Wild Wild Country: San Diego’s connection to the Rajneesh commun - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Wild Wild Country: San Diego’s connection to the Rajneesh commune

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - The Rajneesh movement of the 1980s is back in the spotlight thanks to a six-part Netflix documentary called Wild Wild Country.

When Lemon Grove resident Samadhi Selecki met Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in 1974, he changed her life forever.

“When I first met him in person, I saw something in him that I wanted for myself. He was a psychology teacher and professor. He was very knowledgeable,” recalled Selecki.

For 10 years, Selecki was a member of the Rajneesh movement, initially in India and later when she lived in a large commune built in eastern Oregon in 1981.

“The very first thing he said to me was, ‘Why are you here?’ And I said, ‘I'm lonely.’ I never expected to say that,” she said.

Life on the Oregon ranch, known as Rajneeshpuram, is the subject of the recent Netflix documentary series.

By 1984, the commune had some 3,000 members living off the land in a self-sufficient community. About 300 of them were from San Diego.

“I gave up everything. I gave up my profession, my work, my house in New York, all my possessions and I went,” Selecki said.

News 8 first traveled to the Oregon commune in 1984. Reporter Loren Nancarrow interviewed workers about life on the 64,000 acre ranch:

It was a life that included work, worship, singing, dancing, spiritual awakening, and an abundance of free love, which Rajneesh preached to his followers.

“He was an intensely sexual individual, which means that he emanated this attraction. You couldn’t not be attracted to him, which is why people came,” said Selecki.

“(Rajneesh) said you should learn to express your sexuality fully and freely and respectfully. But the only way to do that is to learn about it,” she said.

The documentary series follows the life of Rajneesh in the commune. He would conduct a daily "drive by" greeting of followers on the ranch.

“We had people who had professions, who had money. We also had ordinary people like me. And, we had people from all over the world,” said Selecki.

The massive influx of so-called "orange people" did not sit well with ranchers in the neighboring town of Antelope, Oregon.

“Antelope was a town of 20 people in the middle of eastern Oregon and in a very radically conservative area,” Selecki said. “Psychologically, many people in the administration of the commune thought we're being threatened there.”

After a hotel in Portland, Oregon -- owned by the Rajneeshees -- was bombed in 1983 an us-versus-them mentality set in.

“For me, when it went in the direction of guns and all the threats, I said I can't stay in this any longer. I have to leave,” said Selecki.

Federal agents charged Rajneesh with immigration crimes in 1985. He pleaded guilty and agreed to leave the country.

The guru died in India in 1990.

Samadhi herself spent five years in federal prison for her role in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate a U.S. Attorney; involvement that Selecki denies to this day.

“I did nothing wrong. There's nothing that I saw that I did wrong,” she told us.

Today, Selecki works as a counselor and sex therapist. She also wrote a book, Scalded: The Making and Undoing of an Extremist.

“I'm alive and vibrant and full of life for almost seven decades on this planet and I'm still going strong,” said Selecki.

She is no longer a member of the group, which now goes by the name Osho International.

“There was no failure. There was only growth. It was only development. It had to go in this direction. It had to end so that something else could happen,” she said.

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