For Immediate Release 

Contact: Paul Loofburrow

An OPB Original Production 
Rajneeshpuram: An Oregon Experience 
Premieres Monday, November 19 at 8PM on OPB-TV

In the early 1980’s, the disciples of an Indian spiritual leader precipitated a storm of angry conflict in Central Oregon. Even today, some 30 years later, any discussion of “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh” can ignite the emotions of those who found themselves in the thick of it, the people of Wasco and Jefferson counties.     

The Bhagwan’s disciples, seemed to come with the best of intentions. They expected to immerse themselves in a community of love and shared spirituality. They wanted more out of life, they wanted meaningful experiences, and more than a few hoped to spend the rest of their days at this place.

The Sannyasins, as they called themselves, a well-educated, well-heeled group from all over the globe and built a city on what had been the 100-square-mile Big Muddy Ranch. They called it Rajneeshpuram.     

The new one-hour episode of Oregon Experience, Rajneeshpuram, explores the intense, 4-1/2 year lifespan of the Rajneesh community. For members of the surrounding communities, especially Antelope and The Dalles, the experience was often quite negative. Bhagwan’s people were sometimes rude and confrontational toward their neighbors. The newcomers literally took over the nearby town of Antelope. Later, the leaders of Rancho Rajneesh even tried to skew a county election in their favor. And near the end of their time in Oregon, some residents of the commune were charged with poisoning hundreds of people in The Dalles, along with a host of other crimes.     

On both sides of the Rancho Rajneesh fence, the people involved were mostly good people. But the clash of cultures was inevitable. Rajneeshee leaders cultivated a sort of bunker mentality among commune members, by provoking the ill will of the surrounding community, then portraying the angry responses as “hatred” and “bigotry.” The citizens of Jefferson and Wasco Counties, viewed the actions of a handful of Rajneeshee leaders as representing everyone on the ranch. This, in spite of the fact that the majority of the Sannyasins had little or nothing to do with the escalating conflicts on the outside.     

Rajneeshpuram explores the view from both within and outside the commune. Local officials from Antelope and The Dalles tell how the Rajneeshees, as they began to encounter obstacles to their city-building plans, grew ever-more aggressive. Several former commune members, who remain active Sannyasins today, appear in the program to describe the seldom-heard perspective from the inside.      

Rajneeshpuram was written and produced by Eric Cain and Nadine Jelsing, edited by Lisa Suinn Kallem.   

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting history series on OPB TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters – both familiar and forgotten – who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust.

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