Western Mahatmas of Prem Rawat (Maharaji)
One of the most important factors in the early success of Prem Rawat and Divine Light Mission were the Indian 'mahatmas', supposedly celibate men and women who lived in ashrams and dedicated their lives to practise and recruitment and initiation of the "Knowledge". This was an ancient and respected way of life in India but was problematic in the West especilly as celibacy is difficult whe a young man is surrounded by attractive Westerm women who dress immodestly, come from a sexually free part of society and appear enchanted by their "spiritual heroes."
He had downgraded his Indian monks from Mahatmas ("great saints") to Initiators before they abandoned him. From 1974 to 1983 he used those of his Western premies He considered to be the most devoted and dedicated. He created the first few as Mahatmas but then downgraded them also and they became Initiators. Formalised steps were taken to do more than just accept people as ready for initiation on a wave of enthusiasm as this was wasteful and was disseminating the actual "Secret Techiques of Knowledge" through the wider community or at least the counter-culture community from which his early followers came.These initiators travelled to local communities, giving speeches and initiating aspirants and stayed in ashrams and were supported by ashram members who were usually aspiring to become intiators themselves. The were expected to be able to seperate the sheep from the goats through personal interviews.
The first and only Western Mahatma empowered in India, the spacey and charmingly cosmic Brian Pitt alias Mahatma Param Saphlanand, was the driving force behind the early attraction of young hippies to Rawat. He first convinced Sandy Collier, Ron Geaves (now Professor Ron Geaves), "Milky" Cole and David Beales, who became the first English premies apart from Pitt himself, to go to Dehra Dun and "receive Knowledge" and then was Mahatma Gurucharanand's offsider and translator in the beginning of his time in England. Saph was not easily fit into the Divine Light Mission mould that the young Rawat wanted - all straight, short-haired, brylcreemed, besuited and boringly obedient and anxious, willing and able to toe the celibate satsang, service and meditation line. He played the role of aircraft mechanic in the movie Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? who finds all work a pleasure if you "have a completely calm mind which gives you complete concentration." It was more than a small exaggeration as he later admitted after renouncing Rawat and publicly apostasising.
Rawat also appointed four new mahatmas - the former Bill Patterson, now Mahatma Satchitanand; the former Arthur Brigham, now Mahatma Param Premanand; the former Ira Woods, now Mahatma Gurupujanand; and the former Kathy Sullivan, now Mahatma Pranam Bai. Their "mahatmahood" status did not last long and they were soon downgraded to "initiators." Rawat later downgraded them again to "instructors" and continued to harp on their lack of spiritual superiority and total reliance on his Grace.
On the 24th December 1975 Rawat issued a proclamation giving his new directive that "mahatmas" were to be called initiators, should grow their hair, should dress in Western clothes and could no longer sit on chairs on stage at satsang. Rawat claimed that 1975 has been a very succesful year for propagation (premie numbers had fallen by about 7 million) but that Knowledge has been presented falsely to the current premies who "didn't have the proper understanding." They "thought that Knowledge was a trippy thing or a mystical thing, but when it came right down to integrating Knowledge into their life in the daily practice of satsang, service and meditation" they didn't. Propagation never recovered from this decision despite the efforts of many of the intelligent, charismatic, dedicated devotees who were appointed. However, there were many stories and gossip about the unreasonable demands made by some of these instructors who were often seen as living on a higher plane than the normal devotees. Rawat tried on many occasions to puncture these ideas. He demanded to be the one and only source of authority within the cult.
During the late 1970's Rawat appointed at least 80 non-Indian initiators from 20 countries. (PIP p.209) Many if not most of the Western 'mahatmas' or 'initiators' or 'instructors' who were appointed have become 'apostates' ie they no longer believe in Rawat or his Knowledge. Some of the more prominent include Mahatma Saphlanand, Mike Finch and Jean Michel Kahn. Of the first four Westerners, Ira Woods has remained one of Rawat's most important devotees, Bill Patterson has been reported as apostasising and dying after an accident, Kathy Sullivan has apostasised and Arthur Brigham is still a follower.
During this period Rawat demanded that to be an initiator required total committment and that they were on a razor's edge where they fall at any time. He poo-poohed the idea that an initiator could be married telling one candidate at the Frankfurt Conference that "the Mission would have to go, to quote his words, "Cockabunga" or "Crazy' before they got to the position where they would allow married initiators."
Meeting with Initiator Candidates, Malibu California, January 10 1977
Because I'll tell you one thing from my practical experience. Every person that I have seen who was a full initiator, and then got confused, just got completely disastrous. From that point on, they were just leading a disastrous life. Because mind then begins to actually manifest. It's like, you have such a big battle. And before the battle maybe you had so much; maybe you had so much Knowledge experience, and whatever -- maybe you could just contend with that. But when you go to fight the mind and end up inside of you. No morale, no consciousness left within inside of you to proceed in the path, where Knowledge possibly could take shape. It's just left like mind multiplied by mind, bracket, multiplied by mind, times infinite. Just total mind. And the person is like a puppet, and then it just becomes really hard.
The Initiator Service, Quotes From Guru Maharaj Ji's Satsang
During the 1980's and 1990's he appointed and fired instructors with gay abandon sometimes beginning overly ambitious initiator training programs and at other times firing them wholesale but always keeping them insecure.
Rawat has both depended upon and derided his mahatmas / initiators / instructors throughout his career and the only time there has been significant growth in the number of his followers has been when he had Indian mahatmas touring the West in the early 1970's. At the Hans Jayanti celebrations, November 9, 1990 in India he said:
So, we deal in such a commodity that we always earn a lot of profit. And what is that profit? The profit of true Knowledge. And in foreign countries when prachar work was in its initial stage, people used to wear saffron clothes, got their heads shaved, with the result that their heads shone like a runway. So the audience there did not understand what was being explained. Because there were so many people belonging to another movement who wore similar dresses with their heads shaven. So people thought about those mahatmas who were doing prachar work, that they too belonged to the same cult, because they were similar in looks. The same shining skull with a tilak mark on their forehead, wearing saffron clothes. So, I said: do you want to do prachar here, or want to wear these saffron clothes ? So all those who were doing prachar work there have now been made instructors. And what a love they have got in them! Some of them have come here also, but they get into tantrums occasionally - having the same sort of mannerisms like mahatmas.
In fact, most of the "mahatmas" who went to the West in the 1970's were either fired or resigned in disgust with Rawat's lifestyle or because they were loyal to his mother and the administration of Divya Sandesh Parishad (Divine Light Mission) in India which included all the older mahatmas who had been appointed by Rawat's father and predecessor.
During the Vaishakhi Celebrations in the evening Session of April 13 1991 at the Shri Sant Yogashram, New Delhi India he said:
So, you have just heard the questions put by the people, "What should we become? Should we become students, disciples or devotees?" When satsang was over, Padarthanand came back-stage, I asked him to come to me. I said "Why don't you explain to people the difference in becoming a student, a devotee and a disciple?" Just ask them. Enough of questions have already been asked. And I think in most of the cases some instructors might have given wild answers, quite off the mark as if fetched from far off places, which made neither head nor tail, which carried no meaning and might have confounded the audience: "Oh, what mahatmaji (the instructor) has said, I could not comprehend at all. But maybe it is true because it has been said by mahatamaji." So it is just like that. Because I have seen enough of this world.
But if you have trust within you and really the Master is there -- the Perfect Master -- to take care of you, and if you actually have trust and faith in your heart then there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Now, if somebody comes and says: "Well, how can you explain this thing to all the people?" I would say, "I don't know." But when the time comes, all the solutions automatically come in line before you. And they will wait outside for hours together to enter inside -- all those solutions. And you will find better and better ones. So, it happens very comfortably. And it did. Now just think about it. The first day approximately 900 aspirants were present in the Knowledge session. I asked someone, "Well, how many aspirants are left?" I was told that there were about 1200 aspirants more. So I said, "Okay, I will give Knowledge to all of them." That meant that they would be given Knowledge in one session. But if somebody could have asked me the first day, 'Could you give Knowledge to more people at a time?' I would have said: "No, I find it difficult with all these 900 people sitting here." Because I had involved some instructors also in that session. That's why there was difficulty. Even today morning I was greatly disturbed and it bothered me the whole day. But what could I do? You require understanding which was lacking. But the Master is so merciful that he saves us. I am unable to describe about his mercy. Maharaji by his infinite grace always protects us otherwise who knows what may happen. Anyway, the next day the whole session was conducted very smoothly and beautifully.
Now, it has become quite clear to me that if there is an opportunity, I have the confidence to give this Knowledge to the whole world at a time -- if there are no mahatmas or instructors. And everything can be done very easily, very smoothly. A few months earlier, if anybody would have asked me whether I would do without the instructors, I would have said, "I don't know, whether it will be possible or not." But now there is not an iota of doubt left in me about its possibility. It is the amazing grace of Maharaji indeed that he put this thought in me, otherwise I would have been in the same dilemma. Because it has been in the system for such a long time that only instructors were expected to do everything. Only they could give Knowledge. I mean, it has been a very old tradition. But people do not attempt to move the handle (of the grinder) towards them - to bring a change in the system. But the Master gave me such a prudence that I could bring about the desired change and was able to transform the whole system. And now this transformation has brought such a great joy to me, to the premies and to the aspirants which is beyond description.
The Mantra Calls You
Mohani Bai gave Satsang which was published in Divine Light Vol 1 No 3, Magazine of Divine Light Mission, December 1971. At that time she believed mantras were useless without the "Knowledge" of Prem Rawat: "By performing penances, austerities, fastings and other various techniques one can get a worldly and perishable reward, but not realization of Truth. The mystery of scriptures is only known by the practical Knowledge of the Sadguru of the time." She believed "My divine teacher Shri Balyogeshwar Sadguru Deva Shri Sant Ji Maharaj gave me the Knowledge of that life which is the Light of all living beings." She's learnt a lot since then.
In September 1971 the Newsweek Feature Service issued an article which reported that the Guru claimed to have 2,000 Mahatmas. By 1975 he had a handful or two once he was stripped of his title for alcohol and drug abuse, meat-eating and a general "playboy lifestyle".
Article About the Initiator Development Program Golden Age Magazine No 34 November 1976
Mahatma Guruchar(n)anand: now known as Mr Charan Anand
Mahatma Jagdeo: paedophile living in Rawat's Malibu mansion
Mahatma Sampurnanand: Rawat's main man in India (dead)
Mahatma Ashokanand: Ran the British DLM 1972-75
Mahatma Brahmanand: Senior mahatma of Shri Hans
Mahatma Fakiranand: attacked reporter with hammer, now mahatmaing for Satpal Maharaj
Mahatma Padarthanand: Spent 1973-75 in Australia
Mahatma Premanand: senior mahatma at Prem Nagar circa 1970
Mahatma Purnanand: Indian DLM letter to Vice-President of India - possibly Sampurnanand
Mahatma Rajeshwar(anand): formerly judge(?)
Mahatma Satyanand: said to have been a follower of Swarupanand the guru of Shri Hans Ji Maharaj (Hans Rawat)
Mahatma Tejeshwaranand (Tedjeswaranand)
Mahatma Vid Praktanand: Palace Of Peace - became the Satguru Ashutosh Maharaj
Mahatma Vijayanand; Vijay Kumar Sumar became disillusioned with Rawat, ordered to sweep floors, openly criticised in satsang
Mahatma Gyan Bairaganand (Gyanbaraganand): became president of Rawat's Indian DLM
Mahatma Ramanand: (big ears)
Mahatma Atmagyanand: mahatma of Swarupanand Mahatma Shivdayanand: initiated in 1938 by Mahatma Atmagyanand
Mahatma Harinivrittanand: formerly known as Pundit Vishnudutt
Mahatma Param Saphlanand: The only Western mahatma
Short Term Mahatmas
Mahatma Gurupujanand; Ira Woods, still crazy after all these years
Mahatma Pranam Bai: Kathy Sullivan, longterm housekeeper for Rawat apostate
Mahatma Satchitanand: Bill Patterson, longterm administrator died an apostate
Mahatma Param Premanand: Arthur Brigham, rumoured to have gone to gaol for drug smuggling in Australia in early 1980's