Prem Rawat's "Rejoice" Overhaul
The years following the closure of the ashrams were "a quiet time as far as Maharaji's public activities were concerned" (p. 169 Without The Guru - Mike Finch) though behind the scenes much reorganisation, renaming and legal changes were ongoing. I recall my wife attending very few meetings in the years between the ashram closures and the "Rejoice" meeting at the casino on the Gold Coast. We had built a new house in the country about half an hour's drive from the casino and this "Rejoice" meeting was the last time I saw a house full of premies sleeping on whatever was available.
In 1986 Rawat began collecting a group of 'instructors' to replace the 16 'initiators' left in the West. There was no longer a system of ashrams in which these instructors could stay or enough money to support them so 'instructors' now had to support themselves. In 1976 Maharaji had said the idea of part-time initiators "was the nuttiest idea I ever heard about. It is not a part-time service. It is a full-time service." At the Frankfurt Conference he answered a question and specifically vetoed the idea of married initiators: "it'll be virtually impossible for a married person to do the service of an initiator".
15,000 premies fewer and ten years later he thought "the part-time instructor program has been a tremendous success."
1986 was a year in which Maharaji worked closely with instructors. Four times he participated in training conferences - in Texas, Florida, Los Angeles, and England. By all accounts, the trainings went exceedingly well, increasing both the quantity and quality of instructors. To date, there are approximately 320 instructors worldwide. Most are now "part-timers," offering their services as volunteers. - In View Spring, 1987
Rawat had not just decimated his following, he'd more than halved it and his next move was almost as brazen as closing the ashrams, forbidding all satsang and attempting to have all 1970's DLM publications, audio and video tapes destroyed - (p.169 Without The Guru)
The idea for the Rejoice '87 series stemmed from Maharaji's realization that many people were practicing the techniques incorrectly. Some were deviating from the way they were originally instructed, while others were confusing Knowledge with cultural habits learned from early instructors (sic). - In View, Autumn/Winter 1987
This was utterly ridiculous. The techniques were so simple that they could hardly be done "incorrectly." During the prior 15 years there had been countless Knowledge Reviews all led by mahatmas/initiators/instructors personally selected and trained by Rawat himself.
Furthermore, he also taught that all practise of His Knowledge and experiences that may or may not result from this was completely dependant upon his Grace: "only by Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace, and by his Grace only, can we experience this Knowledge, can we experience that experience." This Grace was a sort of universal divine empowering that radiated from him to his devotees. He explained it to an early premie (paraphrased): Guru Maharaji's Grace is like the sky. No matter where you go, you are always at the center of the sky you see above you. In the same way, you are always at the center of Guru Maharaji's Grace, and Maharaji as a person does not have to keep track of you and single out your whereabouts – it is all automatic. (p.50, Without The Guru)
Maharaji's worldwide travels have recently taken him "down under." On May 28th and 29th he conducted an Instructor Refresher course in Brisbane, Australia. From there, he flew to Adelaide, Auckland (New Zealand), and Gold Coast where he conducted a series of "Rejoice" programs. He is planning another three-city tour of the U.S. in late June or early July. After that, it's on to England and Ireland for the first series of Rejoices ever done there. - IN VIEW Spring/Summer 1988 Magazine
While events have proved otherwise, Rawat has more than once thought that if he did something it would finally be done properly and taken on activities he formerly had his followers do. Later, he even began to be the only source of preparing aspirants and "revealing Knowedge" though this was completely impractical if he meant to spread this Knowledge to the world. The Rejoice events were no different. I don't recall any great change in the 20 or 30 people staying at out house when they returned from the Gold Coast Rejoice event at the local casino. Nor has there been any great upsurge in numbers of devotees since. Those being initiated are basically covering those leaving. He was completely deluded if he thought he could do this by Himself, anyway. Naturally, he has never done any of the organisational work for anything and in regards to Rejoice he relied heavily on his authorised group of psychophants who ran themselves and their finances ragged as Mike Finch recalled in his memoire, Without The Guru.
The first few Rejoices were in America, then Europe, and by the end of the 1980's they had occurred all over the world wherever there were enough premies. Premies were ordered to attend only one Rejoice event but instructors had an open invitation as the could help Maharaji demonstrate the techniques and prowl the hallways checking for correct technique. The Light technique had now altered slightly: "placing your thumb and middle finger on each eyeball, sliding each towards the nose and resting where the eyeball meets the eye socket, with the index finger resting on the lower center of the forehead. (p.180 Without The Guru)
6,100 people attended the Rejoice '87 programs. These programs continued until 1993. Maharaji would meet with the instructors. At first the meeting was specifically for Maharaji to give a review to the instructors before the main event but it became an excuse for a chance for them to hang out with the Lord. Finch might have a particularly long and flexible tongue or an unusually shaped mouth because after 25 years he was still being used to demonstrate the Nectar technique, rolling his tongue back and up into the nasal cavity. Now it was Maharaji, the Lord of the Universe and Ultimate Ruler who told him to demonstrate it to the other instructors even though He had decided that premies now only needed to get the tongue as far back as they could manage comfortably. One wonders then, why Maharaji ever taught otherwise. He also forbade the use of beragons though I only have word-of-mouth evidence for this and the fact that I couldn't help but notice that my wife stopped using one on her return from the Gold Coast Rejoice event. I never saw a premie with a beragon again.
Nobody seemed to ask the question what was happening to those premies who hadn't been to a Rejoice program and hadn't been updated on the correct way to meditate. Presumably if you missed every opportunity between 1987 and 1993 then you just didn't qualify as a bona fide devotee of Prem Rawat and you didn't matter. Why did all the increase in devotees ocur when premies were mis-practicing Knowledge? Why didn't the young Rawat correct the techniques in the early days when, as happened with Mike Finch, he watched as Mike received a "Knowedge Review" from the great Mahatma Ramanand - a Brahmin by birth who was chosen to perform the necessary ritual to free Shri Hans (Rawat's father and guru) from an evil spell (see p292 The Light Of Wisdom, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj: Life And Teachings). Apparently he deliberately allowed false techniques of Knowedge to be taught for 20 years before deciding to fix things. Of course this is all nonsense.
By the Rejoice programs anybody still maintaining belief and trust in Rawat and his Knowledge (see When Prophecy Fails by Festinger et al) through the 1970's and 80's was prepared to accept anything from him and that's what they got. The actual techniques were significantly altered and the acceptable daily meditation hours halved and even more importantly there was no longer to be the constant attempts to constantly meditate. Swarupanand and Hans Rawat would be rolling in their graves if these former Perfect Masters hadn't been cremated. They had stressed that constant meditation on the holy Name of God was the only way to peace and salvation as did the younger Rawat himself.
"I remember when Maharaji started having these er Rejoice programs and uh giving people Knowledge reviews that was the time he began really talking about the simplicity and that stillness inside. So one person said 'Oh Maharaji, I want to thank you so much that today you made something so clear to me. My friend and my brother always used to tell to me they would see big light and they would hear celestial music and taste nectar and this and that but I would feel only that peace, that calmness inside. And I would always feel bad that was wrong with me that I don't have these thundering experiences but today you made it clear that's very calming and quiet experience. I want to thank you for that.'"
Rawat not only changed the meditation techniques but changed the desired possibilites of the experience of meditation. In this video Charanand explains the "new understanding" of "the experience of Knowledge". Rawat now taught that the big thundering of Light and Divine Music and tasting of Nectar they had been told of in the 70's had been mistaken. It was supposed to be a very calming and quiet experience. Boring.
"When I first received Knowledge I was told that I needed to practise an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening and it seemed so unrealistic. I would sit down to practise and after 20 minutes I was just … that's about all I could do and I didn't try hard enough you know I just kinda let it slide …"
Even some of his closest devotees such as Ms Linda Pascotto, President of the Prem Rawat Foundation had been unable to practise meditation properly, if at all, no matter how much inspiration Prem Rawat gave her and all his premies, until 1987 when the required daily meditation time was cut from 2 hours a day to one hour giving her and doubtless many others a glimmer of hope that she would be able to begin to meditate properly at last.
(voiceover) After the Rejoice events, Maharaji decided to assume personal responsibility for all sessions where people were shown the techniques of Knowledge. - Passages video. This ensured there would be very few people shown the techniques of Knowledge until he changed this decision.
By the northern summer of 1989 Rawat was able to attract 9,000 people who came from 40 countries for the "Festival of Knowledge" in Miami. He told them: "Knowledge is for everyone." Looking around they could see only half the number of true believers of 10 years before. They were in for a long haul if they were going to attract everyone and with hindsight we can see an unsuccessful one.
"Knowledge stays the same, the holy curiosity and curiosity is holy, stays the same, the desire to want to know stays the same and when that fulfillment happens in one's life the joy of that fulfillment stays the same but we change, our attitudes change, the way we look at things changes and what that Master does, amazingly enough that it takes that thing, that experience, that Knowledge and makes it real, tangible, comprehendible to the people of his time so that they may experience that as if the same thing was being experienced by any other generation and therefore Knowledge is kept alive and not thrown in the doctrine, not thrown in the dogma but is kept totally awakened, alive and separated by that teacher. When that teacher is not there it immediately firms and becomes a dogma and a doctrine. When the teacher comes back he takes it back out of dogma and doctrine and makes it a living experience for the living people and that's what it's all about." (Heartfelt, awed applause)