The Last Days of Rancho Rajneesh

Remembering Here&Now

Memories of the closure of the Ranch, written while they were still fresh in Viramo’s mind

It was cold, wet and blustery when I arrived at the Portland airport on November 14, 1985. As I arrived, Osho was just leaving. I didn’t know it, and missed his historic departure from America by minutes.

I had left the Ranch, where I’d been living since 1983, in January 1985 and returned to Los Angeles. In September of ’85 my beloved Ma Deva Liberty and I visited the Ranch just after the Mahaparinirvana celebration. The place was abuzz with gossip and rumor; Sheela and her gang had left that morning via airplane, destination unknown.

Osho arrested

The next morning in discourse, Osho delivered the first of many shocking revelations of Sheela’s crimes. All around me were looks of disbelief, as well as tears and faces filled with guilt and anxiety. Many sannyasins I had known for years were preparing to leave the Ranch immediately, and were looking for a ride — to anywhere.

We returned to our home in L.A. and followed the ensuing drama on television. With shock and horror I watched Osho’s arrest at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, watched him in chains being rudely escorted by federal marshals. After seeing the notorious jailhouse interview on a news program called Nightline — Osho wearing bluejeans, looking haggard, assaulted with ugly questions and accusations — I could stand it no longer. I wanted — needed — to be with my Master. On the morning of November 14, alone, I flew out of the L.A. airport for Portland.

After Osho’s departure, it was business as usual at the Ranch for a few weeks. Many were leaving but many more were staying, determined to keep Osho’s American experiment alive. The energy was high and we sannyasins, who could and still do celebrate everything, continued to celebrate. The disco was open.

I took a room in a townhouse and just hung out for a few days, trying to decide what to do and how to fit in. It was beautiful being with old friends again and just walking the sacred land. And yes, his presence was still very much alive there. I felt suspended in time and space, nowhere to go and nothing to do.

But as winter swept in with cold fury, other, darker forces were at work. FBI agents and other robocop types prowled the sacred land and invaded the offices and interrogated the residents. Reporters hung out at the mall and poked around for story material. The Ranch’s bank accounts were frozen and credit was cut off; we couldn’t pay our bills and we couldn’t buy food. Lawsuits against the Ranch and its many corporate entities piled up like snowdrifts.

Soon reality set in. We realized we had been dreaming. In mid-December a community meeting was held in a big dining hall in Magdalena Cafeteria, with Swami Prem Niren presiding. Niren, Osho’s lead attorney, talked about our legal problems, about cash flow, about the plundered bank accounts.

In an emotion-choked voice Niren concluded, “This commune can no longer continue.” It was officially over.

Then the circus began. Many sannyasins were freaked out because they had no money, having donated their houses and all worldly goods to the Ranch, or lost everything in the currency card accounts that Sheela had emptied. The challenge was to stay centered — not easy when there was a three-day wait to get in the travel agency and the scavengers were everywhere, snapping up bargains in backhoes and computers and bread-baking machines.

My centering exercise was to work as a cook and counterman in the “burgers-and-fries” fast food joint in the mall. It was freezing cold outside, sub-zero temperatures for days on end with eight-foot snowdrifts all around. Occasionally a reporter or state cop would drop in for a veggie chili burger and inevitably ask the unanswerable question, “Why did you people come here?”

Eventually all of our people were taken care of, and eventually everyone left the Ranch except for a handful of sannyasin caretakers.

One of my favorite memories is the vision of a fleet of huge semi trucks, each with a cargo of eight shimmering Rolls Royces, setting out in a caravan on a full moon night in the middle of a driving snowstorm, headed for the narrow, treacherous one-lane road that led from the Ranch to the world beyond.

The road to nowhere.

Text by Viramo — First appeared in Yes Osho, newsletter of the Osho America Meditation Center in Yorba Linda, Calif., May 1991 issue.

ViramoViramo has lived the writing life as a newspaper reporter and columnist, book and magazine editor, photojournalist, ghostwriter, PR/advertising maven, and science-fiction author. He took sannyas in 1979, and has lived in Osho’s communes in Pune and at Rajneeshpuram. Viramo currently lives in Sedona, where he attends meditations at Osho Academy and enjoys hiking in the magical red rocks. He is now working on the third novel in his sci-fi trilogy, and blogs as ‘Easywriter’ at Open Salon and at the ‘family’ blogsite –

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