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Ma Anand Sheela

Maispach, Switzerland
12.10.2018 - 11.00
Interview, Text & Photography by Stefan Dotter

The fight between the ideals of communal living and capitalism has been present throughout the last decades. Our mind immediately associates it with the soviet communism and the western capitalism, especially with the US as an example. That is the kind of black and white thinking we grow up with, we rarely think about the in-between. If we look at the philosopher Osho, formerly known as Rajneesh or Baghwan, we can find different approaches on the topic. He promoted the philosophy of communal living with capitalistic pleasures and spiritual advancement integrated. The aim was to combine the eastern man, who is rich in spirituality but poor in terms of materialism, with the western man, who is rich in terms of materialism but poor in spirituality. When his followers, known as the Rajneesies, brought his commune from Pune, India to the countryside in Oregon, US a war between ideals quickly enflamed.

On the frontline of this fight was one strong woman, fighting everything the US could bring up in legal and manpower - Ma Anand Sheela, the right hand of Osho. The story of Rajneeshpuram and its fall is a long and intense one, which was recently worked through in the documentary series “Wild Wild Country” on Netflix. After years of imprisonment, Sheela built herself up again in the Swiss countryside, where she now leads two homes, named Matrusaden and Bapusaden, where she gives people who are mentally and physically handicapped a warm and loving home. She is sitting in front of me in the community room, smiling. She seems excited to have press coming to visit her.