Extracted from the forthcoming Who Killed Osho? by Abhay Vaidya, to be published by Om Books International
In India, there was animosity towards Osho from the government, bureaucracy and a large section of the people, and Sheela reasoned that he should move to the U.S. because of the superior quality of life and greater tolerance among the people there. The Pune Commune was trying to live up to Western standards of perfection and professionalism, and to achieve that, it imported all its requirements including gadgets and equipment at 125% to 200% import duty. Since Western followers had begun to dominate the Rajneesh Movement during the Poona-I days itself, the U.S. with all its advantages and attractions as a leading nation of the West emerged as the ideal destination to operate from. It would be far easier for people from the West to come to the U.S. and the Commune would be financially worthwhile too.
Osho’s severe backache during 1980-81 and the need for advanced medical treatment in the U.S. were stated as the official reasons for his departure to the U.S. in June, 1981 on a temporary tourist visa. However, three developments clearly indicate that a detailed plan had been worked out to establish an ambitious Commune and settle there permanently.
[…] According to the official version, Osho had left for New York for a spinal surgery as a disc “was protruding onto the nervous tissue of his spine.” However, that surgery never happened as Osho recovered “miraculously.” About four months after arriving in the U.S., Osho was fit enough to travel, and was flown by a private jet to the ranch in Oregon. In 1981 itself, Osho’s American disciples purchased the 64,000 acre Big Muddy ranch in Oregon for $5.75 million and invited him on a visit. “He eventually agrees to stay in the U.S. and allows an application for permanent residence to be filed on his behalf.”It was Sheela who had previously visited and identified the over-grazed, desolate property known as The Big Muddy ranch located in central Oregon that stretched over 64,000 acres—125 square miles. It was renamed Rancho Rajneesh and the nearby town of Antelope became the city of Rajneeshpuram after Osho’s followers won the local elections and installed their own mayor.
The calculations of Osho’s top managers were not off the mark because Osho’s sannyasins, through their hard work and enterprise, had created an oasis in the desert.An estimated 5,000 people made their way to Rancho Rajneesh and contributed generously with their life’s savings, time and talent to the Movement in the hope of establishing a successful Commune as per Osho’s vision of the New Man. Special summer festivals were held which attracted thrice that number.
At its peak, the Movement had a hotel and an airlines of its own called Air Rajneesh; at least one Swiss Bank account with ‘contingency funds’ specially reserved for Osho’s needs, and a growing collection of 97 Rolls Royces which had grabbed headlines, not just in America but all over the world. With their ingenuity and hard work, the sannyasins took to farming, construction and road-building. The trailer apartments for the arriving sannyasins had central air-conditioning, and a bus service called ‘Rajneesh Buddhafield Transport’ was created.
Although the Oregon Commune made a spectacular beginning with its eye-popping fleet of Rolls Royces and the promise of an extraordinary experiment in Commune life, the four-and-a-half years that Osho spent in the U.S.—from June, 1981 to November, 1985—turned out to be the worst years of his life and the worst phase for the Movement. There was constant friction with the local community which made the ‘Rajneeshees’ unpopular with locals in the towns and villages neighbouringthe ranch, and there was intense factional fighting within the Commune.
At Rancho Rajneesh, three factions were engaged in a power struggle: Sheela, who was the most powerful and the most domineering had her faction of loyalists and felt insecure by the ‘Lao Tzu people’—those like Amrito, Nirvano, Devageet and Shunyowho were closest to Osho. Sheela was not only jealous of their proximity to Osho but also felt insecure with the strong ties emerging between them and the Hollywood group. Eventually, the Oregon Commune imploded with the intense jealousies, power politics and murder attempts between these groups.
The Sheela faction’s attempts to repeatedly poison Amrito (who was not only close to Osho but also married to Hasya while in the U.S.), and Nirvano, were a part of this power politics. Sheela was eventually convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. on the charge of attempting to poison Amrito. According to Sheela’s faction, a secretly taped conversation between Osho and Amrito discussing euthanasia was the provocation for the murder attempt on Amrito by Sheela’s aide Shanti Bhadra (Catherine Jane Stork) who stuck a syringe filled with adrenaline into his buttocks during a crowded gathering. One person who testified to hearing this conversation was David Knapp, also known as Swami Krishna Deva and ‘K.D.’ Appointed Mayor of Rajneeshpuram, Knapp testified that he “listened to a copy of a tape from a bug in Bhagwan’s room where he (Devaraj) and Bhagwan discussed him assisting Bhagwan in committing suicide.” Sheela also suspected that Osho was a victim of dangerous drug experimentation and overdose and that Amrito was a threat to his life.