Guru inspires prayer and protest

Michael Madigan

HE'S been called god, the perfect master and a crook, but to Maharaji's followers he's the guru's guru - a genuine "exploding love bomb".

"I am here to hear my teacher," said Phil Noble, an American who yesterday joined almost 4000 followers in a paddock south of Ipswich to await today's address from Maharaji.

Maharaji, an Indian-born teacher who once raffled off his mother's dental X-rays, has been accused of everything from pot smoking to misappropriation. But his followers, a prosperous-looking crowd from 61 countries, have travelled thousands of kilometres to the Ivory Rock Conference Centre - the prime international meeting place for Maharaji's followers - and wanted no more "lies" printed about him.

The lies include accusations Maharaji drank booze, had sex with his female followers, allowed a follower to take the blame for a fatal car accident in India and funded his lifestyle by misusing donated funds.

Guru inspires prayer and protest

A spokesman denied all claims yesterday. Directors said the rumours were being spread by disgruntled ex-employees, including Neville Akland who plans to drive to the conference today in a large truck plastered with anti-Maharaji placards. "I am accusing him of corruption," said Mr Akland, an ex-follower backed by a Sydney-based lawyer who warns would-be recruits to beware.

The builder claims he handed over about $500,000 in property to Maharaji when he was an impressionable young man a quarter of a century ago.

"It's all about surrender," he said of the Maharaji's teachings. "Unfortunately that includes surrendering your money."

Freelance journalist John Macgregor said Maharaji had a secret tax haven in the Channel Islands, owned luxury homes from Brisbane's Fig Tree Pocket to South Africa and flew money out of Australia into Swiss Bank accounts.

But such allegations were not bothering Gwen Margolas, a Los Angeles woman on her second visit to Ivory Rock: "I am just here celebrating life," she said.