Contemporary Religions - A World Guide

Edited by Ian Harris, Stuart Mews, Paul Morris & John Shepherd


Divine Light Mission. The Divine Light Mission is a new religious movement of Indian origin and known in the West since the visit to England in 1971 of the "boy-guru" Maharaji. Since the early 1980s it has been known by a different name, Elan Vital.


Elan Vital. Formerly known as the Divine Light Mission, this new religious movement was founded in the 1930s by Shri Hans Ji Maharaj (d 1966), but only became known in the West when the founder's youngest, 13-year-old son, the "boy-guru" Maharaji, came to England in 1971. The teaching is called "Knowledge", and this knowledge is achieved by training the senses to focus on inner rather than external experiences. Part-time members lead a normal lifestyle and can marry, but contribute 10 per cent of their income to the group. Ashram members are unmarried and donate their salaries.

The movement grew rapidly, until Maharaji fell out with his mother after marrying his American secretary. She took over in India, where his brother is now recognized as head of the movement, but he is still in control in the West. Elan Vital (as the movement began to be called in the early 1980s) then became less Indian, and adopted a lower profile. Numbers, once claimed as hundreds of thousands, are down to about 7,000 in Britain and 15,000 in the USA, but growing slowly.



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