What ‘Wild Wild Country’ didn’t say  – 57 answers from a teenage resident

'Wild Wild Country' Media Watch WWC: Sannyasins reply in the Media

Dickon Kent, son of Veetasmi (aka Persephone) comments to questions asked of him about living as a teenager in Rajneeshpuram. Published in Medium on April 17, 2018

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Dickon in RP

When I was 5 years old my mother left England for India, a few weeks later she came back wearing red clothes, and a wooden beaded necklace (mala) with a picture of an Indian man in a locket. My grandmother responded with “But what’s going to happen to the children?”

Dickon as a child
The author around the time his mom and dad went seeking spirituality in India

That was the start of the journey that led me to end up as a permanent resident of Rajneeshpuram in central Oregon from age 12 to 17. Rajneeshpuram, or ‘the ranch’ as we called it, is the place most commonly known for the series of crimes that were committed, or the 99 Rolls Royces driven by the Indian guru who the city was named after - Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho).

Wild Wild Country is the latest of quite a few documentaries, news stories and books that talk about the ranch, Bhagwan (not ‘the’ Bhagwan), and the people who were in power  –  who were indicted by the US and state government, but most of them leave out the stories of the ‘normal’ people who actually lived there. Those who didn’t go there for any other reason than to be close to their ‘master’. Or the kids who went there because this was the life their parents had created for them. I was one of those kids, and that was my home.

The following is a series of answers to questions that were posted on reddit. Prompted by my eldest step-daughter after watching Wild Wild Country on Netflix, she suggested I do an Ask Me Anything (AMA), in response to the Wild Wild Country thread on reddit.

I’ve edited some of the questions to remove duplicates and in some cases expanded upon the answers I posted initially. And remember this is all my personal experience. I am no spokesperson for anyone other than myself.

Question 1 > How did most of the kids you knew view their time at Rajneeshpuram? Were you longing to have a ‘normal’ childhood / high school experience or did you enjoy it?

Life on the ranch was “normal” for me. My mom had been involved with Rajneesh since I was about 5 or 6 years old so this was all very familiar to me. I definitely enjoyed it as a teenager. I worked hard at my job, long hours editing video, building electronics projects (including the security system for Sheela’s house), setting up and DJ’ing at the ‘kids’ disco, and a lot of other things. It was really fun in many, many ways. I had good friends, good work, good food, and too many red clothes! We were like any group of teenagers getting up to what teens get up to. The context was just very different from your average American town… very, very different.

Question 2 > Do you think that things would have gone differently had the community had different leadership or if Sheela would have been less combative?

The ranch was zoned agricultural so just buying that particular property in hindsight was a really bad idea I guess. It was doomed from the start in many ways because of that, and I wonder was due diligence really done before making the deal? I don’t know the details of that and why this particular piece of property was deemed a good idea. Would it have fared better somewhere else? Perhaps… but ironically, one day Sheela came to the school in Antelope (during the short time I actually attended that school) and she was the first person I ever heard saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”… Whenever you give a single person too much power  –  whether they be a guru, leader of sorts, politician, god, etc. you give up your own personal will to a certain degree and forego personal responsibility. There are many, many things that contribute to success or failure of a group like this. In it’s essence it was a beautiful ideal, to create a sustainable community with everyone working towards a common goal, it just didn’t work out, and I am unaware of any other situation where it has worked! Perhaps a symptom of the human condition? I’ve certainly binge-watched almost every other documentary on Netflix that deals with religious groups and cults because I find it fascinating, and it was a large part of my life. And it makes me wonder why so many humans feel the need to follow someone or something so totally, whether it be a religious doctrine, spiritual leader, guru, or the idea that one god is better than another.

But I digress  – of course if Sheela had not been so outlandish things could’ve gone differently, but how differently we’ll never know.

Newspaper clipping
Most of us weren’t really very scary…

Question 3 > What was so amazing about Rajneesh? How did you view him back then? How do you view him now?

I was a teenager, so what was amazing for me was the energy of the community around him, not so much him. I was younger so did not really listen to what he was saying (even though I duplicated thousands of his audio tapes) and didn’t participate in the meditations. I was there because this was my life  –  not because I was a spiritual seeker (like my mom was).

He was “my master” because on the ranch he was everyone’s master. Once it all fell apart I did go back to the Ashram in India one time, I was 19 and I wanted to go see what all this was about, from a slightly more mature place in myself (like anyone is mature at 19). It was nice to see old friends, I was in Poona for about 4 or 5 weeks. I worked again at the Ashram, and I heard him talk. It was nice to see my friends, interesting to see Bhagwan (I never call him Osho  –  to me that name is propaganda to try and forget what happened in Oregon) but it didn’t reveal any desire to be a disciple or follower anymore.

For me he was a well-read university professor who was very good at combining eastern mysticism, philosophy, elements of religion and good jokes to create a compelling message that resonated with people looking for something different. He had a good brand, and I am not saying this cynically, he put together a good package at the right time to appeal to many, many people. This is undeniable. More and more people came to see him in India and I think he got swept up in the fame and adoration of all that attention.

I do not for a second believe that he was innocent in all that went on at the ranch. He may not have known about some of the details but there is too much testimony that implicates his collusion and telling Sheela about what needed to be done to protect the community. And she met with him every day  –  I just don’t buy the “I’m innocent” argument.

He had some good things to say, and obviously many people love his books and spoken word. But I think this serves as a warning to anyone who follows someone else. Whether that be religion, sect, cult, whatever name you want to give it. Take what is life-changing for you, and move on. Or if not, take what is life changing and then own up to the darkness and say, “Yes, this man is my master. And he has done some really messed-up things and hurt a lot of people, but I am sticking by his side because his wisdom outweighs his dark side.” Take a stand for what you believe in.

As humans we give up our own individual power too easily. I think there is something genetic that predisposes many people to want to follow someone or something else, perhaps a modern-day consequence of being 100% tribal in the not so distant past? I just think we all need to discern a bit better who and why we are following.

Question 4 > How hard was it to adjust to life outside the ranch after everything went south?

It was tough, I was 17, left the ranch on a cold Thanksgiving night with $25 in my pocket, literally that’s all I had with a few clothes, music cassettes and a Walkman. After a chicken-fried steak on the road there wasn’t much of that $25 left. Some friends and I were headed to San Diego with the plan of opening an under 21 nightclub (with no money, so it obviously didn’t happen – welcome to the real world). I’d never lived ‘outside’ as an adult (well, barely an adult) so this was my leaving home moment. I had very little formal education and ended up sleeping on the floor of a motel in San Diego for a few weeks until we found a condo to rent. I just had to figure it all out as I went along, so got a job at Jack In The Box, and then worked in construction, then repairing video machines for $4.25/hr. I guess it would be the same as a 17-year-old leaving home from anywhere else with no support other than from their friends who were in the same boat (or truck in this case), but with the addition of a red wardrobe that needed to be replaced!

Question 5 > Do you think the more wealthy members of the community were kind of the catalyst to the downfall?

When the “Hollywood group” came to the ranch you could definitely feel the tension between the old guard and this new group who seemed to appear out of nowhere. I don’t know this for a fact but I think again, Bhagwan was seduced by the representation of money and power that they brought with them. As Jane Stork says in the documentary – he liked shiny things. At this point though, with all the outside pressures we had they weren’t the catalyst, the ball was already rolling downhill. But they could have well increased the speed of the internal downfall especially as it relates to Sheela’s hold on power and adding to her stress and paranoia.

Question 6 > How were the meditation sessions?

Personally I only meditated once or twice, but I know a lot of people who really enjoyed the meditations. They were very freeing and meditation is scientifically proven to help people - it may look a bit crazy but the feeling is good and it helps you move energy within you that could otherwise stay stuck. And what a workout? If you did Dynamic meditation every morning you wouldn’t need to go to the gym. 🙂 The thing to remember though is that for us full time residents, we weren’t meditating because we were too busy working. Most of the footage you see of people doing Dynamic or Kundalini meditations were visitors, not residents.

I did live in a communal house of about 14 people in London before going to the ranch where Michael Barnett (I knew him as Somendra at the time) was the leader, before he was no longer a follower of Bhagwan. My mum did administration work for him setting up his groups all over the world. Each night at 6pm we had to meditate for 30 minutes. I hated that, an 11 year-old boy having to sit still for 30 minutes each night meditating, pure torture.

The Somendra family

Question 7 > How accurate is the show Wild Wild Country?

It’s pretty accurate in the subject matter it touches upon. There are some issues with the editing where they are telling one story but the footage is not so relevant to what they’re talking about. But overall it tells the story of much of the bad stuff that happened. Of course everyone who was interviewed has their biases. The main piece it misses out on though is the story of the residents, what was day- to-day life like? What were the real stories behind WHY everyone was there working their asses off 12 hours a day?

Question 8 > What were the teachings of Osho that made him so popular?

That I don’t know really as I was just a kid. From what I have heard from others close to me, and also what I remember, he was seen as offering something different to the lives that many people thought they were set up to live. He blended eastern mysticism, religious ideas, philosophy and personal growth in ways that were mysterious and exotic because of who he was, and this was the late 60’s and 70’s. Like any leader he had some beautiful things to say, and I am sure started out with good intentions… but things get crazy after a while if you have so many people adoring you.

Question 9 > Were there any drugs involved?

The only drugs I was aware of (after the fact) were of the poisoning variety! Recreational drug use was definitely condemned by the leadership on the ranch because it would not have been good for our public image, although I did know of a couple of instances where people had smuggled in some pot and quietly smoked that away from sight. A lot less harmful than salmonella though! Of course we did have the medical center, and I am sure a pharmacy there which hopefully was just used to treat the sick.

Question 10 > Did you not doubt the legitimacy of the whole enterprise? i.e How did they pay for this?

There were some very wealthy people who donated a lot of money, and some not so wealthy (like my mom) who gave all they had (about $30k in 1981 from the sale of her house in London). The commune received profits from a bunch of nightclubs in Europe that were run by the European communes, the sale of books and tapes, and people coming to the ranch had to pay if they were not permanent residents.

I’m still unclear how it was all paid for because we must’ve spent loads of money to build what we did.

Jesus Grove and Tent City

Question 11 > Do you still believe in the teachings of Osho?

No. To be fair I was a teenager and never really did, it was just where I lived, and he seemed like he was saying some pretty good things in his discourses. Like any spiritual leader, there was wisdom in some, or a lot of what he said – from so many books there has to be a lot worth knowing.

Unfortunately I often see where people take a two-hour discourse and then only show three sentences completely out of context in order to make their point, that’s not right. But you can never separate a man (or woman) from their actions. From where I sit he allowed, and even instigated, some really crappy things to happen to people who did not deserve any of it.

Question 12 > How much free love was really happening? Was that tabloid news? (I ask because open relationships have led to the downfall of other communities including Oneida.)

Like Sheela says in Wild Wild Country – do you pay for it? This was my same response when some teenagers came to the ranch from an alternative school in Portland for a visit. We had an impromptu Q&A on the bus ride from Antelope into Rajneeshpuram together.

But seriously – I know this is one of the most sensational topics and also the one blown way out of proportion. In Wild Wild Country there is an FBI agent saying that he saw people having sex on a bridge as he was entering the ranch; if he did then it’s probably the only time it ever happened. People were affectionate and loving in public, but not having sex out in the open. And what someone does in their own bedroom (or shared bedrooms as was the case on the ranch), well, that’s their business and nobody else’s as far as I’m concerned, as long as everyone is consenting of course.

There were people who were married, single, in relationships, playing the field, breaking up, getting together, etc. etc. Perhaps because people were less stressed about work and bills they may have been more promiscuous but it really wasn’t a sex cult. Sure there is footage from the “encounter groups” that took place in a padded room in the Ashram in India. This is a tiny tiny sampling of daily life that stopped once people started getting hurt. And as far as I know this type of ‘group’ never took place in Oregon.

Question 13 > How do you think that living in the community has affected your values and politics as you’ve gotten older? Do you currently follow any religion?

I choose not to follow any organized religion. I do believe that there is something out there tying us all together, but my feeling is that’s a relationship I need to explore for myself, with whatever that something is… and I don’t want any man-made (or woman-made) doctrine interfering with it.

Dickon's grandparents
My grandparents at their 60th wedding anniversary

Perhaps we are a product of our parents. Mine were both pretty open minded and sought out something very different to the way they were raised. My grandparents on my mom’s side were Quakers in England  – a very tolerant religious group. My father’s mother was a Jehovah’s Witness – not so accepting. My dad was the first in our family to travel to India and see Bhagwan when he was still in Bombay, before Poona. My father told Bhagwan he thought his ego was too big and didn’t become a follower. Then my mom went to India once Bhagwan was in Poona – she came back in red clothes and her mom freaked out.

I think the point I am trying to make is that politically, socially, and spiritually I feel I am pretty open. I know I don’t have all the answers and I also know that for me, life is a very interesting adventure. If someone has a better idea than I do about something, liberal or conservative, I am happy to listen and support if I feel it’s in the best interest of all people. I try and approach things with an open mind. I find the idea of religion too confining, restrictive and repressive.

Question 14 > Did you ever find out if you were being drugged? The homeless population that was brought in by the members admitted to drugging using beer served at meals, has there been any proof that this wasn’t done to original members as well.

I was not drugged and I don’t know why they would’ve needed to drug the residents; we weren’t causing a ruckus, we were there because we wanted to be, although Sunshine who was interviewed in Wild Wild Country said she was drugged  –  so perhaps this was only done on a case by case basis (that sounds awful).

There were times I was sick and I received really great care from our medical team. I was under age so wouldn’t have been given beer (we kids did steal some though from the fridges behind the kitchen – but it was in cans so not tampered with). And when the homeless people were given beer it was in a different area from where most of the residents ate and drank. We had two cafeterias at that time and I usually ate at the one named Magdalena, which was far away from the A-frames where the “share-a-home” participants were housed.

Question 15 > Can you explain in vivid details the things you remember fondly about the commune in Oregon?

I could fill volumes, but let me try and summarize a few things:

· Riding my bicycle home under the full moon late at night after working a long shift, after everyone else was asleep. It was so quiet on the dirt roads, except for the music in my ears from my Walkman.

· Dancing and DJ’ing in the “kids” disco  –  fondly called the Bone Disco

· Building electronic widgets in Edison (the A/V department) with a bunch of guys around also working on their projects. It was just a really fun environment with lots of fancy electronic gear to play with

· Teenage love

· Waking up early in winter and walking to breakfast at the cafeteria  –  I was always trying to make sure my hair would freeze

· Hanging out with the other kids and recounting the last Stephen King book I read at night, and doing my best to scare them (I don’t think I was good at it)

· Getting home after a long day and finding my room cleaned, bed made and my laundry folded

· Tea time in Zarathustra (that was the building where I worked)  – I’d have a huge mug of tea, 3 pieces of toast and jam, and then three pieces of toast and peanut butter

· The “Cheese Sandwich Disco” – That’s another article

· Anything and everything I did with professional audio and video gear

· And one of my favorites was working on the sand screw – a job most people hated because it was pretty arduous. You’d spend all day pushing rocks off this big hopper, and then scraping the insides so that all the dirt that was loaded in there would not cake up on the sides of the funnel and find its way down to be sorted by the machine into different size gravel and sand. Hot and dirty work but I loved it.

Question 16 > What sort of work did you do?

When I first got to the ranch I worked in the nursery (plants) for a couple of weeks, then I was moved to Edison which was the audio, visual and electronics department. I spent most of my time on the ranch working there. Initially spending a lot of time duplicating the cassette tapes of Bhagwan’s discourses, but that expanded to a whole host of projects involving audio/video gear and installations, and working on electronics projects. We also had a lot of VCRs on the ranch and sometimes I would have to go around to do simple maintenance on them. Some of the best times were when we had big festivals and lots of visitors because then there’d be plenty of work to do for the audio/video crew getting Rajneesh Mandir (our massive meeting hall) ready for live music and Bhagwan’s visits.

Rajneesh Mandir

Question 17 > Were you trained in firearms while on the ranch?

I was not trained in firearms, I was too young and it was only a select few who were trained. I do remember the paranoia though and at some point I started having dreams about crawling through the brush in fatigues (red ones) with a weapon. I had those same dreams for many years after leaving Rajneeshpuram.

Question 18 > What happened to Jane Stork’s husband? She was married with kids when they went to Oregon and then in her closing in the last episode talks about meeting her husband, presumably her second husband. I’m guessing it got lost in editing but it bugged me.

I knew them quite well because Peter (Santosh), Jane’s son, was my roommate and best friend. Riten (Jane’s previous husband and Peter’s dad) left the ranch when it all fell apart and eventually went back to Australia; they were not romantically involved in Oregon as far as I knew. I assume they broke up when they lived in India years before. I should know that since I read Jane’s book. Unfortunately Riten passed away a few years later in Australia at too young an age. So yes, by the time Jane was in Germany she was single when she met George.

Question 19 > Would you be willing to share some of the more memorable negative experiences you had there?

This is actually a tricky question because at the time, myself and many others were unaware of the level of crazy that was taking place. But, this does remind me of when the share-a-home program (homeless people being brought to the ranch) started. I remember a big meeting in Rajneesh Mandir (the name of the big meeting hall). I was on the video camera filming this meeting and my tripod was set up right in the middle of this new crowd of homeless visitors. It was smelly… but I need to put this in context, for the preceding 3 years we’d been living out there all alone, just sannyasins, feeling very safe, clean, mellow, everyone just doing their work and getting along. All of a sudden I am in a sea of homeless people, mostly men who were fresh off the streets of big cities all over the country, and it smelled bad. It was a surreal experience for me to be suddenly the minority. Not such a bad experience but a very different one.

The most negative experiences were when we got in trouble, or got called to Jesus Grove (Sheela’s house) to get reamed out. I was very responsible and didn’t do much to cause getting in trouble so it didn’t happen very often to me, but it was never pleasant to get told off. So again, not so dramatic.

The other thing that I remember not feeling good, and actually prompted me to want to learn some trade that I knew I could use in the outside world, was when I returned from Amsterdam after 6 months. I had been sent there as a kind of exchange program. I lived and worked at the commune in Amsterdam and worked in the nightclub we owned there –  that was a lot of fun. But when I returned, politically and organizationally a lot of things had changed on the ranch, that didn’t feel good. The only way I could explain it was that there was a ‘disturbance in the force’.

Question 20 > Do you think that if there hadn’t been initial pushback from the town that things would have gone differently and maybe Sheela wouldn’t have become as power-hungry as she did? The community and the ranch seemed to come so close to almost achieving their vision and it was so beautiful, it’s sad to think it was doomed to fail.

Technically it was doomed to fail as soon as that piece of property was chosen. You cannot build a city on land zoned agricultural, or perhaps you can if you know the right people… although something just occurred to me. The property is now the Young Life Christian summer camp. That’s not an agricultural endeavor and they have certainly needed planning permission to build all the structures they have, and apparently they got that permission with no significant planning issues. So is that because it’s a white Christian organization?

I think if Sheela had not been so offensive, and we hadn’t invaded and taken over the town of Antelope, it could’ve been more successful at least in the context of having less outside pressure. But like I said, the land is not supposed to be used as a town.

Question 21 > Just finished the series. Did your involvement go beyond all the legal battles? Curious as to how quick/slow membership numbers declined.

I left on Thanksgiving night of 1985. There were plenty of people still there after that. Once people started leaving the initial wave happened within a few weeks and then it was more of a trickle out. I’m pretty sure a small group remained well into 1986 but I am not sure exactly for how long.

Antelope Public School
The Antelope Public School

Question 22 > We drove through Antelope to get to Hancock Field Station this summer (I stayed in one of a few A-frames they got from the commune after it dissolved). Was the little school always as creepy as it looks now? Weren’t y’all pretty far away from the town?

The school was always a bit creepy outside, but when it was our school it was very cushy inside. In the upper school we had big comfy chairs and a huge conference table in the classroom. I didn’t spend much time there because once Sheela was visiting the school I told her that I learned more from working on the ranch, rather than being in the school. So we then created an Oregon accredited ‘vocational’ school called ‘School Without Walls’, which really wasn’t a real school but it allowed those of us who wanted to go back to work to do so. A smokescreen.

And yes, Antelope was far away from the ranch. I never understood why all the kids were sent to Antelope, other than to go to school there, but that was weird. I never lived in Antelope but did sleep there a few times because we built a disco in the school basement (where the city council meetings were previously held) so sometimes slept over rather than ride back to the ranch late on a Friday or Saturday night.

Personally I didn’t like being in Antelope (unless it was disco night in the school basement), and my ‘permanent’ room was always back on the ranch.

Question 23 > Thanks for clarifying! So when you say roommate, did kids not live with their parents?

Exactly, ever since I arrived on the ranch I did not live with my mom. I always shared a room with another kid, or kids. At one time I shared a room with four girls and one other boy my age (13). Some of the younger kids I am sure did live with their parents but I don’t know if there was a specific cut-off age.

The traditional idea of family was not supported by Bhagwan.

Question 24 > Who paid for the 74 Rolls Royces? How did members feel about this extravagance?

The Rolls Royces were paid for, like everything else, from donations, business dealings, money from other communes around the world. Some residents took issue with it, but if you truly did take issue with it that would be a problem and you’d get told off. Or it would be explained as a “device”. In Wild Wild Country Niren (the lawyer) talks about Gurdjieff’s teaching of a spiritual ‘device’. In the context that it got used on the ranch was that if you didn’t like something it was a ‘device’ that Bhagwan had created so you could work through your personal discomfort. To me this was, and still is, very much a load of hooey  –  very destructive BS. Too many things were attributed to just being devices that we had to just “get over.” But the common response to all the Rolls Royces internally was just to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Obviously in hindsight, I think it’s easy to agree on the fact that this was a pretty poor use of money.

Question 25 > How crazy was Françoise Ruddy?

I don’t know how “crazy” Hasya was (Ruddy). I personally didn’t know her that well and her reign was pretty short-lived at Rajneeshpuram.

Question 25a > Did you ever feel like the town or outside world was against the commune? Did higher ups like Sheela scare you guys into an Us vs Them mentality?

We definitely were in an us versus them position after a while, and yes this was reinforced by the position we took based mostly on Sheela’s actions, and apparently Bhagwan’s lack of realistic strategy that he told Sheela to take.

At one time we were made to watch The Trial of Billy Jack, which was a very ‘us against them’ story where a community was under persecution from the authorities. So yes, this was reinforced, that the ‘outside’ world was a dark place. Perhaps this affected us teens more than anyone else, because if you were older you would’ve already had your experience of life outside and made up your own conclusions.

Question 26 > I must have missed this during the documentary… but did the majority of the homeless population get kicked out at once? Or was that just a select few?

The homeless people started to leave pretty quickly for many different reasons. Initially they got tickets to go back to where they came from, but once this became too expensive things changed.

My understanding of the way some people were removed is pretty horrible  – being woken up late at night, told to grab their stuff, and then escorted off the property and just dumped around Oregon; this was such a crappy thing to do, not only to the individuals but also to the communities where we left them. Sickening really.

And many stayed because they really enjoyed life on the ranch. I’ve read some of their accounts and they have nothing but good things to say about their experience on the ranch  –  apart from the fact that they were brought there under false pretenses.

Question 27 > Thanks for this AMA on Reddit!! Also, I’m sorry for your loss. You and Peter must have shared a pretty special bond.

Peter was my best friend. We shared rooms together on the ranch for most of the time I was there.

Peter and Dickon
Peter and I, 1985 on a field trip in Oregon  – This was near the end of the ranch because I am wearing a white and blue shirt which would not have been allowed long before then.

The crazy thing is, later in life we both had brain tumors  –  but his was a different type and much more aggressive than mine. We lived together after the ranch also a few times in California, then he moved back to a beautiful part of Australia where he lived with his wife and kids, surrounded by a beautiful community of friends from the ranch who supported him and his family with love and care when he became sick. I was lucky enough to visit him for a week as his health was failing. He was a beautiful man.

Peter and Dickon

Question 28 > How would you describe your feelings toward Bhagwan at the time you were there? It seems as though everyone was instantly overcome with emotion and love the moment they laid eyes on him and I’m curious what about him caused that feeling in everyone, or if you didn’t feel that way, why not?

I have to give you the context for this  –  and make clear this is my personal experience, which is going to be different for each person. My mother had been involved with Bhagwan since I was 5 years old. And then she worked at the Rajneesh meditation center in London, so my younger years had been surrounded with sannyasins and pictures of Bhagwan. Many of the people I knew were followers/disciples, because this is whom my mom had come over to our house, so when I got to Rajneeshpuram at age 12 the people and the ‘vibe’ around Bhagwan was something very familiar to me.

There’s something that happens, when so many people are so positively focused on one person. There is definitely the individual response and that is going to be unique for each person. But that individual experience is fueled by the collective adoration, and as a 12–17 year-old I got swept up in that. So when he would drive by (which was the most common time to see him) I would watch him go by, smile, and almost wait for something ‘more’ to happen within me. I thought I was supposed to feel more, and I always wanted him to look in my eyes (I don’t think he ever did), with the hope that I would be ‘recognized’. Of course these were feelings I never shared at the time, actually I haven’t shared since then. Perhaps a kid just wanting to fit in.

Obviously I cannot talk for others, but for a teenager who didn’t go to Rajneeshpuram on a spiritual journey, but just because this was now where we lived, I feel like at times I felt that joy  – but it was more something made up within myself so that I felt like I was part of everything else going on in my “home”. And otherwise just the fun of hanging out with a bunch of people who were mostly having a good time.

Question 29 > How do you feel overall about your time there? (Happy/lucky/ashamed/mad/indifferent, etc) to be a part of the movement/era? Are you still practicing any teachings or in touch with people you knew from there?

I feel grateful that I lived there, and sadness for all the terrible things “we” did as a community, whether I was aware of them or not (I wasn’t at the time). Why do I feel grateful you may wonder, it’s a good question… because within the crazy it was fun, exciting, inspiring and I learned a lot. Sure there are many things I wish had not happened, but the awareness of most of that came in the aftermath.

I have quite a few friends from that time but rarely ever see them in person. I am part of a private Facebook Group of ex Rajneeshpuram residents and I find it fascinating how different people deal with this part of their lives. Many are still true believers of Bhagwan, which always surprises me. I feel like I am able to recognize what was good, and also be honest about what was bad. My feeling is that Bhagwan had some good things to say, he had to in order to build such a following. And at the same time he allowed, or even instigated some terrible, terrible actions. And it always makes for good stories at a party!

I could say a lot more about this but it would end up being my personal guide to how messed up using spirituality as an excuse is. Or how easy it is to use spiritual teachings as a way to live in denial.

Question 30 > What do you remember about the “street people’s” arrival? What changed?

It totally shifted the vibe on the ranch. Honestly I didn’t like it. I remember a big meeting in Rajneesh Mandir (the name of the big meeting hall). [See Question 19, ed.] I was on the video camera filming this meeting and my tripod was set up right in the middle of this new crowd of homeless visitors. It was smelly… but I need to put this in context, for the preceding 3 years we’d been living out there all alone, just sannyasins, feeling very safe, clean, mellow, everyone just doing their work and getting along. All of sudden I am in a sea of homeless people, mostly men who were fresh off the streets of big cities all over the country, and it smelled bad. It was a surreal experience for me to be suddenly the minority. Not such a bad experience but a very different one.

Homeless person

Some people who lived on the ranch still talk of this as an exercise in compassion  –  sharing our home, more hogwash really because the intention behind it was always politically motivated.

But, like in every situation there was some good, people did get care, some did decide to stay and it was probably healing for them in many ways. Being out in nature after living on the streets in big cities. I recently read a post from one of those homeless people and he was very grateful for the whole experience 30 years later.

Question 31 > What was the attitude towards your sex life as a 14–17 year old? I know they were very sex positive and open about sex for adults, but I wonder how that translated?

Hah, of course this is what people always ask about. Let’s just say that things were pretty open, but no one was having sex in public, which seems to be something that often gets reported. Teenagers do what teenagers do, so when the community is open about this there are just less constraints. Read into that what you will.

The negative side of this is people underage having sex with people they really should not have been having sex with. Like any community – sex was abused, children were abused, and tragically this was known and nothing was done about it.

Thirty-five years later I am still coming to terms with this, but I know for a fact I would not want my 15-year-old son to have experienced some of what I did.

Question 32 > What was your attitude towards non-Rajneeshees?

I think because I was younger there was a general wariness of ‘outsiders’. I left when I was 17, and when I was about 20 I met a large group of non-Rajneeshees in San Francisco and it was the first time since leaving the ranch where I consciously had the thought that the world is full of really wonderful people, and they don’t need to be Rajneeshees. I tell this because I think it gives some perspective on the conditioning of my life based on where I grew up.

Question 33 > Did you experience culture shock when you moved away from Rajneeshpuram? What was hardest to get used to?

Everything was new. Imagine you are 17 years old, and know nothing about life in America, all of a sudden you’re in San Diego, with some friends your own age and have no money. It was basically survival, and somehow it all worked out. I was always a good worker and very responsible so once I got jobs people didn’t want to let me go. I was able to survive, and remember I was roommates with friends from the ranch, so we were in this survival mode together. I had one friend who was American, and he was much more of an A-type personality than I was. I owe a lot to him from that time. A few times he made sure I was not destitute and really saved my ass.

Question 34 > What did you think of the documentary?

For what they covered I think they did a pretty good job. It’s an amazing story with all these twists and turns so naturally has drama, intrigue, suspense, etc. Some of the editing was very questionable because they would use footage that wasn’t really what was being talked about and it sensationalized certain pieces more than the reality at the time. I loved the music and hated the font they used.

Question 35 > Looking back on everything, what are your general thoughts on the movement as a whole? And do you feel that the whole experience had any impact on your life going forward?

It 100% had a major impact on my life. Prior to watching Wild Wild Country I’ve binge-watched about every documentary there is on ‘cults’. And I find that word thrown around willy nilly, because in my mind pretty much every religion or spiritual group is a cult in one form or another. But that’s just me personally and could inspire never-ending conversation, so I won’t go there now.

On the positive side I’ve lived through quite an interesting life, so when people suggest things that are new or different I feel I can look at them objectively rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to something being ‘wrong’, or unconventional just because it’s unfamiliar. We fear what we don’t understand… I do my best to understand what I fear. I have a lot of friends around the world, and while not every-day-close with many of them, when we see each other there is an incredibly intimate (not sexual  –  don’t go there) bond we share, a history we lived through and it’s interesting to see how everyone’s own reaction to that is quite unique. I would never call Bhagwan my master again, but I know people who are wonderful people who would, and do.

The commune was a good place for me in the sense that I was very responsible, so would be given as much responsibility as I could handle. This meant I got to work on some fun projects (I really enjoyed building the security system for Sheela’s house. It was a hand-drawn floorpan on a sheet of plexiglass that lit up with LEDs when one of the triggers got activated). I enjoyed sound mixing live music, and also filming and editing video. What 16-year-old gets to work with professional gear to do all these things.

But now I have a 15-year-old son, and there are a lot of things I would not wish for him that I went through. I rarely saw my mom. My dad didn’t live there but when he came to visit he only was allowed in because he knew Vidya (one of the women in charge) from England, she recognized him and said it was ok for him to visit me… but without her happening to be at the welcome center at that time he may have not been allowed in.

Maybe the lasting effect on me is to make me more wary of things revolving around ‘spirituality’. I think that word has been so abused over the years by so many factions it lacks any real meaning anymore. There’s nothing spiritual about an organization that hides the molestation of thousands of children (I’m talking about the catholic church, not Rajneeshpuram), in the same way that there’s nothing spiritual about poisoning people in order to have your political agenda succeed. The means to an end matters, and so much horror has been committed in the name of one god or another, it just gets me worked up and angry.

Question 36 > Thanks for doing this! I’ve read that one thing they did was try to break up nuclear family units. To what extent what this your experience? Were you allowed to remain close to your nuclear family or was it more like children are everyone’s children? And how did that affect you (if it did at all)?

The nuclear family structure was certainly not supported in any way.

I moved to Rajneeshpuram with my mom, and as soon as I got there my mom was moved off to her home and I was put in a kind of dorm room for kids called Howdy Doody. It was a converted barn from the original farm buildings. So in an instant my mother and I were living over a mile apart. Luckily for me I saw my mom every meal time for the first year because it was her job to hand out cigarettes, stamps, and make announcements in the cafeteria (Magdalena). But we never lived in the same building for the 5 years I lived there. And at one point I was sent to Amsterdam for 6 months, and I’m not sure my mom was ever even consulted about that. One evening an announcement was made and a few teenagers were called up to the stage area in the meeting hall. I was one of them. We were all asked if we had passports, and then told that we’d be going to Europe in a week or two (that was a great adventure).

The one thing I always tell people that still makes me sad today is that everyone would tell us kids how lucky we were because we had so many “parents.” We were “children of the commune.” The reality of how that played out is actually feeling like I didn’t have any parent. I had a boss, and I had people I would go to if I had gotten in trouble, I went to a cafeteria to get food, etc. but none of these people were my parent.

Question 37 > How did the other members feel about Jane Stork’s attempted murder?

I’m not sure how others felt about what Jane Stork did, and I am not about to make assumptions because everyone seems to have quite differing viewpoints depending upon what they want to accept the truth is, or not.

I’ve read her book, Breaking the Spell, and it really takes you on a journey that ends up in this terrible place of trying to support something you love, and at the same time being asked to do horrible things for it.

Someone turned this psychological dynamic into a TV show on Netflix called The Push. And within a very short amount of time this poor unsuspecting guy is being asked to do some pretty awful things, and he complies to a point. Of course that doesn’t make it right, but depending on your personality, it seems not very difficult to do.

Question 38 > How is your mum doing today?

Veet Asmi Persephone
My mom screen-grabbed from Wild Wild Country

My mum sounds happy every time I talk to her – she’s 85 and unfortunately has very little memory left. About a year or so ago I was on the phone with her and she said:

“I spent my whole life seeking something ‘out there’. Learning to try and live in the moment. Now with my memory I have no choice but to live in the present, all I have is the moment, ironic…”

…and then she laughed.

For me that is an incredibly powerful statement that speaks to how we’re all constantly looking for something else, something more, something new, even though all we really and truly need to be happy is within us. Obviously that’s easy for me to say, but much harder to actually live because of the way our society is structured, and the way we’re conditioned.

Question 39 > Do you member any of the (former) homeless people in the community?

Vaguely yes, but not in detail because I didn’t get to know them very well. There was an older man, Albert was his name I think. He was my mom’s boyfriend for a short time. She liked pretty mellow guys for the most part so I am assuming he was pretty nice and caring. I remember them mostly as a crowd, but that’s because they lived on one end of the ranch and I lived on the other. There were a couple of younger guys who hung out with the kids sometimes on the mall (we called it the mall, it’s where we had a couple of restaurants and stores ‘downtown’). But I don’t remember specifics about them.

Question 40 > Do you remember any individual with clear mental health issues?

No… There were some people I was wary of because I didn’t like their vibe. One guy in particular who was just too friendly with all the young girls. I never saw anything overtly abusive, but he was just too friendly all the time.

Question 41 > Police investigating the poisoning’s claim that people were openly having sex in public. Did they make an effort not to do it in front of children?

This is just not true. I lived there for 5 years and never saw anyone having sex in public. What they may have seen is some people hugging a lot or kissing, being very affectionate. That was not uncommon, but it was never full-on sex out in the streets.

Question 42 > It was reported that Rajneesh would present doomsday predictions such as a nuclear holocaust happening in 1990 and two thirds of the world population dying of AIDS. I also heard he would threaten to kill himself if followers deserted the commune. Were you aware of any of this?

I do remember the doomsday scenarios. We were supposed to build some giant caves I think in order to have a shelter for the community. This never happened of course but perhaps was the excuse Sheela used to build tunnels and rooms under her house? I never heard anything him saying he would kill himself if people left the community.

Question 43 > Was there any behaviour displayed by the homeless population that you found upsetting or shocking? Was there violence? Did they seem drugged to you? Thanks so much for this. The insider perspective is really fascinating!

I didn’t see the homeless people that much. I do remember being around when some were getting worked up about something, but I don’t know what.

I do remember people talking about fights breaking out and there being cliques at the nightclub where all the racial groups were reconstructed from life on the streets. Again this was just all so surreal after living out in rural Oregon with just other sannyasins.

Question 44 > May I ask what you do now? How is your life and family?

My life is relatively normal I guess. I own my own business, married very happily to a wonderful woman, have a 15-year-old son and live in Santa Fe, NM. For the last 20 years I’ve been developing and designing websites and applications. Before that I designed homes and before that was a tile contractor.

Funny story  –  my wife is my age and from Seattle, so she knew about Rajneeshpuram in the 80’s. A couple of years ago we were at a party together in Seattle and through conversation I had told some people that I grew up on the ranch. Later in the evening an older man came up to me and excitedly asked if I had been in Rajneeshpuram. Turns out he was the guy who bought the property, he said it was the best real estate deal he’d ever done but he’d never met an ex-resident in person.

Question 45 > What’s your educational background? Did the school outside the commune have any problem while admitting you?

I didn’t go to school after the commune (hence the grammatical errors in this post). I got my GED in California but then never used it for anything. I’m pretty much self taught in all that I do. I was in construction, tile contractor, and then started doing residential architecture. I taught myself to do CAD on a computer, and that transitioned to web design and business.

Question 46 > If they recreated Rajneeshpuram, will you go there again?

No, they have recreated something in India, in Pune. I have no desire to be there. To me the most spiritual thing you can do is be as human as you possibly can in your daily life. I have no interest in enlightenment, and I certainly have no interest in following anyone like Bhagwan.

Question 47 > Are you still in contact with people from the commune?

Yes, but not very often. I have some friends from that time but we’re spread all around the world. Sometimes we get to see each other, but rarely for me. Occasionally I go into some Facebook groups that has connected a lot of ex-residents, so there is contact in that way.

Question 47a > Do you know anything about the lavish gifts being presented to Bhagwan? In particular the 98 Rolls Royces? From what I could tell, they were considered beautiful/exquisite gifts for a teacher who was loved and revered for his teachings. But why so many? Was he really interested in cars? Did most of the sannyasins know about the cars, or was it a “higher-level” thing? It just seems so bizarre because it’s literally the opposite of sustainable living… even one Rolls seems incredibly excessive!

It was excessive, I think that was the “point” (see my note on the ‘device’ issue), but it was really silly, and yes very extravagant. I remember Shanti B (Jane Stork) at one point saying that Sheela said she didn’t want to show Bhagwan any more catalogs because he likes shiny new things. Maybe Sheela had a hard time saying ‘no’ to him… Honestly I don’t know the details behind those car-buying decisions. But you are correct in that money could’ve been much better used in the community, or even outside the community to try and resolve some of the issues we were facing/creating at the time.

We all knew about the cars, and watches, a very gaudy facade really. It’s really interesting thinking back and wondering when you are immersed in a group like this, and it has become your life, how much is too much before you truly question?

Question 48 > Looking back, do you think there was a way that Rajneeshpuram could’ve survived? A way the experiment could’ve survived, without the spiraling madness it kind of turned into? Watching the doc, there are clearly some elements of the commune  –  its environmentalism, it’s almost socialist approach to labor, its horticulture  –  that sound attractive to this day.

I mentioned this somewhere else but it was kind of doomed from the start because of the land use laws. That being said, if that were not an issue and we were truly just farming, and the inflated stories about sex were not there, and we were just doing some quiet meditation, perhaps it would’ve been acceptable. In the same way that it’s now acceptable for the land to be used for a Christian summer camp, rather than a working ranch.

Surprisingly to many people, there are things that I am proud of that we did there. We had a massive recycling operation going on. The farms brought life back into the land which Oregon considered mostly unusable, and I am pretty sure it was all organic food. The lake that was built prevented erosion and gave us better water management. The people who actually did this planning were really trying to create something special that supported the natural environment rather than take away from it. That kind of environmental planning and forethought is more common now, but back then it was rare.

Question 48a > Secondly, what do you think were the biggest blind spots, or missed opportunities, for the documentary? It’s hard to see where the narrativization occurs from the outside.

The piece they totally missed out on was the residents. The regular people, not those in charge or those with special access. There is a huge story to be told about everyone else, who came from all over the world to work together towards something that we thought was special and unique (well it was unique and special, just not exactly as we had planned obviously).

Early days on the ranch

I read an interview with the filmmakers and they said they had a lot of footage about the regular people, but couldn’t find a place to fit it into the overall story… My struggle when telling this story is always finding that place of balance, of acknowledging the horror, deceit, and abuses, but also championing what was right and good. It’s a hard thing to do and it’s very complex.

It’s easy to be an onlooker and take a hard position on one side or the other because you didn’t live it, you didn’t feel the positive passion that people brought to their work. On the other hand some people are still starry-eyed about the whole thing and cannot admit to themselves that Bhagwan messed up royally as a leader. I often say in many ways it was like a microcosm of the world in general  –  there was a lot of good, and there was plenty of bad. I guess it’s up to everyone involved to decide where they stand in between those two polarities.

Question 49 > Thanks for doing this! This is more just a matter of opinion I suppose, but as someone who was exposed to him for such a long period of time  –  do you think Osho believed in what he was doing, or was he a con man?

My personal opinion, he wasn’t a con man. I think when he started talking in India many years ago it was probably a genuine desire to share some of the wisdom he had learned from being a philosophy professor, and putting his spin on it. As happens with people from all walks of life, my belief is that the money and fame went to his head and he became spoiled and then greedy.

I was just talking to my wife about this, the process of me answering all these questions is really uncovering for me, how complex this whole situation is/was. It’s really easy to be a bystander and say, “Oh what crazy mofos these people were, and how can you do anything like that.” And it’s almost as easy for followers of Bhagwan to say, “Oh nobody ever understood us, so screw them.” Neither of those responses really moves the conversation forward, or gives a deeper understanding of either side. So without getting into some deeper philosophical discussion, I think if Bhagwan (I cannot call him Osho  –  to me that name is propaganda and serves to deny the past in Oregon  –  whether that is true or not I don’t know, but I knew him as Bhagwan and will continue to refer to him by that name) was a true humanitarian he would not have allowed what went on. There’s no way in hell that he didn’t know about it, remember Sheela met with him every single day to talk about the business of the ranch. For me he just didn’t care enough about people in ways that would’ve made our stay in Oregon more conscious of the neighborhood we moved into. And writing controversial actions off as just a “device” to greater personal/spiritual growth is complete bullshit IMHO.

Question 50 > Wow, thanks for the great answers. The reason this whole situation is so fascinating, at least to me, is that it started out so ideal, everyone seemed so happy and the collaboration of what was built in the middle of nowhere…well, amazing. Seeing the way it devolved, and so quickly, with the entire group being undermined by just a few bad actors just leads to so many questions. I definitely see parallels to other more mainstream organizations.

Thank you. ?

It was incredibly happy when it started, we were happy. As things grow they require more organization and that organization is really what enabled it to get as large as it did, but also a large part of what killed it because it was no longer honest. When I first got there we had a freedom on the ranch that was wonderful. We actually got some time off to enjoy the property, go to the lake, or just relax. The food was amazing, fresh and healthy. And then as it grew more regulation was put in place. Days off work were cancelled, and the food was not so special anymore. It was still good, but not like in the earlier days. But even then we still had lots of fun for the most part. Any community anywhere in the world is going to have its issues, but for a community of this size I think the internal issues with people were far less crazy than in a similarly sized town somewhere else. But clearly we made up for that with the level of crazy that was dealt to the surrounding residents, and Oregon itself.

Question 51 > I did not imagine you would reply to me. Omg, I’m sorry you guys had to go through that. I know it’s hard to divulge the negatives about your situation, but it would help shed light into the unknown for the masses.

I couldn’t find the original question to 51 that spurred the text above but it was something to do with sexual abuse.

According to this site: Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.

I went there looking for some stats on sexual abuse but in just a few minutes I cannot make a true comparison obviously. So yes, we had some issues with sexual abuse, not denying that at all. And I think those issues were much lower in percentage than in the greater population of the USA and many other countries. That does by no means make it right, but it does help put things in perspective.

Just over 3000 people were killed by the attacks of Sept 11th, a terrible, terrible event in our recent history. And by the same token last year in the USA according to this site, over 16,000 people were killed domestically by gun violence. It puts things in perspective, and without the correct perspective it’s hard to focus on what’s really important (I’m not saying 9/11 was not important, it was. I am just showing the data).

Question 52 > How much control did Bhagwan/Osho have over the commune? I know his talk of “doomsday” scenarios, but do you think the sannyasins would’ve followed through with them?

Hard to say. You saw in Wild Wild Country how far some people went. I think it’s totally plausible that we would’ve built caves and supplied them if Bhagwan wanted it so.

Question 53 > Do you think growing up in, and then leaving, a commune made it difficult to relate to people or groups after your time there?

I was kind of a shy kid, and this translated into a shyness once out in the world, so not really knowing how to interact with ‘regular’ people when I was younger, and because of my background I think it took me longer to trust in others, but once I realized the world was full of really great people (mostly) everything was fine.

It definitely has affected me in what I don’t want. I have friends from that time who like the idea of living communally again, I don’t want to do this. I mean I like the idea of some of the modern co-housing communities but I value my personal space too much to want to partake in that kind of lifestyle again. I definitely see the advantages of having a community around you so that you can give support and others can support you when you need it. As humans we survived for hundreds of thousands of years in tribal living, which is basically communal living. So I appreciate what it offers, from a distance.

Question 54 > Was there any talk of Jonestown among the residents? I know Sheela mentions it to the press but I wonder if it was taboo to mention among residents.

The talk about Jonestown that I remember was how terrible it was, and how could anyone agree to do anything like that. We spoke about Jonestown in probably the same way most people reacted to it, with horror and sadness. It wasn’t taboo to talk about. Maybe that would’ve seemed comical to an outsider, because they’re worrying that these crazy red people in Oregon could all drink Kool-aid.

Question 55 > This touches on a topic that I was really taken back by in Wild Wild Country, the footage captured during an encounter group by a German movie maker. That scene depicted a very aggressive and frankly disturbing event. Can you provide any insight into what this encounter group intended to provide or what the insight behind it was?

These ‘encounter groups’ were held in India, Poona before Rajneesh came to America. I don’t think anybody was forced to do these groups, but apparently some of them got pretty violent and then they were stopped. And I do know that people were pushed into having sex with people they would not have wanted to have sex with in order to move through their ‘limitations’ or some other stupid reasoning. That was messed up in my opinion. My mother did an encounter group when she first went to India but I never asked her about it in detail. Obviously some of the people leading those groups should not have done so because they messed up and people got hurt.

I think the base idea was to try and create an environment where people were stripped of any inhibitions or ‘hang-ups’ that were present in them because of societal or family conditioning. An opportunity to experience a very raw part of oneself. And I know for a fact that for some people this had been a very freeing and positive experience that didn’t result in someone else being hurt or abused. But, unfortunately, some less positive things happened also, and of course got caught on camera!

Question 55 (continued) > It was extremely confronting for sure. I understand this was probably a way to test the boundaries a little and had to be reigned in after they got a little out of hand. One of the concerns I felt watching Wild Wild Country was that seemly this commune would be an almost ideal environment for predators to take advantage of their surroundings and the open-minded climate that was promoted. Did you ever feel there was a negative sexual culture hiding among the free love mentality that was openly promoted? N.B. thank you for your answers. I hope I am not being too invasive.

You are correct, and some people did take advantage of that. Let’s say the sheep were easily there for the wolves to take, and people knew about this but nothing was done. But again I say that with caution, because if you put the sexual activity at Rajneeshpuram under a microscope, you kind of need to do the same in other cities and towns across the country to draw a comparison. I would actually be really curious to see what the data would tell us.

Part of my work in the last few years has been developing software that deals with the reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence  –  sex abuse is rampant in any and every community, rich and poor, don’t think it’s not, so were we any worse than anywhere else in that respect? I think not. I actually think if this was studied with the actual data there was less abuse on the commune (even though I know there was some). Because sex was not condemned as something bad I truly believe that decreases abuses, rather than increases them. This may sound terrible but one of my fervent beliefs of why many religious extremists are violent and/or crazy is because all those groups deny healthy sexuality. Whoever made up the ‘laws’ that a man must not look upon a woman was batshit crazy.

By nature, as a species, we are sexual beings, so to deny those primal urges in ways that cause repression and frustration is just not healthy for anyone. And the powerful energy that is sexuality has to come out somehow. I guess I took that one on a bit of a rant.

Question 56 > For me I think the strangest insight in this whole docuseries was the footage of the meditation ritual (more accurately the strange orgy) as filmed by the German film maker. Which showed a pretty disturbing scene. With such an unregulated existence sexual abuse and physical misconduct must have been rife in this community. What are your thoughts and what do you think was the strangest part of the whole series?

That film clip was from an “encounter group” in India many years before Bhagwan came to the USA. That never happened in Oregon, and the practice was eventually stopped in India also. Everyone always uses that one clip to explain the whole group. I’m not saying that what happened in those groups didn’t hurt some people, but it’s less than 0.5% of the overall story.

Abuse and physical misconduct did exist, but it was not rife, and probably not as rife as in any other American town. The statistics on sexual assault and domestic violence in the United States (and other parts of the world) are horrific if you actually choose to look at them. And it’s probably happening on your street.

Question 56 (continued) > A version of what was seen in that video is still practiced by sannyasins today, the only thing that’s different is you don’t beat each other. Forced sexual encounters still absolutely happen.

Well in all my years on the ranch and being a resident in the community ‘forced sexual encounters’ didn’t happen, as far as I knew. If they’re happening today (where, I wonder?) then that’s very sad.

Question 56 (continued even more) > Are you seriously going to pretend that a type of therapy practiced at the communes didn’t / doesn’t involve being partnered with someone you don’t like for a night of intimacy with the aim of “opening yourself up” (of course sex is optional at such times, but I say optional in the loosest sense of the word as peer pressure is pretty intense in the communes I’ve visited)? Are you going to pretend that aggressive sexual acts don’t ever happen as part of the dynamic meditation? I take it you’re male?

I am not pretending, and yes I am male. All I am saying is that in my experience with the group  –  from the age of 5 until I was 17 and left the commune in Oregon, I never saw or heard of something like that where people were coerced into sleeping with someone they didn’t want to, apart from in the encounter groups that took place in Poona before Bhagwan came to the USA. I may be wrong but I am simply stating my experience as most honestly as I can, and I spent time at Rajneeshpuram, a commune in the UK, and another one in Amsterdam.

Dynamic Meditation typically takes place at 6am in the morning, or at least that is when it is supposed to. I used to turn on the stereo system at the large meeting hall in Rajneeshpuram (some of the time, not all of the time) for Dynamic to take place, so was there before it started, until it was over. I never witnessed any aggressive or non-aggressive sexual acts during Dynamic Meditation between two people (or more). If Dynamic Meditation is done correctly it is a solo experience, you may be surrounded by other people but you’re not supposed to interact with them. Dynamic Meditation is supposed to be facilitated by someone, if he or she sees something going awry they are supposed to stop it. Those are simply the rules. If someone chooses to create their own meditation and not run it properly then I am sure things can go wrong, and that would suck.

I do know that Paul Lowe, who used to be a follower of Bhagwan and was known as Teertha, considered a “higher up” group leader. He has done what I would consider some really messed-up things in his groups, similar to what you describe above. I know his daughters, they’re wonderful people  – we grew up as kids together. And yet years after being on the ranch in Oregon and no longer a sannyasin, Paul encouraged the husband of one of his daughters to sleep with other people while in a group at Harbin Hot Springs in California (his daughter being back in England at the time with their child!). It’s documented in a film called The Workshop  – the description of which in IMDB says Paul is the guru (and I think that’s what he always wanted, to be the guru). That’s some really messed-up crap. I know of other instances where Paul did some shit like this, but it was after Oregon and he was at a villa in Italy… How do I know this? My mother worked and lived there.

Now, I am not the all-seeing eye, so perhaps you know something I don’t. It’s been over 30 years since I was directly involved and see no reason whatsoever to visit an Osho commune today.

May I ask how you know that forced sexual encounters are still happening today? If that’s true it’s a tragedy. But I would love to know where and when because I still know a lot of people who are involved with the Osho movement and I will tell them to investigate.

There was no reply to this last part of my response to the question.

Question 57 > Maybe I’m completely off-base, but if they were wearing clothes in those groups it wouldn’t have been that different from a Pentecostal service with people shrieking in tongues and rolling in the aisles.

Not off-base at all – every group has it’s helping of crazy… I’ve done some really crazy-looking things at times in my life. Screaming into a pillow, beating on a floor, jumping up and down in tears… But these were never about being subservient to a ‘higher being’ or communicating with another realm. They were just about me experiencing emotion that we’re conditioned to not show or feel. Personally I view that very differently to speaking in tongues, although the results may be similar for the individual of expressing blocked emotions.


Also read the reviews written by contributors to Osho News:
Wild Wild Country – by Roshani
WWC: Wired, Wired Country – by Dhiren
WWC: A footprint in consciousness – by Purushottama
WWC: The bottom-line – by Bhagawati
WWC: Zen cowboys in the naked city – by Harp
WWC: Wild Wild Here and Now – by Niyam

More about this docuseries on Osho News

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