Over 30 years after it fell apart, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s infamous ‘sex cult’ is back in the spotlight thanks to Netflix’s Wild Wild Country.
Set up on a ranch in the Antelope city of Oregon, USA, that was later called Rajneeshpuram, the commune was at the center of a major international controversy back in the 80s.
Here are 10 notorious things that happened in and around Rajneeshpuram:
1. Bhagwan Rajneesh allegedly owned over 90 Rolls Royces.
A man fond of luxuries, he’d famously drive around the area in his favourite car while his devotees would stand on the road in massive cues waiting to catch a glimpse of the guru.
2. Bhagwan Rajneesh was addicted to drugs, as revealed by former Rajneeshees in various interviews.
He used drugs, particularly valium and nitrous oxide, on a regular basis, to deal with the pain of various health issues. And as shown in Wild Wild Country, Sheela had accused his doctors of providing him drugs much against her wishes.
3. Known as the ‘sex cult’, the commune was known to organise ‘drug-induced orgies’ in Rajneeshpuram.
Thanks to the guru’s ‘open’ views of human sexuality, he had already earned the tag of ‘sex guru’ back in India. And as shown in Wild Wild Country, Sheela had back then spoken about Rajneesh’s sexual relations with many women in the commune as well.
4. Headed by Ma Anand Sheela, a group of Rajneeshis allegedly contaminated 10 salad bars in and around Antelope with Salmonella, poisoning over 750 people.
This was done as part of a ploy to unfairly win elections against the local government by ensuring that a majority of voters wouldn’t be able to turn up to vote.
5. Rajneeshpuram was allegedly methodically wiretapped, for the Rajneeshees feared the leak of vital information.
Unknown to those in the commune, Sheela had established a secret listening post near the commune’s telephone center & all calls into and out of Rajneeshpuram were tapped.
6. Rajneeshees apparently arranged over 400 sham marriages to evade US immigration laws.
This was termed as the ‘largest recorded marriage fraud in USA’, one of the major accusations against Bhagwan Rajneesh and his commune.
7. After Rajneeshpuram fell apart, US police allegedly discovered an armory of over 100 weapons.
The weapons included .357 Magnum revolvers, semiautomatic Uzi carbines, and Galil assault rifles, along with tear gas grenades and barricade-penetrating shells for police riot guns, sourced from over 25 dealers.
8. Ma Anand Sheela invited over 3000 homeless people to Rajneeshpuram but without their knowledge, they were all allegedly kept drugged with Haldol.
This was done as part of a strategy to overthrow the then Wasco Country government by getting the homeless people registered as voters.
9. Ma Anand Sheela had also allegedly charted out a plot to assassinate then-US Attorney for the District of Oregon, Charles Turner.
Turner was, at that time, investigating the immigration fraud and sham marriages conducted by Rajneeshees. The plan, however, wasn’t eventually carried out.
10. Rajneeshees allegedly even planned to bomb the country courthouse in The Dalles using an airplane.
This was one of their many desperate attempts to fight the government, but thankfully, was eventually not carried out.
A wild, wild country, indeed!