Under Construction Guru Without A Clue:
A Case Study in Administration In A New Religious Movement

Prem Rawat or Guru Mharaj Ji as he called himself before 1983 inherited his position as the current divine incarnation in 1966 at the age of 8. His father had built up a considerable group of followers and money, ashrams, land, etc. At 13 years old he began a series of tours in the West surrounded by a core of young, enthusiastic 'premies'. He made speeches teaching a simplified form of Sant Mat that he learnt from his father and senior disciples and promising instant bliss, personal and world peace and either proclaiming his divinity or being coy depending upon the audience. Until 1974 he had little personal input into the Mission he led but after the failure of the Millenium 73 festival his personal input began to be heard.

In his speeches in late 1975, the young guru had made many references to "understanding". These speeches were rambling and repetitive but the gist of his message on understanding was summarised and printed in the article The Idea Is Unity Divine Times, January 1976, p10:

When a premie receives Knowledge, he says, a basic understanding develops - that it is our duty to receive Knowledge, to meditate, to obey agya, and to serve Guru Maharaj Ji. When that understanding takes place, however, a lot of energy is released. That energy has to be properly utilized, and it's the function of DUO to channel premie energy into service that helps Guru Maharaj Ji.

Soul Rush (p.218)

Thinking about our situation from this angle, I went down to one of the nightly programs DLM held. At these programs almost anybody could arrange to speak for a few minutes if they made an appointment weeks in advance. Usually I did not attend. Instead, I liked to spend my nights at home reading or talking with Barbara Casey, my roommate and co-worker in R&D.

Maharaj Ji came to the Denver community meeting and said that all the people in DLM should have "understanding." He seemed very emphatic about this, although it was rather vague just exactly what he wanted people to understand (SR p.223)
Volume 5, Number 1, January 31, 1976 Guru Maharaj Ji's Satsang at a surprise visit at the Sunday Community Meeting in Denver, 7 December 1975.

Rawat was more comprehensible in his short 1976 Letter To Premies published in the Divine Times, January 1976 issue

… all the premies will have to truly understand. All the premies will have to first mature, seriously applying themselves to satsang, service and meditation. If we do not apply ourselves and have the real understanding of who we are and what we are supposed to do, and if we do not really do satsang, service and meditation, I sincerely feel this makes the premies quite incapable of doing my service properly. And that creates an enormous amount of imbalance in a premie's life, because all premies have to do satsang, service and meditation efficiently enough so that it really shows them the practical results of this Knowledge.

In January 1976, Sophia Collier began to perceive the underlying feeling amongst premies:

"In the letters I received from my national news correspondents I sensed a mood of dissatisfaction in the DLM membership. Not only were they dissatisfied with the way the Mission was being run, but also with the quality of their own spiritual experience. (SR p.223)

We started by asking each other, "Why did you join DLM?" From this beginning we have traced through our whole DLM experience. Immediately it is evident that many of us have deeply entrenched religious concepts, almost totally without basis in experience. The people working in the local DLM office translate these baseless concepts into programs that encourage guilt and fear as the primary motivators, rather than love and clarity. Sometimes I wonder if it might just be better to cancel DLM and start again. I've heard several people say this here in Portland.

It had all started the month before, when Maharaj Ji came to the Denver community meeting and said that all the people in DLM should have "understanding." He seemed very emphatic about this, although it was rather vague just exactly what he wanted people to understand. Each person, according to her/his nature, interpreted Maharaj Ji's statement differently. Michael Dettmers and some of the other executives assumed people on the HQ staff needed to understand the organization and their commitment to it more fully. To this end, in the middle of December, they set up a large conference for the entire staff at the Hilton Hotel. They secured the services of a premie who was a professional in group dynamics. Maharaj Ji came to the conference and told everybody that he was completely behind this effort and the premies should relax, cooperate, and "not be paranoid."

Predictably, half of the conference was taken up with addresses by the executive staff. A new organizational chart was revealed and explained at length. But the other half of the conference, put together on the suggestions of the group dynamics professional, was completely different. People split up into "task teams" to come up with answers to specific problems. The teams were then to write their solution on a large piece of paper and post it on the wall. Before beginning we were given a little talk about teamwork. Whatever solution we came to had to be a group conclusion; nobody was to be left out.

To make sure this happened, the idea was to work on both the "task," the specific problem in front of us, and the "maintenance," or feelings of involvement and openness in the group.

The first task was to complete this sentence: "Commitment to Divine Light Mission equals …" In the course of this it was impossible not to get into why each person had joined the Mission and what their experiences and frustrations had been; it even provided the opportunity to broach the very delicate issue of whether Guru Maharaj Ji had


powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Was Guru Maharaj Ji wiser than the rest of us, or was he just a sweet young man who was little more than a figurehead, a symbolic focus?

The reason this was such a delicate subject, I realized, was that many of the premies put up with the endless difficulties of DLM only because they believed Maharaj Ji had a plan; even if they could not see it, Maharaj Ji knew there was some meaning, reason, or ultimate justification for the scandal, difficulties, and grief they had seen over the several years of their involvement. Their reason for staying in DLM was based on him. They loved him, but they hardly knew him. If he was a fool, they were fools for staying with him for so long.

I and most of my close associates, on the other hand, did not feel our fates were so eternally bound with Maharaj Ji's. We had been attracted to the Mission for reasons other than him, and had decided to stay even after we saw his deficiencies.

When my group got around to this touchy issue, I found nobody wanted to be the little child who announced the emperor's nakedness. Even I didn't want to open the can of worms. Slowly, in the course of the team's functioning, I realized there was something I was not facing. Okay, I knew Maharaj Ji was not the hottest thing going, but I enjoyed being in the mission, personally and professionally. I still had hopes that things would get straightened out. But somewhere inside me, I knew that if I started getting deeply into questions about Maharaj Ji, I would reach a point where I would need to know with certainty what he thought about himself. Had he acquiesced mentally to all the adoration and begun to believe he was the Lord?

I knew that if I asked this question seriously I might just find out that Maharaj Ji did think he was God. And if that was indeed what he believed I would have to leave the Mission, leave my friends, leave my hopes, and start out anew.


There is no way I could stay around a mission led by a crazy man, no matter how clever, charming, and charismatic that man was.

Yet over the past year I had begun to suspect the worst. Inside I was straining to resolve my doubts. Today, in the Hilton, I knew I would begin. "I don't think he's God," I announced. "I don't think he's even got any special insight."

"But what are we doing here then?" someone else in my group asked me.

Divine Times June 1976 Guru Maharaj Ji's first visit to Denver this year was back in January for the Development '76 conference, the first major fundraising conference in DLM history. In late April, he returned to Denver.
a series of dialogues was held among the IHQ ashram staff members in the beginning of April.
shortly after Maharaj Ji's visit to Denver in a satsang given by Joe Anctil, press secretary for Divine Light Mission.
A much reduced staff at North American Operations holds down the fort during the NAO tour and coordinates plans for Maharaj Ji's summer tour in the U.S.
The Research and Development group (recently trimmed by a whopping two-thirds in number) continues publication of "And It Is Divine" and "Divine Times" and is developing an International Press Service to serve Mission publications worldwide.

Divine Times August 1976 But this rebirth took place only after what Gary calls the "Long Winter," a term I'm now familiar with - a time when almost a quarter of the residents left the Canadian ashram, and when DLM Canada experienced its first financial crisis the National Headquarters staff was recently cut in half from 24 full-time workers to twelve.

Divine Times September 1976 In the beginning of June, regular donations to DLM began to fall off sharply. Coupled with the drop in donations, is a trend over the past few months for many ashram residents who are working at full-time paying jobs to leave the ashram When, through July and August, those donations continued to fall, from a high level of $111,000 per month in the first quarter of 1976 to a low of $70,000 in August, In January, there were close to 600 ashram residents in the U.S. As of this writing, there are 395. The resulting drop in income is $16,000 per month, or approximately 20%.

Divine Times October 1976
Leaving his plane at Denver airport on the weekend of September 11-12, Guru Maharaj Ji made it obvious that his major concern was in developing understanding rather than laying down rules. Letter from GMJ, just bullshit "So many steps are being taken now to insure the positive growth of the premie" "be assured that I am looking after you" September 12, 1976 Sunday morning saw Maharaj Ji back in the office talking to Michael and Bob.

This article details changes in the 23 DUO ashrams and it's pretty obvious they only closed the smaller ones where they didn't have enough members to make them viable ../../dlm_pubs/divinetimes/197610/news.html

Durga Ji in 1978 dlm_pubs/divinetimes/197805/dj_howcluelessami.html

And so by Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace, he's allowed us to really grow. Because I know just even two years ago when Guru Maharaj Ji made the tour of America, and he had the program first in Florida, in Gainesville, and then we went and did the four other cities. To me, Maharaj Ji's patience was so - I mean, it's just incredible. Because at that time, I guess, all of us - maybe not all of us, but I think probably most of us - were kind of spacing out. Something was happening, and we were doubting so much, and we were analysing so much, and we were critical of so much. And we were: "Why is it like this? And why is this person doing that?" I mean, it was a critical point. And Maharaj Ji, in all of his satsangs, is just so kind. He would just say, premies, you're doing really good. Really. You're doing really good. Just keep it up. And just keep doing satsang, and keep doing service, and keep doing meditation." He didn't get up there and say, "Yeah, you guys are blowing it! Why are you doing this? Why are you doing…" He never does that. Maharaj Ji never does that.


Intro up to beginning
Ideal state of premies
Introduction of Lovejoy and Harper, Dettmers and Donner Actual dissatisfaction
GMJ's understanding satsang
Roundup of understanding


  • April 1974 Interview with Bob and Mike and don't forget Dettmer's finance articles
  • Married 20/05/04
  • Shape Up Or Ship Out Cosmopolitan Hotel Ballroom in Denver, Colorado, April 28, 1974 dlm_pubs/goldenage/06/listentome.html
  • Birth of Premlata 09/03/75
  • Mother Ousts Young Guru as Playboy 01/04/75
  • Bal Bhagwan Ji Appointed Satguru 11/4/75
  • Press Conference in Lucknow 13/4/75
  • Oasis of Lies 6/75 dlm_pubs/divinetimes/197505/oasisoflies.html
  • First Western Initiators /7/75
  • How About Doing Some Service? DUO Directors' Conference, Guru Puja Festival in Essen, Germany, 30/08/75
  • Hans Jayanti '75 /07/11-09/11/75
  • Mishler Severs Ties 8/76 PIP p214
  • Birth Of Hans 17/09/76 PIP p215