When it comes to unhealthy interdependability, we’ve all got a story. Unlike our own poisoned relationships though, the story of Osho and Ma Anand Sheela was a whole lot more bizarre, and of way more consequence.
It all started with Rajneesh (he changed his moniker to Osho later) noticing the spunk in Sheela, and firing his then-secretary Laxmi to bring her in.
The Poona ashram, which was thriving and making money, was also at loggerheads with the government at the time, who wanted to shut it down.
Sheela, not one to take this lying down, purchesed a 64,000 acre ranch in Oregon that would become Rajneeshpuram.
Once there, a symbiotic relationship formed between Osho and Sheela. She became the sole point of contact between Osho and the rest of the Rajneeshees.
Osho depended on her completely, while she used any means necessary to get things done.
By all accounts, and by Sheela’s own admission, she loved Osho. Not just an enamoured love like his followers, but a deeply romantic and borderline obsessive love.
In one startling account, Osho asked devotee Ma Prem Sunshine to pick some flowers for him. A little later, Sheela came and offered her a cup of coffee. Soon after, she started feeling violently sick, and was whisked off in an ambulance. She woke up 3 days later.
Jealous of the attention Osho showed Prem, Sheela had apparently drugged her coffee.
During Osho’s 3-year self-imposed public silence, Sheela was one of the few people who spoke to him. However, when a wealthy group of Hollywood elites joined Rajneeshpuram, he started spending a lot of time with them.
Possessive and jealous of their proximity to him, Sheela had Osho’s room wiretapped so she could listen to his conversations without his knowledge.
Then there’s the crimes she was imprisoned for – Attempted murder, arson and the infamous salmonella poisoning of over 700 people.
Sheela claims Osho was aware of and complicit in all these crimes.
What we get out of this bastardly (if unconsummated) union is the perfect example of a toxic relationship. There were strict ultimatums from Osho, an unhealthy amount of jealousy from Sheela, and an all-controlling aura that automatically translated into something malignant.
A hostile environment is one of the key components of a toxic relationship, and towards the later part of the Rajneeshpuram saga, that’s definitely what had been created.
When Sheela overheard Osho asking for drugs from his doctor, she apparently ordered an aide to kill the doctor.
That, apart from being illegal, is also a massive invasion of privacy.
When Sheela ultimately fled the commune in 1985, all hell broke loose. Osho, finally breaking his silence, accused her of a plethora of crimes, and famously claimed –
“She is on hard drugs. Perhaps she is angry because I never made love to her.”
These kind of petty, spiteful statements are another key indicator of the kind of unhealthy dynamic 2 people should never have.
All in all, the spiritual but largely unholy union of these 2 was a burner waiting to combust. Toxic relationships are physically and mentally draining, and the story of Osho and Sheela was as toxic as it gets.