Rajneeshpuram, Ore. — Bhagwan Shree Rgjneesh, the Indian guru who presides over this strifetorn central Oregon communality, says he will renounce the religion based on his teachings after copies of his bible are destroyed in a bonfire.
The “Book of Rajneeshism” and other tracts were to be publicly burned Monday night by the cult that first became known for advocating free love, gambling and Rolls-Royces.
Rajneesh announced his intentions last week as he continued to repudiate ideas and projects that he says were conceived by Ma Anand Sheela, his former personal secretary who abruptly left the commune along with about a dozen other top officials two weeks ago.
Rajneesh, 53, who has billed himself as the guru of the rich, has accused Sheela and her “gang” of a myriad of crimes ranging from attempted murder to arson. Disciples said they have dismantled an elaborate electronic eavesdropping network that included bugs in the guru’s bedroom.
Sheela, who reportedly is traveling in Europe, has denied any wrongdoing.
Federal, state and local officials have set up a command post in the commune of about 2,000 residents to investigate the allegations.
The “Book of Rajneeshism,” a small red volume outlining the sect’s beliefs, was published by Sheela. Adherents have been allowed to swear on it instead of the Bible when testifying in court.
The guru said last week that Rajneeshism and Rajneeshees no longer exist, and that anything bearing the name Rajneeshism would be dismantled.
Over the weekend his followers stripped “Rajneeshism” posters and signs from the walls of hotel rooms and other buildings.
Rajneesh also told disciples they no longer are required to wear necklaces bearing his photograph or the red hued clothing that distinguished his followers. The disciples have retained their Sanskrit names, however.
The guru said he became aware of Sheela’s activities only recently, when he emerged from a 3%year period of silence.
The sect, which claims about 500,000 followers worldwide, moved its headquarters here in 1981 from Poona, India, leaving behind a morass of tax and legal disputes.
The group spent more than $100 million to turn 64,000 acres of overgrazed Oregon ranchland into a thriving farm and to build a city that includes a shopping mall, hotel and airport.
But legal problems have continued to haunt the sect. The federal Immigration and Naturalization Service is investigating the guru, whose application for permanent residency still is pending, as well as 23 couples in the sect who investigators suspect married solely for immigration purposes, Rajneesh said he will try to make amends with authorities by dropping some of the litigation and to change the name of the nearby City of Rajneesh back to Antelope, which it was called before Rajneesh’s followers took control of its government.
Article extracted from this publication >> October 6, 1985