Who's Who Of World Religions
Editor John R. Hinnells

Maharaji [xix] [Prem Pal Singh Rawat; Guru Maharaj Ji] (1957-).

Founder of Elan Vital, the successor to the Divine Light Mission (DLM). Maharaji's father, Shri Hansji Maharaj, had formally organized the DLM in 1960, although he had been teaching the techniques since the death of his guru, Dada Guru, in the 1920s.

Born Prem Pal Singh Rawat, he is said to have started meditating when two, and given discourses at six. When Shri Hans died in 1966 his eight-year-old son is reported as having told the mourners 'O You have been illusioned by maya. Maharaj Ji [Shri Hans] is here, very much present amidst you. Recognize him, adore him, and obey him.' The boy, thus became known as Guru Maharaj Ji, the Satguru, or Perfect Master.

In 1971 Maharaji made his first visit to England, where the media gave full coverage to the 13-year-old 'Boy Guru'. Soon afterwards, amid further publicity, he settled in the United States.

The Knowledge that Maharaji gives his followers is said to provide the key to self-understanding and self-realization. While the Knowledge is within each individual, it can only be revealed by Maharaji or one of his appointed initiators. The four techniques that comprise the Knowledge enable initiates to turn their senses within and to perceive what were described in the early 1970s as Divine Light, Music, Nectar and the 'primordial vibration' or 'Holy Name'. It is said that taking the Knowledge cannot be described - it can only be subjectively experienced, and initiates are asked not to reveal the techniques.

The movement, which was run largely by Maharaj's mother Mataji, with the help of his older brother, grew quickly, attracting young people from the hippie culture, and by 1973 several tens of thousands of Westerners had become 'premies' (devotees). However, a financial crisis, followed by Maharaji's marrying his American secretary in 1974, precipitated a power struggle within his family, with Maharaji eventually taking sole control of the movement in the West.

Maharaji rejected many aspects of the movement associated with its Indian background and focused on the essence of his teaching. The name Elan Vital was adopted in the early 1980s; Maharaji insisted that he was not to be worshipped as a god; the term 'premie' was dropped; and a low profile was adopted, although both Maharaji and his movement have become more visible in the late 1980s. [4: app. 4] (E.B.)