Today there are hundreds of documentaries and news reports and interviews of Sheela Ambalal Patel, who later become Ma Anand Sheela. She was the youngest of six children of the Gujarati couple Ambalal and Maniben Patel. At the age of 18, she moved to the United States and pursued her education there.
Her father was a staunch follower of a self-styled Godman, Acharya Rajnish.
That’s how she was introduced to Osho. In 2018, the documentary Wild Wild Country was released, which includes interviews with Sheela, she says her father insisted she stay in Rajnish Aashram. that how later on she became the spokeswoman of the Rajneesh movement.
Sheela married Marc Harris Silverman, an American and She moved to India in 1972 to pursue spiritual studies with her husband. They became disciples of the Indian guru Rajneesh and Sheela took the name Ma Anand Sheela. After her husband died, Sheela married a fellow Rajneesh follower, John Shelfer.
As the secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh from 1981 through 1985, she managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, Oregon, United States.
In 1986, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack. Not everyone at Rajneeshpuram was comfortable with Sheela’s attitude and the way she handled public relations.
And many people were not happy with her administration at the Ranch. In fact, quite a few people left. But Osho himself is probably to blame, at least partly. He left Sheela with total power for too long. He encouraged her to be provocative with the media. He enjoyed being provocative himself.
During the first winter of the sannyasins arriving at the Ranch, some of the residents living in the little town of Antelope, 20 miles from the Ranch complained that the sannyasins who had moved into the town were holding parties and complained that the sannyasins’ lovemaking was too loud for them.
Anti-Rajneeshpuram meetings were held in nearby towns, and the atmosphere became tense. Sheela, and some of the other coordinators used to tell people that every instruction she gave came from him which was later found out to be untrue. She was like the dictator, of the commune and if they tried to disobey or argue with her, they would likely get into trouble or be punished.
She also had another group of women working underneath her, who shared her living space, who had been given the top positions of power in the commune. These were known as the ‘moms’. However, Osho did not encourage or order Sheela to carry out the many crimes that she and her gang carried out or planned to carry out to ‘protect’ the commune.
In my opinion, after watching Wild Wild Country Documentary and listening to her interviews and conference clips, it is quite clear that she proved to be a misfortune for Osho in the United States.
After breaking his silence Osho expressed a very compassionate outlook about the local Oregonians and did not intend to take over the Antelope that she tried to do. I believe that if Osho had gone in public silence, the local Oregonians would probably have reconciled well with the commune.
The local battles between Sheela along with her gang and the people living over there sadly created a huge mania about Osho across the United States and in reaction to which he was eliminated and deported in the end.
1986, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack. She was sentenced to 20 years in
Federal prison and paroled after 39 months. Sheela later moved to Switzerland and purchased two nursing homes.
Sheela told aka Swami Krishna Deva during a trip to India which they took in 1985, that she had injected her first husband Marc Harris Silverman with an injection that caused his death. After prison, Sheela married Urs Birnstiel, a Swiss citizen, who died of AIDS shortly after their marriage.
In 1981, Rajneesh appointed her as his personal assistant. In the same year, she convinced Rajneesh to leave India and establish an ashram in the United States. In July 1981, Rajneesh Foundation International purchased the 64,000-acre (260 km2) Big Muddy Ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, which became the site for the development of the Rajneeshpuram commune. Overnight the commune became popular, Hollywood stars to big businessmen all became part of it. By 1984, the ashram was coming into increasing conflict with local residents and the county commission.
With all criminal activities, jealousy and revenge Sheela started losing her grip on Osha. She was extradited to the US in February on charges of immigration fraud and attempted murder. Sheela pleaded guilty to setting fire to a county office and wire-tapping at the commune. For these crimes, Sheela was sentenced to three 20-year terms in federal prison, to be served concurrently. Also, she was fined USD 470,000.
The lady who enjoyed the peaks of power lost it all due to jealousy, hate anger and the scheme, today once again in demand by filmmakers.