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When the Rajneeshee sex cult turned Fremantle orange
 
Adjust font size:   Close Kaiwind Brendan Foster 2017-06-09
 

 

Fremantle was a major hub for the Orange People movement 

Former Rajneeshee member Avi says being part of the religious movement in Fremantle in the early 1980s was like going to a theme park every day but with bucket loads of sex. 

The 63-year-old was a devotee of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, who was an Indian self-help guru who attracted thousands of followers from around the world with his talk about sex as a path of superconsciousness. 

Somewhere between a holy man and a showman, Bhagwan combined eastern mysticism and western capitalism and urged his disciples known as Sannyasins, or Orange People, to cast off their worldly possessions. 

Fremantle became a major hub for the movement with hundreds of mostly young and university educated people, flocking to the port city to expand their religious dimensions through sex. 

 

The Bhagwan with some of his followers 

 

Former Rajneeshee member Avi at his home in Fremantle. Photo: Brendan Foster 

"You were orange and you wore a mala with his photo on it but it drew a lot of criticism at the time." 

Avi said he first became drawn to the religious movement after visiting India in the late 1970s after quitting his job as a child psychiatrist. 

When he talks about his first and only meeting with the Bhagwan, he is suddenly rendered catatonic.   

"He was very serene, quiet...there was nothing in the way," he said. "No ego. 

By the time the Bhagwan moved from his ashram in Pune, India, to a palatial range in central Oregon in 1981, his message of free love and mysticism was eliciting devotion beyond the guru's wildest dreams. 

Orange-clad disciples were "encouraged" to sell off their possessions including their houses and it's reported an estimated $130 million poured into the ranch between 1981-1985. 

One of the images rolled out in the media was the Bhagwan's $7 million worth of Rolls Royce's parked in the remote, dusty valley of his 64,000 hectare range. 

The Indian mystic would make his daily drive around his property in one of his luxurious cars, while thousands of followers crowding the roads throwing flowers at him. 

Avi quit the cult in 1985 shortly after the Bhagwan's chief assistant Ma Sheela came to Fremantle. 

Sheela herself quit the commune shortly after cryptically saying "God's secretary is not easy." She was later sentenced to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of attempted murder, assault, arson, electronic eavesdropping, immigration fraud and conspiracy. 

Sohan Hayes was just five when he was shunted off by his parents to the Rajneeshee commune called Shanti-Sedan in the outskirts of Forrestdale in the early 1980s. 

He still has vivid memories of wild meditation sessions where people screamed, convulsed and rolled around on the ground to reach a place of inner peace. 

Mr Hayes is co-curating an exhibition at the Fremantle Arts Centre called Orange, which explores the legacy of Sannyasins in Fremantle, particularly those experienced by the kids in the movement. 

Mr Hayes said he went through a dark period in his youth, trying to comprehend why his parents left him to explore their spirituality in India. 

"I've come to terms with that... there was a lot of anger as a young child and a teenager and that was feeling like my parents weren't present," he said. 

"But they've given me all this freedom to be creative." 

Just as quickly as the movement arose, it disappeared from Fremantle after Sannyasins lost "faith" amidst  claims of corruption and murder allegations coming out of the Bhagwan's Oregon ranch. 

Source: 

http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/when-the-rajneeshee-sex-cult-turned-fremantle-orange-20170323-gv4nr5.html 

    

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