The Daughter of Jonestown Victim Leo Ryan Argues That Her Guru's Sect Is Not a Cult - 1981-02-16
For the newest votary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, this month has been both a time to pray and a time to hype. Ma Amrita Pritam, who became a disciple just last October, was flown from her home in California to a sect center in New Jersey purposely to be near the TV networks. When she wasn't meditating or working in the center's boutique, she spent her time at such media shrines as the Today and Tomorrow shows and CBS radio. She dressed in distinctive orange-and-red clothing to signify the new dawn of her life, and she wore her mala, or necklace, with Bhagwan's picture attached. In Montclair, N.J. and Poona, India-site of Bhagwan's headquarters ashram-followers turned out press releases that made the most of Pritam's proselytization. To Americans, who have endured the grandstanding of preachers from here to Billy Sunday, Bhagwan's love of publicity is no surprise-but Amrita Pritam is. She was born Shannon Jo Ryan, and she is the daughter of Congressman Leo Ryan, who was killed in the Jonestown massacre in Guyana two years ago. Casual observers made the obvious conclusion: Congressman Ryan's daughter had herself become a member of a cult.