Bob Mishler - Radio Interview 1979
The following is the transcript of a 1979 radio interview with Bob Mishler, ex-President of Divine Light Mission (DLM).
Bob Mishler was President between 1972 and 1977. During those years, he acted in the capacity of Maharaji's number one right-hand man and confidant. The interview was recorded in Denver Colorado USA at radio station KOA on Feb. 12, 1979. Gary Tesler was the radio talk show host.
The first one-third of the interview is a discussion between Mishler (Bob) and Gary Tesler (Host). The remainder of the interview was an open, phone-in discussion which tends to ramble, yet contains some good insights into the psychology of cult devotion and of Maharaji himself.
Tape supplied by Rick Wallace, transcribed by David Stirling, and indexed by Scott Perry.
Maharaji's first trips to US in 1971 and 1972
Maharaji's first lectures in US
Maharaji's first initiation ceremonies in US
Bob Mishler converted by Bill Paterson
First US premies selected for initiation
Maharaji says devotees don't have to leave religions
Serious devotees always left their religions
Parallels between DLM and Jonestown mass suicide
Maharaji changes mind about retiring in 1976
Maharaji's authority 'dangerous and corrupting'
Maharaji attempts to hide his behaviour
Maharaji not a womaniser
Maharaji's opulent lifestyle
Followers afraid of Bob Mishler
Maharaji drinking alcohol to relieve stress
Followers don't know what Maharaji is like 'off-stage'
How Maharaji was selected to succeed his father
Inner experiences not due to power of Maharaji
'Need to believe' masks truth about Maharaji
Maharaji's family & 'Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?' book
Maharaji cries on Bob's shoulder
Drunken 'stupor' every day says Mishler
Bob convinces Maharaji to retract Messiah claim
Beginning of closed discussion between Bob and the radio talk show host:
Radio Host: We'll be talking about the religious cult mystique and the Divine Light Mission. If you don't know what the Divine Light Mission is, it is an organisation that was established by people who follow the Guru Maharaj Ji. He is an Indian, and he came over to this country some seven years ago to establish his mission. In that period of time, the goals of the Divine Light Mission have changed. The attitude of people in the Divine Light Mission has changed and has now become something entirely different. That difference is something that we are going to discuss this morning with Bob Mishler. Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob Mishler: Thank you, Gary.
Maharaji's first trips to US in 1971 and 1972 (Back to index)
Host: Let's talk a little bit about this. It started about seven years ago, is that right?
Bob: About seven and a half years ago. It was in the summer of 1971, when he first came to the United States.
Host: And at that time, he was fourteen years old.
Bob: He was thirteen, actually.
Host: And his brother and his mother were selling him as a perfect master.
Bob: Well, yes, you could say that! At that time, he was saying that he was the perfect master. On his first trip actually, his mother and brother did not accompany him. He came by himself. People in the United States got their first chance to meet them in 1972 when they came back, and it was then apparent that they were in fact running things.
Host: All right, let's talk about this. There was a time when he had a large number of followers.
Maharaji's first lectures in US (Back to index)
Bob: Yes, there was a time. In fact, when he came to the United States in 1971, you could say that this country was very ripe for that sort of thing. In fact, I remember seeing him in Boulder in August of 1971. At that time, every spiritual leader from anywhere in the world who happened to come to the United States would come through Boulder. When Maharaji came, at least 2,000 people came to see him on his very first appearance at Mackie Auditorium in Boulder. During the course of those few years, between 1971 and 1974, we probably initiated something between 50 and 60,000 people in the United States in Denver.
Host: That many in Denver?
Bob: In Colorado we had a large following. In fact, in the summer of 1972 we had one program which lasted for several days. We held it in Montrose, Colorado, in an outdoor type thing with a stage out in a field. At that program alone, we initiated 2,000 people.
Host: When the Guru first came over here, what was his message?
Bob: When he first arrived, his message was that he knew the truth and that the truth was within each and every individual. He sometimes used to talk about that truth, whether you called it God or something else, as the perfect energy within each individual. He said that this was something he could reveal to everyone. That, in fact, was his purpose. He was called a perfect master because he had mastered something that was perfect; presumably this perfect energy inside us which was responsible for life. In revealing that to other people, he was revealing the only thing which could claim to be perfection, the primordial energy of the universe.
He would essentially ask people to come to him and ask for this knowledge, which would be freely given. The only thing that was required was the sincerity on the part of the individual asking. If you would ask sincerely, not just because you wanted to do it out of curiosity, but because you really wanted to know the truth about life, then he would have this knowledge revealed to you. Actually, he never really did any of the initiating himself; there was always one of his disciples to do that. These disciples at that time were called Mahatmas. In the beginning years, they were all Indians as well.
He billed himself as a humble servant of God who was essentially in charge with the responsibility of revealing this knowledge to people by his father who was his guru. At the same time, although there were some people who would say, well, he has to be a god himself in order to be able to reveal God, he would always deny this. He would say : "I make no claims of this sort at all. What I am revealing - it is not even as if I am giving you something - is something that is there inside you. It is there inside everyone. By recognising it, by having it revealed to you and then by meditating on it, you can attain the peace that comes through knowing the truth. Once you have found peace within yourself, this is the way towards ultimate world peace".
Host: How did he reveal this truth?
Bob: Like I said, he never really actually revealed it to anybody.
Maharaji's first initiation ceremonies in US (Back to index)
Host: How was the truth revealed?
Bob: OK, it was revealed to people in what was known as a knowledge session. This is an initiation that takes place with one of his disciples who has been essentially sanctioned to perform this function. Like I said, they had a special title. They were called Mahatmas. Presently, they call them Initiators. That was really what their function was; to initiate new people into this practice of knowledge.
This practice of knowledge turns out to be a whole lifestyle. At the core of it, the primary thing that was taught to people in these initiation sessions was a form of meditation that consisted of four techniques of concentration. These four techniques of concentration were supposed to reveal to you the inner light, or divine light, within your own being, and also the divine harmony, or vibration, that was going on inside you all the time. There was supposed to be a divine nectar which was a source of internal sustenance and an elixir of bliss of sorts. Of course, the main thing was the primordial vibration itself; the holy name or the word as spoken of in the Bible.
Host: What was the elixir?
Bob: The elixir was supposed to be this divine nectar.
Host: What was it?
Bob: First of all, you've got to understand that we're talking about techniques that are actual physical techniques that you practice. The physical technique for the nectar was a yoga movement that is performed by inverting your tongue back into your throat. Now some critics have said that the only nectar that is experienced that way is the post-nasal drip.
The belief is that the physical technique is just a means of attaining some sort of transcendental awareness, so the nectar would be something that you couldn't really describe. You would have to experience it, and it would be the same for the divine light and for the celestial harmony and the primordial vibration as well.
Host: When people first came into the Divine Light Mission, was it originally called the Divine Light Mission or did it have another name?
Bob: It was called the Divine Light Mission in India. When Maharaji came here, there was no organisation and in fact he asked me to found the Divine Light Mission for him here in the United States, which I did in September 1971.
Host: Were the people who got involved with the Guru from all religious backgrounds?
Bob: That's correct.
Bob Mishler converted by Bill Patterson (Back to index)
Host: How did you come to this?
Bob: Well, my actual coming to Maharaji took place because of a former student of mine. I had studied yoga in India in 1968, and when I came back to the United States, I started teaching my friends to practice yoga. It accelerated through my involvement with the Denver Free University. During the course of teaching yoga through the Denver Free University, I had a student named Bill Patterson. Bill had attended a number of my yoga classes, and he decided that he wanted to go to India to pursue his studies. We had talked about his trip before he went. Anyway, to make a long story short, he told me that when he came back he had joined a guru.
This was, I believe, in June 1971. He told me about this 13 year old boy who was his guru. I thought it sounded very interesting. It sounded as though the teachings that the guru was giving Bill were in harmony with the Yogi tradition. He told me that his guru might in fact come to the United States. I said that if he does, be sure and let me know as I would like to meet him. I didn't expect that he would come so soon, but actually he did.
He came in July. He came to Los Angeles first, and within a couple of weeks he was in Boulder. When he came, of course Bill asked me to come. As soon as I went there, Bill immediately showed me into the room and I met Maharaji. I was impressed with him as he spoke with a great deal of confidence and authority. For the most part, I felt that unlike a lot of other Yogis who had come to the West and were essentially commercialising the Yogi tradition in my opinion, he put no price tag on the meditation. He used to say that you can't put a price on something that's priceless.
He said that something that's this important for people to have, you have to give to everyone freely, and the only requirement is that they be sincere in wanting to know the truth and then it will be revealed to them. I felt that he was somebody that was sincere, and when he said that his mission was to spread this meditation as widely as possible, I offered to help in any way that I could.
Host: Would it be fair to say that you became a follower of his?
Bob: Yes, it would be, because in fact he was the leader, and in order to assist him in any way, you had to be a follower.
First US premies selected for initiation (Back to index)
Host: All right. Initially, people were coming to him to receive this knowledge. I understood that they received it in a blinding flash of light, that there were allegations to this effect
Bob: Well, like I said, you had these initiation sessions. First of all, you had to be selected for them. In the beginning, you would listen to Maharaji give satsangs primarily…
Bob: Excuse me - that's a group term within the Divine Light Mission. It comes from the Hindi which roughly translated means 'company of truth'. It's the name that's applied to the lectures that the guru would give. In fact satsang is something very important in the Divine Light Mission practice of knowledge. Anyway, you would listen to him giving his lectures - the satsangs - and you would also listen to some of his devotees also giving these satsang lectures.
After you were convinced that it was something that you wanted to try, and that you sincerely wanted to know, then you would make that known. You would ask to receive knowledge and then you would be selected, depending upon whether they thought you were ready or not, whoever they were. They at that time were a Mahatma and one or two of the devotees who were assisting him. As soon as you were selected, you would get to sit in one of these initiation sessions, which sometimes lasted anywhere from six to eight or ten hours.
Host: OK, I have talked to people - as a matter of fact I met the Guru Maharaj Ji's mother and I believe that was in 1972 - and there was a get-together that you had put together at Redrocks also. That was also in 1972, I believe?
Bob: Yes, that was in 1972.
Maharaji says devotees don't have to leave religions (Back to index)
Host: I had the chance to be there and thought it was interesting, but not any more interesting than anything else that I had heard. But it was amazing to me to watch the young people who were involved, how devoted they were and how this translated and somehow kept pace, always within keeping of their formal religions. If they were Catholic, they had a very Catholic view of the whole procedure. If you didn't accept the Guru Maharaj Ji when the light was offered to you, then you weren't going to be saved, very much like some religions today. That whole thing changed. How did it change?
Bob: Well, I don't know whether that appeal changed really very much at all. It's just that in the early days, Maharaji was very adamant about how he had not come to start another religion. In fact, he felt that what he was offering should not interfere with your present religious beliefs at all. If anything, it should enhance them in that you would suddenly, for the first time, really know what the Bible was talking about because you would be experiencing it yourself.
The idea was that he was doing something that would unite all the religions of the world. Therefore, people were encouraged to bring their religious tradition into the Divine Light Mission. That's probably what accounted for the thing that you were observing in the way that people would interpret the Divine Light Mission practices in terms of their own religious background. I think that, to a certain extent, they would still probably tell that to people who were interested, or trying to get interested, in the Divine Light Mission now.
Serious devotees always left their religions (Back to index)
In the meantime, it has become a religion in its own right. I don't think that anybody could deny that. They have a whole body of dogma; a complete lifestyle, a way of life which they call Knowledge. It's not simply a singular kind of experience that you translate into your everyday life, as it was purported to be in the beginning, it's a whole system of idol worship where you must accept the guru as God.
Host: Today, what they are saying is that the guru is the reincarnation of God. He is God. He is not simply a messenger; he is, as the Christians, or other religions would say, a Messiah. In the Christian sense, he is like Jesus.
Bob: I think that would be pretty much what they would say. He is an embodiment of that power, and that power is God. That's what we have come to know as God. In India, you have some people argue with you for a long time saying, "no, no, no, he is greater than God". For us, that loses value in that we tend to interpret the word God as being that which is all-powerful. That's how they see him, as an embodiment of that all-powerful force which created and sustains and enlightens all being.
Host: What happened as you saw these changes taking place in the Divine Light Mission, and really the embodiment of what the guru represented changing? How did that affect you?
Bob: Well, it was a little bit more complex for me in terms of the changes I went through during that period myself. In general, it affected me in that I felt that we had a responsibility to be what we purported ourselves to be. To change it into something else was not something that I agreed with. Ultimately, my disagreement with Maharaji, particularly on this basis, led to my resignation.
During a large part of the period that I was involved, I essentially went along the prevailing belief structure. Whether Guru Maharaj Ji was God or not really wasn't important. The important thing was that if you were devoted to him, you followed him absolutely. Whatever he said, even if it didn't make sense to you, you would find a way to make sense of it. I used to do that myself as well. I certainly did that a great deal for the devotees as well. I was one of the major spokespeople of the movement.
Parallels between DLM and Jonestown mass suicide (Back to index)
Host: The People's Temple hit the news a while back with a mass suicide, among other things. Shortly after that information hit us through the media, you made some statements regarding the Divine Light Mission and some of the practices of it which you felt corresponded to the People's Temple. Could you tell us about that?
Bob: Yes. First of all, let me explain my reasoning there. When I left the Divine Light Mission in 1977, I felt that I personally couldn't agree with what the guru was doing. I had come to that conclusion probably a year and a half before that. I never really lived with the guru except that I travelled in the same circle as him. I never really lived with him or became the kind of personal confidant that I was to him until after he split with his family.
There was a period during 1974 when there was an outright war, really, in the Divine Light Mission, between his mother and elder brother, whom you met. Maharaji took control of the mission. During this time, he began to rely on me very heavily, and then after that I lived with him. In living with him, I began to see a lot of the excesses in the devotion and practices that I felt were detrimental to the spiritual development of the devotees.
I had attributed these to his mother and brother, and with them out of the way, that didn't necessarily need to be the case any longer. This was in my opinion, at least, as I had always found Maharaji to be very sincere and reasonable. In fact, during that period, we did decide to make some changes. At the beginning, well, around the end of 1975, we started what I would call a major change of emphasis in the Divine Light Mission.
Maharaji changes mind about retiring in 1976 (Back to index)
This was something that Maharaji and I arrived at as being necessary not only for the devotees but also for his own welfare as well. That was to change this belief that he was God, by actually coming out and denying it, and by taking some responsibility to de-program our own membership away from this belief. This was so that he wouldn't become the kind of cult leader that in fact he has become today.
About half way through 1976, Maharaji got very insecure about what was going to happen to him if we continued with this. He realised that he was going to lose his automatic hold over the devotees that he had had up until that point.
Host: Was this a conscious thing on his part?
Bob: Oh, yes. This was a very conscious thing. We discussed it, and we outlined all the different perspectives that would be involved. At the time, what I had planned for him and with him, and up to the middle of 1976 he was largely agreeing with, was to use a lot of the money that had come to him in the form of gifts from his followers, to set up some investments. This would enable him to become financially independent from the continued support of the devotees.
He had grown accustomed to a very luxurious lifestyle. A lot of the necessity of keeping the members believing that he was God was to ensure that they would continue to support him in this lifestyle. If it meant that he was going to have to make any sacrifices in this lifestyle (and it had become apparent by the middle of 1976 that this was going to be the case) then he didn't really want to have to do that.
That's where we came to a parting of the ways, so to speak. As a result of that, I just left, because I recognised that I couldn't change him. If he wanted to change on his own, then that was something I was very willing to assist with. If he wasn't going to change, then I certainly wasn't going to continue to stay while he turned what was originally a mission to spread meditation to people freely into something that solicited donations to do this type of work and had all of its funds essentially going to support his luxurious lifestyle.
So I resigned from the Divine Light Mission in January 1977, but for the last month or so of 1976 I really wasn't involved. It was understood that I was resigning. I didn't say anything, because at the time, I felt that a lot of the things that I knew really wouldn't be that well received. I had been the head of the Mission, after all, during that whole period, and people had all sorts of different conceptions about me. Really, I didn't feel that it was of any interest to people other than the present members, and most of them really didn't want to know the kind of things that I knew.
Maharaji's authority 'dangerous and corrupting' (Back to index)
After that incident in Guyana there were just so many striking similarities between what had happened with the People's Temple group and how it had changed over the years and the kind of psychological deterioration that Reverend Jones had purportedly gone through. The whole belief structure, this separate reality that they existed in…
Host: His people…did they go through a suicide provision?
Bob: No, I don't mean that there actually was a suicide pact or anything like that. What I meant was that this kind of belief, absolute power and control in one person, and belief that no matter what this person says, it must be obeyed. That kind of power, the impact that power has, even on the person who has it. The kind of corrupting influence that kind of power over others has on an individual.
I'd see Maharaji go through a tremendous psychological deterioration during the time that I lived with him. These things were, I felt, his private affairs on one level. I also felt that the premies' beliefs were their own private affairs on another level.
Maharaji attempts to hide behaviour (Back to index)
Host: What is a premie?
Bob: A premie is a name for a member of the Divine Light Mission. That comes from the Hindi word prem which means love. Premie roughly is someone who is a lover of God, Guru Maharaj Ji, whatever you want to say. A lover of truth. Anyway, I made this statement, and the reason I made it was that I felt that there was a lot that needed to be pointed out. These were things that were deliberately hidden from the members of the members of the Divine Light Mission.
Host: How did he take advantage of his position other than simply to acquire some fairly worldly goods?
Bob: Well, taking advantage is a matter of interpretation. I know that any criticism you make of Guru Maharaj Ji can be rationalised by his very devoted followers, simply because they give all matter of license to him in that if he is God, well, he can do anything.
That means that, to my own way of thinking, it is very hypocritical to teach one lifestyle as a means of fulfilment to people, as a spiritual truth, and then live entirely opposite to that yourself. That becomes even more hypocritical, when in fact you don't just do the opposite, but you also make a great deal of effort and take a great deal of care in making sure that nobody knows this either.
Maharaji not a womaniser (Back to index)
Host: There were rumors, and I don't know whether these rumors were based on any kind of fact or not, that he took advantage of several young women who were members of the Divine Light Mission, because of his position. To your knowledge, is any of that true?
Bob: No, to my knowledge, that's not true. Although it was true that a number of his Mahatmas did that, and we had a number of problems with some of the Mahatmas on that level, I am not aware of Maharaji taking advantage of women followers.
Maharaji's opulent lifestyle (Back to index)
Host: Is the Maharaji a rich man today?
Bob: I don't know what his personal worth is, but you would have to say that he is a rich man. That might sound a bit ambiguous, but his whole financial condition is a bit ambiguous, because he has so much of his wealth being provided for him by the Church.
He has a great deal of income that comes to him in the tax-free form of gifts from his followers. How he uses that; well, when I was there, he was spending it. It was just amazing how much money he could spend.
Host: He has several sports cars, I understand, I mean people gave him things.
Bob: Yes, and he also had the Divine Light Mission buy him things. Whenever he wanted something, it really didn't matter whether we had the money for it or not. We were to get it, somehow or another.
Host: I remember when he bought a Mercedes. There was a lot of flak about that.
Bob: Yes, well, by the time I left, he must have had at least three Mercedes, a couple of Rolls Royces, and least three or four other luxurious automobiles in the 30 or 40,000 dollar range. I mean, it wasn't just a question of having one, he had a whole fleet.
Followers afraid of Bob Mishler (Back to index)
Host: How do the members of the Divine Light Mission see you today? Do they see you as a Judas?
Bob: Well, I suppose you would have to ask them. They have a special name for someone like me which, I guess is a sort of a Judas. The call it a Munmat. That is someone who has become anti-guru. I think that with the exception of a few, and it really is just a few, of the present members who still believe in Guru Maharaj Ji who have had the courage to talk to me and still relate to me, most of them are really afraid to talk to me. This is because I'm seen as someone who is completely in their minds.
The mind is a very dangerous thing to a premie. That's symbolic of everything that makes you doubt the truth which Guru Maharaj Ji has revealed to you. In fact, he has even commanded his following never to allow any room for doubt in their minds. They are supposed to control their minds through the practice of meditation. So, to talk to someone like myself, who is completely in the mind, supposedly, would be a very dangerous thing to do, because I could confuse them.
Beginning of open discussion between Bob M., the Host, and random telephone callers:
Caller #1: It's really a relief to hear somebody who has left one of these cult religions rather than being on the air to convert people. What is your purpose now in speaking out against the Church? Are you just simply stating your own case or are you involved in trying to win other people away from the group, to get them to look at it more objectively?
Bob: I think that I have to agree with you in that I am trying to get people to look at him more critically now, particularly people who are in a position to influence current members. I don't expect that very many current members are going to even really listen to what I have to say, but maybe their families will, maybe some of their friends will.
In fact, since I made the statement after the incident in Guyana (mass suicide of cult members), I've had phone calls continuously from parents and concerned friends and family members from all over the country. They have been asking if I could give information or they have just wanted to talk to me about what they can do, how can they talk to their loved ones who are still involved, because they are really at a loss to know how to reach them. It's such an all-inclusive belief system.
Caller #1: Is it a problem for you to get them to listen to you? Is it hard to get them alone? Do they just hang around with each other for the most part?
Bob: Yes, they have their own world in a way.
Caller #1: I tried to talk to them myself. I would characterise them basically as being young, not street-wise or hip, in fear or confused, with very little ability to cope with the world outside of a group. Another thing I am thinking about is perhaps they are looking for the good parents that they didn't have. Maybe they've come from basically unhappy family situations, which isn't that unusual. It might even be typical, you know, people in society.
Bob: Yes, I think that certainly what you have said would apply to some of the people involved. It's hard to capture everybody with a generalization.
Caller #1: Oh, sure, I've met some people who are basically intelligent. I was talking to some guy who had advanced degrees. I went to one of the satsangs. The guy sounded pretty intelligent, and I said: "What about the guru's behaviour? What about the fact that he's overweight? What about the fact that he's had speeding tickets in his Maserati? He's a young guy and he got married to a woman maybe ten years older than himself and he's already got several kids. He seems to carry on a lot". This guy was saying: "This doesn't concern me that much". I guess different people in the church have their own degrees of what they will accept, just like in any other church.
Host: However, there are professional people, attorneys, certainly not your wandering little lost souls. I don't know whether that is still the case, but it was at the time that I was familiar with the Divine Light Mission. There were also people who were very street-wise.
Caller #1: Just because a person is a lawyer or something doesn't mean that he's not an easy mark. I mean, look at the psychics, like Uri Geller. They took in some scientists, as they knew how a person could be fooled by optical illusions, etc. The only ones that could show up these guys like Uri Geller were the magicians - the real sceptics. They knew the various tricks - the hand is quicker than the eye, etc. They always said: "Well, let me be in the room when Uri Geller is performing one of his tricks and I'll show you how I can do the same thing".
Host: Well, they can do the same thing by trick. However, there were a number of studies with Geller. I don't want to go into that.
Bob: I think that what you are talking about is that there are a lot of different reasons why people need to believe in something. One other aspect that you must consider is when a person does believe that things do happen for that person. That has happened to a lot of people who have been involved in the Divine Light Mission. They have experiences that are very satisfying and fulfilling to them.
The only thing that I object to is the way they are taught to attribute whatever experience they have to the guru himself. This is actually where they are actually being taken advantage of.
Caller #1: I believe that each person is God, and that God is in man. It is up to all of us to find the God in ourselves and develop it to be best of our ability. Do the best you can, and good will come to you'. I think that's basically my own belief, and I was wondering if your guest has come around to this point of view if he is still working for divinity somewhere.
Bob: Well, I don't think I was ever really looking for divinity except within myself. Essentially, Maharaji was teaching that in the very beginning himself. It's only over the course of time that it has changed and become an idol worship cult.
Caller #1: I remember in 1971 back in New York, from the very first, the impression of the advertising was that the guru was God, yet he didn't say that himself, everyone else around him said that he was God.
Bob: Well, again, that just shows the latitude that there was. You could believe he was God if you wanted to. I didn't really want to believe that he was God, and so I didn't.
Host (to caller): OK, thank you. Bye bye.
Caller #2: Bob, I assume that you are out of the Divine Light Mission altogether?
Bob: Yes, that's correct.
Maharaji drinking alcohol to relieve stress (Back to index)
Caller #2: What are you doing now? Have you changed your spiritual beliefs substantially since that point? In other words, what did you see or not see in the guru that caused you to get out of it?
Bob: Well, I essentially saw that the guru wasn't what he was being purported to be. In fact, not only was he not God or divine in any way, but he wasn't really even capable of guiding his followers. He didn't know enough about the meditation himself really to be able to even instruct the disciples that were teaching meditation on his behalf, when critical questions came up.
Even though he was supposedly revealing the means to perfect peace to all of his following, he himself had tremendous problems of anxiety which he combated with alcohol. It even developed into a high blood pressure condition caused by essential hypertension, which is a form of internalising anxiety. So here was a man who was supposedly revealing perfect peace to everyone else, and I figured he couldn't even guide his own life, let alone guide others.
Caller #2: How could people ever think that a 15 year old kid could be God in the first place is beyond me. The accounts that we have of Jesus in the New Testament are so vastly different.
Host: Remember only that those accounts are long after the fact, and they are as his followers saw him, and not necessarily as he really was.
Followers don't know what Maharaji is like 'off-stage' (Back to index)
Bob: Also remember that Maharaji puts on a good show, and the theatrics involved are very appealing to the kind of mass consciousness that you get in the crowds he appears in. Most of the members have never really seen him as he actually is. They have only seen him under very well-staged and planned conditions.
Caller #2: I think the bottom line about the whole thing is that the Scripture says that in the latter days many false Christs will come out, professing themselves to be Christ.
Host: Except we've had those for the last 2,000 years, for the last 3,000 years.
Caller #3: Bob, may I compliment you on choosing the most gullible people in this universe for the adventure of your mission.
Host: I wonder what that meant.
Bob: Well, if anything, I think they are self-selected. The call is put out, and maybe it is gullible people who come. I think it is people who are maybe have as their one great fault that they are naive and innocently trusting.
Host: Isn't that true of really almost any totally devoted religious follower?
Bob: I would say so. In that sense, I don't really feel that they are that much different than anybody else. I think that some of the people that I met are some of the finest people I have ever known. It's a shame, in a way, that they are being deceived, but nevertheless, as I tried to explain to one of the other callers, they get a lot of benefits from their association with each other and certainly they have their own experience.
The problem is when you see people taking such a toll upon themselves, because the nature of their belief is such that when anything goes right in their lives, well, that's the grace of Guru Maharaj Ji. When anything goes wrong, well, that's themselves. That's their minds. So they are kind of in a bind, where anything that's beneficial they have to credit to the guru, and anything that's bad, well, they know that they're just not trying hard enough. So a lot of them have a great deal of difficulty. They are very hard put-upon.
A lot of the professional people that you were mentioning before had to give up their professions, simply because part of their calling now is that they must attend these festivals that the guru has all the time. In fact, he's having one here in Denver in about two weeks' time. They have to travel all over the country and to other parts of the world to attend these on average of every three or four months. Consequently, they can't hold a job. They can't maintain a profession. They get very impoverished as a result of this. They have to not only pay to get into these festivals, but they are also expected to make a cash contribution to the guru, when they go through the ritual of kissing his feet.
So these kinds of beliefs do take a toll on the people, even though they may feel that they are getting something from it. It's very captivating, and there is a sinister element to it that is hidden from people.
Caller 4: Everything is within yourself, within your body and mind. I agree with that, as far as he was preaching. But how do explain his character? Do you explain him as a magician, or somebody who has extraordinary power? Of course, I've never seen his performance.
Bob: If you ever knew anything about him, you would know that he inherited a following from his father. It was his father who really started the Divine Light Mission. When he was eight years old, his father died and he was put upon the throne of his father. So he had a tremendous following in India, and he had played this role for that following for five years before he ever showed up in this country.
So he had had a lot of practice, and it's a kind of a mass consciousness phenomenon that takes place. In a crowd, people are receptive to images that they might not really be receptive to in a conversation one-on-one; at least, they are impacted in a way by those images. He used to tell his story to a receptive crowd of eager seekers who wanted more insight into their own spiritual practice.
He was saying the kind of things that you could relate to, and there was a kind of reaction that took place between the crowd and him. He was portrayed in such a way that he was the master. He was the one who was sitting on the throne up on the stage.
Caller #4: So what you are saying is that every thirteen year old boy who would have that type of training and background could be able to perform that way.
Bob: I'm not saying that everyone would be able to. Obviously, you would have to have certain aptitude for it.
Caller #4: And charisma.
Bob: Yes. Charisma is the concept we are talking about. In fact, it's not only the capacity on the part of the individual to speak with absolute authority, but it must also be reciprocated by the crowd. The crowd must be receptive to it.
For example, I have been with this same person in lots of situations where he would not seem significant. You wouldn't notice him. In fact, for the most part, he had a very difficult time with just getting people's attention or handling normal day-to-day interaction with people. When he was out on the stage on that throne, speaking into the microphone and being amplified, he had the charisma.
Host: There have been many young people who have been religious leaders in the past. There is a young kid now who preaches.
Bob: Krishnamurti was another example of someone who was picked out at an early age to play that role. Of course, when he got older, he realised that wasn't correct. He bowed out. I sort of hold that out for Maharaji too. Maybe someday, he'll let these people go and he'll quit squeezing them for their money. It would probably be in everybody's best interests if he would do that. He hasn't reached that point yet.
Caller #4: I sure appreciate your effort in sharing all your experiences and thoughts with the public. I hope more people listen to you and don't fall into something that you did.
Bob: Thank you.
Caller #5: Hello. I am a Christian calling from Albuquerque. I assume you are Jewish, is that correct? (to Host).
Host: Yes. My statement, though, would apply to any religion.
Caller #5: Well, I am a Christian, and it kind of bothered me because I know that as a Jew, you don't accept Jesus as your Messiah. I'd say that the differences between Jesus and Maharaji are substantial.
Host: Well, let me preface what I am going to say by saying that I don't want to change anybody's religious belief into anything or away from anything. One of the responsibilities that we have as individuals is to recognise our freedom of choice, and to recognise also the similarities in all religious movements.
That same thing is true in Christianity, or the Divine Light Mission, or in various times in Jewish history when there have been Jewish Messiahs that have popped up. They developed a tremendous following; there were numbers of them. The same thing is true in Islam and Hinduism. You have to recognise that aspect of all religious philosophy.
Caller #5: I am glad that you have brought that point out. It's not that I'm afraid that Jesus can't stand up with Buddha, Mohammed, Maharaji or any of these individuals. I believe that the Bible stands on its own merit. The scepticism of myself or anyone else cannot reduce the fact that Jesus, I believe, was who he said he was.
Host: The important thing here is that you believe. As long as you believe, that is fine. But it is a system of belief, because in any religion, there ain't no proof!
Caller #5: Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
Host: Well, that isn't necessarily true. I think that ultimately whatever you believe in, if you believe in it strongly enough and feel that it changes your life, then it provides satisfaction for you. Really, that's all a religion can do.
Caller #5: I think that it's possible to be sincere, but it's also possible to be sincerely wrong, as he is proving very well this morning.
Bob: I don't think that it's as simple as being sincerely wrong. One thing you don't have the capacity to do, except through your own faith, is to put Jesus to the test. In your faith, you can do that. With the premies, the members of the Divine Light Mission, they can in fact put Maharaji to the test because he is here.
They tend to rationalise everything that he does. I lived with him and I saw him as he actually is, not as he is staged to be. In doing that, I saw that he isn't what he purports himself to be. To that extent, I don't even think that he is sincerely wrong, I think that he is deliberately deceiving people.
Host: You see, we don't have people around from the early foundations of Judaism that we can put on the grill and who are willing to come forward, because they are dead! The same thing is true of Christianity, or Hinduism, or Islam, or anything else. We don't have those people around. So all we have are the books about them.
There will be a time in the future when the guru will no longer be around, and when the Bob Mishlers will no longer be around. At that point, what will the followers of the guru believe, and how big will it become?
Caller #5: I believe that there is more to life than just this one world. I believe that, based on the Bible, each and every one of us will give account to God someday. I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. This of course would relate to Maharaji, in that what our faith is placed in will determine our eternal destiny. We all have to believe, but we all have to have the proper belief and have it channelled in the right area.
Host: Thank you. Do you have any comment, Bob?
Bob: Well, you said it. Our belief is a personal matter.
Caller #6: I am just really confused right now about Maharaji. I didn't actually receive the knowledge, but I went to a couple of those seminars. I've just been really confused about what to think about the whole thing. Since I dropped out of it, I feel like I may have been sort of brainwashed into it, and yet maybe not. I was halfway believing that stuff for a while. Now I'm just at a point where I'm confused about what to think of the whole thing.
Bob: Well, the people who are trying to convince you that he is God probably really believe that. The thing is, they don't know who he is. There are very few people who do, because he keeps who he is very well hidden from people. He plays that role and he wants you to believe that he is God.
If you believe that he is your Lord, then you become his willing slave. You completely dedicate your life to him. In the course of serving him, of dedicating your life to him, you provide his means of support and income. That's really what's at the core of it. It's sad, because there's no provision being made for these people.
There are so many of them in his ashrams. That word is roughly equivalent to the English word 'monastery'. He has a number of people living in them in a state of poverty, chastity and obedience. These people give all of their fruit of their labour to him.
Some of them are probably under the impression that he is using it to spread his knowledge, to spread the practice of meditation and the means of inner peace to the people of the world. In fact, that's really not what happens. Most of the money just goes to support him in his lifestyle.
As far as the brainwashing aspect, well, it is similar to brainwashing in the sense that you have a great deal of social pressure. Usually, people that do get involved, and I would guess that this was the same for you, get involved because of other people.
You're always in a situation where there are a lot more people around who believe then there are people who don't. Just the sheer number of people around you who believe, all talking about how they thought the same things that you thought, they had all the same doubts, etc, etc, and continuing to testify that now they know, now they have the truth…
It's all set up that you really must go along with it if you want to continue to have that sort of social interaction with that group of people. As far as being an aspirant; even that condition makes you vulnerable to the pressures to conform, because you're in a situation where you're seeking social approval.
The biggest approval of all is being selected as being ready to be initiated into the 'perfect knowledge'. Of course, nowadays, I guess that's probably why you had to leave. You have to accept him as God before they initiate you. You have to essentially take the whole religion and accept it before you have even got any inkling of what the experience that they are talking about is.
That's just the reverse of the way is started. In the beginning days, he used to say: 'You'd be a fool if you accepted anything that anybody says about me before you experience this knowledge'. Of course, now, they won't even initiate you until you accept this.
Caller #6: Did you actually experience the knowledge while you were involved in this and living with him? Did you really have good experiences from that? Did you really feel happier in you life? Or did it just get you more confused until you finally decided that it wasn't for you?
Bob: I think meditation is something that could be of value to anyone who could learn these relatively simple practices to be able to focus their concentration inward and enhance their own consciousness in that manner. I still feel there is a value in that.
But the way that it is being taught in the Divine Light Mission now, this whole way of life… it's a whole religious dogma that goes along with it. I think that's very detrimental. In fact, meditation - even the way they encourage people to practice it - can be detrimental. They encourage people to use meditation to suppress their minds, their questioning, their doubting.
This to me is something that is not necessary to attain peace. There is a certain amount of uncertainty that exists in the world, and you don't have to eliminate that in order to have peace. To me, this a distortion of the Yogic practices that were essentially at the core of what was being taught originally.
It's being done deliberately now, because what they want people to do is find fulfilment in the belief that they are saved by accepting Guru Maharaj Ji as their Lord. Then, the only purpose in their life is to serve him. That means just working at your job for two or three months at a time, and then going to his festivals.
Caller #6: Another thing I'm really confused about is all those kind people giving him all this money. Was it really just a big financial racket for him to get rich? Does he really want people to find peace?
Bob: Well, the kind of peace he's offering is not real peace. It's called annihilation of your individuality. If you can call that peace… well, I guess a frontal lobotomy would do the same thing. It would be a lot quicker, and would probably have very sure results.
He wants people to continue working because it's by them coming to the festivals, paying their admissions and giving their donations when they're kissing his feet that he makes his money. He doesn't have any other income. He lives a very, very extravagant lifestyle.
Caller #7: There are just a couple of things bothering me. Firstly, you have a man here (Bob Mishler) who says that because he sees wrong in the Divine Light Mission, that makes it wrong for everybody. Therefore, it is wrong for everybody because it is just objectively wrong.
Bob: Well, I didn't really say that; you're attributing that, but go on.
Caller #7: Well, it just seemed to me that because you were saying that it couldn't possibly be right, it was evil and bad for anybody to be in it, because they were going to lose their individuality, their personality, all kinds of things. It seems to me that you are starting on a road towards anti-religion in general, because all religions do this to some extent or another. They ask that you believe in something that cannot be proved. If examined closely, it may even be unlikely.
Host: Well, yes, but understand something. Firstly, Bob was President of the Divine Light Mission from 1971 to 1977. His differences with the Divine Light Mission are not over practices of meditation, but over the financial aspects of the mission itself, and over the motivation of the guru.
Caller #7: What motivates the guru? Possibly only the guru could answer that.
Host: Well, he had an opportunity (and I don't know whether you heard it earlier in the show) to find out because he lived with the guru.
Caller #7: I didn't hear that part. But the thing that bothered me was that the financial aspects. He's obviously getting donations from everybody. So does any church.
Host: But does any church then use those donations to have Maseratis and Mercedes? Do the ministers of the churches lead an opulent lifestyle? Do they want to continue with it only so that they can? You didn't hear the beginning of the show. Those were some of the inside things that were discussed in meetings that Bob had with the guru.
Caller #7: One of the reasons my father left the Presbyterian church was because ministers were kept in large mansions in the best part of town.
Host: Did you hear what I just now said?
Caller #7: Yes…
Host: It had to do with the motivation of the guru. His motivation. The guru's reasons why.
Caller #7: OK. The other thing that bothered me: a couple of people have come on and said that the guru is nowhere like Christ. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I must say that Christ was supposed to be (at least, when I was taught) 100 percent man as well as 100 percent God. Also, he was famed for going to parties, keeping company with moneylenders, and changing water into wine.
Host: Are you a member of the Divine Light Mission?
Caller #7: No.
Host: OK, I'm just curious. There are similarities, you're right. I wouldn't argue with that.
Caller #7: It's just that so many people are saying that Christ wasn't human. That seems an atrocity to me. That's about all I have to say.
Host: OK, thank you. Bye bye.
Caller #8: Bob, I wonder if you'd go along (and I think you will) with the thought I have that we wouldn't have any cult without a leader with exceptional charisma. Would you go along with that?
Bob: Well as I explained before, charisma is a by-product of the individual in the crowd.
Caller #8: Well, assuming it's a by-product, an exceptional leader then, say.
Bob: Well, to follow what you are saying to its logical conclusions, then presumably if you got rid of the leader, the flock would disband, and there would be no cult.
Caller #8: I'm not talking about getting rid of them, I'm talking about their existence in the first place.
Bob: I'm trying to bring it back to that. There may be certain dynamics of different groups that necessitate a leader.
Caller #8: We don't have a group of any size without a leader of some kind, do we? Even the Republican Party and the Democratic Party does!
Bob: I think that what I'm trying to address was your original question that you've got to have some kind of exceptional person with charisma.
Caller #8: If you have a cult, the leader is likely to have exceptional charisma.
Bob: That would certainly be a by-product of that interaction between the leader and the group.
Caller #8: With your experience with the guru and a cult, do you see any similarity between that group, the group that Jim Jones had, Scientology, or, in the present instance, what is happening in Iran with Khomeini?
Bob: I see a lot of similarities with Jim Jones. In fact, the aspects of his own personal psychological degeneration that were publicized after the incident in Guyana were very strikingly similar to a similar sort of psychological decaying process I saw Maharaji going through myself when I was living with him.
As far as the phenomenon taking place with Khomeini and certainly in our social movement, I don't even think you have to limit it to religious figures. It can also happen with political figures, or any case where an ideology becomes a major component in assembling a mass of people who then look to one person to take their lead from. It certainly happened with Hitler. I'd say there were a lot of similarities.
Caller #8: Some of us see a considerable difference between an ideology and a religion.
Bob: I agree with you, there are differences. But I think that the similarities are in terms of the behaviour of the crowds of people who follow.
Caller #9: Mr Mishler, I've been listening to you speaking about the Guru Maharaj Ji. I'd like to compliment you on your courage to walk away from such a situation. I assume that it was rather difficult for you.
Bob: It was a pretty difficult thing to do.
Caller #9: And quite painful?
Bob: Yes, I would say it was very painful as well.
Caller #9: Assuming you were looking for something just like millions of others, some kind of truth…
Bob: It's a hard thing to give up your dreams, when you realise that they didn't turn out the way you had expected.
Caller #9: A lot of that happens with different religions to other people, the same for myself. I have this feeling that you are being marauded with phone calls from people that don't seem to quite understand. In other words, they are saying that they wouldn't make the same mistake, which we are all capable of doing. I just wanted to say that I think you are very brave and a very strong person to be able to have that sort of insight.
Bob: Thank you.
Caller #10: I've been listening to your program. What you are saying about the guru is really interesting. I've attended a few of the satsang meetings. To me it always seems ridiculous how the premies all seem to be cut out of the same mould. Why is that?
Bob: It's not so much that they have been cut out of the same mould. It's that they have been re-moulded into the same mould. You'll find that there is a tremendous amount of diversity in the backgrounds of the members in the Divine Light Mission. Over a period of time, they are really re-programed into a whole new way of looking at things.
I think one way to look at it is to view the Divine Light Mission as a sub-culture. It has its own perspective on reality. People are in fact finally assimilated into that sub-cultural group. That accounts for the similarity you see in them.
Caller #10: Another thing is that somewhere along the line I heard that there is basically a conflict throughout his own family. I take it that after his father died, he supposedly was the one that became the new guru. Somewhere someone told me that his brother believed that he was. Is there any truth to that?
How Maharaji was selected to succeed his father (Back to index)
Bob: Well, that's a very interesting story. I don't know if we have time to go into it. Gary's nodding so I'll try and explain it very quickly. The story as it is told to the Divine Light Mission members is that when guru was going to go into his Maha Samadhi - he doesn't just die, you see, he transcends into some other dimension - he had to pass on the mantle of spiritual authority that he bore.
He indicated that it was to be his younger son who was going to succeed him and become the Guru Maharaj Ji. What actually happened was that when the guru died, there were some very dubious circumstances surrounding his death, but that's another story as well.
His mother, the former guru's wife, who was known as Mataji and was part of the so-called Holy Family before they split apart, wanted to ascend the throne herself. At the father's funeral, at which time the new guru was supposed to be proclaimed, she was in a meeting with the governing body and some of the very influential devotees - the Mahatmas - arguing this point view.
She had one Mahatma who was very influential arguing on her behalf. Most of the governing body was resisting this, because they were saying that it flaunted the Hindu tradition that the 'perfect master' must in fact be a man. They couldn't go over to a 'holy mother' kind of belief structure when all along they had been operating in this 'perfect master' one.
While this was going on, some other younger and not quite so influential but nonetheless aggressive Mahatmas had a much closer relationship with the younger son. The one who was most instrumental was a Mahatma known as Mahatma Sampuranand. They seized upon the opportunity of absence while this argument was going on behind closed doors in another part of the Ashram.
They put the youngest child who was eight years old at the time - the Guru Maharaj Ji that we're talking about tonight - on the throne and crowned him. He was already accepted as the guru by the devotees by the time that they had finally come to an agreement in this other meeting that was taking place.
In this meeting, they had decided to put the eldest son on the throne, because that was in line with Hindu tradition that the eldest son always inherits from the father. This eldest son would then be under the control of the mother anyway, as he was about thirteen or fourteen at the time. The mother finally agreed to that.
When they came out, they were really shocked to find that the youngest son was already sitting on the throne, wearing the crown and already accepted by the devotees. So they accepted this, but nonetheless there was the enmity that existed between the eldest son, who felt that his inheritance was robbed, and the younger son.
That dynamic eventually exploded in 1974. The mother then, at that point, when the youngest son was really defying her authority, said she'd back the eldest son now. But it was a bit late by that point.
Host: I think the same thing happened with Esau and Jacob.
Caller #10: When you did try and leave the group, did you have to go through de-programming? What happened there?
Bob: Actually, I had pretty much been de-programed in a sense, if you care to call it that, as a natural result of the experiences I had dealing with the guru myself. When I left, the main difficulty for me was leaving behind all those years of my life and all the work that I had put into it.
Losing the relationships that I had with all the people that were involved was difficult, as my life revolved around that group of people. When I left, I was an outcast. I had to start all over again materially, because I had given everything I owned and I left with nothing. I also had to start all over again in terms of building new relationships and so on.
Caller #10: I'm a member of the US ski team now and I'm also a former Moonie. I gave up my position in the US ski team many years ago to follow Reverend Moon. There is a great deal of similarity there.
Bob: No doubt there would be.
Caller #10: I didn't go through a de-program. Even afterwards, there were repercussions of meeting different people with the groups. It seemed that even if you did leave the group, there would still be someone knocking at your door trying to make sure that you got back in with it.
Bob: They didn't really do that with me. I had a different kind of situation, given that I was the President. I was in such a high position. I knew so much more, and they never pursued me. In fact, it was to the contrary; I was an outcast and they deliberately avoided me.
Caller #11: Regarding the PTL Club, and several other similar clubs that are devouring the nation right now, do you feel they are a threat? In the overall view of this nation, do you think they might be too powerful, too influential? For instance, the PTL Club now has its own network. I understand they are going to start doing their own news show. Do you think they might be able to influence everybody up to a point where it might really hurt this country?
[Editor's Note: The PTL ("Praise The Lord") Club was the name of an organization which was headed by US televangelist Jim Baker. Baker was subsequently charged with fraud and imprisoned.]
Bob: I'm really not qualified to speak in terms of the capacity of the PTL to influence people. Regarding what can hurt this country, I don't feel that we have that much to fear from any group organising itself in such a way that they are capable of having a voice in a mass society.
We have a diversity of opinion in this country; that's one of the principles that we cherish the most. It is through the competition of all these different ideas that the choice exists for each individual to make his decision.
On the other hand, there are practices of certain groups where once they have a person in their sway, they then systematically rob that person of any capacity to be able to leave the group. In fact, they try to deliberately hold that person and exploit them for economic gain.
Host: How do they try to rob them of an ability to leave? What kind of methods are you talking about?
Bob: First of all, they strip them of their financial independence. The way that this is done is to have them live in some kind of communal situation. Ultimately, if possible, they try to get them into one of their monastic type living situations where they are actually under vows of poverty.
Anything that they produce doesn't really belong to them, it belongs to the organisation. Therefore they really haven't got any financial capacity on their own. All of their possessions have been turned over to the organisation. In addition to this, they also have the individual systematically sever their ties with anyone who doesn't believe as they believe. This includes family members, former friends and associates. An effort will be made to convert family members and former friends. After a certain point, they are just supposed to leave contact with these people altogether.
Over a period of time, what happens is that everything on a physical, emotional and psychological level is really being controlled by the group. That gives a tremendous kind of ability to manipulate the individual.
Host: What about spiritual blackmail, in terms of salvation?
Bob: Well, that's part of it as well. When you have a person in this position, you condition them with fear. The fear is that if they leave, they will suffer some horrible fate. I think that, whether you're talking about the Hare Krishnas, the Moonies or the Divine Light Mission members, they believe that their belief is the truth. If they leave that, they are subject to all kinds of eternal damnation.
I know that the Maharaji threatens his devotees at certain levels, once he gets them to the point where they've sacrificed everything. At this point they will have become initiators, which is the final degree of surrender. He threatens them with eternal damnation if they ever leave.
Caller #12: What did you turn to? (after you left the Divine Light Mission) What religion are you now?
Bob: I think I've had enough of religion for a while. I didn't really turn to anything.
Caller #12: OK, but you don't believe in anything now, any person or whatever?
Bob: No, I don't.
Caller #12: OK, so you don't believe in Jesus Christ?
Bob: I'm not a practising anything.
Host: OK, we're going to talk about the whole religious phenomenon of the believer. I'm a believer, there are other believers of various religions… that whole thing is rather interesting.
Caller #13: I have a question for your guest. I recently read an interview in 'Playboy' with Ted Patrick (He abducted and attempted to de-program cult members on behalf of concerned parents. I think he was successfully sued for kidnapping). I'm curious about these methods he describes. Does your guest agree that there is a certain kind of mind control involved in recruitment for the Divine Light Mission?
Bob: I didn't read that article, and I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'mind control' in the recruitment. I definitely think that there is a systematic process of thought reform that goes on. The ultimate outcome of that thought reform process is that there is definitely a mind control that exists with the members.
Caller #13: In his interview, Mr Patrick seems to be of the opinion that the Krishnas, the Divine Light Mission, the Scientologists and others like them are using a great deal of mind control in order not only to recruit, but after recruitment to place these people in a sort of controlled state. This is so that they will not only turn over their earnings, but will also continue to serve as robots. I was just curious whether you felt that was happening.
Bob: Oh yes, I definitely do.
Caller #13: So doesn't that make this sort of a subversive activity?
Bob M.: If you mean subverting the individual, yes. I don't think that with the Divine Light Mission there are any larger goals other than to subvert whatever individuals they can, and then hold them in this state of servitude for the perpetuation of the group. As far as the subversive nature of it is concerned, yes, it does subvert the individual's ego. The individuals will say, yes, I appreciate that, I like that; in fact I'm in bliss because of that.
Caller #14: I have a question for Bob. Earlier in the program, you said that you had received a lot of calls recently from people who have had loved ones they were concerned about who were premies. I just wondered what you told them when they called.
Bob M.: Well, it depended. A lot of the conversations were very individually oriented around what they could do in their particular situation. If I can generalise a bit about it, a lot of these parents just really needed someone to talk to to help them understand what was going on with their child or family member. In fact, in one case it was a daughter worried about her father.
Inner experiences not due to the power of Maharaji (Back to index)
What I would usually try and tell them was to try and keep some respect for the individual's experience and for their faith in their beliefs. If the family member suddenly challenges that, and says: 'How could you believe such a stupid thing?', it reflects on the individual as if to deny their experience altogether.
These people really do have an experience. They may be mistaken in attributing whatever inner spiritual peace they find within themselves to the guru. In fact, he really doesn't have anything to do with it, but they are sincere in placing their faith in him.
We must try to help them see that the guru really isn't responsible for whatever positive benefits they are deriving from their belief, and that therefore they shouldn't continue to allow their lives to be dominated by subservience to the guru.
Friends and relatives are going to have to try to understand the experience enough to be able to really relate to the people by not regarding them as mental defectives. A lot of the conversations have centred around just how to make a much stronger contact. I know that a lot of the people involved are getting a lot of psychological strokes from the individuals that they associate with.
If the parents just treat them as naughty children and take a disapproving attitude, they tend to take that personally as though the parents were disapproving of them as a person. This not only further alienates them, but actually severs those ties altogether. In that sense, it actually aids and abets the cult.
Caller #14: The person I have in mind happens to be an ex-wife. She is a very intelligent person. I wonder if you thought a tape-recording of this program might help open her eyes.
Bob: Well, it could possibly, particularly if she is not aware of some of the hypocrisies that I have pointed out, maybe not completely in this program, but certainly in other statements I have given to the news media. I think it helps, given that so many of the people that are involved are very sincere. If they begin to see that what they are being told and what is actually taking place are two different things, then they begin to see that possibly they could have had the same experiences without having had to attribute it to the guru.
Look at all these hypocritical practices that the guru engages in. There was never any response from him. Of course, he couldn't really respond. To respond, he would either have to admit it, and he is not likely to do that, or he would have to deny it. If he denied it, we could get into a whole protracted court battle.
'Need to believe' masks truth about Maharaji (Back to index)
I haven't said anything about him that I'm not capable of proving. So consequently they tend to just try and ignore it, hoping that they control the communication within the premies' world strongly enough to be able to weather it out. To that extent, I think it is up to relatives and friends to actually use that relationship to get the person to listen to the truth as it gets exposed, and not to just let it get shoved aside as though I were some crackpot.
I mean, I was the President of the Mission for five and a half years. Somebody who was essentially responsible for organizing the Mission throughout the United States, and was the personal secretary to the guru, is not just any crackpot who comes along! The things that I'm saying are true. If they can't deal with that truth, if they tend to just ignore it, well, I think that their need to believe is so strong that there's really not a whole lot we can do.
Persistence on the part of people like yourself who have a relationship with members is probably the most important thing.
Caller #14: Let me ask one more question. Approximately how many members are there in the Mission at the present time?
Bob: Well, it would be hard for me to say for sure, but from what I understand, they get 10 or 15,000 people showing up at these meetings where they invite essentially all of the premies in the United States and Canada, and even Europe as well. Maybe there's as many as 10 to 15,000 in the United States. That's down considerably from the amount that there once was. Nonetheless, it's been holding pretty much steady for the last couple of years.
Caller #15: I have some friends who are devotees of the guru, and they've been telling me to come to their meetings. I can't find out who the guru really is to them. Do you view him as a Christ or what? It's really hard to get inside their heads.
Bob: Well, I think a lot of that comes from a confusion that has served them well in terms of an ambiguity about who he really is. If, in fact, they say that he is their Lord, what do they mean by that? I know it's hard to pin people down, particularly if they don't want to be pinned down by somebody who they are trying to attract, because they might put you off.
Caller #15: Yes, but who do they think he is?
Bob: Well, I can't speak for all of them, but I think at this point, given the way that he has been running things since I left, they pretty much have to believe that he is God. They think he is the incarnation of whatever that power we call God is. They believe him to be the living Lord of the Universe.
Caller #15: OK. These people I know are super-nice people. I really like them. But I'm not into their ideas at all; it doesn't tie up with anything I was brought up to believe in. I have now become an agnostic,and I find it hard to believe that he's going to be the Messiah incarnate or anything like that. They've been urging me to go to these meetings, and I just wandered what would I be getting into?
Bob: You'd be getting into an idol-worship cult.
Caller #15: I want to get in there and find out what is going on.
Bob: It's really set up that way. Members are obtained through association with other members. I know that so many of the premies are really nice people. I've often even thought that they are better than most, because a lot of them seem to be really concerned about other people.
You'll find, as I did when I no longer believed as they believed, that it is a completely different story. All of that love and brotherhood that we had shared was suddenly gone. It's because the belief that they have is all-encompassing.
Part of the way that this technique of thought reform works is to get you to come to the meetings. When you come to the meetings, you are subject to the influence of the group. I'm talking about the psychological influence that takes place just when you're in a group of people who all believe in a certain way, and you don't necessarily.
Nonetheless, just because they are your friends, and because they are all looking to you, thinking: 'Isn't this wonderful, and now you're going to get into it too', you're under a great deal of pressure to conform, just out of your own social nature.
If you go to enough meetings, you'll probably then begin to get interested in what they call 'knowledge' and that's the whole idea. Once you get interested in receiving knowledge, they've got you on the way to having this whole process take place.
In order to receive knowledge, you've got to be an aspirant. As an aspirant, you're already subjected to so much social pressure. You are under this incredible pressure to succeed. The way that you succeed is to be selected to receive knowledge. When somebody says: 'You are finally ready to receive knowledge' you just go along with it.
In the knowledge session, you come out afterwards and everybody says: 'Isn't it wonderful, it's your spiritual birthday. You're a new person. Quite likely, by that point you are, because your ego has been reformed. It has been reformed around a whole new belief system. You asked what you were getting into; well, it's an idol-worship cult. The idol is Guru Maharaj Ji and the role of the premie is to worship him.
Maharaji's family & 'Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?' book
Caller #15: Are you familiar with a book on the career of the Guru Maharaj Ji?
Bob: Sure. I was President of the Divine Light Mission. It was my idea to have that book published. Charles Cameron, a premie originally from England but now living here in Denver, was the one who edited it and put it together.
[Editor's Note: The book referred to is titled "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?"]
Caller #15: So you had quite a bit to do with it?
Bob: Yes, it was part of a whole campaign. In 1973, we were still trying to attract people out of curiosity. Maharaji was saying: 'I've got something to reveal to you. It's free; there's no continuing obligation. All you have to do is sincerely want to know the truth and I'll have it shown to you. It's the truth within you; how can you pass it up?'.
So we tried to get people to question themselves. Who is this Guru Maharaj Ji? What kind of a person can make these claims? The idea was that he really was somebody special and he really was going to unfold a plan for world peace. That's what he told us he was going to do, and we were going along with him.
We set up a program in the Houston Astrodome in the same year that the book was published. That was in 1973. We had media from all over the world there.
Caller #15: Can you tell me some of the fallacies in the book?
Bob: Try reading the whole chapter on the Holy Family. Then get the premies that you know to explain that to you. In that book, it talks about his Holy Family. They have a story about how every one of his brothers and his mother are divine incarnations. If they are, where are they now?
Caller #15: I don't know. Where are they?
Bob: Well, they had a fight over who was going to control the Mission, and they split up. The mother and the two eldest brothers are now running their own Divine Light Mission in India. They don't have anything to do with each other. There was a big fight; lots of court battles and so on. My point is that this book isn't a Gospel of any sort, believe me!
Caller #16: I'd like to ask your guest: What would you say is the current average age of the followers of the guru?
Bob: The people in their teens and early twenties are now getting on, because it's been seven or eight years now. They don't necessarily drift away. Most do; most of the people who have been initiated have left. But there is a real 'hard core' of people who have been involved for a long time.
There have always been a number of older people. There has always been a spread in the membership from the really young, I mean teenagers, to elderly people. At one point, even children were being initiated in the very early years, but that changed after the first couple of years.
It's not just that it appeals to young people, although young people, especially those in their late teens or early twenties, are prime targets. This is because they are going through a natural kind of ego reformation at that point in their lives anyway. So they are very susceptible.
Caller #16: I just wondered if, with the particular insight that you have, you have considered writing some kind of book.
Bob: A number of people have suggested that to me. About a year and a half ago, I worked up a proposal and circulated it to a number of book publishers. I just received rejections; nobody was really interested in publishing a story about a guru cult.
Caller #16: The reason that I brought this up was that I think there should be a publisher somewhere who might have more interest in it. They might urge you to consider re-drafting your proposal and circulating it again. I think there are a lot of people who would like to have something like this. I think it would be a great service to a lot of people.
I don't look upon what you have to say as necessarily just insight into the DLM, as much as it is insight into any religion, whether it be called 'cult' or 'mainstream religion'. To me, it's a real problem when people just get so blind that common sense just wanders astray.
I'd like to add one more thing: I certainly would like to offer my empathy to you. When you say that you are not a practising believer in anything, I can very easily understand that. You had a few callers inquiring about what your present belief is. After going through this, I am sure that if you want to place your faith in something else again, it is going to have to be earned. You've been 'burned'; anyone who doesn't understand that is a little out of touch with how the human being works.
Host: Well, it would be something akin to Paul suddenly saying: 'I made the whole thing up because I wanted to get a bunch of disciples or Moses saying: 'Look, I'm really an Egyptian, and I was trying to get you to follow the same guy that Akhnaten was talking about'. It would cause some waves!
Caller #16: Right. I thank myself that I have been as well educated as I have. I continue to reach for knowledge and hope I always will. But we're always, always in need of more information about this kind of thing. In my particular area, I deal with a lot of people. I just really feel that nobody should ever get into a thing where any human being becomes so almighty and important. It just seems counter-productive to me.
Maharaji cries on Bob's shoulder (Back to index)
Caller #17: Bob, how old is the Maharaji now?
Bob: Let's see…He'll be 22 this year (1979).
Caller #17: And he started when he was 8?
Bob: He became the Guru Maharaj Ji aged 8.
Host: He didn't really come over to this country until he was 13.
Bob: That's right.
Caller #17: As he was so young, do you believe that he was somewhat brainwashed into this thing too?
Bob: Oh yes. I feel that he is as much a victim as he is a victimizer. I've tried to make this clear in other interviews that I have given. He was set up for this. He certainly didn't have a very normal childhood, having to play God on weekends!
Caller #17: I can imagine that! Did you discuss this with him?
Bob: Oh yes, we talked about this. I had to be very diplomatic with him. I was a devotee after all, but I probably had as frank a relationship with him as anyone.
Caller #17: In other words you were his confidant.
Bob: Yes. He literally used to cry on my shoulder.
Drunken 'stupor' every day, says Mishler
Caller #17: Did he ever let go of this facade at any point in time?
Bob: His own doubts? Oh yes, on a number of occasions. He is a pathetic person in this respect. Earlier in the show, I made reference to his own psychological degeneration. The anxiety that is caused to him by the role that he is in is tremendous. Unlike what he advocates, he is not capable of dealing with it by means of meditation. He ends up drinking excessively in order to cope with the stress. It was very sad to see him drinking himself into a stupor day after day.
Host: It's really interesting that some of his followers can handle their problems through meditation, through what they received from him. But he is unable to do it himself.
Bob: I don't think he ever really meditated. He talks about how, when he was 8 years old, he meditated for a few minutes and realised the knowledge. Presumably, that was all he needed. But he doesn't really use it.
Caller #17: That's really sad. I can't imagine being in that type of situation myself. Would you communicate this to him now?
Bob convinces Maharaji to retract Messiah claim
Bob: No, we came to a final confrontation prior to when I left the Divine Light Mission. He knew how I felt. We'd talked about it. At the beginning of 1976, we had agreed that we would in fact change his image. I had persuaded him to see that he was going to lose his popularity and ability to do any good at all in this country, if he became a cult leader. If he continued to allow his devotees to believe that he was God, that was inevitable. He agreed, and we started de-programming our own membership and telling them to see Maharaji as only a human being who had a great concern for humanity. In fact, he went along with this image change for about half a year. Then, when he saw that he wouldn't have the same kind of ascribed status that he had as the guru being God, he suddenly realised he wouldn't have the same kind of control over people. He started worrying about what was going to happen to him in terms of his finances.
Caller #17: He started having self-doubt?
Bob: I think the self-doubt was there all along. At that point, he got out the picture of his father and put it up on the wall. He started worshipping it the way his devotees worshipped the pictures of him. That really made me feel sorry for him.
Caller #18: I'd also like to congratulate you on your ability to break away and seek some sanity and rationality in life. I'd also like to congratulate you on your moral rectitude in wanting to let others know the truth about the situation. I think it's extremely important that people of all beliefs hear this sort of thing from the inside, as you're telling it.
Somebody brought up the name of Ted Patrick earlier, and I wanted to ask if you have had any contact with him?
Bob: I haven't had any first hand-dealings with Ted Patrick, although when I was President of the Mission, I remember that I had to deal with situations in which members of the Ashrams were abducted and deprogramed by Ted Patrick.
In the early years, he didn't have a very good success rate with Divine Light Mission people. In fact, he couldn't de-program them. He didn't really know enough about the group at that time to be able to do it. Recently, however, that has changed, and he has a few former premies working with him. He is having a very good success rate with the Divine Light Mission premies.
Recently, three individuals who were de-programed by Ted Patrick within the last three months, called me. All three of those people told me that they felt he was not at all like the images that exist of him in the Press. They felt that he was a very sensitive person who treated them with a great deal of respect.
During the whole period, what he did was keep them questioning and talking and talking, until they were finally able to use their own reasoning to recognise what had happened to them. This would enable them to recognise what had happened to them, and to work their way out of the belief structure that they were trapped in.
Caller #18: They started to listen to what they were actually saying, in other words.
Bob: Right. By talking it out, they began to listen to what they were saying. It helped having some former members there to point out the things that they didn't really know, things that they had just learned to accept by rote.
Caller #18: That's fascinating. I was really interested in hearing whether or not his methods were as bad as people had been portraying them.
Bob: Evidently not. I guess you hear about that when he fails. When he fails, obviously when somebody escapes or something like that, they are going to portray it as a terrible thing, because they say they are being physically kidnapped.
In all the cases I am familiar with, the person is usually being detained in their family's home. Some family member has arranged to get the person there, and then they do detain them. They have to keep at it until the person has managed to go through the whole thing and gets to the point when they can start reasoning again.
Caller #18: That's very interesting. In that case, I hope he has more success. In the same vein, there is a recent book out by a man and woman who have researched a variety of cults. It's called 'Snapping'. I was wondering if you were familiar with that.
Bob: A number of people have recommended it to me, but I haven't seen it.
Caller #18: Apparently they were on the Carson show the other night. From what I gather from their conversation, they refer to the mental process that goes on when a person is subjected to high pressure indoctrination or propaganda that some groups give out to new members. They say that something actually 'snaps', that they actually do 'turn' and become mentally different.
Bob: I think that this is something that social philosophers and social psychologists have talked about for a long time. In a crowd, the person loses his individuality. In fact, their intellectual capacity is debilitated in that situation.
If there is a systematic attempt to transform that person's thinking, you could hypothetically say that there could be a point at which they would 'snap' and start seeing things differently.
Caller #18: It's good to know that the situation can at least in some cases be reversed, as shown by the experiences of Ted Patrick.
Bob: Human beings are such complex creatures. We have all kinds of possibilities in our lives. I'm not willing to write anybody off.
Caller #18: I was wondering if you'd mind stating your age.
Bob: I'm 34. I was 26 when I got into it.
Caller #18: That's interesting. I feel that some of these groups are appealing to a specific kind of immaturity in people.
Bob: I don't think it's just necessarily an immaturity. A lot of grown people are immature at times. I think that everyone is susceptible at certain times under certain circumstances. I know there are a lot of people getting involved after the death of a loved one or maybe a divorce.
There are all kinds of circumstances that can even affect mature individuals, rendering them psychologically vulnerable.
Host: Most people who will suddenly embrace religion at any point do it because of some deep need.
Bob: Maybe it's some disillusionment with what they find going on around them. Let's face it, during the early 1970s there were a lot of people who were disillusioned with what was going on in the predominant culture here in the United States, as a result of the Vietnam War, Watergate and so on. So you look for something better, and somebody offers you something that's supposedly perfect. It's a good ploy.
Caller #18: It's powerful. It seems like there is a tendency to revert to something simpler. That happened to the young people in the Sixties. I thought it was fascinating to hear your comment about the Maharaji putting up the picture of his father and worshipping it.
Bob: When he had doubts, he looked to the way it had been taught to him for strength.
Caller #18: He looked to the situation he was in when he was young, when he had guidance from someone stronger.
The tape ends abruptly here! (Back to index)
[Transcribing editor's note: This interview provides a unique insight into how a cult is created and its members indoctrinated. A few months after giving this interview, Bob Mishler and his wife died in a helicopter accident.]