Fund Raising by Prem Rawat (Maharaji)
Fund Raising is a necessary part of any cult or New Religious Movement and it has been especially important in Prem Rawat's organisations because of the opulent lifestyle he has demanded since arriving in the West. Once Divine Light Mission was operating successfully the young Rawat took over half the cash flow for his personal use. In the beginning fund raising was as unsophisticated as requesting his followers to give cash rather than their most valued and "spiritually meaningful" possessions in darshan lines. Below are scenes from a DLM film showing Rawat's bodyguard collecting valuables as they are presented to the young Maharaji. By 1973 Rawat was receiving $60,000 per month. In the early days in England wealthy followers were encouraged to accompany Rawat to Harrods to purchase whatever took his fancy. By the 1990's Elan Vital was sending regular reqests for donation to everyone on their mailing list. Here is a sample of those requests.
The evidence of Michael Garson, a former premie who worked in the Denver headquarters during the 'Darby McLean' case revealed that a major method of financing DLM was peer pressure exerted on those young recruits with inheritances. Michael Bergman was the executive accountant for the Divine Light Mission in 1973. He allowed Ken Kelley, a journalist for Ramparts magazine, to inspect the organization's books and interview donors. Most of the donations came from inheritances. In 1972 five premies together gave over $110,000, in early 1973 another three had given $60,000 and DLM was expecting another $200,000 each from 2 premies by July while scores had donated gifts of $1,000 to $10,000, the largest contribution had been $40,000. Sophia Collier also mentions a $350,000 inheritance donated to the Mission in 1974 that allowed (among other things) magazine publication to restart. Ted Patrick, the (in)famous "de-programmer," wrote in his book Let Our Children Go that donations of $50,000 were not uncommon and one woman he was deprogramming had signed over an inheritance of half a million dollars to the cult. Jos Lammers, who in 1976 was an administrator in DLM IHQ (International Headquarters in Denver) related how he saw Rawat touring European Jewellery stores being followed by local premies who were there to pay for his purchases.
Rennie Davis explained that the Mission's success depended wholly on the "incidence of coincidence" and that the fortuitous donations that arrived when necessary could only be construed as proof of divine grace. Jeanne Messer explained in an articles in The New Religious Consciousness that the Mission managed to stay solvent because the number of supporting members increased so rapidly but that this could continue only so long as it expanded. This expansion slowed or ceased in 1974 leaving Bob Mishler and Rick Berman to explain at Guru Puja '74 in Amherst that unless the other 12,000 active members of DLM at that festival began to make regular donations of 10% of their income the 800 ashram premies currently keeping it afloat would go crazy. This message was also the theme of the Divine Times of July 1974. However in an interview in the January 1976 issue of Divine Times magazine Michael Dettmers, then vice-president of Divine Light Mission, explained that only some extremely large donations from a handful of premies had made up the $500,000 shortfall in DLM's 1975 finances. They attempted to increase funding through requesting all premies begin tithing, the Active Membership Program or AMP.
On March 31, 1975 a letter of thanks was sent to DLM contibutors. It contained a very upbeat review of the Mission's activities in 1974 and Rawat's Proclamation For 1975. He told a meeting of DLM directors that premies "are spiritually ready and that they can communicate the message of Knowledge more effectively." He prophesised that 1975 will be a year of propagation. He also demanded strong local communities which can serve as propagational centers in each region; a sound financial base within the Mission and satsang, service and meditation for every individual premie while feeding the world through DUO, WWA and Project Love. In November 1973, 15 to 20,000 premies attended Millenium '73 festival in Houston, Texas. In July 1974, 12,000 premies attended the Guru Puja festival in Amherst, Massachsetts but by December 1975, only 9,000 premies attended Hans Jayanti in Orlando, Florida and only 2,500 premies were part of the AMP. None of Maharaji's plans for 1975 eventuated and by the end of 1975 there were only 572 ashram residents left in 24 cities but 1975 was a raging success compared to 1976.
Divine Sales operated under different names but throughout the 1970s and early 1980's continued sales of photos, audio tapes, magazines and even films. These were available through catalogues and were regularly advertised in DLM newsapers and magazines. We have a printout of the fund raising by the Washington DC community in 1975.
Rawat's financial returns in the 1970's were considerable but in the 1980's after the collapse of support following the closing of the ashrams in 1983/84 there was a need to obtain a regular cash flow to support Rawat's personal jets and lavish lifestyle, let alone his more than 50 cars, helicopters, $7 million yacht, etc. After a shaky start professional fund-raising techniques became an integral part of Élan Vital operations.
Photos of Rawat, often posed as if he were a male model or Hollywood star, have been regularly given as Thank You gifts to people donating to his causes.
From around the year 2000 people who donated above a certain amount received CDs of Rawat speaking or his followers singing as Thank You presents.
Prem Rawat has also inspired Aspirare, direct sales of a uniqely selected range of articles of a certain style and taste that says "Maharaji!"
Visions International is a non-profit organization dealing with the production of materials that promote Rawat ( Maharaji). It has a symbiotic relationship with Dunrite Productions of Thousand Oaks, California (http://www.dunritegroup.com) a for profit company that does the actual production work. Visions International Introductory Catalogue A major source of income has been the sale of audio and video tapes, CDs and DVDs of Rawat's speeches which are the source of Rawat's "teachings." Local communities of Rawat's followers also had to pay to screen these videos/DVDs publicly though the audiences were mainly committed followers with a few peoplw who were interested in "learning more."
By 2010 Rawat's fund-raising methods were working so well that he can continue to fly his leased personal jet around the world giving talks to the people who donate money so that he can then continue to fly his leased personal jet around the world giving talks to the people who donate money so that he can then continue to fly his leased personal jet around the world giving talks to the people who then donate money so that he can …
- Guru's Helpers Defend Purchase Of Boat, 56 Cars Los Angeles Times Jun 24, 1974
- Maharaj Ji Buys $400,000 Home Base in Malibu Area Los Angeles Times Nov 27, 1974
- Divine Light aide sees mission just for guru Associated Press, March 22, 1975
- Guru keeps "mission" deep in debt United Press International, March 23, 1975
- The North American Sponsorship Program In View - Autumn / Winter 1987
- Sponsorship Program Update In View - Summer / Fall 1989