RAJNEESHPURAM, ORE. -- The dusty streets are deserted now.
Rajneeshpuram, once the teeming commune of 4,000 red-clad disciples of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, is just a "bad dream" in the minds of many longtime residents nearby. The leader of this ill-starred experimental paradise is long gone, having returned with his religion of personal freedom and sexual liberation to his native India.
The 64,000-acre ranch that Rajneesh followers bought for $5.75 million in July 1981 has been up for sale for more than a year -- marked down now from $44 million to $28.5 million. Many of the 300 buildings still remain on the sprawling site, despite months of sales of everything from the guru's jewelry to tents and airplanes.
But some of the structures that once dotted the sagebrush-covered hills of Rajneeshpuram are being "reincarnated" in another controversial religious community, which has quietly bought them for its own use.
Many of the portable buildings and mobile homes have been moved from Rajneeshpuram to the Royal Teton Ranch, 520 miles to the northeast in Montana, just north of Yellowstone National Park. There, in the sparsely settled Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River, the structures are being recycled for the growing settlement of Elizabeth Clare Prophet and her Church Universal and Triumphant.
The group, which recently moved to the 33,000-acre Montana spread, plans a town of several thousand with a church, university, cafeteria, houses, a poultry-processing plant and modular housing for employes.
Three people from the Royal Teton Ranch have been living at Rajneeshpuram during recent months, working with the few Rajneesh caretakers who remain there to transfer housing and equipment to Prophet's Montana community.
Rajneesh was ordered to leave the United States in November 1985, after he pleaded guilty to charges of immigration fraud. Several of his top aides were convicted of crimes ranging from attempted murder to wiretapping.
What appeared to begin as a peaceful farm commune in rural central Oregon mushroomed into celebrations of love and peace that drew pilgrims from around the world. But with a wave of criminal activities, the movement soured.
The $100 million empire, which a Portland, Ore., reporter said was built on "the sweat of the faithful and the lies of the elite," crumbled in disgrace.
Huge boulders now block the road to Mirdad, until 18 months ago the "welcoming center" for tens of thousands of the faithful and the curious.
The paint is peeling on the hotel, dormitories, warehouses and shops. The large meeting hall where Rajneesh devotees once danced in wild ecstasy while their master looked on with an inscrutable half-smile, is silent. And the guru's famous fleet of 93 custom Rolls-Royces was auctioned off last year by a Texas classic car collector.
Life for the 40 old-time residents of Antelope, the tiny town 20 miles from here that was taken over by the disciples of Rajneesh and renamed the City of Rajneesh, is nearly back to pre-Bhagwan normal.
"For us now it's only a bad dream, because we put it out of our minds," Postmaster Frances Dickson said. "Some days we don't even think about it at all anymore."
Outside the Antelope Post Office, however, a gleaming plaque at the foot of a new white flagpole serves as a bitter reminder of how the close-knit community viewed the descent of a free-wheeling, "foreign" religious group into their midst. The plaque says:
"Dedicated to those of this community who throughout the Rajneesh invasion and occupation of 1981-85 remained, resisted and remembered." Underneath is a quote from Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
The same Burke quote adorns a plaque affixed below a four-foot-high bronze statue of an antelope on the steps of the Wasco County Courthouse 80 miles to the north. There, in the farming and lumbering town of The Dalles, a political battle was fought for control of the county government in the fall of 1984.
Taking advantage of Oregon's liberal residency laws for voter registration, Rajneesh leaders bused in thousands of homeless people to Rajneeshpuram in an unsuccessful bid to outvote longtime Wasco County residents and thus elect Rajneesh followers to office.
Some Montana residents are concerned that the Church Universal and Triumphant might gain control of the Paradise Valley in the same way that Rajneesh took over Antelope and tried to control Wasco County. The Montanans are seeking advice from the Oregonians despite assertions by Church Universal spokesman Ed Francis that the group plans no political takeover in Montana.
Since the sudden dismantling of Rajneeshpuram in November 1985, the guru's disciples have scattered. The monthly Rajneesh Newspaper, now published in Boulder, Colo., recently reported that Rajneesh is living at his commune in Poona, India.
His former top female leader, Ma Anand Sheela, is serving concurrent sentences totaling four to 20 years in a Pleasanton, Calif., prison. She pleaded guilty to charges involving the 1984 salmonella poisoning of 750 residents of The Dalles, admitting that she and others sprayed liquid salmonella bacteria on food in local restaurant salad bars.
As part of the settlement with Rajneesh, $287,000 has been set aside as a relief fund for the 505 people who filed claims from the poisoning. Sheela also poisoned two Wasco County elected officials and Rajneesh's personal doctor, and masterminded a massive electronic bugging system inside Rajneeshpuram. She also was fined $400,000 and will be deported when she is released from prison.
Eleven other Rajneesh aides have pleaded guilty to wiretapping charges, and Krishna Deva, the former mayor of Rajneeshpuram, was sentenced to two years in prison for arranging sham marriages so foreign Rajneesh followers could thwart U.S. immigration laws.
Swami Anand Moses of Portland is in charge of the sale of Rajneeshpuram and the few houses in Antelope still owned by the Rajneesh Investment Corp. He said devotees have regrouped in Boulder and Aspen, Colo., as well as in Marin County, north of San Francisco, and in the San Diego area. The last Rajneesh commune in the United States, the Utsava Meditation Center in Laguna Beach, Calif., was sold to another religious group for $900,000 last October, a spokeswoman said.
Moses said possible future uses for Rajneeshpuram, which has a water and sewer system, extensive roads and an airport, include development as a cattle ranch, a resort or a 700-bed state prison.