The so-called "His Royal Highness Yogiraj Param Hans Sadgurudev Shri Hans ji Maharaj" (1900 - July 16, 1966) was a guru in India within the Sant Mat tradition. There is a Wikipedia biography. He claimed to be the Satguru or Perfect Master of his time though he was not accepted by the majority of his Master's other followers. He married twice, the second time to Jagat Janani Mata Shri Rajeshwari Devi Jagat Janani Mata Shri Rajeshwari Devi, also known as "Mata Ji" and they had four sons and he had a daughter with his first wife. He was certainly not reticent in describing himself as God incarnate in human form and attacked his competitors unmercifully. In 1953 he called the gurus of the Hare Krishna movement the biggest frauds in what was meant to be a Parliament of Religions. He died in 1966.
Prem Rawat was born in Hardwar, India on December 10th 1958 the fourth son of Hans Rawat and his polygamous younger wife, Rajeshwari Devi. In his early childhood he was known as Sant Ji or Prempal, "Savior of Love" and from his incarnation as the Satguru on August 1, 1966 as Guru Maharaj Ji and since the early 1980's he has called himself Maharaji, the Ultimate Ruler or Prem Rawat (Prem Pal Singh Rawat) which is presumably his legal name. All the available information about his childhood comes from hagiographical sources (see below) except for some of his speeches in which he gives more down to earth snippets of information.
As can be expected re such a possibly momentous event the details and timeline can sometimes be a little confusing and have even changed considerably over time. There are even claims that the succession was argued and disputed but as the Arabian proverb says: the dogs bark but the caravan moves on …
On the 19th July, at three o'clock, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj (the Guru Maharaj Ji of his time) left his body (died). He had left a letter in which he sent his love to his oldest three sons and obeisances to his youngest thereby showing his wishes re the succession. It is not unusual for minor Indian gurus with property to be succeeded within the family but this may be the first time that the true Satguru has been succeeded by his son or daughter. Buddha and Jesus, for example, had no children.
From the late 1960's onwards many young Western "hippies" travelled to India searching for a guru that could impart wisdom and enlightenment. This trek, which in hindsight appears to have been a nearly total failure, was an opening for the young Prem Rawat. A few of these "not-so-sincere seekers" arrived to check out the young Guru Maharaj Ji (now known as Maharaji or Prem Rawat) though only very few of these stayed to worship at his feet.
On June 17th, 1971 the young Guru Maharaj Ji arrived at Heathrow on his first trip out of India after a brief stop at Rome airport where he was impressed by the FIATs. He was on a 3 week school vacation. His first public address was at the Conway Hall in London on the 19th June, 1971 and on the 22nd he spoke at a large rock festival at Glastonbury where he received a decidely mixed reception. However, enough people were intrigued that the ashram in which he was staying was packed with people afterwards.
Prem Rawat (Maharaji) at Glastonbury, 1971 Maharaji gave his first public address in the West at the Conway Hall in London on the 19th June, 1971. He shortly thereafter spoke at a large rock festival at Glastonbury in the south-west of England. The organisers thought they were getting the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The young Rawat's English was barely intelligible, one person commented that he said you cannot have sex ("sects"), Nick Lowe thought he asked for money when he asked for "the money of love and devotion" though naturally enough loving and devoted followers did give money, millions of dollars of it. After 5 minutes the crowd had had enough and started shouting and heckling and the power was cut to the microphone.
Prem Rawat had no special power, charisma or talents that enabled him to gather tens of thousands of Western devotees and worshippers. He was part of the rise of Eastern "spirituality" in the West and was just one of hundreds if not thousands of charlatans, gurus, yogus, etc who had similar success. Prem Rawat achieved more publicity because the arrogant pomposity of a flabby 14 year old boy claiming to be Guru Maharaj Ji - the current Incarnation of God and World Saviour - was so ridiculous. Rawat also preached instant gratification from meditation. This made him an object of scorn from serious seekers but did create a bandwagon effect among the more LSD-deluded.
Maharaji (Prem Rawat) Swearing on the Bible He Will Bring World PeacePrem Rawat or Maharaji as he calls himself (meaning Ultimate Ruler) or Guru Maharaj Ji as he called himself until the 1980's has no compunction stating he is a unique person with power possessed by nobody else alive. As a young boy He declared Himself, and was declared by His devotees, the Lord Of The Universe and the Perfect Master ("as a matter of fact, I am the Perfect Master") and taught he was going to usher in the Millenium of peace on earth in this Kali Yuga and often voiced apocalyptic fears if people did not help him in his mission. He declared his mission to the world at "the most holy and significant event in human history."
Guru Puja 1973, "A summer celebration of love and light," was held in London's Alexandra Palace, affectionately knows as 'Ally Pally." The majority of the devotees camped out during the festival about twenty miles from the hall. Early one morning Maharaj Ji drove his car onto the grounds and began beeping his horn to 'wake everyone up." At the evening programs, Maharaj Ji's brother Bhole Ji conducted a 42 piece band which rocked the audience with devotional music that included When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Jumping Jack Flash." On the final day of the festival, Maharaj Ji sat for several hours as thousands of new and possible devotees filed past him to receive darshan and Holy Breath. Part of this darshan line is shown in the "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?" film.
Soul Rush starring Michael Nouri in his greatest ever role
A Disaster Produced and Directed by Rennie Davis
Rennie Davis came late to Divine Light Mission becoming involved only in January 1973 but with his gift for self-promotion he quickly became part of the power elite. His fame and expertise lay in organising rallies and public protests. He brought these methods with him but unfortunately a meaningful rally requires a very large number of people committed to the cause else it becomes a humiliating damp squib and even in late 1973 Divine Light Mission did not have such numbers. "Soul Rush", like so many other of Davis' contributions to Divine Light Mission activities were hollow and meaningless and did nothing but involve premies in useless make-work and attracted little public interest.
Maharaji, Denver Colorado, June 26 1973 Prem Rawat, then known as Guru Maharaj Ji, the 15-year-old "Perfect Master" from India, was admitted to hospital on the 30th August, 1973 suffering from fatigue, a liver disorder and a bleeding "mild post bulbar" ulcer - just below the duodenum in the digestive tract. Dr John Horton, his personal doctor and devotee, said the teenage guru's body was showing the stresses of a middle-aged executive. He entered Saint Luke's Hospital for tests, occupying a $70 a-day private room on the fourth floor of the Episcopal institution. His room was filled with flowers and a mission security guard sat down the hall. He said the guru weighed 73 kilograms (160 pounds) on a 5-foot, 4 inch frame because of a lack of exercise, though this seemed to be exaggerating his height and minimising his obesity.
The Millenium '73 festival was held in the Houston Astrodome and was billed by Prem Rawat (Guru Maharaj Ji) as "the most holy and significant event in human history." He predicted it was going to be a big shot of TLC (tender loving care) but the festival showed that the young Rawat and his inner circle of administrators and family members had a completely unrealistic picture of their powers, the number of their followers and the public response to Rawat's proclamations that he could bring World Peace. It provided Divine Light Mission with a reality check and an exceedingly large debt. It's only to be expected that any person who claims to be an incarnation of God and actively promotes himself as about to bring in 1,000 years of peace on earth, hires the largest hall on the planet, even releases an astrological press release and invites tens of thousands of followers and some alien space travellers to join him in unveiling the details there will be a certain degree of media attention. This attention turned out to be critical, very critical and dismissive and Prem Rawat, himself, the Guru Maharaji Ji received the worst of it.
Guru Maharaj Ji flew into Denver on Sunday, April 28 with the pre-announced intention of "getting everything straight." Wasting no time, he called a program for that evening and spoke to an overflow crowd in the Cosmopolitan Hotel In powerful tones, Maharaj Ji told his devotees to decide either for or against Knowledge. "If you have faith that this Knowledge is gonna get you somewhere, then shape up and tell people about it. If you don't, forget it, ship out. There is nothing more." Maharaj Ji said that if peace is not established then "you are the people who are gonna be blamed for it," not the people who are without Knowledge. He also said there is no point in criticizing people living in illusion. They must be shown something else.
Divine Light Mission finished it's early, rapid growth period by the end of 1973. Beginning in 1974 it had large debts following the Millenium 73 festival and had already attracted their share of the pool of the disappearing, disaffected young hippies looking for spiritual enlightenment. While there were serious problems still to come the administrators, unaware of what the future held, settled down to try to organise and stabilise their large, unruly but dwindling band of ex-hippie premies (and themselves). They attempted to create "communities" of premies in major cities and organise a stable ongoing financial stream (AMP) and regularise ashram activities while paying off the Millenium debts, responding to questions about DLM's tax-exempt status and financially supporting Rawat and his entourage.
On May 20th 1974, at 8pm, Guru Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat) was wed to Marolyn Lois Johnson in a small chapel in the Colorado Rockies. When the ceremony was over, and Maharaj Ji and Marolyn began walking back, Maharaj Ji stopped and Marolyn, his brand new wife, and a few other premies were allowed to kiss His feet. Yes, stopped and let his newly wedded wife and other guests kiss His feet, what a considerate husband and Master. Prem Rawat had been preaching the desirability, evem necessity, of celibacy for his true believers for years so this wedding was a complete surpries and shock to his followers. All DLM publications claimed that there was total joy among his followers with the marriage but 25 years later some of Maharaji's inner circle admitted the truth, they had been dismayed. About 60% of ashram residents left the ashram shortly thereafter which was another financial and administrative blow to DLM following on the reaction to the failure of Millenium '73. The shock wedding raised a lot of questions which were never asked, at least not in public, amongst his followers.
It was at a smallish function room in a Sydney hotel in October 1974 and the Sydney premies had gathered for a surprise birthday party for Rawat's new wife. A section of the room was fenced off with a tasteful rope boundary and no-one was allowed to enter that hallowed area. By the time Rawat and his court finally arrived the feeling in the room (as far as I could tell) was flat and the party had not got off the ground. Mrs Rawat was charming and Rawat himself was odd, short, fat and strangely proportioned and definitely ill at ease. Now it was one thing for a "humble premie" such as myself to be nervous on such an occasion but as far as I was concerned it wasn't okay for the Perfect Master, Satguru, and Lord of the Universe and the only person alive who had realised the "Knowledge of God" and was "permanently in God consciousness" to be nervous.
On April 1 1975, Prem Rawat's mother, Mata Ji, announced in a press conference that she had deposed her youngest son as the Guru Maharaj Ji. It is uncertain whether she knew this was traditionally known as April Fools' Day in the West. He retorted that no-one can depose the Lord of the Universe, mother or not. Prem Rawat, formerly known as to his Indian devotees as Balyogeshwar Param Hans Satgurudev Shri Sant Ji Maharaj was disparaged, disowned, disinherited and deposed by the Indian Divine Light Mission. Prem Rawat has tried to explain this away as his hidebound Hindu mother's anger at his non-traditional marriage. However, she made it clear in newspaper interviews that it was caused by her youngest son's "playboy" behaviour which included drunkeness, marijuana smoking, overly luxurious living, eating meat and excessive (for a Satguru) lust for sex. These accusations were later confirmed by close followers though they were kept secret from his followers at the time.
In April 1975, one week after his mother had publicly dismissed, deposed, disowned, disrespected, disgraced and disinherited him, Prem Rawat flew to India. His mission: to assume control of the Divine Light Mission (Divya Sandesh Parishad) in India and put the management in the hands of trusted followers. He was not man enough, or Perfect Masterly enough, to achieve this objective. In fact, he hid away for part of the trip afraid for his life or at least his ass/arse. Rawat blustered on the few occasions he could hold public meetings. Virtually all of the Indian administrators, mahatmas and the premies abandoned the young guru and followed his eldest brother and replacement.
The young Guru Maharaj Ji had taken the opportunity of getting out from his mother's thumb and living high (boozing) on the hog (meat-eating) with sex (Playboy magazine masturbation) drugs (marijuana), rock 'n roll (very loud on expensive hi-fis) and fast cars and his very own Pinball machine. He had distanced himself from his family and tried to diminish their status in the eyes of his followers but was probably taken by surprise when he was stabbed in the back by his mother and elder brothers who were supposed to be worshipping Him. They outed Him in the press on April Fool's Day and they Betrayed Him, Balyogeshwar Param Sant Shri Satgurudev Ji Maharaj. No more "Ki Jais" for Prem. His money-burning lifestyle kept on as it was bankrolled by his Western premies but his Indian houses and ashrams and land and mahatmas and hundreds of thousands of followers was gone despite a trip to India that failed to recover the family jewels. Poof.
Divine Light Mission finished it's early, rapid growth period by the end of 1973. Beginning in 1974 it had large debts following the Millenium 73 festival. While there were serious problems still to come the administrators, unaware of what the future held, settled down to try to organise and stabilise their large, unruly but dwindling band of ex-hippie premies (and themselves). They attempted to create "communities" of premies in major cities and organise a stable ongoing financial stream (AMP) and regularise ashram activities while paying off the Millenium debts, responding to questions about DLM's tax-exempt status and financially supporting Rawat and his entourage. They also had to cope with the fall-out over Rawat's marriage, the Darby Mclean legal problems, the questions about it's tax-exempt status and the Indian Divine Light Mission denouncing him as a drug-taking, meat-eating playboy and replacing him as Perfect Master. DLM administrators decided the best way to present Rawat was as a "humanitarian leader" who had matured along with his devotees who formerly had been hyping the Knowledge rather than actually experiencing it's
… Over half of the entire operating budget of Divine Light Mission comes from ashram premies alone, after you deduct what it costs for them to maintain themselves. So you begin to see that over half of the share of support of this entire movement is on one out of every sixty premies in the United States. And then you begin to understand why the people in your departments, some of them are very overworked, and some of the ashram premies just feel like they're really really tired. Because they've been carrying, one out of every sixty premies has been carrying the burden of over half of the support of the entire movement throughout the past year or so. And without the additional support of maybe ten individuals over the past year, who have given large inheritances to Divine Light Mission, we wouldn't have been able to make it. We wouldn't have been able to do the things that we've done. And so what it'scomes down to is that a remarkably few premies are really supporting Divine Light Mission; that its a relative handful in the midst of a multitude that are taking the responsibility to support this movement.
By the mid-1970s it was obvious to any interested observer (had there been such a person) that Rawat's Knowledge as a meditation and life-style that provided positive life-enhancing changes was a failure. This became obvious to many of the premies and they quietly left but those heavily committed to their belief in their Guru Maharaj Ji were mired in cognitive dissonance and were unable to discuss this failure openly. However, in Australia, the head honcho was Derek Harper, a person of unbounded bumptious arrogance and his egomania allowed him to do things more circumspect administrators wouldn't. He had the gall to publicly expose the failure of Rawat's Knowledge to actually deliver on His promises though he could not actually phrase it or possibly even conceptualise it in that way. An editorial "Changing Gears" was published in the Golden Age magazine and the concenpt "pseudo-Knowledge" was introduced:
Prem Rawat went to the Sunday Community Meeting in Denver on the 7th December 1975 and emphasised everyone in DLM should have "understanding." He meant they should understand the absolute importance of Himself and practising His Knowledge. However, the rot had aleady set in and the DLM administrators began a series of "training workshops" to get premies to think about what they were actually trying to accomplish and their actual experience of "Guru Maharaj Ji" and Knowledge. Rawat said that he was completely behind this effort. He had no idea what was going on. Many of the administrators were in illicit sexual relationships (illicit for ashram residents that is) and they wanted out. They encouraged people to leave the ashram as very few were actually "experiencing the bliss" that that had been promised to them and were certainly not becoming mature, responsible and shining lights. Rawat became alarmed when his funds began to dry up.
During 1976 Divine Light Mission nearly fell apart. When Bob Mishler told him his income would halve and many of his expensive toys would have to be sold he fired him and any other administrators who hadn't already quit and who weren't prepared to kiss his arse (ass) as well as his feet and took stock. Finally he fell back on his father's favourite method of impressing the yokels: dressing up in fancy costumes and partying. He sent out a last minute open invitation to a birthday party at his Malibu mansion in which he cried tears of joy when he received a surprise present, an Aston Martin. Truly fulfilling. He told the gathered faithful "we don't need these high-faluting changes … come back home. Come back home to Guru Maharaj Ji's world." Then he attended a premie celebration at Atlantic City on December 18 in which he didn't bother with the shouting, berating and haranguing his followers for their imperfections and blaming the problems of Divine Light Mission and their lack of bliss and joy on them. Instead he got dressed up in a vulgar costume jewellery Krishna outfite and to the surprise of the onlookers the premies went apeshit.
During this period Prem Rawat openly espoused his divinity and berated his followers continually for lack of devotion and surrender (whatever that was supposed to mean). As he had already been publicised as a failed Messiah and was considered passé by the media, there was very little reporting of him and his followers during this time apart from a brief period circa 1979 following the Jonestown massacre when he was quite correctly lumped in with other cult leaders. Around 1983 Rawat tried to have all evidence of that time removed by ordering the destruction of all DLM published materials by his followers. Filmed excerpts of speeches Prem Rawat made in 1978 - 1980 at "Guru Puja, Holi or Hans Jayanti festivals" are available. 'Puja' means worship and this festival was the annual highlight of Divine Light Mission activities. It was in the period 1977 to 1983 that Prem Rawat openly and continually propagated the myth of his divinity to his followers. He taught the concepts of himself as a unique Divine Being incarnated in the lineage of avatars that included his father and his guru. He claimed His Knowledge revealed God (the energy that is the source of the universe and life) and the only purpose of life was surrender to and worship of Guru Maharaj Ji (a word used for both the infinite God, the Creator and Rawat himself the God incarnated in human form.
The DECA project, begun in 1979 was set up to provide Prem Rawat with a customized Boeing 707 for his personal use. As an adjunct to the ashram system, DECA was reliant on unpaid labour and donated funds; the business model that developed within DECA served as the basis for subsequent projects designed to benefit Prem Rawat. This became the dominant focus within the then Divine Light Mission. A 1961 vintage aircraft was acquired for US$1 million from an American Football Team. A business operation called the DECA Project and based in Florida was set up and ashram residents were drafted in provide Prem Rawat with a customized Boeing 707 for his personal use. Prem Rawat's whim damaged DLM communities as the best and brightest were shunted off to ratholes in Miami and the 707 only flew a few times and He was forced to sell it to a much richer and more successful guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The End of Divine Light Mission
On Maharaji's (Prem Rawat's) orders the Divine Light Mission ashrams in western countries were summarily closed and all premie meetings and public outreach forbidden during 1982/83. According to former DLM administrators, Maharaji was becoming concerned about the financial liabilities that loomed as ashram residents aged, became unemployed, and required increasing medical and dental care. The closures caused considerable disruption ansd depression to many ashram premies, who had abandoned university, employment training and families to serve Prem Rawat. In one tirade, Maharaji complained angrily of learning that a US ashram had handed each of its former residents US$100, with which to start new lives. A few ashram residents got subsistence wage jobs as Rawat's personal servants - valets, cleaners, gardeners and the like. A few others were kept on as administrators, or as instructors (formerly 'initiators' formerly 'mahatmas'). But most began new lives in 'the world' - something which few were psychologically or practically prepared.
Since 1966 Prem Rawat had been venerated as God by a relatively small group of true believers (premies) and He graciouslt accepted this worship as his (divine) right. In fact, He demanded worship and made the enlarging of this group of worshippers his number one priority. Isn't divinity eternal? Possibly the young Rawat was deluded, maybe he was lying or maybe he still considers himself Himself.