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Sect leader famous for ‘Tough Titties’ TV interview opens up about her new life in Switzerland

Now known as Sheela Birnstiel, former spiritual sect leader Ma Anand Sheela has no regrets about her past, despite serving time in prison

A former spiritual sect leader has told an Australian magazine she has no regrets about her past, despite serving time in prison.

Ma Anand Sheela was a spokesperson of the Rajneesh movement and was personal assistant to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, cult founder of the Rajneshees, an Indian ‘sex cult’ in the 1980s.

The cult was also known as the ‘Orange People’.

She managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in rural Oregon in the US and led an unsuccessful attempt to establish another commune in Western Australia’s southwest.

It was her time in Australia when she became famous for the quote ‘Tough titties’ during a 60 Minutes interview.

In 1985, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack where 751 people suffered food poisoning through deliberate salmonella contamination of restaurants in Oregon. 

During her time  in Western Australia in the 1980s, Ma Anand Sheela became famous for the quote 'Tough titties' during a 60 Minutes interview. She has fond memories of her time in Australia. 'I found Perth very beautiful,' she told New Idea.

During her time in Western Australia in the 1980s, Ma Anand Sheela became famous for the quote ‘Tough titties’ during a 60 Minutes interview. She has fond memories of her time in Australia. ‘I found Perth very beautiful,’ she told New Idea.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but only served 29 months.

Now known as Sheela Birnstiel, she runs two retirement facilities for people who are physically and mentally impaired in Switzerland.

She told New Idea that she travels extensively with her patients and works seven days a week.

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but only served 29 months

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but only served 29 months

She said losing it all and having the courage to build it back up was her greatest achievement in life.

‘Work offers the energy and motivation to live a full life,’ she told the magazine.

‘The training and insight I learned with Bhagwan and my time in prison offers me all the skills I need.’ 

The cult was also known as the so-called 'Orange People'.

The cult was also known as the so-called ‘Orange People’.

Now known as Sheela Birnstiel, she runs two retirement facilities  in Switzerland. 'Work offers the energy and motivation to life a full life,' she told New Idea

Now known as Sheela Birnstiel, she runs two retirement facilities in Switzerland. ‘Work offers the energy and motivation to life a full life,’ she told New Idea

She also spoke about her love for cult founder Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who died in 1990. 'I consider myself fortunate that I had an opportunity to to love and work so closely with Bhagwan,' she told New Idea

She also spoke about her love for cult founder Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who died in 1990. ‘I consider myself fortunate that I had an opportunity to to love and work so closely with Bhagwan,’ she told New Idea

Sheela also spoke about her love for Bhagwan (pictured), who she met when she was 16. 'I saw Bhagwan and that was the end of me,' she said.

Sheela also spoke about her love for Bhagwan (pictured), who she met when she was 16. ‘I saw Bhagwan and that was the end of me,’ she said.

She has no regrets about being a Rajneeshee and that being in love with Bhagwan is one of her fondest memories.

‘I consider myself fortunate that I had an opportunity to love and work so closely with Bhagwan,’ she told New Idea.

She has fond memories of her time in Australia.

‘I found Perth very beautiful,’ she said. 

She is one of the central figures in the six-part Netflix docoseries Wild Wild Country, which tells the story of the cult and its 2000-odd members who moved en masse from India to the US in the 1980s.

In the first episode, Sheela spoke about her love for Bhagwan, who she met when she was 16.

‘I saw Bhagwan and that was the end of me,’ she said.

Six-part Netflix docoseries Wild Wild Country tells the story of the cult

Six-part Netflix docoseries Wild Wild Country tells the story of the cult

The cult and its 2000-odd members who moved en masse from India to the US in the 1980s

The cult and its 2000-odd members who moved en masse from India to the US in the 1980s

Ma Anand Sheela managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in rural Oregon in the US

Ma Anand Sheela managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in rural Oregon in the US



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