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A TV film by Oregon Experience, a co-production of Oregon Public Broadcasting & The Oregon Historical Society. Freely available on PBS.
In 1981, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a spiritual leader from India, and thousands of his disciples moved to Wasco and Jefferson counties. On what had been the Big Muddy Ranch, the “sannyasins” set out to build a new city, a utopian community in the desert — Rajneeshpuram.
Thousands of people from around the world gathered here to celebrate life. They worked hard and transformed the landscape. And more than a few hoped to spend the rest of their days at this place. But by 1986, they were gone.
“If you live in the country you kinda like the country to remain the way it is,” said Bernie Smith, a former Wasco County District Attorney.
Many of the Rajneeshees came from overseas, and most from urban backgrounds. They were vegetarians, now living among ranch people and small-town retirees in Central Oregon cattle country. The two cultures were foreign to each other and ultimately they clashed.
“I think there were a lot of masters and maybe doctor’s degrees out there. It didn’t mean they had any horse sense. They were pretty illogical about a lot of things,” said Margaret Hill, former mayor of nearby Antelope, Oregon.
As the Rajneeshee planners began to slog their way through the rules and regulations of local government, problems arose. As the new people encountered the slow-grinding wheels of bureaucracy — building codes, zoning restrictions and other land-use regulations — the sannyasins’ patience grew thin. Confrontation and rude behavior followed.
The Rajneeshees took over the town of Antelope. Their leadership declared the local people to be bigoted and threatening. And Bhagwan’s open disdain for Christianity did not play well in the new conservative, Christian environment.
“At some point, people stopped talking and they just started screaming. Nothing is going to get done in that environment, and nothing got done,” said former news videographer Milt Ritter.
In the span of four-and-a-half years, Bhagwan’s people invested more than $50 million in Rancho Rajneesh. They made substantial improvements to the land. Many found real joy in being close to their spiritual master and part of the Rajneeshpuram community, but they ultimately walked away from it all.
Twenty-five sannyasins were convicted of crimes ranging from arson and wiretapping to immigration fraud, election fraud and attempted murder. Ten served time in prison.
At the end of it all, Wasco County Judge Bill Hulse predicted (correctly) that somebody would write a book about what had happened there: “The people who read that book,” he said, “will think it’s fiction.”
Kirk Braun, Rajneeshpuram: The Unwelcome Society
Max Brecher, A Passage to America e-book: http://maxbrechersbookstobuy.com/, 1993, revised and updated 2013
Devananda Day, Revise Priorities Ahead! Life on a Spiritual Path
A Reporter at Large: Rajneeshpuram I, Rajneeshpuram II, by Frances Fitzgerald. The New Yorker, Sept. 22, 1986; Sept. 29, 1986
Utopia and Bureaucracy: The Fall of Rajneeshpuram, by Carl Abbott. Oregon Pacific Historical Review, 1990
Averting Apocalypse at Rajneeshpuram by Marion S. Goldman. Department of Sociology, 1291 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403
Second-Chance Family by Marion S. Goldman. Oregon Humanities magazine, Summer 2011
Nov 19, 2012 (aired)


(in order of appearance)
Margaret Hill, former mayor of Antelope
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)
Ma Anand Sheela, secretary to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and head of the commune
Philip Niren Toelkes, former attorney for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Devananda Day, sannyasin
Keith Mobley, former Antelope city attorney
Milt Ritter, former KGW videographer
Sw Anand Svadesh, sannyasin
Roshani Shay, prof., emeritus, political science, W. Oregon University, sannyasin
Scott Miller, former KGW reporter
Dan Durow, former Wasco County planner
Bernie Smith, former Wasco County District attorney
Edward Sullivan, land use attorney
Sue Proffitt, former Wasco County clerk
Marion Goldman, Prof. Sociology & Religious studies, University of Oregon
Ma Prem Isabel, Rajneeshpuram director of public relations
David Frohnmayer, former Oregon Attorney General
Sw Krishna Deva mayor of Rajneeshpuram
Ma Anand Sagun "accepts state check for Rajneeshpuram School District" 00:33:34
Ma Anand Puja, Director, Rajneesh Medical Corporation 00:39:00
Norma Paulus, former Oregon Secretary of State
Charles Turner, U.S. Attorney
William Hulse, Wasco County commissioner and judge
Sw Devageet, Vice Chancellor, Rajneesh International Meditation University
producers / writers
Eric Cain
Nadine Jelsing
Lisa Suinn Kallem
Nicholas Fisher
Todd Sonflieth
field Audio
Randy Layton
William Ward
Ted Cutler
Melissa Dalton
Scott Simon
original theme music
Cal Scott
open animation
Danny Rubyono
archival material & images
The Oregon Historical Society
KOIN Moving Images
Wasco County
The Rajneesh Times
The Oregonian
Historic Photo Archive
Rajneesh Collection, Special
Collections & Univ. Archives, Univ. of Oregon Libraries
Max Brecher
India footage licensed with permission
OSHO International Foundation, Switzerland www.OSHO.com
special thanks
Oregon Heritage Commission
Milt Ritter
Michele Kribs
Geoff Wexler
Scott Daniels
Linda Long
Simon Benson House
Washington Family Ranch
Rich Ellerd
Pat Kelly
Klaus Steeg
Anand Arupo
Ma Anand Sarani
John Roberts
Max Brecher
Gary Nicholson
production archivist
Nikki Horton
production graphics
La Verne Heiman-Layton
Stacy Coonfield
publicity & promotion
Paul Loofburrow
Danika Sandoz
web design
John Kin
post production
Tom Babich
Steve Hoyt
Steve Thompson
Steven Vaughn Kray
executive producer
Nadine Jelsing
vice president, television production
David Davis

see also

(Not on IMDB)
Preserving Tapes of Rajneeshpuram for Oregon Experience Documentary Clip: Season 7 Episode 701 (2m 9s) - Much of Oregon Experience: Rajneeshpuram was produced using archival news footage shot as events unfolded from 1981 to 1985. Former news photographer Milt Ritter talks about the Rajneesh experience and how hundreds of news tapes were saved from destruction.
Lessons from Rajneeshpuram Clip: Season 7 Episode 701 (1m 5s) - Why didn't Rajneeshpuram erupt into violence? University of Oregon Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies Marion Goldman explores what we've learned from Rajneeshpuram.
Bhagwan and the Minature Rose Clip: Season 7 Episode 701 (2m 48s) - Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh made daily drive-bys through the Ranch in one of his 94 Rolls Royces. Sannyasin Devananda Day describes commune leader Ma Anand Sheela's reaction when he tried to honor Bhagwan with a miniature rose.


The film on PBS 
Rajneeshpuram (2012) ; opening screen.jpg

Extra episodes from this film :
Rajneeshpuram (2012) ; extra episodes.jpg