Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

I Binged “Wild Wild Country” and Then Found My Own Osho Moment in Berkeley

My journey to better understand the cult led to me speaking gibberish to a wall for 40 minutes

 

Wild Wild Country, the latest Netflix documentary sensation to hit Americans’ TV screens, opens with an eerie shot of a rural village in Oregon. It’s the 1980s, and we learn that the town has a population of 50 — that is, until a cult arrives and buys a 60,000-acre ranch they grow into a bustling metropolis of followers.

When Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the cult’s Indian guru, arrives in a Rolls-Royce and steps onto a red carpet in the middle of the dust, he has a long God-like beard and holds his hands in prayer. Then the scene cuts to later footage showing him in the same reverent pose, but this time in handcuffs.

“What happened was far scarier than anything anyone could have imagined,” the town’s former mayor says to the camera with a smirk.

I was instantly hooked. I spent the rest of my weekend binge-watching the six-part series, which documents the Bhagwan’s rise, how he gains his followers and his attempt to build a completely self-sustaining utopian town named Rajneeshpuram. Without giving away too much, the story starts with an idyllic vision of a community based on values of nonviolence, creative pursuits and personal growth, but quickly turns as tensions mount between the Rajneeshees and the longtime conservative residents.

The strangest part of watching the show: even though it gets really ugly, with arsenals of automatic weapons, bioterrorism and attempted murders, at the beginning I couldn’t help but think, How do I join?

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