A Pictorial History of Guru Maharaj Ji / Prem Rawat
Prem Rawat is a dull and boring person but like his father he had to dress up at times to maintain interest in the Family Business and so there have been colourful periods in his life though it has got more monotonous and grayer as the years have passed.
Prem Rawat did not arise from a void free of the past, culture and family. He is just one of many the East Asian men who have come to the West to spruik their religious/spiritual beliefs and practices. Many of these were charlatans but Prem's "official" forerunners are generally respected or worshipped. His father, Hans Rawat, was a successful and wealthy guru/godman in India who wished to extend his influence to the West.
1984 Metamorphosis: Goodbye Guru Maharaj Ji! Hail the New and Improved Prem Rawat!
On the 19th July, 1966 Prem Rawat's father died and at the end of the mourning period, whether by design or spontaneously, it was not the eldest or a senior disciple but the youngest son acclaimed as the new Satguru. This was not reported as a routine event but as a divine (re)incarnation.
This was such an important and incredible event in Prem's career that the Divine Light Mission published the events in detail in their official magazines. The account was summarised in the book "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?" in 1973. The succession was later disputed after the family split but there is no doubt all family members accepted the youngest son as his father's replacement for at least a decade. So began Prem Rawat's career.
After the death of his father Prem continued his schooling though it must have been less terrifying. He was publicised as a Godboy and did tours and speeches during his school holidays. In 1969, Western "freaks" began to appear looking for liberation and ganga (not necessarily in that order) and some became premies.
In November 1970 there was a particularly large gathering for the Hans Jayanti festival. A small contingent of around 20-25 Westerners were there to hear (but not understand) Prem make his "Peace Bomb speech". It was a particularly bombastic performance and no doubt transcripts of the speech still embarrass him. The Westerners were undoubtedly impressed by the enormous crowd of people.
The young boy's Grey Eminence, Mahatma Gurucharanand, had been sent to England. Initially he preached to the Indian diaspora. Thanks to the influence of Brian Kitt there was already a gang of 5 English premies and these became the priority. On June 17 1971 Prem arrived in England and appeared to boos and catcalls at the initial Glastonbury Fayre. He arrived in Los Angeles on July 17 thanks to a grant from Alan Watts. He returned to India for the Hans Jayanti festival. That year 300 Westerners attended. An even larger gathering in Patna, Bihar occurred in December.
1972 was the year when Prem Rawat, still called "Guru Maharaj Ji," began to generate some interest. The idea of a 13 year old guru was inherently ridiculous but his claims for instant liberation on initiation and a large cohort of realised holy "mahatmas" began to get the ball rolling. Come November 3,000 Westerners came to the Hans Jayanti festival in a fleet of jumbo jets. Most of them went on to a spiritual boot camp at Dehra Dun in Hardwar.
Through most of 1973 the growth of Divine Light Mission was so dramatic that it went to the heads of those who possibly were in some sort of charge. At the head of the pack was Rennie Davis who was beginning to reveal that the Knowledge could drive you crazy.
They planned to end the year with an upgraded and updated Hans Jayanti festival in the Astrodrome in Houston Texas. 144,000 premies would attend, it might rise into the Kohoutek comet or Prem Rawat's Plan for World Peace (basically "Everybody obey me and everything'll be ok") would be accepted by world leaders. They called it Millenium '73
The Millenium '73 festival was billed by Prem Rawat (Guru Maharaj Ji) Himself as "the most holy and significant event in human history" and it's preceding publicity campaign was called 'Soul Rush'. He predicted it was going to be a big shot of TLC (tender loving care) but the festival showed that the young Rawat and his inner circle of administrators and family members had a completely unrealistic picture of their powers, the number of their followers and the public response to Rawat's proclamations that he could bring World Peace. It provided Divine Light Mission with a reality check and an exceedingly large debt. It's only to be expected that any person who claims to be an incarnation of God and actively promotes himself as about to bring in 1,000 years of peace on earth, hires the largest indoor space on the planet, even releases an astrological press release and invites tens of thousands of followers and some alien space travellers to join him in unveiling the details there will be a certain degree of media attention. This attention turned out to be critical, very critical and dismissive and Prem Rawat, himself, the Guru Maharaji Ji received the worst of it.
"Durga Mata Ji: And all this mother has to say is that every child should listen to their father. Because their father is only telling them what is the very best for them. Because He knows. He knows exactly what each one of you need and so whatever Maharaji tells you, this is what you should do because then it will be absolutely perfect for all of us."
Shape Up Or Ship Out
"If you have faith that this Knowledge is gonna get you somewhere, then shape up and tell people about it. If you don't, forget it, ship out. There is nothing more."
The Bonds of Family Loyalty were broken by Prem Rawat's scandalous behaviour
In 1976/77 the DLM administers had to cope with an exodus of ashram premies and a collapse of DLM's financial situation. They demanded Prem cut his spending. He tried his usual approach: blame everyone else and shoot the messengers. Finally he fell back on his father's favourite method of impressing the yokels: dressing up in fancy costumes and partying.
For the next 5 years Prem Rawat continued a whirl of "festivals" in which:
Goodbye Guru Maharaj Ji! Hail the New and Improved Prem Rawat!
In 1982/3 Prem Rawat did a sudden about face. He ordered the ashrams closed, he ordered the nightly satsang meetings to cease, he changed his name, his titles, his organisation, his public persona, his teachings and even his hairstyle. He ordered his followers destroy all records of his career so far. He was pretty well forgotten by then anyway so he thought he would start again fresh and with his charisma and know-how he'd really be a smash hit!