In the very early days of Rawat's recruitung in the West there were often absurdly serious questions from his early followers about the relative importance of liberation (i.e some sort of total oneness with life/freedom from the constraints of one's "mind" or) devotion (adoration and worship of the Incarnated Guru). These idealistic young buffoons had no idea. There is no such thing as liberation and all the people who claim they have it are deluded or charlatans. But devotion, adoration and worship are very common. If Rawat was in any doubt about what direction he should steer his aspirants and students he only had to look at their faces while making any of his interminable speeches. Those seeking liberation had their eyes closed, were in meditative postures and had glum expressions. Those enjoying devotion had their eyes wide and shining and with smiling faces and were wildly exuberant.
Prem Rawat aka Maharaji ("Ultimate Ruler") or Guru Maharaj Ji as he called himself until the 1980's taught that worship of the Perfect Master was necessary and sacred. It was one of the central tenets of his teachings and was widely reported in the press. Every year at or near the full moon in July Rawat would hold Guru Puja festivals (Hindi: 'puja' = English: 'worship') The importance of Guru Puja and worship were explained in the first And It is Divine magazine:
To a disciple of the Satguru, there is no other day as special as Guru Puja. A disciple has seen that without the shelter of his Perfect Master he is like a rudderless boat on windy seas. The disciple is tired of living an individualistic life. He wants only the path of truth: the path back to the One, away from the many. Guru Maharaj Ji's disciples know Him to be the dispeller of darkness, the revealer of light. They seek to dedicate themselves to Him exclusively. Only singleminded devotion is powerful enough to burn away the desires and attachments to limited things which bind men to the cycle ofbirth and death. Guru is Lord; "puja" means worship. A devotee's whole life is puja. Once a year, however, on the full moon in July, a day has been set aside by the devotees of the Perfect Master to express their devotion to Him who has released them from the world.
Rawat stressed the sacredness of his worship and gave possibly his most definitive public statement of the necessity of his students worshipping him in 1979 but he also claimed when questioned by an interested observer at a "Public Program" that he did not seek worship.
Durga Ji (Marolyn Rawat nee Johnson, Prem Rawat's wife), Hans Jayanti, Kissimmee Florida, on November 10, 1978
I feel sometimes like this is Guru Maharaj Ji's dream, it's his dream. I'm his dream, you're his dream, we're his dream. He's dreaming us. But something within us is real. It doesn't fade away. And while we have this body, for however long we have it, it's our chance, our most precious beautiful chance - to know him, to love him, to experience him, to serve him. To adore his face. To worship his feet.
Golden Age, February 1979 Number 51
August 1, 1966, Prem Nagar Ashram, Hardwar, India
Dear Children of God, why are you weeping? Haven't you learned the lesson that your Master taught you? The Perfect Master never dies. Maharaj Ji is here, amongst you now. Recognize Him, obey Him, and worship Him.
New York Times, April 8, 1973 and The Golden Age, November 1978, Number 49
Pacific Guru Puja, Capitol Theatre, Sydney, Australia, October 18, 1975
You know, Guru Mahaji. They have a hard time pronouncing it. But don't relate to that pronunciation. Relate to what is behind it and to understand and to realise more of that glory of Knowledge. To understand more of the glory of the revealer of that Knowledge, we all assemble to worship him, to pray, to understand more because there is never enough of this stuff. There's never enough of satsang, there's never enough of that beautiful blissful experience that we all want to experience. So premies, it's like, it's so beautiful that this Pacific Guru Puja has been held here, you know, and it just shows us that we are just coming together more and more and more and more and more.
The Golden Age Number 24, November 1975
Guru Puja, Tucson, Arizona, Friday, July 14, 1978
If you are a devotee, then you have to worship your Guru Maharaj Ji forever and ever and ever. Twenty-four hours a day, two hours a day. If your day is two-hours long, two-hours long. If your night is twelve-hours long, another twelve hours. Every moment, every second. And then the only thing is that happens, that happens; but when we understand what it is all about. So far we are naive, so far we go around playing the games of …
The Golden Age Number 48, September/October, 1978
Guru Puja festival, Lingfield, England, 21st June 1979
"If you have a Perfect Master you can't do anything but worship him every day of your life. You tell me, if you really have that Perfect Master in your life, what can you do except to worship him every day? Get up and worship him, pray, know, surrender. Every day of your life!"
Guru Maharaj Ji, you can only worship Guru Maharaj Ji from heart and that's it, from you love and that's it and to me to come to an occasion, to me to come to a place, to come to a point in our hearts where we can even pray to Guru Maharaj Ji, where we can even see Guru Maharaj Ji that's the greatest opportunity in our lives, that is the greatest thing in our lives.
Lingfield Guru Puja video, 21st June 1979
Guru Puja festival, Miami, Florida, 19th July 1979
So dear premies, welcome to Guru Puja. Really Guru Puja is a very sacred occasion.
And we come to worship Guru Maharaj Ji. It's a technicality: "Guru Puja." Quote, "Guru Puja." You tell me, who is in this hall who technically has a right to worship Guru Maharaj Ji or would call themselves a perfect devotee? You have to be a devotee, right? Have to have devotion. You have to be there. Something has to be there. You have to have something to worship Guru Maharaj Ji with.
Élan Vital, Volume III, Issue 4, Winter 1979
Miami Beach, Florida - July 25, 1980
So premies, it's wonderful to be here, to have this opportunity. I know "opportunity" is a misused word. These days everything is an opportunity. But this really is something special for all of us. This festival. What it has to signify means something. It's really a festival of premies. I know of course the name Guru Puja started in India, but I find it's really beautiful to know what it means. Just some devotee's wish: a desire to worship, to worship their Guru Maharaj Ji. And it really is a festival in which we - we - can really benefit: through that satsang, through that service, through that meditation.
Élan Vital, Volume 4, Issue 4, Winter 1980
Follow-Up Program, Washington DC, 26th November 1981
Your followers seek to worship you, why do you seek that?
Why do my followers worship me?
Why do you seek their worship?
Well, I don't seek their worship.
Satsang is a Hindi word okay, now if you like it you can use it if you don't like it you sure don't have to use it but 'sat' means truth, 'sang' means company, company of truth, it's when people come and they talk about an experience which is real period. When are people can come up and talk about a lotta experience. The thing is ah when, it's just a, it's just a word but what happens is not really a worship in many cases. Do I come and sing my own praises when I am in that environment? Certainly not.
Perfect Master Tape #216
The Keys FAQ
Does this have something to do with religion?
No. The practice of Knowledge is independent of but also compatible with any religion. There is nothing to worship and no system of faith or belief associated with this practice.
Words Of Peace Global website first downloaded 1st April 2012
Belfast Ireland, May 16 2008
I'm not here to say you should follow this religion or not follow this religion. Do whatever you have to do. Do whatever you have to do but all those things that you do, do this too. Feel the fulfilment. Of all the things you do, also do this one. Accept the blessing that has been given to you, so, so abundantly. This breath, accept it and the day you do, that will be the most incredible worship, you will ever have done. Your heart will be filled with gratitude instantly. And when your heart is filled with gratitude, let me tell you, there is no greater heaven on the face of this earth. Time stops, worries are gone, the heart is filled with gratitude. You know the fulfilment of mind because you've tried it many times, you work hard at it, trying to get gratitude out of your head
Inspire Electronic Magazine, Volume 5, Issues 139 - 164