‘Nothing To Lose’ – A Fairy Tale with Sheela as the heroine


A review by Subhuti* about Manbeena Sandhu’s just released biography of Sheela.

(Sannyas News acknowledges Oshonews.com and Subhuti for providing this article: Thanks!)

‘Nothing to Lose’: The authorized biography of Ma Anand Sheelaby Manbeena Sandhu

(HarperCollins, India)

amazon.com – amazon.de – amazon.in

 It is hard to feel sympathy for a person who insists on telling lies. But that is what we are asked to do by Ma Anand Sheela, in her authorized biography, titled “Nothing to Lose,” now published by HarperCollins.

The book is designed to make a big splash in the media, especially in America. The publisher, having bought the rights to Sheela’s story, is counting on it.

So, it will soon be apparent whether the book’s reviewers, the TV chat show hosts and the public will accept Sheela’s account of what happened.

If they do, then, like Manbeena Sandhu, Sheela’s starry-eyed biographer who wrote the book, they will need to ignore a lot of evidence that points to her deceptions.

Nevertheless, Sheela may get away with it, because her version of life with Osho feeds into the mainstream’s assumptions about greedy gurus and gullible followers.

The book’s narrative, in a nutshell, is as follows:

Sheela, as a 16 year-old girl, fell madly in love with Acharya Rajneesh, as Osho was then called, and nine years later joined his ashram in Pune, quickly becoming an assistant to his secretary, Ma Yoga Laxmi.

Meanwhile, thousands of people from around the world were pouring into Pune to be with Osho. These “followers” are invariably described by Manbeena Sandhu in sarcastic terms as befuddled, dazed, sex mad, hedonistic and blindly obedient to Osho’s every command.

Osho himself is portrayed as a shrewd businessman, a charismatic speaker and an artful guru who knows how to manipulate people.

The book relates that in 1981, when Osho’s health began to fail and Laxmi could not find land for a big commune in India, Sheela succeeded in taking him to America and bought the 120 square-mile Big Muddy Ranch in Oregon.

There, Sheela presided over the construction of a town for 3,500 people, but then comes the book’s dramatic turning point – and this is where Manbeena Sandhu relies heavily on conventional attitudes to keep the reader on Sheela’s side.

According to her, the guru suddenly developed a huge appetite for expensive toys, including Rolls Royce cars and diamond watches, and Sheela felt torn between her love for him and her “motherly” care for feeding and housing the community.

Eventually the tension became too much. Sheela cracked, resigned and left. In a fit of anger, the guru then accused her of a host of crimes, for which she was arrested and wrongly imprisoned.

Then, after serving her time, Sheela was released and – true to her selfless nature – has subsequently devoted her life to looking after disabled people in a Swiss care home.

This, then, is the gospel according to Saint Sheela, as dictated to her credulous scribe, Manbeena Sandhu.

The reality, as many people know who lived through those Pune and Oregon years, is somewhat different. And the truth is not hard to find, if anyone possesses sufficient intelligence and drive to look for it.

Three of Sheela’s closest aides on the Oregon Ranch have testified in detail concerning her attempt to murder Osho’s doctor, Devaraj, and to assassinate the US Attorney for Oregon, Charles Turner, as well as numerous other crimes.

One of these aides, Ava Avalos, decided to turn informer, so her testimony, though convincing, could be dismissed as motivated by her bid to gain immunity from prosecution.

But books written by Samadhi Longo-Disse and Jane Stork (Shanti B), both of whom stayed loyal to Sheela and refused to testify against her, confirm Ava’s tale, telling the true story.

Both women went to jail for their part in these crimes. Samadhi served the longest sentence of all those who were imprisoned.

In addition to the crimes, scores of Ranch residents could have testified, if asked, to the abuse, cruelty and harassment they suffered at Sheela’s hands and at the hands of her willing lieutenants.

This doesn’t mean that Sheela needs to be condemned for what she did. Nor does it detract from the enthusiasm, exuberance, love and fulfilment that so many sannyasins felt while living and working in the Pune Ashram and Oregon Ranch.

Perhaps the biggest crime of this book is that at no time does the writer allow the possibility that Osho was, indeed, an enlightened mystic whose motivation was to offer a taste of the ultimate spiritual experience to as many people as possible.

That’s never on Manbeena Sandhu’s literary bucket list. Her ignorance about who Osho really was and what he tried to do is her book’s biggest flaw.

In conclusion, it’s unfortunate that the writer’s uncritical worship of Sheela results in an attempt to warp history, deny reality and feed into mainstream prejudices.

What a pity. It was a good opportunity for Sheela to reflect on her mistakes, admit her weaknesses and apologize to those whom she wronged. In this regard, the book falls woefully short.

* is a writer, author of many books, including the recent, Wild Wild Guru.    subhutianand.com

More at:   https://www.oshonews.com/2020/10/10/nothing-to-lose-sheela-subhuti/?fbclid=IwAR1Jyfop_Qo7rVxXDLq_CUVxL266B5Au3SiTSfhCGRFpjN8rq5YT_B37-N4


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27 Responses to ‘Nothing To Lose’ – A Fairy Tale with Sheela as the heroine

  1. frank says:

    The whole thing is a well whack story and just right for a post-truth world.

    And the old girl keeps it together well for someone who is clearly a few garnishes short of a full salad bar.

    Mind you, there`s a lot of it about.

    • frank says:

      But who cares about Sheela, apart from people glued to Netflix, a few people trying to make a buck out of her? She`s like Sideshow Bob trying to convince you that ‘The Simpsons’ is all about her. Or some sad, nutty old bird who corners people at a party and bangs on and on and on about her ex.

      I would be tempted to read it if it explained how on earth a convicted serial poisoner dodging extradition managed to become a carehome manager in good old honest Switzerland, but somehow I doubt that`s in there!

      Btw, I thought my suggestion of a discussion topic around how nuagers and sannyasins have been sucked into Qanon- type conspiracies would have made a better and more current thread. Although of course, Sheela is part of the same wave, in a way.

      Lies are the new truth and so it goes.

      Frank, did you receive an email (October 5) re your idea for a new topic? Do you want to use or modify what you’ve already sent in as a comment?

  2. Klaus says:


    The Swiss passport comes from her marriage to Urs Birnstiel (Sw. Dhyan Dipo), died in 1985; he was a business consultant. Possibly not a poor person. He was her third husband.

    I won’t read the book. Enough.

    • Klaus says:

      Actually, the more suitable title for such a book, in my opinion is:

      ‘Nothing to lose but yourself.’

    • swamishanti says:

      Actually, Dipo (Urs Birsteil) died in the mid 1990s from AIDS. Apparently, he was gay and proud of it. Also a Swiss citizen, which gave Sheela refuge in Switzerland (which Sheela knew would protect her from extradition by the U.S. government).

      Sheela had married Dipo on a trip to Mexico whilst still legally married to her American husband Jayananda.

      Osho pointed this out and accused Sheela of bigamy in the first press conference he gave after Sheela left the Ranch in Sept 1985. Which can be listened to here:

      • Klaus says:


        Tnx for correcting my wrongly stated items. I took it from somewhere….

          • Klaus says:

            Thanks for the link to the archives!

            I like best the end of the comment from Parmartha, 26 April, 2012 at 8:04 pm, under this link:


            “Clearly anyone with experience of proper executive power would not have been bombing court houses and poisoning water, irrespective of the problems. The art of senior management is being able to live with its often seeming apparent burden, without losing one’s humour, and having enough self-awareness not to fall into any mental ill health from stress.

            I would have still seen any conventional view of success (of the Ranch) as a mistaken path.
            On the other hand, it would have been good to disband at the time of our choosing, rather than collapsing from within in such a precipitate way.”

            Plus Jayananda’s clear stance in refusing to commit – blunderous – actions asked of him.

            • swamishanti says:

              Thanks. I found both the threads by Jayananda to be interesting.

              And Parmartha’s comments, as usual, intelligent and thought-provoking.

              From what Jayananda wrote before, it looks like Jayananda’s story may be going to feature in Niren’s upcoming book on the Ranch.

              • Niren…
                The man who left signature on the fake Osho will.

                • swamishanti says:

                  The book is one Osho asked Niren to write back in 1988 to “clear his name in America”.

                  Nothing to do with the allegations of the fake will in India (which has now been dismissed?).

                  Niren must have been waiting and gathering declassified government files, etc.

                • swamishanti says:

                  From Niren’s website:

                  “Numerous friends have been offering encouragement about my book, and asking when it is going to be available. So here’s the story. When the Netflix series came out, I was 90% complete with a first draft of a discussion and analysis of the major legal cases and events involving Osho and the community during the time Osho was in the United States. That book would be very dense, and not likely to be popular with the general reading public. Since the Netflix series came out, I have been approached by several literary agents. The book they want and believe will be well received by the reading public, is the story of my life, work and relationship with Osho, his vision and work, and the development through destruction of the city/commune, with a less dense presentation of the law cases.

                  My focus and intention remain the same: to clear Osho’s name as he asked of me. I am writing the book in the form suggested by the literary agents with the understanding that the book in that format will reach the maximum number of readers, thus having the maximum impact in correcting the misunderstanding of Osho and his work. So, I’m writing that book. Right now, I’m writing a book proposal, and anticipate having the book itself finished in as close to six months as possible. I will also finish the detailed legal analysis of all of the cases after I complete this book.“


                • Klaus says:

                  Oh, another book.
                  ‘Integrity’ is a key word here.

                  “Dignity” – Bob the Dylan:

                  ‘Integrity’ will be the first to leave?

                  More ‘Dust in the wind’?

                • swamishanti says:

                  Let’s take a vibrant piece of dance from that era:


                • Klaus says:

                  Nice, one of my favourites. :)

                • swamishanti says:

                  ‘Wild Wild Country’ certainly seems to have raised a lot of interest in Osho and Rajneeshpuram…
                  several videos are popping up on YouTube featuring vintage footage such as this one:


                  Nothing to do with the Resort channel.

                • swamishanti says:

                  Here’s another one with some rare footage of Osho’s prison experience, the break-up of the Ranch and the World Tour…https://youtu.be/0sUm0J-eq1I

            • swamishanti says:

              Jayananda and Sheela in happier times… during satsang in 1981 at the Castle.

  3. satchit says:

    For me this Sheela thing is an old cake.

    Still nobody knows what Osho said to her.
    It’s a territory of belief and speculation.

    • swamishanti says:

      It is true. But, Osho didn’t seem to be concerned about whatever he had said to her that might have been recorded by her – as he revealed when he told the World Press that he had just been informed that she had taken some tapes with her when she left – and he led the FBI to where her group was hiding on the West German border with Switzerland.

      She also doesn’t want to bring the matter up in her book, it seems.

  4. satchit says:

    How can you know that Osho said the truth?

    Does not being enlightened mean being beyond moral?

    If Existence wants him to lie, He will lie without hesitation.

    • swamishanti says:

      In this case, no, I don’t believe Osho was lying. Alerting the World Press and the FBI that he had been informed that apparently she had taken some tapes with her, and whereabouts she was hiding, is not a smart move for someone who is wanting to hide something.

      And Osho was the first person to mention the alledged tapes.

      Does being enlightened mean being beyond morality? Nisargaddata Maharaj’s master, Sri Sadhguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj, used to say:

  5. satchit says:

    “I don’t believe Osho was lying.”

    I mentioned it already: It’s a territory of belief.

    Fact is, we dunno.

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