Purushottama writes, “After watching the entire seven-hour documentary on Netflix – Wild Wild Country – the following poured out. Pranam to All.”
Does anyone, after hearing directly from the U.S. Attorney, Oregon State Attorney General, Bill Bowerman, and then there were those who we did not hear from in the series but have been documented in Passage to America, Edwin Meese (US Attorney General), Pope Benedict before he was pope (Joseph Ratzinger) and many more, after hearing from these people, does anyone really believe if we had been a little more good neighborly that they would have allowed us to continue? Perhaps if all we had wanted to do was have a communal farm for a couple of hundred friends? Maybe. But I am doubtful of even that.
Osho wanted to build a city/commune, a place where thousands could gather and meditate together. In order to create that space there was a lot of work to be done, but this work was to be done with awareness, with love. This was only possible because of someone like Sheela and her “gang” who created a protective shell around the community for the meditators/workers to carry on. Her job was to keep the forces that colluded from day one to close us down at bay long enough for us to finish the job.
You see, I do not subscribe to the belief that Osho ever intended Rajneeshpuram to be an ongoing, permanent community. It was as Osho has said about his community “an experiment to provoke God.” We were creating a “footprint” on the earth. A footprint of consciousness. Just the effort to create such a community was an opening in the consciousness of the world. It has been attempted before to lesser degrees and with each attempt it has moved the ball forward. But, this attempt was not scorning the use of science and technology. This attempt was not renouncing the world; it was an attempt that would bring Zorba and Buddha together in harmony. It would ultimately bring 10,000 meditators together into a city that they had created for themselves. And in that work of creation the effect would be that many of those who worked on the project were transformed.
But in order to create this Buddhafield someone was going to have to play defense so that the work could continue. Most of us inside the Ranch did not know the extent of the opposition to our very presence until the bombing of Hotel Rajneesh in Portland. And, this event was a wakeup call for Sheela too. If we were going to survive long enough to complete the experiment we would have to be able to protect ourselves. And the best protection was in showing the outside world that we were willing to protect ourselves and had the means. That was a language they could understand. We very publicly displayed our resources and even filmed our abilities at the shooting range. This was enough to create doubt. And in my mind, this is why nobody was ever shot at, no one was ever hurt by firearms.
In the Wild Wild Country series you hear Shanti B. describe what it was like to be in the meetings with Sheela and crew. They would gather around and problem solve. For example, we weren’t allowed to have commercial activity at the Ranch; okay we’ll do it in Antelope. We weren’t allowed to do it in Antelope; okay we’ll buy up properties in order to control the decision making. We weren’t allowed by Wasco County to carry on our activities; okay we’ll bring in more voters to the county. Where can we get more voters? How about the homeless people? Good idea and then we can do two things, we can help the homeless and elect our representatives too. They were just problem solving to the best of their abilities. All the while “running interference” so that the work at the Ranch could continue.
In life we have projects that we are working on, and if we are very determined, we try every avenue of success but sometimes we just have to know when “the jig is up” and let go. In hindsight, it appears that being about to lose the Wasco County Commissioner election was one of those times. Many will say that we shouldn’t have tried to affect the election with the Share-A-Home program and, that is probably true. But just as it is one-sided to talk of the benefits of the program (bringing homeless off the street, exposing street people to meditation, giving a sense of self-worth to those who felt abandoned, etc.), without talking about the well-known ill effects, so too is it one-sided to ignore the benefits. By the way, yes, there were some who were forcibly removed but there were also some who remained to the very end, long after many of us had found new homes.
But, clearly, when we were not able to affect the election with our new found comrades then, that was the time to realize we had done all that we could do. And, Sheela should have been willing to let go of her position if that is what it meant. It is interesting that Osho decided to begin giving discourses again the very night we had a voter rally with the homeless. I think he knew “the jig was up.” We would be able to continue with the momentum created for just one more year.
Now, how to unwind this experiment that many had mistakenly thought was a permanent utopian dream?
Fortunately, Sheela provided the answer for most of that too. It was her own unwillingness to accept defeat, to let go of power, that would be the means for unwinding the commune. The crimes that were committed in order to hang on to power were the means to allow the forces to extinguish the experiment. But the experiment had already succeeded. We had already created a city of 10,000 meditators. We created a beautiful eco-friendly community in the desert. And, in the process, all of us were transformed in varying degrees. It was time to let go.
Osho saw the situation and very wisely left the Ranch which avoided the confrontation that the Oregon National Guard, FBI, State Police and local law enforcement feared.
Osho returned to India after a few stops along the way. Many sannyasins joined him there to listen to his talks for a couple more years. (He still had a few things to say.) Others took whatever light that had been ignited in “the experiment” and went out into the “marketplace.”
Do you really think that if it had been someone different in Sheela’s place the result would have been better? Personally, I doubt it.
It goes without saying that none of this would have taken place without Osho. I bow down. But, perhaps, what is not so obvious, is that each and every actor is essential in this play.
So I bow down to everyone who participated in whatever way you did and I don’t exclude anyone. Everyone played their part, which includes the residents, the RHT workers, the festival workers, all of the visitors, those that stayed and those that left, those who never managed to make it to the Ranch and those that stayed to the very end. And how can I bow down to Sheela and her crew without also bowing down to the residents of Antelope and Wasco County, the government officials, and the Rajneesh Hotel bomber, because without any of you there may not be that “footprint of consciousness” in the Oregon desert.
Purushottama is a regular contributor
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