Ma Anand Sheela: 'This life has been one in a million'
Osho Rajneesh’s former aide Ma Anand Sheela’s tell-all memoir reveals an intense, roller-coaster existence, where she unabashedly set her own ground rules and fiercely safeguarded her freedom at all costs
By My Own Rules, the tell-all memoir of Osho Rajneesh’s former aide Ma Anand Sheela, 71, is a literary exposition of her fascinating life story, her innate beliefs that have often been at odds with her conservative Gujarati upbringing, her non-conformist inspiration and, more importantly, living life on her own terms.
The memoir’s first chapter, or as Sheela would call Rule 1 — her definitive take on life lessons — dwells on the moral aphorism that pain cannot be avoided; pain has to be endured, which has evolved as the running theme of her “intense, roller-coaster life”.
The memoir is a celebration and a glorious opportunity to remember those adventurous and intense moments, where even angels fear to tread. She writes: “It is my mother, father and Bhagwan (Osho Rajneesh) that I have learned from in my life. This trio has prepared me to accept life as it comes. They have developed in me the concept of being there and living in the moment. They have given me the understanding to complete the circle of my life by my own rules.” Sheela served as Osho Rajneesh’s personal aide between 1981-85, when she overlooked the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, Oregon, US. Today, she is an American-Swiss national and has been running two nursing homes in Switzerland.
Khaleej Times caught up with Sheela to get a sense of what it’s like debunking preconceived notions and enjoy the immersive experience of real-life challenges. Edited excerpts from the interview:
What were your own ground rules of your fascinating life?
I was a happy-go-lucky person rooted in love and courage. Both these qualities I inherited from my beloved parents. I had seen them live and face life with love and courage. Freedom is another rule. Never sell or trade one’s own freedom. No compromises on freedom. Honesty and loyalty are basic rules. All of these rules are the foundation of my fascinating life. I write about these rules in my memoir.
How did Sheela Ambalal Patel become Ma Anand Sheela? What’s that one defining moment that made that switch?
Falling in love with Bhagwan in 1972 was that defining moment, which transformed me and gave me the courage to undertake his work.
How did you help Osho Rajneesh become an international brand?
Bhagwan was already well known internationally. His genius was spreading around the world like a wildfire when I met him and fell in love with him. He made me well known in the world as his personal secretary. His love and trust gave me an opportunity to bring out my potential.
You have been accused of several excesses. In retrospect, how would you justify your actions?
Accusations are only accusations. They require no justification. My reality is other than the accusations.
What was it like to visit India after 34 years in 2019?
It was amazing to be back in India. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. It was warm and overwhelming. I enjoyed my time fully. Many sweet memories accompanied me during those days.
Would you live your life all over again the way you went about it?
Of course. I would make no changes if given a chance again to live life as I have lived. It was an intense, roller-coaster life with its own ups and downs. It has been full of adventures and learning. This life has been one in a million!