Reading is to mind what food is to the body. It nourishes, enriches it so it is equipped to understand and perform better. As a compulsive reader, I’ve kept my mind open and consciously tried to delve into different genres. Today’s non-fiction pick is By My Own Rules, an autobiography by the celebrated (and desecrated) Ma Anand Sheela, former secretary to Osho Rajneesh and spokesperson of the Rajneesh movement.
About the book
Ma Anand Sheela and her controversial life have been fodder for gossip even though she was away from the limelight for many years. Everything from her passionate love for Bhagwan Rajneesh to their infamous falling out has been documented with a generous sprinkling of spice. She has been called names and routinely faced ruthless character assassination. Was it fair to her though?
Through this book, she has put out her side of the story, a chance she was never accorded before. In By My Own Rules, Ma Anand Sheela takes us through her formative years and shares every small and big experience that made her what she is. She talks extensively about her progressive Gujrati family, her reverence for Bhagwan, and the knowledge she gained through him that prepared her for the struggles she went through.
First and foremost, I liked the tone of this book. Ma Anand Sheela has spent years working with different sets of people and the ease with which she communicates her feelings is commendable. Whether it was spearheading the challenging task of developing Rajneeshpuram, spending 39 months in prison, or starting from scratch at the age of 38, not once does she allow negativity to slow her down. This is the kind of positive attitude that mental health experts should advocate.
Ma Anand Sheela has developed multiple care homes in Switzerland and Mauritius for the elderly and patients with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. Her account of their daily activities, small pleasure trips, and general camaraderie filled me with immense gratitude and respect for her. Her dedicated team is her backbone and is inspired to give their best to the residents. Love, empathy, and kindness are the best glue to bind people.
Despite all the good things discussed and done though, I felt like many burning matters were brushed under the carpet. I had read about Ma Anand Sheela and seen her interviews earlier. In this book, she has chosen to paddle on the surface and let a lot of loose ends be. Also, I wished there were more than a few references about her daughter Anuja who must’ve undoubtedly had a hard childhood. Now that’s one autobiography I would love to read.
To sum up, this is a good and quick read if you keep expectations of any major revelations at bay. The Osho movement was a rage in the 80s and this book gives a good glimpse of how it became one.
My rating: *** 3/5 stars
About the author
Ma Anand Sheela managed the city of Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon, USA, and was the personal secretary of Bhagwan Rajneesh from 1980 to 1985. Most recently she has featured in the Netflix series Wild Wild Country.
Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography
Available in: Paperback and Kindle Edition
You can order your copy of this book from Amazon.
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