Ma Anand Sheela: Life’s tough, baby; easy is for cowards
Ma Anand Sheela or Sheela Biernstiel, who lives in Switzerland, visited India last year, after 34 years. And one has to be living under a rock to not know who this very popular millennial icon is. The Vadodara-born was spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho’s personal secretary and the brain behind the ambitious Rajneeshpuram, a commune established in the 1980s in Oregon, USA, by and for his followers. A part of her controversial life of the ’80s was captured in the Netflix series Wild, Wild Country. In the series, she comes across as a redoubtable stateswoman who hit international headlines with her grit, gumption and a sharp tongue
When I met her, I was greeted by a warm and soft-spoken person whose calmness was contagious. Was she indeed the skilful éminence grise who kicked up a storm with her witty comebacks and provocative one- liners (remember: tough titties)? What’s left people in her owe is the fact that even back then, the 70-year-old had the guts to live life as she wanted to and totally own her story with all its vagaries, including prison time and controversies.
“You all have to create your story and you have many ways to create it,” says Sheela, who was in India for Sipping Thoughts and the NGO Humans for Humanity.
But living life on one’s own terms is not easy, is it? “Not easy is not a good excuse either... To not live life on your own way is a very coward way to live. I know millennials are not cowards,” says the 70-year-old with conviction, adding, “Life is tough, baby. Life’s not easy. You have to go through your crisis, don’t look for easy, don’t make it easy for yourself. Easy is for cowards. Be brave. What you have to do, you must, easy or difficult. Whatever difficulty comes, say, ‘Ah! I can do it’.” The resolute voice is back.
She says, “Stop looking for life to be easy. Be in the moment... just remain with yourself. Start living life... In the beginning, you go through a trial-and-error period. You look within yourself, what you want, and what you don’t like what you don’t want... Recognise your qualities and your flaws or weaknesses. Move towards qualities. If you are confused, just say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and be positive. The choice is always yours. It happens that sometimes you choose the wrong, then accept the consequences.”
But how does one stay calm in the midst of a storm, how did she manage it? “I don’t blame my crisis and catastrophes onto others. I take responsibility of my crisis, I try to analyse it understand it and I don’t put my burden on others,” she says. And if given a choice, would she change anything about her life? “No” she says, “I can tell you I love my life.”
Oh! We have to ask her, why is she not on Twitter? After the series, everyone tried to connect with her, and look her up on social media. “I belong to the old generation, I don’t understand this social media, I don’t understand computer even today. For the work I am supposed to do, I have written down a few steps, and I go through those whenever I need to ,” she adds, “I want to be myself. Social media is probably okay for you guys to occupy in free time and catch up with boredom, but for me, it is a really good time wasted.”
Sheela, who runs nursing homes in Switzerland, Mauritius and Vietnam, has three sisters and two brothers.
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