I just completed watching the documentary Wild Wild Country on Netflix about Rajneesh/Osho and his community and particularly focused on the time in Antelope, Oregon. After the recent appearance of the largely negatively slanted podcast Dear Franklin Jones I was hesitant to watch it, concerned about my intake of anti-cultism and misunderstanding of minority religion. But I found that it was actually more balanced than Dear Franklin Jones, allowing those favorable to Osho and those opposed to him, to each say their piece. (Dear Franklin Jones simply presented Jonathan Hirsch’s point of view, using the opinions of those favorable to Adi Da as mostly means for Jonathan to play off of, in his attempt at negating and “killing off” his childhood Spiritual upbringing so he could continue as the secularist he seems to have become.)
I have been asked what Adi Da had to say about Osho by a few people recently in the wake of Wild Wild Country. Of course the question has been posed to me often by younger people, people for whom this is pure history, rather than having lived through the 70s and 80s when Osho/Rajneesh was a phenomenon, experienced by every follower of alternative or minority religions.
When I was running the Dawn Horse Bookstore in San Francisco in 1974 and 1975, orange robed sannyasins came into the store offering me books of Rajneesh to sell in the store. The individuals themselves felt to be good people, not dissimilar to members of the Bubba Free John community at the time.
Adi Da placed a couple of books of Rajneesh on the “Seven Schools of God-Talk” booklist, a precursor to “The Basket of Tolerance” booklist, in the fifth stage section. The titles were Dynamics of Meditation and The Mystic Experience. There was a book entitled From Sex to Super-consciousness and another called Tantra, Spirituality and Sex, which also went into the sexuality section with other books on Hindu Tantra.
But the Rajneesh/Osho publications kept coming, and in large numbers. Our library ended up with well over a hundred different Rajneesh publications. And after a time, Adi Da felt that the whole thing had become a “trip”, a “phenomena”, a kind of circus, and started to not take it in the same serious manner that He had earlier. The books no longer went on the booklists and after a time I never even presented them to Adi Da for His Review because they were more and more of the same. But the basic Spiritual orientation of Osho/Rajneesh in terms of the stages of life was this fifth stage orientation.
I had clearly remembered that in the time in Oregon, that Ma Anand Sheela dominated the news. Rajneesh was not speaking but she was, and even for someone who hardly watched the news in those days, you couldn’t miss her. And she spread a maxim in those days that “all publicity is good publicity”. We in Adidam did not agree with that. And it felt that what she was doing was giving all of alternative or minority religions a bad name. When the guns started to come into the Oregon community and armed people were shown on television around Osho when he appeared to speak or grant Darshan, it felt that they had gone off the rails. Sheela’s super aggressive stance in public, attacking the general public in inflammatory language, was destined to come back on her and the Rajneesh community for which she was the spokesperson. Perhaps some of this is the fact that she and Osho were coming to another country, both native Indians.
Adi Da once described that He made the trip from India, not via an airplane, but via the “womb”. In other words, He consented, after the lifetime in which His deeper personality vehicle had been Swami Vivekananda (combined with that of Ramakrishna), to be reincarnated in the West. He had seen that He was not going to be accepted with an Indian skin. And so Adi Da Samraj, Teaching as one born into the West, knew more clearly what could and could not be done in the Western context. He very clearly always stayed away from the political arena and enjoined His devotees to do the same. He knew that to do so, would inevitably bring some confrontation with the machinery of “power”.
Watching Wild Wild Country is waiting for the disaster to happen, as Sheela tries to “work” the political system. And finally resorts to criminal behavior to try to manipulate the situation. And in the face of all of this, Rajneesh is absent, allowing her to take things amuck, unaware of what is going on, or unwilling to himself keep it clean and straight and right. And so his culpability in the situation is evident as well, for it is his community, no matter how much power he had allowed Ma Anand Sheela to take.
I also felt that there was only the lightest treatment of the issue that Rajneesh was poisoned during the time when he was in the United States penal system. I have heard that claim made and supposedly “proven”– as much as such a thing can be proven.
As the documentary progresses we are periodically brought back to the locals who for the most part do not ever really understand what was happening at Rajneeshpuram in Spiritual terms, but only can fall back on “cultism” or “free sex” or “sin”. And likewise we see the Attorney General of Oregon and the federal and state officials who also are coming at the entire phenomena with their own lack of understanding of alternative religion. These factors have not changed that much in the past twenty years, and are still present in the United States of 2018. They are a continued wake up call to the fact that alternative religions continue to be targeted in today’s media and government, particularly those that involve a Spiritual Master or Guru. And the word “cult” is still used in the manner of a stereotype, a buzz word, in which anyone who is a follower of a Spiritual Teacher has given up all of his or her discrimination and self-will or self-determination in life, and is just “drinking the kool aid”. It is a superficial and uneducated orientation, requiring more depth of understanding before it can be moved beyond.
That aspect of watching Wild Wild Country is harrowing for anyone practicing within an alternative religion, and in that sense, to turn the metaphor, we are living in the country and time of barbarians, no new age of shining spirituality, but a Wild Wild Country indeed.