Departed Aides Accused by Guru of Murder Attempts, Theft of Millions

Times Staff Writer

Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh accused a small elite group of his followers Monday of creating a “fascist state” at his desert commune here, alleging that his recently departed top adviser and others of her “gang” attempted murders, bugged telephones and absconded with millions of dollars.

The bearded spiritual leader said he is cooperating with local police and has notified Interpol of the suspected whereabouts of at least seven persons who, until Saturday, formed the hierarchy of his international religious organization.

His startling accusations, which he said were based on information from other followers during the past two days, were made at an unusual evening press conference held in the cavernous hall where followers gather to pray. Nearly all of the approximately 2,000 commune residents were present.

“I have brought you media people here to inform you of the glad news that this commune is free from a fascist regime,” Rajneesh said. “Adolf Hitler has died again.”

Most of his allegations were aimed at Ma Anand Sheela, 35, the woman who was president of Rajneesh Foundation International and who, during the guru’s three-year vow of silence, was the only one to speak with him and relay his wishes to his followers.


Rajneesh said he learned only Monday that Sheela had gone to Switzerland and had been keeping a Swiss bank account. He said he believed that account to contain part of the $55 million representing the newly discovered indebtedness of the commune. Sheela, he said, as his personal secretary had become addicted to the power and fame she attained during his silence. He called that addiction “a far worse drug than any drug in existence.”

Rajneesh said that since Sheela’s sudden departure Saturday, along with several of the commune’s top leaders, others had come forward to present him with allegations “which are ugly and sad.” He said he had been totally unaware of the accusations against the hierarchy until then.

The guru said they had tried to poison three of the people closest to him--his physician, his dentist and his caretaker. These, he said, were the only three people, other than Sheela, who had access to him during the silence he finally broke earlier this year.

None of the three died, Rajneesh said, but the physician became so ill he had to be hospitalized in Bend, Ore.

“It seems these people would have even killed me, because my silence was favorable to them and my absence would have been more favorable,” Rajneesh said.

He said the former close adviser and the others left over the weekend to a sendoff by numerous well-wishers who were unaware of the unfolding intrigue.

“Sheela and all her gang simply left America without giving any cause why they were leaving,” Rajneesh said. “It was strange.”

Others who left included Rajneeshpuram Mayor Swami Krishna Deva, Municipal Judge Ma Prem Homa, Rajneesh Investment Corp. president Ma Anand Su, Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas International Commune president Ma Yoga Vidya, Rajneesh Medical Corp. president Ma Anand Puja and City Council member Ma Deva Ratka. None of the departed followers was available for comment.

The 53-year-old so called free-sex guru, who claims to be just an “ordinary man” among his followers on the former cattle ranch he bought in Central Oregon about 160 miles east of Portland, said “the gang” was also suspected of having tried to poison the district attorney of Jefferson County and had plotted unsuccessfully to poison the water supply of The Dalles, a nearby city, and sabotage its police cars.

Also, he said, they electronically bugged houses in the commune as well as his own bedroom during his silence. He drew laughs by observing that perhaps they thought “that when I am asleep I deliver a speech.”

He said the dissidents “far transcended Nixon. . . . “

Bhagwan said he was displeased with the commune’s much-publicized takeover of the small town of Antelope, now called Rajneesh, about 20 miles north of the commune. He offered to let the townspeople buy back their community.

“It was ugly,” he said, “to take over Antelope . . . to take these poor people’s town does not seem right.”

He also expressed dissatisfaction with the commune’s move last fall to bring in hundreds of street people from cities all over America. “There was speculation,” he said, without denying it, “that this was done to influence local elections.”

He called the project a waste of $3 million and added, “I am not much interested in illiterate, uneducated street beggars. I am interested in intelligentsia.”

Rajneesh said the accusations against Sheela and the others had been reported to local authorities and that the commune, with it’s own police force, is pursuing its own investigation.

“We are $55 million in debt,” he said, but insisted that it would not affect the commune’s determination to remain in Oregon.