Wild Wild Country

Wild Wild Country is a Netflix documentary series about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho Rajneesh), his one-time personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. It was released on Netflix on March 16, 2018, after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

I knew some things about Osho but apparently that was just the more recent stuff. I knew he was a controversial figure and guru but didn’t know much else. I knew he talked about sex and sexuality and that most religious people in India were not too comfortable with it. But I did not know anything about this scandal. When I saw the trailer/ad for this Netflix documentary series on Facebook, I knew I wanted to check it out. It is fascinating and makes for a compelling semi-binge if you will. It’s just 8 episodes long but each episode is over 60 minutes long. The Rajneesh movement that began in earnest in India, was hounded out off India because of their controversial practices and tension between the ruling Janata Party government of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram’s development.

With a lot of his followers being mostly white foreigners (I can remember seeing only less than 10 Indians in the whole documentary) the community decided to move abroad. In 1981, efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Rajneesh’s personal secretary, the megalomaniacal Ma Anand Sheela, orchestrated the commune’s construction. They called their new home Rajneeshpuram, and its 64,000 acres were quickly occupied by thousands of sannyasins seeking proximity to their leader and a life of meditative bliss. However things began to take a turn for the worse when the Rajneeshs clashed with the conservative Christian community of Antelope, population of just 70.

Directed by brothers Chapman Way and Maclain Way,details Rajneeshpuram’s downward spiral; the scandals that plague the community include immigration fraud, biochemical attacks, arson, assassination attempts, the recruitment of homeless individuals to sway an election and the drugging of those same folks after their presence threatens the commune’s peace.  There are extensive interviews with key former members of Rajneeshpuram, including Sheela herself. Finally – what seems to me atleast – it all came down to a rage of jealousy; Sheela was pushed away from her influence as Rajneesh’s succumbed to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as among his more rich and affluent followers were Ma Prem Hasya (a.k.a. Francoise Ruddy) – the ex-spouse of Godfather producer Albert S. Ruddy who eventually supplanted Sheela as Bhagwan’s secretary and fled with him to India following his 1985 conviction – who along with the others showered Rajneesh with expensive gifts.

Rajneesh himself said so in an interview after Sheela left. It certainly comes off that way. I can still not understand or believe that so many people just showered their love, devotion, money and Rolls Royces his way. What the heck? But then I never really understood religions or cults – both are the same, one just has a lot more followers, power and influence in politics – but still found it compelling. A 9.5 outta 10!

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