Ma Anand Sheela Interview: Women who decide to live life on their own terms often find themselves at the receiving end of criticism, unnecessary conjectures and controversies.
One woman who has lived life on her own terms and faced all this, and much more, yet continues to be herself is Ma Anand Sheela. She was born in Baroda, Gujrat, from where she to went to led the Rajneeshpuram commune in USA founded by Osho, and then served a prison sentence. She has been adored and vilified at the same time. Time and again, Ma Anand Sheela has built her life from scratch and this quality only makes her more intriguing. And now Sheela has come out with a book By My Own Rules.
She says she has never felt a victim and doesn't believe in carrying the baggage of past life. For her, love is not weakness. SheThePeople caught up with her to talk about her controversial legacy, new found social media fame, discrimination against people facing mental health issues and much more. Few edited snippets from the conversation:
I am a household name
Sheela, who has often been called rebellious, irrepressible and bold, responds to the public scrutiny on her life saying, "My life has been discussed on all platforms in all households and that is the interesting story that I live life. For me, I am me and the training I hold is very unique, my parents were very loving and very much ahead of their time in thought processes and lifestyle. And then I met the absolute rebel and fell in love with him. My sense of integrity was such that even to a man like Bhagwan I was able to say NO and it is time for me to go and I did. And I still love that man even today. And again it is such a wonderful experience of life that all names suit me and in spite of it, I am me."
On being Rajneesh’s secretary
We asked her if she thought she had faced gender bias when she was working as Rajneesh’s secretary. Sheela feels, she felt bias from everyone, men and women both, because “I was placed in a position of envy. When he chose me to be his secretary I became a good target for jealousy.” However on her mentor Rajneesh, she says, "Bhagwan was a man who clearly chose to work with women, he wanted women to be in a position of responsibility."
Bhagwan felt women are more intuitive, and rooted in their hearts and more committed to their feeling: Ma Anand Sheela in her book.
Social media has become partly verbal catharsis
Sheela confesses being new to social media but she uses it to connect with people. She feels, “Social media has become partly verbal catharsis. There are people who do not think for themselves and take social media personally, they have severe psychological damages. "When people are cathartic, they don’t think about what it does to the other person. And I find that degree of misuse on social media. Other than that, to exchange ideas it is a wonderful place,” says she.
Relationship with her father
Sheela’s father, who had deeply influenced her and was the person who brought her to meet Rajneesh/Osho the first time had told her, “Do not settle down and marry the first man you meet.” She confesses that while she did exactly what he had asked her not to do, he was the person who gave her the “vital education on sex and sexuality".
I never panicked if I heard his voice in the house, and if you have that relationship with your father you will have much better relationship with other men: Ma Anand Sheela
How important is it for daughters to have fathers who support them in their decisions? Sheela says, “it is so important that fathers trust their daughters and not try to bind them or imprison them in traditions of the society."
To all the daughters she says, “you carry your own burdens. Don’t ever be a burden on your father. And if a man in your life wants you to bring riches with them, don’t marry him, walk away. Remain without marriage you will be much happier."
Make your parents proud
In her book, she says “my highest education was in prison. Thirty-six months in the prison taught me patience and the value of time.” Reflecting on how she transformed her life after stepping out of the prison, she says, “when the whole world had negated me, I could have claimed myself psychologically ill and complained about the rest of my life. That would not have been right on my part. I wanted my parents to feel that their daughter is not a weakling. She has learned to walk from them."
On working with people with mental health issues
"Mental health is not something to hide, it is something to accept something it respect. What happens is we discriminate against mental health. We take it as a burden and when things become a burden they become ugly. But if you look at the mental health issues from an eye level and without judgement then you can help the other. It is so important to understand mental health issues not by negating them, but by accepting them and dealing with them with love and patience," she signs off.
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