Ma Anand Sheela: Mother of all Problematic Faves

You did not — and do not — want to mess with her. But part of you is oddly obsessed with her.

Imaan Sheikh

June 21, 2021

Ma Anand Sheela: Mother of all Problematic Faves
(Archive image from Netflix's "Wild Wild Country")

In March 2018, Netflix released a six-part docuseries that took the true crime universe by storm. Wild Wild Country reintroduced a generation to an unbelievably eventful segment of cult history that was slowly fading with time. This was the story of spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, aka Osho, and his devotees, the Rajneeshees, who expanded from an ashram in India to take over the world. They infiltrated Hollywood, taking America’s rich and famous under their wing to form and fund large, diverse communes of people shrouded in orange robes and mystery.

But it was Ma Anand Sheela who emerged as an unlikely star.

Sheela Ambalal Patel, aka Ma Anand Sheela, was Bhagwan’s secretary, who did whatever it took to please Bhagwan and help the movement grow, whether that meant taking the heat in media interviews or taking lives, posing nude for a magazine, or going to jail. During her time with Bhagwan, she went on to poison a small American town, exploit the homeless and vulnerable, and threaten her opponents on national TV. For someone so small in stature, Sheela was wildly intimidating. You did not — and do not — want to mess with her.