12-A THE ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS, Abilene, Texas, Tuesday Morning, November 14, 1972
Group Headed By Guru
India Investigating Religious Movement
By MYRON L. BELKIND
Associated Press Writer
NEW DELHI (AP) - Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's government is investigating a religious movement headed by a guru claiming to be 14 years old who is India's latest spiritual export to the West, authoritative sources said Monday.
These informants said Mrs. Gandhi herself has taken a personal interest - in her capacity as head of all intelligence agencies - in the controversy swirling around Guru Maharaj Ji, known to his devotees as "lord of the universe," "prince of peace" and "the perfect master."
One senior member of the government said Indian diplomatic missions in countries where the guru's Divine Light Mission operates - including the United States and Britain - have been asked to investigate financial aspects of the movement. The government, he added, wants to determine whether the mission is violating Indian law, particularly regarding restrictions on Indian nationals having bank accounts and capital assets abroad.
The controversy began when the guru returned to India last Tuesday in a jumbo jet filled with 350 American disciples - and a suitcase containing 65,000 dollars in money, watches and jewels, including diamond rings and a pearl necklace.
Customs Impounded the suitcase, Arthur Brigham, a devotee from Denver, Colo., director of the movement's large public relations division, said the money was to be used for meeting the local travel and food expenses of about 3,000 Western devotees, mostly from the United States, who came to India in seven chartered Boeing 747s to meditate in the Himalayas for a month.
The watches and jewelry, he added, were gifts for the guru, his mother and brothers and for about 2,000 mahatmas, the priests of the Divine Light Mission.
"This was supposed to be like a birthday party," said Brigham, explaining that the devotees had come here mainly to celebrate the birth anniversary of the guru's late father, who founded the Divine Light Mission in India in 1960.
The guru exported the movement to the West in the spring of 1971, going first to England and the United States.
In an interview, the guru denied any personal connection with the impounded suitcase. When he went through customs at New Delhi airport - as even gurus have to do - he told inspectors he had nothing to declare.
"It was nothing to do with me," he said of the controversy. "It's an attempt to harm the Divine Light Mission. When someone grows, others get jealous of him - and the Divine Light Mission has just blasted like an atomic bomb all over the world."
The mission claims a following of five million in this country and nearly 40,000 in the United States, 10,000 in continental Europe, 6,000 in Britain and 600 in Japan.
A high government source said it was unlikely there would be any prosecution of the guru, since his Indian personal secretary who traveled with him had accepted responsibility for the suitcase.
But he added that the government is concerned about the growing financial resources of the Divine Light Mission abroad, especially in the United States, where the American devotees recently purchased two small airplanes for the guru's use.
Brigham, however, said all money received by the mission had come from private donations and that all purchases were made toward a purpose.
Defending the purchase of the two planes, Brigham said: "There are so many hijackings of commercial planes. This is why he needs his own planes. Guru Maharaj Ji's life is supremely valuable to us, because he is the bestower of The Knowledge to us. We don't want anything to happen to him."
The Knowledge is supposed to consist of ways to develop spiritual energy. The guru suggested that the present controversy would have happened only in India, his homeland.
"I have been having some, but not so many, controversies in the West," he said. "People are more understanding in the West."