Guru's followers flock to hear him speak.
Australian Associated Press General News
By Rosemary Desmond - 4 September 2002
(c) 2002 AAP Information Services Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. Available for personal use but not for sale or redistribution for compensation of any kind without the prior written permission of AAP.
BRISBANE, Sept 3 AAP - Prem Rawat or "Maharaji" is worth following around the world.
A three-day gathering of members of his Elan Vital cult has drawn more than 3,500 people from 60 countries with their teacher's thoughts aired tonight in a bushland setting at Peak Crossing, south-west of Brisbane.
A small army of security guards and a few police stood guard today outside the Ivory's Rock Conference Centre, as journalists unsuccessfully sought to gain entry.
A spokesman blamed "negative publicity" from a weekend newspaper report for a refusal to grant interviews with the Indian-born guru, affectionately known to his followers as Maharaji.
Elan Vital conference-goers, some of whom have followed him to Australia for the second time this year, were also reluctant to talk.
Internet websites have accused Elan Vital of wrongdoings, including misusing donated funds, and Prem Rawat of even raffling his mother's dental X-rays.
Elan Vital today angrily denied the accusations, saying the claims were "bizarre".
"We were forced this morning to deny that Mr Rawat auctioned his mother's dental X-rays," a spokesman said.
Elan Vital directors also issued a written denial, saying recent news reports were based on unsupported rumours generated by two disgruntled former employees.
Lone protester Neville Ackland is a disaffected follower of the Maharaji with his own website dedicated to telling those willing to read it about what he calls "the con trick".
Mr Ackland today parked a truck on the roadside leading to the conference centre.
The vehicle was plastered with handwritten slogans attacking the guru he first met while backpacking in India in the early 1970s.
Mr Ackland said he donated two Brisbane home units, now worth about $500,000, left to him by his mother to Elan Vital.
But 12 years later he became disenchanted with the cult, leaving it in 1985 but was talked into rejoining in the 1990s.
"My friends talked me into coming back because they said things had changed," he said.
"But I discovered all sorts of anomalies and very sad people who had been abused by people higher up."
Mr Ackland was turned away at the gates to the conference centre.