by Dream Nelson
On March 18, Netflix released a jaw-dropping documentary that has to be seen to be believed about a cult from the 80’: Wild Wild Country. Throughout its six episodes, the show explores the life of the leaders and participants of the cult that shocked not only the nation, but the world.
The cult involved an Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as Osho) and his teachings. Followers of the cult, called Sannyasins, can be found around the world. Although the cult started in Pune, India, the guru moved his base to the United States due to the political environment in India that concerned the constitution’s rules of equality, respect, and community. During this time, Osho and his followers were growing and thriving in India; however, in order to grow the community away from the strict societal rules and values, they had to journey somewhere else that had different cultural views. Indira Gandhi was running for Prime Minister of India at this time; she was against the teachings of Osho, which meant that her supporters were not fond of his presence in the community.
Rajneesh and his secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, thought that the United States would be the best place to rebuild their community after a man tried to assassinate Bhagwan during meditation. They did not anticipate the harsh climate and bigotry of the people in America when they first relocated to Wasco County, Oregon. However, they managed to create a town based on a US Constitutional law stating that towns could be created for a group of 150 people or more.
Rajneesh and his followers named their town Rajneeshpuram and built it up from literally nothing. The land wasn’t even able to produce crops until the Sannyasins settled there and began to take care of the land. Once the town was able to hold 10,000 people, their leader and guru relocated there from India. The community began to prosper by buying up land in neighboring towns, which caused concern and conflict from state officials. These officials were concerned with the cultural takeover in such a small town; some even believed that the cult sacrificed people, even though they made it very clear that’s not what they stood for.
The colony of Rajneesh’s followers grew so big that they were able to develop their own airport, credit card system, and even police force. The people thrived off of the idea of loving each other and living their best lives, but soon their leader grew power hungry and desired to actually insert themselves into the US government. Ma Anand Sheela began breaking the law by committing crimes to please Bhagwan, like poisoning town water, committing immigration fraud, and committing tax fraud. Their goal was no longer to just live peacefully, but to influence the entire world with Sannyasin beliefs.
To portray the gravity of this story and make the audience truly connect to what was happening, Netflix interviewed people living during this time period who were either in the cult or directly involved with it. Netflix put in actual footage from these occurrences so nothing in the documentary is fabricated or re-enacted.
As for the rest, viewers need to tune in to find the eventual fate of the cult. This creative, vibrant documentary is the perfect series to binge watch on a lazy day this spring.