RAJNEESHPURAM, Ore. — Disciples of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, faced with debts, legal problems and the departure of their guru and chief moneymaker, are disbanding and moving on.
"The property is available. Rancho Rajneesh is for sale," Rajneeshpuram Mayor Swami Prem Niren said Friday night after informing the estimated 1,400 disciples remaining at the city-commune of the decision to disband.
Niren said it was "almost a non-decision," given the recent criminal investigations of the 4-year-old commune and the departure of Rajneesh on Nov. 14 after he pleaded guilty to charges of federal immigration fraud.
"After we looked at the impact on the community, it was simply not feasible" to keep going, Niren said, adding that he expects most commune members to be gone in two or three weeks.
Commune spokeswoman Ma Anand Bhagwati said Saturday that some Rajneeshees were upset that "outside forces" had forced them to leave the commune, which once housed 3,500 people. "With the bhagwan gone, the main income is gone from the ranch through the festivals and things," she said.
For much of its income, the commune depended on disciples from throughout the world who visited the ranch annually for celebrations and to see the Indian guru. Rajneesh has asked his disciples not to follow him to India.
Former Secretary Blamed
Commune officials blamed their problems in part on the guru's former personal secretary, Ma Anand Sheela. Sheela abruptly left the commune with former mayor Swami Krishna Deva and several other top leaders in September. A grand jury later indicted her and two others on charges of attempting to murder Rajneesh's doctor.
Deva pleaded guilty Friday to federal immigration conspiracy and state wiretapping charges in a plea bargain. He also agreed to aid state and federal officials investigating other Rajneeshee leaders.
The 64,000-acre Rancho Rajneesh includes an extensive farm, hotel, university, housing and a shopping mall.
Swami Dhyan John, president of Rajneesh Investment Corp., said last week that the community owed vendors about $1.5 million, but most of the commune's $35-million debt represented loans from disciples worldwide.
Officials said negotiations are under way to sell 86 of the guru's reported 93 Rolls-Royce autos, bought for him by his followers.
The commune was founded in 1981 after Rajneesh disbanded his commune in Poona, India, amid a tax dispute with that country.
Rajneesh, 53, pleaded guilty to two immigration fraud charges and agreed to pay a $400,000 fine and leave the United Statesto avoid a 10-year prison sentence.