Prem Rawat, The Numbers Game
Prem Rawat, or Maharaji ("Great King") as he calls himself, rarely, if ever, specified the number of his followers after his early initial, successful phase of proselytisation in the West. Why Rawat and his organisations do not publish actual membership statistics is uncertain especially as they have sophisticated methods of counting his followers' activities through the use of obligatory "smart cards" (for further information, go to www.smartcardoffice.org) but it is probably because the number has fallen dramatically from it's height and it appears to be a strict policy of his organisations only to print positive things about Rawat and his activities. As far as can be ascertained he would appear to have about 10,000 'students' in Europe, North America and Australasia - about half of the maximum figure of circa 1980 despite constant efforts in proselytization or "propagation" as he calls it since 1970.
If the "Knowledge" that Rawat claims is his unique gift actually had the positive effects he claims then it should spread from person to person exponentially as more and more people come into contact with his followers. And this is exactly what he predicted would happen in 1973 when he was in the short-lived optimistic, growth phase of his early career in the West.
"I have a plan for world peace, you see. And if we all work to it, I'm sure we can get It. I can see how its going to work out. It wasn't very hard reaching the hearts of six million people, right? So it's not going to be hard for six million people to reach the hearts or one person each -- and that makes it 12 million. And it's not going to be hard for 12 million people to reach the hearts of one person each and that's going to be -- go ahead multiply it! And that's it, there you are."
On April 9, 1978 in Miami, Florida when he addressed a crowd of 10,000 he was still talking big:"
"It'll be something that'll take time. And I mean you can understand it taking time. Because we don't want to build it for only 10,000 people. We don't want to build it for 20,000. We want to build something that will accomodate up to 100,000 people at a time, and grow in that facility. Maybe one year, it'll be 20,000 people, second year maybe 30, and then maybe 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. And then we'll just grow out of that facility and just hold little programs there. And we'll get another facility to hold the big ones. "
On June 10, 1978 he said,
"And like this Hans Jayanti that we have already started to plan for is a really incredible thing. Because not only do we want it a five-day Hans Jayanti; we want a seven-day Hans Jayanti! Not only are we looking at only 15,000 premies which were there last year in Rome; we are looking at 20,000 premies!"
And that year at Hans Jayanti at Kissimmee, Florida, which I attended, it was announced that over 20,000 people had attended.
Why Rawat and his organisations do not publish actual membership statistics is uncertain especially as they have sophisticated methods of counting his followers' activities through the use of obligatory smart cards but it is probably because the number of his followers has fallen dramatically from it's height and it appears to be a strict policy of his organisations to only print positive things about Rawat and his activities. As far as can be ascertained he would appear to have about 10,000 'students' in Europe, North America and Australasia - about half of the maximum figure of circa 1980 despite constant efforts in proselytization or "propagation" as he calls it since 1970.
I make this approximation based on the copy of a document (see below) sent to each "local community co-ordinator" in Australia in 2003 or 2004 and presumably across the Western world. At that time on the Gold Coast that person was my wife (now ex-wife) and when I saw this faxed document one morning in the kitchen I scanned it. Premies were informed that donations were necessary to pay for the KEYS project and that the followers in each each country and each community had been set a target to raise based upon the number of premies "in touch" in each country and the number of premies in each country as a percentage overall proportional to the standard of living in that country. This figure was 560 for Australia.
In 1976 there were 1,000 Australian premies actively supporting Divine Light Mission. In 1978 Rawat called for each of his followers to come to the November Hans Jayanti Festival in Kissimmee Florida and despite the considerable expense about 1200 Australian premies did just that. I went to the USA with my ticket and expenses paid and $7 in my pocket and every premie I knew also went. We were told that over 20,000 premies attended that 5 day festival camping out in an abandoned Florida Orange Grove very close to Disney World. Assuming that the fall in numbers is consistent over Europe, North America and Australia then that means there are approximately 10,000 followers of Rawat's left in those areas. It is quite astonishing that there are only 65 people regularly "in touch" in Sydney and Newcastle which have a population of 4½ million. Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba have 148 premies because they are the closest cities to Rawat's Amaroo camp grounds and headquarters and many premies moved to be closer to it. Byron Bay and Bellingen have 60 premies because they are the "hippie" capitals of Australia where many graying "once-were-hippie" followers of Rawat have clustered.
Details published in the 1998 Connect magazine showed that 9,386 people "received Knowledge" in 1996 and 17,113 people "received Knowledge during 1997 in a total of 21 Knowledge sessions in every region of the world". Rawat had twice the success per head of people of Indian descent in Malysia compared to South Africa. This is probably because his eldest brother has a significant presence in South Africa.
Figures were also given for European "Aspirants" i.e. people who had shown some interest in "recieving Knowledge." There is a significant disparity between interest in England compared to France and Germany, basically 8 times more interest in England. However this still means that only one in 71,006 English people had elicited interest in 1998 despite the thousands of people with Knowledge already living in England since 1970. In Germany only 1 in 689,655 people aspired towards Rawat. Looks like it had to be: "first we take London, then we take Berlin."
The Connect magazine stated: "The 1997 series of Knowledge sessions represent an impressive tour de force, made possible not only by his indefatigable traveling and effort …" In fact it shows that Rawat's indefatigability (what there was of it) was receiving a pathetic response, his current followers were unable to even inspire their own number of people to become aspirants and all that Rawat could achieve was a lot of flying time and a pretty good income.
See Site Policy for statement regarding copyright.