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How Ma Anand Sheela's sex education began with her parents

In her new tell-all memoir, Sheela Birnstiel, formerly known as Ma Anand Sheela, opens up about the ups and downs of her life with Osho and beyond

A young Ma Anand Sheela with her parents.
A young Ma Anand Sheela with her parents.

Love has become synonymous with sex. It is important to understand this very sensitive and misunderstood subject of sex and sexuality. It disturbs everyone in society. Everyone has an opinion on sex. But most are afraid to talk about it openly. Religions around the world have restricted and at times viewed sex as taboo. Different social norms have placed restrictions on sex or created rules and regulations around it for reasons of their own.

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I want to talk about this theme with gratitude to my father, mother and Bhagwan. They gave me a healthy and humane understanding on this subject.

When I left home for the first time, away from my parents, to the US for higher studies, my father talked to my sisters and me for days and weeks on different subjects. He prepared us for our upcoming adventures in a foreign land, inculcating in our minds strength and clarity of thought.

One of the important subjects he spoke about was sex and sexuality. At first, it felt strange to hear him hold forth with such frankness. Until this point in life, this was an aspect no one had discussed with us. Father and Mother had taken care of us with love and care. Father explained to my sister Maya and me, ‘Ba (mother) and I will not be there to look after and guide you now. It is important that you understand a few basic things. You are of an age where young men will be attracted to you or you might get attracted to them. It is normal and natural. Do not think that you have to get married to the first man you meet. You don’t have to think that Ba and I will look for a husband for you.’

He continued, ‘Meet young men of your age freely. Make friends with them. Be open to your feelings. Do not hide them. Express them. Maybe you would wish to express those feelings and engage yourselves in physical contact. These are natural and normal feelings. Do not be afraid of such feelings. Do not be shy about them. Do not think that you are bad because of such feelings. Try to understand them and be very careful in expressing them.’

He asked us, ‘Do you understand?’

We answered shyly, ‘Yes.’

By My Own Rules: My Story in My Own Words, By Ma Anand Sheela, Penguin Random House India, 304 pages,  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>499
By My Own Rules: My Story in My Own Words, By Ma Anand Sheela, Penguin Random House India, 304 pages, 499

He continued, ‘Don’t settle down and marry the first person you meet. Before deciding to marry, date, go out with different persons, and then choose your partner. Remember sex is neither bad nor dirty. Just try to understand your feelings of sex and its needs. Your feelings matter just the same as your partners’. Find someone who respects you, and is compatible with you.’

He added in a stern voice, ‘Never allow aggression and disrespect in any situation from anyone. Especially in matters of sex . . .’

From that moment, those words of wisdom were carved in my mind and heart. Even today they ring in my ears sometimes. I was in awe of my parents. My father’s vision was so clear and the depth of my parents’ understanding was unbelievable. No school would provide such training. Only loving parents can do it.

To add to this, my life with Bhagwan and his teachings filled the gaps I had missed in my understanding of sex. Bhagwan taught a whole new dimension of choice in sex without being judgmental. Bhagwan’s teachings made sexual freedom devoid of emotional guilt. His teachings took sex out of the moral bonds of marriage and relationships. In his understanding, the pleasure of consensual sexuality is not a sin. In fact, he elevates sex and sexuality to its pure status of tantra and spirituality.

This healthy training from my father and Bhagwan gave me a deep understanding and insight into sex. Bhagwan made no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals. He believed that both have their own freedom of sexual choice, and both should be respected and accepted equally. Transsexuals also have the same choices and deserve the same respect as any other human being. We are all humans; we all have sexual needs. We have to understand and learn to deal with them.

Ma Anand Sheela with Osho.
Ma Anand Sheela with Osho.

People are often afraid to show their sexuality directly as they are afraid that they will be judged wrongly. Anyone who shows interest in multiple sexual partners is labelled promiscuous. Aspersions are cast on their character. That’s why they don`t speak about it or feel ashamed to speak about it. Such people are not accepted by our society. They invite judgement and criticism.

Our sexuality is attached to our ego. Sexuality guided by ego and domination becomes offensive for both parties. One must have the courage to say ‘no’ in all relationships, in all situations. You must express yourself and say no if you do not wish to participate in sexual activity with your partner. It is your right to deny it. Compromise will only make things worse for you and your partner. Such compromises can bring deep depression, anger and hate because you are going against your instinct and intuition. It is against your heart and soul.

Excerpted from By My Own Rules with permission from Penguin Random House India. The book releases today.

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