My Take on the Netflix Documentary “Wild Wild Country” and Osho
I just finished watching the six-part series of the Wild Wild Country, a gripping Netflix docudrama on the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram. The event takes place in the wild barren and harsh rocky terrains of Oregon County in the US. The drama examines the entire story. It is beautifully pieced together through the interviews of key people involved in Bhagwan Rajneesh’s Jeevan Jagruti Andolan. This was a spiritual revolution that was spearheaded by Rajneesh, a popular spiritual leader and a cult figure in India.
With more than 30,000 active working sanyasis and 5,00,000 followers internationally, Rajneesh came to be known as OSHO. He sparked the movement to raise human consciousness through meditation, breathing, yoga and other healing physiotherapies. Osho looked like a man born to be a guru. He had sharp deep piercing eyes and a long flowing beard. Rajneesh also had a broad forehead that shone like that of an enlightened saint.
He established an ashram in Pune which soon grew due to thousands of foreign spiritual seekers who would throng to listen to Rajneesh. His words made sense to them and so did his method of sannyasa which was the search for the true self, freedom and highest potential. OSHO was mesmerising in his talks and was a man of highest intellectual ability. His advocacy of love, free sex and complete freedom was often seen as a threat to the more conservative moral majority of India. He became labelled as the sex baba. Charges of tax evasion finally drove Bhagwan to look for his own oasis where he could build his dream community. He wanted to build his version of utopia and had an idea of what the ‘new man’ should be like. He called this new man Zorba the Buddha.
Enter Ma Anand Sheela
Ma Anand Sheela was the Bhagwan’s intelligent, determined and focused secretary. Her task was to find the suitable place where the OSHO community could settle. OSHO could build his version of the perfect utopian city which old ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle and Plato once dreamed of – a free open sharing society which will give birth to the new man, Zorba the Buddha. The docudrama begins with the building of the Oregon ranch into a full-fledged city which could house 50,000 people. Farmlands were reclaimed and water cables were reopened so that the community could do organic farming to sustain themselves. They had schools, labs, dining halls, meditation halls, therapy centres and huge boutiques selling Bhagwan merchandise. They used to have summer festivals where people would sunbathe in the nude. In the ashram, sex was as free as can be.
The problem started when the local Oregonians had been outnumbered. They believed Rajneeshpuram was run by a satanic cult. The Oregonians tried to resist this takeover of their city into Rajneeshpuram but they lost the vote. Rajneeshpuram was incorporated as a city with its own police, lawyers and mayors. They also had their own representatives in the local council. They started buying the local housing cheaply and converted the old local diner into a salad bar run. Soon they ran the entire place. They sang and danced with joy and participated in mind control techniques. It was a way of chaotic breathing that will numb the mind in a state of ‘no mind’.
I must say it was pretty lunatic stuff watching half-naked people do a form of Zulu dance and then go silent for long periods of time.
The media loved it. It was a treat and a unique spectacle of Indian spirituality and mysticism which was laid out in the open. The Bhagwan, always immaculately dressed, would dance with the followers and then put them in a trance through his talks and logic about the ways of the world. He was pulling followers from all over the world. More the intrigue and the controversy, the more attention the Rajneeshis got and they lapped it. Sheela came across as the high priestess of the flower power version of the Ku Klux Klan.
That is how I saw the OSHO cult. She came across as a feisty and tough lady with a strong sense of right and wrong. She loved the media attention and was invited on talk shows, major news shows and a lot of press lapped her up. There was her naked picture on the centrefold of a German magazine called Stern. Her famous comment was “Tough Titties” when she openly proclaimed that the community was here to stay and carry out their spiritual movement.
These confrontations with the local community and Christian folks turned violent.
The local vigilante groups picked up guns to threaten the commune. The Rajneeshis retaliated by forming their own private army laced with the latest automatic guns and rifles. They called them peace wars. The popularity of OSHO skyrocketed. He was now on 60 Minutes and guys like Christopher Hitchens were doing a documentary and writing books about him and his commune.
Sheela ran the commune with her authority and leadership but the state decided to get the cult and its leadership. They retaliated with Salmonella Poisoning in the salad bars of Oregon city. They tried to poison the water system and dams that provided for the old aged local community. Along with all the meditation and breathing techniques, OSHO’s peace army started practising shooting guns at the ranch and got good at it.
These were beautiful people taking law in their own hands as an act of self-defence.
Finally, arrest warrants were issued. The authorities with the help of armed guards and police moved in to take over the ranch and the commune. Sheela fled the city and OSHO flew away in his private plane. They finally nabbed him in a local airport when they stopped for refuelling. It was a tense and gripping drama which lead to the fall of the movement and decimation of its top leadership. OSHO plea bargained and was asked to leave the country and never return. Ma Anand Sheela spent a few years in the prisons of Switzerland and Germany.
The Bhagwan continued his movement from his ashram in Pune. He died due to ailments and failing health. Rajneesh was well aware that he had less time and his enemies wanted to depart his body. He died peacefully and his death is celebrated just the way he would have wanted – with joyful singing, dancing and loving.
Wild Wild Country captures the entire movement and the story with elan and great detail. Everyone gets a chance to express their views and emotions, even the local residents of Oregon. In the end, it was a dramatic fall for what an American lawmaker describes the Ayatollah Khomeini of the east. “That’s what he was – the Ayatolla. He had a negative and an almost satanic vibration coming from him.” The last scene is Ma Anand Sheela telling the press, “It’s bad luck for the people of Oregon that they could not understand the Bhagwan and his teachings. It reflects on their ignorance.” In the end, Sheela stole the show and came across as strong as the Bhagwan himself.