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Coming Soon

In the Shadow of
Enlightenment
Growing up in the Rajneesh Cult

Rajneeshpuram, Drive-by

In 2018 I responded to a thread  about the neglect and abuse of children that was posted in a Rajneesh Facebook group. I shared about my abuse, but at that time I was too scared to name my perpetrators.

 

in 2019 I wrote and sent a letter to my main abuser, the one who "deflowered" me. He didn't respond.

 

Finally gathering enough courage to name my abusers, on September 22, 2021, I posted a letter to the Rajneesh Community in two Rajneesh Facebook groups. I am sharing that letter here so that the truth is exposed instead of being shielded behind a veil of spiritual bypassing and victim shaming. My story is just one of many, and I hope others also bring their stories out of the shadows.

I received apology letters from 2 of men I named. I have changed a couple of names to protect those people's identities.

 

An Open Letter to the
Rajneesh Community

Sept 22, 2021

 

Dear Osho Rajneesh community:

In the name of truth and to stand in solidarity with all of us “kids” who were sexually and emotionally abused in the commune, I feel compelled to step forward about my abuse. I have grappled with going public for many years, and repeatedly ended up feeling too shaky and unsupported to speak out. When I have shared my story with commune members in the past, the general response was, for the most part, to minimize the gravity and whitewash my experience. In fact, a couple of years ago there was a post on Rajneeshpuram Residents inquiring about the abuse and neglect of the children. I did speak honestly about the fact that I was abused and felt traumatized by it, though at that time I did not name names. I received some support which was invaluable, but sadly, many of the responses only left me feeling angry and silenced. Dismissive comments like “the children seemed so mature,” “it was an experiment, so there was bound to be some duplicitous behavior,” “It was the 70’s, what do you expect” just left me thinking the cloak of spiritual denial could never be penetrated. There were people worrying about ruining the lives of the abusers, suggesting not to mention names. What about my life? Does the suffering I endured not matter? Doesn’t truth matter? Isn’t that what we were all seeking after all? One woman even privately messaged me trying to talk me out of my experience, saying that she would have loved to have men pursue her when she was the age I was when the abuse started. So I just walked away from the Facebook conversation feeling deflated, hopeless, and worthless.

 

The social mores of commune normalized poor sexual boundaries, and idealized sexual promiscuity all in the name of freedom, non-attachment, and spirituality. In this context, I became a great actress, and dared not speak of my internal angst, confusion and torture, as I thought I couldn’t. The predatory behavior of the pedophiles in our midst was just accepted and normalized. I believe that some of you didn’t know about what was going on, but I know that many of you DID know about it, and simply chose to look the other way. As I child I was vulnerable and needed protection and guidance. The fact is that adults having sex with anyone under 18 is abuse and rape. Plain and simple. It is not a debatable fact and cannot be justified or pushed aside simply because its an inconvenient truth that muddies your spiritual delusion.

 

My first sexual encounter where I lost my virginity was with Milarepa, also fittingly known as the “Rapist” to his friends, at the age of 12. He continued to have sex with me on a regular basis for most of the time we were at the ranch-- in between in numerous other conquests. I was also abused by Mutribo, one of Milarepa’s close friends. There were also lesser offenses, such as fondling my breasts on several occasions by Swiss Raja, and fondling my breasts by another very prominent man in the commune whose name I don’t feel comfortable revealing at this time. I know for a fact that Milarepa and Mutribo had sexual relationships with other kids at the ranch, but it is not my place to tell their stories. However, its important to understand that Milarepa in particular was a serial offender.

 

The “relationship” with Milarepa has haunted me all these years, and I am sickened that he is still at large and revered within this community. It was humiliating and belittling to say the least. After walking away from the Facebook group discussion, I decided that I would write Milarepa a letter in hopes of being heard and in hopes that he would reflect, apologize, and own up to his offenses. I sent the letter by mail and also by certified mail. I never received any kind of response. I am disgusted that he touts himself as a spiritual man who travels around playing music and teaching mediation. Does he have no conscience? I suppose responding to me would amount to him admitting guilt to what happened. I have not been in touch with him since shortly after the ranch when I saw him in LA along with Mutribo. The last night I saw them I was hoping to see Mutribo who was passing through town. Mutribo ignored me, had sex with another woman in the bed next to me, and the next day I left. Milarepa was in the loft in the same room having sex with somebody else. About 20 years ago I wrote a message to Milarepa because I wanted to confront him when he came through Boulder. He responded saying I could come to the Osho center to hear him play. I didn’t go and have never heard from him again.

 

Below is the letter I sent to Milarepa that details what happened and how his actions affected and still do affect me. It is my hope that sharing it here will help you understand the facts of this matter and the great impact it has had on my life. There is really nothing that can reverse what happened, but there can be some healing by hearing me, standing with me against abuse, and demanding that Milarepa and other abusers come out of the shadows and take responsibility. Even better would be if they would stop being slippery and stop trying to justify or minimize their actions. I hope the community as a whole will have the good sense to knock these people down from their revered positions within the community and see them for who they really are.

 

To those who have reached out to me with your love and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would not have had the courage to share all this without you. For those of you who are hearing of my experience for the first time, I ask that you take it in and believe me. I am telling the truth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oct 1, 2019

Dear Milarepa,

For many years, over 35 years in fact, I have held inside of me a pain that eats at my core. This is the result of the sexual and emotional abuse I experienced at Rajneeshpuram. What happened to me then has affected every day of my life since. Along with the incessant negative feelings, shame, and collapse, there is another part of me that is self-respecting and strong. It’s time to set the record straight. It’s time for the truth to be told and for you to take responsibility for your actions. There is no kind of sugar coating or spiritual justification that excuses exploiting a minor.

 

When I was 12 years old, shortly to become 13, you began having sex with me, and this continued for 2 to 3 years. This should have never happened! Not only was it morally wrong, and legally “rape of a minor,” as well as “statutory rape,” it was also just despicable human behavior. It was emotionally deceptive, a misuse of power, and cruel. Ironically this happened in the midst of a community that touted love, deep personal inquiry, honesty and the pursuit of enlightenment. Your actions were the opposite of these precepts. Instead, your actions were self-centered hedonism with no consideration for me, or for the hurt and damage you would leave in your wake.

 

When I arrived at the “Ranch,” I was a lonely young girl who had a strained and complicated relationship with my mother. In fact, I arrived alone. I was a daydreaming pre-teen/teenager, who despite some wounding, believed in romance and love. I engaged in magical thinking, and imagined scenarios in which I be rescued. I, in fact, believed whole-heartedly that romance was inextricably tied to love, and as an extension, sex was an expression of that love. My heart was not yet hardened, and my mind was not yet disillusioned. I was innocent and vulnerable. I was not aware of the complex emotional games adults played with each other. I had no reference point. I was a virgin. I had never even had a date with anyone. I didn’t know anything about romance. I didn’t know anything about sex. This is when inserted yourself into my life.

 

We both arrived during the early days of the ranch. I was the 32nd person to arrive, and I believe you arrived a couple of weeks later. Those were the days when I lived in Howdy Doody with 15 men, and one of them was you. You played music with Sam after dinner outside the ranch house, singing many Eagle’s songs that I still remember well. You started talking to me and seeking me out. I thought your interest meant you must really like me, and in my naiveté, I hoped your love would make my trouble go away, help me feel safe and appreciated. It was all very innocent in my eyes, but you had different plans.

 

One night a poker game formed with some of the men. You invited me to the game, where you offered me beer, and I obliged. Soon after, I was sitting next to you while you had one hand down my shirt, fondling my breast, and the other holding your hand of cards. I felt uncomfortable, frozen, but I didn’t react. Nobody else was reacting, so it must have been fine, I thought. Many people witnessed what you were doing, but just watched and didn’t show any signs that it was inappropriate. That did not mean it was okay, but means they were in fact complicit. As it turns out, many of the men at the game also had sex with young girls as time went on. I believe you set an example that your friends then followed. At that time, I didn’t know what your attention and fondling meant. Did this make me special, I wondered? I also thought that if I wanted to you to like me I should go along with it.

 

A couple weeks later, there was a party at one of the build sites, Desiderata, I think. Many of us rode there in the backs of pickup trucks, with beer and music in hand. We were there at the party, and as it was getting dark, you pulled me aside, sweet talking me, and guided me away from the others and into the bushes. Foreigner’s song “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you to come into my life” blared out of the boom box. I felt shy and embarrassed because as you sang along with the song, I thought you were serenading me. It was exhilarating to be wooed and scary because it was happening so fast I didn’t know how to react or what I felt. You nudged me toward the ground where you kissed me, felt me up and began to take off my clothes. But, before it went any further, someone yelled at us from the distance, saying it was time to go. So we got up and piled into the pickup truck. I remember sitting in the back of the truck feeling embarrassed and like I had something to hide, like I had a dirty, yet special secret. You sat next to me casually as if nothing was going on between us. When the truck stopped where you lived, you took my hand to help me up and then guided me home with you.

 

This was when you broke my virginity, or as you and your friends put it “popped my cherry. “ I remember lying there stiffly. I had no real interest in the sex, and in fact it was never pleasurable, I just took it. I took it because I thought it would make you love me. I thought sex was supposed to be an expression of love. But after it was done, I just stared at the ceiling all night. As you slept, I wondered what was so special about sex. Where was the ecstasy and joy of which people spoke? Nonetheless, I formed an attachment and I believed that the sex proved I was special to you, that it “sealed our bond.” After that first night you continued having sex with me either regularly or periodically for the following three years, until I was 15.

 

When things first started with us, I thought we were “together.” Although we were living in a community where everyone was sleeping with everyone else, it didn’t cross my mind that was the case with you and me. I made romantic assumptions, as young girls do. We never had real conversations. You spoke very little besides to say “Wanna come home with me tonight.” You didn’t really know me, and I certainly didn’t know you. Finally I realized that I was not special at all, that you had not chosen me, and that I was in fact just one notch on your very notched belt.

 

First, I found out about your relationship with Chala. Then, soon after that, I saw you seducing and taking home, dozens and dozens of women, maybe one or two each day. I felt so duped, emotionally gut punched, and humiliated. My innocent belief that you loved me, and would care for me, was shattered. I was so hurt and confused. I felt used and devalued. I wondered how one day you would lavish me with compliments that made me feel special and use me sexually, only to treat me like I was invisible the very next day. I felt so much shame for even existing, and from that place of shame I had no courage to stand up to you.

 

I thought it was my fault because I was not attractive, accepting or agreeable enough. Even though things felt so bad, I swallowed my pain and hoped things would change. At that point I felt emotionally trapped. I would feel some relief when you would come back around to me in your rotation of many women. For those few hours I thought I must be worthy, and then during the remaining time I would pine in torment. You lured me back in over and over again. You said the right things to make me feel attractive and special. I wanted to believe the things you said, and at first I did. I formed an unhealthy bond with you, thinking I needed you to survive or to feel okay. This bond should never have been given the opportunity to form. Young emotions and hearts are fragile. That is why there are laws about age of consent and sexual abuse. At that young age, I was not psychologically or emotionally mature enough to make such decisions or handle the emotions of being treated like a disposable object. I wonder if you ever even stopped to think about how your fleeting whims, those of a horny Lothario who wants his girls as young as possible, would mess with my psyche?

 

While your interactions with me may not have been memorable to you, perhaps just small blips in your long list of sexual conquests, the impact for me was monumental and traumatizing. You had no shame, and somehow you got away with it. What was worse was that you and your similarly inclined pedophilic friends, would joke around about whose “cherry” you popped, or whom you took home the night before. It was like a sport. Your friends called you the “Rapist,” which was indeed an accurate description, and a term that never made me laugh. There I was caught in the fray of your sick drama, a pawn in the game of corrosive conquest. I was just a piece of meat that you would chew up and spit out.

 

As time went on, you began sleeping with other girls my age. I remember throwing a party and inviting you, only to be entirely ignored. Instead, you seduced one of my friends right in front of my eyes. Later you were sleeping with one of my roommates, a fact she loved to taunt me with, since she knew I was hung up on you. I just swallowed it and carried on keeping up appearances. But then it got to be too much. I needed to know why I was being discarded and why you were torturing me by sleeping with my peers. I tried to hide from facts, act tough, and tried my best to not see how sick it was. I expressed my distress in a letter, which I remember was very scary for me to do at the time. In the letter, I asked you why you no longer showed me attention. I came up with some stupid simile like “what we have is so beautiful that we should not dissect it like a rose, petal by petal.” A couple weeks later you wrote back explaining that there were so many other men out there, and that there were in fact “hundreds of men who would give up enlightenment to be with you.” That line was so absurd and dismissive that I could never forget it. That was clearly your modus operandi: going with the flow, following your energy, not attaching, and not considering anybody but yourself.

 

Now, putting all the details aside and the emotional damage aside, the facts remain: sexual relations with a young girl is a crime. While the details fade in my memory, what fades less readily is the psychological and emotional impact I’ve had to carry. I know that there is no way to undo what happened or for justice to be served. Even if you were in jail, the emotional wounds will always be with me.

 

Over the past couple of years, several people have reached out to me to tell me they knew about, or even witnessed, the sexual relationship you had with me. They have offered support, and have strongly urged me to expose you and the others who also abused underage girls at the ranch. I appreciate their support immensely, and it has helped me find courage to speak up on this matter. Since you are well known in the Osho community, and since you teach meditation and are a “seeker,” I hope you will take a good look at your actions and confront the hypocrisy that is so blatantly clear in your actions. I now place the responsibility in your hands to expose this ugliness to the community. Your shame is yours, not mine, and I ask you to take ownership of it. This is not a time for cowardice, but rather a time for you to shine light on this ugly truth so that there can be healing—healing for me, for the others you have used, and for the community. I also hope that the other men who were in your “posse” will also come forth with the truth. This would be the most mature thing you could do to honor me, as well as any others who have similarly suffered.

 

Sincerely,

Sarito

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