Prem Rawat's Charanamrit or "Holy Water"
Charanamrit or "Holy Water" was water in which Prem Rawat who calls himself Maharaji the Ultimate Ruler or Guru Maharaj Ji as he called himself before the early 1980's, had bathed or at least bathed his feet. To ensure that Mr Rawat wasn't overly fatigued by this need to provide the "holy water" the bath water was diluted with distilled water again and again and again (to create a homopathic Prem remedy for the heart) and then bottled in small vials and sent out to premie communities all over the world. At least one family tragedy occurred when Richard Cooper, an extremely committed premie, was kidnapped on Feb. 2, 1979 by Ted Patrick after Cooper's mother learnt that her son drank water in which Prem Rawat's feet had been washed. No doubt, there were many other parents who would have been disgusted to discover this.
In August 2009, a US citizen who had been a follower of Rawat's for over 30 years and had lived in his ashrams until their closure in the early 1980's recalled the use of charanamrit in satsang meetings.
Before satsang or just before the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji at the end of satsang, one or several devotees would retreat to the kitchen to prepare an Arti tray, typically a large, round silver platter with a ghee candle in the middle that was surrounded by flowers, flower petals, dried flowers, etc.; perhaps colorful leaves in the fall, pine cones or other natural items of beauty. On some occasions, especially for larger gatherings of devotees, several Arti trays were prepared.
Ghee candles - cotton balls dipped in clarified butter and molded into the shape and size of Hershey Kisses - were often prepared ahead of time in batches and kept in the refrigerator until needed.
Just before the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, the devotees who prepared the Arti trays would offer them to other devotees at random. These randomly selected devotees would then move to the front of the satsang room and stand before an altar or stage dedicated to Guru Maharaj Ji.
During the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, the devotees holding the Arti trays would swing the Arti trays and lit ghee candles back and forth, often raising them in a full circular motion as a passionate expression of devotion to Guru Maharaj Ji.
On rare occasions, aspirants or even guests were inadvertently selected to swing the Arti trays. It was funny to watch them.
Altars and stages dedicated to Guru Maharaj Ji typically consisted of a special chair for him to sit on, a decorative pillow for his holy lotus feet to rest upon, and at least one large, ornately framed photograph of Guru Maharaj Ji above his chair.
Several smaller framed photographs of Guru Maharaj Ji, Mataji, the Holy Mother of Creation, and other members of the Holy Family often accompanied the larger photograph of Guru Maharaj Ji, along with other decorative items such as flowers and perhaps even a small table with a covered glass of water for Guru Maharaj Ji to drink.
During the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, devotees worshipped and prayed to Guru Maharaj Ji, clasping their hands together in all manner of prayer symbolism while dancing for joy and waving their outstretched arms in all manner of devotional expression.
Also during the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, musically and rhythmically inclined devotees would play guitars, bongos, blocks, bells, tambourines and any other types of picayunes that happened to be on hand; sometimes loudly and boisterously and sometimes solemnly, depending on the mood of the evening's satsang.
It was hard to play blocks solemnly.
After the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, devotees would do "pranam" to Guru Maharaj Ji by getting down on their hands and knees and bowing in the direction of the altar or stage. On any given evening, at least several devotees would do full pranam by fully prostrating themselves on the floor face down before Guru Maharaj Ji.
During the pranam segment of the Arti celebration, which typically lasted for a very long minute or so, any devotee who felt so moved would occasionally lead a prayer by speaking a line that everyone else would repeat:
"Oh my Guru Maharaj Ji. You are all powerful. There is nothing in this world that you cannot do. Please guide me. And protect me. Forever and ever. Bhole Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai!"
After the pranam segment of the Arti celebration, the devotees who held the Arti trays would pass them before each sitting or kneeling devotee, sometimes having to step over devotees who were still in the full pranam position. Each devotee would hold their outstretched hands over the burning ghee candle for a moment and then place their slightly warmed hands over their heart or on their forehead or both in the certainty of receiving Guru Maharaj Jis' divine grace, special favor, blessings and protection.
Another devotee holding the container of charanamrit would follow the devotees with the Arti trays and place a teaspoon full of charanamrit in each devotees outstretched, cupped hands. Each devotee would then drink the charanamrit and place their still moistened cupped hands on their forehead in the certainty of receiving even more of Guru Maharaj Ji's divine grace, special favor, blessings and protection.
When the supply of charanamrit ran low, the container was simply replenished with distilled water until a fortunate devotee came across a fresher batch. Rumor had it that due to the "homeopathic effect," diluted charanamrit never lost its potency.
On some occasions, yet another devotee would follow the devotees with the Arti trays and the container of charanamrit with another type of "Arti" tray prepared ahead of time that held "Prasad", an offering of food that had first been offered to Guru Maharaj Ji. Prasad typically consisted of various slices of fruit, small pieces of cake or other types of pastry.
The "real" Prasad that every devotee dreamed of, of course, was food taken directly from Guru Maharaj Ji's plate.
Upon the conclusion of the singing of Arti to Guru Maharaj Ji, doing pranam to Guru Maharaj Ji, the passing of the various Arti and Prasad trays and the drinking of charanamrit, the evening's satsang festivities and the Arti celebration ended quietly as devotees retrieved their children from child care, gathered their shoes and blissfully went on their way.
I remember it well myself, it was very challenging to accept at first but after somer time it seemed harmless enough just as waving your hands over the candle flames did.