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I Went To Bhagwan For I Fell In Love With Him: Ma Anand Sheela

At the BW Dialogue organised in association with Humans for Humanity and Sipping Thoughts, Ma Anand Sheela, candidly recounted her feelings for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and the despair she subsequently felt for the spiritual guru.

Photo Credit : Himanshu Kumar

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Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld, Dr Annurag Batra, introduced  Ma Anand Sheela as a “traveler” to the eager listeners who had travelled long distances from various parts of India to hear her speak. Dr Batra explained that the journey of the one-time associate of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had been “authentic”, metaphorical though it was, for it had involved “travelling through a lot of emotions”. 

At the BW Dialogue organised in association with Humans for Humanity and Sipping Thoughts, Ma Anand Sheela, candidly recounted her feelings for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and the despair she subsequently felt for the spiritual guru. 

The October 31 BW Dialogue was part of a series of conversations with achievers and leaders from various walks of life.  Excerpts:

In the Netflix movie Wild Wild Country, you are portrayed negatively. Do you see yourself as a victim or a warrior?
I don’t see myself as a victim at all. I see myself as a winner and a learner. I have been learning all through life and this learning has brought winning.

What is your mantra for not seeking validation from others?
I don’t require validation because I never saw my parents doing that and I am simply copying that. They led their lives on their own terms. You require validation because you have expectations. My father believed in total freedom and he only expected me to be responsible. 

So there was no need for validation. One should never compromise one’s integrity for anything and should always remain true to oneself.

The recent limelight you have been in has made you a star and people are intrigued by you. How would you describe the real Sheela?
Life has been very wonderful for me. Life offered me an opportunity to love and to be with a man like Bhagwan. And then also to walk away from him, so that no one takes my love for weakness. Because once someone takes my love for weakness, it is time to move on and I moved on. Life offered me a possibility to be in prison for 39 months and learn from it. I learned from prison the importance of time and patience. 

In prison, one’s perspective of time changes and one is available for others. And 39 months in a prison takes a lot of patience. You have to remind yourself every day – millions of times –that this too shall pass. 

What do you think is so intriguing about you?
I think the sudden interest is because of the Wild Wild Country. As you say, they tried to portray me in a negative light. But it does not matter. 

When people listen to their intuition, they see their reality clearly. Our interest, vision and ideologies get mixed up with desires and then we are unable to see the reality. Often our emotions are coloured by what we feel. So, it was a pleasure for me to see these two young men who were quite intelligent. 

Why are people so keen to know Ma Anand Sheela?
A filmmaker, who had obtained this raw footage of our work at Rajneeshpuram, came and said, ‘Can I interview you?’ For me, it was not an issue. My father had taught me to speak and write whenever I had an opportunity because my experience of life is so vast that young people will be inspired by it. And I see that happening now, here in India and a lot of other places as well.

In your book (Don’t Kill Him: The Story of My Life with Bhagwan Rajneesh) you talk of gurus and what is thought of them.  Is there any advice you would like to offer us?
When you place your expectations in others, be certain that you will be disappointed. Because you take the freedom away from others to be themselves, by your expectations. I went to Bhagwan because I felt in love with him. I did not want to become spiritual or enlightened. I was just a young girl living her own life and exploring.

When I read the book I felt that you had a certain hatred for Rajneesh and at one point the media kept saying that you had wanted to murder him…

I never wanted to murder him or anybody else. And in the book, I speak of Bhagwan and his weaknesses. That is because I loved him. When you love somebody without conditions, you accept the person for their weaknesses, just as much as their qualities. I had no problem in talking about his weaknesses. 

When I found out that he was misusing drugs, I told him personally that it was not good for his health, safety and his teachings. I was the first person to say ‘no’ to him. Bhagwan was trying to create a controversy. At the same time, because of the high doses of medicines (he was taking), he had stopped using his logical mind. Addiction had affected his sense of balance. 

There must have been something that had attracted you to Bhagwan and his persona. Tell us about that quality.
His oratory skills were flawless, his vision of creating the international community was incredible, and his experiment to put international people together and live in harmony was remarkable. He had the quality to motivate us when we were young.

What is Ma Anand Sheela’s definition of spirituality?
I have no definition of spirituality because I am not spiritual at all. I love parties. I feel happy with my own company and in my own space, I am in heaven.

It took you 34 years to come back to the country. When will you visit India again and what took you so long?
It took me 34 years because after I came out of prison, I needed to get back on my feet (and get over) the pain of my prison journey. I could feel that my parents had it. They tried to punish me but they could not. 

No parents like their children to go through a crisis and the only way I could remove that pain from their heart was by getting back on my feet as fast as possible. They wanted to see me doing well and to be out of the crisis that I was going through. This is what took such a long time. 

If Ma Anand Sheela had a legacy – what would it be?
I have no legacy. And if there has to be a legacy, it is to be positive, graceful and take responsibility for who you are and what you do.

If you were to examine your own life, how would you describe it?
Examination of your own inner self is respecting yourself. You can do it through introspection. Look within and examine yourself. You have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself and accept your reality without blaming others. And that is what I have done – which makes me so positive.  


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