Page 4 THE STARS AND STRIPES, Wednesday, November 15, 1972
Gifts For A Guru
India probes the financial affairs of 'lord of the universe', age 14
NEW DELHI (AP) - Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's government is investigating a religious movement headed by a 14-year-old guru who is India's latest spiritual export to the West, authoritative sources said.
The sources said Mrs. Gandhi has taken a personal interest - in her capacity as head of all intelligence agencies - in the controversy swirling around the guru, Maharaj Ji, known to his devotees as "lord of the universe," "prince of peace" and "the perfect master."
One senior member of the government said Indian diplomatic missions in countries where the guru's Divine Light Misson operates - including the United States and Britain - have been asked to investigate financial aspects of the movement.
The government, he said, wants to determine whether the mission is violating Indian law, particularly regarding restrictions on Indian nationals having bank accounts and capital assets abroad.
The controversy began when the guru returned to India last week in a jumbo jet filled with 350 American disciples - and a suitcase containing an officially estimated $65,000 in money, watches and jewels, including diamond rings and a pearl necklace.
Customs impounded the suitcase, pending completion of the investigation.
Arthur Brigham, a devotee from Denver, director of the movement's large public relations division, said the money was to be used for meeting the local travel and food expenses of about 3,000 Western devotees, mostly from the United States, who came to India in 7 chartered Boeing 747s to meditate in the Himalayas for a month.
The watches and jewelry, he added, were gifts for the guru, his mother and brothers and for about 2,000 mahatmas, the priests of the Divine Light Mission.
"This was supposed to be like a birthday party," said Brigham, explaining that, the devotees had come here mainly to celebrate the birth anniversary of the guru's late father, who founded the Divine Light Mission in India in 1960.
The guru exported the movement to the West in 1971, going first to England and the United States.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the guru denied any personal connection with the suitcase. When he went through customs at Delhi Airport - as even gurus have to do - he told inspectors he had nothing to declare.' "It has nothing to do with me," he said of the controversy. "It's an attempt to harm the Divine Light Mission. When someone grows, others get jealous of him - and the Divine Light Mission has just blasted like an atomic bomb all over the world."
The mission claims a following of 5 million in this country and nearly 40,000 in the United States, 10,000 in continental Europe, 6,000 in Britain and 600 in Japan.
A high government source said it is unlikely there will be any prosecution of the guru, since his Indian personal secretary who traveled with him has accepted responsibility for the suitcase.
But he said the government is concerned about the growing financial resources of the Divine Light Mission abroad, especially in the United States, where the American devotees recently purchased two small air planes for the guru's use.
Brigham, however, said all money received by the mission has come from private donations and all purchases are made with a logical purpose.
Defending the purchase of the two planes, Brigham said: "There are so many hijackings of commercial planes. This is why he needs his own planes. Guru Maharaj Ji's life is supremely valuable."