Anand, Ma Sheela has lived a life of controversy, and her life, choices, and association with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, have sparked a great deal of interest and speculation over the years. While a long time had passed since the controversies, two Netflix documentaries, ‘Wild Wild Country’ and ‘Searching for Sheela,’ brought her back into the spotlight. The latter was produced by Karan Johar, and Sheela returned to India after a 34-year absence.
Ma Sheela recently opened up about her life in an exclusive interview with Chirantana Bhatt of Gujarati Mid-Day.com. The following are some excerpts from the interview. But first, a brief introduction to the enigmatic woman.
Who exactly is Ma Anand Sheela?
Ma Anand Sheela was born Sheela Ambalal Patel before becoming a cult icon. She was born in the Gujarat city of Vadodara in 1949. From 1981 to 1985, she was the Rajneesh movement’s spokeswoman and Osho’s secretary. She was rumoured to be the woman who persuaded Osho to flee India. In 1981, the cult established its first international base. Rajneeshpuram was the name of the city, and Sheela was in charge of the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, California.
Ma Sheela, on the other hand, had a falling out with Osho. She was charged with a Bioterrorist attack in 1984. Hundreds of people became ill after eating salmonella, and Sheela was accused of sprinkling the bacteria on salad bars in a number of restaurants. There were increasing cases of conflict between the ashram and local residents, as well as the Wasco County Commission, and it was alleged that Sheela tried to make people sick so that they would be unable to vote in the Wasco County Court election in November. She fled to Europe in 1985 and was finally apprehended in West Germany in October 1986. She was also accused of wiretapping the ashram and robbing the cult of $55 million.
Ma Anand Sheela was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a variety of crimes, including attempted murder, wiretapping, and mass poisoning, for which she pleaded guilty in 1986 and was sentenced. She was, however, released on parole for good behaviour after serving 39 months in prison.
Osho publicly condemned her, accusing her of the crimes, but Sheela maintains her love for Rajneesh to this day.
Ma Anand Sheela now runs two nursing homes in Switzerland for the elderly who suffer from mental illnesses.
The following are excerpts from the interview published on Gujarati Mid-Day.com.
‘There is no sense of guilt.’
Both guilt and liberation are two sides of the same coin, and neither applies to me.
Most people live in a state of tension between freedom and guilt.
Someone asked how I react when I feel guilty, but I don’t feel guilty. I do what I have to do the way I want to do it, whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or any philosophical endeavour. I do and say what I intend. Only when there is no sense of guilt can a person move on.
‘All I have felt for Bhagwan is love, honour, respect, and gratitude.’
I adored him and continue to do so.
Love and sex are not the same thing.
When I think of Bhagwan (Osho), I never, ever associate my emotions with a sexual feeling.
Bhagwan has only inspired me with love, honour, respect, and gratitude.
I simply fell in love, as any young girl would.
When people fall in love, they don’t think about anything; they don’t use their brains. It makes no difference whether it’s hormones or not. I was in love, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Love has no expectation, and if it does, it is not love. Then it’s a business transaction: you do it for me, and I do it for you.
What he said (against her after their fallout) was his choice, and only he knows why.
He has always told me not to worry about whether or not he is following what he has learned, but he has always wanted me to learn from him. I completely adhered to Bahgwan’s instructions.
Love, life, laughter, and acceptance – these are the values I learned from Bhagwan and continue to live by to this day.
‘I don’t want people to remember me.’
I don’t care if people remember me.
People can choose how they want to address or call me, and they can choose how they want to remember me. You see me as I am, and you must make sense of my life based on your own life experiences and form your own point of view.
‘I learned the value of time spent in prison.’
The experience I gained in prison taught me the value of time as well as patience.
We fail to understand the value of time in our daily lives, which is why we are stressed.
I waited 39 months to be released from prison, and it changed my perspective on time.
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic
For my part, I see it very practically.
My first analysis is that COVID is much larger than we think it is, so we must consider how to deal with a monster larger than me.
My only piece of advice is to use your intelligence when you can’t avoid circumstances, accept them, and use this opportunity to become your own special friend.
After you understand this, your social life will take on a new meaning, and you will no longer feel lonely.
Nature has provided you with this opportunity to become acquainted with yourself.
We need a social life when we get bored with ourselves, so don’t get bored with yourself.
‘Do not be helpless.’
I want to encourage all young people to think about the beauty they have within themselves, as well as the beauty they see around them, and to not be helpless in any way. In life, there is both sunlight and shade. Live your life as much as possible in the sun. When you’re 72, like me, you’ll look back on your life and realise it wasn’t so bad after all.