The Encyclopedia of Christianity

by Erwin Fahlbusch; et al
Publisher: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Wm. B. Eerdmans ; Leiden, Netherlands : Brill, 1999-2005

Divine Light Mission

The Divine Light Mission originated as a humanitarian organization seeking to propagate a method of meditation for the achievement of "perfect knowledge." It was founded in 1960 at Patna (Bihar, India) by Shree Hans (Skt. hansa, "goose," symbol of the white color of the soul and the migratory bird), who died in 1965.

At the funeral of Shree Hans, his son, Prem Pal Singh Rawat, who was born on December 10 or 16, 1957, in Hardwar (Uttar Pradesh, India), comforted those who mourned his father's death with the thought that they still had perfect knowledge with them. The son himself had become the subject of this knowledge, the perfect master, in the place of his father, and he took the title "guru" and the name Maharaj Ji, or Great King, a title of respect, to which other titular names were often added.

The honors paid him by his followers gave him the characteristics of a messianic child. These were supposedly his by nature, and they helped him to eliminate rival claims from his own family. The efficacy of rites and the success of meditation were linked to his office as master. As a guru, he was equal to a god and even above "God," since God has prepared a hell for people, but Shree Guru Maharaj Ji took from them all fear and plunged them into the sea of universal love.

Meditation involves a fourfold technique and leads to divine light, music, nectar, and word. Nectar, which points to the sacred pool at Amritsar, as well as the use of "nectar" water from the "lotus" pool for ritual drinking and symbolic purifications, veneration of the guru and Rama, the concept of creation, the doctrine of light, and hymns, all of which perhaps have connections with Sikh religion. Various traditions, especially from -Yoga, still remain to be elucidated.

Maharaj Ji began traveling to the West in 1969. He made a spectacular appearance in London in June 1971. His mission won 1.2 million followers by 1974 (12,000 in Europe; the figure of 5 million for India is probably exaggerated). Centers of information and meditation were set up in 55 countries, along with a Divine United Organization and a World Peace Corps. Since then the organization has been largely dismantled and the number of adherents has declined, although exact statistics are not available. The movement lives on, however, and with its cultic festivals in various cities attracts many who find something uncomplicated in the world peace that such organizations promise.

Bibliography:

S. COLLIER, Soul Rush: The Odyssey of a Young Woman of the '70s (New York, 1978)
J. V. DOWNTON JR., Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission (New York, 1979).
See also brochures published by the Divine Light Mission in Denver and Munich.

CARSTEN COLPE