University of Oregon

Knight Library Exhibit Examines Rajneeshee Controversy

An exhibit in Knight Library takes a multifaceted look at the controversial City of Rajneeshpuram, an intentional community established in 1981 by a group of followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh near the small town of Antelope in central Oregon.

Relations between the leadership at Rajneeshpuram and local and state officials were strained from the beginning. But by 1984, the controversy peaked when Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneesh’s secretary and de facto leader of Rajneeshpuram, and other commune members were caught up in numerous legal battles, including a lawsuit filed by then-Oregon attorney general and UO president emeritus Dave Frohnmayer. Ma Sheela and her associates soon were conspiring to harm federal, state, and local officials, as well as some of their own commune members who took positions against them.

In 1985, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Ma Anand Sheela fled Oregon to escape prosecution, and the commune collapsed.

“Rajneeshpuram: Miracle or Mirage in Oregon’s High Desert” tells the story of the communal experiment through numerous documents, photographs, and artifacts from the Rajneesh Artifacts and Ephemera Collection held in the library’s Special Collections and University Archives.

One of Rajneesh’s robes, a diamond-studded watch, and a mala—a pendant with Rajneesh’s photo worn by his followers—are part of the exhibit. Anti-Rajneesh items produced by local residents are also included—a bullet mala, t-shirts with anti-Rajneesh messages, and more.

The exhibit in the east and west entryway corridors of Knight Library continues through June 2014. Visit for viewing hours.

University of Oregon Libraries
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