Saturday Night Live hit the right note in its parody of Wild Wild Country, the new Netflix six-part documentary series about the Rajneesh spiritual movement and its eventual commune in Oregon, called Rajneeshpuram. The movement presented itself as a utopian settlement, but in reality, it was a straight-up sex cult.
Kenan Thompson hilariously plays a character who joins the cult and sees right through the buffet of peaceful-sounding Hindu and Taoist religious beliefs. For him, he sees the Rajneeshpuram for exactly what it is (a sex cult!), joking, “Me? I joined for the ass.”
The followers of Rajneesh, called sannyasins, practiced visionary ideas of free love and seeking one’s own sexual path. Or, if we’re being honest, this means that lots of orgies took place. What is there to do on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with no money, lots of nudity, and 2,000 other people? “There was ass everywhere,” says Thompson, as the parody is spliced with fake footage from the documentary featuring the naked sannyasins doing their sex cult thing.
“Free love was certainly part of it,” said Ma Anand Sheela, who was played by Nasim Pedrad. Several live studio audience members can be heard cheering when Pedrad appears on screen; the New Girl actress was an SNL cast member for five seasons and is known for her Kim Kardashian impressions. “It was essential to our spiritual journey,” she continued, and Thompson kept the joke going when he said, “Man, Sheela was a freak. She made me harder than trigonometry!”
Laughs aside, the SNL sketch cuts straight to the point: the fanciful beliefs about peace and joy were just a smokescreen to hide the cult’s real intentions. Sex played a huge part in how the Rajneesh sannyasins interacted with one another, with sexual rituals taking place under the guise of spirituality.
Satya Franklin, a sannyasin who lived at Rajneeshpuram, explained to Newsweek that sex and sterilizations were also used as a means of control. Rajneesh preached that institutions like marriage and traditional nuclear families were forms of constriction, so followers were encouraged to have lots of sex partners; thus, hysterectomies and vasectomies took place. “I know people who left became angry about the sterilizations,” said Franklin.
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