Prem Rawat claims there is only ever one Perfect Master. He said in an interview with John Wood of the Boston Globe:
'You see - here I want to be very frank - people come to me and ask me about this, and they say, "What's your opinion about a Perfect Master? Is there one, is there two?" I tell them my opinion, that there is only one Perfect Master. Because perfectness is one, not two, not three So, there is one Perfect Master in this world. And because he is perfect, that's it. He is perfect. You just can't divide perfect. I think it's funny saying that; it's just as funny as saying that the car had tires on top, and car had tires on the bottom. That's just like saying there are two Perfect Masters. You are just dividing perfectness into two - you can't do that. There has to be one Perfect Master, because perfectness is infinite, you just can't divide it. It has to be one.'
Prem Rawat teaches that only followers of a living Perfect Master can experience true spiritual experience, they can 'know God' through personal experience rather than just believe in God. He says all other "Masters" and "gurus" are weeds, preventing people from coming to the truth. He claims he reveals an experience and not a set of beliefs or a religion. Some gurus and their followers appear more attractive and inspiring than Prem Rawat and his students. Many have attracted far more followers.
While some of these gurus have attracted as much controversy and criticism as Prem Rawat, others are universally respected. Despite these gurus having millions of followers, none of them is or was able to reveal the true Knowledge "deep within inside" or inspire the true experience in their followers according to Prem Rawat and his followers. They claim the Gift of Knowledge is only available from Prem Rawat and anyone who listens to him to develop and sustain the right understanding and makes a lifetime commitment will undoubtedly experience the profound peace that resides within. If these claims are true then even though some of these gurus were sincere, they have prevented millions of sincere seekers of truth from coming to the Lotus Feet of the true Perfect Master of our times.
With the benefit of decades of hindsight we can see Rawat's claims are nonsense and that the majority of these gurus were as ethically and spiritually bankrupt as Rawat. Many were far more evil. Even some who were personally honest and sincere, such as Srila Prahupada and Shunryu Suzuki, made huge mistakes in giving spiritual credibility to their followers, some of whom perpetrated shocking abuse. For further details see Stripping the Gurus in .pdf, .epub or .mobi formats.
NB These pages about various gurus/Masters, etc were written circa 1985 and now seem rather naive. Far more negative information about these people is now available on the internet which barely existed then and there are far more bogus gurus and masters now plying their wares.
Gurus can be members of a spiritual tradition who have achieved recognition because of their practise and development of wisdom and charisma and because they manifest spiritual power or they can be self-proclaimed or they can inherit their position without having to spend years in prescribed practices. Prem Rawat was publicly proclaimed by his family as a divine guru when he was 8 years old. His father had met his guru when he was an adult and had practised meditation for many years and was accepted by his Master and his peers as a mahatma, a person who had realised basic truths about life and was believed to have a total experience of life that was on a higher level of existence than normal human beings. The controversy at the death of Shri Swarupananand was not because his peers believed Shri Hans to be an immature child who knew nearly nothing of life and true religion but because they believed there were others better qualified. Shri Hans was not the son of his Master and Shri Swarupanand was not the son of his Master. Father to son transmission of the power of the Satguru was definitely not the historic norm even within the Sant tradition of India.
Stripping the Gurus © David T. Falk is available at www.strippingthegurus.com in various formats on that site.