Did Prem Rawat Relinquish His Divinity?
In 1974, newspaper columnist Bob Mackenzie wrote: "The 16 year-old guru Maharaj Ji has decided he is God, I understand. That is not a bad job for a 16 year-old kid, except that there's no chance for advancement." There would also appear to be no possibility of alternate employment. Surely once You are God, You will always be God … eternally. Surely, once you claim you are God for years and years and then decide you are not God then you can never be taken seriously again especially if you try to carry on as some sort of guru or teacher. However as the following quotes from reputable dictionaries and encyclopaedias of religion show this is what Prem Rawat, who formerly called himself Guru Maharaj Ji, claimed to do though they provide no references to their sources for this astonishing development.
- By the end of the 1970s, an estimated 80 percent of the followers had left the mission. In the early 1980s, Maharaj Ji ordered all of the ashrams disbanded and declared
that he was no longer to be venerated as God. - The Encyclopedia of CULTS, SECTS And New Religions, James R. Lewis
- Finally, without public announcement, in the early 1980s, Maharaj Ji ordered all of the ashrams disbanded, though local informal gatherings (primarily in members' homes) were
not discouraged. Maharaj Ji was no longer to be venerated as God. The Divine Light Mission was disbanded and in its stead Elan Vital was created as an informal organization
to relate Maharaj Ji to his students on a one-to-one basis. - Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, J. Gordon Melton (New
York/London: Garland, 1992;
- Maharaji rejected many aspects of the movement associated with its Indian background and focused on the essence of his teaching. The name Elan Vital was adopted in the early
1980s; Maharaji insisted that he was not to be worshipped as a god; the term 'premie' was dropped; and a low profile was adopted, although both Maharaji and his movement
have become more visible in the late 1980s. [4: app. 4] (E.B.) - Who's Who Of World Religions Editor John R. Hinnells
- In the late 1970s the DLM reorganized and moved its headquarters to Miami, Florida. Maharaj Ji distanced himself from the religious association to make his teachings more
universal. In the 1980s he encouraged followers to leave the monastic life and to regard him simply as a humanitarian leader. By 1983, he had ordered all Western ashrams to close.
In the mid-1980s, the DLM was renamed the Elan Vital and discarded all religious affiliation. Guru Maharaj Ji changed his name to Prem Rawat, believing that the divinity
ascribed to him obstructed his message. - Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Constance A. Jones and James D. Ryan
- Elan Vital insists that it is not a religion: Maharaji is not regarded as a god; DLM's ashrams no longer exist; members are no longer referred to as "premies" (devotees); and satsang (discourses given by a master or a follower) is no longer central, but is now generally maintained through listening to Maharaji rather than nightly talks by followers. - The Historical Dictionary Of New Religious Movements, George D. Chryssides 2001
Prem Rawat's teaching is monotheistic so he was not venerated as "a God" but as "The Only God." None of these sources give references for the information that Prem Rawat had ordered his followers to leave their ashrams, stop calling themselves premies (both of which happened) and ordered them to stop worshipping him. They also do not seem to consider the difference between being ordered to cease worship and being ordered to cease public rituals of worship nor have they asserted he was no longer God just that he was not to be worshipped or venerated.
In Auckland New Zealand on 14th March 1983 he said, "Am I God people ask? No, of course I'm not God." In Monterey California on the 27th June 1972 he said, "I don't claim myself to be God, I don't claim myself to be any prophet, any Messiah, anything. I just claim myself to be humble servant of God" and yet through the 1970's and earlier he was venerated and worshipped as God and allowed and demanded that worship many times. He insisted he should be worshipped every day of a premie's life:
"If you have a guru. If you have a Perfect Master you can't do anything but worship him every day of your life. You tell me, if you really have that Perfect Master in your life, what can you do except to worship him every day? Get up and worship him, pray, know, surrender. Every day of our life!" - Guru Puja festival, Lingfield, England, 21st June 1979
Rawat's words must be considered from various perspectives as he has said different things depending upon his audience. Probably the most important factor is that he defines 'God' as the energy creating and sustaining the universe and the "Perfect Master" as God incarnated in a human form. For a full discussion of these topics see Did Prem Rawat Say "I Am God"? and the teachings of Prem Rawat in his own words.
We can also see whether his actions and lifestyle changed after 1983. He continued to live in luxury from the donations of his followers, if anything his life became even more luxurious. He continued to inspire the flow of donations from his followers by holding meetings where he spoke alone from the stage. In fact he made his position even more singular by demanding that his followers not discuss the "Knowledge" and demoting the importance of his initiators/instructors and eventually getting rid of them altogether. He continued the most controversial ritual where his followers lined up to pass by his throne and kiss his feet and give donations but only in secret away from public vision.
The songs that were sung at the speaking events he held continued to promote his unique power and the adoration of his followers. Many if not most of the songs on cassettes and DVDs and in films sold by Rawat's organisations were written and sung during the years the Prem Rawat was proudly proclaimed as the eternal Perfect Master, the Lord of the Universe and God incarnated in a human body. Songs such as Arti, Focus On the Form, Leaving Your Lotus Feet and Lord of the Universe were played as instrumentals so that only long time premies understood their message. Other songs such as Spread This Knowledge, Golden Way and Rock Me Maharaji were rerecorded with updated and bowdlerised lyrics but many songs that did not use overt language were used as they were.