Prem Rawat, aka Maharaji (the Ultimate Ruler) aka Guru Maharaj Ji, 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 Why Rawat and his organisations do not publish actual statistics is uncertain especially as they have sophisticated methods of counting his followers' activities through the use of obligatory smart cards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 has fallen dramatically from it's height and there 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 relatively committed '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.
There aren't too many leaders who have lost 7 million followers in 2 years from November 1973 to November 1975. He is unique. Because of his alcohol and drug abuse, the young Rawat alienated his family and the Indian DLM organisation and lost virtually all his Indian followers in 1975. After 30 years' proselytisation, bank-rolled by his Western followers, he now has a significant number of Indian premies though these numbers are relatively small compared to those of his eldest brother, Satpal Maharaj, or some of the very successful Godmen of India such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Sathya Sai Baba. While his Indian followers and curious onlookers are numerous enough to look impressive, he will never again inspire scenes like those in 1971 when he was resting on his father's laurels:
"The second half of the Hans Jayanti Festival was to be held in Patna. From there the Westerners would return to their own countries. … Eight abreast, the procession of 750,000 people walked through the streets of Patna to the Gandhi Grounds. One hundred floats supporting paintings of past Perfect Masters two times life size were drawn by water buffalo. A line of fifty elephants, with their babies clinging to their tails, and twenty camels followed. Next in line was a marching band which announced the swan chariot of Guru Maharaj Ji. It was some parade."
New York USA, 10 June 1972
And today there is something very beautiful that everyone must realise. And that is that once a man takes the Knowledge - and five million people have taken Knowledge - very naturally he wants to tell other people about it. And no doubt if these five million people really try and bring two people each day to the Knowledge, in two days how many people will be there? There's no doubt in this way we can bring this Knowledge to the whole world. It is not a dream. It can be real. Many people ask me this question again and again, because they don't believe that there is going to be a Kingdom of Heaven or that this Knowledge is going to spread. For them it is not possible. But, if you try, it is possible. Because if this Knowledge belongs to God and if it is really God's Knowledge and it is true Knowledge, then there is nothing in the world that can stop it reaching the people. So do satsang. Give them open-hearted satsang. Give them this feeling that what you want to tell them is not a new religion, is not a new way, it's not a new thing. That's why I am so concerned about all the activities of the Divine Light Mission.
Divine Light magazine Volume 2, Number 4, January 1973
Miami, Florida, USA, 15 June 1972
I go all round the world giving this Knowledge to people. Five million people have received it and five million people are completely satisfied.
Due to His power, God sends someone from heaven to give us this Knowledge. And once he comes, it's alright. Five million people have received peace out of this, why can't you? They are not just Europeans who have received this Knowledge
Divine Light magazine Volume 2, Number 3, December, 1972
Los Angeles International Airport, USA, 23 June 1972
The master, also known as Guru Maharaj J, is only 14 years old and claims to have a worldwide following of millions. (When he was in Los Angeles last July on a less trumpeted visit he claimed to have 3 million followers; he claimed Thursday to have 5 million.)
Los Angeles Times June 23, 1972
Delhi, India, December 1972
At least five million have realized God through Divine Light Mission. And now an average of about a thousand daily are realizing Him.
And It Is Divine, Volume i, Number 5, March, 1973
The Sayings of Guru Maharaj Ji
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.
The Sayings of Guru Maharaj Ji
A Boston Globe interview of 1973 reprinted in a DLM publication in 1980
Wood: You have more experience with Knowledge than your disciples do, but do you have the knowledge of how to reach other people with it?
Rawat: Sure, because I have reached more people than they have, more people than they have even seen in their life - six million people. That's the last counting.
Wood: You were saying before, that you expect to see peace on earth in your lifetime.
Rawat: You will be able to see peace in this world on people's faces. This is one thing a London newspaper wrote, that if you see a well-dressed man who has got a glow on his face, if he's really shining, it means he's from Divine Light Mission. They have realized peace, and peace can't hide itself. It just comes out. And when everybody is going to realize it, it's going to be -
Wood: Will everybody realize this then?
Rawat: It's not a hard job. For sure to the people who see this world and see us, it might seem a hard job because they only see five or six people around me. But that's not it. There's six million people reaching at least. It's not hard for one man to reach two people a day - you understand? And six million people are reaching two people a day - how much does that count to? That's it. That's how we are growing so fast.
Wood: Does the Knowledge affect the activities of the world?
Rawat: Yes, it does affect activities. Because when we realize Knowledge we are at peace. We are running such a big organization, and if we hadn't received Knowledge, we would have been up to something miserable in this world. Now just imagine; I have a following of six million people, and whatever I tell them, they are going to do that. And among those six million people, there are millions of people who are criminals. They have murdered people, they have committed many crimes. They have been to jail and they know what it's all like. And if I tell them now, they would do it. They would murder anyone off the street. We could be hijacking planes, and stealing cars off the roads, and killing people and doing other things. But we have realized that Knowledge, and so the whole movement is completely different.
Wood: Would your followers do whatever you told them to do?
Rawat: They would be most pleased to.
Light Reading, 1980
Public Program, Boston, Massachusetts, August 4, 1973
Now, I have realized, and six million people have realized, this inner Peace, this inner Knowledge that is within inside of us all, this primordial vibration, this supreme energy, this kinetic energy that is also making us alive.
Élan Vital, Volume II, Issue 2, Summer 1978
Millenium '73 Festival, Houston Astrodome, Texas, November, 1973
Q: Did you receive the Knowledge in a vision?
Guru Maharaj Ji: No, it was given to me, as it is given to eight million people, it was given to me by my father.
Divine Times (?), early 1974(?)
Cosmopolitan Hotel, Denver, Colorado, 28 April, 1974
when I came in America there were three people and from those three people there are 50,000 now and that's just in America and now these 50,000 I don't know what they can do. Maybe nothing, maybe everything. (Actually there were at least 6)
The Golden Age Number 6, Thursday, May 23, 1974 and Audio Tape
Nepal, May 2, 1975
My duty is to tell you about this Knowledge and my request is that you should receive this Knowledge and see what I am offering to all the people. There are more than six million people who have received this Knowledge. All the scriptures have talked about this Knowledge. If you have time, you should decide. There are mahatmas who live here, and I will also be staying here if you have any questions. But there is really no answer for "why".
Divine Times, Volume 4, Issue 5,July 30 1975
Nepal, May 3, 1975
Today, people are totally confused. They don't even realize that this Knowledge is inside of them. That's why I go from place to place to give this Knowledge. More than three million people have received this Knowledge and have derived benefit from it. This is the Knowledge that was revealed by Lord Krishna.
Élan Vital, Volume III, Issue 4, Winter 1979
Public Program, Hans Jayanti Festival, Orlando, Florida, afternoon, November 9th, 1975
I have said this before, and I am going to say it again. Through the Lord's Grace, you give me love, and I will give you peace. This has been done a lot of times. There are over a million people who have received this peace.
I don't want to be called a liar, and I am not a liar. I have got this Truth, and I am revealing this Truth to people because I know, and I have experienced it. And more than a million people have experienced it with me.
And It Is Divine Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1
Lima Peru, November 18 1976
What are we looking at it terms of growth? We have to ask that ourselves.… What is the sign of progress? It is when we hold a premie program and there's twice as many premies there as before. And they're experiencing Knowledge. They're experiencing satsang. And they're experiencing meditation. That is the only sign that we have. We sit on stage and we look down, and the more blurry the end of the line gets, the more progress we are making. And it is important that all those premies who are receiving Knowledge are sincere. That is the only sign we have to go by.
The Golden Age, Issue 38 May/June 1977 and Divine Times, March 1977 Volume 6, Number 3
Wembley Hall, London, England, Friday, 3 March 1978
And then there are South American premies. Then there are premies all over the world. And every day so many people are receiving Knowledge. Of course, if you wind it out, put it through a calculator, it comes out 8-point da-da-da-da-da-da-da amount of people receiving Knowledge every day. But it's incredible. Buschi was in Germany. He gave Knowledge to 14 people. And Mike Donner was in Spain, and through his tour he gave Knowledge to a hundred and some people. And it's really incredible. Every day it's growing. And right now we have 56 initiators. And there is something like 200 people who have applied to be initiator. And I mean, man, it's happening! It's not in calculation; it's not in speculation. But it's actually manifesting. And it's incredible.
The Golden Age, May 1978, Number 45 and DLM publication 1978and In Love magazine 1978
Evolution © ILC (International Learning Center), 1989
So I just, you know (Click for video), for me I just see a beautiful direction, beautiful direction. More people are, are receiving this experience than they ever have, ever! And enjoying it and that's it, that's what I want. I want people to enjoy this and uh to bring that enjoyment in peoples' lives, to bring that beauty in peoples' lives so they can witness it, that's why I do what I do.
It's difficult to know if Rawat is just outright lying here or if he really believes that in 1989 "more people are, are receiving this experience than they ever have". By 1989 his organisation in India, Raj Vidya Kender, may have been rebuilt to the point where many Indians were being initiated but numbers could not compare with the millions of followers he claimed in the early 1970's. In June 1972, he said "Five million people have received it". In 1973 he said "six million people. That's the last counting." In November, 1973 he said "it is given to eight million people" and after he had lost the majority of his followers, when his mother deposed him, in November 1975 he said "There are over a million people who have received this peace. " In just 18 months, between June 1972 and November 1973, he claimed to have 3 million new followers initiated into his Knowledge.
Evolution video © ILC (International Learning Center), 1989
Windows In Time © Visions International (a division of Élan Vital Inc), 1989
"I think more and more as we can make this Knowledge available to people, more and more that we can learn ourselves what it means to us what we have learned from, from the past to incorporate that for the future and uh more and more people becoming clear about how important this is that this is taking place not to put it in the back of their lives or back of their heads but to always recognise and remember the importance of being alive now of having knowledge and to make this opportunity available to the many thousands and thousands of people around the world who could benefit from something like that."
Windows In Time video © Visions International (a division of Élan Vital Inc), 1989
In 1996 the number of Maharaji's students was climbing into the hundreds of thousands.
Page 359, Peace Is Possible a biography of Prem Rawat commissioned by the Prem Rawat Foundation which paid author Andrea Cagan $60,000 to write it from information supplied by his students.
Peace Is Possible, 2007
In September 2012 at Amaroo (Ivory's Rock Conference Centre, Peak Crossing, Australia) at a 5 day event with 3,500 premies Rawat announced that in April, 2012 the millionth person had just received Knowledge.
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