Neville Ackland's Report on Amaroo / Ivory's Rock Conference Centre
How the development of Ivory's Rock Conference Centre (IRCC) contributed to the demise of Elan Vital and has resulted in the bizarre world or Rawat's personality cult being exposed by the Australian media.
Since the mid 1980s maharaji had spoken publicly about his vision to purchase land and establish what he called an international learning centre; A place where premies (followers) from around the world could come to practice knowledge. Australia was finally chosen.
From the very beginning (in 1990) when the first piece of land that was to become IRCC was purchased, senior Elan Vital administrators knew they were in for a bumpy ride. Unbeknown to most premies maharaji was impractical, irrational and very demanding. Keeping him on track required constant effort. A year or so before he purchased IRCC, Elan Vital co-ordinator, Jan McGregor had managed to talk him out of buying land south east of Perth thousands of miles from anywhere. The logistical problems associated with such a remote site 100s of ks from an international airport and thousands of ks from his Fig Tree Pocket HQ in Brisbane would have been enormous.
Steered by a small group of well-intentioned premies he eventually saw the light and started looking for land closer to population centres. With great fanfare he announced his decision to purchase the land at a program at the Brisbane showgrounds in 1991. Upon his request 100s of enthusiastic premies stayed back to make donations towards the purchase price - I was one of them.
After his next visit to the site later that year things got off to a great start. 100s of premies with stars in their eyes came to help. A bulldozer and excavator were purchased and the clearing of 100s of tons of dead wood and cowpats commenced. Eager to show off his vision for the future he scheduled the first event, a project that would prove all too much for the inexperienced poorly paid admin and the 100s of volunteers that undertook the work.
M's engineer contacted me to ask for help about 6 weeks before the program was due to commence. I was a licensed builder and heavy machinery operator with experience in earthmoving, dam building, road construction, agriculture and reforestation. He told me the construction crew were exhausted, everyone was working from dawn till dark and they were weeks behind schedule. I had a reputation as an outspoken troublemaker and had up until then been black listed - the fact that they asked for my help reflected how desperate they were.
When I arrived chaos reigned - the place was a mess. The premie engineer had been judged incompetent by the handful of practical volunteers that knew what they were doing. The grand design conjured up by maharaji was an environmental disaster. Obtrusive unsealed roads without adequate drains cut through gullies and across hillsides that in the wet season were likely to flood causing massive damage. A few months later they did!
Within an hour of arriving I met with the construction crew whose frustrations were boiling over. It was quite a scene. I went straight to the site office to confront the architect and engineer but my reputation preceded me and I was quickly marginalised and allotted a task on a bobcat as far from anyone else as they could put me.
The evening before the event began we were all exhausted. When maharaji arrived many of the personality cult social climbers deserted their posts climbing over one another to position themselves for the please the master competition. Premies' children became temporarily parentless, feelings were hurt and reputations were permanently damaged. People's health and sanity suffered all in the name of holy name and in service to the undisputed lord.
When the premies arrived the next morning for three days of bliss at the feet of the master, they knew little or nothing of the mess and stress he had created by virtue of the unrealistic demands he placed upon the volunteers. Evidence of a construction site gone wrong was everywhere, but excuses were made and all was forgiven when maharaji appeared smiling and waving to the cheers of over a thousand adoring premies and sat upon his throne in the shade of a typically beautiful Australian gum tree. The program was declared a success. I wasn't invited back to IRCC for a year or so. I wasn't surprised and didn't mind. Noanie, Jarrah and I were living at Crystal Waters Permaculture Community a few hours north. I was building houses made from rammed earth and mud brick and living the good life. In the mean time "the land" became "IRCC" and maharaji was indulging in multi-million dollar fantasies. Volunteers were everywhere, premies had moved from all over Australia to be close to the action and maharaji's infamous engineer from India was construction manager. He came to see me at Crystal Waters one sunny winter morning in 1993 and fell in love with the houses I was building. He raved about my adobie brick making machinery and wanted all the structures at IRCC to be constructed from earth.
Despite my reservations I attended a meeting at the rock a few weeks later. To my surprise there were lots of new faces, fresh ideas and attitudes. Not many people at the meeting knew me well and my reputation as a builder must have overshadowed my reputation as a "trouble maker" because I was welcomed with open arms and invited to become a full time member of the construction team. Noanie, Jarrah and I purchased 35 acres of land south of IRCC and relocated our mobile home and 25 tons of brick making and earthmoving machinery in 1994. Within weeks it was clear to me that I had made a big mistake. The administration staff played their cards close to their chest. Game playing was the order of the day. The architect's office was the domain of a privileged few who jealously guarded their territory. Pleasing the master was much more important than looking after the environment, building energy efficient accommodation or simply doing things properly. Over time I watched 1000s of hours of volunteer work and much money wasted on projects that were doomed to failure, to be bulldozed and replaced by similar ridiculous inventions and fantasies from the mind of the master and his cronies. Workers were demoralised time and time again whilst they forced themselves to undertake flawed concepts and turn them into dysfunctional white elephants. There were however some good ideas amidst the mess and a few victories for common sense. The property was (and is) beautiful and many of the ordinary premies were (and are) also very beautiful people.
Over time maharaji's demands to do things "his way", his furious temper and habit of blaming the premies for his own mistakes began to erode some people's faith in his dream. Those who left, often broken and confused, were replaced by new comers from interstate or overseas who didn't have a clue what was happening and did what they were told.
Before during and after each event the same problems were encountered. Exhausted premies, stressed to the max, were used by those higher up the pyramid, who were also very stressed, to maintain their advantage close to the lotus feet. The closer you got to maharaji the weirder it got. Sincerity and honesty were considered a weakness by the ruthless minority that clawed their way to the top. Jan McGregor and Terry McKinnel were king and queen and in maharaji's absence they ruled by the grace of the master, not because they were competent or considerate. They were (and still are) products of the personality cult. They were hated by those who they mistreated, demoted or sacked. Despite many secret attempts to dethrone them including many letters to maharaji. He kept them in the power seat. He needed them because he trusted them to keep the truth from the masses. To suck up to them was essential if there was any hope of holding on to or improving your status as a worthy devotee near the top of the pyramid where there is very little room for very few people.
The sides of the personality cult pyramid are very slippery. Devotees must always hang on for fear of falling. In desperate attempts to reach the masters feet (or sit at his table at the silver service "fine dining" restaurant) people clambered over each other, often oblivious to the consequences of their selfish actions. I could cite countless examples of pyramid climbing and the misery it caused (and is still causing). Having surrendered their mind at the masters feet, the hardcore servants of the lord blindly blundered on having forsaken a part of their intellect believing it to be an encumbrance upon the spiritual path. This is true to some degree of all religions but when it comes to personality cults surrender of deductive reasoning skills and the right to criticise is an essential prerequisite to becoming a trusted member of the organization. I was never trusted because I couldn't and wouldn't deny my common sense.
During the late 90s more and more followers became "fringe premies" and had little or nothing to do with EV apart from the odd donation and attending events once or twice a year. For many it became a social club. Events were an opportunity to catch up with old friends and have a break from work. Meditation the core activity in the practise of knowledge had become optional or so it seemed. The area originally reserved for meditation, a beautiful shady peaceful retreat, had long since been out of bounds and "no access" signs had been erected. Service the original means of expressing ones commitment to the path had been replaced by donating money and contractors were employed to do most of the skilled work. If you were poor and unable to do "service", for what ever reason, you were of little use and were treated accordingly. "Satsang" (the company of truth) an opportunity for anyone to get up and talk about their experience, had long since been replaced by edited videos with music and special effects to inspire (condition) feelings of love and devotion towards maharaji.
In 1997 maharaji purchased an adjoining property and IRCC doubled in size. Over the next two years massive amounts of premie's money was poured into facilities. By this time the practical mistakes of the past were obvious to most premies and contractors did most of the important work. Many of the more intelligent premies including the new construction manager and architect resigned or were sacked. The famous mutiny in 1998 by senior management and its consequences over time unsettled many dedicated premies. In particular maharaji's ruthless attempts to put it down and silence critics sent shock waves throughout the organization. Yet again ordinary premies knew little or nothing about what happened in many cases they chose not to find out.
The gross dysfunctional nature of IRCC grew like a festering sore in the 12 months leading up to the mutiny. Jan and Terry ("his and her majesty") were seen by most of the administration staff and department heads as the source of the problem. Maharaji was beyond criticism so it seemed obvious to many premies that for things to improve J and T had to go.
The executive staff made their move whilst J and T were visiting maharaji in America. A letter was written and signed by most of the team expressing a lack of confidence in J and T's ability to manage IRCC and faxed to them in America. Maharaji found out about it and exploded in a fit of rage ordering his henchman Valerio, a skilled manipulator, to fly to Australia to deal with the mutineers. Fearing the rebellion would spread he ordered Valerio to crush the spirits of everyone who might be a threat. Over 100 department heads were called to a meeting and were intimidated into submission with numerous quotes from a very angry master. "How dare you". "I will not be criticised". "If I were there I would scold everyone" and a flood of tears from Valerio. The next day we were split into two groups of 50 and were required to confess our sins one by one. The amazing thing was that most of the people didn't have a clue what they were there for and had nothing to do with the mutiny. Nevertheless nearly everyone in my group confessed something and the tears flowed. Only one a brave soul objected to the proceedings and walked out. I stayed on pretending to go along with it until the very end occasionally asking Valerio questions and leading him on. Whenever he quoted maharaji I asked him if he was accurately interpreting maharajis words. I no longer had any doubts that I was surrounded by brainwashed people being manipulated and intimidated by an unscrupulous leader. What that meant for me I had no time to contemplate.
We had all been given a list of questions to respond to. I have the original list in front of me as I write this along with notes I took at the time. The list reads and I quote:
Reflect on "the line" mentioned and respond to:
My unique skill at contributing to crossing the line
Give a specific example
(With whom, how often and in what circumstances has it been the most damaging and what are the consequences for me, others (the people I work with, other volunteers and the general community). And Amaroo as a tool, and for him personally?
How do I feel about that?
We were all seated in a circle clutching our questionnaire and looking anxious. Before we began I asked Valerio to give a definition of "The line" he said it was "doing things our way instead of the clients" (client was code for maharaji). I replied that everyone had a unique point of view and a right to their opinion. I asked him how we were expected to know what the "client's way" was when he hardly ever communicated with us and information was withheld by Jan and Terry. Varerio didn't know what to say. I insisted he clarify the line further and he replied "the second definition of the line is don't criticise". My reply was short and sweet. "How pathetic". Valerio wasn't prepared for this and asked me if I wanted to leave. I ignored his attempt to get rid of me and asked him to quote exactly what maharaji had said to him about criticism. "Don't criticise" Varerio replied abruptly. I can't remember what shocked me the most, maharaji's preposterous demand or the fact that everyone else in the circle caved into it.
The next two hours were, for me, an unexpected gift as each premie tried their best to comply with the will of the master and blame themselves for something they knew little or nothing about. I took a step towards freedom. I sat in blissful silence, my breath coming and going with profound regularity as if I was being breathed. My awareness was sharp like a knife and wave upon wave of adrenaline washed over me as realisation after profound realisation flooded my consciousness. When I began to search for a god to thank I couldn't find him anywhere and in the moment I didn't care, I'd found myself again and for the first time my gratitude had no where else to go and it filled me up and overflowed. Tears filled my eyes but no one noticed.
On the way back to my car I swear my feet didn't touch the ground. I found a pen and wrote down the notes I am referring to now, as I write this. Little did I know what lay ahead of me, my journey home had only just begun and the greatest challenge of my life was yet to be faced, but that's another story.
The saga of "fine dining" (Dayas restaurant) is just one example of rawat's mad logic and egocentric megalomania. In the mid 1990's "the boss" as everyone referred to him back then, came up with the idea of a silver service restaurant where he could wine and dine in the company of his well-heeled privileged followers. It began in a marque but soon manifested as a permanent extravagant ego trip. A site was chosen not far from his private heavily guarded compound well away from the public areas. I remember the look of dismay on the faces of the already overworked under funded design and construction team when he added this bizarre project to the long list. There were already dozens of uncompleted jobs - in particular serious drainage problems left unsolved. The property was littered with transportable buildings and shipping containers costing thousands of dollars a month to hire. Accommodation services and facilities were inadequate and working conditions substandard, sometimes dangerous. All these problems and more needed to be addressed with massive amounts of time and money. Needless to say the lord would have his way and fine dining, a hotchpotch of expensive transportable buildings was born. The volunteer premie staff were constantly overwhelmed, the food was subsequently substandard and the prices exorbitant. The boss wined and dined with his "major contributors" from the VIP camp ground who could afford to purchase front row seats at the new amphitheatre for $5000 a pop. Ordinary premies ate take away. For several years he demanded improvements to the facilities and more transportables were hired. The place was running at a huge loss despite the high prices charged for food and drink.
In the meantime he was pouring money into the construction of his multi-million dollar Malibu mansion. Dozens of skilled workers desperately needed at IRCC were hijacked on and off for several years whilst IRCC fell further behind schedule. In the late 1990's a permanent restaurant was built on the site with money borrowed from premies.
Dayas is maharaji's daughter's name the apostrophe was removed as it was considered by maharaji's advisors to be inappropriate, because it denoted ownership. Nevertheless it was maharaji's symbolic gift to his daughter an enticement to attend events at Amaroo. She indulged herself in the fantasy of being the daughter of the perfect master, fulfilled the roll of maitre d' and entertained her spoilt rich kid friends at the bar whilst daddy got pissed and played mafia boss and the premie patrons drooled over their complimentary bottle of champagne.
Behind the scenes, especially amongst the female premies, something equally sick and shocking was being played out. The pyramid climbing I mentioned earlier was manifesting itself amongst devotees desperate to maintain and improve their access to the master. The knives were always out - two-faced bitches from hell well practiced in the skills of back stabbing never missed an opportunity to consolidate their position. Whilst premie gopies ate humble pie and slaved under difficult conditions in the bowels of the kitchen, the favourites of the maitre d' and mafia men and women plotted and schemed their way to their masters table oblivious to the feelings of those they trampled upon. The details of their crimes are truly shocking and made even more disgusting in the light of the fact that publicly "love, devotion, surrender and humility" are encouraged as part of the "practise of k". In the mean time the average premie knew very little about these horrid games - the odd rumour perhaps, best left un-investigated.
The Road Project
A condition of the original I.R.C.C. development approval was that within 3 years Mt Flinders Road, 3 km of gravel, would be sealed and appropriate drains built. The three year deadline passed but maharaji had mismanaged the finances so badly there was no money in the kitty. (He was busy building his Malibu Mansion and buying corporate jet aircraft).
M's notorious engineer from India(hither to referred to as "whatshisname") had a great knowledge about aeroplanes but knew nothing about earthy subjects. He was put in charge of researching ways of reducing the cost of the road, estimated at over $1,000,000.
He promptly left Australia to follow the lord around the world and left me in charge of research. The research was highly technical. His proposal was radical and controversial. Within weeks of commencing my investigations I came to the conclusion that his radical alternative was inferior and would cost almost twice as much as standard practice. I wrote a 10 page report quoting various soil scientists and engineers and included a detailed budget. All this was done in my "spare time".
Whatshisname already had a reputation for being incompetent and passing the buck and so I was careful to show the report to my immediate superiors to gain moral support before presenting it to whatshisname. Upon reading my report he became furious and stormed about the office yelling "Why can't I get anyone to do what I ask around here". I got the sack and went home to report yet another crazy story to my family.
What happened? Whatshisname tore up my report and tried to get someone else to do the job I had already done. About a week later I got a phone call from the poor guy asking for help. I explained the story to him. There was a deathly silence on the other end of the phone. He declined the opportunity to continue the research. The construction team covered for whatshisname for fear of offending maharaji. A few months later Mt Flinders Road was sealed using conventional methods.
But the story doesn't quite end there; there is a kind of epitaph… Whatshisname was 'making a mess' of a lot of other things and taking a leaf out of his master's book by blaming everyone else! At a rare meeting between maharaji and the construction team whathishames obvious ineptitude was cautiously suggested by a brave premie. Maharaji became angry and said (I quote) "Whatshisname" is my engineer" and that was that! Whatshisname went on to stuff things up for years to come and probably still is.
What started out to be a good idea, a venue to seat an audience of 5,000 and provide Brisbane with a unique entertainment venue soon became an expensive fiasco as a result of maharaji's need to play god and his unique brand of stupidity.
The amphitheatre should have been the jewel in the I.R.C.C crown. It had the potential to become one of Brisbane's most popular outdoor entertainment venues and generate publicity, income and credibility for I.R.C.C.
M had always publicly stressed the need for "Amaroo" to become a convention centre in the true sense of the word; a viable commercial venue that could double as his "international learning Centre" where premies could gather from all over the world. Whether he was ever serious about this plan is another matter. Even before the amphitheatre was on the drawing board this plan was at risk. Maharaji had commandeered the best available land for his personal use, a remarkable valley tucked away at the back of the property. It was a developers dream with room for both accommodation and entertainment facilities well away from neighbours easily offended by large crowds, lights and noise. Without this prime land at its disposal I.R.C.C. struggled from day one. The compromise was obvious to the hardworking architects and surveyors and backed by the construction crew they lobbied maharaji to purchase land on the opposite side of Mt Flinders Road. Some wealthy American premies were keen to fund the acquisition and the landowner was approached and agreed to sell but maharaji couldn't see the point of the exercise. Several years later he would be forced to buy it at 10 times the price when it became painfully obvious to him that the existing land was inadequate.
In the mean time the amphitheatre project commenced. As was the norm with most large projects he "requested" its construction only a few months before a major "event". Premies went into immediate panic mode, adding it to an already impossible list of major projects in an effort to please the lord. Stage 1 was completed hours before the event commenced. Many expensive mistakes were made in the rush. The site was then left abandoned for many months as the exhausted premies regained their breath (excuse the pun). A couple of months before the next event history repeated itself, once again at great unnecessary expense. A couple of years later there was a major injection of funds, much of what had been previously built at great expense was demolished and maharaji's design for a new stage area was implemented.
What was needed was a functional structure that could accommodate musicians, a choir, actors and entertainers with dressing rooms, a back stage area and so on. What maharaji wanted and of course and what he got was a cross between a shrine and an alter upon which he sat in order to be adored. Behind and below this monument to his narcissistic complex, was something that resembled a luxury apartment, a place where he and his family could relax before a performance.
When a bus load of Ipswich City Counsellors were given a guided tour of the amphitheatre soon after its completion, the inadequacy of the stage, its inability to cater to public demands and its bizarre similarity to an alter was not lost on any of them. The premies didn't mind though they were all too exhausted to care and, anyway, the lord acts in strange ways and who were they to question the lord.
Throughout this painful period, over about 4 years, I made myself unpopular by pointing out what I considered was one mistake after another. I was able to get some of the more intelligent premies to acknowledge how crazy things were but I was never able to get them to look more closely at what lay behind the disfunctionality at I.R.C.C. When I suggested the responsibility lay with the boss, that he was well meaning but naive and misguided (at that time I had it half right) I was reported to higher authorities and branded a security risk. I was asked to leave.
I formed the opinion that maharaji had been hijacked and had lost his way and that corruption had overwhelmed the good will of the administration. It never crossed my mind the rot had set in from the top down and that maharaji's contempt for his faithful privileged few was being passed on down the line all the way down down down to people like me.
The One more brick in the wall project
In the mid 90's after 5 years of not being able to make up his mind and spending most of the premies donations on yachts and private jets, I.R.C.C. was still a ramshackle collection of temporary buildings and shipping containers costing us all a fortune to rent. When an event was held more buildings were rented. Even the thickest of premies were perplexed by the obvious stupidity of the situation.
At last there was an announcement that construction of permanent buildings would begin. This was my cue as whathisname (the engineer) had asked me (and my family) to move to the area and be in charge of the building of stabilised earth walls. maharaji had already seen my resume and delegates from I.R.C.C. and E.V. had checked out houses I had built including a large convention centre built of rammed earth that was getting lots of publicity and had won an award for environmentally sensitive design. It was clear to me that maharaji could do the same by using natural materials and utilizing designs that harmonised with the environment. I.R.C.C. could become a show place for this kind of technology gaining notoriety and free publicity… the environment was the flavour of the day back then. The timing was perfect.
A very good premie friend of mine, (hitherto referred to as thingamabob) and I were asked to research all types of earth wall construction – thingamabob was a licensed builder and a very capable guy. We got on well and were very positive about our research as was the whole construction team. We built a sample wall from maharajiy cement stabilised earth blocks and were confident they would be useful throughout the property. My machinery could produce 2000 a day and be operated by premies using soil from the property and saving a lot of money.
We then set about researching and building a wall using a method called "tilt up". To cut a very long story short we developed a unique system that premies could use to prefabricate wall sections that were wonderfully attractive, inexpensive and harmonised with the Amaroo environment. We were thrilled. Everyone came to see the sample wall and loved it. The place was a buzz with excitement and expectation and maharaji was due to arrive in a few weeks.
Thingamabob and I were working away one day when the architect arrived and announced that maharaji had requested a sample wall be constructed from C.C.A treated pine logs. Now C.C.A. logs had just been banned from all children's playgrounds in Queensland because they were poisoning kids. They were ugly and unpopular for anything but fence posts. Nevertheless the sample wall was built and it looked terrible. I know what pleases the eye is subjective but you'll just have to take my word for it, this wall was ugly!
Two weeks later – guess what? Maharaji arrived and chose the ugly wall. Thingamabob and I weren't even there at the time. The costings and specs were never asked for and our opinion was never sought. Maharaji missed out on what we and everyone else recognised were a number of excellent opportunities to make I.R.C.C. something really special and to save a great deal of money. The pine logs were used to clad part of the new meeting hall, another blood sweat and tears project but one that turned out to be relatively successful. They were then passed over in favour of corrugated iron and other unimaginative building materials. But wait, the relevance of this story rests not on which building material was practical or in good taste, but on the fact that everyone knew maharaji was blowing it and no-one dared to approach him and there in lies the disfunctionality of I.R.C.C.
The last bit
My involvement at I.R.C.C. came to an end in 1999. The Valerio meeting catapulted me out of the premie mind set I'd been struggling to free myself from for years. The process of forgiving myself was a tear filled journey that contributed to my marriage and health failing. The road to recovery from all these things was paved with bloody reminders of my own stupidity. I had no choice and soldiered on and with much help forgave myself and became a new man.
In the mean time things have gone from bad to worse at I.R.C.C. and for E. V. internationally. Premies have deserted the sinking ship and donations have plummeted. The best hearts and minds have either drifted away never to be seen again or joined the ranks of the ex-premie movement, and what a movement it is.
Maharaji has been left with the dregs. The hard core left overs. The dregs do not include thousands of premie fringe dwellers, members of the distant doners social club. The dregs are those in the know, closest to maharaji who have backstabbed their way to the top or have turned a blind eye to what goes on. These people have lost their critical thinking skills, their psychological reasoning abilities and their freedom to sceptically scrutinise competing ideas. They have been retarded by their blind acceptance of maharaji's "me Tarzan you Jane philosophy" and their isolation from a world of scientific enquiry and open minded humility before nature. Their capacity to think deeply about meaning and purpose or to experience self awareness as an objective reality has been replaced by the one size fits all universal mindset of the personality cult worshipper.
Maharaji is surrounded by these people. He has no one else to turn to for help. It must be hell. The inmates are running the asylum and I.R.C.C. has become the (not so) funny farm. Despite the fact that I have fun making jokes about it, it is not funny at all for maharaji or his dregs. I.R.C.C. has become their "Amaroo", their journeys end. When so much disfunctionality is concentrated in one place for so long no amount of lies and cover ups can stop the truth from becoming obvious. I.R.C.C. has become a media target, a local laughing stock and has been hit hard. It is now an open wound from which Elan Vital is bleeding to death. The demise of this organisation that was once maharaji's major money factory can't come soon enough. The sooner the suffering ends and the prisoners are released the better.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this. I've tried to be as accurate as possible when describing the disfunctionality of I.R. C.C. and maharaji's world. But really words are not enough, it was far worse than my description portrays. Stay tuned to www.ex-premie.org for the worst (and best) is yet to come. My next article takes a close look at the psychology of "knowledge" and should be on-line in 4 or 4 weeks.
Lots of love
PS: Come on Maharaji if what I've written here isn't true take me to court and prove it. Prove to your premies you are the god you once claimed to be. Save your reputation and rescue your flock of bleating sheep. Strike me down now. They would love you for it or are you afraid of how many ex-premies would testify against you.
Have a go mate!