Young guru's followers found center in Edwardsville bungalow
Telegraph Staff Writer
EDWARDSVILLE - A small frame bungalow at 219 W. Franklin St., typical of the middle-class midwestern homes of the '20's, now houses five young men, followers of the Guru Maharaj Ji, and constitutes the Divine Light Center at Edwardsville.
Hanging in age from 18 to 23, the young men are self- supporting. Bruce Kirn of Belleville, one of the group, told the Telegraph that they have just inaugurated one of several community projects which will serve the dual purpose of paying for their household needs and assisting local people in "keeping down the cost of living".
The first project, called the Divine Community Service Project, offers the services of the young men to the community to perform such tasks as painting, lawn care, gardening, cleaning and the like, at "very low prices, whatever the person who needs the service feels he can pay. It's geared toward a community need."
The group is also planning a project involving the growing and selling, at minimal prices, of organically grown vegetables, "We'll farm only a small area, use no pesticides, and offer our produce to local people at very low prices," Kirn said.
Eventually, too, he added, the mission will assist in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in the area and they hope to open a "Divine Sales" thrift store, probably in East St. Louis, specializing in recycling of old articles, which will be offered for sale, again at low prices.
Kirn's own interest in the teachings of the Marahaj Ji began in 1971, he told the Telegraph. "Like everyone else, I was searching for peace and inner harmony and while traveling in Colorado, heard of the Maharaj Ji from a friend. I heard him then, on his first trip to the United States, in Colorado. Later I saw him in Los Angeles and even later was part of a large group of Americans who chartered seven jumbo jets to fly to India for the annual Puja, or festival, which draws millions of his followers." The guru, Kirn said, has some four million devotees throughout the world.
The Maharaj Ji, now 15 years old, is "the perfect master," Kirn explained. "The guru shows light and energy and boundless peace and harmony. He eliminates barriers between people. He has received the knowledge of absolute truth, as did his father before him."
Knowledge, Kirn explained, is experience of what the scriptures merely talk about", … they describe, but believing that light exists, for instance, isn't enough. You have to experience it. The Maharaj Ji did not come to change people from religion, he doesn't set down laws, he simply demonstrates the inner law, Christ's inner law, which is the natural way of life, makes you a real human being, brings the peaceful and complete life." There are no formal worship services in the Divine Light, Kirn added.
The 15 year old Guru, born in Hardwar in Northern India, is the son of the late Yogiraj Param Sant Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj. who was "the perfectly enlightened soul of his time" and founded the Divine Light Mission in 1960. According to his followers, the youngster at ago 2 ½ discoursed on God realization, inspiring his father's devotees, and at the age of six, delivered his first English discourse, speaking for over 30 minutes "with such strength, and authority that his audience was moved to tears of joy."