants in The Dalles with salmonella as a strategy to sicken voters so Rajneeshee commissioner candidates could win an election. In all, 751 people got sick.

I was having pizza at Big Daves that day with a friend, Kopperud said. He had a salad and I didnt. He got sick.

That plot failed, along with another to bring busloads of homeless people to the area and register them as voters.

In late 1985, top Rajneeshee officials fled the ranch. For Kopperud, Swami remained as a reminder of the unbelievable saga. The cat lived to age 23. The Dalles Chronicle, Kopperud said, ran a three-paragraph obituary on his passing.

Kathy McBride

Many people in Wasco County dont need Netflix to know what happened when the Rajneesh and his followers came to town its still fresh in their minds.

This brought up some raw emotions, Kathy McBride said of the documentarys impact on the towns residents.

McBride, who lives in The Dallles, was the Wasco County Court administrative assistant at the time and was one of the people sued by the Rajneeshees for civil rights violations as they went head-to-head with the county. Her father was the county sheriff, and she said he felt the strain of trying to prevent tensions from erupting into bloodshed.

She has only watched a little bit of the docu-series so far, but she said in discussions with others who experienced the events firsthand and watched the whole thing, there is a sense that depth of the harassment experienced by Wasco County residents isnt portrayed.

After the county started trying to enforce land use regulations at the commune, for example, McBride opened an anonymous package at the courthouse to find human feces. Other times people phoned in bomb threats and the courthouse had to be evacuated.

Two of them would sit outside my house in The Dalles and watch my house while I was on maternity leave, she said.

After the county refused to register the 6,000 homeless people the Rajneeshees had bused in from around the country to vote, she said the commune pushed many of them out onto the streets of The Dalles with no resources, creating a major strain on the community.

McBride doesnt believe the Rajneeshees were all bad commune members did some amazing things out at the ranch with agriculture and art. But she said it was difficult to watch interviews with Ma Anand Sheela, who served prison time after admitting to orchestrating a variety of crimes, including poisoning county commissioner Bill Hulse nearly to death when he visited the ranch and spraying salmonella on salad bars.

I listen to Sheela and its like she had no remorse, poisoning all those people, McBride said. She almost killed our county judge.

She said in retrospect, listening to all of the attempted murders and planned murders that went on, its amazing no one died. She said at the time it was easy for people outside the area to say residents of The Dalles and Antelope were being paranoid, but later the FBI found evidence of many of the things they had suspected. The Rajneeshees were behind the salmonella outbreak. They were plotting to poison the water supply. The marriage licenses they were getting at the courthouse were part of a massive immigration fraud scheme. They were recording everyone when they visited the courthouse.

It was scary times, and Im just glad that people didnt die, she said.

Kricket Nicholson

Kricket Nicholson remembers the day Rajneeshees drove busloads of homeless people to town and left them walking the streets of The Dalles.

These individuals had been picked up off the streets of other towns and taken to Rajneeshpuram, lured with promises of food, clothing and shelter in exchange for agreeing to vote for Rajneeshee commissioner candidates in the election. When the plot didnt work, the homeless people were jettisoned.

They just started dumping them, Nicholson said. They dropped a busload of them a block from the Salvation Army and another at a rest area on the freeway.

Nicholson, now executive director of United Way in Pendleton, was a Salvation Army caseworker at the time. The homeless descended on the Salvation Army in droves that night. Nicholson and others spent the next few days working to feed the people and get them back to their places of origin.

The Dalles obviously couldnt handle an influx of hundreds of homeless people, she said. The community really came together and donated money for bus tickets.

Nicholson said the whole Rajneesh adventure left a sour taste in town for quite some time.

The Rajneeshees wore the colors of a sunset, Nicholson said. Nobody in The Dalles wore those colors for years.

Erik Hilden

Erik Hilden came into the Rajneesh orb in a most unexpected way. Hilden, a South Carolina teacher, grew up in Pendleton and went to summer camp near Rajneeshpuram.

On the last day of camp in 1981 or 1982, he waited for his mom to arrive to pick him up. She was hours late.

Eventually, a car pulled up the camps dusty driveway loaded with a bunch of Rajneeshees dressed in the colors of the setting sun, Hilden recalled. Those guys and my mom.

Hildens mother was bruised and bleeding. She had rolled the familys Ford Escort wagon during a flash flood on a windy road near Fossil. She had climbed out and tried to wave down help.

She said a bunch of ranchers blew by her, he said. But this carload of Rajneeshees, on their way to Rajneeshpuram for some giant Rajneesh festival, stopped to help. They brought her to me.

Hilden also recalled times when he and friends left camp and walked to nearby Antelope.

One year, around 1982, the Antelope General Store had become Zorba the Buddha, a vegan restaurant and hippy zone loaded with followers and other strangeness, Hilden said. That was weird. One summer, locals and ranchers, and the next summer, sunrise hippies wearing molded smiles and distant eyes.

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Remembering the Rajneesh - Local News - East Oregonian

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March 24th, 2018 at 11:44 am

Rajneeshpuram – Wikipedia

Posted: March 23, 2018 at 4:44 am

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Rajneeshpuram was an intentional community in Wasco County, Oregon, briefly incorporated as a city in the 1980s, which was populated with followers of the spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho.

The city was on the site of a 64,229-acre (25,993ha) Central Oregon property known as the Big Muddy Ranch, which was purchased in 1981 for $5.75 million ($15.5million in today's dollars[1]). Within three years, the neo-sannyasins (Rajneesh's followers, also termed Rajneeshees in contemporaneous press reports) developed a community,[2] turning the ranch from an empty rural property into a city of up to 7,000 people, complete with typical urban infrastructure such as a fire department, police, restaurants, malls, townhouses, a 4,200-foot (1,300m) airstrip, a public transport system using buses, a sewage reclamation plant and a reservoir.[3] The Rajneeshpuram post office had the ZIP code 97741.[4]

Within a year of arriving, the commune leaders had become embroiled in a series of legal battles with their neighbours, the principal conflict relating to land use.[3] Initially, they had stated that they were planning to create a small agricultural community, their land being zoned for agricultural use.[3] But it soon became apparent that they wanted to establish the kind of infrastructure and services normally associated with a town.[3] The land-use conflict escalated to bitter hostility between the commune and local residents, and the commune was subject to sustained and coordinated pressures from various coalitions of Oregon residents over the following years.[3][5]

The city of Antelope, Oregon, became a focal point of the conflict.[3] It was the nearest town, 18 miles (29km) from the ranch, and had a population of under 60.[3] Initially, Rajneesh's followers had purchased only a small number of lots in Antelope.[3] After a dispute with the 1000 Friends of Oregon, an environmentalist group, Antelope denied the sannyasins a business permit for their mail-order operation, and more sannyasins moved into the town.[3] In April 1982, Antelope voted to disincorporate itself, to prevent itself being taken over.[3] By this time, there were enough Rajneeshee residents to defeat the measure.[3] In May 1982, the residents of the Rancho Rajneesh commune voted to incorporate the separate city of Rajneeshpuram on the ranch.[3] Apart from the control of Antelope and the land-use question, there were other disputes.[3] The commune leadership took an aggressive stance on many issues and initiated litigation against various groups and individuals.[3]

The June 1983 bombing of Hotel Rajneesh, a Rajneeshee-owned hotel in Portland, by the Islamist militant group Jamaat ul-Fuqra further heightened tensions.[3][6] The display of semi-automatic weapons acquired by the Rajneeshpuram Peace Force created an image of imminent violence.[3] There were rumors of the National Guard being called in to arrest Rajneesh.[3] At the same time, the commune was embroiled in a range of legal disputes.[3] Oregon Attorney General David B. Frohnmayer maintained that the city was essentially an arm of a religious organization, and that its incorporation thus violated the principle of separation of church and state. 1000 Friends of Oregon claimed that the city violated state land-use laws. In 1983, a lawsuit was filed by the State of Oregon to invalidate the city's incorporation, and many attempts to expand the city further were legally blocked, prompting followers to attempt to build in nearby Antelope, which was briefly named Rajneesh, when sufficient numbers of Rajneeshees registered to vote there and won a referendum on the subject.

The Rajneeshpuram residents believed that the wider Oregonian community was both bigoted and suffered from religious intolerance.[7] According to Latkin (1992) Rajneesh's followers had made peaceful overtures to the local community when they first arrived in Oregon.[3] As Rajneeshpuram grew in size heightened tension led certain fundamentalist Christian church leaders to denounce Rajneesh, the commune, and his followers.[3] Petitions were circulated aimed at ridding the state of the perceived menace.[3] Letters to state newspapers reviled the Rajneeshees, one of them likening Rajneeshpuram to another Sodom and Gomorrah, another referring to them as a "cancer in our midst."[3] In time, circulars mixing "hunting humor" with dehumanizing characterizations of Rajneeshees began to appear at gun clubs, turkey shoots and other gatherings; one of these, circulated widely over the Northwest, declared "an open season on the central eastern Rajneesh, known locally as the Red Rats or Red Vermin."[8]

As Rajneesh himself did not speak in public during this period and until October 1984 gave few interviews, his secretary and chief spokesperson Ma Anand Sheela (Sheela Silverman) became, for practical purposes, the leader of the commune.[3] She did little to defuse the conflict, employing a crude, caustic and defensive speaking style that exacerbated hostilities and attracted media attention.[3] On September 14, 1985, Sheela and 15 to 20 other top officials abruptly left Rajneeshpuram.[3] The following week, Rajneesh convened press conferences and publicly accused Sheela and her team of having committed crimes within and outside the commune.[3][9] The subsequent criminal investigation, the largest in Oregon history, confirmed that a secretive group had, unbeknownst to both government officials and nearly all Rajneeshpuram residents, engaged in a variety of criminal activities, including the attempted murder of Rajneesh's physician, wiretapping and bugging within the commune and within Rajneesh's home, poisonings of two public officials, and arson.[3][10]

Sheela was extradited from Germany and imprisoned for these crimes, as well as for her role in infecting the salad bars of several restaurants in The Dalles (the county seat of Wasco County) with salmonella, infecting 751 people (including several Wasco County public officials), and resulting in the hospitalization of 45 people. Known as the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, the incident is regarded as the largest biological warfare attack in the history of the United States. These criminal activities had, according to the Office of the Attorney General, begun in the spring of 1984, three years after the establishment of the commune.[3] Rajneesh himself was accused of immigration violations, to which he entered an Alford plea. As part of his plea bargain, he agreed to leave the United States and eventually returned to Poona, India. His followers left Oregon shortly afterwards.

The legal standing of Rajneeshpuram remained ambiguous. In the church/state suit, Federal Judge Helen J. Frye ruled against Rajneeshpuram in late 1985, a decision that was not contested, since it came too late to be of practical significance.[11] The Oregon courts, however, eventually found in favor of the city, with the Court of Appeals determining in 1986 that incorporation had not violated the state planning system's agricultural land goals.[11] The Oregon Supreme Court ended litigation in 1987, leaving Rajneeshpuram empty and bankrupt, but legal within Oregon law.[11][12]

Dennis R. Washington's firm Washington Construction purchased The Big Muddy Ranch from the state in 1991. Washington attempted to run the ranch for profit, and also unsuccessfully negotiated with the state to turn it into a state park.[13]

In 1996 Washington donated the ranch to Young Life, a Christian youth camp organization. Since 1999 Young Life has operated a summer camp there, first as the WildHorse Canyon Camp, later as the Washington Family Ranch.[13][14]

The Big Muddy Ranch Airport is also located there.[15]

Coordinates: 444954N 1202906W / 44.831667N 120.484928W / 44.831667; -120.484928

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Rajneeshpuram - Wikipedia

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March 23rd, 2018 at 4:44 am

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