Telephone Discussion with Bob Mishler
Transcript of telephone interview with Bob Mishler. (Bob Mishler was President of Divine Light Mission between 1972 and 1977. During those years, he acted in the capacity of Maharaji's number one right-hand man and confidant. He died in a helicopter accident in 1979).
The recording of this conversation is available for downloading in five .mp3 files of approximately 3 to 5 minutes each. Each file is between 3MB and 8MB in size. Click to play or to download:-
Caller:… twin sister Ellen, she's on the other line
Caller:and, … we're here on a re-hab, and we were de-programmed by Ted two weeks ago.
Caller:and, uh, I really, … so far my experience has been … I see a lot of inconsistencies in my experience, … what I experience of Knowledge y'know … a lot of different things with the premies and all, but … I was in the ashram for a year, and then I was, like, a premie for about five years … and I just have a real association with Maharaji, y'know - the person, the man - that I really need to see through, and I just felt like talking to you would really help.
Bob:OK, well good. Anything I can say that would … ? … just … feel free to ask me anything…
Caller:Well, mostly, just … what were some of your experiences of Maharaji … that, y'know - you were with him obviously a lot, and I knew about, … and I also heard a lot of things about you when you left, and … since then and stuff … so I can't say there isn't some kind of subconscious bias there, but …
Bob:Well, y'know, there was a lot of effort to deprecate my … um, y'know … my character as a result of my disaffection with the group and, that of course was something that I knew would inevitably happen once I had made the decision to leave. But if you've been involved for any length of time at all, you know that after I left I didn't really say anything against Maharaji at all, or in any way try to expose what I felt was, uh … the deception at the core of the Mission, until after that incident in Guyana.
Bob:And then at that point I just felt I couldn't keep these things to myself any longer, it was … I was … even though I had left I was still in a way covering up for it just by the absence of ever having spoken out, and I didn't want that kind of thing on my conscience given the similarities in the decay of Jim Jones and the ultimate impact that he had on his followers, and the kind of decay that I saw Maharaji going through, physically and mentally - prior to leaving.
Caller:Well let's, now let's … what was that you saw in him?
Bob:Well first of all, let's talk about what everybody sees in Maharaji. I mean, for the most part, premies see what they're intended to see, OK? Every time they see Maharaji it's in a very well-staged situation, designed to give a certain type of impression.
Bob:… and they don't see him otherwise at all.
Bob:They may hear stories and this 'n' that, but all of them are embellished with coincidences blown to the proportion of miracle. OK, so - they really don't know what he's like. Well, I didn't really know Maharaji was like either, even though I was president of the Mission in the United States, and … by premies' standing I was one of the chief devotees of Maharaji - until 1974 when he split with his family, and when he split with his family then he became very much dependent upon me to do a lot of things for him. To ensure the fact that he could maintain his independence from his mother and he could consolidate the membership - not only in the United States but internationally as well - behind him, because he was in open competition with his brother at that point, who his mother was now backing, and they were denouncing him and so on.
So it was a period of time where he'd called upon me to internationalise the Divine Light Mission and he was essentially 'laying low' and just letting me do that. But on the other hand he was confiding in me - all the time - and he had been confiding in me for months, prior to the split, so I knew that it was coming, … about how his mother was such a bad influence on him, and how Bal Bhagwan Ji was so crazy and so on, and how this was threatening to ruin all of our plans and so on. Because we used to plan to do things that were ultimately intended to help people realise the importance of life and change the quality of the human living experience throughout the world.
Bob:And even though those goals, … in repeating them they seem somewhat Quixotic in the sense that they may be the 'impossible dream' … I believed in it at the time and I was working for it wholeheartedly and with all of my devotion. And I trusted Maharaji - implicitly.
And so, consequently when he started confiding in me, I felt that I had reason to believe in him even more, in that , y'know … yes, the problems that we were experiencing with Divine Light Mission had a source and the source was the conflict within his family and consequently I felt that as soon as that was resolved successfully that things would in fact change and that the problems would be corrected and all of the good things that we were doing would continue … only increased in proportion, and … that didn't happen. What happened was that I started living with Maharaji then, once he had split with his family, and I saw what he was really like.
Maharaji at the time was real young, he was only 16, 17 in those days, but he already had developed some really bad habits that are essentially the result of a lifestyle of being plain bored essentially. By bad habits I'm talking about - not my own opinion - I'm talking about in terms of his own physical well-being. He used to drink excessively and he had not learned to manage the stress of his situation so consequently he suffered from essential hyper-tension which is a psychological high blood pressure condition, which was very dangerous for his health and well-being - he used to have fainting spells sometimes because his blood pressure would be so high and he would just black out. Things like this to me were indicative of some deeper problems.
Now when I joined Divine Light Mission it was not necessary - and when I joined with Maharaji - in terms I felt it was like becoming a collaborator in a joint effort - it was his Mission but by adopting it, it also became my Mission. And the reason I could feel that way was it was not necessary to look at Maharaji as a 'God-figure' in those days. There were always some who did think of Maharaji as - some of them thought of him as even greater than God, in fact I don't know whether you were around in those days, but a lot of the Indians had banners that said Guru is greater than God. And of course, to me, this was just a different … a semantical difference in terms of the Vedantic tradition as opposed to the Judeo-Christian tradition and the way that we thought of God, but to me the Guru - and Maharaji spent a lot of time in the early days denying that he was God …
Bob:… and stating that the Guru was in fact just someone who showed you God and therefore was important in the process of realisation but, - critical, in fact, in the process of realisation - but nonetheless he made no claims to be what he was revealing. What he was revealing was there within inside us all along. He experienced it. We can experience it. It was on that level … that I was believing, and, … I never … So consequently when I saw the kinds of problems - the personal problems - that Maharaji had, it didn't make me feel like I had to give everything up. I felt that what had to happen was that things had to be changed. The kind of conditions that had been created as a result of the way the Divine Light Mission had been operated by Maharaji's mother, and which he had essentially inherited and had been programmed into as a young boy, had to be changed for his own well-being and for the well-being of the premies too. Because by the time that - after I became international director, we had never had an international organisation before and consequently every problem - everything that was going on in the world that there was a problem amongst premies - it would end up on my desk, OK, prior to going to Maharaji. And I had to try and bring things to his attention, because we were able to start monitoring after - this was like four or five years after the Divine Light Mission had been started in the West - we were able to start really beginning to evaluate some of our programs - and some of them were not good. Especially the ashram program was, was … causing people to be more inept. Many people - not everyone, but many people were becoming less capable as individuals rather than becoming more capable as we had purported that they would be as a result of realising this Knowledge. There were people who were being essentially psychologically and economically exploited.
And I would bring these things to his attention and he wouldn't want to deal with it. He would put it off for weeks, months - sometimes just not deal with it at all - and he would go and get drunk instead, almost on a daily basis. He would rise in the morning and by early afternoon on a typical day he was already drinking. And he drank heavily, not just beer or wine - he drank cognac, and he drank it to the point that he was stewed every evening. There was more than one occasion where we had to pick him up and carry him to bed after he had passed out. And that kind of thing y'know, that kind of lifestyle - I mean, I was very, very busy during all this time - it's not like the only thing I had to do was sit around and deal with Maharaji. Maharaji had given me so much responsibility that I was literally working almost all the time. But nonetheless a lot of what I had to do had to go through him - because he would make demands on the financial resources of Divine Light Mission, and of the premies, that had far-reaching consequences that I would have to talk to him about, and he usually never cared. He never cared to know the consequences of his actions. He knew what he wanted and that was it. He wanted it, and I was to figure out some way to get it for him.
And so, anyway, it ultimately all came to a point for me. Y'know when … after he had … like I said, he had degenerated physically to the point that he was having these fainting spells and we had had it diagnosed and found out that there was no physical cause for it, it was psychosomatic. It was just obvious that he was living with too much stress - he hated to hear about the premies - I felt that this burden of playing God for people was killing him as well as being injurious to the premies, and we had agreed essentially to change things, and this was around the beginning of 1976.
And for a few months we tried to change things, and what it really came down to was that Maharaji was not willing to take the financial risk involved. Because I had set up a program to use the tax-free income that he getting in gifts from the premies to create a program of investments for him so that ultimately he could live off his invested capital and not need to have the premies keep making incredible contributions to him - not need to have Divine Light Mission give so much of its money to him to maintain his lifestyle. In other words he would be financially independent, therefore he would no longer have the necessity of having them believe that he was God so that he could count on all of their donations.
Caller:Can I ask you a question?
Caller:Do you know - are those investments still around, any ones that you made?
Bob:No - well, it never happened.
Caller:Oh, it never did
Bob:The programme never really got off the ground because he was too worried about it. It meant that he would have to … he would have to really compromise his lifestyle as he had become accustomed to it.
Bob:He was … well, it's not just a secret how he lives, OK, in the sense that he lives a very opulent lifestyle. What he does in that opulent lifestyle is what's hidden. The fact that he's not … that really his life is the antithesis of what he teaches, and requires from his devotees - that's the part that he hides. But the fact that he has all these material belongings … well, he used to try and hide that too - y'know, he would want us to cover it up in Divine Light Mission. He would find ways to charge off things that we'd bought - for him - to various Divine Light Mission departments so that they could be hidden within our financial status.
But he lives a very, very opulent lifestyle and he just really just doesn't … to me it's greed - y'know, I feel sorry for him because he got programmed into this role, I don't see how there can be a happy ending for anybody involved, including him - ultimately. Because he's not even happy now, that's the irony of the whole thing, I mean … consumerism is like a disease with him. He no sooner has the object of his desire, whether it's a new Maserati or Rolls Royce or whatever - Aston Martin - he's thinking about the next thing: it's got to be a helicopter, it's got to be a Grummond Gulfstream 2, it's got to be this or that. I mean … he just craves all of these symbols of wealth that, once he has them, he can't even use them. I mean, what can you do? Even when I was there - and I'm sure it's gotten worse since then - there was not enough garage space to keep all of his cars - and we had like six garages, OK?
So, I mean, you've got to be… really … to the point where I couldn't take it any more - I found out that he wasn't going to change, and I couldn't countenance what he was doing. The premies have no idea. I mean, there's a lot that premies have and experience and share that is really wonderful, and I felt could possibly be preserved, but, … and … and it continues, but the thing is, it continues with all these attributions to Maharaji, that are just totally unfounded. That anything that goes right in premies' life they attribute to him.
Bob:And now, from what I understand, it's completely unabated - it's just total idol worship. He is God and the realisation, the only realisation that's being talked about is the realisation that he's the Lord. So it's gotten completely away from what it originally was. And this, to me, is another similarity, I mean … Jones' group changed over the years. It became a group of idol worshippers. And that's essentially what's happened to Maharaji's group as well.
Bob:And that kind of absolute power over people has a tremendously corrupting influence. Like I said, I watched Maharaji change just in the few years that I knew him. And he's still young, but he doesn't have any other influences on his life now, except his past conditioning - and we all have to deal with that, OK? And if you live … if you're living a life now that's not only injurious to others but that's also self-destructive, and you can't - you don't have the courage to make a change, well then … there's not much anybody else can do for you.
I don't see that Maharaji's going to change. I don't see that he's even going to have to confront the issues all that much, in the way things are progressively structured, because he won't even allow anybody around him to know enough about what's going on to even be able to speak to him in the manner that I used to be able to.
Caller:How do you feel that … the people who are very close to Maharaji like Durga Ji, and all the people who are with him all the time: are they … do you think like they're fooled? … or …
Caller:… they just see that Maharaji's just …
Bob:Let's put it this way, Peter. We all fool ourselves to a certain extent. OK? It's not that they are fooled. It's that they fool themselves. Over and over and over again it's defining a reason to believe in spite of everything else. And we used to go through this with Marolyn all the time. Because … she, in the early years, was very much … I mean, it was a shock to her to find out what Maharaji was really like after she married him - it was tremendous adjustment.
And then also , y'know, you come to love people that you're with all the time, and we were really concerned for him. We were concerned because he was destroying himself, and I was doubly concerned, although this is something she didn't have to deal with - none of the other people there did - was that the impact of what he was doing … was having on the lives of these other people: premies who were living on the edge of destitution - really out of the result of policies that he dictated. Ashram premies who were becoming socially and culturally inept and the victims of economic exploitation just because of his gluttonous appetite. These kinds of things I knew about as well, so I was doubly concerned.
And we confronted … Marolyn was part of the whole push, in 1975, to get Maharaji to change things, OK?. But also I've seen how Maharaji manipulates her … I mean, … he's, … he's a powerful person, he can influence people, particularly at that … I mean, if you're indebted to the extent that Marolyn is …
Caller:yeah … yeah …
Bob:… I mean, what are you going to do? I would watch her get completely overcome with guilt at ever doubting him. But he would really berate her, I mean he would just verbally assault her for, like, an hour - and she would be reduced to tears. And it would be terrible, because she really wasn't guilty - of anything. But he would play upon that … that kind of propensity she had to be vulnerable at that level. And she really had it, she's … a Roman Catholic background, and it's something that's really for her to get into.
And that self-doubt is all you need, … you need - all you do have to do, I mean … ultimately it's such a double-bind, it's a paradigm, because anything that goes wrong - even any momentary lapse of confidence and faith in Maharaji - it's your own crazy mind. And anything that happens to go right in your life, well then that's just proof that it's the grace of Guru Maharaj Ji - and should anything go wrong, well it's got to be because of you. I mean, if you stop and look at that, somewhat objectively, and I know it's hard to do, I mean, it's the ultimate rationalisation - you can find a reason to believe anything.
And some people believe even in spite of Maharaji, in the sense that they think, 'well, even 'though he's this way, I can't deny what it's done for me, so I still believe'. Well, see, to me, this is not Knowledge, this is some kind of faith. And that's the only thing that I feel that premies should question is their faith - in him. Because they really have no basis to put their faith in him. They may have faith because, … a basis to put faith in their experiences of Knowledge, in the sense of what it can mean to them to know how to meditate and how to tune in to that life force and then … and certainly have faith in their ability to share and experience love with others, and the tremendous importance of that in our lives. The good things that are there I certainly won't deny. But the necessity of believing that Maharaji is God in order to experience that is just … that's an absurdity. And that's the unfortunate part because that's what allows the kind of exploitation of the individual, out of their trust and innocence. That goes on, and it's the kind of thing that has corrupted Maharaji to the point that he is today.
Caller:Yeah. I think, a lot … I know, for me, the point when I was actually de-programmed, it had gotten to a point where I knew that Knowledge really wasn't doing anything, y'know, meditation was just a … it was a duty - a chore - y'know, … wasn't beautiful. But Maharaji was asking complete faith, and my feeling was well, if he's the Lord and he's asking, he's saying 'Don't question. Don't question your faith' - that's what he's saying now - and it was just to the point where, well, y'know, I just - I've got to finish this out, y'know. And I'm committed, like I've invested so much of my life that I didn't … anyway Maharaji's even saying that now, y'know:' There's no place else to turn, except to Maharaji.'
Bob:Yeah, well that's absurd really, I mean, because … there's lots of other places to turn - and why turn anywhere? See this would have been a question that he would have answered in the early days, and say:' Well that's the whole point - you look to all of these places without … outside you … of course there's no place outside you to turn, because everything is within inside you.' OK, and that would have been how he would have answered a question to that effect in the early years. Now, he says 'Oh, well you gotta turn to Maharaji' - and even to the point where they're calling the experience of your own being 'Maharaji'.
Bob:OK, so what we're turning to within, they're calling that 'Maharaji', well that's not the same Maharaji that you're, y'know … that lives out there on the Anacapa Drive in … houses.
Caller:Yeah, that's what I'm finding out more and more. (laughs)
Bob:… and I'm really sorry, but I can't continue to talk to you, but we were getting ready to go out, and I don't feel that we've really had an adequate time to answer all your questions. If you'd like to call some other time, I could spend more time with you, I'm sure … there's probably a lot to …
(Conversation goes into details of when next call should be …)
Caller:…well, thanks for talking
Ellen:Yeah, thank you Bob
Caller:We'll try to get back in touch with you.