Netflix recently released Wild Wild Country, a truly intriguing documentary on the fantastical journey of Osho's controversial 'sex cult'.
The show brought out the blurring lines between good and evil, intolerance and violence, and, morals vs progress.
And it introduced us to Sheela, one of the most complex and provocative 'antagonists' the world has seen.
Sheela was the one-time personal secretary to religious guru Osho, and now excommunicated former con living in Switzerland.
Born in Gujarat, she describes her first meeting with Osho as a 'transformational experience'. She mentions, at that moment, even if death came to her, she'd happily embrace it.
Her dazzling personality soon led her up the ranks among the disciples of Rajneesh.
But as her power rose, it would seem she came across as the archetypal svengali - domineering, all-controlling and inexplicably sinister.
Consider this - Sheela once had fellow devotee Ma Prem Sunshine (don't ask) drugged because she felt Osho was showing her extra attention.
She was literally drugging people she was jealous of! But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
As second-in-command, Sheela ran the 'City of Rajneeshpuram' (an Osho ranch purchased in Oregon) in the US from 1981 until her departure in 1985.
The local townsfolk, who were distrustful, conservative and highly intolerant, wanted these 'weirdos' out, which led to a number of legal battles between them.
When a hotel owned by the Rajneeshees was bombed, Sheela, a fireball at the calmest of times, was not one to take it lying down.
She had the members of Rajneeshpuram armed with more semi-automatic weapons than the whole Oregon County Police Department combined, and had them better trained too.
In 1984, Sheela inducted thousands of homeless people into the commune and registered them as voters, as a plot to win the Wasco County elections.
Things didn't work out however, and suddenly, Rajneeshpuram was overrun with violent and mentally unstable homeless people eating up valuable resources. So what did Sheela do?
It was said that she served beer laced with sedatives to the homeless, put them in buses, and randomly dumped them in and around Oregon. Obviously, without their knowledge.
Apparently, Sheela was also the lead architect of the single largest bioterror attack in the US. In 1984, the salad bars at ten restaurants were infected with salmonella by Rajneeshees, and about 750 people became violently ill, including newborn babies.
The salmonella was cultured at a lab in Rajneeshpuram, then spread in the restaurants through hidden delivery systems in the jacket sleeves of the perpetrators. The entire plan was carried out in order to incapacitate the voting population of the area.
When US federal prosecutor Charles Turner started investigating the goings-on inside Rajneeshpuram, Sheela reportedly ordered her most trusted aides to 'get rid of him'.
7 top Rajneeshees then surveilled his house, office and car, and even purchased the weapons needed to murder him. However, the plan never went through (though the perps were convicted of conspiracy to murder).
Ma Anand Sheela finally fled the commune in 1985 after a failed attempt to murder Osho's personal doctor, Swami Devaraj, which was allegedly carried out by an aide on Sheela's orders.
FBI soon invaded Rajneeshpuram, and investigations revealed some startling facts:
- There were at least 4 secret rooms underneath Sheela's house, as well a a secret tunnel.
- She had bugged Osho's room to overhear his conversations, and possessed over 15,000 tapes.
- She would oversee and read the mail coming in and going out of Rajneeshpuram.
- She was involved in setting fire to a county office.
Sheela was arrested on on 22 July 1985 and sentenced to 20 years, of which she served 2.
She claimed that Osho had been complicit in all her crimes, though this was never proved.
Today, she runs a home for the old and mentally disabled in Switzerland.
All in all, Sheela has been painted as a composite - psycho killer, insidious charmer, strong leader.
I'll never know for sure what she was, but I know what she wasn't: someone who'd silently take shit from anyone.
If you haven't yet watchedWild Wild Country, you're really missing out on a really intriguing story.