Articles / Review

Wild Wild Country, Netflix

Osho, a name synonymous with spirituality and philosophy, far removed from the orthodoxy of religions, propagating the doctrines of love, trust and bliss among individuals.

Yes, this is what I believed in ever since I read his short books and listened to his discourses available on Youtube. I was enamored by his speech, his command on the intricacies of life, his simple yet deep meanderings into human heart.

But this weekend I watched a documentary, a docuseries to be precise. Titled “Wild Wild Country”, six episodes of one hour duration, a Netflix Original. And, it changed my perspective overnight!

 

The docu series traces the time period of 1981 to 1985, when Osho, then known as Bhagwan Rajneesh, entered America’s Wasco County, with the dreams of creating a new society, a new man, based on love, trust and happiness.

The dream was utopian and the architect of that dream, Ma Anand Sheela, an ambitious, hardcore cultist. The location chosen was a 6500 acre ranch in the Antelope Village.

Sheela in young age with Osho

Despite demographic serenity and freedom of America, the locals there were orthodox and reserved. They didn’t like the influx of Red robed cult, overtaking their sleepy area. From the very beginning, Ma Anand Sheela ran into skirmishes with the locals. She handled them with whip and money, somehow trying to bring her master’s dream into fruition.

In the initial three episodes of Wild Wild Country, I saw the ruthlessness and arrogance of Sheela fighting head on with the ignorant wrath of the original residents. I could see that they were engaged in a pointless battle, fearful of the strangeness of the so called cult and Sheela was unfairly hard on them.

Both the sides were behaving childishly, and my prominent thought was, why Osho agreed to this stupidity. I have been an ardent fan of his presence of mind and knowledge and despite the blames hurled onto him for advocating free sex, I never for once doubted that he was a learned man. I expected him to do something and bring about peace.

But, as I continued watching, things went from bad to worse. A mute Osho, then called Bhagwan looked on, as his disciple/ spokesperson Sheela indulged in dictatorial behavior. She even brought homeless people from various parts of Oregon state to Rajneeshpuram, in an effort to buy their votes and win Wasco County election. And when her target couldn’t be fulfilled, she simply dumped them in the nearby town!

It was one of the grossest acts I have ever seen. She not only risked the health and sanity of her own people but also put the other residents of Oregon and neighboring town under threat from penniless people, predominantly beggars and criminals. She was suspected of poisoning the entire town with Salmonella as well!

Sheela did all this in the name of propagating a new religion Rajneeshism, where love and trust were the main doctrines! What an irony! Her own sense of love and trust was totally lost on me. But still I believed that somehow her “Bhagwan” was not involved and one day, he will clear the rumors by taking things into his own hands.

Ma Anand Sheela

Osho did break his silence and put an end to Sheela’s devilry. But, it happened in the diametrically opposite way. Osho opened his mouth only when Sheela and her accomplices ran away. He simply dumped all the blame onto them, trying to prove that he wasn’t involved in any scandals by publicly humiliating his own ex secretary and trusted partner and accomplice.

From this moment, I began to lose respect for Osho. A person’s real character shows through in hard times. He, who always lectured on inner strength and acceptance of good and bad, was now badmouthing Sheela, his rumored beloved and mouth siren. The way he shifted all the blames on her, made me suspicious of his own role as a Guru, as a master, as a Bhagwan.

He stooped even lower, by saying that Sheela was cross as he didn’t make love to her. He ordered her robes to be burnt, and the same was done by Ma Hasya, his new Hollywood Secretary, in a mocking, audacious manner.

To make matters worse, the moment Federal forces concentrated on him, Osho choose to sneak out in a jet, leaving behind thousands of disciples in Rajneeshpuram!

For a man of million words, his action reflected rather poorly. In the final episode, he is shown making a compromise with FBI and running back to Poona, changing his name to Osho from Rajneesh. And then change strategies, once again doling out therapies and philosophical brouhaha to superstitious blindly trusting people!

The docu series is an eye-opener for me. Any Guru/Cult leader/Philosopher can preach but to put those ideals or doctrines into action, remains a humongous task, where most of them fail. And they get finally reduced to a salesman selling his own brand of love, trust, bliss, joy, heaven, empty promises and impossible dreams to gullible people! Osho proved to be no different.

A well made series, I must say, Wild Wild Country is!

Anupama Sarkar

2 Comments

  1. Deependra Baghel says:

    Quite a well written piece. I also developed the similar aversion towards Rajneesh. Earlier , I too was also an admirer of him in a such a hypocritic civilization of us . I always felt Rajneesh was a great rebel and a radical for he could contest the orthodoxies. But , his spouting out venom against Aanadmai is so obnoxious that it clearly shows that how mean he had become in his preshit of power.

  2. Anupama Sarkar says:

    Thank you Deependra Baghel ji. Perhaps that’s why they say adverse times are the litmus test of one’s character. And Rajneesh failed. His power lay in his speech, his ability to entice people with words. And yet ironically it was his spiteful words uttered against his own disciples that brought about his fall.

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