If you haven't watched Netflix's Original documentary series Wild Wild Country yet, get on it already. Also, stop reading this because there are spoilers below and it's a much better watch if you resist the urge to google the facts and just enjoy the mad story of Rajneeshpuram that needs to be seen to be believed.
The six-part series details what happened when an entire commune of people moved from India to the United States, near the sleepy Oregon town of Antelope. The community's leader was guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later referred to as Osho) but the person heading the invasion of maroon-clad worshippers was his secretary Ma Anand Sheela.
Ma Anand Sheela - how have we not heard of her before?
This powerhouse of a woman managed to turn an old abandoned ranch into a city of up to 7,000 people, complete with its own infrastructure including a fire department, police, restaurants, malls, townhouses, its own airstrip, a public transport system using buses, a sewage reclamation plant and a reservoir.
The arrival of the community caused quite the stir in God-fearing Oregon however and Sheela soon found herself up against opposition from the community of Antelope as well as those in Wasco County, Oregon.
As Wild Wild Country viewers know - things escalated, and fast. A bombing of a Rajneesh hotel led the commune to start carrying firearms and soon there was talk of attempted murders and a shedload of people ended up getting sick with salmonella in what the USA's first bioterror attack. It was bad.
After Sheela had abandoned ship in 1985, Bhagwan condemned her for her actions and insisted he knew nothing about it. Sheela pled guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. However, she was paroled after 29 months and moved to Switzerland, where she married and purchased two nursing homes.
In 1999 she was convicted by a Swiss court of "criminal acts preparatory to the commission of murder" in relation to a plot to kill US federal prosecutor Charles Turner in 1985 but sentenced to time served.
Sheela has always insisted she did no wrong though, telling The Daily Beast in a recent interview: "I had pleaded guilty in an Alford plea, and maintain my innocence."
— Netflix India (@NetflixIndia) March 27, 2018
Sheela also said: "My perspective on it is very clear, and this perspective is: whenever something happened in Oregon, they blamed it on Rajneeshees. There were CDC reports that were altered and marked 'confidential'. And those reports are in existence."
Wild Wild Country Directors Maclain Way and Chapman Way seem to remain permanently on the fence with how they depict this bizarre and forgotten piece of American history. Both sides of the story are presented, from those that were part of Rajneeshpuram and those that were intent on taking it down.
You're left wondering if this was simply an alternative community who were corrupted by a bigoted system of government or did the corruption stem from within? Was this a cult led by a power-hungry, money-grabbing man or a commune that were simply a religious minority choosing to defend their way of life? Was Sheela innocent of wrongdoing or could any of her actions ever be considered justified?
We'll probably never know but guilty or not, it's hard to deny that Sheela, who still lives in Switzerland, is one fascinating lady who literally stuck two fingers up to those that judged her and had a commanding presence that left her in high demand by the media in early eighties America due to her forthright and often controversial interviews.
In summary, we should probably condemn her for her actions, and if she did all she did, then of course we do.
But come on, let's face it, she's also a bit of a legend.
You don't like her? Tough titties.
— Oscar (@clouteth) March 30, 2018
— Riggs (@ThatRudeBoyy) March 20, 2018
— Chaka-John (@thebossofyou) April 5, 2018
— Abhishek Bose (@boseboy23) April 5, 2018
— Chutney Times (@NithyaRajagopal) April 4, 2018
#WildWildCountry craziest rollercoaster ride masquerading as a documentary.
Ma #Sheela possibly is most fascinating and complicated Indian woman we have never heard of.@NetflixIndia @netflix is really pushing boundaries of TV #Osho #Rajneesh #Netflix #Documentary #mustsee
— Ameya_Kamat (@Ameya_Kamat) April 4, 2018
— Kimberly (@kimberlybabcock) April 4, 2018
— Rancho Rajneesh (@RanchoRajneesh) April 4, 2018
— D A (@20smthgrandma) April 1, 2018
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) April 2, 2018
My husband is team Sheela and now I'm afraid to let him fix my tea.#WildWildCountry
— Christie Mayer (@IDzine01) March 28, 2018
— Dean (@DeanDunderdale) April 2, 2018